I’ve been a very bad sister. Remember when I used to steal the pizza rolls off your plate and eat them? Remember when I never saved chocolates for you and ate them alone? Remember the time when I used to hide behind closed doors and scare you? I’ve been a very very bad sister.
Remember the time I decided to go and study in another town, leaving you behind? Remember the hundred thousand fake promises I made, telling you that I’m not going faraway and that I’ll be always near you? The truth is, I’m actually far away from you. Each day, I return from college to an empty dorm room and how I wish you were here to greet me. The distance matters far too much these days. Each night, I go to bed, thinking about you, thinking whether you cry each night too. Each night, I look out from the window at the stars and surprisingly, they seem closer. Each night, I pray a million times to have you around me, to have you close.
I miss you. So much. Only I know the painful way my heart wrenches when I think about you. Only I know how much I’d give up just to be near you again. How I wish you were here, asking me your irritating questions and hugging me on bad days. I can’t wait for college to get over. I can’t wait to cone back to home and hold you close.
My college doesn’t matter now. I’ve realized that each one of us comes to a point in our lives when our family matters to us more than anything. I now realize that I’d give up anything just to be around you again.
For you are everything to me. Everything and more.
“Promise you’ll stay in contact,” I muttered. “Call me twice a day and talk about anything. I promise I’ll be there to listen. Don’t hesitate.”
“Okay, I will,” he said. “But you’re not going faraway, are you? You can always return, can’t you?”
I nodded, unsure of the promises I kept making.
“No, it’s not that faraway, I promise. You can come visit me anytime. And then, there’s Skype too! We won’t lose contact even for a moment!”
“And you’ll be there, right, forever? You’ll have my back?”
“Will you miss me?”
A blaring horn cut us off and the train stood in front of us. For a second, I was relieved I didn’t have to answer that question.
Will I miss him?
I’ll cry on Saturday nights and Sunday mornings, wishing for him to be there. I’ll buy enough snacks for both of us, and then sit down and eat in silence because he won’t be there. I’ll bring his favourite chocolates from the l store and save them so that I can give it to him when I come back home next. I’ll do everything we did together, but I’ll never bring myself to cry and miss him ten times more.
“You didn’t answer?” he mumbled. “Will you miss me?”
I looked away, blinking back tears.
“I know how you feel,” he said, clasping his daughter’s hand tightly.
“Scared and confused doesn’t even sum it up, Dad!” she murmured, withdrawing her hand and sighing.
“I know,” her dad says again. “I know you’re thinking that you are taking a big leap into the uncertainty. I know it feels like standing on one footstep and realizing that the staircase in front of you is actually a dead end. It’s not always going to be easy and you know that. It’s going to be a struggle from here on. But remember, everyone has to struggle in some way or the other. Each one of us goes through the same course in life in different little ways. I know you are afraid. I know you want to step back and live under the brighter sunshine. But no, my little girl, you’ve to go. You’ve to fly to discover what exists beyond the sun. And for that, you have to leave the ground. You’ve to leave this known haven behind.”
The speakers spluttered. The lady stated that it was the final boarding call.
“Dad, what if I fail?”
“You’ll never learn to fly, sweetheart, if you never fall. We’ll be there. We’ll have your back. In your darkest times, I promise you we’ll be there. When things go wrong, remember to struggle and live until the end of the day. What will matter twenty years from now is not where you reached but how you made the best of every opportunity you had with you. The next morning will be a new one. You’ve to keep faith and you’ll be fine.”
Her feet trudged along lazily. Her footsteps were heavy.
“How do you know I’ll be fine?” she cried.
Clasping her hand again and hugging her close to his heart, her father kissed her goodbye.
“You’ll be fine. You’ll be just fine,” he said.
“It’s like everything, every hope is slipping right past me. I see people far ahead of me. The race has started and I’ve only barely begun walking. The goal seems so far away.”
“I can relate.”
“What’s your story?”
“Me?” he pauses a while. “Lost, I guess. Everyone around me feels that I’ve no direction in life. That I’d end up useless, probably spending nights sleeping on railway platforms and being jobless. See, I’m alcoholic. I lose my temper most of the time. All I feel like doing to sitting in some cold, empty place..and just being there. I don’t want to move. I don’t want to talk. For once, I want to disappear.”
She tilts the glass and fiddles with the cocktail onions on the edge of her glass.
“It is weird, but I feel the same way too. Sometimes, I feel as if the world is moving too fast. People aren’t bothered to spare a glance at what’s happening around them. All of them have their eyes set on the goal and they are madly running towards it. But what after that? What happens after they reach their goal? Their life isn’t complete, is it? They start looking forward to other milestones. It’s like amidst the entire career, money, education, we are forgetting about life! Why, if life is about going to a prestigious university, having shitload of money and driving to parties and meeting business targets and getting back home, tired and lifeless, I better not live it at all. Because, that is not life for me! It isn’t about the highs always, is it?”
He shakes his head quietly.
Turning around, he rests his elbows against the metal railings and leans against it.
“It’s about the lows too,” he says. “It’s not always about the noise. The silence carries as much meaning, in fact more. It’s not about how much you earn and how much you work and how much settled you are, sometimes the very essence of life lies in going through the lows and then standing up, ready to face the world all over again. I want a story like that. I don’t want to tread down the known road. I want to get lost. I want to get drunk. I want to be clueless. And I want to fall down, cry and learn. And then, when it dawns, I want to be stronger. I don’t want to be the same person I was the other night. I want to be the person who is happy. And I want to bask under that feeling. I want to really feel the moment. Be right in it. And remember it when I breathe my last.”
“Isn’t it crazy that we all can talk so much about life and give advice on how to live, yet when it comes to applying the very same thing, we back away and go back to being the same people? We embrace the concept of “unpredictability” in theoretical approach. But when it comes to being clueless and not being able to know where we land up and how, we run away scared. I want to breathe.”
He nods slowly.
For a minute, neither of them speak.
They think of the dawn that is a few hours away. But it isn’t their dawn. The sunshine may wipe away their tears, but inside, they will be still sad.
“May be we are supposed to live our life this way?” she speaks again. “Scared. Confused. Driven by dreams. And then, mocked and told that reality is bitter. May be life’s supposed to be this way only? But then, why can’t I be as secure and as happy as other people when I’m doing the exactly same thing as them?”
“May be life is not supposed to be this way?” he responds. “May be our formula is wrong. May be because people are scared, they don’t take another road and like a herd, we all walk down the same way?”
“I had this strange idea as a kid. I was always thinking that our life is just this crazy dream and we are aliens on another planet and we’ll wake up one day and realize that all this was a dream and then everything will be all right again,” she takes a sip of her drink. “I want to forget everything for a moment and start afresh.”
“I had that stupid idea too. And yes,” he tilts his glass against his parched lips and gulps down the burning liquid, “I want to forget everything too.”
When the morning arrived, he found himself walking down the muddy road, back to his house, three blocks away. And she found herself calling a taxi to take her to the airport.
But they weren’t scared and confused anymore. Although the road in front of them wasn’t exactly a straight road, they knew that if they kept running, if they kept chasing their dream, one day, it will be theirs. One day, the life they had dreamt of, they will be living it.
They faced the morning with brighter hopes.
Something that came loose from my diary today..just today.
Have you ever had one of those days where you felt sick and slow?
Have you ever had one of those days where you wanted to fall asleep and wake up to a newer dawn?
Have you ever had one of those days when you had just so many things to say, yet nobody was around?
Have you ever had one of those days when you wanted to be in the middle of a crowd?
Have you ever had one of those days when you wanted to write till the end of the world, yet you couldn’t?
Have you ever had one of those days when you felt like calling someone, yet you wouldn’t?
Have you ever had one of those days when you sat in the dark, no matter how much it scared you?
Have you ever had one of those days when you felt lonely and blue?
Have you ever had one of those days when every breath felt painful?
Have you ever had one of those days when you wanted someone to hold you?
Have you ever had one of those days when you had just so many things to say, yet nobody was around?
Have you ever had one too many days like that?
“I’ll be gone,” I tell him. “In less than a month or two, I’ll be packing my stuff and leaving.”
I watch a slow frown draw itself on his face as he hears me intently. His eyes blink slowly and from the heaps of books spread out in front of him, he looks up and meets my gaze.
“You’ll leave forever?” he asks.
Shrugging, I flip a page of the ruled notebook that lies in front of me and put my pen there. Closing it, I sit back on the chair and sigh.
“Not really,” I tell myself that it is the truth, but deep inside, something hurts. “I mean I’ll return twice or maybe thrice in a year. It’s not like I’m leaving forever.”
He nods his head carefully and looks down at the fluttering pages in front of him.
“Things are happening so fast!” I exclaim. “I remember waking up to August afternoons and cribbing. I wanted to leave sooner. The boredom was killing me. Each day, I’d put my books aside and tell myself that there’s still so much time! But look, it’s nearing April already! It seems like it was just yesterday when I was waking up to late mornings, lazily sipping on a mug of coffee and whiling away my day.”
His eyes are focused on the page but he nods slightly.
“Only four years to this date, you’d be thinking about this too. You’ll be done with your school and preparing for college already.”
“Right, four years,” he mumbles. “It’s all happening too quickly.”
I nod in agreement.
Leaning further back into my chair, I think of the glorious days of the year I had spent with my family. Each night, we’d sit at the dining table and hear Mom and Dad’s events in the office. Each morning, we’d wake up amidst hesitation and grogginess, wishing the darn alarm would let us sleep for five long minutes only. Each afternoon, we’d make ourselves steaming bowls of noodles and settle in front of the TV to watch a movie.
But all that is about to change. In a few months, I’ll be far away from this home. And it filled me with utter sorrow.
“And after college, you’ll return back?” he asks.
I shake my head slowly.
“It scares me,” I tell him. “After this, home is a far away thing. You have to stand up on your own, get yourself a job, live on your own, cook your food, wash your clothes. From this point on, I’ll be so far away.”
“It sure is happening too quickly,” he remarks.
“Every tomorrow that dawns, I want to go back. I really want the clock to stop. I want time to pause. Right now, it’s running too fast and I have yet to slowly lose myself in every moment. I want to touch everything and imprint its every crevice in my brain. I want to smell that musk of the attic and trap the scents in my brain. I want to make lasting memories so that I won’t miss all this so much.”
“I’ll miss you,” he says.
My lips quiver. My eyes feel heavy. And my heart holds a profound pain.
In that one moment that is weighing me down, I can only think of a dialogue from a favourite show of mine:
“It is the oldest story in the world. One day you’re seventeen and planning for someday, and then quietly, without you ever really noticing, someday is today and that someday is yesterday and this is your life.”(One Tree Hill)
Silently, wiping the slight trail of a tear that had managed to escape, I turn around and look down at my books again.
“It’s late. Let’s study,” I say.
“One last question though,” my brother interrupts. “Is it really happening so quickly?”
I wish I could tell him otherwise.
I’d like to say that it started just like that, but then we’d all know that I’m lying. Nothing ever happens just like that. I believe it began when I was the shy, last bench girl who sat in a corner, hiding away from the rest of the class… and he was anything but a stereotype.
Often, he’d lean back in his chair and throw a glance at my direction while I’d be hiding my face behind the stray strands of my hair, tucking the hem of my skirt under my knees and biting my lips in random intervals. When I’d look up, often, I’d catch him staring at me, a pencil or pen poking out of his mouth and his eyes twinkling. Those would be awkward moments and I would be lying if I tell you that it was okay for me to catch a boy staring at me, especially when the boy was him – an enigma of his own.
With a mop of dark hair, curling against his nape, a few strands plastered to his forehead, and gleaming charcoal eyes, he was the kind of boy you found between the pages of some kindergarten sweetheart novel. His lips would curl into a smile whenever he spoke to anyone and I would find a slight grin force itself on my face as well when I saw him smile. When he would climb up the top of his desk and sit there, talking aloud to his friends and clapping them on their backs, I would find my eyes follow his every move.
Even during the most boring lessons of History, I’d find myself leaning back and forth to catch a glimpse of him four rows to my front. He was the only person in the class of forty who acknowledged my presence. Growing up, I had always been an awkward kid, finding it hard to pick up conversations. I was self-conscious, nervous and a lot more, like people had often pointed out, but he saw through that. He looked at me like he knew me forever. And I looked at him like I could never figure out what went through beneath his smile.
Each day, I would pass by his seat and wish he would say something. Only, he wouldn’t. Instead, his eyes would follow me as I would fumble with the books in my hand, breathing heavily, almost melting under his gaze. But never did we, for the first six months of the semester, pick up the courage to utter a word to each other.
However, one day, he did.
In the lunch break one day, when the class was empty and the corridors were abuzz, I found him walking inside the class. His hair was messed up and his shirt stuck against his lanky frame as he nearly staggered against his desk. Almost immediately, I gasped and his eyes wandered down the rows of benches and landed on me. They held something… not pain, not sorrow, but indescribable confusion, as if something was killing him inside, yet he was helpless. I expected him to turn away; instead, he smiled.
“Hi,” he mumbled.
That was how it began – a friendship. A friendship between two individuals who had so many stories to share.
Each lunch break, I would find him in the cafeteria, sitting in the middle of the room with his friends. When he would see me, he would lift his hand slowly and smile. Amidst the loud howls from the bunch of boys and his deeper voice, I spent the best few months of my school life.
Sometimes, when I’d have forgotten to bring some money in my bag, he’d push his tray towards me. Everything with him was like a script from a slow, black and white movie.
“Hey?” Sometimes, he’d put his hand on my shoulder and stare down into my eyes. Time stopped at that moment, for I found myself lost in the utter sincerity his eyes held. They held so much pain as well, but I was too young to dig deeper.
When I’d frown and grumble at something, he would turn and ask me if I was okay. Nobody did that. He would sit beside me for long, until I would tell him what’s wrong. He was the type of boy everyone wanted as a friend. When happy, he would have instant jokes up his sleeve. When sad, he would never tell anyone. And that was what I forgot. He never told anything, so I never asked. Or perhaps, I had been too occupied basking under the sunshine that I forgot to ask him at times, if he was okay.
With him, I was not the shy, quiet girl at the back of the class and he was not the quiet, serious, popular boy. We were so much more than that, with so many infinite stories to tell.
And one fine winter morning, with one incident, instead of our stories intertwining, we wrote different tales.
“Why wouldn’t you tell me what’s wrong?” I had told him that day. Frustrated with his lack of response and careless behavior, I had stomped out of the class, balling my fists and fighting tears. He had arrived late to the class with a slight sore on his chin and bruises on his face. I had been too angry because he wouldn’t tell me what was wrong.
That day, he didn’t look at me. His eyes didn’t glimmer like they did always. His face was cold. His eyes were dark. Something about him, scared me that day. And it was perhaps why I never walked back.
“Really?” I heard a group of girls talking in high-pitched tones. In fact, the whole cafeteria talked loudly about something… about someone. There were so many people talking at once, that I couldn’t catch the train of words – of where what began and what came to an end.
“He starves himself?”
“Are you kidding me?”
“But he’s a boy… anorexia? I mean I have heard girls do so, but he?”
“That is so awkward! He always seemed so strange to me!”
“Who? He caught him in the washroom, puking?”
“You are kidding me! I don’t believe this!”
“He was beaten up?”
“Seniors… I don’t understand.”
I didn’t keep a track of time of how long I sat in the sweaty cafeteria, hearing loud noises all around me. I knew who they were talking about, but a part of me refused to believe. A part of me was adamant and held on to the fact that it was just a rumour, but when things started getting clearer and details appeared, I couldn’t help but storm out of the cafeteria and run to him.
“Why?” I almost cried, but not because I was sad for him, but I wanted to know why he didn’t tell me.
“As if you could make things fine,” he retorted.
“B-But-” I struggled to say something, but words caught up in my throat.
We sat in silence. He played with the edges of his shirt while I sat, motionless and cold. In a mirror world, it was seen as if our roles were reversed. He was no longer that easy-going popular boy who had a solution to everything. And I was no longer the quiet girl. Staying in his company had given me an ounce of confidence. I had made many friends by then, but he remained in my books.
But that one day, I felt confused. I felt like every bit of energy had been soaked out of my body, leaving me with an empty feeling.
“Why do you do this?” I asked.
He shrugged his shoulders before leaning back against the chair and pulling out something from his back pocket.
“This,” he muttered, passing me an old photograph. There stood a little, chubby boy smiling giddily at the camera.
“That was me at some point,” he continued. “I was fat. I was ugly. The kids in the neighbourhood wouldn’t play with me. So, I wanted to become someone who would be loved. Someone people would admire.”
“Because I am this now,” he pointed at himself.
When I looked at him that day, I didn’t fail to notice how his shirt pressed against his flat chest and the way his collar bones stood out against his collar. That day, I didn’t fail to notice the many things that hid beneath his smile. Inside, he was hurting. Yet, he put on his best face, just to impress the world.
“It’s so embarrassing,” he said. “I thought nobody would ever find out.”
All those summers and springs melted in the pain that his eyes held. I felt betrayed. I felt almost useless, because even though I was so close to him, I could do nothing.
My lips quivered when he spoke the next words.
And just like that, he left.
No one saw him at school after that. But people talked about him. They said rude things. They told how pathetic it was.
And it was too much for me to hear.
So that one art class, when the teacher had not yet arrived, I screamed against the hushed whispers.
“He is not pathetic!” I cried. A string of gasps followed pin-drop silence. “It could happen to anyone! Anyone can feel bad about how they look. It’s only human! But when they feel low, when people around us feel low, isn’t it us who should pick them up and provide them strength? Why do you think it’s embarrassing? When girls starve themselves, we say it’s normal. But heck, boys want to look perfect too. Each one of us wants to lose a few pounds so that we can fit into out favourite dresses. Each one of us wants to be in perfect shape so that others won’t make fun of us. So, it isn’t awkward. It isn’t embarrassing. It is just that when a friend was hurting, we couldn’t help him. And now that he’s gone, instead of feeling guilty or sad, you speak so dirty things about him? It is you who is pathetic! Not he! He was perfect!”
When I sat down with a thud, I was crying. Tears ran down my cheeks and no matter how much I wiped them off, they were not stopping.
My eyes wandered over the desk and I found several drawings on them. He had a strange habit of scratching the tip of his pen against the furnished ply of the desk and make small, little pictures. Every time that I passed by his desk, I had a strong urge to run my hand over them, but the ink seemed so fresh, I was sure that it would only end of messing the pictures and making my hands dirty. But that day, I did.
With wet palms, sticky with the tears, I ran my quivering fingers over the drawings. I wanted them to fade away. I wanted all this to be a bad dream. But they didn’t smear. The ink didn’t smear. It had dried up. And they stared right at me, telling tall tales.
When the class was empty and people had left for their homes, I stayed behind. Pulling open a pen out of my bag, next to the stuff he had drawn,
In a race to fit in someone else’s books,
In a race to look finer,
Did we forget that we looked so much better just the way we are?
Did we forget to love ourselves first?
And when the school year finally came to an end, I prayed that someday, he would see this and smile to himself.
To this day, when I’m feeling low and down, I think of the wonderful memories we had and of the many more stories we could have had.
Only recently, I happened to come across a notification on Wattpad where the wonderful Rup had tagged me for a 30-day letter writing challenge. Now, I don’t really write a lot of letters. In a world where most of our time is spent on chatting and social networking, it’s not much of a surprise that the trend of writing letters is slowly vanishing into the abyss of nothingness. I love writing letters, though. Someday, I’ll send those letters to the people they are meant for. So for the first challenge, I had to write a letter to my best friend which reads something like this:
Dear Best Friend
or rather the best friend I never had,
Has anybody ever told you that you are perfect? No? Then, hear me now, you are. I’ve never seen a person as strong and determined as you. I’ve never met a person who knows how to put things back together; it’s almost like you have some crazy magic tricks up your sleeve! I’ve never come across a person as intelligent as you or as beautiful. You present yourself like the complete package.
I remember the sleepless nights we spent fangirl-ing over some Hollywood celebrity. We’d add too many ‘a’s to their names or too many ‘e’s. At times, we would be lovesick over virtual anime guys, already talking about future plans in case we happen to meet someone like them in real life. I still hold a hope that in some undiscovered dimension, anime people exist and someday, they are going to come on earth and meet us. We’ve been sending them way too many crazy brain signals and someone told me that hard work never goes into waste.
Then some days, we’d talk about books.
On cold evenings, we’d argue over trivial matters. Though they seemed heated, they had a tendency to cool down too soon. I never wanted to lose you to some silly argument and perhaps, you didn’t want that too.
I tell you, I don’t remember when we started drifting apart from each other.
Someone had told me that absence makes the heart grow fonder, but I still don’t find any truth in it. Of all the instances that have happened in my life, the first lesson I’ve learnt is that, absence makes things worse. Time is a culprit and it makes every precious memory fade away. I have only managed to have grasp a handful of memories and store it somewhere safe in my memory vault.
Sometimes, I feel that I was the only person who considered you my best friend. There was never any reciprocation from your side and it breaks my heart whenever I think of it. There are some things in life which you can’t have, no matter how much you strive for it. As for me, I’ve always struggled when it comes to making a best friend. It’s like a game of playing cards, which I’ve never been good at.
Whenever I see two bubbly girls walking on the streets, laughing to something, I tell myself that that could have been us.
But the right moment has gone by. No matter how much I try now, no matter how much you do, some things between us will never be the same again.
We do talk a lot these days, but do you notice that we hide a lot too many things?
We do laugh a lot, but those smiles are not true.
We do try and pretend that things had never gone wrong between us, but the truth lingers somewhere in the background – the very fact that some things have changed between us. We have changed. Our interests have changed. Our social circles have changed. Back in those high school days, you used to be the social bee and I used to be the shy, little girl in a corner of the class. I had always, desperately wished to be like you. We talked back then. But I thought that if I could somehow fit into your group, we could become best friends.
Now, the roles have changed. I play the part of the social bee and you tend to stay in the shadows.
Still, we are not best friends. Perhaps, we never were. I was just crazy and a little too desperate.
But I don’t regret it. I wanted you and only you to be my best friend. Who wouldn’t want a girl as perfect as you as their best friend!
But I guess, I forgot to take in consideration the fact that may be nobody wanted me as their best friend.
So, as I write this, I am still best-friend-less.
I wonder of the things we could have done as best friends. We could have those girls happily running down the streets. We could have been those girls spending hours in a mall. We could have those girls who never had any secrets. We could have been so many things. Only, we aren’t.
But we’ve come a long way without being best friends and a few more miles doesn’t really matter anymore.
Time may be a culprit, but it heals wounds, doesn’t it?
The Best Friend Who Never Was.
For most of my life, I’ve wanted to be alone – far away from the drone of noises crying excitement; away from the blaring horns of buses and cars; away from the busyness that surrounds life.
At times, I’d wish the ground would open up and swallow me inside into a world of maddening oblivion. In those times, everything felt hazy. Every step I took made me feel immensely tired. Yet I wanted to run away to some place where nobody could find me.
“I want to be alone,” I’d tell them when they’d coax me to attend their parties.
“I want to be alone,” I’d tell them when I’d be fighting the adamant tears from escaping.
“I want to be alone,” I’d tell them when they’d ask me if I were okay.
“I want to be alone,” and they’d quickly scurry off in a desperate attempt to give me some space. They’d always respect my decision and desire and wouldn’t bother to ring me up until I did so.
Now that I think of those times, I find myself wondering if I really wanted to be alone.
When I told them I wanted to be alone, a part of me feverishly craved for someone to stay behind an offer me a shoulder to cry on.
When I told them I wanted to be alone, I wanted someone to stay behind and hear me out.
When I told them I wanted to be alone, I wanted them not to leave.
When I told them I wanted to be alone, I meant, I didn’t want to be.
I agree we have complicated notions. Complicated emotions.When we are, in fact, bubbling with so much to say, we cut short with a simple ‘Nothing’. When tears prick our eyes, we blink them back and smile. When we are hurting deep inside, we still manage to pick ourselves up and walk.
It is about knowing what those sweet nothings hold. It is about knowing what those smiles hide. It is about knowing that no matter how strong a person pretends to be, they still have a vulnerable side.
And how I wish, back then, each time I’d uttered, “I want to be alone,” someone would have pulled me into a hug and whispered, “No. I know you don’t want to be.”
Perhaps that would have solved half of the problems of the world…