I looked at him, my eyes pricking with heavy tears. A blinding headache was slowly making it’s way, and I sat there with throbbing temples and an almost breaking heart.
“You- you’ll leave?” I spoke slowly, holding on to the slightest hope that he might just laugh it off and say that he’d been kidding.
He shrugged and looked at me.
“I have to,” he muttered.
“But-,” I shouted. He waited for me to say something but suddenly, I could find no words to fill in where I left.
“Say something?” he pleaded. “Please, anything. But just don’t sit silently.”
I nodded. Pushing myself up from the bench, I stood facing the withering autumn forest and the sunset that slowly approached. With every shade of orange that turned darker, I broke a little more inside, because time was flying by.
“I told you,” I whispered. “I told you not to apply for that freaking program because heck, I knew you’d get through. You’re a bloody genius! I knew you’d ace the exams and then you’d have to go! That is why I told you not to apply for it!”
“But,” he interrupted, “you had mentioned some other reason! You told me not to apply because you wanted us to apply for some other program!”
“I lied!” I spoke. “I lied. Would it have stopped you from applying had I said I didn’t want you to leave? That I was afraid of losing you? That I just can’t imagine a day without you? And that would have stopped you? No! We’re grown ups now! We’ve to take decisions for our own lives! And no, no matter how great a reason I’d have given you, you’d have left anyways! You do that! You leave!”
Falling back on the bench, I buried my face in my hands and cried. Shoulders heaving, my hair plastered against my cheeks in a mess of sweat and dirt, I cried because I knew he was leaving and that he’d never return back. What hurt even more was he didn’t even try to console. He had always been there to hold me when I cried. But today, even when he sat only inches away from me, somehow it seemed like he was so far away. Like he was slowly moving away from me.
“You’re being too immature,” he retorted.
I shook my head and between brimming tears, I laughed.
“See, I knew you’d say this!” I said, looking up at him and smiling. “There was a time when you were the immature one! And you’d come running to me for advice! And now, here you are, leaving in a couple of hours and I’m suddenly the immature one?”
Taking a deep breath, I continued.
“Yes, you’re probably thinking now as to why I’m acting like this. Things will be totally fine, won’t they? There’s phones and internet and Skype. Heck, what could even go wrong? But you don’t know my stories! I’ve been through a whole lot of situations like this! People change. They change. Time and place changes them. I know! I’ve changed. My old friends say so. And you’ll change too. I don’t want that. I don’t want you to leave.”
“But we’ll be fine!” he said.
“How?” I cried. “What about the Sundays? What about our plans? What about the parties? I can’t imagine a single one of them without you! But does it even matter to you? No! Because you’re going to a new place! There you’ll meet newer people, may be a few who are better than me. You’ll forget. And then one day, we’ll meet somewhere and there’ll be nothing to say! And no, no matter how many times you say me that is not going to happen with us, I’ll not believe you.”
The rest of the things were a blur. All I remember was him standing up and muttering a goodbye while I got into my car and cried. He left. He never called me once. And I never did too. It was surprising because never had I thought I’d get over him so quickly. It felt strange. It felt bad. But somewhere, it felt better.
Then one day, we met again. He had come back to the town during his vacations and we ran into each other at the ice cream parlour.
“Hey,” he greeted me.
“Hi,” I smiled back.
Then, both of us turned away and placed our orders.
“How have you been?” he asked.
“I’ve been great,” I replied. I lied again. Somehow, even though I had convinced myself that I had gotten over losing my best friend, it hurt ten times more, standing in front of him, seeing him all changed.
“And you?” I asked.
“I don’t know,” he muttered. “I’ve changed.”
“We all do,” I smiled. “When are you leaving? I thought if you’re in town for the next couple of days, we could may be hang out?”
“I’m not going back,” he said.
“But it’s only been three months!”
“I’m not going back.”
“Because, I don’t want to. Yes, we’re grown ups, but I don’t want to go anywhere without you. There’ll always be better chances in life. But this place, you people, you’re worth every missed chance. I’m back. I’m back for you,” he said. “And no, there’s never going to be a moment when we meet somewhere and have nothing to say.”
Over melted scoops of butterscotch ice cream and heartbreaks, we talked like there’s never going to be a tomorrow.