Tag Archives: friends

Of A-Table-For-One

He had been asked to manage the reception counter for the day. Sitting lazily at the plywood desk, he answered the calls from excited, impatient people, asking for table reservations and the special menu for the night. He hated the task. He was better off serving customers in his oversized T-shirt and his brother’s baseball cap. Somehow, the tightly fitted blue shirt with its crisp collars and intricately tailored black pants made him feel suffocated and out of place.

The evening was setting in and the buzz of crowds could be heard outside.

Pulling up his plastered smile, he greeted the first people who entered – an elderly couple with greying hair and wrinkled smiles. They walked to his desk and peered at the laminated sheet of paper displaying the reservation list. Then, the woman smiled and pointed at the sheet to draw his attention.

“This way, ma’am,” he replied with a polite smile, pushing open the huge oak doors to walk into the dimly lit room with its huge chandeliers and slow music. The forks and plates had been neatly arranged over the red chequered table clothes.

Walking out from the room to his desk, he felt the transition of the aromas. The other room had been smelling of the mystic roses while the waiting lounge smelled of lavender and his own, cheap deodorant.

People started filling in, some being escorted inside while some sat back in the plush leather couches, flipping through journals and waiting. The night had set in. The music in the hall was louder. And amidst the clink and clank of cutlery, he could hear the roar of lightning outside.

But it didn’t intrude the excitement of passionate souls. They ate their dinner, staring at the misted windows and murmuring and smiling all the same. They talked and for some reason, they were happy. While, he was not.

People had started moving out too. By the time the clock had struck nine, the crowd was dwindling. Perhaps it was the rain or maybe, they had other plans, the hall wasn’t as crowded as the other Saturday nights. There were no more calls. All the people in the waiting lounge had been accommodated. He took the time to lay back in his seat and breathe out.

Just then, there was an irritating creak as the door opened and a girl, drenched in rain, clutching her beige overcoat tight, walked inside. Her sneakers dragged, screeched against the marble floors in a painfully slow stance. A mess of wet hair, with trails of dirty rain water running down her cheeks, she was everything he had never seen.

“May I help you, ma’am?” he asked in a slightly irritated tone, mentally wondering if she had entered by mistake, perhaps seeking for shelter.

“Uh,” she stood in front if the desk, her eyes wandering. For one fleeting second, she peered into the hall through the slight opening of the doors and then sighed.

“Table for one,” she muttered.

“One?” he croaked, his voice embarrassingly loud and rude. It took him a moment to gather himself. Then, he spoke again. “If you’re waiting for someone, it’s all right. There’s not much of a crowd today. So you may as well ask for a table for two.”

“One,” she said.

A strange curiosity gripped him. Why one? Didn’t she have a family? Perhaps a circle of friends? Or maybe one old friend she wanted to catch up with on that Christmas night?

Despite the mental outburst of questions, he tore away a piece of paper from the notepad and set it on the table.

“Your name, ma’am?”

She took the pen from him and scribbled her name hurriedly.

“This way,” he spoke and pushed open the doors for the umpteenth time that night to lead her in. He spotted that one empty corner in the room where the lights were not too bright and the music not so loud. Often after the people would’ve left, the boys would huddle there and sing their miseries with bottles of whisky or rum. He was afraid that the table perhaps smelled of rotten bread and alcohol, but then she had asked for a single seater and that was the only one in there.

Yet, somewhere, he didn’t want her to sit there. That corner felt cold and lonely. The flowers were limp. The candles had burnt out.

As he pulled out the chair for her to sit, he couldn’t help but ask, “Will you be okay here?”

She smiled. A painful smile. He could recognize those. Hadn’t he smiled those almost every dawn?

“I’ll be more than fine.”

“And what do you want to order?”

“A cake. A big, chocolate cake. Maybe it could’ve those little flowers on it and lots of ice cream?”

“I’m sorry, ma’am, but a cake? A full cake?”

“Yes,” she snapped. “It’s my birthday! Am I not allowed to celebrate my birthday with a cake?”

“Indeed, ma’am,” he replied in a timid tone and scribbled her order on a piece of paper. “Anything else?”

“And can you just let me know if you see my group of friends arriving?” she said, almost hastily.

“But ma’am, you only told you are expecting nobody?”

She pretended not to here and pulled out her phone. Taking it as his cue to walk away, he slipped into the kitchen and passed the note to the cook.

“Who orders a full cake for one person?” the hefty man guffawed, but got down to work, nevertheless.

Though she had asked him to keep a check, he didn’t. For deep inside his heart, he knew she was living an illusion. He could see through her pretence. She was broken. She wasn’t happy. She was expecting people who’d never come. She was sitting in silence, yet her lips curled into a smile every now and then as if she was really happy. Even in the faint light, he could see her glimmering eyes. He could hear her breath hitching. He could see her trying to hold herself back when she was on the verge of breaking down.

The tables were empty by now. People had left. Paid their bills. Had their food. And they had walked out, happy.

And then, there was her who didn’t know whether to stay or to leave. She wasn’t bothered about the cake. The rain didn’t matter. The people she was waiting for, did, but they had still not arrived.

“Ma’am,” he spoke, placing the little cake in front of her, dressed with chocolate florets and berries. She gave him a little smile and looked back at her phone again. “And ma’am? Your friends aren’t here yet.”

That made her lose it. Turning away, she took a deep breath but ended up coughing and crying.

“Ma’am?” hesitantly, he put his hand on her shoulder. “Hey, are you okay?”

“I wasn’t even expecting them,” she spoke in muffled tones. “Why would they be? I’ve visited them umpteen times. Been there when they needed someone. Talked to them for hours when they were down. But is that enough?”

She refused to look at him. So kneeling down, he offered her the crisp, white handkerchief that had been tucked inside his breast pocket.

“I’m sorry,” he muttered.

“No!” she laughed. “Why are you apologizing? It’s not even your fault! I’m just expecting a lot too much from people.”

He expected her to push him away but she didn’t protest. Instead, she continued speaking.

“I remember their birthdays. Be it New Year’s Eve or summer breaks, no matter how busy I am, I bake them a cake. I make them cute little videos. I send them handmade collages wishing them. I do everything that they never bother to do. But now I wonder, why I ever did so? Why did I ever take so much pain to bake cakes and cookies? To ping everyone in our friends’ circle and ask them to make cute birthday videos so that I can compile them into a movie? To travel miles to meet them, to be with them? When I’m here, empty and sad and there’s not a single one of them around?”

Though her voice kept breaking, he could feel the pain in her words. He could understand how lonely she felt.

“It’s Christmas. They have plans. They just forgot my birthday. No big deal. They’ve been doing this for years. I don’t get the sweet cards. I don’t get the midnight calls. I don’t get those long text messages. It is as if my place in their lives is not that significant at all. It’s more like they are important for me, but I’m not for them. I woke up late in the morning. I checked my phone, thinking about the hundred messages in my inbox, but there were hardly any wishing me a birthday. I waited for them to call, waited till late afternoon. I looked out at every random car on the road, secretly wishing for them to come over to my house and surprise me. Did I hope for too much?”

He kept quiet. He couldn’t form words. He didn’t know her. She didn’t know him. Yet, it surprised him of how loneliness made people bare their soul out to strangers. She clung to him like an old friend. She didn’t mind him seeing her messy hair and puffy eyes. All she needed at that moment was someone to be there. Someone beside her, so that she didn’t feel as lonely as she already was.

“Table for one,” she huffed. “It sounds like a dialogue from a bad movie.”

“It doesn’t,” he replied. “It speaks to me about a lot many things. I can understand.”

“Everyone says so.”

He nodded. Indeed, she was right. No matter how much he tried, he would never understand her pain. He would never feel the same. His story was different. So was hers.

“Happy birthday,” he said.

“Happy, indeed,” she mumbled and turned around to the table again.

“Why the cake?” he asked.

“What do you mean?”

“It’s obvious you didn’t want the cake.”

She pulled out her phone and turned on the camera.

“I’ll just take a picture and save it. So tomorrow when they do remember, I’ll show them this and make up a story of how great my birthday was and how much I enjoyed!”

Hours later, the staff had left and so had the cook. He quietly locked the doors and walked out into the dark, empty street and slowly trudged along the sidewalks.

Minutes later, he stood in front of a dilapidated house with a broken sheet of asbestos acting as the roof. Opening the old, tin gate, he stepped into the darkness, hoping for the one voice he knew would be never there. Yet, he smiled. In his head, he heard his little brother’s voice and it was enough delusion to make him live through the night.

Two people spent that one winter night, lonely, sad and empty.

Of Twisted Tales Of Pain

She wanted to live a happy life.

But each night, after the enchanting chaos of the city had dwindled and the orbs of light blurred in her vision, she found herself walking down the narrow bridge. At times, she’d stop abruptly and lean over the wooden rails to see her reflection in the dark waters. The planks under her feet would creak slowly under her weight as she’d gaze deep into the fading reflection of herself. Her eyes lacked mirth. Her lips were always twisted, painting a frown.

At other times, she’d walk and walk until she’d reach the willow tree at the end of the bridge. Leaning against it, she’d quietly slip into the gravel road and watch the world walk past her.

As the night would slowly merge into darker shades, the tears that she’d been holding would give way and into the silence of the night, she’d scream out all her sorrow. She loved the way the night hid her pain. Never did Darkness let anyone know about the one poor girl who cried into its embrace. Alone.

When the colours would slowly start to melt and dawn would arrive, she’d pick herself up, wipe away her tears with the back of her hand and pretend as if everything with her was just all right. With that brave face of hers, she’d face every dawn, no matter how much she was breaking on the inside.

One Friday night though, when the neon lights at every club were bright and high and oven timers pierced the thick air, and she walked down the bridge, she wasn’t alone. For Darkness followed her step.

When she stopped to look at her reflection, Darkness looked down too.

“You are here, every night, without fail,” it said.

“This is the only place that never fails to make me feel lighter,” she answered.

“And you are the only person here,” it said again.

“It probably seems like I’m the most disappointed person around, doesn’t it? A broken family. Unsatisfying life. A stressful job. And when I get back home, there’s nobody to hear me out. So, I come here, thinking that someone will understand. No one does. They sleep silently, tucked inside their blankets and wake up to loud alarms in the dawn. And they face the day. As for me, each morning, I wish to go back to bed and sleep away forever.”

“It wrenches my heart, dear, to hear you say like that. How I wish I could tell you otherwise. How I wish I could tell you of the stories that hide in the light. You see people, walking straight, heads held high, their shoulders straight, and it is as if they’re afraid of nothing. I’ll tell you a different story – they are afraid. Deep inside, each one of them is a mess. When they talk, they are still thinking of a hundred different things in their brain. When they laze back in their beds, they think of the world. They have broken hearts. They are lonely people. And they hide their true faces under the bright light of the dawn, pretending that nothing’s wrong.”

“It is okay,” it continued,”to be a little sad, to a little frustrated and to be a little broken. Each one of them is. Some of them keep telling themselves that there’ll be brighter days, holding on to the minuscule glimmer of hope in their hearts; while some of them come here on fateful nights and end their stories. What you need to do, is face the dawn. It holds surprises for each one. But if you are busy grieving about the night, you’ll never relish what the dawn has in store for you.”

“It won’t make my life any better, will it?” she said.

“You’ve to hold on to hope and live yet another day to find out.”

That morning, when she walked amongst the crowd of people, she didn’t feel lost. Deep inside her heart, sorrow lingered, but just like the rest of them, she knew she had to keep going on. The very hope that she held was that, the next day was going to be even better.

Of Missing People

The little cafe downtown Larris Road, bears a deserted look. Even though the fog has still not cleared and cold winds brush past every now and then, people don’t stop by for a coffee. She doesn’t want to, as well.

But somehow, she does.

He is there.

The mist has settled on the window panes, painting a rather distorted image of the world outside. Beyond the window, people in their buttoned-up coats and tight scarfs, walk past. She wants to retrace her steps and go back to being one of those busy people trudging down the street, but she’s already inside the warm, little cafe and it feels good there.

With heavy steps, she walks to one of those corner tables and takes a seat.

Her face pulls up of pretence of carelessness. Inside, there is a storm raining down on her heart.

Her lips quiver as she hears a pair of sneakers squeaking down the hallway. A second later, he stands in front of her.

“What would you like-” he pauses awhile. “Ma’am?”

His words sting her. Yet taking a deep breath, she manages to look up at him.

His button-down black shirt is sticking to one side and his dark hair glows under the flickering lights in the cafe. His shoes are worn out, yet he wears them with so much pride.

He is not looking at her. Instead, his eyes are focused on the blank page of the notepad.

“Two coffee, please,” she mutters, with too much care.

He quickly turns around and walks to the counter, without bothering to ask her if she needs something else. It’s as if she has ceased to exist for him.

When he arrives with the two cups of coffee, carefully balanced on the tray, she doesn’t know how to ask him to stay.

As if he can read her mind, setting down the tray before her, he carefully pulls out a chair and takes a seat.

“What are you doing here?” he asks.

Her fingers curl around the cup, and she breathes out a slow sigh as the warmth of it trickles down her skin. Bringing the cup to her lips, she gives it a slight blow.

“I miss people,” she manages to say.

Her fingers jerk tighter around the steaming cup as her eyes start to sting. She rubs at the them at the same stupid pretext that he’s grown accustomed to.

He pretends like he didn’t hear her.

Emptiness wafts around them. She can no longer hear the brisk footsteps of people outside. She can no longer hear the slight squeaking of shoes near the counter. It’s as if the whole world has stopped and is somehow looking right at them, waiting in anticipation to hear the next word uttered.

At the corner of her eye, she can see him fiddling with his cup, his head bent down, probably watching her the same way as she is watching him.

“Why are you here?” he whispers.

At that moment, she bites back her lip to hold the swell of emotion waiting to burst out.

“I miss you,” she finally says. “I miss people when they drift away. These days, it feels so empty. There are people around me, yet, I feel lonely.”

A drop of tear trickles down and she looks up to meet his eyes.

“Why can’t you just let go of things. Why do you have to cater your ego? Why can’t we just go back to being the friends we were?”

“Look-,” he starts to say.

“No,I’m not staying here to hear you push me away. It’s tough to live through everyday, knowing that the people you thought would be there with you forever, are no longer there! I miss you so much! Yet every time I pick up my phone to call you up, I’m afraid that you’d just push me away. I want to go back to the time where things were not so complicated!”

He places a hand on her shoulder, as if trying to calm her down, but it is not working.

“Think of the world we could build! With memories so beautiful! We could go back to being friends again! We could go back to the same old routine of meeting here for coffee everyday! Wouldn’t that be wonderful?” her voice breaks.

Inside, his heart breaks into a million pieces on seeing her cry. He wants to hug her, console her and hold her till an eternity, but he knows that the scars will remain. That, things will never be the same between them as they were.

“We can still meet each other,” he says. “Look, here we are now. Everything will be fine again.”

She shakes her head and stands up.

“You don’t miss me. You don’t miss me like I do. And I know you are lying. You are lying when you say that everything will be fine again. For nothing will ever be,” she says and a moment later, she’s gone.

Through the misted glass, he watches her walk past hurrying people. A while later, she’s gone. Her shadow’s merged into the crowd.

He picks up the two cups, places them on his tray and stands up. For a second, he lingers there.

“I miss you too,” he finally says.

Only, she’s not around.

Somewhere, down the street, the girl stops and leaning against the metal lamp-post, slipping to the ground, she cries.

Somewhere, at the back of the coffee shop, against the rising vapours of the coffee mug, he sits and sighs.

Theirs could have been wonderful stories.

Stories that could have been..but never were.

Of Incomplete Stories Of Our Own

It’s rather strange.. one day, you are talking with a person like there’s no tomorrow, trusting him/her with your secrets, throwing your head back and laughing, unaware of the uncertainties that the future holds. That day, you are telling him/her about how much they mean to you and of how you’ll remain friends forever, ignoring the very existence of irrational forevers. That day, the sunset doesn’t matter, for you know you will meet him/her again. But the next day, the person is gone. Just like that.

There are no more pages to be flipped open. There are no more chapters. The story is over. The book is closed with a rather quiet sound. The lamp beside your bed flickers as you remember your cherished laughter. A cool breeze brushes past your face, drawing two lines against your scarlet cheeks.

You learn never to trust forevers. You learn that fairy tales are never real. You learn that people will leave – leave you more broken than ever.

Every next day, you wake up with a fear of losing someone else. Your lip quivers every time you think about the people who left you. And yet again, on rainy days, you remember them and smile. They hold a piece of your heart.

Now that they are gone, you know, it will never be the same again. Just like that.

The story is over. There’s no one to write it further.

And the book sits on your dusty shelf, drowning in memories of its own.

The story is over. Just like that.

Of The Boy In The Corner Of The Class

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!”

“Seriously?”

“And what?”

“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.”

“You are!”

“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.

“I’ll leave.”

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,

I wrote:

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.

Of Friends

He never understood why she had to look perfect. He never understood why she had to spend hours in the mall, shuffling through a thousand dresses. He never understood why she had spend so much time gazing at the rearview mirror of his car, trying to fix every strand of her hair. He never understood the girl that she became after stepping out of his car and entering the school premises. He never understood why she’d scurry off in another direction and leave him alone.

But the day he walked into the cafeteria and found her sitting amidst the bunch of popular kids in their grade, he understood why. He understood that she no longer wanted to be his friend. So, he stayed away.

Each day, he would see her walk past him, chattering merrily with her new friends. He would see her flashing smiles and laughing endlessly with them. But he could tell, those smiles were not hers. During lunch breaks, he would see her skip her meals along with the dozen other girls in their group. Every day after school, he would see her at the bleachers, cheering for some boy he didn’t know she knew.

He wanted to tell her to stop being the person she was not. He wanted to tell her that she looked all the more beautiful without the make-up. He wanted to tell her those people were not real – their façades his a hundred truths. Their lives were not so perfect. The people they were were not the real them. He knew because he had been there.

But he kept quiet because clearly, she didn’t want to hear him.

One autumn evening, however, he met her on the street. Her hair was messy and her eyes gleamed. As they walked past each other, she held him back. Words never left her throat. Instead, she broke down next to him.

Amidst busy people and muffled voices, he held her as she cried. She spoke things which made no sense. Yet, he listened. Her shoulders fell and she sobbed against him.

The lights above then rippled below their feet on the slippery, gravel road, breaking into a million rays.

“Why?” she asked, her gaze burning into his. “I listened to them. I was there when they cried. But why was there no one when I needed them to be?”

How he wished he could tell her all the things he wanted to, ever since the day she left him! How he wished he could tell her about her friends’ sheltered lives! How he wished he could tell her all this and more without causing her more pain!

“You,” she continued in a broken voice, “are the only person who has always stayed by my side. But now, I’ve lost you, I guess. I was so stupid to leave you for them!”

He smiled, but inside, he was breaking.

“Everything about them is like a carefully scripted play,” she complained. “I don’t want to be them. I’m just happy being whoever I am.”

“They are nice people,” he said. “It’s just that, at times, they are misunderstood.”

Shock spread across her features.

“I know because once upon a time, I was one of them,” he spoke carefully. “I went from one party to another and drank till dawn. I laughed to jokes which were so bad. I did all that because I wanted to fit in in their group. The popular group. But half way down, I realized that there’s no such thing as that. I didn’t need to be in that group just to be popular. I could be popular in my own league!”

Amidst the bright city lights and increasing unrest, they sat in silence, thinking of things which made no sense.

“It’s getting late,” he spoke, first.

She nodded and stood up and began to walk.

A pang of sorrow ran through him. How he wanted his old friend back! He waited for her to turn around, but she never did. So, he turned and walked his way.

Only, she called him back.

“Did I really lose you?” she asked.

He didn’t know how to answer that one. So, he kept his back to her.

“Can we go back to being the friends we were? Will you forgive me this time, please?” she said.

He turned around and saw her smile.

“That’s what friends are for, after all,” he smiled too.

To The Best Friend Who Wasn’t

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?

Sincerely,

The Best Friend Who Never Was.

Of Not-Yous

…So one fine night, I asked her something.

“Have you ever had an instance in your life that has changed you?” I said.

“No,” she replied.

“Anything interesting or inspiring?” I pressed.

“No,” she said again.

“Something?” I asked.

She kept quiet. Her eyes wandered momentarily, staring into the far horizon. The evening sunset gleamed in her eyes.

“Interesting,” she mumbled. “My life has been way too interesting. I have been broken to pieces and have managed to glue it all together.”

Her reply surprised me. For all these years I had known her, she had never been like this – so lost. She had always been the bubbly teenager who knew what to speak and when; how to dress right and for what; how to live life and for whom. She was this tiny quantum of energy and never before had I heard her so … defeated.

“You don’t sound like you,” I told her.

“Wow, that’s new,” she said. “Why?”

I shrugged.

“It’s just that deep, dark, sad has never been you,” I said.

She sighed. A ghost of a smile flickered on her face. A sad smile.

“If only someone asked,” she said in a low whisper. I heard her, though.

Of Randomness On Paper

Today, I don’t want to wake up.

I don’t want to wake up from this wonderful dream I’m trapped inside. Or is this real?

The paper below my hand feels coarse. It brushes against my fingers slowly, as if trying to remember every crack and every line on my skin. It is trying to pull me further into its lure.

There’s a pen next to the sheet of the pale, yellow paper. The pen is old with splotches of dried ink and numerous fingerprints on its dull, white exterior.

Somewhere behind me, a clock is ticking to some erratic rhythm. It is just so slow. Every other second seems longer than its predecessor. And with each passing second, the sheet of paper in front of me is slowly starting to fade away. The corners are curling on their own accord and the sides are starting to tear away slowly.

Someone is coaxing me to write.

Someone is asking me to pick the pen and write something. Anything.

Someone is asking me to paint a picture with the words.

Someone is asking me to write.

Don’t they understand that I can’t remember anything?

What am I supposed to write about?

Anything, they cry in chorus.

I know I want to write – about the sun that is nowhere in sight; about the little lamp beside me that flickers to life; about the darkness that envelops me; about the dream that holds me within it.

I know I want to write something – about you; about me; about them, calling out to me. I know I want to write about too many things, but I don’t know where to begin.

Please, they beg me, write something.

The page in front of me is merging into the darker paint of the chestnut table next to me.

Write about us, they tell me.

Who are you? I ask.

But they don’t answer me.

So, I write – I don’t want to wake up.

And here I am, trapped in my dream. Or is this real?

Of What We Actually Mean

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.

No.

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…