Tag Archives: happiness

Of Late Night Talks (III)

“Your life is pretty interesting enough,” he muttered. “You can write about that. I’d read it.”

I gave him a small, half-hearted smile.

“I don’t think I’ll ever be able to write about my life; pen down the little happenings and the hundred people I come across everyday and write about my dreams and hopes. I can’t do that. It’s too-” I paused, searching for the right adjective. “Too difficult. The story will start to sound too mechanical. There’ll be no soul to it.”

“I don’t think I understand that. My bad I’m not a writer,” he said.

“Where do I start, in case I ever decide to write about my life? The problem is, there’s so much I could write about and yet, it feels so less! What do I write about? Of how I spend nights crying, wishing I weren’t alone? Of how I look at every person, trying to understand them only to have them push me away because they love their facades? I don’t go to parties. I don’t drink. I don’t have a huge social circle. You’d find me on weekends, curled up in my bed, stating at the ceiling fan and thinking nothing. What do I write about? That? That sometimes I feel like doing nothing? That sometimes I just want to sit on the edge of a cliff and spend my entire life there? That sometimes, I feel so empty it almost kills me? Will people read any of it?”

“I’ll tell you what will make then read it,” he said and turned to me. “Somewhere between the lines, down the few hundred pages, they’ll find a person like them.”

“No! We’re all so very different!” I cried almost immediately, but then, I paused again.

He sighed and leaned back. “I’ve gone through all that too, everything that you mentioned. Let’s accept it, each one of us is a little scared, a little confused and a little sad. We cry. We laugh. We fall. We are hopeless. We stand up. We live. We die. We are little miracles. Our lives can be wonderful. Why do you think nobody would be interested in reading about your life and seeing how much it resonates with theirs?! You should write your story. I’d read it.”

“Where do I start?”

“It’s your story.”

“I can’t,” I said and stood up. “My story seems so small, so insignificant than the stories of people I come across everyday.”

“They feel the same too, that your story could be so moving than theirs. But you know what, that is probably what makes each one of our stories so magical. In the midst of our busy lives, starting from waking up and travelling in crammed buses to returning late and spending sleepless nights, there hides this one beautiful story, struggling to be told. And yet, no one gives it a chance.”

Somewhere, I knew, he had struck a chord. The corners of my lips fell into a frown and my breath hitched.

“So, let’s start this another way,” he said and stood up. “What’s your story?”

“Average girl. Vibrant dreams. Too short a life. Confused. Writes not because she has a lot of ideas, but because it keeps her sane. Likes stormy days and moonless nights. As hopeless as others when it is dark. Finds solace in the dawn. Hopes to get somewhere in life. And I don’t know, that’s it. What’s yours?”

“Running scared. Running away from something I’ve no clue about, but I know one day when it catches up, it’ll shatter me. Lives happy days with a lingering doubt that it is the calm before the storm. Is hopeless most of the time. Doesn’t wish or dream much because he doesn’t believe in himself. Hopes to get somewhere in life too. Clueless most of the time. Likes to hear people. Likes to travel because somehow he feels that it gives him a chance to start anew. And yes, though there’s more to it, that’s all I can think of right now.”

“I’d read your story,” I replied.

“I’d read yours too,” he said again. “And you know why you’d read my story and I’d read yours? Because though are stories seem simple, they are beautiful in their own stand. We know our struggles. We know how we get through each day. Why wouldn’t someone like to know more about that? It is the simplicity of our stories that makes it so beautiful and so unique.”

The night turned a shade lighter.

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Of The Things We Finally Remember

Sometimes, it comes down to the little things, the little mistakes and the little failures and the long rainy days that linger awhile longer in your mind.

Sometimes, you don’t remember the stage with flashing lights. You don’t remember the people who cheered. You don’t remember the overwhelming moment of pride. At times, all you remember is of that one rainy day when you broke down in the middle of the road, dejected and devastated. All you remember was telling yourself that it’ll be okay.

Sometimes, when it’s dark, that is all you’ll ever remember.

Of Tomorrows And Todays And Golden Yesterdays

“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.

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 Twisted, Random, Crazy Tales

During Christmas nights, when the moon was high up in the sky, she and her children would sit near the window above the fireplace, their noses pressed against the mullioned windows, waiting for Santa and his reindeer to fly through the dark winter sky. Halfway through the freezing night, their mother would find them fast asleep on their beaten leather couch, their lips curled into smiles and dreams fleeting in their little hearts.

The mornings that followed Christmas nights, they’d sigh and grumble for having fallen asleep so fast. Perhaps, Santa visited them then, they’d reason. Their mother would be standing near the corner, listening to their every talk, feeling pangs of burning pain running down her heart when she revelled in their infinite hopes. Her kids never had any gifts. They didn’t have proper mittens and sweaters. They never had pies for Christmas desserts. Yet, they would never blame Santa. They would never question his existence. Every Christmas they went by, they would take the blame on themselves.

“Santa left perhaps, when we blinked!” and “Santa didn’t visit us perhaps, because we haven’t been so good this year!” They would tell each other. Dreams never died in their eyes. Hopes lit up in them with each passing day.

“Ma,” they happened to ask one night. “Have you ever seen Santa Claus?”

What could their mother say? Her heart broke in sorrow. How could she tell her kids that she didn’t know if Santa did exist! How could she tell them that the fairytale they look forward is a mere illusion! How could she tell them the things that could only bring pain?

“Yes,” she lied.

And every Christmas after that, she watched them wait.

Until one Christmas night, when they had no roof over their head and starved. The night was vast. Snowflakes covered them in its snares. To the occasional howl of a street dog, they slept. Santa was forgotten that night. When hunger scratched their poor bellies and tears dried against their cheeks, suddenly the fairytale they had dreamed of for so long, metamorphosed into a painful reality. They realized, with a heavy heart, that the fairytale was gone. The freezing winds, the lonely streets, the hungry groans – how did they even dare to think that their life was going to be a fairytale?

“Ma,” they asked again. “Does Santa exist?”

“Yes,” their mother lied.

They slept without any food. They slept to racking shivers and mumbles. They slept without waiting for Santa. In the back of their minds, they knew they wouldn’t wake up again for another Christmas.

When the morning arrived, they found themselves in a warm house, next to the fireplace. Lavish breakfast awaited them. Without a bother, they ate and cried in joy.

Santa was remembered again.

“See! Santa gave us this, Ma,” they cried in giddy happiness.

Their mother nodded in agreement.

“Ma, Santa does exist, right?” they asked for the third time again.

“Yes,” she said. Only this time, she didn’t lie.

Of Late Night Talks

“I’m not saying that now is the time to act, or now is not. But you’ve to get somewhere in life, right?” Mom said.

“Mom, each one of us does get somewhere in life. They just wait for their chances and their dawns. Each day can’t bring happiness for everyone. While some might have rainy days in the month of scorching May, some will have summers in Christmas. Mom, each one us needs a chance – to prove ourselves to the world; to prove that we can stand up on our feet without any help; to prove that we can touch the stars. And we need someone to believe – someone to tell us ‘I know you can do it!’ That conviction alone can drive someone to the top,” I replied. “It takes time, Mom and people have to be given time. We can’t create magic in a second. We have to toil a bit, yet despite all these, we might fail. But we have to remember that we’ll have a chance to shine and we have to grasp that golden moment.”

Mom nodded her head.

“Mom,” I continued. “May be I’m not good enough. May be I will fail an exam or two. Failure is inevitable and it must be accepted with grace. I know I’ll fall too many times. But Mom, when I do get my chance – my chance to shine, I promise the world will watch. I promise I’ll scale that mountain and reach the top and tell myself that yes, I did it. I’ll get somewhere, Mom – somewhere high and fine. But you’ve to let me seek out my own paths. You have to give me the courage to spread my wings, else I’ll never know what it is to fly and what it is to drop from the sky. I promise, Mom, that there’ll be a day you’ll tell me, ‘I knew you could do it!’ I’m just waiting for that day. I’ll not miss my chance.”

“And even if you do,” Mom interjected, “I’ll still be proud of you, no matter what.”

The clock had struck midnight by then.

Of Returning Home

The train jerks to a halt, the metal wheels screeching against the rails, momentarily piercing through the drone of noises in the station. Picking up my duffel bag and grabbing the door handle to steady myself, I stare out at the maddening crowd of people all around.

Hawkers and taxi drivers and stationmasters and masses of men – it surprises me as to how the ground doesn’t crumble under their weight.

Stepping out of the train into the light of a scorching autumn sun, I take a moment to look around and breathe in the air. A smell if roasted peanuts coupled with a faint aroma of lemon oil teases the breeze.

Somewhere a hawker screams at the stray dogs that are running away with s piece of his bread. To my right, a coolie picks up the luggage of an old Lady, wincing under the weight of the blue suitcases. He complains and asks her to pay more as he starts walking, dragging the other bag behind him. Somewhere far away, a little boy sells newspapers, shrieking wildly, running after every person, hoping they’d buy a copy.

Silence is evasive as a xerox machine next to a shop, whirs and clicks, throwing sheets of paper all around. The owner shouts at the boy who is serving customers at the counter and he immediately comes to the rescue. Together, they slam the metal top to shut the machine.

Heels click against the gravel pavement. A little boy who us wearing a pair of oversized bunny slippers, jumps on every drying puddle, clapping his hands in excitement.

It is an unusually noisy Sunday.

But amidst all this, I find a deep sense of oblivion.

Nobody seems bothered. Everyone walks their own wat, occasionally stopping by to take a look here and there. Children hold on to their mothers, tight, while the men load the luggage into the train. Some people are leaving while some are returning back from where they had arrived.

As the evening air quietly blows, I can’t help but spread my arms and take a deep breath. It smells of home.

As if on cue, a frail man dressed in a pair of white pants and a grey shirt, approaches me.

“Madam ji,” he says. “Are you looking for a taxi?”

A slight gasp of surprise leaves my mouth as I withdraw my hands and shove them into the pockets of my overcoat.

“Why,yes!” I reply him after some time.

“Where to?” he asks but doesn’t wait for a reply. Instead, he picks up my bag and motions me to follow him.

“I’ve parked my taxi just there,” he talks as he manoeuvres around the people who’ve fallen asleep on the platform.

As we walk past the swirling rush of people, hearing a plethora of noises zooming into a drone, I can’t help but feel a strange peace within me. The noises don’t affect me.

With a slight spring in my steps, I walk out of the station into the slightly thick air of the parking lot. Every second fills my heart with profound happiness.

I watch him put my bags at the back of the car. Before he gets inside the taxi, he motions me to take the backseat.

Pulling open the door, I glance back at the station again. It seems as if it is moving away from me with each passing second.

Soon, I tell myself, I’ll be home. The little daisies in the garden will greet me and a bowl of corn soup will be waiting at the table.

Mom will be sitting in the living room, sipping in her usual cup of tea and flipping through the pages of some random magazine. Outside, on the street, my brother will be playing with his friends, crying in joy with the other children. And Dad will be glued to the TV screen, watching the latest political debate. They will be waiting for me. They will be calling to each other and sneaking glances at the clock, waiting for me to ring the bell. And when I will, they will rush to the door and hug me like there will be no tomorrow.

“Madam ji,” the driver’s gruff voice breaks me from my train of thought. “Where to?”

Slipping into the backseat and peeling down the windows, I feel the same air brush against my face again.

“Home,” I say and he smiles.

Of Finding A Piece Of Yourself

Have you ever noticed a person closely? Yes, they do look different; they have different tastes; a myriad mindsets… but look closer.

Inside, their souls, you’ll find yourself.

They are running scared; fighting for a place; living through each day, smiling and crying all the same. Inside, they are confused. Every time they find themselves lost amidst a crowd, they panic. They have dark days. They have brighter ones as well.

And look at you! Amidst the chaos of the city and dwindling light, you sit and watch the world go by. You are looking for your world. You are looking forward to a day when you’ll own the stage and the spotlight will be on you. When you have dark days, you are not afraid to cry. And when the sun shines bright, you rejoice.

You have goals like them. You have dreams gleaming in your eyes. You are as beautiful as the merging colours of the sky. You are looking for your moment to shine; they are looking for theirs!

Amidst the crowds that buzz past you, you take a breath and look at every person closely. You are blurring more and more into the crowd. And they are blurring more and more into you.

And as the sun drowns against the city line casting silhouettes across the horizon, you take a deep breath and stand up. Indeed, you looked closer and what did you find? That there’s a piece of you in those blurring faces in the crowd.

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.