Those who read my previous post called “Sister of My Soul Part I” and gave me their valuable insights, comments and advice, there is news. Last week, late one morning my phone rang and the number on caller-id was unfamiliar. I was on my way out and almost didn’t pick up the phone – but I did and now I’m so glad I did! It was a phone call that I’d been waiting 19 years for!!! In less than a minute, all awkwardness, all inhibitions and all trepidations were forgotten and two friends reconnected once again, like we were never apart!! And the entire credit for this unimaginable feat goes to one person – someone who knew both of us very closely, someone who took the time and effort to bridge the gap by constantly encouraging us to start afresh! You know who you are and I cannot thank you enough for re-uniting the Three Musketeers!
On the heels of this wonderful reunion came another news – not such a good one this time. News of someone – a very dear friend I once loved and cherished and then lost to stupid ego and irrational anger! She has lost her father. A part of me wants to pick up the phone and talk to her, be there for her and there’s another part of me recoiling in apprehension, in fear of rejection! She has moved on in life and what if there’s no place for me in her world anymore?!
I had known her for a long time. We were buddies at NCC camps and hung out regularly on Saturdays after drill practice. But it was during the last two years of school that we became really close friends – inseparable and each others’ confidants and allies! As young-adults, together we explored and enjoyed the taste of new-found freedom. Those were the wonder years…the sky was the limit for the free souls…the world was our oyster!
We went to different colleges – me in the drab, early morning jail for studious girls where I was complete misfit while she was in the most happening university campus. I spent a large chunk of my first two years of college life at the cafeteria of her university than in my own classroom! It was at that cafeteria, she introduced me to a boy – someone she liked a lot. He was perfect – in every sense of the word – good looking, from a good family, brilliant and on the brink of a promising career! I couldn’t be happier for my friend!!
Around the same time, she also developed a new habit – going for early morning walks by the lake. I’d join her once in a rare while if I managed to roll out of bed that early, which didn’t happen very often! Once, after I had ditched her several times in a row, I got a call from her – she was very excited and wanted me to meet her at the lakes early next morning! She had met someone at the park. He was a looker, she said – they had exchanged a few lines and she was smitten. What about the boy from the university, I asked. I thought they were getting serious about each other. She said she was confused – she liked them both and wanted my honest opinion before she makes up her mind.
Early next morning I meet my friend at the lakes. She was excited and nervous at the same time. We held hands as we approached the boy doing push ups in the distance. He was really nice to look at I admitted. He greeted us with a cocky grin as if he was well aware of his effect on women. We were introduced briefly. I don’t recollect exchanging more than a few words with him. But I remember having a long discussion with my friend, during which it came out that this boy was from a different religion, a school drop-out and earns his living by dancing at various shows around the city. Of course I was all for dignity of labor and stuff, but I couldn’t really see what could be so attractive about him except his pretty face. I implored her to think and act sensibly – her friend from the university held a lot more promise for the future than this boy I argued. If any amount of time and energy needed to be spent it should be after the boy from the university I reasoned. She seemed to agree with me which pleased my foolish ego to no end.
Over the next few months I saw my friend on and off, sometimes alone, sometimes at the cafeteria with the boy from the university. They seemed to be getting along really well. I once managed to corner the boy and asked about his intentions for her. He said, she was very special and that he liked her a lot and he saw a future together. I was ecstatic for my friend...everything was perfect! Little did I know that my world was going to fall apart in a matter of days!
A common friend came to my house couple of days later. He was very distraught. He had been keeping a secret for weeks he said and it’s been driving him crazy. He was afraid that if he didn’t get it off his chest he’d fall sick!! My friend had called him a few weeks earlier and asked him to accompany her to the house of the boy from the lakes who was laid down at home after a serious motor-bike accident. The “house” apparently was a one-room shanty in a filthy slum at a religiously sensitive area of the city. There the boy lived with his parents and about half a dozen siblings. Mortified, this common friend literally pulled her out of that hell-hole and berated her for dragging him to that place. She apologized to him and begged him to not to tell me anything about their little “trip”. Our common friend agreed not to tell me anything on one condition – she’d have to tell me herself. She promised that she’d tell me as soon as finds the right opportunity! But apparently it had been weeks since the incident and it seemed that she was still waiting for the right time, because I was clueless about all that!
I remember feeling very numb while the story was being narrated to me. I felt like a fool…that made me very angry! I loved her and trusted her…it was unimaginable that she’d hide things from me. The very thought hurt me so much!! Her secret now became my burden and it sat really heavy on my shoulders. But I wanted to wait for her to come clear…confide in me just like she always did and for the next few days I made sure that we had ample time by ourselves to chat… for her to tell me her secret. She didn’t…and every time I said goodbye to her, my heart broke a little more.
I still remember that evening quite clearly. I was at her house. Our favorite place to hang out was the terrace. She was making small talk and I was distracted. I had so many questions…why wouldn’t she tell me anything!! What was she afraid of? My disapproval? But she knew I’d disapprove – in spite of that she went ahead and contacted that boy! Does that mean she doesn’t care what I think!? Does it mean that my opinions are meaningless to her? But she had asked me for my opinion when she called me to the lakes. What was she thinking? Was she ashamed of her actions? If that was the case, she could just tell me and we’d laugh it off and move on!! The questions kept swirling in my head like a tornado. I was feeling sick!! I finally blurted out everything…I took the name of our common friend and told her that he had told me everything! She was quiet for a moment and then she got very angry. She was angry at the common friend for betraying her trust…he was not supposed to say anything to me…he promised to her! But he promised on the condition that she’d tell me herself I reminded her! That got her even angrier…she said, she never found the right moment to tell me. But its been weeks I argued…there were so many times we were alone…she could have told me anytime! “What are you afraid of?” I asked her, “My disapproval?” She looked at me with cold eyes and said she didn’t care much about my opinion and she was perfectly capable of taking her own decisions! And that I should stop trying to run her life for her!!
Every time I look back at that conversation, I feel that if she had shot me in the heart with a gun, it’d have hurt less! “As you wish” I said and walked out of her house and of her life that day. I moped around for days…sometimes heart-broken and in excruciating pain...at other times blinded by extreme anger. And in that fit of mad rage, I ended up doing the absolute worst deed of my life!! I sought out the boy from the university at his dorm and ratted my friend out to him! I still don’t know what I was trying to accomplish that day…but when I left him, I felt so low that I wanted to drop down in the gutter and die!! In one fell sweep I finished off whatever chance there was to save the friendship by my one stupid and irrational action!
I never stepped into that university campus ever again. For the longest time I refused to hear anything about my friend. Time dulls all pain…everyone moves on. I did too. So did the boy from the university and my friend - but in different directions! Some years later, I heard from common acquaintances that he’s settled somewhere in the windy city…married to a beautiful girl chosen by his parents, doing really well for himself. My friend never married…she’s working with a multi-national bank and lives alone in a city once known for its gardens. Nobody knows what happened to the boy from the slum! Sometimes I wonder if I hadn’t acted in such a reprehensible manner that day, whether my friend would have ended up with the boy from the university!! Did I change the course of their fate?
The burden of my guilt and my shame is too heavy to let me pick up the phone and call my friend again. What will I tell her? Ask for her forgiveness? Yes, I am sorry for ratting her out. But did she ever feel bad for trampling on my feelings? For belittling my trust in her! For crushing my faith in our relationship!! I suppose these questions will go unanswered, because I don’t have the energy in me to bridge that gap anymore, no matter how much I want to. So In this time of her personal loss, all I can do is wish her strength and pray for her well-being from afar!