I wake up to messages. Some five or six notifications from Instagram, from the account of tralfamadorian31. “This is so me!!” it says under a meme. WhatsApp needs to be checked next. A green circle beside the name, Lelzer Ermagherd displays a small white ‘1’. I open the message. “ISMWELLLIKEBWEEF” is all it shows me.
Swinging my legs off the bed onto the floor, out from under the warmth of the covers my half-asleep mind is shocked slightly awake by the change in temperature. I text back, “I love u b***h. *off key guitar chord* I ain’t never gon’ stop lovin’ u. B***H!” I sigh. This is what our friendship is always like. Quoting vines to each other instead of saying ‘good morning’, sending memes and making stupid puns. As I sit in the loo shaking the sleep from my sluggish brain I scroll down my Instagram feed. A few of the things I’m seeing make me feel like laughing out loud. So, I do: I hit the send button and up pops a list of contacts. Selecting tralfamadorian31 I type out a message. “OMG. I can’t even! Look at this dumb cat!!!” Along with it goes a few select smiley faces with tears coming out their eyes. There. Laughed. I immediately get back a message with a similar emoji montage.
It is time to get ready for college. I dress and bathe and eat some breakfast to take my meds with (not necessarily in that order). She has put an alarm on my phone to remind me but I take it before it goes off. She had gotten visibly distressed when I’d told her I was missing my doses, grabbing my phone from me and putting in two alarms for the specified timings given. It was before I had left for the winter break. She hadn’t needed to ask about it; not only does she know my password but hers is the only fingerprint that works on my phone other than mine.
I reach college, she hasn’t arrived yet. I make my way over to the place that is usually ours. Despite not having a specific seating plan, years in school have gotten us accustomed to be put in one place for good. It makes us uncomfortable to change seats after. If we’re meant to be in a certain place we stick to it. Talking isn’t a problem either. Classes are for taking down notes, and sometimes for drawing in each other’s notebooks. She grabs mine away and starts scribbling away in pencil. It is returned to me with an entire page taken up with a drawing of a cartoon Dracula.
With the advent of social media, relationships between people have changed. It’s become enough for physical contact to be dropped down to a minimum and has boosted the significance of the virtual space. She adheres to this. At least with me. Of late, it feels like she spends barely any time with me at all. She’s always busy with something important. Before, it was her boyfriend. Her love for him knew no bounds. All time that was free time was spent with him. To the point where I’d be forgotten. Lunch time which was set aside specifically for gossiping with friends, turned out to become boyfriend time for her. It wouldn’t have been a problem if we’d all hung out together, but we didn’t. Our circles were too different for that sort of thing and it was just better to be apart. I too had other friends with whom I could spend time with, but it left me feeling like I was doing the same thing to them that she did to me. I was bitter. I was angry. Did I mean so little to her? So, I thought about it. I thought about unfriending her. Telling her how much she’d hurt me and how much I didn’t think we should remain friends. But I didn’t.
She’s always been the cooler one between the two of us. More mature, more sensible. She’s able to plan and get her work done without dissolving into a mess like most of us. At the same time, it’s a bit intimidating. She isn’t one to be too open with her emotions, usually she just sits quietly and stays that way, no matter what is bothering her. One can tell that the pressure has gotten to her when she starts snapping at you for small things. And the change is subtle but when you’ve known her for a while, it becomes easier to pick up on it. But in the start, it used to be a bit strange to understand what she was reacting to. Often, I’ve been told that her outbursts toward me are undeserved and that it’s wrong of her to be treating me like that. So, I thought about it. I thought about unfriending her. Telling her how much she’d hurt me and how much I didn’t think we should remain friends. But I didn’t.
When she broke up with her shady, gross boyfriend, She, cried on my shoulder. One of the rarer moments where she showed her vulnerability. It was raw and emotional, but it was short. But it didn’t stop at the crying. She started to give in to her vices. She’s also not telling me a lot of things. Keeping secrets. Well that’s always been there, but it’s gotten to the point where I can tell she doesn’t want me to know about something. It’s okay, I tell myself. Secrets don’t hurt anyone. I have my own secrets that she isn’t getting to know. But when she comes to class with her clothes stinking of smoke and a little more giggly than usual, it’s hard to not unleash ‘Mom FriendTM’. So, I thought about it. I thought about unfriending her. Telling her how much she’s hurting me and how much I don’t think we should remain friends. But I didn’t.
Sometimes, I look back on our college life and remember how the two of us reached where we are today. She was abandoned. Other ‘friends’ just leaving her behind and letting go of her over a spat which at the time seemed to be something huge but now as we are leaving, looks to be so irrelevant. I stayed by her side, knowing what it’s like to be alone. Knowing the pain of not having anyone to share funny stories with or joke with. I stayed… It made me feel stupid to have done so when I realised that she obviously had more friends than I had known. They just weren’t the kind that I would spend time with. So, I thought about it. I thought about unfriending her. Telling her how she obviously didn’t need me and how much I didn’t think we should remain friends. But I didn’t.
In college, I realised that as you grow, things aren’t all simple. The pre-set notions of basic elements of living, like friendship and love are vastly different from what it is in the real world. Sometimes, you can’t have what everyone else has. I look around me and I see those very ideas that I was taught as a child, play out before me with everyone other than me. An outcast, I trudge home, alone. In the end, we’ll just forget. In the end, I won’t be to her what Ron was to Harry. In the end, even though I’ll remember her for all she did to help me, she won’t remember my clingy emotional wreck of a being. So, I thought about it. I thought about unfriending her. Telling her how much we don’t fit the mould and that she’d be better off spending her time elsewhere. But I didn’t. I couldn’t. Because I needed her. Though it was a relationship where I was uncomfortable approaching her, she would know when things would be wrong. I’d be lying if I said that it didn’t bother me that I wasn’t her best friend. Labels like that have never worked for me; even when I was younger, and instead of learning from a young age I kept up the hope that I might too one day, find that special person who was the coolest, whom I could share anything with especially my life. I’d be lying, if I said, it didn’t hurt me that she had several best friends but as much as she left me behind, she also stayed to pick me up. As much as she had other friends, she’d make time for me too. Sometimes she asks me, “Am I a good friend?” I want to tell her this: Good friends are subjective. You could be good to one person but be awful to another. It’s not how we were taught when we were small. Classification of such a characteristic is hard. If you have hurt someone maybe they would see you as a bad friend. If you have helped someone, they might think the world of you. Are you a good friend? In all honesty, I don’t know. But I can say you have been good to me. Perceptions differ…
The day is ending. I make my bed out and lie in it, checking my phone. I see notifications from tralfamadorian31. I sigh, they must be memes. I open my chat and begin to scroll. Despite not fitting the conventional moulds of friendships, she was still friend, and in a relationship that floated on the rough seas of uncertainty and unconventionality, we had found our place to float on this little space in-between the waves of friending and unfriending.
This piece had been submitted for the Barbara Naidu essay competition organised by the English Department of St. Josephs College every year. I didn’t win although that’s what I’d set out to do. But halfway through the piece it became less about the winning itself and more about understanding for me what exactly this friendship of mine was about.
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