I ring the bell and stand anxiously, waiting. This is new. Anxious, at your doorstep.
Clinking of bangles. Soft footsteps. Peephole gets darkened for a moment. A latch is unlocked. Door creaks open. Maybe it’s just my imagination, but it all seems very sad. The first thing my eyes see is aunty’s broad smile. Somehow it makes things even sadder. Maybe she is really happy to see me. Maybe not every smile is trying to hide pain. Who knows. Ever since I’ve heard the news, I don’t feel sure about anything anymore. So brace yourself, there are a lot of ‘maybe’s and ‘I thought’s coming your way.

We stop in front of your room. She takes me two steps back and tells me in a hushed tone, “Don’t ask her too many questions, beta. Let us give her some time.” I give her a reassuring nod.
I don’t bother to knock. I reckon, the way I look at our friendship has changed since your little adventure. But I don’t think we can regress back to formalities like knocking before entering each other’s rooms.

I pull out the stool from under your dressing table. It still has its legs uneven. Ten years and uncle still hasn’t got time to bring a carpenter. What were his recent excuses? I take a mental note to discuss this with you later.
I sit and start rocking back and forth. Now that I think of it, maybe we shouldn’t repair it after all. It feels just right. Not all faults need to be eliminated. Sometimes broken is beautiful.
This is another thing that has happened since that phone call. I just can’t stop thinking all this philosophical​ nonsense.

I see you’re sleeping. With your feet outside the covers. Typical you.
You look calm. I smile to myself. Remember how we both used to laugh at those cheesy romantic Bollywood scenes? Where the hero keeps staring at the heroine’s sleeping face? We had agreed it was downright creepy.
But now, I feel like staring at you. In hopes that maybe this is the only time I’ll see you with all your walls down.
I decide to wake you up and not to be that creep. Knowing you wouldn’t come to know whatever I do, anyway. But you don’t like it and so I won’t do it. I think it’s more important what you do when you are sure of other person’s ignorance. That’s how trust works, right?

Fluttering of eyelids. A groan here, a yawn there. You get up and look at me through squinty eyes. Is that guilt I see in them? Why are you reluctant to look at me? Do you think I’ll judge you?
She was never mentally strong.
She took the coward’s way out.

People with their ridiculous notions and unnecessarily opinionated minds!
I hope you know me better than that.

Finally, you make a half-hearted effort to smile at me. I feel like hugging you. I feel like slapping you too. For now, I decide to go with the hugging. Let us reserve the fighting for lighter moods and merrier times.

We watch our favourite TV shows. Aunty brings us her trademark cookies. We talk about random things. Play chess. Discuss new album releases and latest Twitter trends. Models and sport stars and their controversial stories. Same old bullshit. Honestly, I don’t care about all that. I’m not interested in lives of these strangers. I’m interested in yours. For a change, let us talk about things that really matter. Please?

You start feeling sleepy again. I get up to leave. I stop by the kitchen to tell aunty bye. Quiet, I ask her, “Why didn’t she tell any of us?”.
She replies still quieter, “Doctor said she told her she didn’t feel like bothering anyone. She thought no one could understand her.”

She thought no one could understand her…
She thought no one could understand her…

I’ve come home. Slept. Gone to college. Gone grocery shopping. Slept again. It is still ringing in my head.

She thought no one could understand her…
She thought no one could understand her…

How dare you?

How dare you think that. After years of shared benches and tiffins. All those exams and school trips and dance practices for gatherings. Goofing around the town on our bicycles. Innumerable sleep overs and gossips. Dreamy talks about our weekly crushes. Fights over stupid things. Bonding over things even stupider. I thought we had a deal.

So what we entered different colleges? So what we didn’t meet everyday? I didn’t know our subscription to friendship needed yearly renewal. I thought it was a lifelong thing. I thought it was understood what we had was deeper than pretty Insta posts. That our friendship was much more than tagging each other in memes.
How was I to know you were wrapping yourself in this lonely bubble of hopelessness? How do you know if the person who sends laughing emojis in almost every WhatsApp message is crying behind the screen?
But maybe there were signals. When you didn’t play Holi because you wanted to save water. When you didn’t come to the DJ night because you were pmsing. When you didn’t come out dining because you had diarrhoea. Maybe you really were saving water and pmsing and having diarrhoea. How do I know? I kept giving you benefit of doubt. Seems like you kept lying.
But I should have taken the hint that time… when you didn’t complete my ‘Gulabi aankhen jo teri dekhi‘ with ‘Sharabi ye dil ho gaya‘. Or maybe when you stopped throwing your head back while laughing. Maybe these flaws in your impeccable act are obvious only in retrospect.

I thought you were making new friends. Now, this may sound unconvincing coming from a possessive friend like me… but I wish you were. Friends whom you’d meet everyday​ and share your feelings with. I wish you had someone you thought wouldn’t be bothered by your problems. Even if that someone were not me. I think it would have been worth my jealousy.

I just thought it was understood. Never felt the need to spell it out. Y-o-u a-r-e s-p-e-c-i-a-l t-o m-e. You don’t say it, you show it, right? I don’t know what went wrong. Was I bad at showing? Or were you bad at seeing?

Yes, you are special.
You can whine and complain and sulk about any irrelevant little thing to me. And I’ll never roll my eyes. I know I do that a lot. But not at you. You can share your deepest fears and worst regrets. You can confide in me. You can rant about this unfair world and all the wrongs it has done to you.
You don’t have to be always cheerful. You can just sit there and cry your eyes out and I won’t mind a bit. Your sorrow can never bother me.
There you go. All clear now? Still have doubts?
You don’t have to act, hide, pretend. Whatever you feel, it’s okay to feel that way.
I’m not claiming I’ll have a solution for everything.
But I’ll listen. And I’ll understand.
Whether you believe it or not, I will.

I never prod because I want to respect your decision to keep things to yourself. Doesn’t mean I don’t care. I thought bugging you with “What’s wrong tell me tell me” would be pressurising. I thought people tell you things when they want to. You don’t go around making their business your own.
But you are not mere people. And I’ve given you enough space. We all have seen the results. I’m done with respecting your privacy. Solitude doesn’t go well with you. You suck at being alone.
So miss, from now on, I’m going to be absolutely nosy. Shamelessly clingy and utterly irritating.
I’m going to message you every alternate day, if not everyday. And we are going to meet as often as possible. We can sit in comfortable silence, if you don’t want to talk.
Next time you say ‘no’ to going out for a movie, you’ll have to write me a two page essay giving proper reasons with adequate number of reliable proofs and signatures from your parents.
I don’t care if you suffer from human overdose. I don’t care if you start hating me.

Look, I know I’m being irrational. Probably overreacting. Most likely it was not even you. Maybe it was the haywire chemicals in your brain all along.
And that’s why I’m going to give you all the time you need. Be patient. Be it months or years, we’ll make sure all the goddam neurotransmitters in your brain start functioning well and you are hale and hearty again. And when I know you’ll be able to deal with it, I’m going to sit across you, fix you with an unwavering gaze and have a nice little chat.
Of course I’m not going to say all the things I’ve written here to you. I don’t think guilt induction will be the right way to go about things. I’m pretty sure your psychotherapist won’t approve.
That’s why I’m venting this out here. Everyone needs a venting place. I’m just going to offer myself to be yours.

At second thought, this all sounds selfish and inconsiderate. Sounds like I’m making it all about myself. Self-victimization much?
Just do one thing. Tell me how to stop thinking.
What if the cut had been a bit deeper? What if uncle had come home half an hour later? What if you hadn’t received treatment in time?
What if. What if…
Tell my overimaginative brain to stop picturing your limp body, blood trickling down your hand…
Stop playing the same audio on loop.
She thought no one could understand her…
She thought no one could understand her…

The world sees your side. It’s important, I’m not belittling your struggle. I just want them to hear my story too. How does it feel to be a failed best friend.
Your cut wrist is visible from outside. My broken heart isn’t.
Thanks to you, for a person who always replies to a broken heart with ‘Chipkalo saiyan fyavikol se!!‘, the realisation has hit hard.
It’s not that easy.


8 Replies to “HOW DARE YOU?”

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