She looks at herself in the mirror. Then sashaying her skirt, she turns around to face her grandmother. She asks if she looks fine. She gets a bored smile in return.
She tells her, “I am going out with my friends. When I come back I would like to hear of what you are gifting me.”
Her grandmother says, “I think I have given you enough for a lifetime.”
She bends down to kiss her grandmother. She steadies her wrinkled hand on the bed. Crimson and dilapidated yet all the more essential for medication. She wonders if things will be as is by the time she returns. She considers cancelling on her friends.
Her parents think otherwise. For the past fortnight, she has been home tending to her ailing grandmother. It is a known secret that her grandmother is on her death-bed. Today, however she deserves to meet her friends and celebrate. Her tenth board results were announced today. She has stood first in her school. Under different circumstances, they would have celebrated at home. Under present circumstances, they doubt if they will celebrate at all.
In the mall, she spots a group of seven girls chatting animatedly near the escalator. Beaming, she walks up to them. They smile back at her and resume conversing. She stands there, listening to them. She suggests that they sit somewhere. But they deny. One of them asks her if she has decided on her subjects. She replies that she is confused. Everyone throws her a concerned glance. Because apparently all of them had not only decided on their subjects but they had begun with the coaching as well.
All of them were brimming with tales from their new lives. Tales of the difficult question on last Sunday’s test, of their hectic schedules, of their IIT aspirations, of the cute nerd in their class, of the boring Accountancy teacher, of the trigonometry back up classes. She stands silently. She listens. She smiles encouragingly and even laughs at jokes that she barely understands. She wants to tell them about her vacation. She wants to tell them about the book that she is reading. She wants to treat them for ice creams at least. But nothing of that sort happens. She simply listens. Because her existence in their lives seems dated.
In bed that night she ponders upon the evening. How is it that all of her friends had moved on with their lives? She had only been out of the loop for the past fifteen days but she had talked to them before that. How is it that no one told her about their choices been made?
She thinks of the last exam two months ago. She wanted to spend time with them but they had plans. Her birthday that year where nobody but two of them showed up.Of how disapproving they were of the friend that she had made outside the group. A friend she had known her for six years did not even acknowledge her presence on the class 8 school trip. Of 7th standard, when her friends did not vote for her in the class prefect election. However when she won, it never stopped them from asking her for favors.Of class 6, when she had to miss school for two weeks because she was suffering from chickenpox. Her friends believed that she lied to avail sick leave. Her benchmates had changed seats forcing her to sit alone. She remembers how she always stood silently in a corner during recess. She thinks of all the zero periods, when they left her in the class without a thought.
It is then she realizes that she has always been a stranger among them. That she remained unheard and uncared for, among her own friends.
This was May 26th, 2009 in the story of my life. My friends, for the lack of a better word, often complain that I don’t call them or send messages. That I have distanced myself since I went to college. The truth is that never in the past three years, I have experienced the urge to make them privy to the affairs of my life, whether interesting or mundane. In the eight years of our friendship, they had not once bothered with me. They had hurt me. They were critical of my introversion. They often ditched me on the grounds that I was emotionally strong.
Friendships can be toxic. When you are faced with seven people who find you uninteresting and unworthy, you begin to question yourself. You perceive yourself in the wrong. Gradually, you modify your individuality to please others, to earn the much craved acceptance.
It doesn’t work. They will never come to care for you. Instead of hanging on to a dysfunctional friendship, walk out. It is intimidating to go from a lot of friends to zero. To sit alone in the class for a month. But at the end of those thirty days, lies the hope of coming across at least one individual who embraces the beauty that you are.
P.S. Why did I bore you with all of this on the onset of a pleasant weekend? Because I happened to talk to a school friend today and it opened a box of unpleasant memories.