Heavy fringes overhung my forehead. Clouds overhung my head.
“I want to sit down,” Eva said.
“I want to stand here,” I thundered like a prelude to the overcast sky’s downpour.
Down at the fountain, a young girl was stroking her lover’s face with a yellow rose. My face fell like the wilted rose as I saw Eva walking to the grassy patch to have her wish of sitting down. It sat there welcoming her in drooling wetness.
She is doing this to irk me. Who would sit on such wet grass?
“Come here. It’s wet there,” I called out. She turned with a stale expression.
“Who’s going there anyway? I’m walking straight out.” There in the middle of the amphitheatre at Central Park, New Delhi, my expression turned stony like the ground beneath me. “Go then,” I retorted. She did not as much as shrug before turning on her heel.
“Come back here,” I yanked her hand evincing a sneer from her. I pulled her to the railing of the tiny bridge we stood at the edge of. She did not resist.
“Look at all these couples here. Do you think they are really in love? Seems candyfloss to me,” I declared. No response. “Are you listening?”
I veered my eyes and found her humming a tune with her headphones on. My face felt a sudden sting of shame.
“You aren’t even listening to me.” My hand darted to pull the ear bud nearer to me out of her ear. As my hand strained to go round to dislodge the other ear bud, her hand lazed towards it.
Good! I thought.Â She’s taking it off herself. She does not absolutely disrespect me. I smugly turned away. “Yeah … look at these couples he…” And I turned to her again for a shocker. Her headphones were back on. “Get lost,” I spilled in no uncertain lip movements.
Five minutes later and five fake hugs to five different people later, we were seated in a group of friends. I snatched a moment to whisper to Eva, all troubles forgotten for a moment, “I suddenly have a lot of respect for you.”
“I know why you say that,” she said with what I suspected was a cynical smile. Maybe it was the lighting.
At 19, six of us in the assembled group were together in mass media class, here to cobble up the an A1 ad as part of our group project. Part of our job involved bearing with each other with tact and diplomacy no matter what we thought of each other otherwise. Eva was my accompaniment today. On good days, best friend. She lived in a hostel with the usual strict rules on deadlines and in-timings. The Cinderella hour was 6:45 P.M. It was 6:30 P.M on my watch. She was on a night out today. Today, through the weekend – four sumptuous days – she was living outside her hostel. Not with me. With Sheena who was, to Eva’s amusement, a Capricorn like me.Â Capricious I thought.Â She is always out on night outs with her. I wonder how it is that when she’s over at my place she always has to leave early while with Sheena it’s days together. That Eva had cited Â (on her permit card at her hostel) my place as her place of stay for the four upcoming nights at Sheena’s place was not helping matters with me.
The meeting over, Eva and I walked out of the park.
“Hey, come to my place tonight,” I insisted.
She smiled a despicable smile.
“I can’t. I promised to be with her today.”
“How is it that all she has to do is say it while I have to haggle with you to make you come to my place?”
“She lives alone. I’ve spent more nights out with you than with her anyway.”
“Maybe that’s because she was your roommate till very recently. It was her choice to live alone to be able to take up more modelling assignments. She’s not a victim in a big bad city,” I lashed. “And my parents are out on business eternally. I live alone too remember?” I thundered, with restrain in my voice.
My coldness froze my reply in the throat. As if sensing it, she said, “You know how emotional she is. You are sensible. I have to go.”
“Ok,” I said.
The Metro was just across the road before the park. I cringed at the sight of the speeding vehicles that separated us from it. Eva held out her hand. I withheld mine. We walked across. Gate No: 8.
“Shruthi,” she called out. I kept walking. Down the stairs. “Shruthi!” She called out again. There was silence then. I could no longer make out her footsteps from the scores of others’. Then came a frenzied deluge of her footsteps. My arm was yanked.
“Can’t you hear? When someone calls your name, you are supposed to stop,” her eyes were wide like they became when she stressed a point.
“My ears are open,” I wisecracked.
“Look … I really got to go.”
I shrugged. “Am I stopping you?”
Her eyes narrowed. She turned and fleeted away. I regretted not walking off before her.
The Metro ride back home was hot. Not because the December evening had decided to yield or because of theÂ jam-packedÂ trains. My ears burned.Â She sticks with Sheena because of her upcoming model status. Hanger on. I thought. But was she?
Eva had a track record as a genuine friend. She had held my hand in hostile situations, hit back at dangerous-looking men’s catcalls with me, lent an ear to my dreams and sorrows and been a vent to my relationship woes … though now in the bewilderment, it struck me how she always took his side in a love tiff. Even in that anger, ending our relationship did not strike me once.Â
She did make time to come along with me for the meeting to this far-flung place. But then the gesture was negated by all the faces that she pulled on the way and the absolute unwillingness to talk with a straight face. Her relationship with Rohit had hit a rough patch. Maybe that’s the reason behind her moodiness. How come she expects me to act all mature while acting like a child herself?Â Maybe I was a little unreasonable (read: insecure).Â But is emotional security nothing in a relationship? Should one gracefully step aside while one’s best friend reaches out to her emotionally volatile friends? I quite like Sheena myself. Despite having won beauty contest titles and walked the ramp for famous designers at such a young age, she hardly has a blot of airs about her. What is making me act this way? Possessive jealousy?
I punched in a message to Eva as soon as I was out at the exit gates.Â “I’m sorry for acting immature. But you are no saint either. If you were emotionally charged there are better ways to tell me than making faces and making me feel as if you did a favour by coming with me.” Sent.
I lifted my eyes beyond me, the stress of sewn-together brows gone … And there she stood! At the gates.
Her cellphone interface lit up in her hand. She took a look and smiles. “I haven’t read your message but your face says we areÂ alrightÂ now,” Eva smiled, walking closer.
I smiled back. “Right. Now jump into the next train. You better be there at Sheena’s before she comes back in tears.”
“I knew you would understand,” she gave a dazzling smile, squeezed my hand and dashed to the ticket counter.
She didn’t even hug me or spare a moment. Acid thoughts again began permeating my mind.Â But hey! That’s the last almost empty train she can catch to Sheena’s anyway. I smiled, my head already throbbing thinking of the next days expected squabbles.
A relationship might be just right. The feelings might be very genuine. But sometimes, a little gesture and reaffirmation of love is necessary to keep the fire burning. We are communicative animals. Sometimes silence can become miscommunication between loved ones.