I called up an old friend today, out of the blue.
“Yeah?” he says when he picks up.
“Hi. What’s up?” I ask, trying to sound cheery.
“Yeah! Who did you think this was?”
“I wouldn’t know, man.”
“Well, it is me.”
I imagine him nodding morosely over the phone. That’s the thing with old friends – you never really forget their face, the way they speak, their voice even if months have passed without meeting or talking.
I tell him I quit my job, and he’s not surprised. But he gives me a word of advice. “Do not take a long break, start looking for work in a couple of months. You don’t want to end up like me!”
I pause, surprised. “I thought you were happy with your unemployed status. Weren’t you working on a novel?”
“I am, yes.” He sounds sad. My heart reaches out to him. I suddenly have an urge to meet him.
“You disappeared!” I say in an accusatory tone. “My texts never reached you, I could not access your blog. You deleted my number, didn’t you?”
“No. I deleted everyone’s number.”
“Look”, he says. “Don’t take it personally. I just thought it was time to move on and stop having expectations from people.”
I feel a pang of guilt. “I’m sorry…” I begin, and trail off.
He cuts me off. “I’ll be blunt. Madhura, you are a wonderful person, but a terrible friend. Terrible.”
I fall silent. It’s true – I AM a terrible friend. I used to think of myself as a very loyal person, happy within a close-knit circle of friends, but now I realize that’s who I used to be, and no longer am. I flit from situations and people to new ones. In my mind, I cling to the past like a life raft, but it is smooth sailing on the surface. He’s right, as always. I’m a terrible friend. I care very much for all my friends, but I never ever take the effort to be there for them. I do not even know if there is anything wrong in their lives, until it has happened and they tell me all about it later when we meet over chai and cigarettes.
He hangs up, saying he has some work. I promise to call in the evening. I know he doesn’t believe me. I know he is shaking his head over there, saying to himself, “No, she won’t.”