Our differences began when we were in preschool. Aishwarya always chose music, and I was the one who danced and told stories. She liked pink, and I liked white. She preferred strawberry flavoured dessert and I always went for chocolate. She always wore her hair in elegant long curls, mine was usually pulled back in a messy pony tail. Yet, beyond all that, we were best friends. The two of us literally stuck together everywhere we went. Our parent became good friends and we spent most of the weekends together.
Ten years later, things changed for her, but for me, it didn’t. I was still telling stories and dancing, but she stopped singing. She went on to photography. I still ordered chocolate for dessert, and she dropped strawberry and switched over to chocolate as well. My wardrobe was still over coloured with white, but hers started having hues of red showing up. She was dynamically adventurous, constantly experimenting with her interests.
Aishwarya and I still enjoyed being best friends. The both of us exhausted most of our times watching stars. She loved calculus and tried explaining to me how calculus defines the way the universe works. Unfortunately, hatred towards mathematics was something I developed at a very young age, and not even Aishwarya could modify that. Once, when we were fifteen, we took a stray mud coloured puppy home. He was named Remus.
Both of us turned seventeen, I was still dressed in white, telling stories, dancing and having chocolate for dessert while she fell in love. She claimed she felt her heart skip a beat every time he saw her, that the sky was a deeper shade of blue and that she had never felt anything like this before. Initially, I listened. I really did. But somewhere out there, I just lost her.
I only understood the literal meaning of the things she said, I couldn’t feel her words anymore. She always seemed distant, occupied, and very involved. Her grades started dropping and she missed classes very often. I tried being casual about all this, but I couldn’t. One Sunday , I was going to pick her up from her home to do some shopping, while I went over to her home, something was wrong. The house was scarily quiet. Aishwarya was on the couch, her eyes red and her nose pink. I walked upto her.
“Mom found out.” she said even before I could begin. And she broke down again, this time, on my shoulders. My heart stung. I felt bad. I could feel her moist tears on my shoulders and I took her in a hug and simply let her cry, saying nothing.
That moment, I knew she was the three year old girl I made friends with. I realized that I never lost her. She grew up, I just didn’t.
“Let’s go get some Ice-cream Aishu, you’ll feel better. We’ll sort this out later. Together. Okay?” I said softly.
Aishwarya decided to drive. We started off in her Scooty. We were just five minutes away from her home when the conversation started.
“Bala, why did you push me away?” her question took me off guard.
“Aishu, you changed.”
“And you didn’t”
“You were too busy with your new friend” I replied, my tone now a little prickly.
“Why do hate him so much? You hardly even know him!”
“You are too young Aishu, how do you know he is not using you?”
“How do you know he is using me?”
I was silent.
“You are a liar Bala. A very pathetic liar. You say you know me the most, but you hardly know me. If you had, you would’ve been on my side and helped me go through the mess that I shamelessly accept I created.” Her voice was now trembling.
“Our priorities changed, Aishu. Just leave it at that. Don’t make this dramatic.” I replied coldly.
She was silent.
“Love is overrated Aishwarya. It is far away from reality.” I said, after a small gap of awkward silence.
“Says the girl whose only romantic feelings are for a Telegu hero who is married.” she snapped. I was taken aback.
She had touched a nerve. I knew she meant it as a joke, but I got offended. I remember saying something very rude back, but all of a sudden a huge truck came out of nowhere and hit our tiny vehicle. A shrill scream pierced through my ears and into my skull.
I woke up in a brightly lit room. I was in the hospital. I saw my mother by my side. I felt numb. My throat was dry, my lips hurt, and my eyelids were heavy. I turned around. I asked for Aishu. My mom looked at me, her face still. I knew it before she told the words. She was gone.
Aishwarya’s funeral was the most difficult thing I had ever faced. It killed me, without causing death. It stabbed my heart, without any blood. It burnt my soul, without any scar. I couldn’t look at her parents. I couldn’t look at my parents. Remus was at my feet. He probably felt the same way I did. And then I saw Him.
Siddharth was standing there, still. Very very still. His eyes were frozen. I had an instinct to walk to him. He looked at me as I walked up to him.
“Siddharth, I’m sorry.” I said in a broken voice. He was looking at me, but his eyes were distant and lost in thought.
“Don’t be.” he said in a very coarse voice. I saw a thick layer of tears mount below his eyes.
“You know Bala, every time she spent time with me, she was always talking about you. You and I, we never landed on the right foot back then, but she was a very special person to both of us.”
That was when I saw I his eyes. Deep in it, was something that was very familiar. I saw the same light I had seen in Aishu’s eyes. But this time, that glow had a thick stroke of sorrow to it.
. I finally understood Aishu’s words. I cried myself to sleep the following nights
Three years later, Remus and I were in my terrace, star watching. Suddenly, a comet with bright bluish light passed us. A warm feeling took over. I felt Remus and I weren’t alone. I could smell a very familiar lavender scent. Remus stood up alert, he barked softly and was wagging his tail.
“What is it boy? Do you feel in too?” I asked him. I looked back at the comet.
The universe, the lavender scent and Calculus. It all made sense. Aishwarya had forgiven me. I smiled as the comet passed by.