6 - Friendship

The last close friends I had were in high school.
We spent most of our time together.
Since then I think I’ve had about 3 close friends; but they can’t match what I had in high school.

I think I’ve always been a slow one at appreciating good friends.
In a few years I’ll be missing these 3 or so friends as much.
We’re different. A lot different. They have different jobs, live in different places.
Even if we did meet regularly, we still wouldn’t have much to talk about.

I’m the coldest one of all.
I realized it because I’ve been evaluating myself.
If regular phone calls and texting is your thing, I’d definitely fail the friendship test.
Unless you use the same social networks and IM’s that I do, there is absolutely no chance that we’ll talk.
And I don’t use Facebook, WhatsApp and the likes.

I used to waste a lot of credit on phone calls and texting when I was a teen.
As I got older, I realized it was a waste of money. Now I only call someone if it’s really important. And I don’t text anymore.

There were 7 of us.
I’d moved in from another city and enrolled in an academy. Fancy name but very lame.
I met 5 of them there. Together, we were 6.
It’s a small world. Met a girl I’d admired in 6th grade over there. And a former classmate.
I’ll call my first friend Mr S.
He was my first deskmate. We were like brothers.
I joined school the same day as another girl, R.
We all sat at the back. The famous backbenchers.
During breaks, we’d buy bottles of Coke, peanuts and popcorns.
Saved some for class so we’d be eating during the lectures.
Fun times.

I was very shy on the first day. But, within a week, I’d made friends.
Cracked jokes all the time. Insults were thrown around in good humor. Everyone got a shitty nickname. With complements from me. But I chose a cool acronym for myself. It stuck. But no one knew what it stood for. Except one girl.
Some teachers were nice. Some disliked me. But everyone had grown fond of me.
I was a smart kid with a rep for witty insults. Got good grades. And I looked good. The total package.

Saturdays were lazy. We all went to school but hardly had a lesson or two. At noon, we were free to go.
We were enthusiastic. Spent all morning seated in groups, chatting away.
On one such day, we were hiding from the Principal in an unfinished building by the trees. There was a small room at the back filled with desks and chairs. A good spot.
Also the first week for my best friend, whom I’ll introduce as M.
M, Mr S, R and myself sat in the dark room looking out for the Principal. Pockets filled with popcorn and peanuts.
Sharing is caring. That was our motto for food.
I think that defined the bonding moment between M and us. He was the new kid and already involved in notoriety.
M was tall and lanky. Mr S and I were the same height but he was chubby and I was thin.

M introduced bread and buns into our school diet. Until then, none of us had thought we’d be eating a loaf of bread in class. But he’d brought it and I was hungry.
From then on, food became part of our thing. Our side pockets always had food in them. So we’d be eating everywhere we went.
Mr S went home for lunch. The rest of us ate together.
M, Mr S, C, V, K, P, and myself. Like the secret seven but more mature. 3 girls and 4 boys.
We chose the same elective subjects in 10th grade. Geography, in our case.
The alternative was history, which the rest of the class took.
The Principal taught History. And he was a lazy old man. None of us wanted to be bored by him.
Geography on the other hand, was taught by a serious teacher, who we initially clashed with, but became really close to after a while.

I introduced milk into the diet. Everyday I’d carry a packet or two in my bag. M did the same.
First thing we did when we arrived each morning was grab a packet and down it.
It is strange how much we bonded over food and hanging out.

Mr S had a phone and he always charged it before coming to school.
Listening to music became our thing between classes and breaks.
Mr S had a few techno songs. But my mind was already imagining trance music every morning when I woke up. I had the beats in my head. The vocals too. I just needed to produce tracks of such music and name it after me.
Two years later, I heard my first trance song and realized what I had in mind already existed.

Bullying was almost nonexistent.
The moment someone messed with any of us, we’d all gang up on them. No chance.

There was a cupboard full of magazines and novels. One of my classmates W got into a fist fight with some teacher and punched a hole through it. He was expelled.
I stuck my hand through the hole and pulled out a bunch of Reader’s Digest mags. Every weekend, I’d pull out a new set and return the old one.
Once we raided a teacher’s office and found some porn mags. They were passed around the class for entertainment and laughs.

We went on a trip together. To a sugar factory. We chipped in enough money and rented a van.
Food wasn’t an issue because we were always carrying.
It was fun.

M, Mr S and I always stuck together for the most part.
C floated in between us and the girls.

Classes stopped at 4. But they didn’t let us out until 5.
During the afternoons and evenings, I remember sitting with the girls and we’d make plans of our future together. Sometimes, the other boys would sit with us. Or they’d be hanging around doing other stuff. But we made the plans. And made choices for the rest too.
One big mansion. The 7 of us with our husbands, wives/partners. Each couple would get their own room. We’d have a big kitchen and den downstairs. And everyone would have their own car and bikes. Imagine the size of the garage!
It was like the Team 10 house but without YouTube. None of us knew what YouTube was at the time.

I’d got a new bicycle. M had his.
Together we’d ride out in the quiet suburbs during the weekends.
But first, the food. So we always went to the mall and got something to drink and eat.

I transferred to a different school because of some circumstances.
The gang officially broke up.
Things would never be the same again.
I didn’t want it to be this way. But I had no choice.
I talked to the Principal at the new school and asked him if I could bring in my friends, especially M.
He refused. Saying the classes were in full capacity. There was no room for more students.

M and I were devasted. But we arranged to meet up during weekends like we always did.
We’d sit at a chip shop and order large fries and coke. It was our thing.
When I was still at the old school we’d have Mr S and some others eat with us sometimes.
The new school was strict. It was like a prison. All classes were on time. And the punishments were severe.
Sometimes the gang would stop by in the evenings and greet me at school.

We’d joined Facebook and had emails. But we had to go to the cyber cafe for that.

I’d settled into the lone wolf mentality.
I was different. I stuck out like a sore thumb.
I ate lunch alone. Always. Then stopped having lunch at all due to another issue.
Don’t get me wrong. The kids were very friendly and helpful. I owe them a bunch for always standing up for me.
We had nothing in common. Came from a different background, had different interests, wanted to talk about and do different things.
They had a one track mind. They studied hard and always spent time reading.
I was bored.

During our finals, M and I still managed to meet and hang out. But the future was uncertain.
When we were done, the gang arranged for a picnic at a park.
It went okay. But the parting concluded what M and I had always feared. We wouldn’t be assembling again any time soon.
We’d grown up. Everyone was thinking of the future ahead.
Our dream of one house, living together was shattered.
Suddenly, everyone seemed to have grown selfish and self-absorbed. Or rather, helpless.

C got a job soon afterwards. The girls attended a polytechnic for some course and got their certs. Mr S and I went to the same driving school. M was working odd jobs. I got a gym membership and did a diploma course then dropped out.
Meanwhile M and I continued our weekend meeting ritual.
The gang wasn’t together anymore.
Then, I had to travel again.
M and I met for the last time.
We promised to call and keep in touch.
And we did. The first few months.
I dropped out of social media.
The calls stopped.
We weren’t much of callers anyway. It was always brief and to the point.
The fact that we’d been so similar was one of the reasons we’d stuck together for so long.

M, the gang and most of my old classmates are still on Facebook.
But they don’t use it often.
The last time I created an account and checked up on them, M was a DJ, traveling around the country and, apparently, drinking. Mr S was working at a car dealer’s, C was working as an accountant, and the girls had all married and moved away.

It’s been several years now. The plan is stuck in my head like a distant dream. But my friends are gone.
If we met today, I don’t think the atmosphere would be the same old. As people grow old, they evolve. Their personalities, interests and tastes change with time.
I could still contact them via Facebook. But I quit a long time ago and there’s no turning back.
If they wanted to contact me, I don’t think they can. Unless they put some effort and resources into it.
And why would they want to?
Priorities change after marriage.

Now all that’s left are memories.