Just Good Friends

“Hey, he’s not coming…apparently he’s got some work left”, she said. Though I was more than happy to hear those words, I kept my emotions under control. “So I guess, then it’s just you and me…lets hurry up, I think it’s gonna rain again”, I said.

Within a couple of minutes we were on our way. This was the first time we were walking alone and now when I look back, I could not have asked for a better setting than what we had that night. It had been raining all day long and even though the downpour stopped an hour ago, the gentle breeze that was blowing just made the crisp moonlight peeping out of the clouds all the more enjoyable.

Here I was, walking with a girl who could not have been more perfect for me, on this amazing night. I thanked my stars for that. And none of it would have been possible had a common friend not been stuck at the office due to some work-related issues. So I thanked my stars again…

Once we left the building I noticed that she had her earphones on. Maybe that is why she had been so quiet for the past minute or so, coz her being quiet is pretty unusual. As I noticed the earphones my gaze
suddenly fell on her hair swaying with the swift wind.

And within a second she looked at me with that weird stare, her eyebrows raised. “What???” , she asked. “Nothing”, I said, “It’s just that it’s really impolite to be walking with someone with your earphones on”. She smiled gently, pulled the cord out of her cellphone and then smiled again, “Is it okay now?” she asked. “Yeah”, I said, “but why the hell are you listening to Nickelback?” She didn’t reply.

We discussed random topics for the next 5 minutes or so. What topics? I can’t remember. Maybe I wasn’t paying much attention to what she was saying and was concentrating more on how she said it. It’s really hard to act as though you are listening attentively to someone when actually all you are doing is being mesmerized by their presence. But I do remember when she abruptly stopped talking and pointed towards something across the street.

“PANIPURI !!! I want to have some…” she pleaded. “Sure…why not?” I replied. Why not? Hmm….lets see…..coz the last time I remember having one of those was about a year ago and I ended up turning sick due to food poisoning after consuming the damn thing. But how could I say no to her.

And that wasn’t the only problem. Ask anyone who has ever crossed a road with a girl and you’ll understand the situation I was in. Now, had I been alone I would have been on the other side in less than 10 seconds, but when you have a girl along with you, it typically takes a hell lot longer than that.

They turn left, then right and until and unless they are perfectly sure that they’ll make it in one go, they won’t even take a single step forward. The Bangalore traffic wasn’t helping the cause either. I wanted to grab her hand and just make a run for it but I didn’t. And after 4-5 minutes of struggle I finally managed to get us both on the other side of the road.

“These are amazing…Bhaiya, make it more spicy” she said, and even though I knew that I may have to regret having them (remember the food poisoning?), what made me happy was to see the sheer pleasure in her eyes because of those damn things. I tell you, girls and Panipuri are like…“Bhaiya, give the last one without the PANI”, she said, “God it’s so spicy!! Hey lets go have something sweet na, a Mango Shake maybe”.

And we were off to our second stop for the night. It was 9 ‘o’ clock in the evening and with the rain in the air, there weren’t many people on the roads. Especially when we took a turn into a colony where this Juice corner supposedly was, I couldn’t see a single soul on the street.” Perfect”, I thought, “What more could I ask for…” I murmured to myself. “Huh? You said something?” she asked. “No, nothing….”, I
replied hurriedly.

But before I could even start a conversation, she started talking again. Although this time I remember exactly what (or rather who) she was talking about. She had this boyfriend with whom she was having all these problems, and even though discussing about her boyfriend was so unbearably awkward for me, I had to oblige. Afterall, she considered me as her friend.

She kept rambling about him on and on and as you can judge by my tone, it was far from pleasing. To be honest, I don’t know why. This continued till we reached the juice corner but by that time, the message was pretty clear….he was too important for her. And as sad and dejected I was on the inside, I kept a smile on my face – the very smile I always maintained whenever she talked about him.

Thankfully, I didn’t have to have it on for long as we approached the Juice corner. “2 Mango shakes please”. As I placed the order, I couldn’t help but think why exactly I felt so awkward every time she talked about him. And within no time my answer was there.

With the brisk breeze still blowing as the aftermath of the day-long downpour, her hair was going all over her face. She then gently pulled ‘em back and tucked them behind her ear. She had one of those dangling ear-rings on, you know, the ones that moved with her every move. And there it was…the most beautiful face I had ever seen….she was perfect and even more so perfect for me. Suddenly, I was brought back to my senses, “2 Mango Shakes, 40 Rupees please Sir”. “I’ll get it”, she said.

“No, no….I got it… I got it”, I insisted.

She had taken just one sip from her glass when a 4 or 5 year old came abruptly running towards us. He stood there and stared at the both of us. “Would you like to taste it? It’s yummy…..” she asked the kid. The kid
nodded. “Oh, he’s so cute”, she said, “Bhaiya, one more glass of Mango shake”. The kid kept staring at us and it almost seemed as if he was amazed as to how a jerk like me could be hanging out with a girl like her (or maybe it was just me).

“Lets go, it’s getting late and it looks like it’s gonna start raining again”, she said. After saying good-bye to the weird-yet-cute kid, we were on our way again. I for one wanted this walk to last forever but she
seemed to be in a hurry. No sooner than we got out of the colony and onto the busy roads, I saw my bus coming. I tried ignoring it so that she wouldn’t see it too, but I was too late.

“Hey, that’s your bus isn’t it? Go, go, what are you waiting for? You probably won’t get another bus for the next half an hour”, and despite me telling her that it was late and that I should at least drop her home and then catch a bus, she was adamant. “Don’t be stupid, I live just around the corner. If you don’t catch this bus, you’ll definitely get soaked in the rain”, she said.

And with a heavy heart, I had to stop at the bus-stop. “Goodbye, and thanks for the Panipuri and the Mango Shake”, she said, and all I could do was smile. Seeing the bus approach the bus-stop, she said goodbye again and started walking away. But you know what, I never got onto that bus. I just stood there watching her walk away, thinking how I was going to cope up with all these feelings.

There are very few things in this world that are more painful than to see the one you care for walking away from you, seeing the distance between the two of you grow with each passing second. One of those things is to know that despite how you feel for that person, you might never end up together; another
is knowing that when you wake up the next day all that transpired today would be a distant memory and you’ll get back to being “just good friends”. At that moment, standing at that bus-stop, I felt all three of those things.

Nishant Prakash