June 19, 2006. Monday. The first time I saw you. Sitting in The Boulevard, back right corner, third from the left, you were laughing with people I assume were your friends. Black skinny jeans, a white T-shirt and a leather jacket made you a sight to behold. I had just entered the bar when you caught my eye. I was too amazed to look away. I stood staring at you. I think it was two minutes. Or maybe 2 hours. I don’t know. I just remember having come across an angel and then being dragged away by my cousin to the middle of the dance floor. My eyes searched for yours the entire night. I wanted to see you once again before I left. I was shameless enough to not care about being caught by you. But now, I know I should have just danced and let you be. Just like I know that those people weren’t your friends.
July 1, 2006. Saturday. The second time I saw you. I was already running late and Minnie had asked me to get her an iced guava passion fruit coconut milk drink. I was told not to forget to buy donuts. I decided to get it from the cafe nearest to my place. I was just placing my order when you came and stood in the line adjacent to mine. My wallet slipped out of my hand and you caught it effortlessly. “Here”, you said and kept it on the table. You saw me staring after a few minutes and smiled politely. “So I wasn’t caught after all”, I thought and paid the cashier. I was so distracted by the deepness of your voice that I even forgot to thank you. Just like I forgot to take Minnie’s Donuts from the counter.
July 15, 2006. Saturday. You rang my doorbell. I had just woken up and was about to go shower. Hence the reason why my hair was messed up and my eyes groggy. “Hi, I just dropped by to say hello. I just moved in the house down the lane”, you said and laughed at the way my eyes widened comically. “We meet again, I see.” I simply chuckled and said a timid Hi before I closed the door in your face. I had forgotten to invite you in. Just like I had forgotten how to breathe.
July 18, 2006. Wednesday. Tae - you told me that’s your name. I met you in the cafe across the street. You were helping a little girl pick up her bags when I came to pick up my regular breakfast for two. This time when our eyes met, I didn’t shy away this time but smiled and said “Hi, I am Meredith. You may call me Mer. Nice to meet you.” Your eyes had shone brightly and you had invited me to eat with you. I had to leave because Minnie was waiting for me but I promised to invite you over someday.
July 22, 2006. Sunday. You came over for breakfast. I had made banana pancakes with maple syrup. You had gone on for hours how delicious they were and I had laughed it off. You told me you were studying Politics and your parents were halfway across the country. Your younger brother would be visiting soon and you wished to learn guitar. I told you I played the instrument and you requested if I could teach you. I thought you were joking and agreed without thinking. Once you left, I went to the attic and for the first time in forever, I had touched my guitar. It was black. Just like my life had been before you decided to fill it with colors.
August 1, 2006. Wednesday. I was painting the spare wall in my room when you rang the bell. With specks of colors on my cheeks, brush in my hand, and hair tied tightly in a ponytail, I opened the door to only find a bright orange guitar in front of my face. And then came a shout of “Ta-Da.” followed by your face. You laughed looking at my state and made your way inside. I had stared dumbfounded at the door until you called me in. “What are you doing here?” “What do you mean, silly? I am here to learn how to play guitar, of course.” When I questioned how you could just enter my house mockingly, you said that friends don’t need to stand outside waiting for permission. Friends just entered. Friends. That was new for me. “Why? Do you not consider me to be a friend?”, you had asked after getting no response from me. And so when you got up to apologize, I remember saying “Yes. Friends. That’s what we are.” Now that I think about it, I remember threatening to throw you out after your 87th failed attempt at strumming the right pattern.
Visiting each other was frequent after that. So was eating together, going out, and having sleepovers. You would come over to my place after a stressful day at college and play guitar with me. I would come over when I wanted to get out of the walls that seemed to close down on me and wanted to play games. You would take me to clubs and I would take you to museums. You were Jacob and I was Mer. And we fit together perfectly. I had someone to share my meals with, someone to rant about my boss, someone to make fun of, and someone to call mine. And you. You said I was someone precious to you. You said I was just the person you were waiting for. I was someone you could play games with, someone you could watch movies with, someone you could discuss politics with, and especially someone you could cry to when your parents couldn’t come to meet you yet again. You were my best friend. And I was yours.
In the short span of three years, we had shared memories no one else ever could. I remember you throwing me into the water on our first trip to the beach. I had punched you and walked off. When I refused to talk to you even after three days, you broke into my house in the middle of the day and paraded around in superman costume singing sorry in the weird way you sing until I laughed and decided to forgive you. I remember us cooking together, singing our favorite songs off-key with cake batter on our face, going on late-night strolls, having pillow fights, going on trips, making fun of random strangers, sleeping in the library because we were too tired to go back, taking the same ride 15 times on our visit to the local amusement park, and crying while watching titanic. Apart from that, I remember us fighting, throwing pans at each other, screaming our heads off, crying, cursing, and banging doors. We fought a lot, didn’t we? Do you remember the time when you forgot to pick me up from work and I hadn’t talked to you for two whole weeks? You had pleaded with me but I hadn’t bulged. And then when I felt like maybe I am overreacting, you had refused to talk to me and given me a cold shoulder. Getting you to talk to me was easy but the time duration until that moment was not. That was probably the worst fight we have ever had. But we had grown even closer after that. I hadn’t thought it was possible. But somehow, we did. You were the light of my life. If someone had told me to choose between you and my family at that point in my life, I would have chosen you without a second thought. You were more than just family to me after all. You were a piece of me. A mark in the depths of my being.
October 20, 2009. Tuesday. You introduced me to Lia, your girlfriend. She was the girl who had caught your eye on the first day of your internship and the one whom you had been pining after for almost 6 months now. With a delicate face, gray eyes, and soft brown curves framing her face, she was just as beautiful as you’d said she was and much much more. A sweetheart, honestly. You said you love her and I saw reflected in your eyes when you welcomed her in, in the way you told her about me, and in the way you treated her. And what delighted me the most, you ask? I saw the same love reflected in her eyes. You had found someone who would hold your hand forever, and I was happy about that. Happier than I ever remember being.
November 6, 2009. Friday. You, me, and Lia had gone to the amusement park. As always, our first stop was the Dragon Challenge. I was so excited by the prospect of sharing our special ride with your special one. But Lia didn’t like it. She got nauseous and had to sit down for 20 minutes. I remember apologizing to her for making her ride the thing but she said it’s fine. When Lia said she wasn’t feeling well and wanted to go home, I didn’t think too much about it and offered to accompany her. But she was adamant about me staying back and enjoying my time there. I saw you waving me goodbye and I waved back. For the first time in three years, I rode the dragon ride on my own and I realized it wasn’t all that fun after all.
December 12, 2009. Saturday. I got a promotion. All of my hard work over the last two years had paid off and I was finally an official employee of the Kim industries, not just an intern. I was beyond ecstatic and came directly to your house instead of my own. I pressed the handle and tried to enter, but it was locked. Your house was never locked. I rang the doorbell. Lia opened the door after a few minutes and I smiled brightly. “Hi Lia, is Jacon home?” “Hi Mer, I am sorry but he is not.” “Oh, it’s alright. But what are you doing here?” “He asked me to move. Didn’t you know?” No, I didn’t. Maybe it was because we hadn’t talked in a week. I had turned back to go and Lia was just closing the door when I heard your voice from inside. “Who would ring the doorbell, love?” “No one. Let’s go back upstairs”, Lia had said but I’d heard. I felt tears prick my eyes but I didn’t let them fall. I couldn’t. Today was my day after all. Crying wouldn’t do. So I celebrated on my own. The bottle of red wine in my bag was opened by one instead of two and the blue cheese crackers in the plate, which were usually the first ones to be finished, were left untouched. That day as I celebrated my promotion on my own, I mourned the loss of a friend just as well. For I had realized that while you had gotten another shoulder to lean on, I had simply lost mine.
December 21, 2009. Monday. I woke up excited and looking forward to going to the beach with you. I was even ready to forgive you and tell you about my promotion. Why? It was my birthday of course. It had been a tradition of ours to go to the beach on both of our birthdays. We hadn’t made plans the prior day but I assumed you’d free up your time nonetheless. It wasn’t something you’d just forget, would you? But it seems like you did. I waited all day long for you to come to my house and surprise me with a perfectly baked cake like I’d taught you how to make with my picnic basket ready beside me. But you never did. At 6 in the evening, when I was done with your behavior, I got ready to go out with Minnie to the same club where I first saw you. From your window, I saw you watching a movie with Lia wrapped in your arms. So you weren’t busy, you had just forgotten what day it was. I had the best birthday of my life that year and also the worst. I don’t know just how much I drank that day, but I remember falling from the couch the next. I remember tripping on the picnic basket kept in the hallway and tracing my fingers over the spoiled mascara mixed with tears that ran down my face. Guess I had cried last night.
I didn’t want to give up on you just because you decided you wanted to on me. So, I had come knocking on your door with tears streaming down my face, and a bottle of vodka in my hand. Lia didn’t even have the time to say “Hi” or “Oh, he isn’t home” when I had barged right inside and into your room. In hindsight, I should have done the same on prior occasions. “Come down here, you bastard! Get your ass down here before I come up and whoop it up real good!!!”, I screamed and you’d come running down. AT least you were concerned when you saw my state. That was a relief. You hadn’t stopped caring, it seems, just lessened. “Hey, are you okay? What happened? Why are you crying?”, you had come closer to hug me. Isn’t that what we did whenever the other was stressed? Not today. I’d flinched when you came close and the hurt in your eyes had been rewarding. You’d broken me to pieces when I’d been the one to pick up yours. “You fucking bastard! I come bearing gifts and cakes because you forgot to. Of all the things you could have forgotten, you decide to forget my birthday? MY birthday? All because you wanted to watch a movie with your girlfriend?
Well, guess what? Having your best friend forgets your birthday doesn’t feel as amazing as you might have thought. It sucks. And I am not going to forgive you no matter how much you apologize, you little shit.” I know the exact moment realization dawned on you and guilt-filled your eyes. I didn’t give you the time to respond though. I came here to tell you how I felt and nothing else. I didn’t expect you to follow me home, honestly. Just how I didn’t expect to see this day ever.
You had apologized continuously for a few weeks but not the way you did when we were best friends. You didn’t come over or make me cake. You didn’t sing off-key or break into my house. You texted me and you called. Hurt as much as it did to lose my best friend, I knew you had a life too and someone had just acquired a position more important than mine. And I had to live with that knowledge. Gatherings were rare after that and so were our moments. Our busy lives barely let us talk to each other. The free time that you had was devoted to Lia and I found solace in the arms of a colleague, Lucas. We’d grown too distant to even be friends anymore. I didn’t say it to you at that time because I didn’t dare to face you again. But I did forgive you. I forgive you, Jacob.
10 October 2010. Sunday. The day I found myself truly happy. I was sitting in the cafe across the street and with Lucas. I saw you enter the cafe and take a seat. I didn’t think too much about it. Lucas has seen you around the house of course and asked who you were. “Oh, he’s no one. Just a stranger who lives down the lane”, I heard myself saying. That’s what you were to me after all. A stranger. Our journey ended where it began. As strangers.
** Finish **
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