Written by Nandini Sethi
“Can we go to the mall? The cinema? What about the new restaurant around the corner?” Sheila begged me to go with her, suggesting new ideas by the second, my lack of energy unmatching her excitement. Sheila was a great person, and an even better friend, the only problem being her abnormally high spirits at any given time of the day.
After being taken down by her puppy eyes and fake wobbling lip, I relented, like I always do. While I did maintain my friendship with her because of her loyalty and trustworthiness, I did also do it out of pity. She didn’t have a lot of friends, or any social life for that matter, and the reason can’t be anything but her energy. No vapid teenager, still reeling from the after-effects of whatever intoxication they were under, wanted to deal with bubbly and chirpy girls who had nothing but natural energy. Girls who weren’t depressants.
When we are at the mall, she dragged me to every store, even the ones that didn’t appeal to her, just for the sake of exploration. When we went to the menswear stores, she wanted to be at the women’s section; when at the bookstore, she wanted to take me to the gadget store. There was just no pleasing her.
We went for a walk in the park, purchasing every little item the sellers on the road marketed, only for her to throw it in the trash when they weren’t looking. She said wild things, she wanted to touch the clouds and open a cotton candy store under a tree; she wanted to climb atop the banyans and scream at the top of her lungs.
When she got bored of the park, she pleaded and negotiated for us to eat at the new restaurant. After ordering a bunch of stuff there, she decided she preferred the street vendors. When we got there, she wanted to buy ice-cream.
There was a limit to how much I could take. I grabbed her hand, looked her dead in the eye, and spoke in a voice flat, devoid of any excitement – “come with me.”
I drove, the car wreaking silence, Sheila not even daring to turn up the radio. I could sense her restlessness as she subtly bounced on her seat, itching to get out and wreak more havoc into the world.
I parked the car haphazardly, stumbling out of my seat to open the door for her, watching her face morph into one of confusion, studying her surrounding carefully, before asking “where are we?”
If the vast ocean, sandy shoreline, and squeaky seagulls didn’t give enough away, I replied sarcastically, “I think we’re at the beach.” Then she laughed.
I grabbed her hand, opened the backseat of the car, and took out a little basket I always had in there, just in case, for days like this.
The sun was melting into the sky. It was that time of day, for which people from all around the world travelled for hours and spent millions of dollars to come and see, just for a day or two. It was the kind of sight you couldn’t get bored of, that despite being crowded, if one inconsiderate person stood in front of you, your view still wouldn’t get disrupted. It was like magic. Nature’s gift.
Over a thin blanket, laid recklessly, we let our bodies sink into the sand. I watched intently, somewhat hazily, as the pinks and oranges amalgamated, hiding clouds and birds, creating an aura of rain, but never actualizing. It looked as if I were to lick the sky, I would be able to taste raspberry and oranges, tons of sugar syrup and whirly little drips of love.
I didn’t realize how much time I had spent, marveling at the sight in front of me as if it were a film. I looked to my side and immediately guilt crept up my throat. It’s true Sheila had been annoying, but after losing it on her, I completely forgot about her; I had been too busy with my own thoughts. I hadn’t been fair to her.
“Hey, I’m sorry, let’s go do whatever it is you wanted to,” I apologized.
For a minute she didn’t say anything. When she did finally speak, I had to inch closer to hear her clearly. “I don’t want to go anywhere.”
“I think,” she swallowed, “I like it here”.
“Okay,” I replied, still shocked.
“I think I like it here,” she paused to look at me, “for now.”