As told to Niharika Nandi
(Names changed to protect identities)
As far as I can trace my memories, they’re etched with fun times spent with the lanky boy who moved to the neighbourhood when I was all of 10. Ali was definitely not like the other boys. He preferred dressing up dolls to playing cricket, neon over black, chick flicks over gory action movies and had a dry, sarcastic sense of humour which often sent the two of us into fits of giggles. Spending over 15 precious years with someone watching romantic comedies, judging Oscar red carpet looks and jamming to the Beatles definitely made them your best friend.
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What I loved most about Ali was that I could share my deepest and most intimate secrets and fears with him knowing he wouldn’t judge me and to him, I was his sole confidante.
New boy on the block
All was great till the new boy moved to the neighbourhood. Adit Saxena was immaculate and suave and one glimpse of him flexing his muscles lifting cartons was enough to drive a 27-year-old woman’s hormones berserk. Ali and I were casually strolling after dinner when Adit asked if he could join us since he knew nobody in the neighbourhood. We learnt a lot about him that day – he’d come to India to reconnect with his roots; he was an amazing footballer who wanted to turn pro at some point and he was extremely funny, entertaining and witty and could keep us engaged for hours.
Soon enough, I found myself falling hard. One day, watching When Harry met Sally for the umpteenth time, Ali confessed that he was falling in love with Adit too.
“But you can’t fall for him. He’s straight and you knew from the beginning that I was interested.”
“He’s bi-curious and I didn’t. I’ve liked him ever since we first spoke.”
“That’s rubbish. You can’t be such a sleaze and try on every guy in the neighbourhood hoping they are gay.”
“So, now you think I’m a desperate gay guy who’ll pounce on anything that moves and has balls?”
The conversation soon turned into a fight where Ali and I hurled insults and hurtful truths at an escalating pitch. It ended with him saying, “Fine, we’ll see who gets this one.”
It became a fight
I took it as a challenge and on the very next day, showed up at Adit’s with a customised tape of Black Sabbath, since I knew he loved the band. To my astonishment, Ali was already sitting there chatting with him over a plate of freshly baked cookies he’d brought.
This wasn’t any mild competition anymore; it was outright war to get the guy we were both in love with!
The next few days were a tussle to gain Adit’s esteem by showering him with his favourite things, taking him out, showing him about and vying for his attention. Amidst all this, a sense of loneliness started to engulf me.
I had a lot of other friends but it wasn’t the same without my weird best friend. When I got a promotion at work, the first person I wanted to tell was Ali; when I fell sick, I missed him prancing about and forcing me to gulp clear soup and most of all, I missed our conversations. Life seemed very desolate.
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I miss you!!!
The final blow came when I had an accident two months later. I broke my left leg and got a couple of stitches on my forehead. To my surprise, a lanky figure was standing by my hospital bed with a bouquet of chrysanthemums and a bar of chocolate.
“Hush, I know hospital food is disgusting. Have two cubes of this and you’ll feel better,” he said, handing me the chocolate. My emotional pain overtook my physical problems and a reservoir of tears unleashed and I couldn’t hold back. In the sad looking hospital room, we both cried our hearts out about how we were immature idiots and how much we missed each other. I was relieved that he was willing to forgive me for all the insensitive things I’d so easily blurted out.
One week later, Ali was helping me walk on my crutch and I looked at him and simply thought about how dumb we’d been to risk each other over a guy. Breaking the bro code because we fell for the same guy was the biggest mistake of our lives and the tumultuous, tedious, unfortunate two months spent without each other taught us this important lesson. Boys will come and go, but this weirdo I’d befriended as a pre-teenager was here to stay.
Two years later, we attended Adit’s engagement together.