Sarah and I were the best of friends in high school, inseparable. We were always together. She would come directly to my house after school so many times. Nobody knew me better than her. Nobody knew her better than me. There was no chapter of my life that she was not aware of. Infact, she used to sign off on most of my major life decisions (you know those silly things in high school that we laugh at now, but they were life changing events at that point of time).
Soon after high school, I moved back to India. It was shattering to imagine not seeing Sarah everyday. But we swore to be in touch forever.
And we did. We sent emails to each other every day and I even bought those calling cards for making ISD calls at a cheaper rate. I am talking about the time when whatsapp, and Facetime were not around. Facebook was already popular in the US and was picking up in India. I had created a profile on Orkut. Sarah tried to join it but did not like it. I didn’t understand Facebook. But our email communication was solid and reliable.
Skype was available, but connectivity in India was usually poor. That didn’t deter our spirit though. Despite the time difference, weekly skype chats were scheduled which worked after multiple attempts. Most of the times her face would not be clear, just an outline of some human form! But it didn’t matter! We just wanted to talk to each other.
Several years passed. We both got busy with our jobs. Relationships happened and ended and we were vaguely aware of the happenings in each other’s life. We wanted to be there for each other but given the time difference it became difficult to talk. She mostly worked on weekends and got an off on a weekday. I did not have the energy to stay up on a week night and chat with her anymore. There used to be such long periods of no communication that it was difficult to put it all together in an email. Sometimes, I used to save up on all the developments for calls. Calls that would not happen anytime soon. When they did, it was never possible for BOTH of us to share everything in one conversation. Either she would talk and I would listen and respond (and that itself took easily 3-4 hours!) or I would talk. One person’s stories remained untold, either way.
And then technology became smarter. Whatsapp texting came into our lives. So did Viber and Facetime. Suddenly there was no concept of ISD calls anymore. There were so many options available. Soon whatsapp calls became the substitute to regular calls. Money was no longer a deterrent to staying in touch with people. (Intent and time remained, probably).
When technology became smart, we got smarter. Earlier, if one of us did not respond to each other’s emails, we used to get concerned. What happened? Is she okay? But with so many stalking options available, we can’t really say that we did not hear from someone or did not see someone.
There could be no reply to my email, but there were updates on Facebook.
Sarah commented on Lisa’s profile picture.
I could not believe that Sarah and Lisa were still in touch! They never even spoke to each other in high school. We didn’t even like her, found her annoying and swore to hate her all our lives! And now Sarah had the time to comment on Lisa’s picture and not respond to my emails?
I was not spared from Sarah’s technological analysis either. Two blue ticks meant that I had seen her messages, and yet didn’t care to respond. Or even worse. I was last seen at 3 am IST. Which means I had been chatting with somebody else, somebody more important than Sarah.
The friendship that we had managed to savor for 10 years, despite the distance was falling apart. After a long time when we finally did get to talk, it was a nasty outburst of emotions. We both blamed each other for not putting in enough effort to nurture our relationship, for ignoring each other, for not being there, for having better things to put our time and energy into…
Just like a friendship, a relationship also does not break-up in one go. It was followed by a series of unpleasant exchange of messages. It is strange how much the human tongue is capable of hurting somebody, somebody we loved (and probably still do). The bitterness of few months seemed to weigh much more than the fondness of years.
Words that are once spoken, cannot come back. But we shoot them out anyway. Hurt people hurt people.
Sarah blocked me on Facebook. It was the ultimate insult. How could she be so immature! I did not want to let her have the final say in this war. I wanted closure. So I sent her an official final goodbye message.
Few days later, she responded. Of how she is not angry with me, just disappointed. Horrible disappointment. She told me that she had been distant lately because she was busy.
But ofcourse! I thought.
There was more. She was busy because her mother had been diagnosed with cancer. She has had surgeries and got several organs removed. She was undergoing chemotherapy and had become very weak.
Sarah was exhausted emotionally and financially and could not bear to have this conversation with me.
I was speechless. I could not believe that so much had happened in Sarah’s life and she had not told me about it.
As she was going through the biggest ordeal of her life, she could not find the comfort to share it with the person who was once her best friend. I had become a different person to her.
I had failed her. Miserably. As tears rolled down my cheeks, I was ashamed of myself. I thought of all the times that Sarah would have wanted to reach out to me, but held herself back.
The time when she was waiting for the reports..
The time when she got to know for the first time…
The surgery, the first day of chemo…
How alone she must have felt. How I should have been there to tell her that it would be all okay.
I called her immediately. She talked about her mother’s health, her struggle and her hope. I said sorry. She said it’s okay. It seemed despite the disappointment and pain that I had caused her, she still wanted me to be a part of my life.
Sarah and I have been in touch regularly ever since. I keep thinking of her mother, the way I remembered – pretty and stylish and could not imagine her with her lost hair and other things that Sarah had told me about. She is recovering and we pray that she gets better very soon.
Our friendship almost got ruined. It took something as devastating as this for me to realize that we should be there for each other?
Good friends are hard to find. And yet, we were both almost on the verge of losing each other.
Life is short. What we don’t realise is that we can’t afford to lose the precious people that we have cherished and savored for so long. We try so hard to save money, to save our jobs. Save all the materialistic things in the world. But no amount of money can compensate for friendship and nothing is worth destroying it.