4AM has me writing from a Time Capsule, from me to you. Enjoy.
Growing up, my circle of friends were mostly Indians. I had a best friend from the 3rd grade to the 6th, and when I had my fall out with her, I joined my circle of Indians. They were warm, smart, and everything I aspired to be, and there were many of them. It was an easy decision. Give up one toy, and get 10. When my own mother pushed me to make that decision, I felt a little less bad about it.
But it wasn’t necessarily a wrong decision either. I grew up with wonderful people. Sure, maybe Taniya played a cruel prank on me, when she got our P.E. gang to all give me the silent treatment for half a year. I was so distraught, and Munirah would be the “spy”, talking with me when they weren’t around and I had felt so torn when she’d run back alongside them. Then at the end of the year, they would say that it was all just a prank. It was such torment that I instantly forgave them all, and moved on.
But that was close to around the time I told them what was going on in my life. Asians can be cruel and heartless, you know. They must have judged me silently, and wanted to have nothing to do with me until it was the end of the year, and heartrendingly, understandably so. Shortly after, Taniya never associated with me again as she went into sports, but I still hung out with Sabrina. Munirah left to a prestigious special school that would allow her to graduate faster than the average student. I started becoming closer with my other group of friends; Rachana, Nishi, and soon I’d meet Alekhya and Harshini, both whom lived at the same apartment complex as I did.
They kinda saved me. I think I had thrown away my warmth in friendships when I threw away Ilse. I knew I would never match them intellectually, no matter how hard I’d try, or want to try. Beyond that, I was slipping from family home life. No more dad, and soon to be a half absent mom, I slept and slept. But it was Harshini and Alekhya who would call me every morning to make sure I wouldn’t be any more late than I already was, receiving a truancy notice, and it was Alekhya’s mom who noticed I wasn’t eating anything for breakfast, and so she’d make me a crispy toast with Nutella every morning. It was my friends who accompanied me, validated me, and laughed with me, so naturally and seamlessly that I was not nearly as thankful as I am today for them.
Perhaps they too knew what had happened. Perhaps God was giving me something in exchange for my nothing. I wondered if word had spread, but instead of them maliciously gossiping, they became the better people in my life to better me too. I love them from the bottom of my heart, as they were the ones who taught me by example to love and cherish others. They taught me friendship, even though during those days the world the was gray to me. I wouldn’t have cared if they even left me behind, as it was already something I was used to for half a year.
Why did they want to be my friends so badly? I remember thinking that. I was selfish and cold. I just didn’t understand why they treated me so well. And sadly, as the division of AP and IB separated us, I no longer got to hang out with them anymore. But they still reside in my heart with warmth. Even to this day, I still get a yearly birthday e-card from Rachana, and Nishi always greets me with a radiant smile. They still text me, check up on me, every once in a while, even if it’s not all the time. And that works, I’m the kind of person who hates constant interaction for some reason. I need alone time, as that’s what I’ve been used to and need for recharging, but I can also be afraid of the lonely space. High school was 10 times less lonelier with my Indian friends.
So when Ilse sent me that text, I knew it was the most beautiful ending to our friendship. We made up in our senior year of high school, when my government and art classes coincided with hers. Our fall out lasted about 5 years, from a very close best friends sorta relationship, to a complete and utter block. Yet, I had already forgiven her deep down in my heart since about the time I entered high school. I can never hold grudges for long, but I was too stubborn to be the first one to break. I didn’t want to lose face, not after being treated as if I had none in the first place. In a sense, that silent treatment was traumatizing. And so, in order to not get hurt in the first place, I stopped allowing myself to.
Ilse was the first one to talk to me, back when iPads were becoming a regular commodity at your typical rich white high school. I was eager to make up, and soon we were talking again. But we didn’t go back to best friends, there was no time for that. Instead, we sat side by side at a bench, talking and laughing like normal friends, enjoying the “now” of each other, before we went our separate ways. I would have wanted to go back, but part of me held myself back knowing that maybe this was for the better. I didn’t deserve redemption, but forgiveness, and so she forgave me; her first words, were “I forgive you.” And I forgave her back. We didn’t argue over who was wrong first, we mutually met each other halfway, and that was a beautiful ending to our friendship.
So when I look back, did I have a dramatic school life? Hardly. I’ve heard worse around me, especially within my Indian circle past the 9th grade in their IB program, but I’ve had my ups and downs. It was mostly around home life and family, and that’s partly how I got so addicted to DDO in the first place. But I sometimes have moments, such as tonight, or as I’m on the way back home from school, when I think about how much my friends have done for me, and supported me, past all of this, and treated me kindly. Why is it in my paranoid nature to always assume people are worse than they actually are? It’s not like I’ve met someone worse, other than seeing the ugly sides of my family. And yet, I am touched by the warmth they extend to me.
I love them. Thank you Ilse for teaching me humility and forgiveness, I would have never thought that I could ever cross that bridge with you. Thank you Alekhya, for the day you confronted me about how cold I seemed with you, that I wasn’t treating you with the same warmth as Harshini. And Harshini, thank you for the many laughs, you were like an older sister to me that didn’t have to grow up too fast. Munirah, thank you for being there for me, walking alongside me when no one else would. Nishi for confiding in me about your troubles, for allowing me to find a clear head to trust in your words and to become impartial. For opening up your insecurities that matched mine. No matter how cold, distant, and gray I felt and radiated, you all have made my life just a little brighter.
My beautiful world of gray is at least adorned with shards of stained glass.