Veer and I had been best friends since our diaper days; while my daddy took me to the Masjid, his daddy took him to the temple. That was where the difference stopped between us.
Usually Veer would be in my house; alternatively, I, in his. When we became older, it was Veer’s mom who usually ordered me to go to Masjid when the Adhaan (Call for prayer) was recited. Veer would accompany me and sat on the side to wait for me to finish praying.
Veer and I, we were the two peas in the pod. We studied in the same school. My papa often asked with a humorous smile ‘How will you live apart after marriage?’
Veer and I planned to marry two girls who were best friends, like us. It was a silly notion; we knew it even in the early stages of our life, but we hoped.
When Veer fell in love with a girl, I was the one who took the news to his mom and dad. His dad was smiling, but his mom’s eyes narrowed at me threateningly, as if asking; Is it because you fell in love with the girl’s friend?
However, I didn’t and I said so; they talked with the girl’s parent, and everything went smoothly for them both. Of course, the girl, her name was Preet, had a best friend: Anup. He was her cousin and they were close, like brother and sister.
Veer’s mom started to tease me about it- Anup, in a very comical tone. I always ran away from the place whenever she was in the mood for fun; as it was always directed at me. It was a nice phase in our life.
Have you ever seen the moon and think about it? How it would change in phase, thin to full; like an anorexic girl gaining confidence and thus gaining weight? It was so melodramatic; but original. The phase of the moon was histrionic, but worth thousand lessons.
If I had to describe our friendship, I would have chosen the full moon day; where the moon would be in its prideful glory. Our love for each other was big; incomparable, and thus our friendship shone above everything, like the full moon, over the dark night.
Like the phase of the moon, our friendship started to dwindle; theatrically. Veer would often dump our bro-date to watch a cricket match; or something else. It created a gap in our friendship; a very small but inaccessible gap.
“You’re absent, AGAIN.” I shouted. The moon was empty that night, like Veer’s eyes.
“I am sorry; Preet called me and asked me to bring her to Anup’s house.”
I watched the moon grow skinny; as I experienced our friendship followed the phases of the moon. Fuller, then a little less to this side, while it offered a half to another side; then it dwindled and became full on the other side, while I watched the empty sky; bitterly.
“I called you a hundred times; you promise to be there when I need you.” There were tears along my cheek; tears of loss and pain; loss of losing my mom and her beautiful smile. Loss of losing my only friend to time.
“I’m sorry; my mobile was in silent mode; Preet doesn’t like to be disturbed while watching a movie.”
The moon was going down; again. I was in my home, always, crying for my dead mom and a very living friend. I didn’t want him to be with me 24/7; but I did want him to be with me when I need; when I want. He never came though, in my time of need.
“What is wrong with you man? You look like a stick.” Veer narrowed his eyes; it was the first sign of friendship that I had seen in him; after long days. I smiled lightly.
His mobile beeped.
“Sorry man, it’s Anup; he is waiting for me in the stadium. We have booked tickets for Tennis. I have to go.”
It was a blow; that he left me for Anup and Preet; however, I took it willingly. I would never want him to be ‘my’ friend, only; but I also never wanted him to give me up for another set of friends. I never said anything though.
Sometimes Veer would accompany me on my terrace, very rarely; if he didn’t have anything to do with his time. We’d stay silent, mostly; once loud, boisterous moments with laughter were now completely still and empty. It was a very large drift; the drift that we couldn’t overcome.
“Hey Veer, I’m walking to my mom’s graveyard? Can you come with me?”
“Sorry man; today is Preet’s shopping day; she wants me to go with her.”
I never asked Veer for anything after that. I went to college every day and watched people; and their fickle minds.
I would have gone to an Engineering college too, just for Veer; but my mama was adamant that I had to go to medical school. So I did. I was almost finished with the studies and a year after, I would become a doctor, just like my mom wished.
“Did your result came?” Veer asked me in the passing. It was the only time we would get to talk.
“Yes. I got 84% in Human Anatomy, 79% in…”
“Cool man. Bye. Anup and Akhil are waiting for me.”
It had been months since I talked with Veer. I was busy with my finals and practical; but I still waited for him near his home. His mom would ask me to come in, but I would refuse. She looked like she wanted to say so much to me, but she never did.
It was a new moon day. I stared at the empty sky in wonder; I knew the moon was still there somewhere, out of my reach. Like Veer.
I felt someone sitting beside me, and I knew it was Veer. It was a second feeling of having him around for so long; though it became less, I still had that feeling left.
“The moon is not here” he said almost in a whisper. I nodded; he knew I was crazy about the moon. It was something more than addiction. I had a hundred books about the moon in my room.
“It’s there somewhere, out of my vision.” I said as I searched for it.
“You know, sometimes I wish our friendship would be like the phases of the moon. Even after nothingness, the moon will come back to me.”
Not you, I didn’t say it out loud.
“I can promise its return; but I can’t about you. You were my best friend Veer. But then you started going away, like the moon. But I know, you wouldn’t come back.” I smiled sardonically.
He was silent. I knew his answer: I can’t come back.
“I know,” I said, “But all I want from you is a reason.” Veer looked at me and sighed.
“I don’t know how to explain it, Riyaz. You were my best friend too. But my priority changed with time. I can’t explain, and I can’t say I’m not at fault. I did and said things that I still regret; but I can’t take it all back.” I smiled at that.
“So let us say goodbye now.” I said with a very bright smile; to mask my hurt. He looked confused, but asked, “Is it full or nothing?”
“Yes. I had your full friendship; and now if you want me to have this thin crescent, I can’t; I can’t pretend to be a friendly neighbour. I saw you cry when you failed in your exams; you saw me cry when I was hit by a ball; I convinced you to study more; you asked me to stay away from cricket to protect me; we can’t go back from this. So I’ll choose nothing.”
He nodded; hugged me and said good-bye.
That was the last time I ever saw Veer. The next day he died in a car crash.
Every night, I still watch the moon; its histrionic phases with astonishment that would never die; I watch it coming and going back. Watch it change its nature, just like human minds.
My wife would call me to bed, but I’d take as much time I could have, with the moon.
“I will take anything.”
That would be my good-bye to the moon, every night; but Veer would never hear me saying that.