My Best Friend

January 9, 2008
The first time I ever spoke to him, he told me later, he thought I would turn out to be a shallow, spoiled, American brat, because of my accented English. I thought he was a player, a conceited jerk, the kind of guy who probably whistled at girls with lipstick and carefully chosen clothes, and hooked up with anything that moved. It probably wasn’t the best start to what proved to be a long and complex friendship. And, as it turns out, we were both fairly far from the truth.
The little we had in common was that we were both students of Indian origin at an international boarding school and consequently, invariably, saw quite a lot of each other in those early days. But apart from that, we had almost nothing in common. He was homesick. I was not. He was Indian from tip to toe. The only features Indian about me were my skin tone, and my ancestors. He was an extrovert. I was not. He preferred to create drama for the movies, while I preferred to watch. He made his own movies, I penned poetry on the inside cover of my psych notebook. People told me to lighten up, and told him to grow up, with equivalent regularity.
But somehow, we began to talk together about something slightly more eclectic than the homework we’d been assigned that weekend, pull all-nighters puzzling over math and surviving solely on endless instant lattes, go to parties and dance for hours, watch countless hours of F*R*I*E*N*D*S, and become friends ourselves.
And somewhere between the lattes and the late-night conversations, I realized that I’d fallen for the guy who had become my best friend. I realized I couldn’t sleep peacefully without one of his bone crushing good-night hugs, and that the sight of him slouching through the halls in the morning made me perk up just a little bit more. I realized the weird feeling in the pit of my stomach when I saw other girls flirting with him was that green-eyed monster of despair, jealousy, and that I blushed around him with alarming regularity.
Everyone already thought we were going out anyway. That was the only reason they thought a guy and girl would voluntarily spend so much time with each other. and no one could believe when we both claimed no attraction towards the other. Inwardly I was delighted: surely, if everyone else thought we were a couple, it would be only a matter of time before he would as well. It didn’t work that way. The months went by, and the closer we got, the more he looked at me as his ‘best friend’ and the harder I fell for him.
He made me feel loved for the first time in my life. I was sixteen, and my first love dumped me on my birthday after three solid months of emotional blackmail. I vowed never to date again, but then he came along. I’d never been particularly close to my family, and I always felt as though I needed to prove myself worthy of their love and acceptance. He never did that. He made me feel as though he adored me for the way I was. He was the first person to see my faults, to hear about my past, to see me on bad-hair days without makeup, and who loved me anyway. He made me feel like it was okay to talk about my problems, and so I did. And he listened to me without recrimination or reproach, just one of his utterly comforting hugs and extreme patience. And he told me when things went wrong with him, when his sister back home revealed that she was a lot more depressed than he’d thought, when he missed home, when he worried about flunking English. I grew closer to him than I ever was to anyone else.
One weekend, his parents descended on campus and whooshed him away for a full seventy-two hours. Those were among the most miserable of my junior year. I wandered around the campus like a lost soul; counting down the hours till he would return and my life would regain some purpose. A text signed with a ‘love’ or ‘muahh’ made me smile for the rest of the day. We both got sick during a field trip and spent a week in the medical center together where we talked so much, the doctor threatened to put us in different wards every day. It scared me sometimes, how much my happiness depended on him.
Then one day, a mega truth-or-dare session got out of hand and we were coerced into kissing. It was a quick peck on the lips but we both knew something was different, like he’d read the tremors of attraction on my lips when he kissed me. He ignored me for the rest of the evening, and most of the next day. Then I walked into his room. We talked, carefully omitting any mention of the last night’s activities. And things got better. I will never know what he felt when we kissed because we never spoke about it again. But that night, when we hugged our usual friendly embrace, we held on for an extra second. And I was on the verge of telling him I loved him. but he did it for me. He looked right into my eyes and told me that he loved me for being the best friend he’s ever had.
This is supposed to be the part when I tell you that we’re together, practically married, even, and that the clichéd happy ending really does exist after all. Nope. Hasn’t happened. Probably won’t As of now, we’re best friends. I know we trust each other totally, and that many people envy how close we are. There have been many times since when I was poised on the verge of telling him that I loved him but I haven’t. My closest friends wonder why. But I realized somewhere down the line, that I wasn’t prepared to risk losing the friendship we have for a chance at a relationship. I still love him though, and every time I listen to Michelle Branch’s ‘Everywhere’, I think about him for a second. Whoever gets him in the end will be so lucky. I only hope that she will look into my best friend’s heart and see the amazing person I see inside. Perhaps he took me closer to love than I’d ever been before but for now I just thank the higher powers for bringing him to me and hope that no matter what, I will always be his ‘American brat’.

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