“Sometimes he wakes so far from himself that he can’t even remember who he is. “Where am I?” he asks, desperate, and then, “Who am I? Who am I?”
And then he hears, so close to his ear that it is as if the voice is originating inside his own head, Willem’s whispered incantation. “You’re Jude St. Francis. You are my oldest, dearest friend. You’re the son of Harold Stein and Julia Altman. You’re the friend of Malcolm Irvine, of Jean-Baptiste Marion, of Richard Goldfarb, of Andy Contractor, of Lucien Voigt, of Citizen van Straaten, of Rhodes Arrowsmith, of Elijah Kozma, of Phaedra de los Santos, of the Henry Youngs.
“You’re a New Yorker. You live in SoHo. You volunteer for an arts organization; you volunteer for a food kitchen.
“You’re a swimmer. You’re a baker. You’re a cook. You’re a reader. You have a beautiful voice, though you never sing anymore. You’re an excellent pianist. You’re an art collector. You write me lovely messages when I’m away. You’re patient. You’re generous. You’re the best listener I know. You’re the smartest person I know, in every way. You’re the bravest person I know, in every way.
“You’re a lawyer. You’re the chair of the litigation department at Rosen Pritchard and Klein. You love your job; you work hard at it.
“You’re a mathematician. You’re a logician. You’ve tried to teach me, again and again.
“You were treated horribly. You came out on the other end. You were always you.”
— A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara
If I woke up from a slumber that stole my memories, who would I be? Who would be by my bed? Who would tell me the things which Willem told Jude in the soul-smashing A Little Life? Above all, what would I be told?
You are Deepika Ramesh. You had no friends because you abandoned all of them. Your family endured your shenanigans, failures, self-absorption, and narcissism because that’s what families do. You sucked at everything you learned. Your 9-year-old marriage was a legendary fiasco. Your career was always tumultuous because you were too lazy to try, you were rebellious, and you complained about everything in life. You were at your boyfriend’s calves like a leech. You were treated well but you sought solace in insecurity and misery. You were always you. PS: Four ‘friends’ wrote RIP on Facebook when you died and three dogs attended your funeral.
Ha! There. I massaged my not-so-bruised ego again!
I understand the meaning of words like laconic, nincompoop, obfuscate, capricious… But I can’t comprehend friendship. *dodges all the judgmental bullets*
This list must throw some light on why I can never be your friend:
- My family comes first. Always. Always. Always.
- My family = Amma, Appa, Sister, Brother-in-law, Nephew, Boyfriend, and Dog
- I don’t answer phone calls. I use my phone to talk to my family and recruiters.
- I love texting. I can send 1500-word long messages on Whatsapp. I love writing e-mails. But no. I will not return your calls.
- You don’t have to hire a detective to know that my friendship-record is deplorable. I have deserted everybody who hung out with me, everybody whom I called my friend, everybody who was with me when loneliness wound around my legs like a boa constrictor.
- I am still swimming against the ruthless currents of depression and anxiety. All my doors and windows would be shut if I am asphyxiated. I choose to stay breathless by myself. (I am not depressed because my tea turned cold. I am depressed because life happened.)
- I am not an inspiring conversationalist. I leave unintended silences, I don’t initiate conversations, and I am always talking to myself in my head — I am pseudo-intellectual. Why is this person listening to me? What should I say next? Gosh. I am killing this person with my mind-numbing anecdotes.
- I don’t talk during movies.
- I don’t watch TV shows. I don’t understand your F.R.I.E.N.D.S and Game of Throne references.
- Are you a reader? Great. Bye. (I don’t know how to tell you in person that I want to marry the last book I read.)
- Are you an animal-lover? Cool. (You bought your dog. I am judging you.)
- I don’t respond to Hey-We-Must-Catch-Up-Soon messages.
- I don’t go to my school reunion. I don’t talk to my schoolmates. I didn’t go to college. I haven’t stored my ex-colleagues’s phone numbers. My contact list has 40 numbers. And I would never know how I saved so many.
- I am not on Facebook and Instagram. Twitter, yes. Blogs, YES, YES, YES!
- I don’t smoke and drink anymore.
- I am monogamous.
- I loathe condescending tones. (Ah, Deepika! You are such a silly girl! You have to see more in life.) No. Go away.
- I talk to animals. I think I am a bear. I send animal-pictures to people whom I love.
- I don’t make plans. I turn down invitations.
- Deepika, your problem is actually not a problem. Think of mine. If you reduce my suffering, I will disappear from your life.
- I am just trying to reform you, Deepika. Thank you, Mother Teresa!
- Do you read YA and Children’s Literature? Why don’t you pick up some books from the Pulitzer list? *Deepika stabs the voodoo doll and murmurs your name*
- I love talking to strangers. I love being kind to them.
- I don’t bake.
- I don’t wear makeup.
- I don’t know to gush about Paris Hilton.
- I am a mad, mad, mad Tamil cinema fan. I can hold long discussions on Bhagyaraj’s dance moves and Vijay Sethupathi’s underrated performance in Dharmadurai.
- I am melodramatic.
- I am romantic. No. I don’t need flowers and greeting cards. I have a strong proclivity to romanticise things.
- I am not patriotic.
- I want a borderless world.
- I am naive.
- I am against capital punishment.
- I overuse words like Universe, Soul, Love, Light, Good Vibes, Signs, Aura, and Synchronicity, and I mean all of them.
- I am always changing. So, I dismiss your statement — Deepika, you have changed a lot.
- I am a believer.
- Keep your religion and casteism to yourself. I don’t want to know what a privileged, neat, healthy brahmin you are. Thanks.
- I am a cyclist, but I don’t enjoy group rides.
- I don’t attend book-club meets.
- I do not participate in debates which force me to choose between humans and animals.
- I am a sucker for Buddhist philosophies.
- I baby-talk to my boyfriend.
- I don’t want to try that tiramisu and thukpa. I am happy with my ‘full meals’.
- I fight with my nephew.
- I wish I could redo everything I did between 19 and 29.
- I wish I had studied and didn’t stop with just Class 12.
- I am still studying English literature but I will take a couple of years to complete the course.
- I am unconfident, I wallow in self-pity, I think I will never be an okay writer, my vocabulary is limited, my syntax is prosaic, and I continue to float in the never-ending spiral of fucked-up things in my life.
If you are still reading this, you earn the right to know why we can be friends.
- I am learning to listen. You can tell me about your bitchy boss, glorious days, soul-nourishing moments. But you have to write to me. I will listen with all my heart. I will ask questions, I will make you feel cherished, I will enjoy your moments vicariously, however, I might write back in my own time. Sorry!
- You can be your best vulnerable self to me. I will not spew unsolicited advice. I will not hold it against you. I will listen. I adore vulnerability. It is the most underrated trait. Tell me about that time when you ran a blade on your thighs. Tell me about that night when your demons sat at your heels and chanted words which sucked your light. I want to know that about you. I want to know what makes you you.
- I will be my vulnerable self too. I will send you I-am-thinking-of-you messages. I will tell you about my kinky dreams. I will ask you if I would be a good mother. I am not scared to say that I love you and I want you to believe that I love in my own ways. I don’t use the phrase I-Love-You mindlessly. I am not doling it out like marketing pamphlet. I employ it when I am truly filled with love and when I suffer from the inability to contain the words in my heart.
- I will not be mad at you if you take 24 days to respond to my messages. I am patient.
- I will read ALL your blogs and post comments. It’s not my tacky method to bring you back to my blog. I post honest comments because I want to tell you that I am listening, that I relish your work, and that I am grateful to you for giving me a safe space to express myself.
- I am reluctant to offer help on my own, but if you ask I will do all that’s within my limit to support.
- I will send you books and make bookmarks for you.
- I will remember your important days.
- I will draw Zen-doodles and dedicate them for you.
- I will write blogs about you.
- I will tell you why you matter.
- I will remind you of your awesomeness often.
- No. I am not sucking up to you. I don’t want anything from you.
- I will call out your oversights in life, but only kindly. Even if I bark at you like a rabid dog, I will gather myself to be sorry.
- I will not laugh at your dreams and goals. (One of my dear dreams is to wear a panda costume and hug strangers. There. I confessed.)
- I will come to your book launch, concert, shows. I will be proud of you.
- I will not invade your space.
- We can look at the sky and stay quiet.
Are you still reading? Thank you for indulging me. I have never written anything more narcissistic than this post. Phew!
So, I am left with just a couple of pals who are courageous and generous to accept me, warts and all. With my twisted head, I will not be able to understand what friendship is, although Hanya Yanagihara said this in A Little Life.
“Why wasn’t friendship as good as a relationship? Why wasn’t it even better? It was two people who remained together, day after day, bound not by sex or physical attraction or money or children or property, but only by the shared agreement to keep going, the mutual dedication to a union that could never be codified.”
“Friendship was witnessing another’s slow drip of miseries, and long bouts of boredom, and occasional triumphs. It was feeling honored by the privilege of getting to be present for another person’s most dismal moments, and knowing that you could be dismal around him in return.”
Am I in a union that could never be codified? Am I witnessing my friends’s miseries and triumphs? Am I being that flattering light of a candle? I do not know.
What I do know is that when I die, somewhere a mongrel will throw its head up and howl at the moon. That would be the kindest, greatest, most intimate farewell.