The one who doesn’t (seem) to care,
I met you on a Saturday night, at that club down in the suburbs, drunk out of your mind. You were bobbing your head to the music like you were in some kind of trance, like you were losing yourself in the music. You looked like you needed saving, but no one around you seemed to notice. For a moment I thought you looked right at me, sitting in the quieter corner of the bar, mostly sipping on tonic. But I think, now, that you looked right through me. Your body might have been here, in this club, with music too loud for my choice and people too sweaty for my liking, but your mind was somewhere else. Later I found, that it wasn’t just that night you’d disappear in your world, you did that often. Often enough for me to not notice.
There are three tattoos on your arm. When I first glanced at it, it looked like any other tattoo on a drunken teenager. Wild, with a sense of rebellion and adventure. They were symbols I had seen before, on people who couldn’t be bothered to be original and I sensed that most people didn’t prod you about it. But that’s it? Isn’t it? You got those tattoos because you knew people would just interpret for themselves. They wouldn’t ask, and you wouldn’t tell. I wouldn’t have asked if there wasn’t a nagging feeling in my gut that there was more to you than you let on, you weren’t just another empty vessel making a lot of sound. You looked at me right in the eye, and I swear they narrowed just a little- as if you could see through them, right to my soul. You straightened up like the drunkenness was just an act; an act that was about to come to an end. You drew me closer, and you dropped your head on my shoulder, and muttered so low, that if all my attention weren’t focused on you, I’d have missed it.
We became fast friends then. With you showing up at my house at hours that are way far beyond to be deemed appropriate. You’d stumble in drunk, and let yourself in from the balcony. I’d always wondered how a person who couldn’t walk in a straight line, could climb up two stories on a very wobbly ladder. I know it’s wobbly because I’ve tried to climb it. And even sober me can’t climb up that ladder without falling and breaking something. You’d come home and talk about everything under the sun. For someone who claimed to care less about attending school, you sure did care about Physics and how we could use solar power to change the world. Trash talking the government while appreciating their policies is something I know only you can do. All the while sounding politically correct, and like someone who knew what they were talking about like the back of their hands. I’d told you once that you should become a politician. You’d be one of the good ones. But you just shook your head at me and switched the topic, to global warming, I think. I let it slide, like always.
The first time you took me to your home, you gave me no sign of warning. You threw me straight into the deep end and left me flailing my arms about, trying to stay afloat. You introduced me to your mother. Who, by the way, is nothing like you tell people. But I think you know that too. You heated the food she’d made for you and shared it with me. I could see she was tired from her flight before, but she still stayed up for you, ensuring you had eaten. I knew you had a voracious appetite, but I also knew that you weren’t hungry then. Complain all you want about how much you dislike her for being away all the time, and compensating lost time by getting you expensive gifts, I know it’s you missing her. You’re still the little boy laughing in his mother’s arms in that photo frame you turn down every time someone enters your bedroom.
As the months passed, I’ve come to realise that you have many personalities. One for school, one for home, one for the world and one for me. There’s a part of me that’s scared that you’d drown yourself in all these personalities. But you’ve been playing this role for far too long now. But if you do feel like you need a bit of saving, I could be Prince Charming once in a while. I don’t always have to be the one getting rescued.
The one who cares.
– Sharanya Karkera