Aphelion Issue 262, Volume 25
June 2021
 
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Friend

by Nikhil Kshirsagar


Have you ever had a friend? I don’t mean that fair-weather college gang that you keep in touch with over Facebook and keep promising to catch up with sometime. I’m not talking about those workmates you can’t seem to partition out from your personal life. I’m not even talking about your best friend who’s slotted in that role for ages and can’t find a different definition. These are things everyone has, believe me. But have you ever had a friend?

I have. I’m sure you know the best relationships develop organically, right? Like if you don’t hurry anything, if you don’t force anything, and if you’re absolutely real with each other, that’s when you’re both at your best and the relationship is at its most rewarding? He and I got to know each other so slowly that neither of us realized that a connection so deep was being formed. It happened in school (even today I think about those promenade days in that all-boys school) so long ago you know, around that age when boys are at their most vulnerable and need a friend more than anything else?

Isn’t school lonely without a friend? You study your books with a shy kind of sadness, seen but not heard, speaking only when spoken to, never really having anyone to call your own, compressed in your own little world. Having company was so unimaginable that I didn't dare hope for anything more than the occasional glance my way. But when we started talking, and I mean really, really talking, I knew I had found something real. We spoke about everything - Sports. Video games. Chess. Computers. And of course – Girls!

He somehow just got me. And I liked him for it. Soon we were trading secrets, not in the quiet of a classroom in study, but on rowdy and loud public school playgrounds, our laughing revelations inaudible among hundreds of shrieking boys all chasing that one lone football. (Believe me, if you ever want to shout out a secret, find the noisiest place to do it.)

As the years passed, the intensity of our relationship grew. And then one day we were adults! We could make our own decisions. And then those obvious questions. He asked me one day. What are we? Are we friends? Are we more? What is this thing called? I blushed. I said it’s called seeing someone.

I know what you’re thinking. You think there’s something deviant here, something unhealthy and abnormal about two guys going out together. Right? You wouldn’t be the first. Take any fledgling relationship. Throw in a few pointed fingers, a few snide remarks, even just a few raised eyebrows, and watch it crumble. There’s nothing as fragile as two people living a shared dream.

So no surprise that when we started officially seeing each other (and that was the truth, whatever his scandalized family claimed) all hell broke loose. Apparently in this country it’s a disease and can be ‘cured’. Welcome to the twenty first century folks. So there I was, stuck in this crazy situation. They looked at me as a threat to their cozy social circle. Me! who wouldn’t even hurt a fly! Called me all kinds of names and hoped I’d go away quietly on my own. Then they did everything to ensure this thing ended.

At first he was shocked! He didn’t expect that, you know? And it got nastier and nastier. You know how it is, right? All you can do is clench your teeth and say nothing. Because whatever you say only makes it worse.

For some time, I even thought it would make us stronger, you know, discovering what people were truly like, what society actually was. But slowly, surely, he began to change. He found himself a girlfriend, some unsuspecting woman who he said he found ‘attractive’. Fair enough. He said she was open minded and would understand. Fine. He said he wanted to marry her. Okay.

But see what happened the other day. She called him when we were together. Do you know what happened when he told her about us? She went nuts. She screamed at him. She told him that if he didn’t stop seeing me she had a good mind to go find some other fellow to shower her fond affections on (her words, not mine). Then she hung up and didn’t pick his calls the rest of the day. Poor fellow looked so sad. And guess who wiped his tears and offered solace and comfort?

Spare a thought for me. It’s not like I do anything to cause any trouble. I never bother anyone. I keep to my own. I stay out of trouble, quiet, introspective, generally unwilling to ring up your front door. Think of me as that friendly, genial, brother-like figure, someone to count on when the whole world’s gone away for their picnic with a note on the fridge to have things tip-top for them when they get back.

But they won. They finally got rid of me. They got him married to that silly girl, and took him to some doctor fellow who’s put him on daily medication, and now he doesn’t see me at all. Apparently, I’m persona non grata, relegated to the back of his bicameral mind.

I wait for him to miss his meds though. One can only hope, right? That one can be seen?


2021 Nikhil Kshirsagar

Nikhil Kshirsagar is a software engineer with a major IT firm. While he works mostly at night, he calls it his day job. In his spare time he writes short stories and strums a few chords. He also rapidly tires of writing about himself in the third person.

Find more by Nikhil Kshirsagar in the Author Index.

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