My dad gave me three life rules to live by
Reach out and make friends
Never ever desert a friend
Never stab a friend in the back
The first two were easy, but the third one proved difficult all because of a cheeseburger. Let me explain.
Look, I’m a friendly, easy-going sort of person, so that first rule came easily to me. I made friends – on roads, in elevators, at the bus stop, on the bus, on the playground and in school. All it needed was a smile and a hello and our friendship boat was sailing gaily. I had real friends and virtual ones, reading friends and writing ones, walking friends and coffee friends.
So there are friends and there are best friends. And I had one too – the best and closest of them all – Anu, a dear sweet, happy ball of fun, my best buddy, my BFF. We sang Yeh Dosti together and knew every dialogue of every 80s blockbuster. I was her Jai and she was my Veeru. I shared my homework, she lent me her notes. We stood by each other if ever there was a fight. If she forgot her homework I didn’t submit mine so we could be punished together. We were inseparable all through school. Then in college we both moved to a new city, to a shared flat.
Life was good. I thought I had maxed dad’s life lessons because never in my dreams did I think that the last one would be a problem. I was a conscientious girl with a super active conscience that wouldn’t let me stab even a stalk of broccoli on my dinner plate without a pang.
Then one day dashing young Rohan showed up in Anu’s young life. When he walked by with his loping gait, in his white tee and his white trousers with a cricket kit slung casually over his shoulders I had to hold onto Anu as she swooned. She lived and breathed for him. It was an entirely different matter that he had no clue she existed.
Finally she announced, ‘I need to lose weight if I am to have a chance at love. Help me. I’m going on a diet.’
I was struck dumb.
‘What does love have to do with weight?’ I tried to tell her, pushing a plate of fries towards her, ‘There’s just more of you to love.’
‘But don’t you know, fat people are invisible’, she said pushing the fries determinedly back at me.
This was new! And unexpected.
But I was a buddy and I rose to the occasion. Dad said I shouldn’t ever desert my friend. So I put away my doubts and geared up to help her. I threw away the fries and tore up the takeaway menus. I sipped sugarless tea with her in the canteen and shut my eyes (and nose) to plump samosas.
It was day three and the strain was beginning to show. Anu picked listlessly at a bowl of papaya then shoved them aside and stood up. ‘Chuck it’ she said, ‘this’ll never work. I’m going to order out.’
‘No no no no no,’ I said running after her, ‘it takes 20 days for a habit to form, then on it gets easy. I’ve read it all up, just 17 more days to go.’
’17 minutes are one too many,’ said she desperately hunting for a menu.
‘You won’t find any,’ I told her, ‘I threw them all out.’
She glared at me, then began to hunt again as one possessed. All I stood by wringing my hands. And then with a happy whoop she held up a tattered menu from among old discarded newspapers. Before I could stop her she was on the phone ordering the biggest, juiciest, cheesiest burger ever.
The bell rang and she ran to open the door. She took the still hot burger, put it on the table and rushed off to pay the delivery boy.
Meanwhile I stood by watching helpless, frustrated. You cannot desert your friend, my dad’s words echoed in my head. I cannot let her lose the love of her life. The thought spurred me into action. Right before her stunned eyes I grabbed the burger. I watched her coming towards me as if in slow motion but I was a friend on a mission. ‘Noooooo,’ said she. I ignored her and, in one great mega mighty bite, I stuffed the entire burger into my mouth.
Both of us collapsed on the floor in a tangled heap, burger and all, before the shocked eyes of the poor delivery boy.
And just like that, I’d well and truly stabbed my bestest friend in the back! My father’s rule well and truly broken. Beyond repair. All because of a cheeseburger.
Epilogue: It was a few days before we became friends again. And another few before my singed tongue healed. Anu gave up her diet plans and we took to hanging around the cricket field. One fine day as Rohan stood fielding at the boundary, the ball landed right into Anu’s lap. And as he took the ball from her he deposited his heart at her feet. And that was that!
Written for the Write Tribe Festival of Words June 2018 for the Day 3 prompt:
Start your story with: “My dad gave me three life rules to live by: 1. (fill in the blank), 2. (fill in the blank) and 3. (fill in the blank). The first two were easy, but the third one proved difficult all because of a cheeseburger. Let me explain.”