I was happier with my books

Written in response to: Write a story that includes the phrase “Maybe in another life.”... view prompt

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Desi High School Sad

Two months. Two whole months since college ended. My exams are over. I’m waiting for the results. No, I’m not; I already know what’s happening after that. I’m still there. Still the same person. I haven’t changed at all; except for one thing perhaps, I have started laughing more, talking more and most of all, living in the present moment. But my present isn’t pleasant, so I’ve taken a refuge in my past.

Crickets are chirping outside, it’s a quiet night. The moon is a crescent, hiding among clouds and the north star is shining. Everything is just as same as it was three months ago. The only change is that the calendar on the wall shows May instead of February. It’s empty, there are no crosses or marks. No dates marked for exams. No little emojis on past papers and no crosses for all the days left for the final freedom.

My college bag is lying in the opposite corner, I haven’t even removed my hall ticket from it. My textbooks, guides and notebooks are still on my disorganised desk. The clock on the wall is showing 10.00 p.m. There’s no way it could only have been 7 minutes! I had been thinking for so long!

Never mind, that’s a normal occurrence now. Time has probably slowed down. Or perhaps my perception has changed. That’s what Einstein’s Relativity explains, isn’t it?

‘Shut up with that Einstein of yours!’ Niyati would playfully snap, if she were in front of me.

‘Well, at least she has something useful to say! Unlike you, who’s only got Arijit’s melodies!’ Karishma would retort.

‘Anyone wants vada-pav? I’m starving!’ Sai would prompt.

‘Sona, are you coming with me or not?’ Pranjali would grab my wrist and try to take me away from them.

‘No, she’s going to come with us, you stick! Right, Sonali?’ Pranay would ask, dropping in and grinning at me. And before I could reply, he would be off in another direction, forgetting what happened half a second ago.

And then, I would simply smile at all of them, grateful that I have so many individuals who look after me. Who care for me. And whom I can call by one word that lightens everyone up: friends.

‘I’ll just—’ I open my mouth to say something and quite suddenly, I become aware of my surroundings. There no white-washed walls. No wooden door standing ajar beside the blackboard. In fact, there is no blackboard at all. It’s just my room. My home. Not my class.

I shake myself. Why do I keep drifting off again and again? How many times do I have to explain to myself that my college is over? I’m not going back. Never. It’s over. The end.

I grab the broom lying against the door and began sweeping the floor. I climb a stool and begin dusting the shelves. That’s it. I’m going to keep all my college things on top of the cupboard. Out of sight, out of mind, right?

The books and notebooks have gone. Now, it’s the turn of the bag. I grab the straps and throw it on top. One of the chains is open and a blue plain notebook falls on the floor. Not that one. No! It’s a small diary I kept just for the sake of keeping, never actually hoping to fill it. I’d just wrote it to improve my English. Most unfortunately, my college year had been beyond my expectations and a few pages were still left. These blank pages trouble me a lot. What was I to put in them?

I slam the diary shut. Honestly. Now, that’s enough. How long are you going to hold on? Just go on. You have a whole life waiting for you ahead. There’s still a lot you have to do, a lot you have to see. This was just one phase of your life. Life goes on. Most unfortunately, it does.

A paper slides out of the diary and I see untidy scribbling. It is a Physics sum. There are a lot of cancellations. The formula is wrong. And half of the additions are not even accurate. You don’t add unlike terms. I automatically begin to explain. It’s Pranjali’s handwriting. Heaven knows what she is going to do without me. She can’t even solve a Physics sum without me. A grin stretches across my dry lips as I recall the moments before our paper. She was sitting on a rock, and she had nicknamed our Physics textbook a hippo. I had laughed so hard that few of the passers-by had taken it as a case of exam-hysteria.

And the paper had actually been easy, but I had left a 3-mark total. And when I had frowned about that, Pranjali had slapped me with her exam board. Then, after reaching home, she had picked my brain, forcing me to calculate her marks, count her mistakes and estimate her percentage.

Then, when my mother would start yelling me for doing timepass with my friend, I would tell her that I would call her later and hang up.

‘Pure waste of time. You’ve got an exam in two days and you want to laugh with friends!’ she would say that last word so scornfully as if it were a swear word.

‘No, it was just one time—’

‘That’s what you say every time.’

‘I-I’ll sit down to study.’

‘Good decision. And you don’t have to send that important questions to anyone.’

‘But my friends need them! They haven’t studied all year! How will they—’

‘That’s their problem! I didn’t tell them to roam around all year.’

‘They weren’t! It’s just they were busy—’

‘Are you going to study or not?’

‘Yes.’ And without another word, I would go to my room and sit. Funnily enough, whenever I tried to study then, I would also bring a wrong answer and that my mood would spiral to the negative side.

I sniff. A single drop slides down my cheek. I wipe it with the back of my hand and fold the paper carefully. Replacing it in my diary, I move to sort the pile of kurtis, leggings, jeans and t-shirts.

I turn to my phone and switch the data on. There are no notifications, no messages, and no missed calls. No texts asking for paper pattern, previous year papers or even simple good luck wishes. I shake my head and turn to Spotify. I open my playlist, which has changed since the last three months. Then, thinking of a change, I turn the shuffle on.

My hands stop as they are folding a blue t-shirt. It’s the same familiar violin, the soft piano keys. Arijit’s voice begins to echo in my eardrums as he begins. He sings about friends. It’s my favourite song. But I had stopped listening to it. Two months ago. I instantly slide it. I’m not listening to all that again. After all, I’m supposed to be preparing for tomorrow’s class, am I not?

I slide my curtains shut and pick a green t-shirt and blue jeans for tomorrow. Then, I place my pink and white bottle in my bag, half-grinning as I recall how this bottle had roamed the entire class in college days. Double-checking everything, I dim the lights and curl up on my bed. As soon as I close my eyes, the photos of my friends begin appearing before my vision, as if someone is replaying scenes from a movie.

‘Why?’ I ask the night, ‘Why did these people become my friends? I wasn’t like this! They’ve changed me and look at them now, they’ve disappeared into the blue. I was happier with my books, at least they didn’t disappear!’ But as soon as I said it, I realised that I had never as happy with books as I had been with my friends.

Maybe in another lifetime, I whisper to myself, I will finally forget them.

May 02, 2023 11:36

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2 comments

22:37 May 06, 2023

Nandini 😊 this was a very emotional story. There are so many fond memories with her “friends”, but in the end, the memories are also a source of regret. It’s a very beautiful cautionary tale. Instant gratification is hard to avoid, and it sounds like her school friends were very into doing “what felt good” instead of what was really “good for them” (like actually studying) Sona seems so kind, but it’s time for her to really choose herself, not just make her friends happy! I loved the line “But my present isn’t pleasant, so I’ve taken a refu...

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Nandini Panchal.
08:19 May 08, 2023

Thank you so much, Hannah! 😊😊You have praised my story so highly, I couldn't believe it for one second! Your comments always bring me joy.💕💕 Thank you❤❤

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