“I just find their music to be a little weird”, replied Eric as he sipped on his second cappuccino.
The sun was just about to set and their al fresco setting at Wendy’s, their favourite coffee place, was close to perfect. There was a cool breeze going about, people walking past lazily, and a strong scent of cinnamon in the air.
“They are not weird”, continued Sloan “They’re really good. You need to give them a chance, see them live.”
“Ok ok, relax, yes, let’s see them on Sunday.” conceded Eric. “I was going to go anyway.. with Jill and the others”, there was a hesitation in his voice as he mentioned Jill.
Sloan’s head jerked up, she spilled some of her latte on the table. “What do you mean you’re already going with Jill and the others?” She didn’t raise her voice but you could sense the outrage in her tone.
“Um, well, the thing is, Jill asked me two days ago and I said yes.”
“But they’re my favourite band!”
“Well, I didn’t know that. Anyway, how does it matter? We can all go together.”
“How does it matter?” her voice was getting louder, “How does it matter that you don’t know who my favourite band is anymore? How does it matter if you make plans with other people to go see them? Really Eric, you really don’t know how that matters?”
“Sloan, relax. I didn’t know, ok? I didn’t do it on purpose to slight you or anything! I honestly didn’t know.”
“You know what, Eric?” she stood up as she continued “I actually wish you’d done it on purpose to slight me. At least that way, you’d be actively thinking of me.”
“What are you talking about, Sloan?” he stood up as well and tried reaching for her hand, “Just sit, and calm down”.
She pulled her hand away, “I don’t want to stay calm, I’ve had enough of staying calm. I’ve been calm all this time as I’ve watched you forget me. Calm, as I took on a supporting actor role in your life. Calm, as you’ve slowly moved away.”
“Sloan, I’m here, right next to you, how can I have moved away?”
“I’m really surprised that you haven’t noticed it. Then again, would you have even bothered to do anything if you had? You’ve changed, Eric. You’re a different person now that you’re constantly hanging out with ‘Jill and the others’.”
“In what way?”
People around were now starting to stare.
“In the way that you’re so much in love with your new friends that you don’t see anyone else. You love the way they excuse your incessant smoking, they way they please your vanity by looking up to you, and they way they disguise throwing their life away as an ‘alternative lifestyle’. You lap it up. You don’t see anyone or anything else. You don’t see your best friend who’s going through a difficult break-up and wishes you were there to talk to him. You don’t see your mum who’s finding it hard to deal with all her kids growing up. You don’t even see your own dog, who seems so much happier living at my place!”
“And what about you, Sloan? You forgot to mention that I don’t see you. And isn’t that what this is really about? You can’t stand that I might actually find someone more interesting than you?”
She stared at him, speechless, with an all-consuming sadness in her eyes.
“Goodbye, Eric.” With that, she picked up her bag and walked away.
Eric stood there, watching her leave, and thought in panic “What have I done? What have I done? What have I done?”
Did Sloan walk away because she couldn’t believe that her friend would think her to be so selfish? Or did she know somewhere, deep down, that he had hit the nail on the head?
Did Eric panic because he realised that he really had changed and had wronged someone who truly cared about him? Or was he just scared that he had lost his safety net, his backup plan?
These questions, my dear reader, I leave, for your imaginations to answer.
PS: Image credits go to the very talented (and mad) Sneha Mahajan.