Golden light floods our table as the tired sun jogs home cordially and our conversation grows more and more silly, taking sudden leaps from college crushes to career, the Manchester and Barcelona attacks in 2017 to Harry Styles dating Olivia Wilde. As we seriously debate about Chris Hemsworth in the movie Extraction, an embarrassed couple passes by, trying to avoid judgment from the moms and dads as Valentine's day comes to an end in a few hours.
"….and of course that Sruthi! Such a headache! She never left Priya alone, I had to fight so hard to get you out of her cage…." Megha says and drifts off to another subject while I fight a sudden surge of pain pulsing through my body at the mention of Sruthi’s name and rage that is filling me when she becomes just another throw-away topic to gossip about. "I heard she joined a medical college," Pranavi tells me. "Oh," I try to reply with a lump in my throat. "Good for her! I never thought she would make it after all the drama she created. Gosh! She was so possessive..," Megha adds in. "Whatever happened between me and Sruthi is strictly our business, don’t try to get involved." I struggle to maintain a calm demeanor and not raise my voice. But it's not that easy when memories flood back in. Memories of us fighting…. crying when we were not able to see each other during holidays….trying to hold on when our marks gradually hit bottom…stress from parents…"What happened to both of you? I never saw you two together again." I don’t know how to explain to Anu the situation of not having the luxury to spend time with the person who you feel at home. Sruthi was there for me until I pushed her away, again and again, so much that we could never face each other again. I remember vividly the time when we were sitting on the last bench, our hands touching softly and I almost felt her breath inches from my face when I pulled away. Why was I so afraid to embrace my salvation? Can she ever absolve me? I don’t know.
I remain quiet, not answering Anu as Ritu starts speaking about her masters' plan. "I love learning new things, that is what I am good at, of course, that is the reason I get such good grades, I like to study a lot, I just wanna move to Vancouver and do my masters'."
"I am going to be a Fashion designer," I tell her casually and all of a sudden all the eyes at the table are on me. "You are joking right?" Prani is looking at me as if I just declared that one plus one equals three. "Why would I joke about that?" " Priya, come on, that’s not even a real job, that is just a dream, not passion," Ritu says and I chuckle at her, "Then what is passion? Learning a few facts by heart, spitting them at the exam, getting good grades is passion? I think that is an easy way to satisfy our ego and mistaking it for happiness. What happens when you start getting lower marks? Would you still be so eager to learn your calculus formulas?"
"But what will your family say about it ?" Anu asks. "I ..don’t know," I reply meekly, my fear of losing my family gripping me. "I thought I am actually interested in human anatomy, but now I cannot even bear the classes. I am scared of my future." Prani says suddenly with a terrifying voice and I realize how sad and low her voice has been from the start. "I don’t even know what I want to do anymore… I used to enjoy photography a lot, but now I am losing interest in everything…" Megha starts but Ritu interrupts her. "You really think you can achieve what you want despite your family and everything?" she questions me. “I didn’t say I want to become a fashion designer, I said I am going to be one,” I reply and the table goes silent. I take a spoonful of my Belgium dark chocolate ice-cream and pretend to enjoy it as the thought of facing my family and telling them that I planned everything already and that I even have a diploma in fashion technology without them knowing tears me apart. Trying to blink back tears, I silently get up and leave the table, and the girls don't notice, each involved in their own thoughts.