A Short Story About My Best Friend, Her Wedding & All Sorts of Other Little Things
It’s been a month since my best friend Gagan walked down the aisle, made four vows and married the man of her dreams. With her closest friends and family sharing in one of her biggest moments, the weeklong festivities were quite an Indian affair, but as her best friend of over twenty years it was much more than that. It was what we had talked about since we were little girls living in Selma; we’d get in our pajamas and have sleepovers, dream about our happily ever afters, and write pros and cons lists about every guy we ever thought could be “the one.” The funny thing is that we were in our early teens with railroad tracks strung to our teeth, smearing toothpaste on our zits as a last resort, and living in the middle of nowhere. Who would find us lying on a wooden board in unknown waters, or vineyards should I say, was always of primary concern. In our little hearts were big dreams and in our big eyes were even bigger hopes that our knights would have the charm of Mr. Darcy. It’s what every little girl thinks as she plays with her Barbies in a magic castle, or in my case, a makeshift box. It’s what every big girl thinks as she loses her imagination to a world of sheer literary bliss. Rest assured, it was going to happen someday. We’d link our pinkies and kiss them; promising to be best friends no matter where life took us and who we met or what we did. And on Gagan’s wedding day, when she walked down the aisle in her beautiful red lengha, I stood tall as her Maid of Honor— reminiscing on all the minute details we ever shared. After all, she was my little big sister and that wasn’t going to change even after marriage. How we met, though, was a different story…
“Put your hand in her hand, sit still and smile.”I rolled my eyes and Gagan rolled hers.
My father was always big on savoring moments, snapping picture after picture and hoarding boxes of developed film in our garage. I suppose that’s the reasoning behind my 21st century obsession of excessive Instagramming. Like father, like unexpected third child who just kind of happened (I’ll save that for another day)!
“Did you hear me?” asked my father sternly.
He looked me in the eye, and I shined a half moon back. I was never the rebellious one, since I left that to my eldest sibling, but suggesting I hold hands with a little girl I barely knew wasn’t exactly my cup of tea either. I was five-years-old and selective about my company. I didn’t fit into jeans, nor did I want to make a new best friend on the spot at my brother and sister’s birthday party (sadly, they’re not even twins).
We were at Pizza Pirate, Selma’s finest pizza parlor at the time (or only parlor I think), and I wished I could wiggle off the carousel rather than sit earnestly listening to my parents. Didn’t dad know I had better things to do like eat greasy cheese pizza and waste quarters in machines that rolled down cool rings, shiny stickers, Little Homies and all kinds of other useless crap that would mean the world to my imagination and trash to my parents? Clearly not.
The worst part is that the situation could have been avoided altogether had Drake come out with his song in a timely manner. I would have told dad, “No new friends” and he would have mistaken Drizzy Rogers for Mr. Rogers, and obliged if that was the norm in the neighborhood.
Instead, it went something like this…
“I’m not going to say it again, Rippinpal.”
I looked at Gagan.
Mr. Bola looked at his daughter and then at me. Then, Gagan and I looked at each other.
She held out her hand. I accepted.
Far from an organic introduction, that was the least we could do to make our parents happy. According to our fathers, they boarded together at university and miraculously reunited in California years later. They declared it a true sign of fate, and I suppose that’s valid considering they lived in a pre-cell phone era. However, we always thought it a tactic to get on an episode of the Oprah Winfrey Show. There’s nothing better than a tale of two friends torn apart only to someday find each other in another country. Am I wrong?
As their children, we basically had no choice, but to become what they were themselves: Best friends.
Becoming just that was easier said than done for Gagan and I. We started with baby steps—adding each other to birthday invite lists, sharing Corn Nuts from the snack shack at Jackson Elementary and eventually walking home together after school. From there we leapt into middle school, joined leadership, started wearing lip gloss and using Nair. She picked out my class schedules; I passed my classes with flying colors, and eventually we formed Selma Girls (our version of Indian Dream Girls). We danced our hearts out.
Then high school happened. She was a year older than me, so by the time I joined, she took full responsibility of being an older sister. Gagan waited for me during break time and packed an extra granola bar to share. She received her license at sixteen, which opened doors for us to do as we pleased. We drove to the big city on weekends in her Chevy Silverado with our windows down and a Good Charlotte cassette blaring from the stereo. We went to the movie theater without needing to call our parents from the payphone to pick us by ten. She drove us off campus for lunch and to the mall to hangout. We made coffee runs and had tons of fun simply driving around in circles talking about someday.
But it wasn’t until my senior year of high school that I knew with my whole heart that we were in this friendship for the long haul. That we would in fact aspire to become the replica of our fathers (aside from their bald heads and white beards).
When she moved away for college she still remained my go-to in many ways; listening to my high school stories and sharing juicy college details. We were very different, but at the same time we were so alike that it was scary. That year, I’ll never forget. It changed me in more ways than one, and it was my friendship with the person I met at Pizza Pirate that helped me swiftly transition into the next chapter of my life. I joined Gagan at UCLA.
The years that followed were priceless. Like our fathers, she and I roomed together. We lived in something along the lines of a cabin, watched ten seasons of Friends over and over again, drove to the Rose Bowl for football games, ate chocolate-covered strawberries at midnight, studied together, talked about ex-boyfriends and made career decisions. I helped her with her English papers; she helped me solve chemistry equations. The list continues.
So when the main doors to the temple swung open on that beautiful summer day, the 22nd of June, and Gagan walked down the aisle like Elizabeth Bennet, I remembered all these little moments in time. And, while many have asked me if our friendship has changed now that she’s married and lives six hours away, my response remains the same.
Gagan still loves greasy pizza and sends me emergency texts when I’m on not-so-great dates!
*This post was previously published on June 31, 2013.