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Sometimes you want to cry out in frustration. Sometimes you want to cry out in joy.

And then there are times you want to cry out in boredom.

Being part of The Four Boys Club is somewhat like that; especially for an outsider, like me. Well, maybe I’m being too harsh on myself – and by extension the others – by calling myself that. They’ve never given me a reason to think I’m not one of them, nor do they think any less of me.

But they’re just not… How should I put it? I don’t connect with them. When you’re 15, you’re looking for something like that in the friends you make, don’t you? People who are like-minded, who can relate to you, who… get you.

At times, I feel like these guys just don’t.

It’s not like we are inseparable. I mean, all of us have friends outside the four of us. We do live our separate lives. As a matter of fact, I have closer friends at school. With them I’ve taken trips, gone to the movies, partied after school.

The most interesting activity in the three years I’ve been part of The Four Boys Club we’ve done is…

You ready? Because this gets exciting.

The most interesting activity we’ve done is gone to the mall. Exhilarating stuff, right? The mall, where we split a chicken burger from McDonald’s three ways because, guess what, Shanky had been put on a fast by his mum (and, therefore, couldn’t eat) and Bandem didn’t want to spend money. I wanted to ask them what they had dragged me to the mall for; and I almost would have, had it not been for Mompy.

I don’t know why Mompy chooses to be part of this group. He is an overall fun guy. Funny. Cultured; at least he is aware, and not living under a rock like the other two. He doesn’t even mind the occasional swearing – being on, both, the giving and the receiving end of it.

You should have seen Shanky’s nonplussed reaction when, while the four of us were playing a game of carrom the summer before last, I screamed a profanity into Mompy’s face. Mompy hit a white coin into the pocket. He and I had black. Let’s just say I called him a vulgar word for incompetent. It was in jest, of course; two friends just joshing around.

But, two days later, I learned Shanky had approached Mompy and tried to persuade him into how he, Mompy, should bring the matter up to his parents. Like we are a group of seven or eight year olds who find “bad” words offensive.

What a sad club it is, right?

Honestly, I just feel bored.

And I probably was staring into an even more boring two weeks last winter break, when Mompy was out of town with his parents. The Cool Dad, as we all called Mompy’s father, took his family for a nice little vacation to the beach to beat the cold. I didn’t want to be around Shanky and Bandem without Mompy around. The two are supposedly the oldest friends in the group – going back a decade from what I know – and yet you can’t mistake the awkwardness between them when they hang out together.

I don’t know where the awkwardness stems from; or even why it does. But, if you’ve seen the two of them playing cricket with each other in Shanky’s large veranda, you would agree they’re like an old married couple who, after spending almost an eternity together, are now out of things to say and just co-existing.

My dad, who they all call The Fat Dad (which won’t be inaccurate but is highly unfair), often asked me to go hang out with Bandem that winter.

Bandem’s dad had bought him a computer, and Mompy and Shanky would play games on it. Shanky already had a video game console, and, before the computer arrived in Bandem’s household, the three would spend their weekends at Shanky’s; trying to outrival each other in Mario or Contra. So, essentially, all they had done was evolve from playing the same games on a television screen to a computer.

God, they’re like children.

I didn’t want to go to Bandem’s, honestly. The sad, almost depressing atmosphere in his house is suffocating. I don’t know why I feel that way whenever I step in his house. Maybe it is the rather obvious sense of resentment between his family hanging in the air, like a thick fog; between him and his parents, between him and his sister (who went off to college the next year). It is the kind of resentment that is well-hidden between layers of other pretentious emotions; all the fake laughs, fake smiles, fake joy.

Bandem isn’t happy with his family, you can see it. I even said this to Shanky one day, but he denied it outright. “I’ve known him and his family for ten years. It can’t be true,” he said.

I would have kicked myself laughing at that. The two are probably the worst ten year long friends.

But I did go to Bandem’s. Not because I couldn’t say no to my dad, for there have been many times I’ve defied him, but for a reason I haven’t been able to ever entirely comprehend.

The thing is, my dad worries about Bandem; has even asked me quite a few times if things are okay with him. My dad calls Bandem a “hopeful romantic”; and when I asked if he meant hopeless, my dad just smiled at me. When I told him, my dad, that as far as I knew Bandem has never had a girlfriend, he just ruffled my hair in what I thought was a you-have-a-lot-to-learn gesture.

Bandem and I played Road Rash on his then new computer that winter.

Shanky wasn’t around. I may sound like a bad friend, but I suppose I was secretly glad he wasn’t.

Oh, to be young and have complicated (sometimes difficult, sometimes even tiresome) friendships. We’ve all been there, haven’t we?




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