Looking in the mirror, combing his hair behind, Maxim wondered if his life was heading in the right direction! Was she Ms. Right, or was there still time he had to spend a bachelor? This was only going through his mind because his mother wanted him to find a wife. Or was he done with his single life? Thoughts running through his mind, he remembered the friends he had been putting off for another day and decided he should meet those close to him more frequently!
Having agreed to marry a beautiful girl a few years younger than him, Maxim wasn’t sure if it was love. He asked himself a number of times if he was ready to be committed. Was she whom he wanted to spend his life with? As long as he had his freedom, it did not matter whom he was marrying? He was getting engaged tomorrow!
He blurted out his feelings, to me, when I, straight forward that I am, asked him how he had come to agree to this marriage in particular. Did he feel differently with this pretty damsel or was he just getting into it because of family pressure? He was to wed at the end of the year. Looking far into space, he replied that he felt nothing different when he had agreed a month ago, and during the engagement but lately he was coming to like the idea of having someone to call his soul-mate. Another friend, John, and I smiled at each other and then looked at him but couldn’t make out if Maxim blushed as he generally had a smiling face.
John, on the other hand, had to be given training to smile even when the camera was pointed at him. He had a small built as compared to his friends. John was on a holiday and had come to visit us for a few days before he went back to the grind! The grind that Maxim was to join him in shortly.
We went to lunch at a restaurant they visited numerous times during their college days. Of course, the food was not as yum as years ago but the nostalgic feeling was satiating, they said while hungrily gobbling up the ingredients on their dish. The day, before John arrived, Maxim joined us to go dancing at a place we did not visit for quite some time as the dancing king, Ronald, left to find greener pastures, along with his new wife, a year ago. Prior to that, after spending many years here, Ryder left to fulfil future endeavours elsewhere while Ace, a smart-headed engineer, and bigger built than the rest, returned after he realized he could build greater things out here, in India.
Maxim, John, Ronald and Ace were buddies for as long as they could remember and Ryder joined the foursome later in life. They went to the same school and therefore, all of them knew about the several girls each of them dated, except John, who barely took the initiative to have a girlfriend like his friend Ronald who, with his pretty face, had plenty of female associates around him. Maxim, Ace and Ryder had a nifty few to spice things up!
That weekend we went dancing, bowling and restaurant hopping and each of us enjoyed the company. Maxim, John, Ace and I laughed so much that we did not even dream of what was approaching us the following weekend. John left, but vowed to be back in a few months. Little did he know that he would have to be back sooner than that!
That Valentine morning, numerous calls woke us up from deep slumbers as we hit the sack only at 5am. Ace and I received news that something bad had happened. I felt my heart fall into the bottomless unknown. I spoke to Maxim the previous evening and missed a call from him later that night. He had said to my two year old daughter, “I’m waiting to meet you and squeeze you!” and we all laughed. We were to meet with the rest of his new friends, including his fiancé, the next day! A tragedy changed all that and left a miserable void in all our lives!
Three days later, and we still cannot digest the fact that Maxim was no more with us. A terrible accident took away the life of a dear friend, who barely lost his temper or yelled at anyone who annoyed him. Why? With tears filled in our eyes, we saw him there, lying lifeless in a casket made just for him! The once joyful character just rested there in front of us, silent. I failed to understand how the forces above could take away someone so nice! Instead of the black wedding suit, he was dressed up, by devastated family, in a white suit ready to return to Mother Earth. Along with a crowd of more than five hundred people, John, Ryder and Ace attended the funeral with heavy hearts, while, sadly, circumstances did not allow Ronald to be a part of it despite copious efforts. We had lost someone close to us. Someone some of us had known for more than three decades! Someone who was one of us! Someone who was laughing with us a week ago!
Walking back home after the gloomy burial, John, Ace and I secretly vowed to ourselves to never take anyone for granted, especially those close to us. Deep down, we decided to be the best we could and be available to the ones close to us at all times! Though it is impossible to forget someone so near once they have left for their heavenly abode, I’ve learnt that eventually, time is the only healer. The pain just fades away! Life goes on to give us, those still existing, another chance to be better people and better friends!