They met because he was a friend of her boyfriend’s. They became friends because they were in the same club.
She was not good at relationships. She couldn’t feel unhindered and be a girlfriend at the same time. So, she broke up with the boyfriend. Everybody thought it was because the friend had usurped the place of the boyfriend. She knew that was not true. He knew that was not true. Most didn’t believe them. But, they remained friends.
They didn’t become close until much later. It took a trip with the club which consisted mostly of seniors (she wasn’t good with seniors) and it took weeks of prep leave spent in the library before their first-ever major examination as medicos (and a cheating scandal that he got dragged into) for them to become close friends.
They spent a lot of time together. They worked on the same project in the club. Her group of friends became his group of friends. They won their first competition as college students together. They shared their thoughts, their ideas, their anger and their fights. Many times and over and again they would clash and they would fight. There would be days during which they spend almost every waking moment together. Then, days would go by when they didn’t even talk to each other.
There were times when she thought that he was suffocating her. There were days when he would think that she was being unnecessarily harsh to him. She called him many names; made a lot of fun of him. Sometimes, he was a part of it and sometimes, he resented it. He sulked at times and she hated him for it. She called him immature and he called her mean. They were friends; but, at times, it felt like they could be friends no longer.
But then, one evening, before an exam that she found especially tiresome, she wanted to rip the binding of her book, set it on fire, throw it over the hostel walls and watch gleefully as it burns. Instead (thankfully), she called her friend. He came and they went for a walk. They talked about nothing in particular and she calmed down. Then, he brought up the subject of next day’s exam and they revised whatever he remembered.
For the second major exam, they studied together.
She did well. He didn’t do so well. For the third major exam, they still studied together.
People still wondered; said they were not just friends; didn’t believe their study sessions. The girl went through two boyfriends and the guy had no girlfriends. That just strengthened their belief that he had been “friend-zoned”. She knew that wasn’t true. He knew that wasn’t true. Yes, they had talked about it and they had confessed that they felt absolutely no attraction towards each other. Yes, she knew he had a crush on her in first term and she did consider that she may be falling for him in second term. But, time passed and they realized they were best friends and they were happiest being best friends.
He was the one she called at 4 am when she wanted to go out with this random guy that she met one day back.
He was the first one they told when she started going out with one of their common friends.
She was the one who consoled him when he was drunk and upset during one of their trips with the club.
She was the one who could get through to him when he was in one of his moods.
Maybe, he did give more to this friendship than she did. Maybe, she did help him in ways that none realized. Maybe, their friendship could have much grander with much more obvious displays of affection that would have saved many nights of doubt and anger. Maybe, if it wasn’t him and it wasn’t her, their friendship could have turned romantic.
But, it was him and it was her and they were happy the way they were. They were happy with the many firsts. They were happy with the many fights. They were happy with the long conversations and even the awkward silences that preceded them. They were happy looking out for each other. They were happy being, in today’s terms- “friend-zoned”; because there are times when romance wouldn’t do, when even sex wouldn’t do; because there are times when only a friend is needed who’s seen you at your worst and still walks with you until you calm down.
They have finished college and have gone their separate ways. She still calls him when she’s freaked out about an exam. He still calls her when he needs to rewind after a long study session. They still make promises to each other- that she will get him chocolates every time she visits; that every time they meet, he will get her cherries from Shimla. She still calls him names and he still sticks his tongue out at her. They are still “friend-zoned” to each other; because there are times when friend-zone is the best place to be in.