Ours is a once-upon-a-time kind of story. Candice and mine, that is.
It’s a love story of two damsels, definitely not in distress. Unless, of course, you ask those around us who may, in fact, find themselves to be in a perpetual state of distress caused by OUR disabilities.
I, with my visual impairment, and consequential inability to recognise faces often create much of a buzz about my bad attitude since I don’t wave back to people waving at me. And Candice, with her evident limp, grabs a lot more attention than the two of us like, over and above the quota that satisfies our attention-seeking personalities.
The first time I met Candice, I noticed her struggling to get hold of the stairway railings, amidst a jostling crowd of over-enthusiastic first-year college students. You can always tell the first years apart because the enthusiasm is still skyrocketing and the zest for life, is still rather idyllic. The disillusionment of existential discussions in sociology classes hasn’t set in just quite yet.
I extended my hand towards Candice, a practised sceptic of touch, she surprised even herself by grabbing hold of my hand and much to both of our good fortunes, never again letting go of it. I surmise the reason she did so in the first place, was because I asked whether she needed help, and didn’t assume she did. A difference she was quick to point out to me because she felt that her sense of agency had been respected.
And that’s how it began. Endless heated discussions about the commentary on power and politics in Game of Thrones; the struggle to convince each other that we should definitely try stand-up comedy; her sending me pictures of notes written on the blackboard during classes because I had been unable to read them; and me typing things out for her to hasten her typing speed, given her weak fine motor skills.
And amidst echoes of shared laughter, advice about what sexy lingerie entails (mostly from me to her, on her insistence), and tears of momentary defeat, we found friendship. The kind of friendship that transcends social hierarchies in college; the kind of friendship that makes you want to laugh and cry simultaneously, because the joy of being around one another comes with the nagging fear that there will come a time when we might not be physically in the same space; the kind of friendship that makes you realise that soulmates can be found in people other than romantic partners.
Candice often jokes about how I’ve fulfilled all three requirements she needs her hypothetical future husband to fulfil: sneaking her off to make her experience her first train ride on the Mumbai local; walking through the traffic-ridden streets of Hill Road; and of course, getting on an escalator. A life update — our getting-on-an-escalator strategy failed and we ended up rolling on the floor in the middle of a crowded mall, in splits of laughter. But the planning of different strategies are currently underway.
Candice reads out menus at restaurants to me, approves (mostly disapproves) of the men in my life, and loves buying me body washes because she knows how much I love them.
Sometimes you meet someone and it just clicks. You no longer feel alone. You feel understood in a way that’s visceral and can only be explained through almost inaudible “I love yous” amidst sniffles and tears. The kind of friendship where even an “I love you” feels insufficient.
It’s like finding your home in someone, just as they are. And with that, finding the slightest sliver of sunshine that can finally penetrate through some of the cynicism that we, as adults, often become experts at carrying around with us. Candice doesn’t complete me and I don’t complete her. We just make each other better and brighter.
Candice sees for me; I walk for her. And I can only hope that everyone gets to experience a friendship like ours in their lifetime.