I’ve been thinking quite a bit about community. In little blocks. Lately, it’s been a building block of community— friendship and trust. The cyclical nature of friendship and trust. How trust is implicit in building a friendship and later in maintaining it. It’s almost like, the earning of trust is beside the point, giving it is where it’s at. I don’t know, there’s an earnestness and vulnerability to that. The quiet surrender of choosing your person/people. I’ve been thinking about these moments. How these moments of choosing have become a lot more conscious for me. I don’t just fall into friendships now. I choose my friends. I pursue my friends. Which is great. But I’ve also been wondering about the friends I didn’t consciously choose. And I guess I’ve been mourning those as well. Mostly in nostalgic sighs and dull aches in my abdomen. But sometimes with the tightening of my chest and urgent, hot tears.
So here are some moments.
There’s a scene stuck in my head. Two girls, one leaning against a tree. Pinching the sides of each other’s eyes “so we look like Chinese people.” She smells like baby powder and it delights me so cause we’re too old to smell like baby powder. Apparently, I have the best “Chinese eyes” but I’m thinking, “surely, yours are better.” But maybe it’s because she’s light-skinned and we’ve never seen an actual Chinese person. It doesn’t really matter though. I’m a the top of my class and this pretty girl thinks I am the best at something else. I’m somebody’s best thing.
And then I’m nine and I’m in the ugliest brown uniform that ever existed. It’s the first day of a new school. Right as I walk into class, there’s a tiny Black boy. And I think, “that’s the most timid person I’ve ever seen.” Which says a lot, cause I’m the most timid person I’ve ever met. Soon, it’s PE time, a game of Drop The Handkerchief and I’m tagged. I am pacing around the circle, confused, feeling picked on by this expectation that I would know to pick someone I can race amongst these group of strangers. And so I pick this tiny Black Boy, because maybe his timid goes with my timid and I stand a chance. I think about that choice a lot. Because isn’t that how love works sometimes? I think I have a shot at being your person. I think your hand goes in mine.
A few days later, I open the door to a different classmate. My mum is building a house next to your grandmother’s house and I guess she figures, if she can buy land from your grandmother, why not milk? Your grandmother sends you and your brother with the milk and there I am. You run away. I am amused a little, but mostly I just feel really powerful. That power dynamic never shifts back. You always did love me more than I loved you. And I’m only just realising this, but I did love you quite a bit. Well, as much as a teenager with subconscious abandonment issues could love a person.
To date, you transferring to our school, was one of the best things that ever happened to me. Fuck , I loved you. In a selfish, close myself off kind of way. You were in class eight and so you always stayed in school longer. I remember walking home from school, these girls in class six asking me for water that I wasn’t even drinking and being physically unable to give it to them. It was your water. I carried it for you. The snide comments. “Since her cousin came here, she doesn’t even talk to other people.” But like, fuck them, you know? I didn’t need friends. I had you. And then you left. Moved to a whole other continent. My heart broke, and then it closed off. Took me a whole decade to go back to a softer, more open version of myself. Anyway. What’s that Bible verse? Love endures? Because to date, I have cousins trying to bribe their way into being my favourite cousin. You are the last person I wanted to see before I went to surgery. You’re the first person I recognise when I come to. You’ve cussed people out for me and held space for my anger. And it like stress me out because I’m supposed to be an adult. And then I see you, and I’m ten again and I just want you to buy me Parle-G. I am failing so far, but I’m working on loving you in an adult way.
In season two of New Girl, Jess and Cece have a fight on Cece’s birthday. After they’ve made up, Jess asks Cece if they’d still be friends if they met now and not when they were children. I think about that question a lot when it comes to you. Did we meet too early? I don’t know. Maybe it doesn’t even matter. You were the best part of class seven and eight. I think I’m always going to love you. I think I get caught up on the time and the how different our lives are right now. That thing about some friendships being only for a season and just being grateful that they held you in that time. But mostly, I’m just really in my head and in survival mode still and still too exhausted to reconnect.
When we dropped Biology in form two, we went to the Business studies room for that free lesson. I remember you told me, “you and I are going to be friends.” I sighed, didn’t say a thing. I was terrified of you. You were an unexpected friend. You taught me to be open to people. To believe their stories about who they were over what you projected onto them. You made me believe in my softness. Because if you were soft, then maybe I was too. I am always rooting for you; your work and genius. You make me believe in my genius. In my paradoxes. In the stories I tell myself about who I am.
In was a tangled mess of anxiety in my last semester of school. I mostly kept it hidden. But then, one afternoon, right before a Time Series lecture, I had the mother of all panic attacks. I managed to calm myself down and come to class. You found me standing, leaning against a table, waiting to enter the lecture hall. I honestly thought I could get through that lecture but then you asked me an innocuous question and I fell apart. Thank you for reminding me that I don’t always have to endure. For skipping class and staying with me until I felt better. Thank you for affirming my dreams. For reminding me that I deserve rest and to prioritise my comfort and wellbeing. I think about you a lot.
I guess now I’m just thinking about the finality of mourning. How we think of mourning as acceptance of loss. And once you’ve accepted something is gone then it’s forever. That might be true.
But also, look at me. Do you know how much of me is gone? How much of me is dead? Have I not survived? Am I not alive?
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