Last week, I stumbled upon one of my junior high school friend. She didn’t change a bit. She looks exactly the same like when I saw her the last time, around 15 years ago. She still got the same child-like face, with a small pair of eyes, small nose, small lips, small straight and soft hair in a ponytail. Her petite figure could easily made people think that she’s a school kid.
As she walked down the stairs of the oldest mall in my hometown, I greeted her.
She brought a massive backpack on her shoulder and seemed to be in a hurry. She didn’t say anything, not even looking at me. So, I gleefully asked again,
“Hey I am your classmate from junior high school. We were at class VIII together. You don’t remember me, do you?”
“I do remember your face. But I forgot your name,” she said.
“What are you doing, where are you going to?” I asked without hesitation.
“I am taking a half-day work shift and I just reported my presence to the boss.”
“Oh, so you work here?”
“Well I work in this area but not at the mall,” she reluctantly explained.
“Okay,” i thought ‘how did she end up working in this area, what kind of job, etc. etc.’, but somehow I didn’t ask the question. I didn’t want to come across as rude or lack in sympathy. Instead, I asked her, “Do you want to see my newborn?” I didn’t know why I offered her to see my baby. Who knew? She might be interested. We hadn’t met for a long time, there’s a lot of catching up to do, and this might be a good start.
“Where is your baby?” she asked me her first question, regarding to my question earlier. She might not be interested at all to meet her nosy long-time-no-see friend and just wanted to walk away, quick, and end the (perhaps) uncomfortable encounter with me.
“He’s in Optik X with my mom.” I assumed she might have known already that the optic was located just inside the mall, ground floor. I thought it wouldn’t create such a hassle to walk perhaps 100 steps max to see my precious and spend 2 minutes max to at least see him and then got back to whatever she was going to do. But how I was wrong.
“I am sorry. I am in a hurry. I have to get my bicycle.” So, she’s riding a bicycle. I commended her on that. I knew where she lived and I assumed she still lived there with her parents. It’s not near from the mall. Why didn’t she ride a motorbike like any other people in this town? It’s saddening me to imagine her petite figure and childlike face had to go through danger on the road every workdays. I knew how hard bicycling is, I was riding a bicycle myself during university days. But maybe I underestimated her. I still thought she’s a 13 year old little girl from junior high school who needed to be protected.
The thought of her daily struggle on a bike consoled me from the fact that she probably didn’t want to have anything to do with me. Who knows when will we meet again? I am not going to be in this town for a long time. But she didn’t know my backstory. I also didn’t know her backstory. The difference was I wanted to know and she didn’t. Perhaps each of us thought of ourselves as the “normal” one and the other one as a “weird” human who had a problem. I might thought of her as distant, cold, unwelcoming. She might thought of me as annoying, unnecessary, not understanding. Or maybe she thought I was going to sell some Multilevel Marketing products.
She didn’t even think that what she did could make me feel unwanted. She was so preoccupied with God-knows-what. Maybe it’s me. Maybe it was the way I approach her. I should’ve asked “how are you”, so she might have a chance to explain what’s going on. But I thought that question was such a wishy-washy and people just replied “Oh I am fine” every time.
I should just stop over-thinking. Right there.
I didn’t know why I felt like I lost something. Some imaginary, one-sided, past friendship maybe?
I was demanding some sort of acknowledgment or recognition of the good things that I’ve done. I thought I did something noble by accompanying her during junior high school. Do you notice that on every school there were some students who were kind of isolated and nobody wants to be with them? Prama was definitely one of those students, I don’t know why, but because of that I decided to befriend her and really see her as a person. I was probably the only schoolmate ever to visit her house and witness her fondness of her turtle pets. Well I shouldn’t expect anything in return anyway.
If only she knew that I cared for her so much. I was the one who wrote her a fake love letter and put it in her school drawer. A letter on fancy paper with seven pink hearts on top and poetic words of secret crush. The letter made her smile so widely, a smile never seen on someone so shy and quiet. After school she talked to me giggly on our way to the bus station. She tried to guess who wrote the letter. I knew I lied to her, I wrote her a fake love letter. But it was all worth it by the look of her sparkly eyes.
There’s something about solitary students that make me want to take some action. I called it “The Jeremy Project” from Pearl Jam’s song, Jeremy. I will elaborate more on this in the next posts: what it is, how it started from an experience I had during elementary school, etc. Bottom line is, in this project I would try to be friend with solitary person who are rejected and singled out by all of their peers. I got some best friends from this life-long personal project. Yet some of were also caught as a pathological liar or someone with other mental disorder who needs help from professionals.
It was indeed fascinating to learn a wide range of human character. But lesson learnt, at least from Prama’s case, I should’ve known that such friendship would not last, because, it was not based on an equal relationship. I felt like I was doing a favor by being her friend. Not surprisingly, it couldn’t work out. Genuine friendship could only happen between equal partners.
… to be continued.