I met a very close friend recently and what he said was quite funny but real.
“As you get older, you start looking for your childhood friends.”
Faces of friends whom I was once close with came to my mind as the year comes to an end. I’ve been blessed to have met so many great friends in life. Some are still in contact, but some are unfortunately missing. This is their story, these are friends with whom I have lost touch. It’s a bit difficult to write about them actually. I’ve re-written the beginning so many times now since I kept on changing all the time.
Chapter 1 – Chris
I went to a public school in Kupang West Timor, Indonesia. It was a typical primary school, a distance walk from our home. I loved walking to school, taking a short cut through a small creek. It was thrilling but satisfying each time if I was able to run and cross the dried river amidst the little forest. My heart raced very fast as I ran down the hill, crossed the creek and climbed up again. I tried to shut down my mind that kept on showing me the faces of all the ghosts.
Chris was a tall and skinny kid, with pale blueish or purplish skin. He wasn’t athletic at all. He couldn’t run around or play football like we all did. His home was very near to the school. He went to our public school may be out of convenience, not because of by choice. He came from a well off family, so he could have gone easily to a well known private school in Kupang. The school was very near to his home, so it was easy for his family to come by if something happened to him and it was just convenient for him to walk home, I suppose.
Chris had this congenital heart condition that I have never seen anyone suffering even until now. This was what I understood from him back then. I’m not sure, though if my understanding is accurate. Maybe Chris explained it to me in a way so that I could understand, but medically inaccurate. He said that his heart didn’t have four chambers as like any other ordinary people do.
The human heart has four chambers — the right atrium and the left atrium on top and the right and left ventricles on the bottom. The heart is divided by a solid wall into two sides: the right side sends blood to the lungs to get oxygen, while the left side of the heart moves oxygen-rich blood to the rest of the body through the aorta (the main artery in the heart).
According to Chris, his heart didn’t have all these dividing walls. His pale purplish skin was the result of this heart condition. He got tired too quickly. We both enjoyed going to the public library. It took so much time and many resting spots before we could reach the library. I remember he told me then that the doctor didn’t expect him to live until teenage years.
“I could be gone soon”, he said to me one day. I didn’t take him seriously, or maybe, death was still a concept too difficult for me to understand. “How could someone die so young? Only old people died” I said to myself.
A couple of times, Chris had to be away from school. Either it was for a couple of days because he wasn’t feeling very well, or a couple of months off, because he had to be away for an operation. I was fascinated by his photos back then when he was in Netherland. He jokingly said to me, “Would you switch places with me with all my conditions but you’d get the same experience of going abroad?”. I said “yes, of course,” again I didn’t understand well what he went through. He just laughed, hearing my answer.
Chris was the reason why I enjoyed reading so much. At third grade, we both had already read thick novels that no one at school wanted to even glance at since the books didn’t have any pictures in them at all. From Chris, I knew Enyd Blyton’s works of the famous fives, the secret seven and the naughtiest girl. As we got older, we began venturing into the world of Agatha Christie and Sydney Sheldon. I could even walk home from school reading a book since I was too excited to put it down.
Chris proved the doctor wrong. He reached teenage years and even fell in love once. He completed high school before he passed away. To others, Chris could have been a weak, sickly kid who couldn’t run around like other kids. To me, Chris was a brave kid, a fighter, someone who tried to face the world with both of his hands tied at his back. He never cried when facing all the bullies at school. I enjoyed all the stories he wrote and shared me about the medieval kingdoms with knights and shining armours. He could have been a great novelist or storytellers if he had lived until now.
Rest in peace, my dear old friend. Thank you for introducing me to all these wonders. My childhood would have been less colourful, had you not brought me all these adventures.
(In loving memory of Chris Mesah)