For you, if you should ever read this.
I think the great irony of our relationship is that I have no idea what to say at this point. We’ve been so blessed with openness towards each other that words have become somewhat accessory, and on this occasion, all but absconded. For though we’ve reached that zenith of friendship where no topic is off-limits, it’s there where I find myself stumped. What do I have to say to you that hasn’t already been said?
But I know I simply must say something. After all, once I fly abroad to the UK to further my studies in a few hours time, chances are, there won’t be much by way of physical conversation for the next four years.
Remember the time when we had just graduated from secondary school? You had already enrolled in TJC via the co-curricular direct admission, while I would later choose to attend MJC. It would be the first time we would be in a different school, and despite our brief four-year friendship, the prospect of it was so daunting. I remember developing a separation anxiety of sorts. I wouldn’t have someone to eat lunch with every day of the week, to stay back after lessons and work, or to accompany me on journeys home. The fears that we would stop spending time together, drift apart, or that you would find a new best friend suddenly became very real possibilities.
I don’t know how you feeling, though you must have felt the same, otherwise I wouldn’t have received your letter. Your squishy penmanship in black ink on a loose piece of foolscap folded into sixths that you gave me on my birthday, about a month shy of our matriculation. It wasn’t the fanciest written card I’ve ever received; no decorative paper, elaborate script, or coloured embellishments. It was a most unassuming document, plain and almost rudimentary. But for what it lacked in gilded charm, it made up for in sentiment, because till today, it remains one of my most treasured gifts from you, what more of all my possessions.
In it you spoke of exactly what I had feared. Of not knowing what I’d do without you. And yet that letter held so much by way of comfort, because it reaffirmed so many aspects of our friendship that I cherished. That I hoped would prevail. You said I was someone you could let out all your emotions to, be it positive or negative. You called me someone who knew you even better than you knew yourself. These are things I want to last, and I hope that I’ll always be this person to you because the same holds true of you to me.
You’re someone I can trust with my emotions, someone who has always accepted me for who I am and will never judge me by my choices. And that’s despite all the changes we have been through, and there have been many. I suppose being apart a little helped us to find ourselves. We both grew up in some ways, and we don’t always share the same interests now. Yet while these often cause relationships to falter, I’ve found that it made our friendship all the more better. We could be close, yet not so much that it was suffocating. It’s the maturity of knowing not only the self but the self within the friendship.
I think the most genuine mark of our friendship, at least to me, is that I rarely ever feel envy towards you. And this is important because I consider myself a jealous person, and I think I burned a fair few bridges on account of it. But our closeness surprised me for its sheer longevity and intensity. Make no mistake, it’s not because of our respective material standing that I feel this way. I admit I’m blessed in certain ways, but I think the economic side to our relationship has long ceased to be tenable.
For the most part, my lack of envy was comforting given the numerous opportunities you had that were denied me. You were the talented dancer, the more diligent musician, school councillor, CCA committee member, with the most active extra-curricular life on anyone I knew (I mean, you topped school for community involvement programmes!). And to be more specific, you could say these were areas that I would typically feel the heat of jealousy; if you were anyone other than you, its likely that our friendship would have suffered. But I never could feel anything but happy and proud. Our friendship has become one of the most powerful definitions of my identity because it showed me that I am capable of selflessness, and I thank you for that.
Some of my fondest memories are of us prowling the polished floors of Marina Bay Sands and sweeping past the glamorous designer boutiques. We never gave a second look the bags we would never buy for each other, the clothes we would never afford to gift, or the delicate array of restaurants boasting avant-garde cuisine. We never needed all that finery; we had each other’s company and that was enough. We roamed the grounds as if it were the terrain of our friendship and we were the merry maverick rulers. We were like poor kings, but we were kings nonetheless.
I know that you often feel guilty for borrowing money from me for food and what not, but like I said, it doesn’t matter to me. We’ve gone through so much for me to care about petty finances. Having you around made me understand that I valued our friendship more than money, and the more I gave to you, the more happy I felt. You’re by no means the kind of mega-rich-bruce-wayne kind of friend everyone wants, but it’s inconsequential in the basis of our relationship. We don’t trade Tiffany bracelets as friendship brands or bless each other with orange caskets of Hermes trinkets. Sure, there are people out there like that, and I’m not saying that what they have is superficial. I’m saying that what we have is no less real, even without an element of material reciprocity. For if friendship was truly worth its weight in gold, then the measure of ours would be priceless by all units of measurement.
The truth is, I really can’t bear for us to be parted. The reality of our separation is cause for great anxiety, not simply out of concern for my well-being, but yours as well. I know you’re going through a time where it all seems futile. Our lives have been dominated by progress; from primary school to secondary school, to Junior College and University, and finally working life. We’re so accustomed to movement in our existence, that once we get caught in the limbo phase we find ourselves bewildered. All we want is to trickle comfortably into the next stage, but life has thrown a spanner into our works, and the gears have ceased to click.
It’s a most disquieting place to be, and I know because I spent more than a year in that rut. But it gets better. You better believe it will. There could not have been a better time for you to assess your machine. Just as the woodcutter would periodically sharpen his axe, so should you troubleshoot all the mechanical faults and oil your gears. Until your time comes, make the in-between count. Get a job (a real one), discover who you are and what you truly want. You’ll face resistance no doubt; acquaintances who prod into your plans and parents who attempt to run your life for you. The raw wounds of your failures will be picked at even in the most subtle ways. The year which you deem hell will be your trial by fire. But if you succeed, you will gain the one knowledge that will see you through life: that once, fear and defeat touched you, but you did not die. That having failed before, you will strive never to be crippled by it again. Once your engines are up and running again, you have the privilege of this knowledge, fought hard for and won painfully. This is your time of reckoning, but it too will be your time of resurgence.
I have one final gift for you that I will write here. I want it to be the most public it can be, lest I forget it. I leave you with a promise, a hope. That I’ll always be there for you, always your best friend, even in your darkest age, just as you were there for mine. That one day, we will both achieve that long-held Bohemian dream, just us against the world with all we want and have. That we will find the road the leads back to each other.
Bohemians for life.