Today is Christmas Eve, and Mum and Dad are hosting a Christmas buffet at our house. Friends and relatives come by the car loads, greeting and eating, all wanting to a piece of the Queen.
But there is one person I long to see, and it is my best friend S. He arrives from Melbourne today. It’s been two whole years of us being apart, him in Australia and me in the UK. S and I have many fond childhood memories and it is good to see him again.
Peas and carrots
I have known S since we were babies, but only befriended him much later. I was 12, he was 11. His leap-year exams meant that we were now in the same school year. Throughout primary school we were close buddies, like Forrest Gump’s “peas and carrots”.
In fact, we did take the same school bus, only we shared Linkin Park’s One Step Closer on my Sony Walkman at 6am in the journey. I was so proud of having discovered them before anyone else in Malaysia. By the time Hybrid Theory was released in Asia, I’d kept a low profile.
Primary 6 was a surreal year. It was the bridge between the dark blue and the light blue pinafore, a child and a teenager, a girl and a woman. S was my only bridge to the boys at the opposite school, and was sent as a messenger to deliver me a love letter from J. Only, J allowed him to read the letter. I still have that letter, and one day it is going to be on this blog.
In primary school, S and I did everything from cycling around the neighbourhood, to sharing childish boy girl stories to watching Master and Commander at BJC Complex’s Mega Pavillion cinema. We played everything from Red Alert to masak masak (“cooking”) underneath the study table with my sister.
In secondary school, things changed but we remained peas and carrots. Youth Group in church came along, him on the guitar, me on the bass. Mutual friends came and went, smokers’ groups, parties, boyfriends and clubs.
Fridays at McDonald’s
Fridays at McDonald’s were a strange phenomenon, and S and I were at the forefront of this. A huge McDonald’s separated my Convent school with the oldest missionary boys’ school on the island. Every Friday, morning school would end early and afternoon school would start late because of Muslim prayers. So what do we do? We go to McDonald’s to meet the opposite sex.
There are many types of school uniforms for girls, but they can be widely categorized into the standard pinafores, skirts and shirts (for prefects) or baju kurung (for Muslims). Of course, being the patriotic Malaysian Chinese, I opt for baju kurung on Fridays, even though I am not Malay/Muslim. Why Fridays? I probably thought of casual Fridays more than Friday prayers.
Mum used to say, “Why are you wearing baju kurung? The boys will think you’re Muslim!” Worse still, she’ll say, “Don’t wear the baju kurung. The Malay boys will come after you.”
As you can see, racial and religious issues are a huge problem in Malaysia. But not when you’re 13 and seeking the attention of racially-mixed boys who couldn’t care less about eating halal.
One of the first things we girls do upon entering McD’s is to remove our name tags and cover our chests with our buku panjang (long books). We find a popular corner as our base, then go up and down the two-storey bungalow pretending to get more fries or sundaes, when actually we were doing our watch rounds of who’s where with who.
Many funny conversations were struck in that place, many relationships forged, many books and numbers exchanged. Those were the days of IRC and ICQ, ice-skating and watching movies at BJ. No mobile numbers were exchanged, so we called each other’s home or room numbers. There was only so much we could do.
S was part of the McDonald’s crew on Fridays, and because I knew him, I knew most of his friends. School bus and after-school tuition classes helped in getting to know boys and girls from other schools.
S and I spent the later part of our high school years studying together a lot for the national exams, and when our results were released his father said to me, “Now I know what you two have been actually doing – studying after all!” You mean he ever doubted?
Then he left for Australia, leaving me behind to do A-Levels in a local college. But not before writing me this poem, called ‘look what i wrote for you!’
I hate the way I feel so distant.
The way we drifted so far apart.
I’m here and you’re all the way back home.
Pisses me that best friends can’t even be together.
I hate the way things have to change.
The way we can’t talk like we used to.
Missing the way we used to share dreams
By the swings late at night
I hate the way we have to move on
The way our friendship may have changed
We don’t share secrets like we used to.
I miss you, dear ol’ buddy…
I hate the way we don’t do stuff together anymore
No more tuition, no more studying
Biking, hiking or walking the dog
You, driving, chauffeuring me around (OK, I owe you~!)
I hate the way we have different dreams
The way we have to separate to different paths
The way you can no longer be close by me
Just 2 minutes away…
I hate the way we’re growing up
The way we have to change and hang out with different ppl
The thought that our friendship will never be the same again
It really freaks me out.
I hate the way I don’t know you like I used to
Missing the way I can say, “I know that, you told me”
What’s nine month gonna do to us both, we’ll see
Just hope things will be like they used to be
Wan Phing, you being my best friend is,
The best thing that has ever happened to me
It may never have been apparent, but it’s true
Why have a girlfriend when I have a friend like you
Crazy, this was meant to be the testimonial I owe you
But I’ll just continue writing ’cause,
This is so much fun!
Onwards, letter for you~
So how have you been, dear old pal?
I’ve been okay, still the same.
Maybe a little slower than before
Oh, screw poetry. This is tiring. Yea yea, how are you?
It’s funny how things work out. S has a girlfriend now, who is absolutely adorable! He wrote that poem six years ago, and we’ve seen each other three times since then.
I can’t say we’ve grown closer throughout our university years, but every time we meet, it’s like old times again. I’m determined to make this time count, even though it’s unlikely we’ll be peas and carrots again.