A part of me refuses to go to sleep tonight because I’m unwilling to part with an unexpectedly wonderful week. I have always loved Thanksgiving break ever since I found out such a thing exists. In the chaos and constantly time-pressed woe of the quarter system, this break always offers just the right kind of reprieve at exactly the nick of time I need it. It’s less about the food, rather the company. Always the companionship and this year in particular, I really do genuinely miss my usual familiar faces.
But when one door closes, another always opens.
I reached out to my old high school buddy who is the closest I have to the word familiar over here – she’s in her senior year at Berkeley and we’ve been in touch regularly since she came Stateside three years ago. We made plans to celebrate together, exchanging text messages back-and-forth since about a month ago, discussing the food from the entrée – a whole chicken as substitute to turkey, still keeping to the spirit of the holiday – to the desert – self-attempted pumpkin pie – and even to the Black Friday ‘festive’ the day after.
Thursday finally came and I excitedly boarded the 930 AM Caltrain, happy to be away from campus, got off at Millbrae to switch to the BART line and just a little under noon, reached downtown Berkeley where she greeted me. We hugged each other tightly and fell into steps easily, making our way by foot to her apartment. She’d been kind enough to get the chicken at the halal butcher a few days before and had even prepared the dough for the pie crust. We sat in her apartment chatting nonstop from noontime to about 430 PM, when we decided we ought to get dinner started – there was an unexpectedly funny moment when both of us chickened out at the sight of a whole chicken with its absurdly long neck – and even while we prepared the feast, we kept talking. Our conversations went everywhere – home, here and places we’ve yet to visit – to people from the past and present, sometimes even detouring to religion – my Islamic ones to her Christian perspectives. Finally at 830 PM when everything was ready and we could devour in our surprisingly well-done chicken and unsurprisingly mutated pumpkin pie, I couldn’t be more thankful for this moment.
We talked and talked and talked – as we cleaned up later, after I showered and prayed, as I set up the futon and settled in comfortably under the comforters and even as her roommate came home near-midnight. We spoke until it was 2 AM, finally calling it a day as reminded ourselves we wanted an early start to join in on the shopping fest in the city. We spoke until I lost my voice and it took me mere seconds to fall into deep sleep.
All of Friday we spent going in and out of the stores at Powell Street, myself constantly distracted by each store I passed and as I exclaimed, “Just a minute!” while she simply tagged along, patient as ever. All the while, we conversed. We discussed books – The Hunger Games, Life of Pi and The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo to name a few – and movies – the recently released Catching Fire, for instance – and even random topics like why alpacas aren’t llamas. It felt to me, like we spoke about everything and nothing.
The conversations, all of them – they’re neatly tucked in a compartment in my mind for safekeeping.
I woke up yesterday morning with a fullness in my heart I couldn’t easily put to words, smiling besides myself. I worked on my difficult homework with a classmate all evening in the library, secretly badly wanting to write about and decipher the conversations we had, to understand just how much everything about the past two days meant to me.
Here’s the thing with old friends – sometimes you find really good ones, who knows you in ways that only an old buddy can. There’s a familiarity in the way her eye twitches as she looks at me, or the bit where she jokingly retorted, “I hear a cheesy line coming…”, or the silly things we did together like spying on the neighbor who worked out shirtless while watching an Asian drama – an Asian drama! – or even, or shall I say especially, in the nature of our conversations: free-flowing, non-judgmental, ambling between deep and trivial but most of all, sincere.
The one topic that hits me most affectingly in a way that’s difficult to explain, is when we started reminiscing about the high school years. Both of us acknowledged it to be a golden period, so beautiful and glorious because it was untainted and pure, all innocence and heart. Such a thing no longer exists.
We believed we had each others’ backs then and forevermore. We believed we’d easily attain the things we think we deserve, happiness and love included. We believed in a just world. We believed in the simplicity of the bubble we thrived and grew up in where we were color-blind and understanding of each other’s differences. We believed in the power of our dreams, for them to come true exactly as we wished and willed them to in our hearts and minds. We believed the world was just waiting for us to happen, eager and with its arms outstretched.
We remembered the girls we were, and then returned to the girls we are now.
Both of us spoke with a tone of melancholy and nostalgia as we reflected and reminisced, telling the same stories but from different points of view. We spoke about so many of our old friends and wondered where they are or how they’re doing now, resurfaced the plentiful friendship dramas which all now seem so silly in hindsight, opened up more by filling in the blanks on certain stories of the past we weren’t brave enough to speak about as young girls. We spoke about the future, looming and uncertain that it is.
We spoke with nostalgia, waxing poetic prose with our emotions but never once… with regret.
There is so much beauty in measured maturity, truly. There’s just something graceful if I can call it that, in being able to look back at has beens and what ifs with an openness and acceptance of the learned, the experienced, the broken, the jaded and the carefully hopeful. We are no longer the girls we were, both of us – one is now more guarded than she was before while the other is quieter compared to her boisterous younger self – but in each other’s company and namely through the verbal diarrhea and emotional purge, we were reminded of the essence of who we are.
For me, it was like finding myself in an old friend. She remembered the girl I used to be, all the best parts: sassy, fierce, bold, determined and most of all, fearless.
Many times when we paused or when the conversation lulled as we reflected upon our words, we’d sometimes exchange a small smile. No words, just a knowing look; easy companionship.
An hour and a half have since passed midnight as I type this, marking the end of the week-long reprieve. I’m reluctant to go to bed, because it feels like the magic will wear off once I shut my eyes. I do feel terribly exhausted, although emotionally more than anything. It feels as if I’ve extracted and left my emotions under the sun until they wilt and dry, and now there’s nothing left in me. But it turns out I’m wrong – of course I am.
A new countdown begins: in exactly two weeks, I’ll reunite with Housemate #1 in Sin City!
I’m just… I’m so incredibly blessed to have wonderful people in my life, past and present. They’re like the sun; takes away my overflowing emotions, only to return them with kindness. As they shine their light on me, mine twinkle as eagerly and brightly as possible, too.
Love comes in many shapes, forms and conditions. I’ve yet to know each different kind, though there is one I now know with a certainty that sometimes moves me to tears. Sometimes I think there are many in this world who seek for it, but do not find. I know I’m more than fortunate; I’m truly blessed.
It’s the kind of love where you’re loved exactly for being who you are, as you are.
I wished we’d said aloud to each other that surely, battered souls and marred perspectives notwithstanding, the girls we were would be proud of the young women we’ve now metamorphosed.
I know I am.