If I start thinking about her for too long, I fall into a hole inside my chest. After a while, it feels as though my ribcage is collapsing on itself and I can’t breathe. I can’t feel the floor beneath me even though I’m lying in bed and there is nowhere else to fall into. I gasp and swallow deep, long wisps of air and shift my position to shake off the feeling of her. I give my head a good shake, like a dog after a forced shower.
If you let it, the feeling will crash onto you every morning. Before dawn when you’re just about to wake up, in the few seconds when you’re not quite awake but aren’t sleeping either. Your memories shift from dreamworld to reality. And that’s when the thought of her hits you, drowns your senses and numbs your memories. One minute you’re empty, and devoid of emotion because you’re mind was asleep so you can’t remember, but the next minute, it comes crashing down on you, like a ship that’s sinking and filling up with salt water and despair, it’s passengers crying out in pain. A million little particles inside you scream their loudest and begin tearing at your, banging their fists on your inner walls. She is gone. Never to be fondly called a baka panditha kota again. Never to go shopping for discount jeans. Never to laugh wildly with. Never to get poked in the boobs again. Never to go on beach trips again, or to go breakfast hunting again. Never to do any of the things we’d wanted to do. To travel the world, to do great things, to grow old together.
Our school walk is this weekend. I don’t want anything to do with it. There was a time when we’d lean over the bus window to gape at our school, past the tall walls with rude graffiti on it, to see if we could spot any of the children inside, any activity happening on the ground. We’d get excited to see someone wearing our school uniform. “Oooooh look! One of our school nangis!” and get instantly transported back to our school days. I would always comment on the shoes first. We hated those brown horseshoes but now looking at them being worn by our younger selves, they do look good. We would make each other salute sharply when we passed the main gates. Now I look away, forcefully turning my head to the right. If I think of school —and I try not to because it’s annoying— I remember her.
I watched some girls talk about their school days. They were laughing the way old school friends laughed. With tears running down their cheeks and their eyes reduced to slits as their cheeks took more space on their face than usual. There’s that unbreakable bond that is shared between school friends. One that cannot be completely explained to someone who hasn’t shared that same past with you no matter how hard you try. Watching them, I am a stranger looking at someone else having a really good time, a rogue stealing into their memories and taking a peek at their past to remember my own. I wondered if we will ever be able to laugh like that again remembering our school time. It’s as though you’re fully happy and free and content at a given point, but you suddenly remember her, and your happiness is sucked out of you, and your insides are suddenly a vacuum with nothing left, not even air. We are guilty. We’re here laughing and having a good time when she is not. Even if we do laugh, we will all be thinking of her. Sometimes we’d mention that we are thinking of her and a short pause would fill the room and one of us would talk about a memory with her in it “Remember how?” and “Remember when?”. Other times, we would not bring her up, not wanting to ruin the moment for the others.
Silence. She is gone. Willingly left, for some absurd reason that made sense only to her. But here she is, still lurking in our memories stealing our happiness. Her voice echoing at the back of our mind when we go about our day. Her smile hidden in ours as we pose for photographs. Her handwriting haunting our teen books with squiggly lines and smiley faces that mock us daily. She is stealing away her mother’s sanity and robbing our minds of peace and sleep.
She is nothing but a thief.
The thief who stole happiness.