Earlier this year, I took a Creative Writing class in a rare spurt of courage. It was terrifying and incredible and I loved every second. One of our first assignments was to write a short piece that described ourselves through someone else’s eyes. The teacher said we could pick any moment in time- it didn’t have to be the present. I wrote the piece based loosely on myself as viewed through the eyes of my childhood best friend.
She walked with her head down, gazing at her feet as if unsure of where the next step would take her. We had been best friends since we were five, bonding over our love of the kindergarten sandpit. We grew up speaking the same singsong broken English, formed of other people’s mother tongues.
We lived next door to each other, and I once counted that it took me only 26 steps from my front door to hers. It was 26 steps into a different world. While my home was ordered and quiet, hers was bursting with chaos and noise and children. Despite this, there was always a soft silence around her. She was painfully shy, hiding behind Coke-bottle-thick glasses and a mass of wild hair.
She read everywhere- while we walked to school, at the dinner table, when she was supposed to be asleep. She had a way of holding the book so close to her face that you could barely see her. If you called her name at exactly the right moment, she would look up at you without seeming to see you at all.
She often went unnoticed, but I adored her. Only I knew that if you made her laugh for long enough, she would subside into a half-giggle-half-cough. We fed off each other’s vivid imaginations, lying on the grass and telling stories of distant kings and queens. Of intricate fantasy worlds where dragons breathed liquid fire and rivers were made of gold.
I remember the day she left for boarding school. As the bus pulled away, I felt something inside me wrench loose and depart with her. I stared down the road as she became tinier, tinier still, and then gone in the shimmering heat of the afternoon.
To this day when I think of her, I still see that little girl watching the ground with every step, hoping to find firm earth under her feet.