Everything Was Possible and Nothing Made Sense
When I was in high school, my best friend Bella was obsessed with a brand of bottled drinking water called Pristine. She reasoned, “Prima tastes too sweet, and Vit is just trying too hard”. She brought a bottle with her wherever she went, and we’d spend time together loitering around the bottled water aisle in the supermarket instead of going to yoga class.
We became friends in seventh grade, in Chinese class on the fifth floor in my brand-new school, where I sat in front of her in my brand-new uniform, which housed the same kid terrified of crowds and talking to new people. She tapped my shoulder and asked, “Do you understand what’s going on?” I said no, and unwittingly traded my solitude for a quiet, shared understanding, and for once, my anxieties do not take over.
As kids, we fast-forwarded our way through morning classes together and paused every 11:11 to make a wish. To quote The God of Small Things by Arundhati Roy, “It was a time where the unthinkable became the thinkable and the impossible really happened.” We believed that somehow, all the minutes we spent wishing would accumulate into something big enough to transcend the abstract and materialize in front of our eyes. We wished for love and planned journeys out of Jakarta. Our entire lives were ahead of us, and we were eager to map out escape routes like penciling details on paper; like the way I designed garments and she spun stories. With her older sister’s timetable as our template, we sketched out our futures together in a sheet larger than the span of our palms. High school subjects. University majors. Careers. Lifestyles. We fingerpainted our way through the white.
Eight years and 7,725 km later, we are leagues away from the lives we dreamt up for ourselves when we were in middle school. I guess we never coloured to stay within the lines. We saturated each page with a colour halfway between ambition and naiveté, a shade of either hope or illusion — it was too close to call. I don’t think it ever occurred to us that we might veer from the path we had so carefully laid out: I am now struggling between two majors, and she is struggling with the thought of graduating with two majors come next year.
I don’t think it ever occurred to either of us that we’d end up on opposite sides of the world. We go months without seeing each other. We call. We text. We meet and it feels like we’ve never left — but what are several weeks to a pair that once spent everyday together? I want to run back to that one Chinese class and hug the kid secretly reading Harry Potter under her desk and tell her to stop worrying about the future because it will come, in its own time, in its own way, and that’s okay. I will tell her, and the girl gushing over The Little Prince, to stop looking ahead and instead to stop and look at each other, because this will be the girl you share everything with, from annoying music phases to heartbreaking boys and girls to omelettes that don’t turn out quite right. I will tell them to make the days count, instead of counting down the days.
Last year was the first time we spent an entire year apart. We met in a frenzy of emotions and stories, and I asked her,
“Do you still drink a lot of water?”
“Not really. I drink a lot of soy milk now.”