August came with a blast of heat that burned my face to crumbles. I forgot to turn the pages on the calendar so I had to do it just a few minutes ago. “My life is progressing on to another month, to new days. Your life, my dear, forever stays like the 25th square on the page of July. At the end of this year, I will fold the calendar up and toss it into one of the trash boxes in the kitchen.”
So thought I flipping the page on the calendar. My friend died exactly ten days ago. There was no night passing by without me remembering him. I could not make head or tail of this melancholic state. I could not simply say “sadness” or “sorrow” or “grief”. Imagine myself an ice cube be removed from the tray, the type of which has a hollow tube in the middle. Hard as I tried to melt down hoping the newly formed glacial fluid would fill up that empty space.
In an attempt to not rely on metaphors to describe myself, I focused on my hands. I spent a handsome amount of time staring at them as if I could never see them again in the next second. Philosophically speaking, I certainly would never see those same hands again in the next second. Such an idea still made more sense than my best friend back in high school drifted to the Hades’ world without a word. “Am I looking at my hands? Or am I looking at your hands? In some tens of minutes, these hands will turn to ash.” I glued my look on what seemed to be my hands, now made up of grey particles.
“The first time I saw you was in front of nhà con Ánh in 9th grade. There was little time left before the high school entrance exam. You came in with that group of pompous dudes and drew all the attention. When I knew we were going to be classmates, I did not feel comfortable. I never thought I could bear you a minute. In fact, I was more feared of how your massive talent would outshine my existence. (Back in the day, I was a box of insecurity wrapped in damp tissues with unreasonable judgmental resentments written all over.)
It turned out, however, we managed to talk more than a minute. I do not remember how and what we talked about before November 1, 2002; perhaps, it was mostly about Metallica and a bunch of teenager-curious dirty jokes. After our little group formed on the day we invented your Blue Bird name from a piece of news, we grew closer. We shared dirty talks, which we thought were “cool” then, and shared the money for mỳ tôm trứng, bánh mỳ bơ đường, nem chua rán ở Trang; shared the fights over foods and over bills. Or perhaps, that was only me. I will never forget how you licked your bread to secure it from other predators, although bánh mỳ bơ đường was such a disgusting thing.
Years went by and the memories we had piled up. If I listed them here, I bet this text box would explode.“
I could not grieve over him as when I broke down on my granny’s death and shut the world out for a month. His news (unfortunately, he is/was famous in my country) flooded the pages, and deluged my mind with fond memories. Usually, I and others booed him for being “bland”, or “lack of salt” (=dull, tasteless, nonsense). Now his memories became salt. On the dishes, salt creates fineness; on open wounds, salt tortures.
“Yesterday I swam 27 rounds. I did not know what it might mean to you or to anyone, or whether it could do any good to the world, or whether it could ease the pain I bore in my chest. I still did it just because I felt I needed to. Nonsense as always. We needed no specific reason to have become friends.”
Or so did I stop trying my best to write him a piece of mourning. I realized, accepting each other’s existence bonded us together; now similarly, we had to accept each other’s non-existence in each other’s world.
That is how our friendship has always been and will always be. Love and miss you, dear buddy Blue Bird. Bon voyage.