I saw someone who looked like my high school friend Jack (Not his real name) today. I was riding in a bus and he was walking towards the opposite direction. I had not seen him ever since we graduated high school. On our last day: Back then there was a popular custom that only 12th Graders practised; They would have their school shirts written with ‘Good luck’ words by their fellow mates and sometimes teachers as a form of a farewell (I don’t know if learners still do that), that was the last time I saw Jack. It has been five long years since I last saw him; you can imagine the excitement I was feeling seeing my old friend. We met in 8th Grade after I was harshly commanded by my class teacher to sit in front and share the same desk with her, because I was apparently a noise maker. After a few weeks however, I began to think that the reason I was summoned to the teacher’s desk was to help with her business: selling her chocolate biscuits. “Or maybe she likes me; maybe I look like her son.” I’d mutter to Jack and we’d both laugh.
Jack sat near the teacher’s desk, so it was easier to chat to him more than anyone else in the classroom; we became regular chat mates. He was almost a year younger than I was, but he was taller and had a bold voice, I think given five years, his voice would have resembled Barry White’s. We were both keen on chatting to each other, he was as talkative as I was, he in fact had tons of fascinating stories about where he was from; some of which I secretly declared to be lies in my cranium. But I thought some were true.
He was a gamer. A vigorous gamer, and he was better at board games than I were, thus our conversations were almost always about games. I actually didn’t play much of games. I would just listen as he told me all about his favourite games and game characters, how he had outplayed all of his challengers and how he had successfully reached the final stage of all the games he had played. I on the other hand, was into rap music, so we would occasionally switch lanes to rap, he probably called me ‘Stan’ in his head: I always had a new thing to say about Eminem. I told him I had listened to every song by Slim, I doubt he believed me: At some instances he would just furrow his forehead and open his eyes wide, -like Chris Rock does in his stand up comedy shows- while nodding unconvincingly. I thought perhaps that’s how I also looked like when he was telling me about some of his tales.
I was about to reach out with enthusiasm and call out his name, but then right before I could, it hit me that he had passed-on, ‘remember?’ a voice in my head reminded me. My jaw hit hard on the concrete floor. My day instantly became gloomy, just like it does in horror movies when the tornado suddenly approaches in wrath. It was not Jack! Jack breathed his last breath the previous year in a rather gruesome way, he was stabbed to death.
I felt ashamed that I had mistook him for someone else, I felt as if he was watching me from high above and shaking his head in disbelief that I forgot about him. “How could I have forgotten” I obliviously whispered, or so I thought I did until the old lady beside me spoke back at me:
“did you say something?” she said moving her head towards me “I am a little deaf you see.”
“oh sorry, I was probably just thinking out loud” I told her.
“Hey, you ought to speak up louder” she said, using hand gestures to emphasize what she was saying this time.
“I said …”
“Yea, yea I heard you. You’re too young to think out loud.”
I shrugged my shoulders as if saying “oh well, maybe”
“Want to talk about it?” she asked.
I shook my head, lest my voice wouldn’t be loud enough and then I pretended to be receiving a phone call, all the while hoping that my phone wouldn’t actually ring. It wasn’t long, the old lady got to her destination and I removed the phone off my ear.
I watched her closely as she was getting off, “oh these knees can’t take it any longer” she complained whilst fighting to keep her balance, it took her a bit longer than it would take a normal person to get off, but she finally got off and bid me goodbye: “stay well son” she waved and I waved back with a relief smile. Maybe Jack was speaking to me through her a thought crossed my mind, ‘or maybe not’ I chose to believe: No more chat-mates for me.
I mused-over about all the mirthful times I had with Jack for the rest of the day. He was a great kid whose life had been taken too soon. I never got to attend my natter mate’s funeral and pay my last respects, but I hope he is resting in peace.
I still don’t know the details of his untimely death on what really ensued. Different tales were told and I haven’t heard of any progress ever since.
With great anticipation and melancholy: I hope we will have a chat about it in the afterlife.
So long mate.