My lost friend

Atongla Rothrong

Have you ever lost someone who meant more to you than your own soul? I did. I lost a friend. It took me four whole tortured years to take in his death. I had to stand by and picture my wonderful and lovable friend who left. It didn’t matter that I had money and success. It didn’t matter that I was and avid writer or reader. It didn’t even matter that we were starting to build a dream, an engineering miracle that hung onto a cliff wall and would allow us to sit quietly and look out across the sea of no return. Nothing at all mattered from the moment when I heard that San had died while on his way home from California. I thought it was a joke, because San had a quirky sense of humor. He always said I was too serious, too morose, too doom-and-gloom, and too afraid of everything on earth. From the first he made me laugh.

We met while he was in college and me still in high school (two different people would be hard to find) and even his family was alien to me. I’d seen families like his on TV, but it never occurred to me that they usually existed. He lived in a house where there was laughter, love and compassion- I swear this is true- on summer evenings his entire family would gather at the big hall and each would recount their day’s activities and wave at neighbors as they passed by

One time I was in the city- that ubiquitous “City” that seem to lie within fifty miles of all college towns, and I saw a hardware store across the street. Hardware stores had only bad memories for me, it took courage on my part to come across the street, open the door and go inside. But since I met San, I’d found that I’d become braver. Even way back then, his laughter was beginning to echo in my ears, laughter that encouraged me to try things I never would have before, simply because of the painful emotions they stirred up.

There was this man in front of me and he was saying something, but that block of air inside my head kept me from hearing him. Maybe, he recognized me for what I was: a person who thought about things, who read books without pictures and liked movies that had no car chases. I wanted to leave the store, I didn’t belong there and it held too many old fears for me. But I could hear San’s laughter and it gave me courage. 

All those times I worried, thinking ‘what if his family members found out that inside I was no more like their son than a scorpion was like a ladybug’ he was gone.

Wherever that is, San I know you are still looking down on me and lighting the paths I fear the most, and so heres wishing you a very happy birthday! And I pray to the heavens above to let me live for a little while more, for you too.