Memories that Last Forever
Yixin tapped her card on the card reader. When the resounding beep pierced her eardrums, she hopped off the bus and waited patiently for the bus door to slam shut before crossing the road. The bus zoomed off, unfeeling, into the distance. The tarred road seemed to go on and on, never ending. The ground was even, as though it had been bulldozed a thousand times until it reached the flatness of an airport runway. The streetlamps, unlit, stood on both sides of the wide road in parallel formation, like soldiers lining up, saluting the President in the National Day ceremony. They complemented the grey sky, where dark clouds were marching in together with the strong winds. Some people were running under the several bus stops that punctuated the linear road for shelter as the first bolt of lightning cracked into view. Yixin and her friends stepped onto the curb as the sky shed its first drop of rain onto Yixin’s cheek.
“It’s raining,” Yixin declared, wiping the raindrop off her cheek.
“Walk faster,” her friend said aloud to the rest of their friends who were walking ahead, all of whom were joking around and laughing aloud. A strong gust of wind blew and she wrapped her jacket more tightly around herself as she quickened up her pace to overtake the rest of her friends.
“Hey Yixin! Do you remember what Afiq used to do last time? He sat right next to you, remember?” Liang Yu said. Yixin merely managed a weak smile and nodded. All of them were her primary school classmates. They had not met in ages, but they were going to visit Afiq today.
“He used to stand by the window, remember?” Ridzuan mused.
“Yeah, when the strong winds were blowing,” Liang Yu replied.
“With his hands outstretched,” Joseph piped up. “Like that.” He raised his hands in imitation. But Yixin hardly needed the description or reenactment of the scene by her friends.
“What are you doing, Afiq?” their teacher asked.
“I’m flying!” he said jokingly.
He looked round, then out of the window and to the ground three stories below.
“Oh no! I think she dropped down already!” he exclaimed, panicking. The entire class laughed.
Yixin smiled at the mere memory of his cheeky grin, his eyes small beneath those round glasses as he pointed downwards, out of the window. His face was still swimming in her plain view as she walked down the road. Her friends had stopped laughing as soon as they had started. They walked on in the cheerless serenity which was only disturbed occasionally by the thunder.
She turned as something cold and wet struck her across the cheek.
“Yuck!” she exclaimed, rubbing her cheek. “What’s that?”
Afiq chuckled as he waved his whiteboard marker in the air, triumphant. Yixin giggled along as she continued rubbing her cheek, unknowingly smudging the ink on a larger area on her cheek.
“Don’t!” Afiq said, fishing out a piece of tissue paper from his shirt pocket, but accidentally drawing on his own cheek with the exposed marker pen in the process.
“Hahahahahaha!” they burst into fits of laughter.
“We’re even,” Yixin said, taking the piece of tissue paper from him.
The rain was getting heavier, but the group walked on, now quiet. All of them looked around curiously but Yixin stared right ahead. No matter where she looked, Afiq’s face would be in view anyway. His voice rang out, too, tinkling in her ears like he was right there beside her.
“Oi!” came the fierce whisper from her left.
“Bull’s eye!” Yixin cheered softly, picking up more eraser bits which she had plucked out from her pen eraser.
“Watch me!” Afiq whispered, smirking as he put his own eraser bit on the rubber band and pulled it back like a catapult. Then, he released. Yixin dodged. The eraser bit flew a little further than what both of them had expected and landed on the teacher’s book from which she was reading aloud from. The two of them turned their heads and stared down at their own Pets Coursebooks.
“Afiq!” the teacher screeched.
“We’ll continue during recess,” he promised in a low voice which only Yixin could hear over the loud shrieks coming from the teacher’s table. She watched as he stood up and walked over to the corner of the classroom to stand, facing the wall, as punishment. A small eraser bit dropped out of his clenched fist as he walked past her, and a rubber band peeked out from the other.
It was so long since Yixin had met him. The only few times they had met after they had graduated from primary school was when they bumped into each other occasionally on the trains, buses or even just walking along the streets. But even then, they had lots to talk about. She could tell how much taller he grew since he was twelve when they last saw each other on the train a year ago. They were nineteen, and he was fresh out of polytechnic while she was a freshman, getting ready to enter university. Yet, every time they met, she had failed to tell him how much she missed sitting next to him in class. But today, she dreaded visiting him.
“Are you ok?”
The voice was right next to her ear. It was real, but it sounded so distant from Yixin.
“Yeah,” she replied back in a voice unlike her own, her fingers trembling as the cold wind blew. The group ignored the raindrops now pattering onto them, drenching them. She was glad, for when she looked skywards, the raindrops washed away the tears as they turned into Muslim Cemetery Path 17.
This story is dedicated to a friend whom my ex-classmates all loved so dearly. We haven’t spoken in ages, and he really was a great partner to sit with in class, back in primary school where we were all forced to sit with the opposite genders so we would not talk as much. Too bad for our teacher, Afiq and I clicked perfectly well and we ended up having eraser bits fight almost every day. We’ve never been really close, only close enough to have fun during lessons back in primary school, close enough to talk only when we coincidentally meet elsewhere after we graduated, but close enough too, for me to remember those fun childhood memories we had. The walk to his grave was a calm and collected one for me, but the story was a metaphorical one, and it reflected the battle that was going on in my mind.
Rest In Peace, Afiq. You were a great friend that I was blessed to have.