I am sitting here and the pale night-lamp, pretending to be day, spills over the desk. Leaning back on its paste-board support is a picture in a frame of Melissa and I, both in our stiff-collar, high school uniform, my hair pulled back in a pony-tail, hers in a short bob framing her face. Ironically enough, we’re sticking out our tongues at each other. On the wall beside me is a cross-stitch work she gave me when I left for university of a tiger with red stripes. Her favourite song fills the room, one we tried strenuously to translate without losing any nuance into the English language.
I also have seven friendship-bands in a carnival of psychedelic colours that she gave to me to wear for each day of the week. “They will keep you safe,” she had said. “A vampire-repellant.” Melissa was a born navigator; she did not sail, but she took our friendship and steered it through myriad waters. And she steered it through so much else besides! through my irrationalities, my abrasive honesty, my sometimes awkward distance. I was beset but she was determined, she had said.
It is nine years since she died. The fact has not yet settled in; she is merely in a different country. And now and then she calls long-distance in these sleepless hours, reminiscing with me those thoughtful walks across our school’s dappled grounds, bus-trips to the beach, Saturday-night sleepovers, and secret boy-crushes. She was a singularly special person, she is my best friend. I count myself lucky to have been hers.