2002. The start of a new school year. Mommy drops me off at the front gate. As I make my way past it, I see the basketball court. Some boys are playing kickball and by the bleachers other kids are trading Pokémon cards. I wonder if I’ll be taking class with any of them. I hold on tight to the straps on my backpack. I hope my classmates don’t laugh at me when the teacher asks me to introduce myself. I don’t like being looked at funny just because my name is different. When I’m older, I will definitely change it, so no one can laugh at me! I walk inside the school building. It feels like a ghost town. There’s no one around and all the classrooms are closed, except for the office. I walk down the hallway where my classroom is supposed to be. It smells like wet dog. If a hallway smells like this, I wonder what the bathrooms smell like? Reaching my classroom; on the floor, I see a girl with dark hair, tied up in a ponytail, drawing on her notebook characters from a cartoon show I watch. Wow, I have never seen a kid draw so pretty before, she’s a genius! I have to say hi. I introduce myself waiting for her to look at me shocked or maybe even with a mocking smile, but she doesn’t do that either. She looks at me in awe and says, “Your name is cool.” She tells me her name is Nicole, but that I can call her Nicky. I ask her to teach me how to draw the characters and after a few minutes, I ask her to be my best friend. She agrees.
2008. The new school year finally starts.Like always, the fear of introducing myself takes over, but it leaves me when friends and acquaintances from elementary school greet me as if I’m a celebrity; and that was just outside the school gates. Since I moved away the year before without giving Nicky a proper goodbye, I’m a bit worried on how she’ll react. I walk up the stairs of my new school and arrive at the courtyard. It’s so much bigger than my elementary school. To my far left, I see Nicky, sitting on a bench with two girls, they’re all joking around. Those girls seem like the kind of people that my mom told me to stay away from. The type of girls that smoke, wear a lot of makeup, use fake nails, and dress like adults. They get up and walk right past meー Nicky doesn’t even give me a sideways glance. That reaction wasn’t the one that I was expecting. If she’s going to be like that, then fine; I don’t need her! In a few hours, I was able to make new friends and surprisingly, I had a lot in common with them. After a few weeks, Nicky suddenly approached me. This was the first time since the school year started that she willingly walked up to me. “Are you still planning on changing your name?” she asked me with a kind smile; the same smile she always looked at me with. I chuckled and shook my head. An exchange of a few more words and suddenly, we were talking as if nothing ever happened. By the end of the school year, once again, we were best friends.
2012. Our last year of high school. We are no longer a duo but a group of six friends. All of us are planning on going to the same university. Every day, when it’s lunch time, most students leave the school premises to eat at a fast food place but we stay inside. We always sit down under the same tree behind the school, enjoying the cool breeze and breathing in the smell of clean cut grass. We spend most of the hour talking about all the things we’d do together once we graduate. “What do you guys imagine you’ll be doing today, at this hour, ten years from now?” I ask. We all imagined ourselves still being friends, having drinks somewhere. More than ten years from now I imagine Nicky being the maid of honor at my wedding, and she imagined me as the godmother of her child. Under that tree, we all promised to stay friends and be part of each other’s lives.
2021. We graduated high school long ago and now I’m getting my Master’s Degree. I still remember the promise we made under that tree, but Nicky and I no longer talk. I used to write her messages, but since she never answered, I stopped writing. Nicky now has her own apartment, a job with good pay and a boyfriend. I only found out because of the pictures on her social media. As I scroll through my feed, I see a picture of her. She had her arm linked with another girl, who was small with dark hair and her lips painted with a deep red. They were at what seemed to be a party, smiling, looking like they were having the time of their lives. The caption read, “Me and my best friend.” I have come to realize that Nicky and I have grown apart much more than I had once thought. She has a whole new life and I’m not a part of that. I have become someone from her past, who plays no part in her future. Thinking about it, I’ve done the same to her. I also have a life where her presence in it isn’t necessary. We have become strangers whose paths are highly unlikely to ever cross again. But if we do meet, one day in the future, I’ll just look at her and smile because it was her, who I spent the best years of my life with.