Thursday, March 5, 2009
My Friend, Annie
Some fifteen years ago, I had a friend named Annie. She was probably the strongest girl I’ve ever fortunate to meet. Strong in the way she faced death without hesitation and full of valor. She’s a simple, caring girl who loves my jokes. In fact, she was my best friend and my first love.
When we were ten, we made this pact: The one, who will reach the top of the mountain, will be the strongest human in the world. That was before she had this disease called acute lymphoma. Before the discovery of her illness, she always had this fever and itchy-looking red patches will appear on her skin. I thought it was normal. I mean, all kids do become ill sometimes … but not as severe as her’s. They would always take her to the hospital and her mother would cry so much. That time, I don’t know that she was having a hard time because most of the time I was with her, we are always laughing and teasing.
One time, when we were having a normal conversation, she was lying on her bed; I asked her, “What’s wrong with your mother? She was crying all the time.”
“She’s just scared because of me having this strange sickness. They said that the red and white dots in my body are multiplying like mad, forming a large red blockage on my veins.” She said with a little hand gesture as though it was a joke. I just laugh.
“What are veins?”
“They’re tubes where the blood passes.” she answered.
“The dots…you said there are red and white dots in our body. What is it?”
“I dunno. They said that the white dots in my body are more than the red ones. The red should be greater, though.”
“Does it mean you’ll gonna…gonna…”
“Ha ha ha! I’m just joking. We still have a promise, right? We’ll climb that mountain and become the strongest human in the world!” she said happily ignoring my horrified reaction. “Can I ask you a question?”
“What does heaven looks like?”
“That means we have go hiking to find out what it looks!” she said, smiling.
“It’s dangerous for us and you are sick.”
“So what? I could still walk with my own feet.” She said pulling herself up. I thought it was okay until she stumbled and fell. “Maybe not.”
Again, I just smiled.
They took her to the hospital and her mother said she’ll be there for two weeks. I asked why and Annie answered, “They’ll burn the large spots on my blood tubes. So brace yourself.”
“It’ll hurt so much, right?”
“Not really. I will be sleeping when they’ll do that burning stuff.”
Then I saw her wave at me, making me cry like a baby. The moment their car was out of sight, I started to think that maybe it was the last time we’ll see each other. Please, no.
They promised that she’ll be here after two weeks, but months had passed and still, she’s not back. I was so sad that time. Without my playmate, I could not enjoy the beauty of autumn. Most of the time, I was alone, looking at the mountain that we were suppose climb together. I thought it was over.
After six months, she indeed, came back. However, I can hardly recognize her. Her face was white and, to my surprise, she was bald! She was sitting on a wheel chair with an anguished expression as though she had come out from a fierce battle. To nobody’s surprise, her mother started to cry again.
Annie spends each passing days by staring blankly outside and listening stories about heavens and angels. She didn’t talk much but merrily nodded and smiled whenever I would say my half-a-year-planned punch lines. “Ready for the off?” I said. She looked at me, raising her eyebrows. Her eyes were expressionless and she had dark shadows under it like a ghost or something. She’s still Annie, though.
“What are you talking about?” she muttered, saying the words with great difficulty.
“We’ll climb the mountain, tomorrow. What, you can’t w-walk?” I said, tears flowing.
“Then I’ll carry y-you! There’s no p-problem.” I said jubilantly, red-eyed and staggering.
She shook her head.
“What? Just because you’re sick that means you can’t be the strongest –“
She nodded, again. I felt angry. I want to punch her for making my life miserable. But I can’t. I know she doesn’t deserve this but she’s still suffering. I can’t bear watching her curled in pain, shouting for pain-relievers and being afraid of death.
That day, she said to me the words I will never forget.
“Pray to God. I’ll be with Him soon.”
She died on May 16, 1985. The sun was up that day and the sky was clear. The wind is gentle and the summer breeze ruled the air. She was cremated and her family moved out to make a fresh start.
Me? I don’t even know where to begin.
After her funeral, I climbed the promised mountain, with her ashes. Full of grief and unendurable sadness, I sat in a wood stump at the summit, holding her powdery remains. The wind blew making my hair ruffled and untidy. I was just gazing at the majestic clouds that seemed to be so near; I think I could touch it with my hands.
“What does heaven looks like, Annie?” I asked myself. Then another surge of wind whooshed and wiped the clouds away revealing the clear sky. Tears fell but this time, I had a broad smile etched on my face.
Annie is the strongest girl in the world. She reached the top of this mountain before me. She even touched the sky and kissed God’s face…
Where is she now? I think you already knew where.