One sunny summer’s day I found myself parked in front of a yellow house. I could not stop staring at it. I was mesmerized by the way the sun and shadow danced its way across the chipping paint. This was my childhood friend’s house. Her name was Z. All my memories of her flickered across the walls of the house as if there was a projector. Doing each other’s hair, trying out our first eyeliner together, finding out about periods. Hanging out at the Mosque, going to camps together, writing in our yearbooks. Sleepovers and crushes, decorating my house for my 16th birthday. How she looked at her Henna party. Beautiful almond eyes and a white lace dress. Parting forever.
I felt an unbearable sense of lost.
She was a Cambodian Muslim that came to the US with her family as refugees in the 80′s. Their family was big and crazy and ethnic and I loved her like my own sister and she loved me.
They said the chemicals from the war must have affected her when she was little. That’s why she got sick. She got married at 17, normal for their culture she said. And this was actually a love marriage because he was a friend of her brother’s whom she had met and talked to on the phone. She showed me her photo album of him with his picture cut out into hearts. She left and got married. I saw the pictures. The Cambodian traditional orange-red ornate wedding dress and the white bridal dress. The gold necklace. The happy contented face.
Then the phone calls. She’s sick. She was taken away in an ambulance. She fainted. She has cancer. She’s gone.
At 18 you don’t see any wisdom in losing one of your best friends. You only feel anger. Angry at God for taking away your best friend. Someone who had everything, who was so innocent and pure. Why take her out of all people? Were there not rapists and evil people on the Earth? Why take her? And then… why didn’t God take me? What did I have to live for? She had everything and I had nothing.
Whenever I am at a low point in my life or death comes close to me, I think of her. Allah kept me here for something, I tell myself. To do something. I can’t leave yet. I can’t just give up. She would be so mad at me if I just gave up.
The wisdom of years and now…I think now… she’s safe, at peace. It was khair. She doesn’t have to live out our worldly trials and concerns. Our struggles and pains. She’s happy. She’s waiting for us.
Pray for my friend, pray for me.