Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Old Friends / Bookends.

Me, two guys I don't really remember, Bernard, and some other guy I don't remember.
Yeah, elementary school was a blur for me.
June 10, 2004: It's been exactly 10 years. I still remember that day vividly...

It was less than a week away from the grade 9 finals. Everyone was freaking out. At this point, I'd already given up studying --  It is a cruel thing after all, having the first day of your exam to be on your actual birthday, year after year. I never actually found much motivation to study at all.

It was just another typical morning. It was the last week at school and everyone just wanted to get it over and done with. The same old morning announcements echoed the corridors, but nobody listened anyway.

And then there was a change in tone. The guy doing the announcements was a lot more somber than usual. Everyone just sort of stopped and listened.

What happened afterwards was a bit of a blur for me. I had a loss for words. Everyone was stunned. I couldn't comprehend exactly what and why it happened.

Yeah, you've gone to a different high school ever since grade 8 -- but to us, you were part of the group. Hell, I've known you personally since 3rd grade. You were one of the closest friends I had in elementary school. For a guy who wouldn't win a popularity contest even if he tried to bribe everyone with life-size Gundam action figures, that's saying a lot.

I really don't know why you decided to jump.

The papers next morning reported that you were stressing out over the final exams. Which sounded a bit odd to me, as I remember us hanging out at my place a couple weeks prior. There was an absence of clues, hint, or even a shred of evidence suggesting that you were going through a difficult time. There you were, sitting in front of my desktop ranting on and on about the greatness that was Midtown Madness, that video racing game you absolutely loved and thought look realistic (while by today's standards, it looks rather like a scaled-down 8-bit version of Mario Kart). Well you know what? If you'd stayed around you would've loved playing Grand Theft Auto. There was only like a billion of them that came out after you decided to put an end to your life.

Seriously man, I really don't know why you decided to do it.

Maybe I was too naive. I really couldn't see what was exactly so bad that a 15-year-old had to take a leap from his bedroom 16 floors above in the middle of the night. But then, I guess everyone has their own reasons when they do something like that.

I wish that you were honest with me about how you felt. Yeah, we were young and not all that smart, but we could've worked it out together. Instead, you chose what you thought was the "easy" way out -- leaving your family and friends behind. Really though, at 15, school can't be the only thing that mattered in your life. I'd like to think that it wasn't.

Maybe I wasn't listening hard enough. The last time I saw you, I genuinely had no idea you were going through those emotions. Maybe you needed a friend, and I am sorry that I wasn't there to listen to you at your worst times. I still think about it to this day.

I've gone through a fair share of depression myself, and I also had stretches a couple years before where I had thoughts which were less than... let's just say "normal". You know what I didn't do? I didn't act on it. Because I knew that no matter how badly things were going, it could get better in the end.

You were a smart kid. You could've easily passed that grade 9 final. You could've easily graduated from high school. You could've gotten into University and graduated a couple years after. You could've gotten yourself a girlfriend. You could've learned to drive instead of spending your day playing car racing games. You could've gotten yourself a good job by now. You could've had a good future.

You could've been my oldest friend for 17 years and counting.

Now almost at 25, I could honestly tell you that what you were going through back then was probably not worth what you did simply to escape those two weeks of exams. To use the old, tired cliche: there really is more to life than that.

Every now and then I think about you and I couldn't help but think about the "should have's" and "if only's". Life still marches on, however. There is no going back. I never got to see you again.

RIP Bernard. Wherever you are, I hope you're well bud.

To everyone I know: If you have a friend who's going through a tough time, stop and listen. A simple "how are you doing?" could make a world of difference. If any of you is going through a tough time, just talk to me. I may not be very helpful -- but I definitely will try my best to listen to what you have to say and figure it out together. Because nothing is worth abandoning everything. 


Old friends
Old friends
Sat on their park bench like bookends
Newspaper blowin' through the grass
Falls on the round toes
Of the high shoes
Of the old friends

Old friends
Winter companions the old men
Lost in their overcoats
Waiting for the sunset
The sounds of the city sifting through trees
Settle like dust
On the shoulders of the old friends

Can you imagine us years from today
Sharing a park bench quietly?
How terribly strange to be seventy

Old friends
Memory brushes the same years
Silently sharing the same fear

Time it was, 
and what a time it was, it was 
A time of innocence, 
A time of confidences

Long ago it must be
I have a photograph
Preserve your memories
They're all that's left you  

- Old Friends / Bookends Theme, Simon & Garfunkel.