when i was little, my parents took me to daycare every day because they were busy working. they got married right after they graduated, and i was born more than a year after that — they did not have much money. i was not cared for properly — that is usually how my mom phrases it.
i went to daycare. it was not a real one, though. i spent most of my days at an old couple’s house, and they would cook for me and feed me and do all sorts of things that my parents were supposed to do. a grandson of the couple was three years older than me, and we were best friends. we were preschool kids when we hung out with each other. every now and then i try to remember who he was and what we had done together. my mind would flash back to the laughter, the caresses, the time when we invented toys, and the role playing games. i remember his name, still. and then the old clothes of him that i wore. i looked like a boy back then. everything we did, we did together.
then he disappeared. i heard his name here and there after that. i heard he left because his parents were getting divorced. i went knocked on his door times after times, and a lady would greet me — i assume she was his mom. he disappeared. years after that, i was still trying to find his trace. i thought it was such an insult that someone could leave me without saying a word, leaving me with all this confusion. and i miss him. i did not have friends for a while after that — at least not someone like him. i wore his clothes and heard once in a while his name mentioned somewhere. but i never had the gut to ask what had happened. years after that and until now, i doubt that his ever appearance had always been me making up. he might just be an imaginary friend of mine, because his life was so mysterious that it left in me an empty hole. i have tried my best to fill in, but it could never be filled. i was not bold enough to mention his name ever again. i was not bold enough to expect the answer. what if mom asked me to explain more who he was, because he has never existed, in her life, or ever.
i myself never know if he was real. i question my own ability to tell any more stories of my childhood. i question what i had been through. i do have all these memories that i have always wanted to tell others, but what if they are just broken pieces of stories of others. not mine. others. in books, perhaps.
i made new friends, of course. the old couple took care of me until i moved out of the neighborhood. before that, i went to kindergarten and then elementary school. for all those years, after that friend as well as a brother to me disappeared, i hung out with a girl who was one year older than me, and her brother one year younger than me. every summer we would all go to the woods around the house, most of the time doing role playing games. i would sometimes be a cook, other time i would be a teacher, but i was always my girlfriend’s daughter because i was younger, and because i was less capable of “taking care of a family”. well, of course, i was a kid just finishing the alphabet.
it was those summers with them that defined a big part of who i am now. i competed with the boy trying to learn how to bike before him. i beat him. i was a pro after two days and five times falling off the bike. it took five days for him. he fell less. i loved biking and i was adventurous. i accepted all these challenges of the two siblings, including speeding up and also getting into an accident. i was bleeding, but i did not cry because i did not want them to think that i was weak. i did not cry because i really was not hurt. i went home and wondered where my skin went — was it still on the street? if not then where did it go? the day after i went to look for it. well, did not see any piece of my skin. still do not understand how so now. as we grew, we went way beyond the area around my neighborhood. we wanted to explore. we went see the corn fields. we saw lakes that we never knew were there. we were in a city, but on the outskirt. that was the first time i realized what life was about. or maybe just a part of it. a small part. still, those summers defined who i am.
my friends’ mom died because of blood cancer. my family went through that with hers. the neighborhood was there to help. i do not remember exactly how it went. i just know there was no summer that she did not hang out with me. she seemed fine — that was my conclusion when i was eight. when she was nine. when her brother was seven. when they lost their mom. i was little. i was cold. that was what my dad said a long, long time ago. i did not know how to care for others, and i did not know how to express much of my feelings. i was not trained to do that. i did not know how to comfort my friends, and wonder how they got over it. perhaps they never did. i wonder because i just never asked. i did think about that sometimes when my relatives would come over and when they saw my friends they would ask how they missed their mom. at those moments i wonder why they never let her live a normal life. why bringing it up. why asking. why touching to the deepest part of one’s sorrow and trying to comfort them. why don’t they just be friends with us — inventing toys and playing games and let what shall be forgotten forgotten.
at school, i had friends. i was popular. sort of. i learned quick but took a long time to eat. i was skinny and always stayed longer to finish lunch. sometimes by the time i got over a meal it was time for the whole school to wake up from their naps. i did not like naps, so that was fine. i made friends with kids in my class and in other classes. but first though the very first friend i lost when i went to elementary school. we were best friends in kindergarten. we were always together and school without him was scary — i was scared of being alone. however, he ate fast, so every now and then i still struggled through something alone. we went to the same elementary school and we never talked again.
i never know why. i think it was the fact that we were different that who we used to be before that affected our relationship. we were little. we never saw each other in uniforms. we never were friends in a bigger than 100 people school. we were a little bit little and we did not know how to deal with that. he disappeared, and from time to time i wonder if he had ever been my friend, ever. i know he was real because i saw him at the school, and my parents mentioned his name too because they knew we were close. but i doubt our relationship ever existed. why so sudden. had i ever existed to him. question mark. and why me that lost him.
people, other friends, also disappeared. my first close friend in elementary school, after four years, did not go to school for a day and two and then for ever. i cried too much that everybody thought i must have been in love with the guy. i might have. but he was not there long enough for me to realize. they said his parents got divorced. some said his dad gambled. there were stories about him. but i never saw him to confirm the myths, ever again. i cried and moved on.
and i cried again. saying good-bye to many more.
many of them i let go. many of them i could not hold back. now that i am writing and thinking about what had happened, i realized it was really strange how these memories had been in me for so long, fading but still strong enough to get me think every time. am i real, after all, if these people seemed to not be. who am i and what are my values, after all, when these people just left and said nothing. i said that person and that person were my closest friends, but had i ever to them?
when i say “existence”, i actually am talking about the real meaning of it. it was like questioning whether dinosaurs existed. were they there. why we can find pieces of them living in our lives, but we can never be certain. i remember all their names. even though i am the worst at names. they were and are just special.
now that i am older and have gone through a lot, i wonder if i will ask my friends that question my relatives asked them — how do you miss your mom? if i will try to find the missing ones and hold them back. i wonder why at that stage of my life, when i was young and did not know what to do, these people with all these situations were there to become the very important bits of my life, and then disappeared, leaving me no words, nothing but confusion. nothing but empty rooms in my heart and mind which i now and then will go in and search for the breath of my beloved ones. we can not just not have memories, but those who carry too many of them bear the burden.
it did not take me much back then to move on, but it has taken me a lifetime to figure out why these images of them have kept flashing back in my mind and making me believe that they were something, although i can trace back to nothing. i can write about them and make them alive on these pages, and that will just be it. sometimes i tried to type in their names on social media, but always end up admitting that this has been over. memories with past tense.
some other times, i wonder if i myself is made of these stories of the missing ones. there will be more, many more. and i will just be the person letting go. and they will never know how much they mean to me.