She used to say that her illness was acting up on her. And that the treatment was so severe that her black, lustrous, thick hair couldn’t bear it. And it shamed her being bald; because she was a girly girl. And she dressed in flowery dresses. And invested heavily on makeup and shoes. And took so much pride in her gorgeous hair.
…so I shaved.
Because I didn’t want her to feel less beautiful than me, of all people. And because I wanted her to like me, even if I was stuck with the kind of legs that carried me and my backpack across Java, and back. From faraway places to her house, and back. And sometimes further than beyond, and back.
I wanted to carry her around with me; seeing parts of her in every mirror and the absence of hair.
Few weeks after I shaved, she got better. She sounded happy. Her illness ebbed. Her organs worked. And her hair, those gorgeous locks of black, began to grow again.
And then, with a sigh, she died.
Just like that.
A blood vein in her head popped. And she died.
Just like that.
At 28 years-and-half.
I only cried ONCE because I KNEW she died to spite me.
Heck, I ain’t gonna cry for the girl who used to mock my blubbery make-up when I was fifteen. Or the girl who called me irreligious when I tried explaining vitamins to her. No, siree.
For what it’s worth, I have a very
bruised tough lower lip now.
And I’m still bald, man. I’ll be bald for a while too. To hell if I’m gonna complain about that. BALD IS AWESOME.
And nothing, not even being devotedly bald, is as bad as missing her, see?
Nor as crazy. Because I posted a comment on her Facebook wall last night. Just to check on her. And see if someone’s gonna say anything about that.
I guess I’m not so done with
grief being mad at her too. And my hair is still too short to write about her.
Instead, I’ll tell you about the day when I went with her mom to the cemetery.
Indonesian graveyards are cute.
They’re cute in a way that the living can visit graves for the heck of it. Especially if your childhood friend’s mother asked for your company. Just because she wanted to remember what it was like to have her daughter’s strange, childhood friend around.
No parent should burry a child, man.
Now, I’ve never been to this cemetery before; where my family lay rest. Where so much green grows on the graves, that you wish you could lay on them and take a nap. Where it’s so nice in the afternoon light, that you wish you had brought you camera, or a picnic basket and hung out there for a stroll and a chat.
I followed her mom, passing by rows of headstones. Some of which were lonely and tilted. Some others were sturdy and gilded.
“Look, auntie, a set of newborns, born and died on the same day.”
“Isn’t that sad.”
“Look, auntie, this one holds a husband and a wife together.”
“Isn’t that romantic.”
“Shush. Here we are. Say hello, child.”
I stood by a headstone that had too familiar a name and a birthday inscribed (too clearly) on it. I bent and touched the grass like how I used to touch her hair when we were children. Carefully. Enviously. Teasingly.
And I whispered. “The least you could’ve done was wait until my hair grew back!”
And I heard her, from under the bed of grass and earth, from the depths of our childhood and canceled plans, from the loneliest thought of growing old without her, laugh at me.