I am leaving this country in a month. Before, when we were still walking side by side through our lives, I told you how much I wanted to leave. I told you that one of my greatest wishes was to fly away from this place, get on a plane like a great silver bird and scream in the sky as I felt the ground falling away.
Well, that wish is going to be granted. Soon. Soon I’ll be leaving, and I’ll be half the world away from you.
How long has it been since I saw you last? Two years. One year. Seven months. And how long has it been since I first met you? Four years. Three years. Two years. One year. Time is a butcher’s knife, or at least, that’s what we used to say when we were joking about celebrities after their failed surgeries. I can’t imagine how you’ve changed, how you’ve grown, how your chubby face with its still-there baby fat has sharpened and hardened, how your once-awkward movements have turned graceful and sure. I can’t imagine you cutting your long, long hair, or growing your boy-cut out into waves. I can’t imagine you throwing away the journals you used to fill with love stories. I can’t imagine you stop being a fan of Taylor Swift. I can’t imagine you going to a new school and struggling over the subjects you always hated. I can’t imagine you walking on streets I’ve never been to.
I can’t imagine you as you are now.
How much have you changed, I wonder? If I were to see you on the street some fateful day, would I recognize you? Would I still see the girl with the toothy grin and the straight blunt bangs, or the boy with the habit of ruffling his hair when he got stressed? Or would I just walk past you, like a stranger, like you’re a person that I never saw when you were crying over a failed test, or screaming at your deskmate, or writing the answer to a math problem on the squeaky blackboard while our chain-smoking math teacher looked on?
Have you changed at all? Are you still just as fond of horror stories? Do you still obsess over Katy Perry and Twitter feuds? Do you still love Luhan? Do you still have that endearingly annoying laugh that turns heads?
Are you still the girl with the too-long bangs and the wide-spaced freckles and the loud giggling voice and the head full of insecurities and the fanatic love for Korean movie stars?
Are you still the girl with pink-and-black-framed glasses, a crooked smile, and the athletic abilities of a drunk jellyfish? The girl who used to shudder when I grinned and told you creepypasta, who was as thin and flat and angled as a person drawn on paper, who used to walk arm-in-arm with me and complain that I was walking too fast when I was already going far too slowly?
Are you still the girl who is my niece and my classmate and deskmate and friend and tutor? The girl who sat next to me for two years of middle school and patted my back when I cried. Who stayed with me when I was feeling upset. Who encouraged me when I thought of quitting. The girl who loved and still loves to draw, the girl who loved to watch anime, the girl with the eternal optimism despite insecurities, the girl who gave me a bottle of glass stars on our last day together, the girl who was good at English and Chinese but chose to learn chemistry and physics instead because her grandmother died and she decided to become a doctor after graduating from Wuhan University. The girl who wrote me a letter and sent me a sketchbook and pen the other day.
Are you still the boy who people joked about being too feminine? The boy who watched Grey’s Anatomy and The Ellen Show. The boy who thought it strange that Calvin Harris and Taylor Swift should get together. The boy with a sister in England. The boy who gave me advice on how to get through my exams, and laughed when I didn’t take them. The boy who was going to take his TOEFL exams after I left and hopefully before he had to go to a Taylor Swift concert. The boy I never got to say a real goodbye to.
Are you still the girl with the chunky glasses and the short hair that your mother never lets you grow longer? The girl who befriended me on my first day of school. The girl who didn’t care that I was “different.” The girl who was loud and ridiculous and childish and slightly insane and kind and funny and sensitive and insecure. The girl who used to peel skin off her lips when she was thinking of things. The girl who’d never eaten pizza before, the girl who watched with delight when her deskmate decided to tell her friend that he liked her. The girl who called herself emperor and named me her eldest son, for fun. The girl who sent me a Totoro for Christmas. The girl who dreamed of me after I left and told me that she missed me.
Are you still the girl with the round moon face and the inexplicably frizzy hair? The girl who didn’t treat me any differently even though other people did, at first. The girl who loved K-pop. The girl who loved Asa Butterfield and the actor that played the Green Goblin in the newer Spiderman. The girl who loved Lorde, who squealed with happiness when she discovered I liked Lorde, too. The girl who loved Taylor Swift and wanted to buy EOS lipbalm because of her endorsements. The girl who wanted me to go out shopping with her, who was upset that I would leave after a year, and even more upset after I left after only five months and one semester.
Are you still the girl with the too-short hair and the too-cold stare that alienated almost everyone? The girl the boys feared and disliked and respected in equal measure. The girl who didn’t like most other girls because they were too girly or gossipy or cliquey or just too whatever. The girl who was obsessed with Luhan and would smite anyone who dared say he wasn’t talented. The girl who dated a boy who turned out to be gay when she was in eighth grade. The girl who watched me for weeks before she decided she could trust me, decided I was worth befriending. The girl who was smart and snarky and sarcastic and cold and unforgiving and secretly funny and kind and rigid and uptight and fiercely loyal.
I remember you. I remember you as you were.
But I don’t know if you’ve changed. I don’t know what you are now.
And I’ll always be some way to you. I’ll be a nail-biting girl, or a girl with too-long hair, or a girl with a funny accent. I don’t know what I’ll be to you. An old friend? A classmate? An acquaintance?
I haven’t seen you in two years, a year, or maybe just seven months. And I’ll leave soon, and I probably won’t ever see you again. But I miss you. I miss you every day. I’ll miss the way you made me feel when you laughed or when we were just sitting together. Just being together, existing in the same place. Walking side by side on the same road.
Dear friend, friends, I miss you. And I love you. That sounds strange, that may even sound corny, but it’s true. Thank you for being there, by fate or accident–thank you for sharing your time and your smiles and your stupid jokes and your dreams with me. I can’t thank you enough, but,
And everything that is to come.
I only hope you can be as happy as you need to be, where you need to be, when you need to be so.
The girl you knew once, who has now changed a little, but is still basically the same soul