I realised when I can’t sleep, I write. So tonight is one of those sleepless nights again.
Primary school was a fleeting memory for me. I remember I used to do Chinese Dance on Thursdays and dressed in costumes that weren’t the coolest but that was okay for a tween. I learnt how to do a front walkover, struggled with spilts and aced my Chinese Dance examinations somehow.
Secondary school was impactful. I was posted to my third choice of school (then we had to choose schools before we received our results, such a dumb system honestly). It was one hour away from my home and I had just maybe a couple of primary school friends in the same school. And, the school had no dance as a CCA. What a downer.
Luckily enough, I made a friend right on my first day of school. Her name was Jean and she asked to share my orientation booklet. She told me that she came to the school to join the band – I was like what?! You actually selected a school for its band?
And you know what, I joined the band with her. LOL.
We became fast friends being classmates and bandmates. We were similar in personality, sucked at homework (read: hated maths), hung out at Bugis and Parkway Parade after school and enjoyed going to band practices. We spoke on the phone every night about all things that mattered to teenage girls. No such thing as BFF then so we were best friends.
When we were 15, she started complaining about being exhausted and had bad headaches. We always brushed it off because that was our military band year – which kid won’t be tired after marching in the hot sun for hours right?
One day, she collapsed in school – then again, pretty common because we had kids fainting from exhaustion in band all the time. We only realised how serious it was when she was sent to the hospital. Then, the news came.
She had a brain tumour.
She never woke up from her coma and we never got to say bye or our last words. The next year was spent shuttling between school, hospital and home visits. We celebrated her 15th birthday with her hooked up to many machines. We made 1,000 cranes for her. She passed on a year later, on 22 May 2005, age 15-almost-16.
Today, she would have turned 25 if she is still with us. I always wonder how will life be like if she’s still here. Would she have gone to a polytechnic or junior college? Maybe she would be my roomie in NUS? Would she still be playing the clarinet?
Now that I’m old(er), I look back and smile at the good times we had. (Okay when I was younger, I tend to cry more and was more angst). I try to remember all the good lessons she had taught me. Her perseverance and determination in life, hardworking attitude, humility and willingness to lend a helping hand anywhere, anytime always inspires me.
So tonight, I go to bed not in tears but in happy memories of our beautiful teenage times.
Post note: Also, here’s a sincere shout out to all my secondary school friends and those who may have crossed paths with Jean. Thanks for sharing your memories of her with me, it’s so sweet to read them again. They’re so poignant for me. Also, to my band mates and classmates (where ma homies from 3K/4K at?) : thank you for supporting and helping to hold me up when we were kids at 15/16 because I wouldn’t have made it till now.