A childhood friend is an imprint we can never erase from our lives. We may drift apart, not see each other for all our adult lives but when we think who our friends are, their faces always pop up. They are the ones who had seen us when we were nothing and yet at our bests. We hadn’t cared how we behaved, how we looked or what we spoke to them. It is impossible to stop missing such pure friendship.
I had a very peculiar childhood friend. He wasn’t like any other. He was older than my father, a divorcee and a drunk. No parent would have allowed their child near him but we all knew the insides of that man just too well. He and his family had lived in the house next to ours since many years before I was born. His youngest daughter had been my friend until one day his wife decided that their marriage wouldn’t work. So, she took all the kids and moved out. We had all been very fond of this family and it saddened everybody when it broke.
I had another friend, a girl who was equally fond of them. In fact, her whole family was just as close to them as mine. This girl was a year older to me and we were good friends. When the man’s family left and he was all alone, the two of us felt a common responsibility towards him. We were maybe five and six or younger, and we made it our duty to spend every free time with him. I clearly remember the two of us waiting for him to return from office. Now when I think about it, our friend used to leave very early in the morning and back home hours before our parents came back from their works. And I don’t remember him ever been sober.
I don’t know how he used to feel about the two little girls who wouldn’t leave him alone but I don’t believe he found us a nuisance. So, every day we waited for him to return from wherever he had been, and walk with him to his house, him stumbling and mumbling. We would sit in his kitchen and chat away (I wish I could remember what we talked about) while he prepared his dinner. We even helped him clean his house. He would sometimes make snacks for us or treat us with biscuits and candies. I remember how we jumped for joy when one day he, unsteadily, brought us a can of fruit cocktails. He adored us. We would leave his house when he had finished eating his dinner. Every day was the same.
One time he went to his village for a break and when he returned he brought a new wife. My friend and I were probably playing together because I remember us rushing to meet him. We met a very fair and tiny framed woman in his kitchen. Our old friend introduced us and we were most definitely not shy of her. We became friends with this freshly out-of-village woman and she was good to us too. Later when we were older, we learned that she also drank as much as him and she was probably drunk the whole time we were with her.
Our routine remained unchanged for a while until they moved back to their village permanently. Our friend didn’t bid us goodbye. He just left and we never saw either of them again. I didn’t miss the wife but I had genuinely wished to see the man again. Somebody told us years ago that my childhood friend had passed away and so had his wife.
I can never forget the image of him swaying towards me, wearing a half-sleeved shirt, knitted sleeveless sweater, formal trousers and shoes and a knitted hat. I can’t exactly remember his face but I sure do remember his rum perfume which I trusted with all my heart. He was my most loving childhood friend.