My first best friend

He had jet black hair and wide dark brown eyes. His skin was pale and silky smooth, his jaw tapered to a discernible pointed chin. He once told me that he wished he had dark tanned skin like mine. I was surprised. I had always wanted to look like him.

He was a boy I went to elementary school with. He was kind and sweet. We used to play together in the little playground under the building where we both lived. I used to hang from monkey bars because someone had once told me that that would make me grow tall. He always used to stand under, ready to catch me if I fell.

We went to school together, did homework together, played and read together. Our mothers used to joke that they’d have to literally pry us apart with a crowbar if we spent any more time together. I think he was my first best friend.

He always had a smile for me. Even the last time I visited him in the hospital, when his insides were Churned and ruined by cancer and chemotherapy, even when his eyelids were droopy from pain and fatigue, there was a smile on his face. When I cried, he held my hand. When I was leaving, he gave me a charm bracelet off his wrist. When I asked what that was for, he said, “so you’ll remember me when I’m not there”.

His funeral was a low-key affair. His parents looked sad and worn out. His mother hugged me close and kissed my hair when I went up to pay my respects. I wanted him to have something to remember me by as well. I had brought a book we had read together. As I left it by his side, I looked into his face. He looked like he had before, before the illness that took him. He looked happy and peaceful.

I still miss him.