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2nd Prize Winner - Group IV - Half Empty Half Full

March, 2015
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Half Empty Half Full

 

With your glass half full

And mine half empty

When we were together people didn’t think we were crazy

It was December 11th 1995 when I met you for the first time, I had just moved to the school after getting expelled from my last one over a fight that wasn’t important enough for me to recall now. You sat next to me in class. I glared at you thinking you were the enemy while you smiled because we had the same enemy. We would have never talked to each other in normal circumstances; you were the kid that smiled too much while I was the kid that the teachers talked about in hushed voices. There was nothing the same about us, or so I thought. The first time I liked you was in February 2nd 1996. 

"Why don’t we talk about music today? Does everyone have a favorite singer?" 

"Yes" A chorus of small voices rang out.

"I like Run-D.M.C!" I looked around surprised that another voice echoed mine. I caught the eye of the kid that everyone was sure only knew how to study. "What’s your favorite song?" I asked not sure what to think.

"Rock Box!" The kid sounded so sure, so much more confident than when answering questions in class.

"That’s my favorite song too!" We both gasped, we both smiled, neither of us noticed the worried look that the teacher gave us.

After spending time together listening to their songs we formed our own music group with the talents we had. I rapped and played the guitar while you sang dancing your fingers on the piano. You started to make school fun for me in a way that English and Math never could while I made sure that you never sat on your own during lunchtime anymore.

May 5th 1996 was the day that I decided I wanted to become a professional singer and rapper. I had too many words inside my head that needed a way out. My parents on the other had would have much rather I remained quiet and found what they considered a normal job such as a banker or lawyer. They never seemed to see that normality was the oil to my water and maybe that’s why they were surprised when I argued. Tempers flared when I fought back so I ran to the only place I could hide. I knew that your mother came home at ten every night and left at five in the morning while your dad hadn’t come home since you were five. As long as I knocked on the door before ten you would be the one to answer it. I didn’t need to explain why I was there because you took one look at me and all you had to do was piece together what you knew about my family. You led me to your big empty room and we shared your bed. This happened three more times before I decided to give in. I gave in to what I believed to be words of logic and reality and it was, although it was their logic and their reality but at the time I wouldn’t have known the difference. I reassured myself that it was fine because of you. I confidently told you that there was no one who would stop you from becoming a singer because your mother wouldn’t care what you did either way. You continued to smile your smile as you listened while I pretended that I had imagined the darkening of your eyes. You nodded along with what I said and soon I dropped out of musical activities while you did your best to fill both of our shares. You became famous around our school and people were beginning to call you the prince of music. We both laughed at this but you couldn’t hide the sparkle in your eye. We would have drifted apart if not for the fact that by then nothing would have separated us, or so we had thought. That year was the best of our lives because even though I couldn’t stand on the stage I lived on the stage through you. We still played our songs together in secret; you played for the stage while I played to breathe. That year was our year of parading…who knew it would be our last parade?

April 1st 1997 after putting down the piano lid you told me you had cancer. I paused for a minute before I realized you were laughing at the look on my face, I laughed along with you. May 22nd 1997 you told me you had cancer. I started laughing. You started crying. I stopped laughing. Turns out you didn’t feel right after a performance so you went to the doctor. A week later the doctor called you to tell you that you had stomach cancer. You told me that he had said if they operated on you quickly enough then nothing would be wrong. That was one of the few days you cursed, "Life is no fucking fairy tale" you said. I didn’t tell you then but at that moment I agreed. You had surgery scheduled for the following week. I had never believed in God but I prayed for you. I realized that I was right, God didn’t exist. 

After the surgery I came to visit you three times before you were awake. The doctor had spoken to us before you woke up. It seemed like you already knew the results by the fourth time I came to visit you. Your eyes were red. Your lips were white. The silence was black. I sat on the edge of your bed while you stared at the ceiling and had that smile on your face but now its seemed more copy and paste of what your smile used to be. You had half a year left if you were lucky the doctor said. Having half a year left wasn’t lucky.

You weren’t allowed to leave the hospital anymore besides from the occasional times we were allowed to walk outside. Those stopped because unfiltered air wasn’t good for your lungs. Nothing was good for your lungs. Your mom stopped visiting you after a week but I came every single day to keep you company. You would sing and I would rap until you were too tired to sing anymore. The time you spent singing grew shorter and shorter. I stopped when you stopped but you told me to go on.  I stopped when you stopped but you made me go on. Time stopped making sense for me the more time I spent with you. When the days started flowing into weeks I stopped trying to remember what day it was. When the days started flowing into weeks it didn’t matter what the day was. All that mattered was that we could still make music together because when there was music everything else stopped. The todays and yesterdays never mattered anymore because all we cared about were the tomorrows. Your smiled turned more and more into full laughs that sounded much too loud and much too rushed. You were laughing as if you were worried you wouldn’t get the chance to laugh again. You were laughing because you knew you wouldn’t get the chance to laugh again.

August 13th was when time slowly fitted together again. It was the day when you couldn’t make any sound other than a raspy cough that led to the image of your throat being coated in dust. There would be times when you would force yourself to croak out a note but you would wince in pain and be forced to give up. We could only communicate by writing from then on but we didn’t mind because we could still communicate. We discussed how we would spend Christmas together and where we would go if the spring break the next year was a long one. We had everything planned out down to the fact that on Christmas day I would transport you out of the hospital and we would convince the teachers to give us a spot in the Christmas concert. We would perform the first song in our heads when we got there. That was our plan and we were going to go through with it no matter what. We would talk about it for hours each day wondering what everyone’s reaction would be when they saw you. We talked about it so much that I almost forgot about the fact that you couldn’t talk and the fact that you wouldn’t be allowed to leave the hospital no matter what. It didn’t matter that your conditions were getting worse, all that mattered was we were going to go through with the plan.

December 2nd 1997 I entered your room and you smiled at me before lifting a shaky arm and pointing towards the chair I usually sat on. On it was a bulky shape wrapped in typical Christmas wrapping paper. I could already tell from the shape that it was a guitar.

“Why.” You passed over a piece of paper already filled with writing.

I wanted to get you a Christmas present that meant something special to us. What’s more special than a guitar right? Don’t open it now though wait till Christmas!

“Why are you giving this to me now?”

I just thought that I better give it to you early in case I leave before that.

“You won’t. We’re going to spend Christmas together remember?”

There’s still no harm in getting you your present early is there?

“It feels like you’re giving up.”

I’m not I just want to make sure everything is set in case things don’t go as planned.

“I understand your logic I’m just not happy with it.”

If I get it over with today I can do more things tomorrow. By the way there’s one more thing that I need to do.

“What’s that?”

Thank you for being my friend.

“Don’t.”

Just in case

“Tell it to me tomorrow”

You didn’t get to tell it to me again. The next day when I entered the room expecting to see you lying in bed as usual I was met with an empty bed instead. You had been so smart to tell me everything when you could while I still had so much I wanted to tell you. I didn’t get to thank you for being my friend.

It’s been about twenty years since you left.  There are times when I look around and I still feel your presence. There are times when I’m on stage and I hear your voice in my ears. There are times when I’m just sitting there and I think of how you would react to the situation. It seems so dumb and so cheesy but there are times that I just wish you were here to see the progress I made. I continued our dream using the guitar you gave me. Are you proud of me?

With your glass half full

And mine half empty

When we were together people didn’t think we were crazy

 

By Shirley Cheng

Harrow International School Beijing

  

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