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Sofia (Complementary Prize - 16-18 years)

March, 2013
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Everyone knows death. It’s just a part of life, bound to happen eventually. I never really thought twice about it, but that’s because I’ve never had to. Death… It makes me think of old people, of starving children in Africa, of gangsters and mobs and wars. It doesn’t occur to me as something that’s supposed to happen. Not to any 16 year old, not to someone so young, not to her. Death, it’s just so wrong.

It doesn’t seem natural anymore, it seems like nature has taken the natural order of things and mixed them all up. I’m sitting here, looking at her, thinking what I could have done differently, if it would have changed anything. It’s a question I can forever dwell upon, yet never know the answer to.  Life works in such way that to every action there’s a response, every single action.

It’s 2013 now, January 1st. My expectations for New Year’s Eve were low, I didn’t really have a reason to go out, I never do. Why do I go out? I wouldn’t know. Why did we go out so often? I have no idea.  New Year’s, it’s supposedly one of the biggest events of the year, especially considering all the speculation around the apocalypse. To us it was just one of those nights where clubs charge quadruple, are overcrowded with drunks and service is so slow a snail could make its own drink faster. There really is no reasonably explanation as to why we went out.

She spent about 2 hours getting dressed up, why? I don’t know. How someone can possibly take that long to get ready for a night out, where our clothes are most likely to be ruined by cigarette butts, vomiting drunks or clumsy drinkers? Nonetheless people do manage to take ages, and not just girls. Why bother trying to look so good, for just one night? Or should I say the mere first few sober hours of the night before we melt away into a state where our appearance no longer matters. It will always puzzle me, but in the end when she’s finally finished she looks drop dead gorgeous leaving me tailing behind her as others stared at her in awe. She wasn’t tall at all, in fact she was shorter than me, however her slim figure, which I envied, made her appear nearly a head taller than she was. No one would look at her and consider her short, despite the fact that she was a mere 1.6 meters. She never really played sports or did any form of regular exercise; she simply drank and smoked her way through life, though she never really excelled in anything academic in particular either, but I think that’s because she never tried. She just got by. She was standing in the mirror applying dark eye shadow, which made her appear provocative in contrast to her dark brown eyes had the innocence of a newborn child. As she applied the finishing touches of mascara to extend her long curled eyelashes, I put on my old worn out sneakers. I always considered myself to be more practical as I never once had the issue of having to walk slowly or refrain from jumping due to uncomfortably high heels, besides how could someone possibly be more comfortable in heels than in flats? She was, she always wore heels no matter what the occasion, she even wore heeled slippers to the beach. That night she wore tall black stiletto’s which wrapped around her ankle, added at least 10 centimeters to her height and made her legs appear longer and even thinner than they already wore. She wore skintight, faded white, studded jeans with a matching plain, dark brown leather belt and a matching short, revealing, black, studded leather jacket. Her loosely fitted top was barely a top as it revealed a large portion of her well-toned stomach and from the sides her black laced bra straps were clearly visible.

It was no surprise that as we walked into a bar several people couldn’t resist hesitating to look away as she caught their eye, while playfully playing with her long chocolate coloured hair, grinning happily pleased that she had once again managed to make an entrance. As usual, she was approached several times by acquaintances, friends and various attractive young men with obvious intentions. Luckily, her attention was never diverted too long from our own conversation as we focused on consuming as much cheap alcohol as we could before we left to go the clubs. What we spoke about that night at the bar, is somewhere in my memory buried by the alcohol consumed that night.  It was probably the last proper conversation we could ever had, but if I had known that, I would not have been so focused on observing the way people would fawn over her desperate to get her attention. At this instant, I do remember thinking how it was possible that we had become best friends. We rarely agreed on anything, we had very dissimilar taste in men, fashion, morals and so on and to top it all off both of us were incredibly stubborn and picky. If it hadn’t been for her kindness years ago, when she took my side, when no one else would we probably would never have become friends. When we met, I felt like I had his the bottom of the sea, like a sunken ship and somehow she had been in a similar position and had helped me swim back to the surface and find proper ground to stand on. Had I been standing in that bar, observing her as a stranger I probably would have loathed her type, but in spite of this we had become best friends. By the time we finished drinking, we were already strutting inordinately happily out of the bar, having consumed our alcohol in several buckets as it was the cheapest option.

What do we usually do all night? We drink, dance, smoke up (occasionally), we dance more, hook up and stay out as long as we can get away with. What did we do that night? Nothing, nothing out of the usual. Lipstix was busy, as usual, except the vast New Year’s crowd had expanded the dance floor all the way to the entrance, the bar area, to the area outside the bathroom and even to the coat check. The music was droning in my ears, drowning out any words that she could possibly have spoken to me that evening on the dance floor. Regardless of being shaken around the dance floor violently, covered in what I presumed were spilled drinks or sweat, I could still feel the vibrations of the music under my feet, like continuous explosions while my entire body felt a buzz as music boomed through the club.  Despite being in what I would now consider to be a pathetic near savage environment, we danced away. Although, it could hardly be considered dancing though, as there was so little space to move, it was busier than the Shanghai metro during rush hour, which limited us to involuntarily sway with the crowd as individuals struggled to break free of the hordes of people. Yet we somehow managed to enjoy, just as everyone else in the club was managing, while singing along with music that has been overplayed everywhere.

Due to the high we had gotten from alcohol we consumed earlier that night, at that instant we were mindless teenagers having the times of our lives, senseless, reckless and oblivious to anything happening around us. I guess alcohol has that effect, to render everything irrelevant. IB, family issues, friendship issues, relationship troubles was the last thing on our minds that instant, we merely found ourselves thirstier and thirstier for more alcohol. This is how we would spend most of our nights out, intoxicated and as far from sober as possible. Of course, as every teen is told by their parent time and time again, drinking is bad, drugs are bad, smoking is bad, it’s all bad. Yet, almost every teen ends up doing it at some point, which then leads them into adulthood, when regular alcohol consummation is more widely accepted by society. Why didn’t we listen to our parents? Why don’t teens listen to their parents? It might just because of where we live, as Shanghai is the center of China’s nightlife, but I don’t think that’s the reason. Could it be be peer pressure, curiosity, influence of the older siblings or older kids in school or maybe it’s our hidden inner rebelliousness that drives us to try the forbidden fruit. Heck, it may even just be the bad influence we get off TV. Then again, I don’t know many teens that regret going out for the first time, instead most tend to start going out more frequently until it becomes a regular thing to do in the weekend. Going out is in actuality what our friendship grew out of and now it has grown into a relationship where we rely on each other when we go out. Of course it’s usually not advised to go out with your best friend and both get absolutely wasted, but considering the scale we go out in we concluded that we could both hold our alcohol fairly well and that “rule of going out” could be dismissed.

We had hit a fair amount of clubs that evening after Lipstix and all were almost exactly the same. Music being blasted at its maximum volume, swarmed with drunk people practically having sex on the dance floor and bars benefitting from people’s inability to find the same bar tender that they had overpaid for drinks 20 minutes earlier. Ironically, the crowds at the clubs were mostly filled with Shanghai’s youth and we would occasionally stumble across creepy old men and women who have not yet realised that they are way past their prime. We spent a great deal of time imitating the drunken dancers who helplessly flopped their arms in the air clueless as to what they were doing. Not implying that we were any better off.

It happened when we were finally leaving to go home, though still slightly intoxicated, the sun was already visible through Shanghai’s polluted winter fog. It was probably around 6am that morning. No, this morning. As we waited for a taxi in the cold, not having bothered wearing too many layers as to save the trouble of having to carry around jackets, we were freezing. I was standing on the road frantically waving my arms hoping to capture the attention of the taxi 3 crossings away. “Hey do you want to walk over to the metro? It should be open by now,” I asked as I continued scanning the streets for a possible empty cab, “do you want to walk? I don’t think we’ll get a cab any time soon,” I repeated. She still didn’t answer, which I at the time remember suspected as a sign of tiredness. She was just sitting on the step at the edge of the sidewalk with her knees together with her arms wrapped around them while her head was buried in her arms. Giving up I sat down next to her and tapped her on the shoulder. Her body slumped sideways as though it was a puppet, and she lay there unmoving. So I picked her up to take her home as an empty taxi stopped by.

That morning I didn’t get much sleep. It was only 10 o’clock, but when I checked on her I realised that she had had a nosebleed in her sleep. Only then I realised, she wasn’t breathing, at all.

What do you do when you realise your best friend’s passed out? You take them home. What do you do when you realise your best friend isn’t going to wake up?

Shit Sofia, what did you do?

R.I.P Sofia

Death by drug overdose


By Fay de Waal

Yew Chung International School of Shanghai



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