The last time I saw her

It was Friday during a breaktime at school. I was in Grade 8. I was washing my hands at a deserted sink in the corridor when a friend of mine came down the corridor with her very close friend and stopped by to greet me.

Although I had never hung out with her much, I had known her since my very first day at school in Grade 1 when we were classmates. Saying without exaggeration, she was truly an angel-like person, whose pure and kind heart was noticed and appreciated by everybody around her even in the hostile environment of our junior high school.

She was carrying a notebook with her, and asked me a quick math question. When I answered, she jumped with joy, thanked me, and said that I was so smart. I usually didn’t like to be called smart by others because it sounded dismissive and cold. But when she said that to me, the word came forward without any thorn. I gazed back at her radiant smile and wondered why she looked so happy and thankful when all I had done was to answer the simple question. After a few more exchanges, she wished me a good weekend and left with her friend.

That weekend, I received a call that informed me of the sudden death of this friend. She passed out while practicing badminton at school, and died shortly after being carried to the hospital. The news was so sudden that it took me a while to register what I had just heard.

There was a gathering at school, then many of us went to the funeral to see her for one last time. For all the while, I didn’t cry maybe except when her closest friends read their letters to her at the funeral. Sitting and standing among other girls who were all crying heavily, I thought I should also do the same, but I couldn’t. All I was thinking of was the bright smile that I had seen just a few days earlier at the deserted sink.

Suddenly, that little exchange we had in the corridor felt like a farewell greeting. We had barely talked at normal times, and yet that day she took the time to speak to me. When I think of her today, I’m still standing at that deserted sink, looking at her bright smile radiating through the dark school corridor.