She went from an active part of my life to frozen in a photo frame.
For seven years she stood still without changing expression or getting older. By now, she would be well into her twenties. That I knew, but that’s also all I knew.
For I promised myself that I’d never make contact. This is despite the things I wanted to say. This is despite knowing very well about the importance of closure and the role it plays in moving on.
Reaching out just didn’t seem worth the risk. Seven hears had passed. Given the distance, there was a chance my words wound’t be understood… or worse, my voice not recognised.
I preferred to hold onto what I could remember of her. I didn’t want to risk finding out truths I might not be able to handle. That people — even her— can change for the worse. That people — even me — can be forgotten.
She’d cross my mind at the strangest times. But not in a negative way. Rather, while passing a similar looking person, when meeting someone with her name, or even while 5,000 metres above sea level trekking through the Himalayas. I distinctly remember wondering what parts of the world she had seen. There was also the passing of Chester Bennington, Linkin Park’s lead singer. The band played a big role in our initial bonding. We even met them together.
There were also times over the years that I’d find myself on her Facebook profile knowing a simple button could change everything. But then I’d remember my promise.
Then came that Friday night. It was meant to be eventful, but not to this degree. After an amazing night of moshing to live music, I found myself lying on my friends lounge room floor. As the night started to slow down, our experience turned inward and we started getting deep and meaningful.
The topic of my tattoos came up. I told the story of my first, the words “They forgot to count me” — in her handwriting. I explained that it wasn’t about her; it’s about remembering me. After I finished elaborating, my friend asked, “Why don’t you reach out to her?”
I had no objection. They say a drunk mind speaks a sober heart. So in less than 7 seconds, the decision to break 7 years of silence was made. At 2 am I sent a photo of me waving at the camera with the caption ‘Hi’.
I woke up the next morning with a sinking feeling. I deleted the conversation from my messenger inbox. My mind went back to it, but I was ready to put it all in the past where it remained.
Then came the first of many shocks to come: a response. The conversation started of with simple pleasantries but I decided to get to it. After all, I had come this far. I told her there was something a younger me needed to say… And I said it all.
Her response blew me away. The sensitivity and understanding brought tears to my eyes. Over the days that followed, I read the message over and over. I couldn’t believe it.
By sheer chance, I was visiting Brisbane soon — the city where we met and both grew up. After debating about it, I decided to ask her to catch up in person. I thought about playing it safe with a quick pre-work coffee, but plans got mumbled around — luckily so. We met at 5.30 pm at a bar by the river. And like the years, the hours passed until the sound of tables and chairs being shuffled became too much of a distraction.
In that time, I learned about all the ways she had changed. Similar to my own experiences, her travels had affected her outlook of the world. She had too grown, realised things about herself, and made big changes in her life.
I realised how wrong I had been. How reaching out a lot sooner could of changed things.. she even lived in the same city as me for one whole year! But I respect that this is how it had to unfold.
I care deeply about her, that Ive always known. But the difference is that I no longer berate myself for it. For I now know that she cares about me too and also wants the best for me.
There’s no strict right or wrong when it comes to reaching out and revisiting one’s past. It’s about using your best judgment … or leaving it up to a good old fashioned drunk text. Just don’t think that it’s ever ‘too late’ or that people won’t understand — they might remember you better than you think.