Not always easy to make new acquaintances when you blow in a hood where you don’t know anybody. Sometimes you get picked on because you have a different accent or because people don’t warm easily to novelty. Now I had become a master at integrating new environments since I was born and changing schools two or three times a year did not really phase me.
I overheard a conversation once where my dad said to somebody I had never met that I was a loner. It is true that I had a high level of autonomy and a lot of cope on for a 9-year-old but this was more by accident rather than design. You know what? It’s almost tiring having to justify why you don’t have childhood friends when asked where you come from.
It was the last week of April and the first of May was approaching fast, a bank holiday in France that would give me an extra day off to accustom myself to the new city we had moved in for god only knows how long. Nice little town in the south of France I must say, the house was spacious and my room sunny for once.
It was a town house an accommodation on the posh side of things compared to the social apartment lost in a high rise complex we lived in the previous six months. I did not like the last place we stayed, somewhere in the north of France, I thought it was inhabited by soulless automats and the days were always dull. Even the sun was probably taking Prozac and I suspect people only laughed when they burned themselves.
Citrus or Orange? This was miss Dural the owner of the Boulangerie Patisserie / Candy Store asking me what flavour I wanted for my fav pop gums? My first day in my new school was over and I was introduced to this place by Ariel my new table partner and best friend to be. Ariel was nearly 11 he was taller and older than me but it seemed we shared the same outcast experience insofar as he had been in another school 2 years prior and was repeating last year’s curriculum mainly because of his dyslexia.
The only difference between the two of us was that he was from this little city in which he had lived all his life so I guess I picked his curiosity with my exotic and nomadic lifestyle, fair to say that I also think my accent made him laugh too.
Ariel became my best friend, we were living in each other’s pocket almost. Fusional friendship it’s called I believe. Ariel lived in the same street than us only a mere 600 metres from our townhouse but he lived in a detached house with a large back garden with wait for it a tree house!!!.
The wooden castle had been made by his dad, a carpenter by trade and his mum gave him a sea of cushions to make it homelier. Like me Ariel had no siblings, so steering away from the tension of my young life I found myself spending more and more time @ Ariel’s, I was even doing my homework there at times and it was not rare for me to go home @ 7.00 just in time to make illusion. Or so I believed because it was probably obvious that I was wearing this rare friendship scent from down the road every time I washed my hands for dinner.
Games, football kicks, comics, films and other crazy stories were shared for almost 9 weeks before the summer break. Our teacher even confirmed on the last day of June that Ariel and I would be in the same class for the next school term.
Ariel went to his grandparents for his holidays in July and I was shipped to my grandfather’s stud in Normandy for the same amount of time. Back in the first week of August the ‘’retrouvailles’’ were a bit gauche between the two of us but it did not last more than a few hours especially when it was agreed with my parents that I could join Ariel’s family on a 3-day week end at the end of the month.
I don’t remember where it was but it was near a beach and we had a tent for the two of us for two nights. Even if it was set up only a couple of feet away from his parent’s tent, we felt we were at large with a bottled concentre of freedom and fun. Those three days went in a flash, I completely blanked out the journey over and back but we had a super time there whether it was playing with colonies of ants or flying our kites, collecting starfish and other shells but the most magical instants were when we played soccer or our all-time favourite shadow catcher game.
With the sun gently warming our young feet, the game consisted in having Ariel’s shadow or mine trying to catch the other one. We laughed, we ran, we ate our heart content and we did not sleep too much, it was uncomplicated and I think I had never been so happy. Ariel almost two years older than me had become my hero, I worshipped him like a big brother.
It was very late the night I was brought home from a week end to remember and I went straight to bed. After a great night sleep, I was starving and looked forward to sharing my first eva week end stories at breakfast when my mum told me she had something to tell me. It was a bit odd as there was a croissant waiting for me on a Monday next to my cafe au lait.
As gently as she could, she broke the news that I would not be back to school with Ariel. The reason being was that we were to move again within the next 10 days for my dad’s next assignment. I stopped smiling, my jaws dropped and I developed a terrible headache.
Sept 15th, second day in this new city and first day in the new school, 250kms east from the previous one. We finished early because its back to school day and I am sitting on a bench. It’s a beautiful day and the sun is high and warm. I can see my black reflection on the ground and I think I was talking to my own shadow when two guys dropped by. I saw them earlier and I knew they were in my class.
One of them asked me who I was talking to, I did not answer but enquired if they were up for a game of shadow catcher. They giggled it was a dumb game and refused point blank, then they got up and left and I could clearly overhear one of them calling me a weirdo.
My shadow was looking at me and almost without thinking I ended up saying you know it is only you and me now. As we got into autumn and winter the following four months seemed very long especially when you have a shadow for best friend you don’t get to see too much of it on rainy days.
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There are a lot of tensions in the world lately, a ...
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