Monday, June 08, 2009

Of Being a Friend

Friendship requires maintenance. I think it does.

By maintenance, I don’t exactly mean, you have to go call each other every day or see each other every weekend. We all have our own lives to lead and may not exactly have the opportunity to spare that much time for anyone in particular. In my case, I am lucky if I get to sit down with my kids after a Maghrib together to teach them the Muqaddam. That happens very very rarely. See? Barely have time for my own kids. For friends? Worse. I have been robbed of of time.

Not daily maintenance. There’s Facebook for maintenance of friendship and that’s better than nothing.

More than 10 years ago, when I was still single, most of my friends (ex-schoolmate) were single too, or at least they were newly weds, we met quite often. We would hang out at Pokka of Sogo after office. Had dinner together almost once a week. That was fun. Lambok, a friend would bring his newly wedded wife, Fida. We got along very easily, she was as fun as Lambok was funny. They were both working at Public Bank in KL. Soon, they moved to Seremban. One by one, my friends got married and we got busier with our lives. Kids started to arrive and we got even more busier. Pokka closed too. I called this group of friends maybe once or twice in the last ten years. Too busy to maintain the friendship. Not even a single sms of Selamat Hari Raya or the sort. Nothing.

About a month ago, news reached me that Fida has brain tumor. Advanced stage. Scheduled for operation on 17 June.

Some other friend gave me Lambok's number. I called him and he gave me Fida’s number. But I was too chicken to call her. I didn’t know what to say to her and so I only send her text messages, once after a few days, just checking on her.

This morning though, Lambok called me. Said, Fida has been transferred to the ICU. As much as I dreaded going to the hospital, I couldn’t stay being a chicken this time. She was the one sick, but I was the one scared.

I went with Yamtuan. Hating the smell and sight of the hospital every step of the way. I hated what hospitals reminded me of. I clutched Yamtuan’s hand tightly and let him lead the way. When I finally stood in front of Fida’s bed, I couldn’t even recognise her. But then, that shouldn’t surprise me because I haven’t seen her in 10 years. She couldn’t exactly see me though; her eyes couldn’t be stilled so she couldn’t focus. She was too tired and in pain. When she wanted to vomit, I looked away, but Yamtuan asked me to go help rub her back. I did. And that made me feel better somewhat, knowing that I could help her, even in that little way. And I stopped being afraid of her. Despite the ten years of vacuum, despite not being able to recognise that person lying sick in bed, she was still Fida, my friend.

I stayed with her for a while, helped her when she vomited again, sponge-wash her a bit, tie her hair up tight, all the while hoping that I would be forgiven for being too wrapped up in my own little world.

I haven’t been much of a friend. Not just of Fida’s, but all my other friends too.

I will try to be better.

And whoever reads this, please do join me in the doa that Fida will be better again soon.