I was staring at a guy when the memory came flooding back. He gave me a smile, and i turned away, half trying to smile back, half not caring.
Why did I remember now?
It was 1995 perhaps, where i made my first friend- my first friend who wasn't part of my family.
I walked into the gates, and so began my first ever day at school. I sat next to a girl who looked at my shoes and told me they were pretty. I grinned at her and repeated the exact same compliment she gave me- without even looking at her shoes.
I remember the classroom being hot and cold at the same time. But it was generally a lonely boring first day at school. I lack the excitement that everyone else seems to have experienced on their first day.
It was the second day at school where i made my first friend. He was sandy haired and had weird coloured eyes.
I remember him extending the hand of friendship and asking me if i wanted to be friends. i doubt i even knew what friendship was, but who wouldnt happy to rush home and tell everyone they have a friend? We spent the entire day together and i remember fun, arguing, and being taught how to throw a ball. It missed the hoop, but his laughter still rings in my ear, as i said it was easier to hit him with the ball then the hoop.
Our friendship grew and grew and we both ended up in little bubbles...i'd wait for him until he finished football with his male friends, and he'd wait for me while i talked about dolls with my new girl friends.
Soon our parents got to know each other, and i remember one car ride where my mother told my father that his family was Jewish. I had no idea what it meant, and i bugged them until they told me it was a religion. When i asked what 'religion' was, my parents sighs told me straight away that i wasn't going to get an answer. Now i realise there is no answer to that question.
We starting going to each others houses, and running in to greet each other. I remember his older sister looked his exact opposite. In fact, he looked like no one in his family. My eyes kept flitting between him and his sister and parents. Though i was smart enough not to ask him if he'd been found in a bin like i had....(i had the stupidity to ask my older brother where i came from, before i asked my parents...this meant i spent most of my childhood convinced i was found in a bin, as my brother so convincingly lied).
The first time I went to his house, he rushed me upstairs to his room. I sat on the bed, swinging my legs and looking all around his room. It was a messy room. He was busy looking for something, and his face was full of concentration, his seriousness made me giggle.
Out of the wardrobe he took out a neat straw basket. The basket was lined with a pink sheet, and in it lay a beautiful baby doll. Under its head was a pink pillow, and a small pink duvet lay on top. The cutest thing, was the doll had a hat, he removed it once he saw me staring at it. 'She got cold in the wardrobe so i put it on'.
There was a silence where we both just stared at the doll in its pink bed. He looked up awkwardly and said 'Its for you'. I stuttered and replied 'me?'. He pointed at me and smiled and gently put the basket and baby in my lap. i stopped swinging my legs, and he sat next to me on the bed. 'Actually my sister said the baby is mine and yours, not just yours'.
I reply - 'so its ours?'.
A nod follows and we both end up happily smiling at each other. I dont know how long we smiled at each other, but i remember thinking it was long time.
He then helped me off the bed, and as i kissed the baby, he told me so seriously 'when i get bigger and cleverer, I'll look after you, and you look after the baby'.
I grinned, but a second later i frowned...'who will look after you?' i asked him earnestly. I don't remember getting an answer, maybe i did, but i forgot what he said. I keep straining and i honestly cannot remember.
The next thing i remember is him showing me his talking toy, which scared me.You pull a string in the back, and it talked in a weird voice. He hit it for me, and i laughed at how limp the toys body was. Suddenly i wasn't scared.
We made sure the baby was sleeping and we tiptoed downstairs to play in the garden and eat various sweet things.
In the garden we had a water fight, where i used a bucket instead of those plastic water guns. This meant i ended up sloshing half the bucket on myself as i struggled to carry it to wherever the hiding spot was.
I remember when he came to my house, i taught him how to eat ice cream, and i introduced him to jigsaws. I loved jigsaws. I still love jigsaws. I gave him one, but i remember him telling me he would never open the jigsaw until i go to his house, so we could do the jigsaw together.(meaning i would do the jigsaw while he talked)
He checked up on the baby every time he came, telling me i needed to wash her clothes, or i'd been buying her too many toys.
We moved so quickly i don't even remember saying Goodbye to him. My parents don't remember his family name- he had a weird family name - it was probably hebrew? I alone remember his first name.
We never got to do the jigsaw together.
Today, I couldn't help interrogating my mother. She doesnt remember his family name, and my heart sank. The prosecution of minorites in Iraq wiped out a lot of people, and gangs do have a habit for targeting the guys in the young adult age range.
In my mind, as various horrible scenarios creeped in about what could have happened to him, i remember asking him 'who will look after you?'. Still no answer.
My mama tried teasing me about him, usually i would deny everything vehemently, or perhaps go along with the teasing and ask for her blessings. But this time, i was quiet. I'm never going to be able to thank him for being my first ever friend.
She added 'Touta, he moved out of Iraq. His family is in London. I heard about it when we were in Diyala.'
My mind blanked for a few seconds...what?!
She laughed and told me..'as long as you're alive, and he's alive, you might see each other one day. Life is strange'.
I went upstairs into my bedroom. I went into the corner of the room that's hidden. On top of the boxes, there's a basket. The basket is angrily frayed everywhere...but inside, the baby sleeps silently.