When I saw you again I nearly let my composure slip.
I am a well-trained machine now and even you couldn’t break me.
But you sure came close and that is something I will never forget.
It wasn’t simply a rush of nostalgia or the shock of déjà vu.
It was the contrast of old meets new.
You looked so different and yet just the same somehow and it was difficult for my brain to process how that could be so.
I shouldn’t be able to recognise you after all these years.
The first thing I noticed was your eyes of course.
It’s the first thing anyone ever notices about you.
I remember the first time I saw them as a child of only five years of age.
I thought they looked like sparkling blue marbles.
They were the kind of blue that you don’t see all that much in people.
Strikingly deep like the colour of the twilight sky on cold November afternoons.
We became friends because you liked to talk and I liked to listen.
Funny how life changes who you are.
Now I talk for a living.
I’m good at it. I can silence a room and command respect.
Now you’re forced to listen.
Your words don’t matter. They’re used as weapons against you.
Those eyes remind me of preschool days when Ms Berryman would sing the ‘welcome’ song and you’d smile at me from across the circle of joined limbs and swaying bodies.
You’d close them slightly as you sang the words and the sapphire glow would darken beneath a heavy row of lashes.
You’d always sing the last line in the song just a little too long and it would make us all giggle.
You were always good at that. Making people laugh.
I suppose that’s not a trait that served you well in life otherwise we wouldn’t have met again all these years later.
After I noticed your eyes, I noticed your hair.
You had the same strange part at the back that you said made you special when you were eight years old.
You would proudly announce that it was called a ‘double crown’.
Only the smartest people are born with them.
It made your hair stick up in that spot like it refused to be associated with the others.
You must have lived your adult life like those rebellious stray hairs.
I never thought you’d have to.
You were always so popular.
I was envious of your charm.
You knew just what to say to people.
You were quick-witted and sharp.
You could read their actions without a second thought.
Now I realise those skills that I envied have dual functions.
For good and for evil.
When we met again, you lifted your head and I noticed your skin.
Still sprinkled with a smattering of bronze freckles.
Although they had faded with time, they were still as mesmerising as intricate constellations.
You acquired more and more of them over time.
Perhaps it was from the many endless days we’d spend sitting at the end of your uncle’s jetty, swinging our feet and watching the fish nip at the scattered bread crumbs.
You’d tell me stories of all the fish your dad had caught on his long trips out to sea.
You’d tell me how much you missed him and how your uncle was not a nice man.
You had a way of scrunching your nose up when you spoke about him.
That’s the next thing I noticed about you.
The one that had a slight bump in the midline.
That was from the time when we were teenagers.
We had been sitting in your room playing violent video games as teenage boys do.
Your uncle had stormed in and accused you of something you hadn’t done.
He didn’t believe you.
It was the probably the dog you said.
He chased you and you ran.
I was terrified and so I ran too.
I ran home while you ran for your life.
You were absent from school for a few days afterwards.
Your nose had been broken, it was clear to see.
We didn’t talk about it.
I didn’t push the subject because truthfully I didn’t want to listen.
I was afraid and a dumb kid and I am sorry for that.
I should have tried harder then and now maybe we wouldn’t be here now.
The last thing I noticed about you was what time had done to you.
You recognised me and those teeth no longer flashed like a cartoon prince but like those of a hungry wolf.
Your hands didn’t greet me with a friendly wave like they used to when you saw me arrive at the school gates.
Instead they were clenched into fists.
You weren’t wearing a faded T-shirt with some old slogan or cartoon character on the front.
Instead you were wearing a bright orange jumpsuit.
You killed someone and I was here to put you behind bars for life.
I walked down that aisle and looked you in the eyes as I presented my case.
It was hard.
I had to fight to speak to you in a way that was formal and devoid of any long buried emotion.
I had to pretend we never once shared our deepest secrets and aspirations for life.
You had wanted to be a fisherman.
I had wanted to be a vet.
You became a criminal.
I became a lawyer.
In the end your defence team was skilful but no match for me.
When I delivered my final condemnation to the jury, I had to pause and take a deep breath because I saw something.
Your composure slipped.
The mask of bravery vanished.
You knew you had lost.
I knew I had won.
There was a line of water brimming at the edges of those aquatic eyes that had been the catalyst for a great friendship once upon a time.
And in that moment, I saw only the childhood companion I had lost all those years ago.
And then dear friend, I realised that perhaps life had turned us both into criminals.