The Realization in the Shark Tooth Necklace

Submitted into Contest #120 in response to: Start your story with a character looking through an old family photo album.... view prompt


Coming of Age Creative Nonfiction Friendship

   “Wind is fickle and free. It is there one minute and gone the next; its presence does not define the ocean. The ocean does not depend on wind to create waves on its surface to be beautiful. It is the ocean on its own. I want to be like the ocean.”

. . .

   “We’ll be friends forever, right?” Marcel asked me.

   “Of course we will,” I answered.

The remnants of the memory pulled my face into a childish grin. It was the type of grin that stays in one’s eyes even once their lips stop smiling. It had been so long since I thought of Marcel. Finding that picture of two to of us sitting in our rain pants, with mud on our faces, had suddenly transported me back to the day it was taken. We had spent hours outside playing on my magical drawbridge that day. 

   And just like that, I figured out what I would write that school paper I had been procrastinating all weekend about. I would write about my childhood best friend.

   When I was eight years old, I had a best friend, Marcel. He was in the grade below me, but since our grades were a split class, we were in the same class. Once, we found a piece of tiger’s eye in the gravel field in front of our school. We traded it back and forth so that each day one of us had it to remember the other by. When we lost touch a year later, because his family moved to Thailand, I kept the tiger’s eye.

   Now it was nine years later and I still had mom’s email address, so letting my curiosity take the reins, I asked for his number. I wrote him a text message, saying that I was writing a paper about our friendship, and asked whether he had any memories to share that I had maybe forgotten. He replied that he couldn’t really remember anything. The boy who was my one and only caterpillar-saving partner in the Kill the Caterpillars Heist of 2012 couldn’t really remember anything of our year of doing everything together! That hurt. But it's okay. I remember.

   A couple days after that interaction, I remembered a fragment of something else. A shark tooth necklace. Was it me who gave it to him or vice versa? I couldn’t remember, but I knew there was something with a shark tooth necklace because I remember that it made us look like “cool teenagers.” Deciding that there was nothing to lose, I called him. And he answered. On the other side of the line I heard the chaos of a party, teenage boys mostly, and then a voice that sounded exactly like I remembered said, 


   It was thrilling to hear his voice again after nearly a decade. I felt something in me melt in a way that was both nostalgic and familiar.

   “Hi,” I said, feeling like I needed to raise my voice to be heard through all the noise on his end. 

   “Um, this is Luna.” But then there were other people talking, a boy I didn’t know was saying that he was Marcel, through snickers. A third voice came in then, laughing, and asked what I wanted. Not sure who I was talking to at this point, or how many people could hear me, I said that I had a question for Marcel. The second boy’s voice told me to ask away, again pretending he was Marcel. I tried to laugh along with them, but I felt a lump of disappointment grow heavy at the back of my chest. I know that reaching out after so long was a long shot, but I also know that no matter how much time goes by, he will always be special to me. To be met in this way, having the phone thoughtlessly handed over to his friends to mess around with, felt like a betrayal. Yes, our years of spending every recess together, talking while we knitted elephants, and going on missions for our tac collection were long over, but I looked back on those times with a bittersweet smile. He didn’t look back at them at all, it seemed. 

   At this point, it felt a bit stupid asking about the necklace, but they were asking me what my question was, so I asked anyway,

   “Do you remember anything about a shark tooth necklace?”

   Unsurprisingly, he didn’t. But it didn't really matter anymore. I got what I needed from that call, although it had nothing to do with a shark tooth necklace anymore. It got me thinking. This boy and I used to spend hours together, on my slides or on his silks, we did everything together, because 8-year-old me and 8-year-old Marcel were “bestest friends ever.” But 17-year-old Marcel are I are hardly even acquaintances. People grow apart, that is the reality of friendship. 

   Perhaps something can be understood about friendship when one looks at waves; they are unpredictable and fluid, forming a crest and a trough, getting stronger and weaker. And just like waves die down or swell up into tsunamis, friendships have their hardships; they can take on the shape of an argument, or like in my and Marcel’s case, simply loosing touch. But this push and pull of emotional waves that comes along with friendship is not a reason to hold yourself back or be weary of friendships. Someone wouldn’t stop themselves from ever buying a coat just because they might one day outgrow it. 

   After the boys hung up the phone, I sat against my wall thinking. Then I did something else. I turned off the lights and lit a candle. I made tea, put on loud music, got up and started to dance. And it was then, alone at home, with hair in my face and my pajama pants bouncing around my legs, moving in the half dark with music in my ears, that I realized that I am not the waves, but the water. The people in my life are my wind, and sometimes they create waves on my surface, which represent friendship. But other times, I am just a body of still water, without wind, yet the same water nonetheless. I exist as me independently of what is around me. I understood that while friendship is a lovely, special thing, it does not determine my happiness. I create my happiness. Just like the ocean is not defined by the amount of waves that the wind creates upon it, I am not defined by the depth or amount of friendships I have. Because whether there are waves on the water, or if the water is still, it is always water.

November 16, 2021 05:36

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