Coming of Age Contemporary Friendship

This story contains themes or mentions of suicide or self harm.

Our friendship was so special to me, I thought of it like a song. My favourite song. We kept it on repeat.

I glance around. We're all waiting to board the flight and we all know it should have started ten minutes ago. There's no reason offered for the delay. It gives me time to read the email I wrote again. It gives me time to decide whether to send it or not.

It was one of those beautiful songs, that was true, touching and eternal. Written by mother earth herself. A sound the earth makes, that water makes, that the wind makes in the trees.

I look up at the large Boeing 747 behind the glass windows that make up the wall. That's my ride, if I get on. Ground crew fuss around it. A mechanic checks one of the large turbine engines and two other people load the luggage into the hull. Generally, they get the bird ready to fly.

Even when nature was angry, it was still natural. The tsunami destroying our lands. The cyclone winds whipping up whispers I'd never heard before. You'd know that would always subside. That there would be another tomorrow. If you survived today.

The departure lounge smells of exhausted furniture and overly-polished floor. The fluorescent lights torture the passengers to stay awake. 

An old lady in the chairs opposite stares at me. She's old enough not to be uncomfortable doing it. I try to ignore her but it's quite the glare. I wonder what she's thinking. Maybe she thinks my hair is unnaturally blonde. Or maybe she recognises a kindred soul, separated only by the chasm of time. 

And then tomorrow arrived, and the birds sang, the bees were lazy amongst the flowers beneath the trees and you would be lying in the meadow, laughing about something whimsical. I can never remember what you would laugh about but it was funny every time. Then you’d stop laughing, rest your face on your hand and gaze at me, your black hair falling about your soft-brown eyes. I think back now and it was like a dream. A yellow-haze of memory, with wind swaying pampas grass and you chewing on the end of a piece of long grass.

First class and persons needing assistance are being called. Air stewards help the old lady to her feet. Her face is set to grim determination as she pushes off the chair and gingerly reaches out, hands shaking, for the handles of her walker.

My seat number is in economy. There's still time to get up and get out of here if I want. Just leave the airport, go home to Mum and Dad and conform. Find a man who may not respect me, have babies, and grow old. Perhaps be like the old lady. Perhaps that was envy in her eyes when she was looking at me. Perhaps she has only just got the courage to leave Tokyo.

I'm not sure I ever told you that I loved you. That is something I regret now. We were friends, best friends, but it was more than that for me. My parents hated our friendship. Wanted to know where we were going, what we were doing. They suspected how I felt, but never said it. I suspected you knew how I felt, but never returned it. And so the tune started to change.

The next passengers they call to board are seated at the back of economy, so I am still waiting. A queue forms. Travellers stand. Many are looking at their phones. Some look around, tired and weary. Carry-on bags punctuate the queue with green, red, blue, and black.

Sometimes you were too busy to spend time with me. One time you'd said that but then I saw you with Yamato and how you looked at him, and I knew then that we would only ever be friends. Our song turned melancholic then, like the blues. Where I'd heard the earth make nature sounds, silence descended. I noticed shadows more than light, and fallen leaves more than evergreen trees.

A gritty voice comes over the intercom and it is my turn to board. I get to my feet sluggishly and shuffle into the queue like a herded animal. 

I thought about taking my life. I'm ashamed, but it's true. When you were the only good thing there, what can I say? But like the breath taken after being submerged too long, I surfaced. Spring reluctantly follows winter, and green shoots force through the languid soil, and so I carried on. That's what our people do, we carry on.

"Ma'am, boarding pass and passport, please," the flight attendant says. He has a red tie, a navy blazer and a serious smile.

I hand them over. He reviews them, looks me up and down, and then hands them back.

"Have a pleasant flight."

I nod and smile and shuffle into the metal tunnel that leads to the plane's door. I freeze a moment. People shuffle past me. Maybe I should just turn back, it’s not too late. But, no. I don’t want to be like the old lady, I don’t want a life of regret. And I’m not regretful. What I’m really trying to say is thank you. Thank you and goodbye.

I wish you the happiest of lives, Hana. Our song was wonderful for sure, but the vinyl has worn thin and the turntable has stopped turning. Thank you for the music. I'm going to escape, explore new cities and US states, and my soul will be free-flowering in these new soundscapes.

I stride to the aircraft door. The air hostess grins. "Welcome aboard," she says. She has a slender figure, I notice, and blush. 

“Thank you very much,” I say back, trying to pronounce the words the way I’d learnt them. 

I walk down the aisle of the plane and find my seat. I sit and buckle my seat belt. I press the send button on the screen of my phone to send the email and turn my phone to airplane mode.

June 14, 2023 01:40

You must sign up or log in to submit a comment.


Michał Przywara
20:36 Jun 22, 2023

A bittersweet story, but it ends on a hopeful note. "Spring reluctantly follows winter" indeed, and we end on spring and a journey to a new country. I like interlacing the airport scene with the email, as it gives us both the present moment - and the big dramatic question of "will she leave or stay?" - and the background for it. But the very fact the email already exists tells us a lot too. She's written it, she's ready to move on, and though she's got jitters this is a done deal. This is her healing process and she's done mourning what mi...


William Richards
10:41 Jun 23, 2023

Thank you so much for reading, and thank you even more for such a useful and insightful review. I think you're right, the description of the airport helps ground things (before take off lol)... but my conscious intention there was to try and counterbalance the slightly more poetic language of the email. I wish I could have made it a bit longer actually but I was quite pleased with it so didn't want to risk compromising it.


Show 0 replies
Show 1 reply
07:03 Jun 28, 2023

This is really interestingly structured with the back and forth between the all-business reality of the airport and the lyrical goodbye letter. I did want a little more: what about the old lady suggested a life of settling? And the need to flee to a place where anonymity allows her to be her authentic self weighs so powerfully: what’s the argument for staying? These are not corrections—the answers might be clear to someone more familiar with the culture or the unspoken assumptions might be the point—they’re just thoughts it provoked. Nice work.


William Richards
11:06 Jun 28, 2023

Hi Anne, thanks for reading. I 100% agree with your comments. I do feel this story is a little under developed. I think I'd written a different story, hated it, and then wrote this last minute. I was adding details just to get over the 1000 word count (I think it was 1010 in the end), which is a big hint that I needed to flesh it out a bit more.


Show 0 replies
William Richards
11:09 Jun 28, 2023

By the way, I checked out your comic poetry site... the one about the koalas had me in stitches


12:27 Jun 28, 2023

Thanks for checking out the website—I haven’t kept it up much recently. I think your writing here is beautiful, last minute or not!


Show 0 replies
Show 1 reply
Show 2 replies
Mike Panasitti
14:57 Jun 26, 2023

This is a longer and far more poetic take on a human dilemma that has most memorably been addressed by the Clash's "Should I Stay or Should I Go." Well done.


William Richards
11:03 Jun 28, 2023

Very true. And I had that ear worm with me for the rest of the day after reading your comment! But not a bad thing. Epic tune.


Show 0 replies
Show 1 reply
RBE | Illustration — We made a writing app for you | 2023-02

We made a writing app for you

Yes, you! Write. Format. Export for ebook and print. 100% free, always.