An essay by Justina Chong
Sometimes I’m scared I have nothing to say. This fear makes me want to hide in a hole in the ground and stare at my feet. Well, the other day, when I was staring at my feet, I saw my big toe poking out of my sock.
I stitched up the hole like a bad scar on a cartoon pirate. I gathered all my other socks with holes in them and put them through the sewing machine. Then I found an old sketchbook and began to draw.
I made a stack of postcards and sent them far away from here, one to Japan, one all the way to Whitehorse, another to my own mailbox.
I sent a postcard to my childhood best friend. When I was ten years old and my family moved from Hong Kong to Toronto, my best friend and I wrote each other every week. I found a shoebox full of her letters the other day. She’d write about her friends, the music she loved, her desire to run for student council. She’d experiment with printing address labels off the computer and teaching herself to play the guitar. She had a baby a few months ago, and this makes me smile. Her baby is lucky to have such a generous and creative mother, just as I’m lucky I had such a generous and creative friend when I needed someone to talk to twenty years ago.
I sent a postcard to a friend in Toronto. In the winter we used to wait by the window in chemistry class hoping for a good snowfall. If the snow was very good, we would take the cross-country skis from the Phys. Ed. equipment room and race down the Beltline Trail, teenaged snow-nerd maniacs ripping through the city after school. When my friend received her postcard, she emailed to tell me about her life now. She’s doing her residency, and she’s figuring out a way to make the most of her talents and knowledge to help other people. I’m not sure she knows, but she’s always inspired me to think about how I can be more helpful, too. I’m still working on this.
I sent a postcard to a friend who left Hong Kong when her father died at the end of last year. She is one of the strongest people I know. It’s a good thing I didn’t Google her before I met her because then I might have been too intimidated to talk to her. She puts her head down and gets stuff done, especially when things get tough. She writes her way through the world and takes no bullshit. She reminds me to cut the bad noise out of my life to make room for other voices to sing. Maybe I’d be happier if I listened to her harder.
I don’t remember what I wrote to each of my friends. But I remember how once upon a time we occupied the same time and space and shared our stories and secrets and dreams with each other. Isn’t that something?
I sent these postcards to my friends to say: “Hey. I’m alive. I wonder how you are doing.” I guess that’s what I’ll always have to say, and that’s more than enough.
First published on Justina Forever.