There used to be a girl my age who lived across the street from me back in the house where I grew up. I called her 99. I never could make out what was on her mind even though we spent everyday together for 15 long years. We used to race each other, running bare-footed on the tar road. She would always let me win. I knew that little fact only years later as I look back to those childhood days. I never knew the reason why. Being with her was like going on a roller-coaster – scary and exciting at the same time.
99 was a pretty good story-teller. On rainy days, when the streets got too wet, we would lock ourselves up in the bedroom with the curtains drawn shut and she would make up stories, then stopping halfway, expecting me to end it for her. These stories would leave me with feelings that I never could put into words long after the stories themselves have been forgotten.
99 was not the nickname I gave to her. If I remember correctly, she had made it up herself. Her codename, as she called it.
The last time I saw her, we were both 19. 99 was sitting on the bonnet of my car, an old faded mustard Mazda. I stood leaning against the passenger door. The sun was setting and dark clouds stretched across the sky. She looked so far away that I was afraid at any minute she would disappear into nothingness right before my eyes.
What are you thinking of? I asked.
Instead of replying, she made me promise to never forget that day, with the wind in her hair, and that every year, on that same day, I would come back here to the place and time that belong to only the two of us.
She’s got the wind in her hair. I couldn’t stop thinking.
That was the very last time I saw 99.
I still go back to that place in time every year without fail. I know this hope that I have of seeing her again will never fade with time. Sometimes I wonder where she is as I imagine the life that she must be living up somewhere out there in this vast world.
I hope she lives good.