The thing about oaths is that when life fucks you over thoroughly, you're bound to break them. It would have crushed my eight year old heart to know that there could come a time when Yuri Karamov's hateful glare would stare back at me, burned into my memory. His cruel and merciless expression would give me reoccurring nightmares. But as it was, no one I knew at that time was a clairvoyant and could have predicted our future. Though I'm sure, looking back, that everyone—and I mean everyone—knew that there was no happy ending for us. For Yuri and I.
Had they warned me, at that age, I doubt I would have heeded their warnings. I was too naive—or perhaps better put; I was happy to the point of becoming infallible. Yuri was the first friend I made outside of my family, and we were inseparable ever since that afternoon.
No one could recall a time when we weren't seen together everywhere. Eline tired of us making a mess of her tidy house, and I'm sure there were times she wished that she had never sent me to his house. Yuri's parents were more apprehensive, but soon enough, they too got around to having an additional son in their household.
After several fights with Adriana, it was safe to say that she preferred to keep her distance when Yuri was around. She hung out with us in the beginning, but then slowly started branching out towards her girlfriends.
There would still be times when it would be just the two of us—alone—drinking vegetable broth after school in her room, or spending time after church on Sundays, plucking the first bloom of wildflowers in our backyards. But those times got rarer and rarer.
In school, Yuri and I played outside in the yard, as well as inside Ms Gourdin's classroom. Alternatively, Yuri played ball when Millin was successful in persuading him. Those times Yuri and I were separated were torturously boring. How bleak it felt returning to reading alone, or watching him play ball from my classroom windows.
Things got challenging when we returned to school after having spent our first summer together. It wasn't easy going back to sharing Yuri's attention with his Brommian friends, or as I had started calling them, the Flatlanders.
At the start of our third year, Yuri began attending after-school classes which I couldn't join. A Brommian elder in the flatlands had taken upon herself to teach the youth about their Brommin roots: their language and culture. Yuri left with Millin Ibranov right after school three times a week. Sometimes we would hang out afterwards, riding our bikes downtown, but Millin would always accompany us, and I found that it drained much of the fun.
After some time it felt like there was a cleft enforced between us. Yuri and the Flatlanders would talk and joke amongst themselves in Brommin. The lessons outside of school had given them the confidence to speak their language without fear of the consequences. Speaking Brommin in school was forbidden.
They had formed a tight-knit band of brothers, a gaggle. A unit that walked the hallways inciting both trepidation and awe. I tried my best to befriend them, seeing that Yuri genuinely liked their company, but my every attempt was met with a cold shoulder.
It was hard not to feel inferior to them and feel like they had more to offer Yuri than I had.
One day as I wandered the residence alone after school—restless and blue—Petra stopped me in the corridor to my room. She looked over at me and asked me what was the matter. I confided in her and told her how I was feeling.
She gave me the advice to let Yuri go. Before she had had the chance to explain herself, I felt every fiber of my body resisting the idea. The thought alone was enough to have spiralled me into a deep depression.
She then sat down with me in the kitchen, over a cup of milk tea, and explained that I had to let go of feeling that Yuri belonged to me. I had to free myself of feeling responsible for his moods and entertainment. The best of situations, she explained, was one where we could both be away from each other, comforted by the fact that our friendship was strong enough that when we got back together it would feel as if no time had passed between us.
Despite how counterintuitive her advice had felt right then, it worked. When Yuri was playing ball or wanted to spend time with his Brommian friends, I would go find Adriana. She never rejected me and was happy to see me whenever I came around. I had always borne a slight guilt for choosing Yuri over my own cousin—my blood and flesh. But I realised that I could keep both of them as friends without rivalry getting in the middle.
Peace grew in my mind and I saw that I was not inferior, rather I was valuable and equal, but that I couldn't replace Yuri's old friends; those who shared the same culture and language as him, and with whom he experienced a side of his life I knew little about.
We found a way to remain friends and we grew even closer.
The only way I can adequately describe that point in my life is the feeling you get when you climb under your duvet at night while knowing that you are just where you belong. That's the feeling I get whenever I recall that time in my life.
When we were younger, the seasons shifted so fast. Looking back, it's amazing how little regard I had for the concept of time. Summers seemed to grow into winters in the blink of an eye. Elhem went from yellow in autumn, to green in spring at the same pace the traffic lights changed from one colour to the other.
These days it feels the other way around. However much I try, I can't seem to escape the matrix that is time and space.
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If We ExistGeneral Fiction
🏆A 2018 Wattys Winner🏆 Two boys, one ethnically segregated town. Two sides, one war. Yuri Karamov's existence is like Schrödinger's cat, simultaneously both dead and alive. In Ru Konstantin's mind, Yuri is still the same vibrant young man he was w...