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Out of breath
Thinking of my best friend, wherever she is

By Sima Asgari
December 17, 2001
The Iranian

Do you remember the first best friend of your life? I do. Sharifi was not only the first best but the best best friend I've ever had. But I have lost her for so many years now.

I even don't remember the first time we met. She was my classmate in the first grade. She was the only person I respected. She was a very bright girl with the most gorgeous eyes and the most beautiful handwriting I had ever seen -- even for a first grader.

She lived in a huge old house near ours. Each room was rented to an entire family. They were poor, very poor. I remember she never had any socks on, even on the coldest days of winter in Arak where we used to get more than 30 centimeters of snow.

She had to use her pencils to the very end until they disappeared. I remember her red fingers when she tried hard to write with such a short pencil but still, with the same beautiful handwriting.

She was never ashamed or sad about being the poorest student in class. On the contrary she always challenged other girls to write with her super short pencil. I remember all the girls in our class offering her a new pencil but she always refused with a proud smile.

Sharifi had a health problem too. She was born with a weak heart. She was always pale and couldn't run and play with other children. It was good for me though because as a lazy child I could sit and talk to my favorite friend during breaks.

Our teacher was a very kind lady who didn't have any children and loved all of us. She behaved more like a mother than a teacher. When we did something wrong she used to pinch our cheeks. I remember one day me and Sharifi where so busy with talking that we didn't see the teacher walking towards us.

She took us by the cheek and pulled. It was so painful we both had to stand up. She pulled harder until we had to stand on our toes to the point that we couldn't get any taller. Then all of a sudden she let go of our burning cheeks and we fell on the chair. All the children laughed. We laughed with them and started talking again with red circle on our cheeks.

I have been a student for almost 12+4.5+6.5=21 years now, but I have never been as happy as that first year. It was all for Sharifi.

The first grade ended and summer vacation came. I went to her house to look for her and was told her family had moved out. Where? Nobody knew. Was she all right? I never found out. Where is she today? I don't know. What happened to her beautiful and weak heart? Is she still alive? I have been asking these questions for the past 30 years.

Now that I look back I wonder why I didn't do anything to help her? Why didn't I share what I had with her? Why didn't I offer her to use my pencil? Why didn't I buy a pair of socks for her as a winter present ? I was 7-years old and couldn't think of doing such things because she was such a proud and happy person.

Now that I am writing these lines, I miss her so much... I find it difficult to breath.

My dear Sharifi, wherever you are, I hope you are still the same proud, beautiful and bright lady you were. I hope you are warm and happy. I hope you have children who have socks and tall pencils. And I want you to know that I will always love you.

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