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“Ok then, see you!” I exclaimed over the phone. I was going to meet my best friend, Alfred, after one year. We had both returned to our place of birth for a few days before we were supposed to leave again. After months of planning and excited conversations over the phone, we were finally going to see each other in person. We decided to meet at the town fair, the very place where we had met the first time.
The town fair used to be held once a year, sometimes twice. It used to be the ‘big’ event of our small town. All parents used to take their kids almost every other evening to this fair to spend pleasant and busy evenings. My parents had put me into the same habit. It was in the fair that my parents met Alfred’s parents, with Alfred clinging to his mother’s hand like someone would separate him from his mother. This first meeting took place in front of the magic stall, which was usually the favorite spot for all kids.
Soon, our friendship blossomed. We used to walk home from school together and play board games on the weekend. The sad point came when both of our families had to leave the town for separate places. We did not fail to keep in touch. However, embroiled in our routines, we gradually started to drift apart, not because we were not interested in maintaining our friendship, but because the lack of time and the gap posed by distance was difficult to bridge.
Surprisingly, on one weekend, Alfred called to let me know of his family’s plan to visit the town for a vacation. Initially, none of us thought about planning a get-together. Then, after a few days, I got a bee in my bonnet: I thought we should avail this chance to meet. I immediately discussed this idea excitedly with Alfred and both of us talked to our parents. Interestingly, our parents agreed to our first request. It was as if this moment was waiting for our action.
Luckily, the town fair was going to start too. Recalling our first meeting, Alfred and I decided to meet at the town fair and re-live old memories. I wished to annihilate the intervening days to quickly reach the time of our meeting. The day had finally arrived, and I was getting ready to leave. My parents had left to meet some old friends too. It seemed like everything was coming into place.
The town fair was bustling with people. The happy chatter of the spirited crowd and the sounds of laughter of the innocent kids lifted my spirits also. While I was looking for Alfred amidst the crowd, I found many people of my age-group wandering around in groups. I overheard one of those persons while they were passing. I found out that they were also meeting after a couple of years. Even my heart was smiling. I was finding peace in the middle of so much noise.
While I dawdled around, I stopped at a few garment stalls. Different varieties of clothes were on display. Dull colors failed to attract me. I was captured by the look of bright colored clothes that mirrored my feelings at those moments. I looked around for some jacket to give to Alfred as a gift. A cream-colored sweater caught my eye. I touched it to feel the fabric and its softness and warmth won my heart. I bought it immediately.
The stalls with the brightest lights were also pulling me towards themselves. Different colored lights kept twinkling to keep the town fair alive and winking at the visitors. The temperature that day was medium, not so cold and not so hot either. But I felt a strange kind of warmth engulfing me.
My eyes were still searching for Alfred when a voice extremely close to my ear scared the wits out of me. I turned around in shock and found Alfred in a peal of laughter. He had not changed. He still had the naughty eyes and the thin physique. I gave him a ‘best friend’ hug. Seeing us so emotional at that time, several people smiled while passing by us, probably content with the fact that such friendships still existed on this earth.
We had so much to tell each other. I handed over his gift to him while a song was being played at the back. Upon the sight of the gift, he started to dance on the song, and I enjoyed a pretty good laugh at his awkward movements. We had always had phones and internet to stay in touch, but it was altogether different in person. However, for the first few minutes, we just silently walked along each other’s side. While our mouths did not utter a word, our hearts were silently conversing with each other amidst all the hustle and bustle. Whiffs of barbecue sauce emanated from different places. The food vendors were calling everyone to try out their stalls. A few new food cuisines could also be seen and smelt. Every food item looked sumptuous as we passed by the freshly-made food. We passed by a stall of potato fries, and the fragrance of the chips tugged at us. We had always loved fries. At precisely the same moment, we turned around, pulled by the sizzling fries.
Once we started champing, our emotions subsided and words found their way into our mouths. We gradually began to fill in the details of what had transpired after we had left the town. Both of us were then busily talking, narrating stories of new adventures and new friends and new places. In those moments, we were oblivious to our surroundings, involved in the narrations of each other. However, the town fair provided the perfect milieu. The happiness that was emanating from my heart was also being reflected by the people in my surroundings. Wift
While walking, we came to the swings portion of the fair. The Ferris wheel was waiting for passengers. Alfred pulled me to the swing and in the next minute, we were both inside a cabin. Memories began to penetrate my mind; memories of sitting together in the cabin for the first time. Alfred had been whining to his mother that he was scared and that he could not sit. But she gave him my example, told him to be a brave boy, and made him sit with me. Seeing him so nervous, even I began to get the goose-bumps. Once the Ferris wheel started, Alfred had become calmer and by the end, he was thoroughly enjoying it.
With those memories accompanying us, we enjoyed the ride of our life. It was amazing how such a simple thing as a Ferris wheel ride could feel so magical. The bright town fair lights and the loud music in the background were painting the picture of a festival, and we felt like an essential part of the festivities.
After the mesmerizing ride, we started to randomly walk again. The crowd was becoming thinner as night approached. Kids, apparently tired by all the running, were now preparing to go home. Clouds were also taking shape in the night sky and so; everyone was trying to rush home. We kept talking and walking till we reached the magic stall – the same shop that had been the place of our first meeting several years ago. The magician had changed, but the stall’s location was still the same. Alfred also recognized the stall and stopped walking. He looked around and started to recall all the times that we had had together at the town fair. Despite all odds, he said, our friendship had survived, and that was the best part.
We were standing in front of the same magic stall when we realized that it was time to leave. With promises of meeting the next day, Alfred and I left the town fair. My parents had come to pick me up, and I left.
The next morning, I heard that Alfred had been hit by a car on his way back home. He had died on his way to the hospital. Immeasurable grief took hold of me. I tried to reason with myself to convince myself that he was still alive. But somehow, I could not take it out of my mind that the last time I had seen him was at the magic stall - the same place at which I had met him the first time.
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