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August 21, 2006

Standing alone again on the brink of a gulf of solitude can be particularly enlightening. I am stronger than I have ever been, I fear nothing, for I know that you are with me. Thank you, Crys, Jane, Sal, thank you so much for your countless kindnesses, your willing ears, your comforting arms and words. I am so much the better for knowing you, I am so much the wiser, happier, angrier, fuller, so much more human.

We are on the edge of the rest of our lives – they will diverge, they must. Twenty years on, who knows? Will what the fortune-tellers have said come to pass? Or will we fulfill our own prophecies, will our fortunes turn because we will them to.

I am as excited as you are, Crystal, or as fearful. Why are the things of our youth (two years ago) so far away from where we are now? So many things separate us, over and over – conscription, physical distance, death, disease, birth control, love, time difference. I keep all your smses in my handphone inbox, Crys, but I am slowly learning to delete them. Not because I no longer love you, but because I must try to forget. There is no logic to nostalgia – to remember everything is a form of madness. If anything, England has been a blessing (we were always too similar – the sane parts became saner, the good better, the strong stronger still, but the mad parts became madder, and the sad sadder). We take with each other what we must, and what we will. I am still as in love with you as the first day that I rued we would never be friends.

Jane – you were the one whom I felt fragile under my fingers, I shuddered to hug you because you were so small, so vulnerable, and I didn’t know what to do with your hurt. When ages ago, before we drifted apart and came back together and drifted apart and came back together, you called me in an angry, tearful fit, I didn’t know what to do but cry myself, and feel your raw pain on my own skin, in my own gut, and try my best to shield you from yourself and your life. But I have learnt not to underestimate you and your reserves of strength – trying to protect you only patronises you, a form of reverse-colonialisation, to make you need me so that you would need me. You know, more than ever, what you want in life, and you know that you will achieve whatever you set out to if you want to. Never doubt yourself – I have learnt not to doubt you.

When I first met you, Salman, I must have been intimidated. Who isn’t, when meeting a personality of such proportions? You must have hated me, I must have resorted to sex as a defence mechanism, put you off with my unneccessary frankness. But thank god for Puma shoes, and that shopping trip. Calling you my friend is one of the greatest pleasures and honours I have in my life, and whenever I meet new people I always want them to meet you, first of all. You have drawn out all that is me, all that is my own, and refined it. Opposition and agreement with you develops self-consciousness and self-awareness. You constantly undermine all my assumptions about life with your sense of humour and your generosity – two opposing poles between which you are finely poised, laughing at and loving at the same time.

So – the psychologist, the architect, the diplomat – and I the economist. Will we be what we think we will be, or will we open up ourselves to the vagaries of living and life, and be enriched by what we must experience? Twenty years on, with our children (will I have children? will I even be alive?) and our families and our husbands and our pets and our similarities and our differences, we will be beyond our own present recognition. But wherever we will be must needs be a product of where we have been – and on the occasion of the matriculation of one of my best friends in one of the best schools on earth, I thank you, Crystal, Jane, Salman, for challenging me, changing me, amazing me.

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