Dear Mah,

When I met you that summer, we spent a good week together on an island and woke up to the crash of waves and different lives criss-crossing. We were strangers when I hopped on that white van looking for escape, for hope, meaning and reason- I dont remember that day, but I guess I smiled at you all the same.

In the island you were one of the strongest swimmers- and I admired you for that. It looked like you were born with golden skin and a form that reminds me of the moon waving at the sea. You paddled out all the time into the seaweed, poking out all the small fish and crabs you could see. I still remember how your laugh sounds as you rise from the water below.

At night you loved the liquor as much as the rest of us did- and you were great at it. Stories with unfamiliar characters Ive spent picturing out in the corner filling up faces to names attached to good memories. You were always smiling and laughing. I knew you loved the continental breakfast from all the mornings weve shared, a meager seven days in an island, looking for meaning and purpose.

It was funny when you get pissed at the kids who you didnt like. At night you clung to Paige cause you loved them at the end of the day, grateful to the sand and the sea for consolation.

Mah, I still remember your smile and how we said goodbye as we leapt out of the van and into the concrete jungle that afternoon, and I was secretly wishing that we could all know each other better. The island, the sea, the people, yes, including you, made last summer change how I see life.

You were an old soul, passionate, seeking meaning and happiness, just like all of us here in this world. I wonder where you are now, and I wonder if you ever read this, would you smile and pinch me by the side? You were like the older sister I never had.

Mah, I wish I got to hear your story from you. I wish seven days wasnt too short to tell me your story. I wish all the time in between the day we met and until the last time you remained, I could have been there at least to share a few with you. Did you know I smoke now too? Wouldve shared a pack with you. Im all grown up now, left behind a lot of things to abandon and chance, just how youve always said. Like the waves. By chance, by fate.

I never would have imagined you as a girl Id write about, but Ive turned your memory into literature. Youll never be gone, and youre solar golden in our hearts and minds- a part of me that youve written so meticulously without knowing so yourself.

Mariani, I wish you all the sun and the sand and the sea as much as you loved it, and I hope where you are is as sunny as the days we’ve spent together with the rest. There’ll be always one seat for you, a glass of beer, and a pair of dry towels waiting for you. We’ll be missing you.

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