You know that one budak ganjil in school who mostly kept to herself but was not particularly hated; who didn’t fit into any cliques but was not a complete outsider either?
It’s not, “Lalitha is a horrible person, I don’t friend her lah.”
It’s more like, “Umm, yeah Lalitha, you can sit with me at kantin if you want, I guess.”
Well, I’m Lalitha. Always hovering somewhere along the fine line between popularity and utter oblivion. I was a happy loner most of the time, yet my aching chest craved for the one female-adolescent essential- one genuine friend.
This was not just a thought of pure desire. It was a longing that came after loss as I recalled the imaginary friends I created in my head to get me through tadika and the early days of primary school.
It’s a common coping mechanism kids resort to, mostly to combat loneliness and boredom, I suppose. Except my imaginary best friend(s) lacked the common traits and instead was a young girl possessing a single body with two identical heads, sprouting out of two separate necks connected to the same torso.
Only one could speak, while the other simply had a perpetually wanly, unblinking expression. Still, I considered each to be her own person.
Both faces were beautiful, with dainty features and thick, dark brown tocang dua hair just like mine. They came to me at my lowest, when I was just starting preschool, nervous and unwilling to mingle with other children my age. Being an only child with hostile usahawan cousins who were much older, I was not used to it.
I sought refuge in their company as the talking head had a tragic tale to tell- that she, like me, did not have any close friends as she was always ostracised by her peers.
She could not attend school as she would scare the other kids, so we usually ‘met up’ in my bedroom at night, after my busy (my way of politely saying negligent) parents had gone to sleep. I don’t remember how she found her way to my home, or how she knew I was living there, but at that age, it was the least of my concerns.
I grew attached to them quickly and I firmly believe that they played a big part in bettering my childhood. I always had a good night’s sleep after my pillow talks with the one head as well. She understood me perfectly and I trusted her with all my heart. I must’ve been the only person happy to have a two-faced best friend.
I told my mother about her, but left out the part where she was deformed and would not come out during the day- not that either of my parents would have cared enough to ask.
It went something like, “Amma, I have a friend. She’s pretty and a lembut hati kinda girl.”
“Oh, that’s nice, chello. I have to go now, see you later.”
I don’t remember how exactly we ‘lost touch’, but I guess I had outgrown them by the time I was around 9. I found myself thinking of them often and trying to conjure them up again during my preteen years but it was never the same. Talking to them when I was younger felt so real, so effortless, like the animate head had a sentient mind of her own. After that, it was just like speaking to myself. My image of them seemed to fade over the years as well.
It was painful. People say losing your first love hurts the most, but I think the brunt of an evanescing friendship is the closest thing to unbearable. Nevertheless, I decided it was time to grow up and get over my first best friends.
Now, 10 years later, I’ve made a notable companion out of my sweet, devoted husband, Danen. I fell pregnant a mere month into our marriage, and, to my mother-in-law’s horror, miscarried four months later.
I was very careful with my pregnancy, deeming it my chance at a full life closely resembling my greatest ideal- a close-knit, simple family. I avoided strange cravings (ikan bilis and peanut butter, mostly) if they could pose even the mildest of risks to the baby and Danen would not allow me to even bend down to cukur my legs. Confused, angered and wronged- that’s how I felt.
Sobbing on my hospital bed after my D&C, my nurse and husband consoled me while the doctor insisted that it was not my fault. Some things just cannot be foreseen, nor prevented. He asked about my family history, explaining that theoretically, inexplicable recurrent miscarriages can be familial in nature.
I told him about the strained relationship I had with my mother but called her up to ask anyway.
“Ma, have you ever miscarried before?”
All choked up with a hint of pity in her voice, she told me that she had indeed, at 18 weeks. I was a year and 2 months old. No one told me about it because apparently, “it seemed unnecessary and was something to forget about”. That’s another way of saying, “What would the neighbours think?”
Anyway, Amma told me that they were dicephalic parapagus female twins. Two heads, one body, conjoined at the spine. My parents barely had time to process the situation and come up with plans of surgery or future separation when one of them died in her womb, followed by the other one a week later.
She wept as she narrated the tragic ordeal to me in detail, telling me how deeply affected Appa was, how he grew distant and cold. How she excused his neglectful behaviour due to the fact that he had been mourning the loss of his unborn children.
How she buried herself in work and smoked beedis in attempt to dissolve the pain. How determined she was to have a live birth and was about to take a personal loan to cover all the medical fees. How she had named them and purchased baby books to document their early years, that now lay empty on the shelf next to mine.
Lakshmi and Lavinia. My sisters, and my first best friends.
* All illustrations AI-generated by nightcafe.studio & hotpot.ai
* Malaysian Mystery Memoirs is a series of fictional horror tales by JUICE, for entertainment purposes only. Any similarities to actual persons or situations are purely coincidental.