I got some great news, which I look at as a brilliant Christmas present, the other day. I was at the grocery store when an email came in, which I was able to check while I was shopping (one reason to love smart phones), that made me giddy with excitement. It was from my best friend, Nabeel, and in it he said that he was in The Hamptons with his sister for the holidays and that he was free after the New Year before flying back home to Stuttgart. Yes, Germany.
Nabeel and I became fast friends and close friends during my last two years of school in Hong Kong. He's Pakistani, from Bristol, and I think we were in the same English Lit and/or Geography set at Island School. We also lived close to one another. I was at the now leveled 21 Tung Shan Terrace on Stubbs Road and he was at Villa Monte Rosa a couple miles up the road, if you went by car, but only about a half mile or so walk if you cut behind Tung Shan Terrace and across Bowen Road.
After moving to America, before the mass use of email and the internet, Nabeel and I kept in touch with letters. As happens when you get older and busier, the letters slowed down and eventually ceased but we were always in touch via mutual friends who'd travel to the States or when I'd travel to England and visit my sister. When the internet and email exploded, we kept in touch that way but with both of us busy - on the phone today, I just found that he's only home something like three days a week traveling for work to Moscow, Köln, Vienna, you name it - our correspondence is irregular except on our birthdays and holidays. Nonetheless, when we do catch up, it feels like it always has and that no time has passed between us.
With Facebook, although he's not on it, we manage to keep up with each other through mutual friends who are. And, thanks to all of this social networking and digital communication, Nabeel and I will be getting together tomorrow. Naturally, I am thrilled and counting down the hours. He and I have gone through a lot since we last saw each other in 1997 during the handover of Hong Kong back to China. We've experienced personal and professional ups and downs. I've gotten married and become a father. We've talked about Jude being the next generation of Hong Konger, at least by blood or association anyway.
Tomorrow, we'll catch up, reminisce, talk about what's to come and when we part I'll be happy but I'll also be sad. I'll feel emotions for the same reason. Nabeel and I are friends regardless but, as classmates do, he represents some of the best days of my life and reinforces the longing for those days or, at least, the feelings of those days. For those who know me, I've established a life here in America but I've never really felt like America is home. Hong Kong is. Always will be. I know we all have to move on in our lives but for nostalgia, history, not forgetting where I came from, remembering the 'good old times' I will never completely let go of Hong Kong and Nabeel is a huge part of my Hong Kong. I believe that wherever we would've met, Nabeel and I would've become the same fast and close friends that we are. Our friendship is extra special because it was forged in such a special place that Hong Kong is and a place that I call my home.
I have a brother but the way things in our lives developed we never became close. I love him because he's my brother but I don't know if I can call him 'my friend," if that makes any sense. Nabeel, in my heart, mind and soul is both friend and brother. I love him and I cherish our almost thirty year friendship. And I can't wait to see him tomorrow.