It could be because I’m inexorably moving towards senior citizen status that childhood memories seem to become clearer and dearer. Sometimes I suddenly remember things so deeply buried into my mind that I almost feel a jolt when they break through the veil of oblivion.

There are, however, events and people that time never coats in the dust of forgetfulness. Like that one special childhood friend – you know, the kind that feels like an extra appendage. You go to school and play together, take turns dining and spending the night at each other’s place…in short, you skip and hop through childhood hand in hand.

Then you grow up and life often gets in the way of these precious friendships. You do your best to keep them going and sometimes you succeed. We couldn’t. The reason? The most banal of all – distance.

My childhood appendage, Mariyana, was a golden girl. Blond locks, sparkling blue eyes, a brilliant smile, a feisty and compassionate nature. We spent our early years joined at the hip. The first crush, the first cigarette, secrets and lies – we shared them all.

When my family moved to the other side of the country, I was devastated. Children are resilient, as we keep hearing, but some things you just never get over. Even though time dulls the searing pain these memories used to cause, you still feel a stab through the heart whenever you remember. The spasm goes away quickly but never stays away for long. It will likely keep coming back until the day you check out for good.

After our paths diverged, I only got to see Mariyana once in the span of a decade. Then the trail grew totally cold and stayed that way for 27 years!

As the title indicates, we have a “happy ending” story here. It features Facebook (what doesn’t these days?!) and has Mariyana in the starring role. I’m a humble extra whose only contribution consists of finally succumbing to herd behaviour and joining the Facebook swarm. This is how she found me and got in touch. Within a month, she was on her way to my place.

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Still radiant after all those years!

These are surreal moments and people usually lack the words to describe them. In moments like these, you believe that the universe is indeed on your side and there might just be such things as miracles. When I saw her there in the street, with her suitcase at her feet and that brilliant smile on her face, my heart skipped several beats and then all was right with the world. And time…No such concept exists when you find yourself in a situation like this. The years fall away and your heart can hardly contain all the joy, love and relief. The relief comes from having a hollow within close up at last.

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Parting after our second meeting in as many months (November 2016)

We got our happy new beginning, I’m thrilled to report. Life remains in the way but no longer distressingly so. She has been living in Italy for the past 12 years and we won’t be getting together very often. But you know what? It’s fine. At the very least, we have all those social platforms and messaging apps to keep in touch. The truly important thing is that we have rebuilt the bridge riven by time and circumstances. We now stand on the reinforced structure older, maybe wiser and definitely still full of the childhood wonder and devotion of all those years ago.