Read on as two young people (who are taught to hate each other) end up as best friends!
I was born a Jew and I was brought up as a Jew. My parents told me to always hate Germans and never let the Germans at school bully me around, but I never know why. They said it was because of something terrible that happened decades ago in World War 2, and yet it seems unfair. It’s like holding a grudge on nanny for lying to me and not bringing me to the park one afternoon, three years ago! And it’s not like all Germans did those things. But in class, I’ve been able to keep invisible to the bully Germans. I want to always help out when I see my classmate Jews getting bullied, but mommy and daddy said it’s best not to get involved. I’m still confused though, I just don’t understand why.
I was born a German and I’ve been brought up to be like normal children. I go to school with Jews and I see them as friends, just the very first time I see anyone else. It’s weird because all the German children always come to me and play with me, but the Jews don’t. They go off in their own groups and glance as us, but never look us in the eye, as if we Germans may hurt them. I asked my mommy and daddy, but all they said was, “Don’t worry, just don’t get into any fights.” I wonder at that because Germans are real nice to me, but once, I saw the same nice people doing bad stuff to boys in our class, pushing them and calling them names. It confuses me, every time I try to get near a Jewish child, they shy away in fear and leave me by myself. I think the German boys who bully the Jewish boys think I approach them to beat them up so they always hang out with me, but I merely wanted to ask for help.
One day after school, I met a German boy. At first, I wanted to quickly stay invisible and get out of his way, like mommy and daddy says, but he seemed different from the other boys. I stood and looked at him and he looked at me too. I guess it was a mutual feeling somehow, like we were meant to be friends, even though we were brought up to hate each other. We didn’t do anything but continue staring though. Then I had to go home, so I left. I keep wondering about that boy and how we looked at each other, two separate beings, but not separate, having a mutual peaceful friendship. I hope we can be real friends one day.
I met a Jewish girl after school today. I don’t remember seeing her anywhere before, maybe because I’m always so busy and never have time to look. Or maybe she hides her face from us Germans like the other children do so we don’t pick on them. The cool thing is that she didn’t look away when I looked at her. We’re so different, and so the same, but she looked at me. I hope I will speak to her one day for real because I would really like to be her friend.
It’s the first day of school. I hope I will be able to talk to the boy. I’ve been planning to talk to him for a long time, but he’s always surrounded by the German kids who bully us around. I never get a chance. But I see him alone at a tree right now, so I should quickly go and talk to him before the bullies come.
I’m finally alone. I look around to see if I can find the girl I want to speak to. I can’t seem to find her in the crowd of excited friends coming back to school to meet friends again. I sigh. But then I hear a word behind me, something like, “Hello.” in a small and timid voice. I turn around to see the girl and I look her up close or the first time. She is beautiful, even without blond hair and blue eyes. I say hi back shyly and we look at each other and there is silence. Then we open our mouths at the same time and try to speak, but we both stop because we’re letting each other go first. The girl grins timidly and gestures for me to go first. I say,”What’s your name?” And she says, “Judith, what’s yours?” I reply,”I’m Alwin.” We talk for a long time because we came early to school, and just when the bell rings, my German friends come over. I see fear in Judith’s eyes and she says sorry quickly and walks away.
I’ve never talked to Alwin much after that chance in Grade 3. But here’s my chance now. It’s a cold winter night and I see him sitting on a bench right outside our school. A lamp post hangs over his head, I guess it’s enough light for the book he’s sticking his nose in. I walk to him carefully and sit down beside him, as far as possible. He keeps reading, then looks up with a puzzled face. When he sees me, he looks surprised, but then he smiles and it’s so nice because his clear blue eyes sparkle brightly when he smiles like that. “What book are you reading,” I ask. And he immediately seem to sparkle and glow as he talks about the book.
It’s a great surprise to have Judith here with me. No one understands my feelings for books, but Judith listens to my words with awe and enthusiasm. I like that about her. I don’t want to bore her though, so I start a new topic. I ask her what’s her favourite book. Her brown and joyful eyes light up and she begins her story about her favourite book, and that’s the first time I think both of us has found someone who enjoys to read books.
We’ve been secretly friends for the past three years now. I don’t really understand, even now, how we managed to do it. I guess it was a bit of luck and a bit of me hiding my hair colour and hiding my face in winter just to read a book with him after school in winter. It turned into a tradition. Whenever it snowed, we would meet under the lamp post and read a book together for as long as possible, then one of us would have to leave and we’d part paths. We wrote letters to one another and passed it to each other by sticking them into the gaps between our lockers. We’re careful to make sure it isn’t going into someone else’s locker. I love him very much, he’s been my best friend for a long time.
She’s been my friend for so long, without anyone knowing! I sincerely hope this lasts, because I just love her and her personality. I always cherish the days it snows, because we can read together without anyone interfering and asking about us. We’re careful, maybe a little too much, but we already knew the consequences of anyone finding out. I’m sure this will start up a new sort of protest. If only we could find more people like us…
I’m meeting Alwin under the lamp post again and I’m excited. The snow is nice and soft, my favourite kind of snow. I see him and he sees me, so I run over to him and nearly knock his breath out when i jump onto him with happiness. “Ow” He says and we both laugh. Then he notices something on my face and brushes off something. I try to look at what he’s got, but he won’t let me have it. I whine and pretend to be a puppy. He laughs.
I finally let go of the object, fascinated and scared to see her expression as I open the palms of my hands. Her eyes suddenly fly to their maximum width and she stifles an exclamation or maybe even a scream of joy. She hugs me and says thank you so many times, that I lost count. She hold up the gift I made for her, a small clay sculpture of the two of us on a bench together, this bench actually, reading a book comfortably. This is the first time I’ve given her a gift for Christmas. Apparently she made something for me too. “Wait ‘till you see this!” She smiles. She takes out a box and puts it in my hand. I open it slowly and see the most beautiful present in the world. I smile at her and put the box aside, jumping up and knocking her to the ground in a bear hug. We’re both so happy it’s almost like we’re drunk. Then we both laugh and make snow angels in the snow together with the soft and powdery snow settling upon us. We’re the best of friends and we’re going to stay this way…
It’s Christmas again and it’s a snowy one. It’s almost a blizzard outside, but it’s a special day, so I’m at the bench right now. I can’t wait to give my present to Alwin. I wait and wait, but he doesn’t come and I’m getting worried. But just as soon as I begin to think he’s had a horrible accident, out of the storm he comes and plops down beside me heavily. The snow makes him look like a snowman and I giggle delightfully. We don’t say anything about this being the last Christmas in high school and the probability that we will be going to different schools. I give him my box and when he opens it, his smile broadens so much that I’m afraid it will stretch right off his very face! He holds up the friendship watches that I bought for the both of us and attaches mine to my wrist. I attach his to his wrist and we’re beaming like idiots in the snow that pours down rapidly. He clears his throat, like he does before he gives an important announcement about anything and opens his mouth.
I’m nervous to say my next words, and I think Judith notices. She’s smiling at me encouragingly so I start to speak. But then I stop. What good would it do without my present in hand? I think. So I take out a tiny little velvet box and take Judith’s hand and opens the box right before her. I don’t even have to say anything before she says Yes and knocks me over. We embrace and we let the snow settle on our lashes, hair and clothes until we run out of breath. We’re grinning awkwardly at each other like fools. I guess we are, but I’m so happy that my spirit could just fly around like a bird right now. But then I notice that her hood has fallen down and snow is settling on her black hair. I take precaution and put her hood back on and she looks startled, like she didn’t notice it was off. She starts to say thank you, but suddenly, she’s not near me anymore, someone has grabbed her. She cries out and I stand up to help her, but then I feel someone else’s hand grab my collar from behind and lock me in an arm hold. Judith sees who her with-holder is and she starts to cry, I hear the word Dad. I’m numb all over so I turn around and see that my dad is also holding me tightly and our two dads are staring at each other hatefully. I know our friendship, love, and everything promising we had in the future is over now, even though we will always love each other, we will never see one another again. I cry out for her and she cries out for me, but it’s no use. Our fathers carry us home and we never see each other again. And so that is our story.
Dedicated to those who are separated by their family from people they love.