Friday, October 03, 2008


The only person who believed that I could run; made me believe that I could do it, was Jinn.

I got to know Jinn in Secondary 2. She was the skinny girl who ran fast during PE. In Secondary 3, we sat next to each other and found common ground ignoring classes in favour of acquiring real life skills.

When we were caught reading romance novels under the desk, she’d whisper to me:

Stop looking so guilty. If you stop looking so worried, you won’t get caught.

I never unschooled myself from that look of guilt but every so often, when my brows furrow with worry, I remember.


She was good at things that I was bad at - Art, Chinese and singing the latest hits; though she never made me feel inferior. She’d look at my still life of a watermelon and laugh. Trying her best to make me feel better, she'd say

Even if I tried really hard, I could never draw like you!

She never corrected my badly worded Chinese compositions because she thought it was pure art that someone could assassinate the Chinese language the way I did.

And when it came down to singing the latest hits, I never had to sneak the radio into class because she was my live feed. Fans of the hottest pop channel back then, Zoo 101.6, we gave ourselves animal DJ names – Jinn Jaguar and Carrie Cougar. We spent many hours pretending to be radio DJs, anything to escape the oppression of being 16 and spending most of your day in a classroom.

She excelled in places I never went, making it to the school team and running competitively in the 100m and 200m sprints. Naturally, she was nominated the sports captain of our class but very unnaturally, she asked me to be her sports assistant. 

We’ll just plan for sports day and take lots of time off to go stadium ok?


As sports day approached, the slots for the short distance sprints filled up, but there were 2 glaring empty slots which no one wanted to volunteer for.

The 1500m race.

She persuaded me to run it with her. She told me we’ll just go there and try not to be last.

But I can’t run!!!

No, you can. We’ll be ok.

I only did it because she was my friend. We turned up on the day of the race, with zero preparation and late. There was only enough time to drop our skirts and dash along the track in our shorts.

I never stopped to look behind, but when I crossed the finish line, it was never discussed what position I came in…we had done the race! With aching thighs, we had no more energies to make it back to school so we went to watch Rainman.


We went to different JCs. She joined the JC athletics team. I joined the choir. She had several boyfriends and I had just one. On my 21st birthday, she gave me a painting depicting both of us, with full chests. I knew immediately that I was the one with the guitar and she was the one with the long cigarette.

When I went to university overseas, we exchanged a few letters. Most of my letters contained pleas to her to PLEASE USE CONTRACEPTION!

There was always something dangerous and reckless about her choices, but I never stopped her. I just didn’t know how to. In fact, I got sucked in.

We were 21 - the legal age to do things without parental consent. She wanted to marry a guy that she met several months before. Her parents would not approve it right now. Would I be her witness at the ROM? I knew it wasn’t the right thing to do but I couldn’t say no.

You will tell them when they’re ready to accept it yes?

Yes. Yes.

And so I just went along and we never told her parents. Do I regret doing that now?

Yes. Yes.


Just as Jinn’s life seem fully sorted out – she enrolled in a course at the polytechnic, got married to a guy who seemed fully committed to her, something happened which made her stop running. Which crashed not only her life but also the shape of our friendship.

I was 24, working in the law firm late. My first job. The phone call came in. Jinn is in the intensive care. She got hit by a motorcycle crossing the road.

At the intensive care unit, I saw my best friend – fighting for her life.

As time passed, I saw less and less of her husband who was with her when the accident happened. He was very caring at first, made journals of their love, drew her pictures of the past but after some time, he annulled the marriage and disappeared from her life.

In a way, I also disappeared - into my own life. I got myself out of the law firm only to start making new plans for myself. Get married. Travel. Start a family.

This is where it broke down. Realising that I can’t really get back Jinn - not the Jinn who meets me at the burger king in Holland Village wearing her Air Maxes and showing off her muscular calves from all the running she’s done. I couldn't face it so I hardly ever called, visited less and less. It seemed cruel to tell her about my life and the plans I was making. Did she even know me fully? Would she remember?


After some time, years, I received greeting cards from Jinn. Her right hand was no good but she had regained her ability to write with her left hand.

I love you!!!

It was left handed scrawl but the handwriting was the same and she had drawn hearts!

Still, something had crashed inside myself. 

Harder to accept than not getting Jinn back was getting Jinn (back with full mental faculties) without the use of her legs. Her rich voice, which was the sweetest sound, was now a shallow whisper.  


Jinn was really, the only person that could make me run so it really caught me by surprise that I’ve started to WANT to run again. Slow steps on the treadmill and then my first jog/walk on the open road. And now training for my first 10k in December.

I’ve always been shy about running in the open because I get breathless so fast. Neither do I have a 15 year old heart or the structure of a lean bird, but something has been lifting me beyond my limits and it would have to be Jinn.

Telling me that I can do it.

That its ok to persist against the pain.

To take that worried look off my face.

To be grateful that I can.

Through running comes a sweet relief against the fatigue, fear and breathlessness ….we’re on the track again, hearts ablaze and the only way to run the race is to keep going.


Blogger B said...


This is a really beautiful blog-post.
The picture of both of you... so full of spirit.

Send my regards to Jinn.

12:25 AM  
Anonymous imp said...

thanks for sharing this story. it's heartwarming. all the good and the bad about having a best friend.

good on you for the 10km! (i can never run!! :))

1:46 AM  
Blogger carrie said...

Betty - thanks for the comment, it took me really long before i could even talk about this.

Imp - we'll see what happens for the 10k, i have never run that distance btw but just going to turn up. If i can try (older and heavier than u are) I am absolutely sure that u CAN RUN!

6:05 PM  
Anonymous ying said...

had to go thru the yearbook for the namelist and her artistic stamp is on it! brings back to many memories.... i remember all of us doing the class banner "Up in Arms United As One".. her rebellious and cheeky nature.. her "translating" Wild Wild West from english to mandarin then singing it her version.. and how she and nette would be signing to each other cos they sat at opposite ends of the classroom.. cant keep us girls from chatting!!! and how she would laugh (and never in a mean way) at my chinese zhao ju which made no sense!

A visit is loooong overdue! let's go shoot the breeze with her soon!

5:54 AM  
Blogger opus2 said...

that is an amazing story... and heartbreaking yet uplifting in its own way. thanks for sharing it.

and it's gotten you running again!!

I'll be cheering you on too :)

um, possibly *beside* you since i'm doing a 10k in dec too.

11:08 AM  
Blogger carrie said...

Hey Opus, thanks! It'll be wonderful to see u there in dec! But i will be huffing and puffing along very slowly.

4:48 PM  
Anonymous Tiff said...

Wow Carrie, this brought me back to the day you guys visited her in the hospital and i tagged along even though i didn't know her well. Memory is still so vivid. Love the drawing of you two.

6:57 PM  
Blogger carrie said...

ying - yeah we all remember...

tiff - that is my favourite drawing :)

5:50 AM  
Blogger Jill said...

Lovely story! Am glad she inspired you to take up this challenge - and you succeeded!

12:19 AM  

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