My Poem ‘Correspondant’

When I was 12 years-old
I had a pen-pal from France;
when I was in school,
I and the rest of my french-class
were asked to write a letter in french
to someone who had written a letter in English
to the person with the name
whom they had randomly picked out of a hat…
I was picked by a boy called “Sebastian” –
who I believe went to school in a town in Normandy –
and over the next few months
I would write in my best french to Sebastian,
and Sebastian in-turn would write
in his best English to me.
Sebastian would tell me about where he lived,
about his family, and about his love of the English-language.

I thoroughly enjoyed reading Sebastian’s letters to me –
however, my competence in replying to Sebastian in french
left a lot to be desired, and after a while
I did not reply to Sebastian in the same frequency
as he was writing to me.

Sebastian sent letter after letter
about a myriad of different things that were happening to him –
but, unfortunately, my letter-writing to Sebastian
had gone from once a month to none-at-all,
which to this day still makes me feel horrible
and it is one of the many things that I regret
and which still picks away at my conscience.

When I was 12, I was not the writer that I am today.
When I was 12, “social-media” had not been invented,
neither had what we call today the “internet”,
and talking to someone in another country –
even as geographically close as France is to England –
felt as hard as talking to an alien a far-away galaxy.
When I was 12, school felt like a place
where I was forced to attend.
When I was 12, I did not understand
what in life is the most important.

I am in my thirties now,
and high-school, or secondary-school
as we call it here in England,
feels like it was many moons ago
than I can remember with as much clarity
as I have for yesterday –
however, as with many moments from my childhood,
there are things that still stand-out
and there are some moments
that rise to the surface of my mind randomly
when I least expect them to…
and today, on a rainy Saturday afternoon,
here in England, as I sit behind my desk,
in my bedroom, writing in my notebook,
is one of those times when something
and someone that I haven’t thought about in years
has flashed back to me and made me ask
with genuine fascination:
I wonder whatever happened to “Sebastian”,
my life-time ago pen-pal from France.

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