A Childhood Friendship Across the Fence

Denzil Jayasinghe
3 min readFeb 21, 2024

I was incredibly fond of my neighbour, Linton. My parents moved into the house where I grew up when I was four. I lived next door to Linton for the next seventeen years until I left my home at a young age. In those seventeen years, I was away in a boarding for four years when I visited home during school holidays. So, I knew Linton for only thirteen years.

Linton’s home was small. They had one bedroom, one living room and an outdoor kitchen. Their land was tiny compared to our vast land. But these things did not matter for the little kid in me, for whom size and money were not factors in life. In between our homes was a makeshift fence that one could creep through at will. Many coconut trees, fruit trees and flowering plants were scattered between our homes.

I played numerous games of Elle, cricket, marble, football and hide and seek games with Linton. I was this suave kid attending a private school while Linton attended the local village school. But again, kids don’t measure these artificial barriers; instead, they bond with their friends with no holds barred.

I have played with Linton, bare-body with just skinny shorts. I walked into his only bedroom and lay on the bed he shared with his parents and brother, with no notion of private space. My sense of home included his home.

We shared books over the fence at varying points and attended village concerts and fairs.

We lived in a small world where every house was visible to the other, where every sound and smell travelled across the air. It was a kind of intimacy I cherished, a bond I shared with Linton, who never stopped talking and filled my ears with his stories and jokes. But when the school term began, I had to leave him behind to go to the boarding house in the city, where I felt his absence like a wound and missed his voice more than anything.

Linton was dark and earthly, while I was this suave kid who did not know the art of negotiating with the local kids. Linton was good in his sports, especially with marbles. I would lose all of my marbles in a single game, and I had no place to complain about it except to ask him to revoke the game and start over again.

Drawn using Bing/CoPilot

Linton was more than a neighbour to me. He was a friend and a mentor. He taught me how to ride my father’s bicycle when I was too scared to try. When i fell off the bicycle and injured my knee, it was he who took me home. He gave me tips on surviving high school when I felt lost and alone. Even though he was younger than me, he did all this and went to a different school, nothing like my Ivy school.

Linton had a confidence that I admired. He came from a large family with lots of cousins and an older brother, Justin, who was his role model. His many cousins who looked up to him. He was not afraid of anything or anyone. He would throw stones at the neighbours’ fruit trees and run away laughing. He would strip naked and bathe in the well near my house, with his father watching over him.

Linton and I helped each other in different ways. I was good at maths and English, and I tutored him in those subjects. He would come to my house and watch me solve the math problems he found difficult.

We shared our childhood and adolescence. There were girls in the neighbourhood who liked me, and we would sneak out to the cinemas with our occasional dates, hiding from the neighbours’ curious eyes. Linton was the one who bravely organised the hideouts.

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Denzil Jayasinghe

Lifelong learner, tech enthusiast, photographer, occasional artist, servant leader, avid reader, storyteller and more recently a budding writer