letter #1: birth


All it bloody took was your tongue pushing the backs of your front teeth as you said “tinidor” and using my “kutsara” to finish off a buko pandan I have started but cannot finish eating. You teased my Espanol, stressing the rolling of your “r” as you paraded with a series of words I was having a hard time translating to English. “Perhaps, if you practice with querrrrrrrrido a hundred times every day, you would do fine with your r’s.” you told me and as my face lit, you added teasingly, “But I am not really counting on it.”

You were nonexistent before you started spooning fried rice and talking about it as if you consumed it every dinner of your life. You took the food in as the rest of us did and so unlike your friends who rather chose to watch and left the dishes to the rest of us. You talked of our country as if you embraced it like hell and I loved it. I wasn’t so sure if you were trying to impress me or impress upon yourself you can very well fit in. But to me, Miguel, it doesn’t matter which. You awaken in me a flicker of hope I had long ago given up on the likes of you. I am seeing you in a different light now; and what I saw before my eyes, I liked.

You did not exist before you started talking about politics, and air-headed guys and how much you hated them. There was that one time in Boracay, I remember you retelling, that you met him and his girlfriend. You never did like him at first glance, but you had long ago distrusted first impressions. Only this time, you found out you were right; you can never like him. You remembered him grinning at you, raising his glass of liquor and whispered, “You know the rules, buddy. You are to marry upwards, not downwards.” I could vividly picture your face as you told me that story that I could almost imagine how outraged you were back then. I kidded you if you gave him a punch or two and you answered, “He was not even worth the effort.” Right there and then, Miguel, (and if I have to borrow a line from Holden Caulfield) I know you killed me. And if it wasn’t already enough, you started looking at space at the mere mention of family and after a while, told me you miss them like hell. You told me you were never close to your parents, having two generations in between. And when the silence that followed afterwards was unbearable, I had asked you if you were okay. You gave me a faint smile and said “I feel a little guilty leaving them there getting old by themselves and I am so far away.” I had assured you they wanted the best for you and that if they were given a chance to be heard, they would have urged you to come over anyway. “I know I did the right thing, but you know how it is, doing the right thing doesn’t always make one feels a little better.” You replied. No grown up guy ever admitted misery that way; no, definitely not with your class.

We did talk about lighter things and uglier ones. We battled with our dissimilar but not opposing views on politics and the current state my country was in. We talk of friendships and love and that tenor and time does not really guarantee anything but the probability of friends and lovers to make the most out of it. I had admired your friendships and you commended mine. We talked of the parties you’ve gone to way back college and how I always find mine boring and straightforward. I’ve watched you talk about the crazy things you did and how you got away with it. “I was never the life of the party.” I told you. You asked me what use I was in my barkada then. “I’m like the spectator, you know. It’s like when they are so wasted and misbehaving, they ran to me the morning after to get the story of what happened the night before.” You laughed and said, “Oh, you’re like the archive girl.” For a split second that I watched your face, I thought there was something there. But as speedy as it had come, it disappeared before I can even look at it again. “I am neither the life of the party,” you told me with a wink. “I am like the observer. I love observing people. It is a fun job.”

I can see it is a fun job. And you are doing a great job at it. And you can make people laugh. I know you said that it is not one of your strong points, but you do make me laugh. You do, Miguel. I have never laughed this hard for a long time; I almost forgot how it is to open one’s mouth to do something else but scream. I told you I admire people who have a knack for making others laugh. I can still visualize the way you stared me in the eye when you said, “:Hey, you can make people laugh.” I shook my head, didn’t I? That is not so true.

“See? You can make me laugh.” You pressed.

That is where I corrected you, right? “I didn’t make you laugh, I made you smile.”

“That is even better.” You said.

All it bloody took, Miguel, was one Espanol term and you took out one equilibrium nail in my organized world. This is what I saw: you and I talking over lunch, paying more attention to each other more than we do the foods we have or the people around us. And what I saw, Miguel, I liked very much.

author’s note: I watched them talking and laughing, uncaring to the build-up of inquiring stares from the rest of the people in the cafeteria. To watch them is like watching two worlds blending together; two cultures asymmetrically glued in. She, in her young age, temporarily forgets her well-guided inhibitions. He, in a foreign land in which a lot of things are yet to be understood, shoved off any fear of his actions being misinterpreted. They of course, did not know what was coming. He, more than her, didn’t know the mess and the pains he would soon inflict on their friendship. She, more than him, didn’t have any idea that she will be triggering it.

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