Tag Archive | memories

By the sea

I went out with a friend today. We went out and we sat by the ocean, and somehow the conversation turned to the first one who broke my heart. Suddenly, I found myself talking about you again, after long years of thinking of you too much, then trying to forget, and finally succeeding. I surprised myself with all the little things I remembered — the way your laugh always made me feel like laughing, too, the way your eyes lit up with that irresistible smile, the way our friends always introduced us as childhood sweethearts and I’d protest that we weren’t, while you were quite happy to pretend that I’ve had a crush on you since kindergarten. I haven’t thought about all these things for so long, never even noticed the moment when I grew out of the habit of keeping you in mind. But now, with the gates of memory unlocked, I found myself remembering your hands on a guitar, your hands that could coax the sweetest music from any instrument you touched, your hands that used to hold mine. I could almost feel the thrill of it all again — my hero worship, the slow transition from seeing you as my best friend’s big brother to someone I could fall in love with, the stunned wonder when I realized you felt the same. It was my first time, and it was better than all the stories said it would be.

That day, as I sat watching the waves and allowed the memories to flow out of me, as I sat reminiscing about all that we used to mean to each other, I realized that it didn’t hurt anymore. There wasn’t even the slightest tinge of sadness. The what-ifs and the might-have-beens no longer haunted me. I could think about you, and talk about you, without pain. I could look back at all the wonderful little details that made you who you were, and realize that there is someone else who knows you better now, and be happy for you. I could take pride in the decent, honorable man that I knew you to be, and even though it didn’t work out, at least I know it was worth a try. You were one of the good guys. Not the right one, not meant for me, but worthwhile. And it’s okay.

Getting over you, being able to put you firmly in the past and wish you well for the future, being able to talk about you with fondness — it frees me. Though my heart is broken now for another reason, perhaps I can hope that someday, after the healing passage of time, I will sit by the ocean again, and watch the waves,  and laugh.

The Dumaguete Escapade

That week, it was wonderful. That week, I was lying on the grass, getting caught in the rain, sitting on a balcony with my feet up beside yours. I was listening to music beside a sunlit pond and laughing in the dark at something only the two of us understood. You were here. We took two thousand photographs and made a lot more memories, and it still wasn’t enough. Only seven days. The time went by too fast.

Now this city has our mark on it, and with you gone, I see it everywhere. That sidewalk where I almost fell down laughing from that hilarious story you told. That restaurant we went to when you arrived and just before you left. That cozy café that was so comfortable we both fell asleep on the cushions. That field where I watched you play frisbee through the camera lens. That bench where we sat and watched the ocean at night. That lily pool where you took a ridiculous amount of frog pictures. Even now, this place still echoes with our footsteps and laughter. I have a feeling it always will.

Some people don’t believe that you can love someone this much without being “in love” with them. But I have been in and out of love before, and this is different. This is unique. No roller coaster ride, no heartbreak, just the steady assurance of knowing we have a place in each other’s lives. It’s simple and easy — and it’s enough for both of us. It’s perfect.

I miss you. But that’s okay. In a few months, in the city we both love most and call home, I will see you soon. 🙂

 

Two friends. One city. Seven days.

 

A Small Step at Sunset

She sat on the grass under the huge acacia tree, watching the sky change color from a clear blue to the glowing hues of sunset through the lacy patterns made by the branches and leaves. It had been a good day. She had gone out with her friend Jake, wandered around town with him for a bit, until they both ended up in this peaceful place where the traffic sounds faded away. It was just the two of them, the sunset, and their thoughts.

It was the first time he’d done this with anyone, Jake said — just sitting on the grass watching the sunlight fade into dusk. Smiling, she told him she’d never been to this spot before, either. She usually watched the sunset somewhere else, with — no. She would not think of him tonight. She would not ruin this moment with memories that were beautiful once but were tainted now, because he left.

Restless, she absent-mindedly picked at the grass, feeling the soothing coolness of their leaves against her fingers. She plucked and pulled until she found a particularly long blade. Automatically, her hands moved to start weaving a grass ring, like she always did with…. Sigh. The memories would not leave her alone tonight.

Helplessly, her mind flooded with images of the first time they watched a sunset together. The first time she made him a grass ring. The many times he promised he would never let her go. The last time she believed him. She took a deep breath, willing herself to shake off the painful questions that she knew might never be answered.

Jake looked at her in concern, but she just smiled and shook her head. He was a good friend, but she knew he had his own ghosts, too. They were both haunted. They  both needed to forget. She needed to let go of what she never thought she’d lose, and he needed to give up on what he knew he couldn’t have.  The difference was that he could talk about it, and she couldn’t. Not yet. Maybe someday. She looked forward  to someday.

In the fading light, she looked at the half-finished ring in her hands. She took another deep breath, preparing herself to break yet another link to him. Despite a sentimental hesitation, she knew there was no point in preserving what was no longer real. He was lost to her, permanently. It was time to make new memories. Slowly, she started weaving again, knowing this one was for Jake, but also for herself. She was letting herself let him go.

Day 24 — The person that gave you your favorite memory

My feet will never get tired of walking with you.

~ you


Dear Legolas,

Thinking back on my favorite memories, the moments when I felt truly and wonderfully alive, I realize that in so many of them, you’re with me. Those times together have something in common, some indefinable magic that keeps them vividly colored in a gallery of sepia recollections and black and white nostalgia. How can I possibly decide which is best?

Let me see. Shall I pick that wet afternoon when we drew the sun on the ground while the rain drummed on our umbrellas? Or perhaps that time we caught fireflies in the dew-soaked grass? Maybe I should choose that day we sailed a paper boat on the koi pond in our favorite hideout. But what about the night we gathered frangipani blossoms after the storm? It is impossible to take one and say it is better than the others. I would not have missed even a single second for the world.

Remembering our escapades and misadventures, our little traditions and quirks, I realize that they’re all simple pleasures, things I can do with anyone whenever I want to. But I know that it won’t be the same. It won’t be us, it won’t have that whimsical, adventurous feeling that I’ve never found in any other friendship. Sure, I can go places with others, but it won’t be the same as taking the simplest stroll with you.  Together, we have walked countless roads, some to places we’ve never been before, others to old, familiar haunts that hold so much of our history that we have given them new names known only to us — the Parthenon, Toad Island, the Bahay, etc. Every step on every path moves us closer to discovering each other, and even ourselves.

Perhaps that is one of the reasons this friendship is so special — for two very different people, we reflect each other with unusual clarity. When I’m with you, I recognize myself better, and you see truths about me that I’ve never known before. You can tell me things that no one else understands, knowing that there is no judgment between us, only trust. We are safe with each other.

And I miss that feeling. I miss you. And soon, really soon, we’ll have the chance to make new memories again. I’m counting the days.  🙂

Always,

Arwen

Psychz Reunion on Rizal Day ’09

For the first time last December 30, 2009, I attended my high school class reunion. It happens annually, but somehow there was always somewhere else that I needed to be. That year, I heard that they wanted to get the class together again, but I didn’t know the exact plans. So I just agreed to a catching-up evening with Neil, an old classmate whom I haven’t seen in a long while. However, when we met at the park, he announced that he had a surprise. He led me around the corner, and there they were: loud, colorful, and somehow larger than life to my surprised sight – my high school friends, back from all corners of the country and all grown up.

After the noise and the hugs and the I missed you’s, the initial excitement calmed down for a bit and I could see who were there and who weren’t able to come. A lot of people were absent; some couldn’t get away from their jobs, others didn’t have contact numbers that we knew of, still others were spending every moment of the short Christmas break with their families. All of those who came were people I haven’t seen for ages, mostly because I seldom came home for vacations, and when I did, I spent most of it with my family away from the city.  However, being with them was like going back in time. It was as easy as slipping into an old, well-loved pair of jeans to use the old nicknames once more, to retell favorite stories, to renew bonds of friendship. I was aware of how different they were, but because we’d seen each other grow up almost every day for four years, I saw that behind the unfamiliar clothes and hairstyles and expressions, they were still – essentially – the same.

Cervin, one of the sweetest people I know, was among the first who hugged me. He looked better and more confident, but he still had the same laugh, that enthusiasm that was always present whenever he was with friends. Even  now, I don’t think he knows just how much I admire him. We used to talk a lot, and he’d share some of the things that he was going through. In light of all those challenges, everything that he’s accomplished now seems more meaningful. I hope he knows how proud I am of him, and how much I miss my dance partner.

Neil, of course, was still the acknowledged heartthrob. Who could forget the many love letters that were delivered to our classroom every week by girls from every year level and section (“Nandito ba si NEL?”)? Or the sighs and giggles that were the soundtrack of his passage in the hallways? As his seatmate, I found his love life to be a constant source of entertainment, and sometimes headache when I tried to keep track of who he was with that particular week. I even got into trouble when we were caught talking during physics  class. To be fair, though, I think it was MY crush that we were whispering about that time. We were trying to find a code name for him so that we could talk about him freely. Ah, the excitement of high school. He tells me he’s a good boy now, but that bad boy aura that had the girls swooning was still sticking to him like a second skin that night.

Grace, my soulmate, was also there. In those four years, we had forged a friendship that lasted beyond high school, no matter how erratically we kept in touch. Angel (Noreen to others), the third part of our close-knit trio, was absent, and we kept hoping she’d show up. (She didn’t, but I saw her a couple of days later.) Nobody has  ever taken the place of these two in my heart. They were my calm place in the storm, and that night, I saw that it was still true. We all went to a karaoke bar, but no matter how loud everything got, my  soulmate and I were still able to talk quietly for a bit, to catch up on what was important. There wasn’t enough time, but it was wonderful to have that connection again.

The star of the sing-along was still Emily, our Princess Jasmine. She still had that exquisite voice, and she looked almost exactly the same as six years ago. With that voice and that smile, not to mention those brains that earned her one of the highest honors at graduation, she was almost too talented for one person. The best thing about her, though, was how humble she was about all of these. There had been no vanity in her all those years ago, and she remained simple and down-to-earth when we met again.

One of our  group’s idiosyncrasies was how we identified people by their favorite color. Even now, years later, whenever I see green, yellow, or purple, I think of Janey-jane, Tita Sen, and Fia, respectively. And of course, when it comes to pink, my own favorite, I’m reminded of Marivic. It feels strange to type that name, since we’re used to calling each other “Ka-pink,” proudly embracing the girly-ness implied by that choice. To my amusement, we were both wearing the same color that night. Care to guess what it was?

Beside my Ka-pink, sitting at the head of the table, was Cristy. Smart, talented, and completely unforgettable, she was the star of every monologue competition in high school and one of the greatest friends anyone can ever hope to have. I used to want to hit this girl over the head for not seeing herself as the amazing person that she was, inside and out. I hope her vision’s improved since then.

And there was Dianne, of course. Bold, impulsive, and spirited, she was the last person you could call boring. She made our lives interesting with her  laughter and her readiness to speak her mind. What most people didn’t see, though, was that underneath the sassy, tough-girl exterior, Dianne was a total softie. She cared deeply about the group, about keeping us together. I had no idea how much I missed her until I saw her again.

In contrast to Dianne, Jane was our acknowledged Binibining Pilipina. Poised, demure, and soft-spoken, she always seemed effortlessly composed and elegant no matter how loud and unruly the rest of us got. Even her penmanship was graceful and neat. If some of Janey-jane’s level-headedness had just rubbed off on me, I’d probably have gotten into a lot less trouble.

Seneca, on the other hand, possessed a different kind of poise, the kind that held a fair number of high school  boys under her spell. Pretty, stylish, and confident, she was easy to like and difficult to ignore. I would sometimes tease her by calling her the class seductress, but mostly she was just “Tita Sen” to me – my Tatay Johnard’s best friend (and my possible “mom”? haha). Long story behind that. She promised to teach me how to apply make up. If anyone is qualified, she definitely is.

Irish Jay was one of the few guys who were able to make it that night. Insanely talented, he seemed able to do pretty much anything – write poetry, make incredible art, compose songs, and get high grades without much effort. He and I would sometimes have poetry “write-offs” – he’d take a poem of mine and rewrite it with his trademark dark perspective, then I’d take one of his and make it more optimistic. I miss those days. But even now the phoenix lives on, and I’ll always remember the Last Moment.

Sitting beside Rish and pretty happy about it was Charity. As she jokingly said herself, it was the climax of the love story-that-never-was that had caused her no small amount of drama in high school. However, despite her telenovela-esque love life, no one was really surprised when she graduated valedictorian. With her genius level IQ, she definitely deserved it. Years later, this girl is well on her way to the top.

Looking pretty in purple was my four-year seatmate, Zafia. Whenever the seats were assigned alphabetically, it was almost a given that we would sit next to each other.  In between bouts of girl talk about crushes, we would help each other out with the day’s lessons or work on articles for the school paper.  As my seatmate, she probably witnessed just about every mood I’ve ever had. To her credit, I wasn’t able to drive her crazy. Well, she was already a Psychz anyway.

Catherine, our class baby, sat at one end of the table. When most of us were already super conscious about style, she remained simple and down-to-earth. Instead of fussing about shoes or accessories, Catherine was more concerned about business, and I must admit that she was very good at it. She seemed to have a knack for knowing what snacks would be perfect to break the monotony or stress of the day, and whatever she brought would be an instant hit. I thought then, and I still think now, that our baby would probably be one of our batch’s first millionaires. She certainly deserves that kind of success.

For some reason, Divine‘s not in the picture, but she was there that night. One of the Psychz’ s acknowledged beauties, Divine was not only pretty but also talented. She, Kathleen, and Emily were the three divas of the class, and it was a treat for all of us whenever they sang. Who knows, maybe one year, they’ll all sing together again for our reunion? That’s certainly something to look forward to.

Also missing from the picture but present at the reunion is one of our “Vanessa’s”, Vanessa Teope (the others were Vanessa Nale, Vanessa Acar, and Vanessa Manalang). Beautiful and down-to-earth, she didn’t seem affected by the efforts of highschool boys to catch her attention. Only one of our very own, Karl, was blessed enough to win her heart.

Looking at pictures of that night, I was hit again by a rush of nostalgia. We were all so different, yet in a lot of ways alike. As individuals, we were special in our own right. Together, we became even more extraordinary.

And who was I, Abigail, among them? Where did I fit in with these remarkable people who have changed my life? Well, I was the one who usually stayed in a corner, immersed in a book. Now and then I would look up to share in the joke that had everybody laughing, or listen to the resident musikeros jamming with their guitars, or answer somebody’s question about the English homework given that day. I was the one who wrote, I was the one who listened. I was the one who watched them all and  loved what I saw. They were beautiful, each and every one of them. From the brightest star to the shyest wallflower, they were amazing. There was this energy, this spirit, that infused us whenever we were together. Maybe because we were young and the future was still this abstract, elusive concept, limitless in its possibilities. Maybe because to us, cynicism was yet incomprehensible and utterly absurd when there was so much wonder in the world. But I think a part of the reason was that in spite of the comfortable naiveté of those days, there was this vague but instinctive feeling that said, This is rare. It doesn’t always happen that people so different can belong together. No matter who else you encounter when you get out of this town to meet the world, never forget this miracle.

I have never forgotten. And sometimes I wish I could go back, return to that time when the future could be anything I wanted it to be and cynicism was a complete stranger. When I knew without a doubt that I belonged among those I have chosen to love. I miss being that girl; I miss being Abegz. Or sometimes Prinsesa, Benggay, Anak, Gege, Pare, Soulmate, Halo, Apo, Gail, Baby, Garnet, Sis, Partner, Bestfriend, or Ka-pink. Different endearments, different kinds of love. All with one wonderful translation: friend.

RELATED POST:

https://evenstarwen.wordpress.com/2006/12/15/the-notebook/

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The Notebook

I had to tiptoe to find it on the topmost shelf – that old notebook where my highschool friends wrote their farewell messages just before graduation. It’s been a long time since I last opened its covers; but tonight, for some reason, I feel the need to travel back in time.

The notebook is old and worn, and several pages are about to fall off. As I read the messages, I was surprised by how familiar the penmanships still looked. After almost four years, I could still tell that the flowing script belonged to Grace Ann, the neat handwriting was Jane’s, and the tiny letters with numerous exclamation points were written by Karl. The years of borrowing notebooks and checking each other’s test papers must have made their mark.I also recognized the styles easily. Angel was sweet, Deneb was cool, Ian Lloyd was mischievous, Dianne was frank, my Soulmate was upbeat, and Irish Jay was intense. Gino was funny whether or not he tried to be. The contents were revealing, too. Jireh teased me, Kathleen wondered about my lovelife, Cristy offered encouragement, Ken wrote about plans for the future, Ate Jhay gave some advice, and Kuya filled every bit of space in his pages with sweet messages. Others included song lyrics, poems, reminiscences, Bible verses, drawings, and even a list of crushes. There were a lot of thank you’s, some apologies, and several confessions. Throughout 233 pages I was called by numerous nicknames: Begz, Abigail, Benggay, Anak, Miss Pink, Abegs, Gege, Pare, Soulmate, Miss Disney, Apo, EIC (Editor-in-Chief), Little Miss Philippines, Cousin, Gail, Baby, Kapatid, Walking Dictionary, Hobbit, Garnet, Sis, Battery, Partner, Bestfriend, Kaaway, Ka-pink, etc. Each name, no matter now bizarre, is a door that opens to a room filled with images of the past.

These rooms are not always easy to enter. As Julie Delpy’s character said in the movie Before Sunset, “Memories are wonderful things if you don’t have to deal with the past.” Reading the notebook again is a bittersweet experience for me. Sweet because the memories are wonderful, and sad because they are only memories now – I can never recapture the magic of those times again. No one can go back to being seventeen years old.

A lot has changed since highschool graduation. As I turn the pages of the notebook, I remember the passion with which we believed in ourselves and in each other. I remember having so much faith in the future that no dream was too big or too impossible for us. We felt unstoppable, untouchable, destined for immortality. We dreamed boldly, trusted willingly, and loved fearlessly. I can no longer say that with all confidence now.

Life has a way of making sure that nobody stays in highschool. Even the most naive among us has not escaped being touched by reality, being confronted with life. I, for one, slowly woke up to the fact that the world was not as safe as I thought, and that the path to my dreams was a lot harder and longer than I imagined. There was no choice but to grow up. And in growing up, I had to change. The vulnerability, the openness of my highschool years changed into something more careful, more aware of the fact that the heart can so easily be broken. The courage of dreaming faded into something more grounded, less bold. Only a few years have passed, but the seventeen-year-old girl inside me has slowly retreated into a memory, an image between the covers of an old notebook, a secret place in the heart.

Once in a while, however, that girl comes out to remind me that the fire is still alive, just as the friendships have remained an indelible part of who I am. No matter how much more growing up I need to do, there will always be a part of me that refuses to let go of the big, outrageous dreams I shared with my friends in highschool. Knowing this, I put the notebook back on the shelf. Some other night, perhaps, when I take it down again, I will not only laugh and cry and remember, but also give justice to the faith of the friends who believed in me.

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Aftermath

There is stillness here
after the storm
has spent its strength
and its casualties
of fallen frangipani flowers
pervade the night air
with fragrance.

There is silence here
not even a whisper
or a breath of wind
disturbs the mist
and the grass,
soaked with diamonds,
muffles the sound
of dripping branches.

And there is solitude
in the empty streets
as the pavement gleams
in the glow
of the light posts.

But not for me.

I hear echoes of laughter
as the frangipani scent
intoxicates

and voices
reveling
in the glitter
of rainwashed stars;

I sense footsteps
on the pavement,
but I know –

I am alone.

I am most alone
after it rains.

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