Tag Archive | nostalgia

A snapshot in time

It was supposed to be a simple hello. Late afternoon, he was standing on the field of the Sunken Garden in UP Diliman, tall and dark and strong. I called his name, and he turned to me, giving that little half-smile that older guys seem to do so well. Not that he was that much older, though sometimes it felt like more than five years stood between us. Among our group of college friends from our hometown, he was the kuya and I, being a naïve freshman newly arrived in the city, was treated like everyone’s little sister.

But that afternoon, none of the others were there, and he stood alone under the windy sky. I walked towards him, meaning to give a warm hello, chat a little, maybe ask if our other friends were going to show up. But something changed as I came closer. The wind playing with my dress and tossing my hair as I walked, the afternoon light falling on his shoulders as he waited for me to approach, even the smell of newly mown grass made every step seem breathtaking. Significant.

He stretched out his arm, and I put my hand in his when I was near enough. He pulled me closer, slowly, and I lifted my face up to touch my cheek to his. It was just a friendly gesture, nothing more, a customary hello that I’d given to countless others.  But there was…something. A thrill, a current. Like for a moment we had stepped into a story, where we were different people in a different time.

Then we said hello, and the spell broke. Our friends came, we played frisbee, normality returned. In a movie, perhaps it would’ve been the start of a lovestory, with a soundtrack by Jason Mraz. But this was real life. We settled back into our roles, though sometimes I would look at him and wonder if that moment really happened. If he felt it, too, if he remembered. Because that memory stayed with me, and whenever his name pops up in my newsfeed, I remember him not as an old college friend, but as a man standing tall under the windswept sky, reaching out his hand to a girl.

As time went by, I realized that it wasn’t really about him, or me, or the two of us together. That memory had power because it reminded me that there are stories beneath our ordinary lives—possibilities—and now and then we’ll get a glimpse, but we still have to choose which ones we want to live. I had a glimpse of something and chose to leave it behind, but I don’t think it’s either happy or sad. It just is.

This post was a response the “face to face” Red Writing Hood prompt from Write on Edge.


You and the things you say

Your words are intoxicating. But wait. Before this goes somewhere it’s not supposed to go, we need a disclaimer of sorts. I’m not in love with you. You’re not in love with me. And even if, once upon a time, that possibility might have existed, it no longer does. So nobody’s dreaming of wedding vows here.

And yet. The things that you said, all those years ago in that past lifetime of possibilities, they are still as clear to me, as vivid and as captivating, as they were on the day that you said them, even after the memory of that day itself has faded with time. And the things that you say to me now, when you’re in one of your moods, they go straight to that place in my heart where I keep all my what-ifs and what-might-have-beens. We’re each other’s “the one that got away”, and if we’re honest, we can admit that the two foolish romantics that we are have found a certain appeal in that. There’s something fascinating about roads not taken.

And so last night, when you said what you said, when you asked me, “Do you remember what we promised when we met?” –— my sentimental heart lured me into another daydream walk down that untraveled path. And of course it was beautiful and breathtaking and sweet, daydreams always are. But eventually I had to go back to the messy reality of our choices, the one where the ever-after versions of our fictional selves are unrecognizable to the faces we see in the mirror every day. Because in real life, people say things, and people feel things, but in the end it’s what they do that counts. And what we did was we let each other go.


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.

Hiding Place

She lay at the bottom of the ditch, feeling the grass softly tickle her face. A lazy, hazy day. The summer afternoon sunlight filtered through the branches of the acacia tree and warmed the scent of the wildflowers she was crushing beneath her. Bees were buzzing about.  A dragonfly hovered in the gentle breeze she could barely feel, here in her sheltered, secret hollow.


Footsteps, running on the path above her. The hide-and-seek game was being taken pretty seriously. She didn’t want to play anymore. Shouts, far away. “I’m coming!”

Smiling, she closed her eyes and surrendered to sleep.

(This is a response to the 100 words challenge in Velvet Verbosity. The word for the week was “ditch”.)


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.  🙂



Day 22 — Someone you want to give a second chance to

Maybe some paths are meant to be untraveled. But for every beckoning horizon unheeded, another destination is reached. ~from Reunion

Dearest you,

“I know I can’t make you mine. I just wonder how it feels to be loved by you.”

You wrote this to me, in that letter that came out of the blue and took me by surprise. You said you were thinking about our almost-love story, the one that ended before it began, ended because I needed to be free. You remember letting me go. I remember, too. Of course I remember.

I smiled as I thought of how far we’ve come — from that agonizing, bittersweet connection to this comfortable friendship between two people who have loved each other in so many different ways. As I typed out my reply to you, I took a risk and said, “I’ve been wondering,  too.”

When I wrote that, I was thinking of the boy you were and the girl I was, two mere children who had never known real heartbreak. Sure, we talked about it, we even wrote songs and poetry about it, but our hearts were whole. Not any longer. We’re not that boy and girl anymore, we’ve learned something, if not everything, about the fragility of joy and the riskiness of trust. And so now I wonder: How would it be between us today, between the people that we have become? Will we end up hurting each other with the defenses that we have built? Or will it be a healing bond, a return to the innocence that we lost? The possibilities are beautiful and dangerous at the same time.

You wrote something else in that letter, something about imagining the two of us together for a day. It’s a captivating image — just one day, 24 perfect hours.  One chance to finally open that yellowed envelope of our might-have-been, to find out how the unwritten part of our story ends. It’s tempting.

But we both know we won’t do it. We are too aware of each other’s grief to play games with our hearts like that. It would be a mistake, and I don’t want any part of our story to be a mistake. So in the end, despite the sweetness of the possibilities, we both know that this will be another chance not taken, another page left blank because it’s too late now to change the plot.  But in my mind, I’ll live those 24 hours with you, and when I return to reality, you’ll also be there, in a friendship that’s better than any daydream.

I’ve never told you this before, but I know that this time it won’t confuse us both:

I love you. You have to know that by now.