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.