Monday, September 21, 2009


Hello stranger. It's been quite a while; do you still remember me? Frankly, I don't remember what you looked like. I don't even recall the slightest bit about you. My memories of those years were really fuzzy. You only exist in my head through secondhand accounts of the people around us. We were best friends back then and we used to go to school together, rain or shine. The last thing I heard about you was that you emerged from the closet a few years back. Good luck with that.

Hello stranger. Do you remember the time when we first met? I think I do, I still vaguely recall my mom meeting your mom and teasing me about having a crush on your sister. Do you remember going to our home to play war games? You had a bunch of your own toys in your arms while we had a bin of toys that, in a pinch, could transform into magnificent structures like teleport stations, barracks, lookout towers, missile turrets and battleship launch pads. We went to the same school, right? Only, I was a few years older than you. There were three of us: you, me and that girl with the singing voice. We were best friends back then and our lives, we shared with each other every time we met. Now, we each tread our own distinct paths.

Do you remember when we were young and you taught me how to play chess? You always beat me back then but you probably didn't know that I lost because I was looking, not at the chess board, but at you. Remember when you and your sibs were taking a bath in your garage? Hmmmn, you probably don't wanna remember that so, for your sake, I hope you've forgotten. Remember when we both entered the service of the church? Oh, I was so young and gullible then. I worked as a sacristan and, later, as a choir member. Man, I feel sorry for those who have heard me back then. We were both young and sang soprano, right? However, you left and I was stuck with an emo soprano girl while my voice turned to its present baritone. Or was it bass? Gah, I'm no good at this.

We both went to the same high school, right? Oh, the memories I'd rather have erased! Still, your presence lingers and I still recall that unique bond we shared. I would often lie to you and, as I found out years later, you have also lied to me. It was thieves' honor, I guess, how we shrugged off the discovery of each lie, silently promising never to get caught again. Do you remember the blonde policewoman? And the empty Starbucks cup? And how we fought over something as trifle as rendering shadows properly? You were pretty much a jerk back in high school. Some things never change; for instance, I think you're still a jerk right now. And I still think you're pretty cool. Back then, I wished I could be like you but, now, I try my best not to lie; I know now what it's like.

Do you still recall those three handkerchiefs you got for your birthday? And how I always stared at you whenever you hover into my field of vision? Man, I was really, really stupid back in high school; statements like, "Sorry, I'm already taken," or, "I have a partner," held no meaning for me. Oh, by the way, thanks for helping me out with that woodworking project. I had no upper body strength back then so I really, really appreciated you sawing my pieces for me. Last I saw you, you were wearing a nursing student's uniform. Best of luck, I guess...

How have you been, stranger? Do you remember that project we were supposed to work on? It was supposed to be an application that renders webpages in IE, Firefox, Netscape, Opera and a lot of other browsers. I still remember your smile... time can take away all my memories but your smile will still remain in my mind. We goofed off a lot, didn't we? However, while you had excellent time management and sleep control, my life was all over the place. We often went home late in the night, didn't we? Yet, you still smelled like clean, crisp, white, sun-dried linen. Sometimes it would be raining and we'd be soaked and frigid but you always smelled like sunshine and, beside me, you were a very precious warmth. I'm sorry I lost your birthday gift for me; to this day, I still wonder what it was.

I still remember your adventures as you regaled us, your teammates, with stories of your high school years. You whacked cars, stole their logos and kept them in key chains, as makeshift trophies of juvenile spite. We played together and while I'm waiting for the others, I played O2Jam. You also played that, didn't you? And we also chatted on YM in the wee hours of the morning. That's where we first met, right? I guess I had a crush on you at the time, that's why I couldn't begrudge you that CDR. We both met inside the church, didn't we? I guess I don't know much about you, even though we worked together for, what, like, six months? I never really understood CakePHP, that's why I stuck to Smarty.

You were our client. You were from Robinson's Corporation, right? I've always admired how smartly you looked. You were with this guy who wore a proper suicide scar (down the street, not across the road). You probably weren't single, but it didn't stop me from admiring you every time you came over. Thanks for the pizza. I didn't feel we deserved it but thanks anyway. I hope you were able to make use of that Bridal Registries System.

How have you been, stranger? Still penning those articles? You don't post to your blogspot anymore, do you? Were you one of those WordPress users? I can't recall. You were my editor-in-chief and I was your opinions editor. Man, it sure was an adventure chasing or even hunting down columnists for their articles. What did you write? You were a feature writer, weren't you? We were classmates in a lot of subjects. Sorry I left you hanging back then, in that tic-tac-toe project. I guess I was pretty much a jerk. Do you still remember how you promised to cover my ass, literally? Man, what an eyebrow-raising moment. I sincerely hope you and your family are okay... you were a very down-to-earth person, that is to say, you were poor. I saw you in an advert poster for SuperFerry; good luck with your modeling career.

I was delayed by one year but, since I was advanced back then and skipped kindergarten, you and I are both probably of the same age. Did you know your best friend had a crush on me? Did you know I had a crush on you? Did you know your best friend had a crush on you too? Maybe, maybe not, depending on who blabbed and who kept silent. You got my attention back in Statistics; you were the only person back there who rode a bike to class. I thought it was novel... and cute. Who would have thought we'd be working for the same company? Or that you'd touch my palm on the very day I made that silly soulmate decree?

You were my first one, stranger, and that, in itself, makes you special to me, somehow. I'm glad you still remember me, even after two years of no contact. Yeah, I lost my cellphone so many times already. I was nursing a heartbreak when I first met you. You were a nursing student and you had a twin sister. You were a divorced dance instructor and your child was with your wife. Thank you for those magical moments we've had. I'm sorry I had to leave; I think I've explained myself well, though.

We met, stranger, we saw each other, we chatted, we dined, saw a movie and went our separate ways. Sometimes, we fought, sometimes, we skipped the dinner and the movies (things seemed pretty much transactional then), sometimes, we just left bad memories in each other. Manila? Makati? That store in front of that shack in Tandang Sora where little brats, yelling "Fuego! Fuego!" shot at us with water pistols? I loathed you, I missed you, I hated you, I loved you and I despised you, in no particular order. Stop stalking me!

We have never met before, have we? No, I just had this cybercrush on you and your cosplay pics. You were very confident and self-assured; I admired that. You were available back then but now you're not anymore, are you? Time, time, it's always bad timing! I hope to see you again but I suppose it's rather inappropriate. I hated your boyfriend because, childishly thinking, he took you away from me but I also loved him because, I can see, he's the one who makes you happy. I hope the chamomile tea helped; I hope you're not on medication anymore. I hope to see you again, perhaps in something less smart than that coat and tie you wore back then... but something more decent than a shirt, a pair of shorts and a pair tacky sandals.

We never talked much, except about work, aside from that one time you sent me a copy of Memories of Nobody. I heard you were overseas now... or was it overboard? I wish you'd stop smoking; it kills you but I suppose you'd rather die than share the planet with someone like me. You never knew, did you? Or did you know but chose not to bother yourself with the details? Life as a pacifist is rather nice: not confronting people, seeking the middle ground or, for some, ignoring the obvious and pretending some things never happened. Or never were. Congratulations! I heard you were throwing a great party, too bad I couldn't make it. Thanks for being there, for helping me out, for taking the fall, for covering my ass, though not as literally as the one back in college.

Thank you, stranger, for inviting me to cosplay. I'm sorry I couldn't help the team much in badminton. I was thinking of inviting you to a facial, but I don't know if you would be offended or if it's inappropriate; I really do think you're really, really cute, if only you had smoother skin. Or was it the tummy? I heard you were going out with a friend of mine and things are getting complicated. Take good care of her... I don't know why I said that but she's a very special girl. Do you know? Of course you do, you three have shared a lot of things together, haven't you? I wish you well with your girlfriend.

I can feel you, stranger. I can feel your stares, your snickers, your inside jokes, your hypotheses, your thoughts. Well, maybe not your thoughts but I heard you, you know, that time when you muttered to your friend, "This is where it begins!" Why do you hate me so? Why do you sneer and choose to be a jerk when I did you no wrong? Alright, granted I had a crush on you but I thought you had such a pleasant personality back then. Man, was I disillusioned.

Thank you, stranger. Thanks for your help, anyway. Thank you for that bottle of Coke Light you de-fizzed for me; it was really very touching and quite thoughtful of you. Thank you for those mind-blowing moments in Makati, or that magical week in Manila, or that two-hour kiss we shared. Thank you for setting me on this career path, for giving me this addiction and for covering my ass (whichever way you did) Thank you for sharing with me that wonderful view on the top of Bahay ng Alumni, or for poking my tummy while I was waiting for a bus back in Philcoa, or for saying hello and good-bye in the same breath. Thank you for doing your work, helping out in projects, veiling your hostility or just being, no, acting civil. Thank you for chess, Computer Science and DotA. Thank you for that hot bowl of noodles when I didn't feel like eating my rice lunch.

I'm sorry I wasn't there, stranger. I'm sorry I was there but I wasn't enough. I'm sorry I took you for granted, said one joke too many, forgot special things and special moments, asserted the wrong things and lied in a way that really, really sucked. I can't promise to do better next time, though. I'm sorry I fell for you, or had you fall for me. I'm sorry things are what they are. If there were no past and future, then, perhaps, we could have had a really great time together but time moves forward and will stop for no one, not even Death. As you yourself had said, it's for those who have waited and have been waited on; it's for the night that, we wished, had never ended.

We'll see each other again, won't we, stranger? After all, we worked together, we studied together, we played together. You were a wizard while I was a mage: a severely under-dressed mage. Perhaps we'll meet each other again, at work, on the streets, online, in the battlefield, in the courts, on neutral ground, in the mall, at the haircutter's, in a coffee shop, under a ceiling, under the sky, beside a road, beside a river, beside time and life. When that time comes again, what should I do? Should I smile? Wave at you? Shake your hand? Greet?

"Hello stranger."