There’s always that one person you’ll meet in high school that would make you ask the greatest ‘What If’ questions in your life. High school has always been the next big thing in the journey to adulthood. It’s where most of us experience life outside our comfort zone. It’s where we get to explore ourselves and the world around us. High school is where we take note of our firsts. Well I can’t really say it’s the same for everyone, but it was for me.
It was when I was in high school that my Mom allowed me to commute alone to school. It was during high school that I got my first Henna Tattoo, my first rebellious act—piercing, my very first real alcohol drinking session—with friends of course, my first real slap in the face by another person, but even more painful than that—my first real shot at falling in love and getting my heart broken at the same time.
It was September year 2005 that I met this guy whom I found annoyingly badass. He was the typical heartbreaker (Damn. It’s frustrating that I didn’t even take note of the signs. Haha!) a basketball player, funny, cute, undeniably attractive (tall, dark and handsome kind of thing)—definitely a boyfriend material and (wait for it, this one’s always a hit) unavailable.
I was his total opposite. I’m outspoken, serious, unattractive, ‘baduy’ and totally not a girlfriend material. I actually don’t know why I was attracted to him. He wasn’t even that smart (well, academic-genius-kind-of-smart) at all. I usually fall for the Harry Potter type of guys (minus the extremely interesting family background). So how did our paths cross then?
Well, I have a really cute friend. And of course, she was his ex-girlfriend—tough luck. And so, she asked me to run an errand for her, operation ‘Test-The-Loyalty-Of-My-Boyfriend’ wherein I have to text him, get to know him, ask if he’s available and stuff—if he would reveal he was taken or not, so to cut it short, I have to flirt with him. And so I did.
I didn’t know it would back fire though. They say when you’re a bridge between two people (lovers to be exact) someone usually falls in the middle—falls back to you. Well in my case it didn’t. I guess he decided not to cross the bridge when things got shaky. But I don’t know, I haven’t really cleared that part up. But hey—no regrets right? Or should I ask ‘what ifs’ now?
So here I am now, back to 2014 where after all these years of not seeing each other, not even getting notifications from Facebook cause we’re not friends there, and to top it off—not even crossing paths inside the same university were in… I see him again and the emotions just came rushing in me like that same time when I did the ice bucket challenge—it was surreal.
I just stood there—staring at him as he talked to my friend beside me. And then poof, he noticed me—briefly noticed me. But it was okay. At least he still remembered my name and that he was matured enough not to ignore me (back-story involved here).
After all my I-totally-moved-on speeches and endless denial, there I was guiltily feeling the same feelings I had back then. It’s frustrating. How can someone from the past bring back all the emotions you have for so long tried to forget? And so I opted to this—what else is there to do than to write them a letter you’ll never send, right? A letter with all my ‘what ifs’ and ‘if onlys’. So here goes…
Hi there Stranger,
Somehow I always felt like that’s what you are to me—a total stranger. I don’t know if you remember, or if you would acknowledge remembering… we used to be friends once. I was that secret friend you had. Like the ones in the movies, the nerd friend you never tell anyone you have—in fear of being mocked by your other cool friends. The one you pour out all the frustrations you have about life, love and everything in between. It was during those times when we talked ‘til the wee hours of the night about nothing in particular. I can’t even remember most of it. All I remember is that we wouldn’t stop until either of us unintentionally falls asleep. We’d talk about her and how you felt about her. And how happy you are, I understood. Back then I really did. I was totally devoted in helping you get back together with her. But in between the ‘bridging’ your lives back together, I fell. And the saddest part of this was, when I admitted to you I did, you called me a traitor and hated me afterwards. After I poured my heart out to you in the simplest words I knew back then, you shut me out. It was really cliché, telling you “Hindi ko yun magagawa sayo kasi mahal kita…” (I can’t do that to you because I love you…”. You can’t blame me though! I only had telenovelas as examples. I should have known better than to use the I-Love-You phrase to you. Well, that brings me to my first what if.
What if during that moment when I said those and ran, when you ran after me and tried to talk to me… What if I didn’t ride that tricycle? What if I stood there by the gate and waited for you to catch up with me? What if I didn’t allow myself to be a coward back then and bravely waited for your actual response to my preaching of undying love? What could have happened then?
And the ‘if onlys’…
If only I was stronger to face you and all the other people that I will have to face after admitting to you my feelings, perhaps I didn’t regret anything now. If only I was confident enough to believe that I was pretty in my own little way and not think of myself as an ugly bitch when I’m with you. If only I fought for the friendship we shared and showed you that you’re worth fighting for, then perhaps you didn’t have to go through all that—facing the monsters and giving in to the darkness of life. (This is me assuming and exaggerating, but hey, this is my version of the story!) I don’t know. I always believed you shined. You had that glow that I see each time you talk about your family—your brother. That light of kindness and gentleness that you try so hard to hide when you’re with your friends (or so I think).
Or perhaps I was imagining things? Perhaps all those memories I had of us really didn’t happen? Perhaps I was with another person and that person I know no longer exists…
I guess I’ll never know. But I’m glad. I’m glad to have met you. I’m glad I felt all those feelings you made me feel. Emotional constipation or not, I’m glad. I’m glad it was you. And whatever happens, wherever my feet would take me, there will always be you—that high school guy who made my heart flutter and the one whom I’ll remember forever.
The Girl You Never Really Knew