A/n: I guess this is pretty personal. A poetic take on one of my most treasured relationships to date. How beautiful and regretful it is to fall in love with a close friend who always remember you in a way nobody ever would?
Today is the first time we meet in years.
I am sitting in a coffee shop with one of our close friends, who invited me out to say goodbye before he moves to Japan to reunite with his soon-to-be wife. I hadn't thought of you in a while, but pleasantly agrees when he told me he had invited you too, and you are on your way.
The first time we talked, you told me you fell for the deer-eyed boy who was sitting next to me. I thought that was cute, because I was totally into the one with glasses sitting next to you. We vowed we were going to help each other getting what we wanted. That was the beginning of our senior year in high-school.
You actually don't change much after all those years we've been apart. You come in the coffee shop, say hi, order your drink, and sit down next to me. I don't think much of anything, but we laugh regardless. It has been seven years since we had a proper get-together like that.
Your crush didn't like you back, and neither did mine. It was a bad idea to form a study group with both of them and another friend of your crush. I think he liked my crush, but you didn't believe me. Or you never really paid attention - you said you would stick to me judgement because I was the perceptive one amongst the two. You said matter-of-factly, like you didn't imagine a time when we would stop being together, like how we were at the time, staying at your house everyday, cooking and studying together for the university entrance exam. We both got into the schools of our choices. And they were different.
After the summer, my crush and the guy who liked him in our study group officially dated. You never said anything, but you called and asked if I wanted to ride the motorbike around the city. It was raining and we laughed like mad. You almost got into an accident and I thought you were just being too careless. I had forgotten between us, the only careless one was me.
This time, when we see each other again, you are stunned at how I look. My hair is different, and the way I dress. "Looking the gentleman part, don't you?" We weren't boys in ripped jeans and hoodies or highschool uniforms anymore, and somehow that's a strange marker of how much time has passed. It is almost scary how nonchalantly we talk, like resuming a paused video and catching up on the film - this time around, the actors actually grow older during the wait. We didn't wait for each other. "Look at you too, bad boy." I say. "You look like a corporate worker now. Life is kind to you, I hope." We talk almost like strangers.
Remember when we used to chat online, because somehow silence made a better communication tool to those who hated listening to their own voices. It was a Sunday, and the study group didn't meet on Sunday - I still remember that. We were just talking nonsense, mostly I talked - you listened, but this time you mentioned something. Something important to you. A glitch in your system. A difficult memory of your past, and to a boy of his seventeen you shouldn't have bore witness to death or heartbreaks, but you did, and you told me. And I became an accomplice of all the sins you'd commit in the future, because you entrusted me with the pain someone else caused you in the past. I wished I could have let your crush know how much he should have seen in you, but I was mad he didn't see it on his own. "My debt to the past," you said so nonchalantly, "is paid homage, thanks to you." I was never able to make sense of the way my blood rushed reading those words. I swore to protect you. As a friend. A good friend.
I ask to come visit your house, but you have just moved. Your mother asks why I wasn't visitting all these years. I try to come up with an excuse but you laugh it off. "Ma, he never even visited me." It sounds almost like you were mad. But we talk, and we laugh, and you tell me you had picked up playing guitar during the time we were apart. And you play me some songs and all of a sudden I want to be something else rather than a friend. And you feel it too, you have to feel it. Because I sit down on your bed and you play the guitar while jabbering some random answers, trying to laugh off your own nervousness. You ask if I want to say the night, twice more when you walk me to my car, even when I say I can't, because you "want to make sure I get home safe." And once more "just to be sure." I leave anyway.
As I drive home, I feel lost in the new neighborhood where I have yet to memorize. One fine spring day of my second year in college, when our connection has thinned out because of our changed environtments, I was running around the city in my motorbike. The rain was fresh, and the roads were still wet. While passing your neighborhood, waves of memories suddenly consumed me. I picked up the phone and called your home phone because at the time you didn't have a mobile phone yet. The first thing you said to me was, "hey you." It had been three years since we last talk and you recognized my voice like that. There was this string of warmness inside my heart, tingling like angel's bell. I smiled till the corners of my mouth hurt on my way home.
I can't get you out of my mind.
Look, I don't know what it is. We meet a few times after the first time in seven years we've met. And everytime, you remind me that I might have brought you in with me all those years, that I knew why I never stayed with any of those guys I dated because I know for certain they didn't love me enough. Because I have seen the way you loved and the way you showed your heart to me. Two years after we graduated highschool, I have long gotten over my crush, you still nodded when the question is asked - are you still in love with him? I learned that you can love unconditionally like that. You didn't let him fade off your memory, just like you remembered how I sound like because you would spur my name in mere second even after you haven't talked to me in years.
That day when we finished all our university entrance exam, you and me, we drove each other around the city and your hand hurt. I made you promise you will let me ride the motorbike if that happened again. You did. I never thought about the way you laid your body across my back and put your palms against my thighs. I made you promise you will take me out on a rainy day and we would drive again like that.
You never did, but you called one night. Said "it was raining. I just got home." I listened to the silence between the fragmented sentence, but never wondered why you made the call. I was in a relationship at the time. Didn't tell you - didn't think I should. I was always the careless one.
You never called me after that.
Somewhere in the past, I might have walked pass you. Our shoulders might have bumped at eachother, but I wasn't paying attention. You stopped in the middle of the road, look back to see me with another guy. It wasn't in our friend code, but I didn't break any code either. I think we were never really imagining ourselves being anything rather than together, even when that togetherness was never defined not confronted. Why else would you have made a call in the middle of the night just to inform me that "it was raining"?
I think I finally return your heart when all our times have ran out.
Look, this will be over soon. I promise. I will soon be away and you will remain that one good friend, the greatest friend, who showed me that I should find guys with tanned skin, beautiful eyes, and gentle smiles, guys who will look me in the eyes when they showed their gratitude, guys whose nervous laughs were never able to hide their kindness.
I still don't know if I should let you know what I feel. It's strange. I am a grown man and I have seen it all. I was wrong. I still haven't been touched by your tenderness. And it's scary, because I know how great it would be, to be loved by a guy like you. And how much despair it would be, to not be able to anymore.
So, if you or anyone ask, I will just tell them, that you are a good friend, the best friend, someone that once in the midst of night had almost lost them self to the temptation of adulthood, but remained dignified and generous regardless, to me, someone who still find himself at odds with romance despite all he had seen and done.
So, if anyone ask, tell them, that I am a guy friend you had in the past, who had tried to touch your shoulders in a way a friend wouldn't, who had looked at you two seconds too long before shying their eyes away, but ended up walking away because I didn't want to be a new chapter in your book.
But I will bear with me, the awaken memories of what it means to be at peace. Somewhere in the past, you were next to me and we never thought of the end.
P.s: You can't take that last call at the airport because you don't have your phone with you. Isn't it convenient, the way the universe informs me that my time has officially ended?