Like all best friends, we told each other everything. From our fears, to our dreams, hell, we even told each other who we liked and all that jazz. No, it wasn’t gay, as some of you might think.
It was perfect. Absolutely, truly, perfect. I was happy and I’d like to think he was too. There were times – a lot of them – when I thought that I could live until I was 150 just as long as he was by my side.
And it was already too late when I realized that I had fallen in love with him.
And fall hard I did.
Pretty soon, I had to stop telling him everything. He couldn’t know. We were friends. Very close ones. And I had broken the golden rule:
Never fall in love with your best friend.
So I hid these from him. I hid them pretty well I guess. He never suspected. No. Life continued as it had before I found out these… feelings I had for him. Oh, I tried to ignore them, deny them, with the vain hopes of getting rid of them. But they just wouldn’t go away! No matter how hard I tried, they never went away. Suppressed, yes, but never truly gone.
You may think of me as a love-struck, blithering nincompoop who has nothing else to do but moan endlessly about this… this… well, whatever this is and that’s probably true down to the last word but seriously, I didn’t ask for any of this in the first place. It. Just. HAPPENED.
And, by the gods and goddesses of the sea, sky, sun, earth, clouds, whatever else there is, did it hurt.
I had loved him. I still love him. I will continue loving him, probably, I guess, maybe, for as long as I dare to live.
A sharp, shrill cry above me woke me from my thoughts. I looked up and saw a crow spiraling towards the heavens.
A bad omen, some might say.
But nonetheless, it reminded me why I was here, armed with a rusty spade and gloves. It reminded me why I was standing here, under our tree.
…well actually, now it’s just a large dead stick in the middle of a grassy plain but the sentimental value is still there.
Sighing, I dropped down on my knees and started digging at a certain spot between two roots that simply refused to grow under the ground like it should when it was a rather young tree.
I kept digging…
… and digging…
… and digging…
….until finally, I was able to pull out an old sack. In it was a brown box. I still remember the day we dug a hole and buried it in there.
It was my idea actually. I was bored and I had nothing better to do, so, dragging him along, I made a list of the things we like, dislike, our hobbies, our secrets and other miscellaneous information about everything and anything. Together, we placed the long list in the box along with a few memorabilia.
I took a deep breath and slowly pried open the box. I smiled. Everything was more or less intact, if not a bit worn and torn. Reaching in, I gently picked up a fountain pen. He liked calligraphy, and at some point in my life, I had been jealous of his inborn talent to create the most beautiful letters I’ve ever seen. Putting it down beside me, I reached in again and took out a small compass. It was one of mine. I put it down and reached into the box again and, one by one, took out all the things we put in there.
I was nearing the bottom of the box, where our lists lay, when something soft collided with my hand. I grabbed it and held it up: it was a lacy white handkerchief. Oh right, I put this in here long after we initially buried the box.
Something painful settled against the back of my throat as I noted the lines of black mascara that stained the cloth. Against my will my mind replayed a bittersweet memory, one that I had played over and over again countless times before.
Being his best friend meant that I attended any important gathering he had and vice versa.
Summer hang-outs with friends.
It wasn’t long before another thing was added to the list:
He married right after graduating college. Of course, I already knew he had a girlfriend, I’d seen her plenty of times in the past and really, I liked her well enough.
I, naïve as I was, just never expected them to settle, that’s all.
But they did. And I became her maid of honor. And I was forced to watch them smile at each other, with love alight in their eyes as they said their vows before the priest.
I knew I could have said no, that, because of my busy schedule and oh, I have an appointment with this and that and there but I didn’t. I actually wanted to be there on his happiest day. Masochist.
So I had stood there and smiled at both of them, congratulated them and laughed and partied with them afterwards and ignored the deep ache in my chest. But I’m not superhuman. Suddenly, I couldn’t take it anymore… the kisses, the love and all the gooey happiness… I couldn’t take it. I pleaded a headache, reassured them that yes, it was a fine wedding and yes, I had fun and yes, I hope both of you enjoy your honeymoon and walked out of the room and into the hall. I slumped against the wall and didn’t bother to stop the tears running down my cheeks.
It hurt so, so much. And I was so, so tired of it all.
I picked myself up, wiped the mascara that had run down and walked and walked and walked.
… until I reached the nearest pub and ordered their strongest alcoholic drink.
The memory broke into millions of tiny pieces as I finally succeeded wrenching myself away from it.
I laughed bitterly, insanely – who know love could do that to you? – and scarcely felt the salty tears run down my cheeks like mini rivers. All this time… and still, it hurt.
Carelessly, I tossed the hanky aside and pulled out another thing. A slip of paper. Funny, I don’t think I put it in here.
This slip of paper would prove to be my undoing.
Another rush of tears cascaded down my cheeks as I read and reread the note. Who knew he loved to doodle? Especially my name written with his family name?
Good god, and all this time… it was me.
Me. His best friend. It didn’t matter who broke the rule first… in the end, both of us did. And both of us were too cowardly to do anything about it. Look at us now…
Me. Bitter, lonely and mentally unstable. Him. Buried six feet under. And let me tell you, the dead won’t just come back to life when it’s convenient for them.
I look up. Funny, I never realized it started raining.
Vanessa Claire Lucero is a high school student of the Ateneo de Davao University.