warning: long entry. reaaaally cheesy. read at your own risk.
I’m afraid of growing old alone. This is the most candid confession I can muster enough strength to admit. Every year, nothing happens on my birthday, except I become a year older and a tad more afraid of growing old a little more. My prayers of finding someone to help me unpack the emotional weight I carry on my back turn into pleas of sheer desperation over night. I cannot grow old alone.
Last night, I didn’t have the chance to feel as depressed as I usually do prior to my birthday. In fact, I was on the way home feeling overwhelmed when the clock hit 12, I just came from the Pains of Being Pure at Heart’s concert (Steph and Nicole’s birthday treat), and was feeling giddy with kilig. I thought that this was already a good enough present to turn my usually gloomy birthday upside down. Today, when I got to work, my officemates surprised me with Margarita cupcakes, shared in hushed voices because we didn’t want the management to know we were bringing in alcohol in the guise of sweets. Again, I thought this simple gesture of love has already made my day.
When I got back to my station, my best friend Nicole gave me her copy of Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close to borrow. She handed it to me along with another gift. When I unwrapped the gift (completely oblivious that I was unwrapping it from the bottom), I saw in bold white font what I have always dreamed of seeing in print: Eric Gamalinda.
I started crying.
Now, not everyone would understand why Eric Gamalinda means so much to me. I often trace back the beginning of writing poetry to sir Caloi, and often forget to give credit to the first poet I fell in love with – Gamalinda. It’s Gamalinda who jumpstarted my thesis, and helped me through nights of writers block. What I had then was a photocopy of his collection Zero Gravity. A copy I had written on countless times, read almost everyday through my senior year in college and loved almost as much as any of my books combined. I wanted the book, not the overused Xerox copy filled with creases and folds that I had (which I have also given to Lulu as a parting gift along with my own poems written alongside Gamalinda’s). I have been looking for it for almost three years. And Nicole has not only found it for me (had it delivered as well to her friends’ parents who were living in the States), but she has given me a signed copy.
Gel and I have this theory that in the hierarchy of emotions (sans Kundera's compassion), sadness is the purest and most universal. Dying for someone or sharing someone’s sadness would never be in the same level with feeling happy for someone which I often find insincere. Because of this, I tend to surround myself with people who are likely to randomly feel depressed and sad, because these are the people who I think I can relate to; these are the people who I thought like me, understand the intensity and beauty of sadness.
But something extraordinary happened a while ago. I was sitting on my station, crying, hugging the book (still neatly wrapped except for the bottom part where Gamalinda’s name is exposed) close to my heart, questioning Nicole “San mo to nakuha?” Where did you get this? Something beautiful happened: Nicole started crying. It’s not the kind of cry she does whenever I am going through something, or whenever I am in pain. I’ve known her for 11 years, and yet her tears were brand new to me. They were tears of happiness, shed because I was happy. For a little while, I was a bit angry. Only because it moved me. I realized that happiness might not be as beautiful as shared sadness, but that on its own – it’s beautiful too.
The best gift I got this year isn’t Zero Gravity, it’s finally being aware that I am not friends with Nicole because we have been sad together countless times, but that because I realized that on moments like this when I feel unbelievably alone, she has always been there. I am still amazed at how much she knows me. So much so that she can tell what present would make me happy enough to weep.
I remember when cheesiness strikes, we always tell each other how if we tread the road, and find that no one's there at the end waiting, we could follow our breadcrumbs back and we will always find each other. I know now that I don't have to grow old alone, because I'll always have Nic. It makes facing the rest of the year, if not the rest of my life, a little less unbearable.
When we were in high school, Nicole and I weren’t in the same section. To make up for not being together all the time, we used to write each other letters. I would end this entry with how we used to end those little notes passed around from room to room: I love you Nic, to Pluto and back.