Good Friend Remembered
Today is the birthday of M, a good friend who died 19 years ago, months before his 22nd birthday. I met him on the summer before I turned 15, when we moved to Manila before I started college. We were neighbors. And the same age, as it turned out. We became friends quickly and when I met his other siblings they became my friends as well. Months later I became closer to his younger brother R, largely because we had a lot of common. But my friendship with M continued in spite of this. He would regularly seek me out and we’d talk for long hours in the telephone. Sometimes, in between classes, we’d see each other and watch movies or eat out.
At that age, I was already aware of my sexual preferences and I made it known to M but he never judged me. Maybe it’s because he recognized the same thing in his brother R, making it easier for him to accept me. I’m inclined to think that it’s because he was just basically a good person. Among his siblings, M was the most obedient to his parents and grandmother. He never talked back and he showed genuine concern to other people, like their servants, for example.
He never opened up to me about his sexuality. Because he showed an interest in girls, I didn’t feel the need to do so because I thought it was very obvious already. He was straight and I was not. Still, we had some intimate moments. We held hands, embraced, and spooned during sleep-overs. Soon after we would exchange kisses. When he learned to drive, we would go off so we can be alone.
We never discussed what we were doing, or what we were to each other. Thinking about it now, I think that on his part, he could chalk it up as part of his adolescent experimentation. It did stop after a year or so. As for me, it was one of the happiest memories of my young life. Our friendship, I believe, was unadulterated and uncomplicated. It remained the same even if things went bad between me and his family.
R did something bad and perhaps to save himself when his parents found out, he told a lie and placed the blame on me. His parents, very quick to the draw, gave me a dressing down. Soon after the whole family stopped talking to me. Well, except for M and his grandmother. He remained a friend to me. Even if we saw each other less and less, he would still call me up at night so we could talk. In the months before his death, I wanted to visit him in the hospital but couldn’t. His death devastated me.
Last night, I dreamed of him. We were treading water in a swimming pool, like the one we went to years ago, and we were talking like the way we did then. His smile was the last thing I saw before I woke up.