Posted by: theboyfromsmallville | October 17, 2007

The Letter

Someday, I will look back to this story, I will play back the details of this moment in my mind and I will wish that this was something that I just made up.  Then maybe I could add to the drama by sprucing up the details a little bit. For cinematic purposes, or something like that.

Like instead of starting off by saying I was rummaging through untouched folders in my desktop and finding a long-unopened document there, maybe I could retell it so that I was actually rummaging through an old shoebox and finding, serendipitously, a faded, worn-out stationery whose edges were flimsy where they were folded.

And instead of reading a message with bold, black, computer-glaring, Times-New-Roman letters reaching out to grab my attention, I could rewrite it so that I’d be reading fine cursive, interrupted only by fade marks caused by creases on the old paper.

Trust me, it took a great deal of teeth-gnashing restraint to keep from applying heavy doses of literary license to alter the details of this story.

What convinced me to keep the story as is was an old lesson taught several summers back.

Some things—especially the most innocent of them—are best left untouched.

So let me tell you what happened as it happened. Ungarnished, untouched.

It started out on a normal, working Sunday afternoon.

There was this particular stretch of idle time which I decided to use cleaning up a hard drive slowed by the crush of unimportant files stored in it. It was then that I chanced upon a particular word document with a familiar filename. I double-clicked on the icon and when the file spread itself before me on my screen, it was exactly as I had expected.

It was a letter, written by a certain person for her friend. Oh, and maybe this little detail will give this story its share of serendipitous warmth: The letter was written exactly a year to that particular Sunday afternoon.

I am not making that up. This particular person thought up the letter simply to greet a good friend happy birthday. As it turned out, the letter became a token that celebrated a friendship.

Allow me to digress here: The letter was stored in my hard drive because the author asked me to typeset it on a word document and then print it out, so she could hand it over to her friend. The author was kind of shy about her penmanship. So she texted me word for word what she wanted to say and I laboriously pored through each mis-SMS-spelled word and typed them—correctly spelled this time—on the document.

Yeah, impersonal, I thought so too. But I guess that’s how they are in this day and age. *digression ends here*

I reread the letter slowly to fully grasp what I had mindlessly typed last year—and grammar-checked to a certain point (at least, to the point where my brittle command of the nuances of the Filipino language allowed me to. I’m sorry Bb. Panganiban [?] I still suck at your subject).

And the contents, to say the least, surprised me.

The letter showed how even the flimsiest of details can bring about a certain glow to the heart. Maybe because it is the fact that such a flimsy detail was actually carefully stored in the one’s mind, after all. (I’ll start printing excerpts. Translations in parentheses are mine and, again, subject to my limitations).

Ang bilis ng panahon no?
Natatandaan mo ba, nung
Grade 4 pa tayo? Dun tayo unang nagkakilala. Dun tayo una naging magkaibigan.
Nasa
canteen tayo nun. Di pa tayo close. Bigla kang lumapit sa akin, nagpalibre ka. Akalain mo yun! Isang batang mukhang sabukot na bihira kong makahalubilo, nagpapalibre nalang bigla!

(Time flies so fast, no? Do you still remember when we were in Grade 4? That was when we first met. That was when we became friends. We were at the canteen. We didn’t know each other well. And yet you came up to me and asked for a treat. Who would’ve thought! One little girl who looks like I-don’t-know-what-the-hell-sabukot-means that I hardly spend time with, asking for a treat!)

Lagi pa nga tayo magkasama sa school bus eh. Naalala mo pa nung binu-bully ka namin? Umiyak ka pa nga nun eh.

(We used to catch each other in the school bus. Remember, I bullied you a lot then? You used to cry a lot.)

The letter spoke of the thrill of spending a togetherness that can only be achieved through a friendship unbothered by the complexities life often brings into bonds such as this.

Happy birthday, mahal kong kaibigan.
Ang dami na nating pinagdaanan. Puro tayo kalokohan. Laging masaya pag kasama kita.
Yung
favorite moments ko with you, tuwing nagbbh tayo. Hehehehe. Lakas ng magnet mo eh. Bilib ako sayo.
Tapos, tuwing umaalis tayo at natatanggal ang buhol ng sapatos ko, ikaw nagtatali.
Akala mo di ko napapansin yun. Hindi no. Lahat ng mga pinagsamahan natin, tinatago ko, kasama ang mga paborito kong mga alaala sa buhay ko
.

(Happy birthday dearest friend. We’ve been through a lot already. We spent a lot of crazy moments together. And it’s always fun spending time with you. My favorite moments with you include the times when we go bh [?!]. You’re such a magnet. I am really in awe of you. And every time my shoe laces get untied, you’d tie them back for me. You may think I don’t notice these times. You’re wrong. Every moment we spend together is a moment I keep in my mind, together with my favorite memories.)

It spoke, with quite a refreshing touch of candor and honesty, of a friendship with no pretensions. No false labels that spawn unwarranted expectations which, when left unfulfilled, leave deep scars.

Hindi nga bestfriend ang turingan natin, pero yun ay dahil matagal na panahon ang kailangan para mabuo ang pagiging tunay na mag-bestfriend.
Pero masasabi ko for sure and without any doubt at all, na ikaw ang isa sa mga favorite friends ko.

(We may not call each other bestfriends. But that’s only because being the best of friends takes time. But I can say for sure that you are one of my favorite friends.)

And it spoke of an outlook tempered with the kind of caution one rarely finds among the young, yet one balanced out by the only kind of vow that, when you really think about it, should be the only one a human being has the right to make to another human being without putting him/her at the risk of a heartache.

Mahaba pa ang panahon na magiging magkaibigan tayo.
Marami pa tayong masasayang araw na pagsasamahan
.
Somewhere along the way, magkakaroon din tayo ng tampuhan.
Magkakaroon din tayo ng di-pagkakaunawaan.
Pero lagi natin malalampasan yun. Pangako ko sa yo yan

… And no matter what happens, always remember this.
Lahat na ng tao sa mundo, tatalikuran ka.
Ako
, I’ll always be here for you. Always.

(We still have a long way to go as friends. We’ll still have a lot of happy moments. Somewhere along the way, we may even have our disagreements. We will have our own misunderstandings. But we’ll get through them. Promise. And no matter what, Always remember this. Everyone else in the world may turn their backs on you. Me, I’ll always be here for you. Always.)

When I was done reading it, I suddenly remembered the reason that letter was still in my desktop. The author, in a flicker of uncertainty fanned into raging flames by a fit of insecurity, decided not to send it to her friend.

“She might not like it,” the author said. “She might find it too corny.”

If you knew who the author was, especially in relation to who she was talking to, you’d know it was useless to argue.

And so, for exactly a year, that letter was consigned to the 25kb of space in my hard drive. Until I found it. And reread it. And decided to do something about it. And fate, it seemed, wasn’t done weaving coincidences into an otherwise uneventful afternoon. While I was thinking of how to send it to the supposed recipient, she suddenly buzzed me over the YM.

I kid you not. At that exact moment.

Her chatbox suddenly popped out in the upper left corner of my screen before I even collapsed the file that held the letter meant for her. So I did what any sane person would’ve done when fate presents him with an opportunity to meddle in other people’s businesses. I meddled.

This was how the YM conversation went:

Me: Lapit na birthday mo.
**: Oo nga!
Me: Naalala mo pa ba birthday mo last year?
**: Medyo. Haha. Bkt?!
Me: May binigay ba sa na letter si **?
**: Meron ata. Mga bati niyo yung laman.
Me: Mahaba?
**: Hndi eh. Puro bati nio ata, ganun… why ba?
Me: May sinulat kase sha last year para sa yo. Mahaba yun eh. Naka-save pa pala dito sa files ko
**: Ows!?!
**: Patingin!
Me: Opo. Alam ko di niya binigay kase nahiya sha. Baka di mo daw ma-appreciate. Saka baka makornihan ka daw
**: Patingin nga! Damot naman oh!
**: Ang drama ah! Di yan! Patingin!
Me: Sige pero wag mo sabihin binigay ko sayo ah.
**: Ok Ok. Dali kasi!
Me: Sige. E-mail ko na. May gagawin na ako, di na ako makakaYM, text mo nalang later comments mo

And so I sent it. I know. A crime. I should’ve asked permission from the author first. But the author would’ve said the same thing she said last year. So I figured, what the heck?

Why did I do it?

Simple.

I really don’t think that the moment had passed the letter by. I told a friend recently—under the pain of knowing that there was doubt in her mind with every word I uttered—that some things, not even time can change. A promise to a friend holds true after a year, a decade, a lifetime. Even unspoken vows, those made with a casual glance, a shared laughter, remains true through time.

And besides, I really felt that it was best for the recipient of the letter to know that someone had written those words specifically for her. That in a friendship pregnant with the promise of endless tomorrows, those carefully-picked words would be one of those little moments that will make for heartwarming reunion reminiscings someday.

Oh yes, I am aware I am over-romanticizing a simple letter. But then, look at the coincidences that led me to this piece I am hammering out right now. It was as if some cosmic force aligned the stars in such a way that I was somehow led to rescue a moment whose shelf life was fast approaching its expiry date. If this letter sat another year in my hard drive, then the moment would have finally passed it by.

And I’ve watched moments pass friendships by. A word here. An explanation there. At the perfect time, that’s all it would have talked to spare a friendship from the corroding effects of indifference.

Besides, I’m a Libra. Okay, aside from the fact that it’s a reminder that my birthday is hereabouts and it’s time to whip up those credit cards people, I really don’t know what my being a Libra has to do with all that.

Allow me to redo the previous paragraph.

Besides, I’m a small-town guy. From the tiny nook of the world where I grew up, people are big on the little things. A bike ride with siblings. Watching kites sent up the air while sitting under the shade of mango trees with cousins. Hot pan de coco dipped in thick, hot sikwate. The scent of the sea on a windswept beach house terrace. A joke. A movie. A night out with friends.

My first attempt at poetry, all three lines of it, was even about my fascination with the little things.

quickly! full moon, hide
the lilies need to marvel
at the morning star

Crude, but you get the drift.

So yes, I sent the letter because sometimes, we really don’t have to wait for the full moon to vanish.

-30-

There are a couple of postscripts to this story.

First: Before Sunday night came to an end, I received a barrage of text messages from the subject of the letter. And in keeping with the tradition of leaving things untouched, I am printing the messages in the order and group by which they arrived.

Grabe, nakaka-touch” (Wow. It was so touching)

“Actually, I was kinda surprised kasi di ko inexpect na gagawan niya ako ng letter (I didn’t expect that she’d write me a letter). I mean, I thought it was just as simple as hi and hello, but…”

“It turned out to be something nice kasi wala masyado nagbibigay sa akin ng letter na serious (because nobody really gives me serious letters). Talaga.. (really).. Kaya natutwa ako pag may nagbibigay sa akin. (That’s why I am really happy when somebody gives me a letter). As in..”

“And hindi sha corny (It’s not corny). I really think it’s sweet. Kasi nga, bihira lang may magbigay sa akin ng seryosong letter kaya nung sinabi mo pa lang, excited na ang lola mo (Like I said, it’s rare that someone gives me a serious letter that’s why when you simply told me about it, your lola [and she meant grandma casually, because no, she’s not my grandmother] got really excited).”

“Thanks dude.”

Second: Happy birthday, Potpot, wherever you are. And you, letter author. I guess you were wrong. Peace.

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Responses

  1. Haberdey, Kiko!

  2. Wow, ayos ang haiku poem mo ah!
    Bukas na bertdey mo, Happy Birthday!

  3. Ger; Tel: Maraming salamat!

  4. weh!! haha.. nosebleed!!?! magaling ka na nian?! maganda sia.. in pernexz… advance hapi bday!!? stay sweet!! wish u all d beast in life!! haha.. tatanda ka na naman!!! haha.. d2 lang akoh!? ingat lagi!!!!! ahaha..

  5. POTPOT! nosebleed ka jan.
    Nauna ka pa rin tumanda noh.
    hehehehe…

  6. I would like to see a continuation of the topic


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