To be good again

04/14/15:

A funny thing happened on Resurrection Sunday.

My good friend, Abraham, and I stopped by the mall that day to get some of the best damn churros in Manila. This little stall in Rockwell attracts a steady stream of people everyday, creating 30-minute long queues — a pretty impressive feat for such an unassuming hole in the wall.

As soon as he parked the car, a peculiar feeling came over me. I came awash with a sense of momentary dread and knowing. You are going to see him today, said a voice in my head. It was there for a second then it vanished completely.

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The him I’m referring to is a boy I used to date, the leading man in all the best stories of my youth. We split up five years ago, made a completely clean break of it, and hadn’t heard from each other since.

The idea of us seeing each other again after such a long time seemed preposterous and uninviting. We both lived in a city where we could’ve easily bumped into each other at any given point in time but hadn’t. Why would this day, of all days, be any different?

I dismissed the idea in my head, chalked it up to misappropriated delusion, and we took the elevator to the second floor, casually chatting away about nothing and everything.

That’s when I saw him. From 30 steps away, I could already spot the things that made him so hauntingly familiar: his height, his walk, his smile. Standing beside him was his wife (he had recently gotten married) and two of his siblings-in-law.

WHY I DREADED SEEING HIM AFTER ALL THESE YEARS:

1. Given the choice between comfortable and uncomfortable, I’d most likely err on the side of comfort. It is never easy to revive a dead friendship.
2. There was every chance that his wife might highly dislike me. And the truth is: I don’t do well with people not liking me.
3. What if he said something mean to me and my now-restored sense of self worth suddenly collapsed like a house of cards?
4. The fear that old feelings would resurface and I’d (ridiculously!) find myself back at square one all over again, learning how to heal.

Ten steps away and our eyes made contact and I knew there was no backing out. Five steps, two steps, one.

“Hey.”

The first 3 minutes were the most awkward. They all happily chatted away, as friends who have known each other for years often do, as I stood and watched the spitfire conversation unfold, an automatic smile plastered on to my face. If there was one moment where I could’ve willed the earth to go and swallow me whole, this was it.

But then there was a pause and I, heart beating at a million miles per minute, stepped into the conversation with them. We found ourselves happily engaged for the next 20 minutes, weaving in through topics of food and work and a series of small things that happened over the last five years. When we finally said goodbye to each other, I felt like I was parting ways with so much more than a shadow of my past. I felt like I was talking to a friend, a real friend, not a strange and awkward old connection.

I realized a lot of things that Sunday. I realized that if you know it isn’t going to kill you, don’t act like it will. I realized that fear is a wildly oppressive force, that a lot of the things we are afraid of tend to drastically shrink in hindsight. I realized that I had been waiting for this moment for quite some time and, also, that it happened exactly when it was meant to.

I had put in the time and effort needed to truly move on and it had paid off. The nights I spent huddled closely to the core of my sadness, the days when I reluctantly danced with a loneliness I couldn’t seem to shake away. Feeling things, deeply going through all of the motions of hurt, had yielded exceptional results five years after the fact.

Because by the time our lives finally collided, I could honestly say that I was really, really, really, really, really, really okay.

What I realized best of all is this:

Things can always be good again.

That’s the modern day redemption story that played out on the 5th of April, on Resurrection Sunday, no less. Abraham and I went on to get the best damn churros in Metro Manila and I fell asleep that night knowing I was happy.

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