I smiled at the small-eyed girl and pointed to her the vacant seat next to me. She was the same girl that I met during enrollment in the first semester of my first year in college. Her name was Hannah. Her air of independence was quite distinctive that it captured my attention, that made her face instilled upon my memory.

With blank expression, she motioned to the chair next to me. Not minding the possibility whether this girl remembered me as I remembered her, I smiled and said, ‘You can take this vacant seat.’ Still mystified by my ‘feeling-close’ actuation, with a tone of respect, she asked me, ‘May I know you name?’ A little bit embarrassed, I answered back, ‘I’m Ma. Armelyn. We were together on our way to the College for enrollment. I was with my sister and mother during that time and you were alone.’   With that, everything became clearer to her. ‘Oh, I’m sorry. I recalled your sister very well. I thought it was she who will be my classmate.’ That was our first interaction.

Feeling restless on the blues and mixing with the rest of the block to combat the new appalling life of college  and being hooked to my high school buddies who were also my roommates,  I was not very attentive to my new environment. Sometimes it takes one knock on the head to realize  how important a thing is and how fleeting it can be if you would just neglect its existence.

With my vigilant disposition raised high, I regarded Hannah as a plain friend, one who was just nice to me in a certain season of my life. Until one day…

While walking together side by side, I met two of my high school buddies (who were also my roommates) and some cottage mates.  After a short and happy conversation with them, being very true to myself, I introduced her to them. ‘By the way, this is Hannah, my co-major.’  

Unaware of my wording’s impact to her, I kept doing my usual routine, while she, on the other hand, subtly lied-low keeping me company. I thought it was just her way of telling me that she got tired of my companionship, so I was not that bothered, when, after a year, when everyone was in a happy mood, she told me jokingly the real reason why she kept her distance. ‘For me, you were my best friend. I would introduce you to my roommates and fellows as my best friend. I found out the truth when it was your turn to introduce me to your roommates. I was just a mere co-major.’

That incident was put past us. We continued doing things in our own ways, seeing each other from time to time, yet giving space for each one to discover life in ways each sees how. In November 2001, I witnessed one of the happiest and most fulfilling days of her young life. She completed her education at barely 19 years old! She graduated ahead of me by one semester, and I was left behind. I thought her graduation was a period to our friendship, yet I was wrong. Despite her busy schedule, we still managed to exchange letters, and if someone would return to our university, she would make it a point to send me some of her homemade stuffs.

By April 2002, it was my turn to graduate. She was also present during my graduation. For two months since my graduation, we did not hear from each other. Until one day, on June 12, 2002, I got a surprise call from an unknown number. It was Hannah! ‘I got to tell you something!’ she started with a note of excitement. ‘There is a scholarship for Indonesia. I want you and I to apply.’

From June to July 2002, we prepared the necessary papers for our studies in Indonesia. After almost four months of painstakingly waiting, in October 2002, we finally flew to Indonesia.

The first six months of our stay there was like a roller-coaster. Not only did we have to adjust to and acclimatize with the Indonesian culture, we also must adapt to the varied nationalities of our classmates, but most importantly, we had to  settle our own differences. The last was the most difficult thing.

Regardless of our differences, we were able to soar high with our friendship intact.We were not only friends, but later on, we became partners. For one, during our stay there, we turned to each other more frequently. We almost met death two times. We had special dates for food trips, sometimes experiencing the difficulty to chew our food, nervous that our money was not sufficient to pay our bill. We rove around the traditional market to satiate our hungry stomach for Filipino foods. We had seen each other’s faults and weaknesses, as well as pains and joys, yet embraced them all as part and parcel of each other’s self. It was more of a world wherein we were confined to grow with one another, and learn from each other.

While in our room, one night of December 2003, she announced to me the most daring event she was planning to undertake: she would be getting married–soon! Having known her fiance, I succumbed to the idea. But we have one problem: her parents could not be present at her wedding.

Giving their blessing and support from the Philippines, with only the bride and me present in the ceremony, on August 1, 2004, I gave the bride away.

A couple of months before I gave Hannah away, I remembered our usual chitchat until the wee hours of the morning, but that night was extra special. We were talking of intimate things, how we feel about each other, how would we look when we get older, and how we surpassed the tests in our friendship. Still floating in wistful thinking, she proclaimed, ‘Indeed, we are not best of friends. We are partners.’ Without any hesitation, I added, ‘Yes, we’re partners for life.’

Published by Ma Armelyn Alegria