I go through photos of you sitting on a booth of a restaurant we had dinner at — once, many years ago. My eyes peer back and forth to the ones of you taken today, and the one of us stuck on my bedroom mirror. Just one photo of us, with me grinning from ear to ear, and you, wearing your signature coy smile.

Our story is not like the others, but could be something you usually hear.

It was enrolment day. I entered the Admin Building to buy my set of uniforms. You were there, standing next to your Mother, in a Green shirt. You looked so handsome, I didn’t even realise I was staring. You looked back at me, and we smiled at each other for a second. And that’s all I remember. I don’t even know how I got out of the room. But I do remember your smile. It was all I thought about the entire day, I ended up writing on my journal about you. I called you “The Green Magnet” (ugh, fucking cheesy, but that’s me).

That was our meet cute.

Days later, I would be meeting my Boyfriend and his friends at one of the shaded benches in front of my Classroom. To my surprise, you arrived a few minutes after I did, and sat next to one of our friends. Only then I realised, you were actually my Boyfriend’s friend.

Somehow, we ended up having each other’s phone numbers (that was probably my doing, I remember getting it from our peers to greet you on your birthday). And I don’t remember how it got to the point where we started talking. A LOT. And then we became really close FRIENDS, when we always knew we were more than that, deep down, but never really acted on it, and we were happy that way. We never crossed the line. Our friendship was strange, but comfortable.

We’d text endlessly, mostly about our problems, mostly about the girls you liked, and your “Lovers in Paris” addiction, to which you have passed on to me (I mean, you lent me your DVD set, c’mon). We’d talk on the phone, days and nights on end, about ANY THING. You always gave me tough love, always my worst critic, always teasing me, always keeping my feet on the ground. Sometimes we’d stay on the line, even on trips with my family up North, and you would listen to us bantering in the car, until you’d fall asleep, and I would wake you.

You often challenged me to think, and we’d clash because of how different we were but we could never seem to get away from each other, realising how much our differences complimented us. We stayed that way for many years — secret friends, given the complicated situation, knowing our circle would not understand.

Our bond became stronger as the years went by, and was put to test when I went through one of the worst things a person could go through in her life — my very first taste of betrayal. And then just like that, I was single.

You were there for me every damn day, even when we were physically miles apart. And then I was bound to spend a month back home, and you insisted to be the first one I meet. And so you were.

We sat a booth away from where you were seated today, on the opposite aisle. I still remember how happy we were, and how giddy, that we were spending time alone, for the first time, in public. You even begged my Mother on the phone that she let me spend all night with you, staying in a Coffee Shop or a park within Makati, until morning came. She said, “No”, of course, but she was happy that you asked. She was quite fond of you. They picked me up and we dropped you off at the nearest bus terminal. With you roughing the top of my head with your hand before getting down the car.

We spent many days together after that, one of my most favourite times being the day we spent overnight at a friend’s house and I was passed out drunk on your shoulder, your lap. Then we ended up sleeping next to each other in bed. Well, technically — with another drunk friend of ours sleeping in between us, positioned slightly halfway down our hips. I faced you, and before succumbing to Sandman’s will, my last vision was of your eyes, gently staring at me.

You told me you watched me sleep for as long as you could.

The next morning, you would accompany me back to my unit in Taguig. We had our “second date” around the hood, arms around me, both oblivious to the crowd. An hour later you get a text from someone you know, saying “I saw you with your Girlfriend” to which you didn’t object to. We went home, and swung at the playground near the clubhouse until it was dark. You passed by my Mother for a short chat, before I dropped you off at the gate to take a cab.

And then you kissed me. Half of your lips landing on half of mine, and I froze.

I could not stop thinking about you. About the kiss. About everything else.

We would have dinners with friends after that. They were not supportive of whatever was going on between us, obviously — it would ruin … everything. And you were willing to let them go for my sake. You were already choosing me over them.

Who am I kidding. You have already chosen me over them the minute we admitted our feelings to each other. You told me “I would choose you over them, no questions asked”.

Stubborn as we were, we would hold hands under the table for them not to see. I still remember when one of them caught us. My goodness, the look on your face. You were so proud.

But things did not work out the way we thought they would. They usually never do. I ended up breaking your heart, breaking your trust, breaking you.

Ironically enough, I gave you your first taste of betrayal.

You’re still in my life, but not the way you used to. Sometimes it feels like you no longer are. You told me you had a save point — a time in your life you could go back to in case things like this happened. And we could go back to normal, before all this… But you lied. And I could not blame you for that. I would never blame you for that.

Going back, there isn’t anything I would change, except — I wish I had the guts to face you, and tell you things to your face. And answer your questions, answer my own questions, and watch us cry to each other. Like they do in those movies we love so much.

When I told you I was going to see him for closure, I didn’t fully explain that we decided to patch things up, somehow. It was so complicated back then. But I did not give you the explanation you deserved, instead, I said … I was confused. I really was, but I knew deep down that I would choose him. And you had every right to know that. FROM ME.

Not from photos of us you’d see a week later.

You felt used. And it is beyond my power to make you think otherwise, despite the truth. Because I made it look that way, even if I loved you too, with every inch of my being. But it will not change the fact that I was a selfish coward.

Unlike you, I have never regretted the night you kissed me. The nights I slept on your shoulder, and felt your hand on mine. Your love was one of the purest, sincerest, kindest and grandest I have ever experienced in my life and, unlike you … I regret nothing.

Thinking about it, maybe I should not even regret hurting you, because it’s probably for the best. Maybe I was undeserving. Maybe I wasn’t good for you.

I’m never really good for anyone.

I look at my life now, and I know this is where I’m meant to be. I stand by my choices. But I will never stand by how I decided to handle things then. That part, I will always regret. At the end, I am glad we got to be part of each others’ lives like this, even if I wished it could have been more. Even if I wished we had more time.

As I go through your photos, looking happy and settled, I wonder if you were reminded today, of what it was like, sitting in a booth away from the opposite aisle of where we once did, many years ago.

And like me, I wonder if you’re smiling.