You were my classmate in first year high school, one of those newcomers who altered the status quo of our batch who knew each other since our elementary days in St Scho. Of course, as a newcomer, first impressions were quickly made – of course, the most striking thing was your name. How strange it is to have your name so masculine and feminine at the same time! Teachers always repeat your name just to make sure they’re reading it right.. Charlie Mae? Charlemagne? We weren’t close, but had common friends. I knew you as an anime lover, you knew me as one of the nerdiest girls in class.
Our friendship really blossomed the following year, with the help of a simple notebook shared between me and my best friend, Jevic (your classmate that year), containing random thoughts about high school life. After some time, we shared that notebook with other friends, including you. It was then I realized how much you loved writing your obsessions (!) within those pages, whether it be love, trivia, jap-jap (as you would say it) things, and problems. It was your way of opening yourself to us, and the more you shared, the more we became part of your world. This privilege enabled us to help you especially during those times you felt so helpless and burdened with problems, such as those you experienced in the latter years of high school. You would feel free to come to my house on weekends, semi-demanding me to play videoke, or watch cable, or lie down at the hammock down in our garden and listen to her crying her heart out. You were emo that way. Yes, there were many times you attempted to slash your wrists but most of those attempts were mainly just pranks – your way of knowing if your friends will be there no matter what. Eventually we got used to those antics..
The end of high school did not signal the end of our communication with each other. In fact, the surprise visits continued, even in Diliman. In the middle of class, I’d receive a message from you asking (no, not asking) demanding that we meet in Sunken that day, and you would be waiting. Jevic would receive the same thing, and we’d all have a mini-reunion that afternoon. It didn’t matter if you came all the way from España, as long as we had a good time together. Sometimes we would come to your house in San Mateo, and get to see your family. We’d still witness your emo moments, though, when your bedroom door is shut and no one else could hear you crying your heart out. You still had your problems, some I could not even imagine handling on my own if I were in your place, but you were strong.
After graduating from Diliman, I moved to Manila to pursue medicine. It was harder for me to get in contact with you. You were still finishing your degree in nursing (but in another school already), and the last time we met was last year, during the election season, with Jevs and Jennylyn. Everytime the four of us meet, it is common understanding that we let you do most of the talking (haha) since you were always the one with the most number of intriguing life stories. You had experienced more things in life – things I don’t like to elaborate here – than the three of us combined, and we’d eagerly listen to your adventures. At the back of our minds, however, Jen, Jev and I always had that protective instinct over you – to warn you when you’re putting yourself in danger. Reluctantly, you’d agree, but you would eventually heed our advice.
How happy you must have been to finally graduate with BS Nursing degree! You wanted us to be there at your graduation party, but I had to study in Manila that weekend for the final exams the following week. I called Jevs and she couldn’t make it either. A few days before that grad party, you texted me and said you were in PGH, getting your medicine (you were diagnosed with hyperthyroidism a few years ago), and you wanted us to meet after my class. I had ward work, I didn’t make it in time, and you left with your last text sounding a bit “tampo”. It was sad but I promised to myself to make it up to you after the schoolyear was over.. I should have known.
I woke up Sunday morning, just one day after I went back to Antipolo for the summer break, with that message from Jevic saying you were gone. It was not one of your pranks; you passed away early morning from complications due to your thyroid problem. It was so sudden. I was in shock and I couldn’t believe it. It was only until I saw you lying in state that I finally accepted that you’re gone.
Mai, it’s still difficult for me to refer to you in past tense. It’s so unnatural to have a mini-reunion with high school acquaintances at your wake when it should have been your wedding, or baby shower, or whatever life transition is appropriate for us right now. At your wake, Jevic said, “Pinagraduate na lang talaga siguro siya..”. You were so happy to finish college and had your whole life ahead of you. You even wrote your goals on three sheets of bond paper and posted them on the wall of your bedroom (and on facebook). Nakakapanghinayang. I find it unfair that you were taken away from us so soon. But only He owns you and has the right to bring you back to His kingdom even it doesn’t seem to be the right time.
Wherever you are right now, I know you are happy. I’m sorry I let you down on your last days, I know there is no excuse for not taking the time to see you on those times I was so preoccupied with schoolwork. I hope you can forgive me. As for the memories, I still have the notes you gave me back in high school and during my 18th – I will treasure them in my heart always, together with our jologs moments, videoke/karaoke moments, kain-ka-na-naman-ng-kain-charlie-mae moments and other okray moments, laughtrip and emo moments..
”Well, how will I start this.. well, I’ve known you since we’re first year.. and it’s quite a long time… You’ve known me as jolly and funny pero later as a very lonely and tragic (tama ba?) person.. Sa lahat ng pagkakataon na ito (pagiging weird, lonely, jolly..) nandyan ka…. Kung wala kayong mga friends that surround me siguro madadatnan niyo na lang ako sa mental!.. Thank you for everything.. TCCIC!”
– a note from third year HS
“Masarap isipin.. there are many people out there who consider my life with a (sic) worth.. kayo yung few sa people na yun.. kaya I’m grateful to have you as one of my best friends..
Sana wag kang makakalimot, baka naman sikat ka ng doktor, di mo na ko makilala, and besides, may usapan tayo na kukunin mo kaming dalawa ni —- as your nurses diba? 🙂 .. Sige po love you!!!”
– 4th year palanca
“Naalala mo ba? Nung nasa pav tau? yung nasa gate 7 tayo tapos umiyak ako sa likod mo? E yung umiyak ako sa duyan ng bahay [ninyo]? Sure thing isa ka sa mga sumama sa journey ko.. at ako rin sumama sa’yo, kahit papano.. almost 4 years is not only 4 years.. for our friendship at hindi naman siguro matatapos ang friendship natin kapag nag-eighteen ka na right? Update update naman tayo no?..”
“So that’s it! Marami akong wishes for you, alam mo ba? Eto yun: happiness, good health, long life, good love life (yikoi), good grades, more friends, more love, great faith, great family, [to be] braver, stronger (than yesterdaaaay), sweeter.. be as Margie as you are!”
– on my 18th birthday
Thank you for your life, Mai! I love you.