there are friendships that happen later in one’s life, even with people whose names you’ve known for years, that girl who was always just the girl-who’s-the-ex-of-a-friend, or that one you’d see at gigs. you could’ve studied in the same university and college, but remain as nameless faces, or faceless names. a measure really of what else we were doing, how friendships can be as limiting as they are liberating. and how sometimes age and timing — if not twitter — might be exactly what one needs to find kindred spirits.
J and N were people i followed on twitter, ones i’d converse with too, given the limit of 140-characters. it is unclear how we can’t have become friends when we were younger students in the university, when our years there overlapped and our friendships intertwined. but then again, we met up one day, for the first time as individuals — not based on the common people we had in our lives — and it seemed like we had years of friendship behind us.
and no, it wasn’t that we wanted to talk about any one boy, as we did end up talking about love and romance, not for some dreaming, as it seemed to be about keeping our expectations in check, reassessing what we believe about relationships the longer we talked about it. that conversation has gone on since. the year was 2011.
we have seen each other through many things more important than love. joblessness and the possibility of becoming call center agent (no, no, J would tell me, let’s find something else for you!), that boy who proved an asshole no matter how promising (and problema kasi is that they set us up to expect certain things, N and i conclude), the draining commitment well-paying corporate jobs demand (gusto ko lang kase sumayaw, J would say; kung yan din lang eh, cultural work na lang, N has since said); the loss of friendships, ones that can’t withstand criticism (eh kase solid sila sa isa’t-isa i would say, and they forgive each other, J would say); but what about us people like us? who are we solid to? (tayo tayo, #solidtotheus we all say); the lack of space for criticism and critical work in this country (eh that’s the patronage system at work, i would say); the truth of staying or leaving, for work and education, for doing what we do love (because there doesn’t seem to be a lot of options here, we would all agree).
these are conversations we only really had in spurts, if not on private FB messages, where J’s work and distance (all the way in Parañaque, diba ang layo), and N’s and my new-found loves (because we are baduy that way), had made planning dinners more difficult the past year or so. and yet, as with sitting down for the first time and feeling like we have known each other forever, what works is this honesty that is so rare for female friendships, at least in a country that raises girls in competition with each other.
the admission of insecurities and frustrations without being judged, and within which what we do is valued as important; the questions that become the answers we need: do you really want to work there? do you really want to do that? is that what you really want? these come with a compassion for what we know we truly love to do, and what we deserve as individuals who don’t mind putting in the work, as long as it means getting the things we want done.
J has since left for Malaysia, to teach dance in the University of Malaysia, on an invitation that was first sent to her two years ago. we had a farewell lunch, the three of us, with V dropping in for N, and V on the phone with me, and M passing by for J so they can have one of few dinners to be had before J leaves. we realize our boys all know each other in some way, proof yet again of how small the circles we move in are, and the wonder of this friendship that we have.
because there is love and romance, and there is work and dreams. but also as i get older, i find myself as part of smaller and smaller circles** that are made up of real people, where there is honesty and truthfulness, and is free of insecurity and competition. the friends we keep are intricately tied to who we are as people, and when we’re lucky, we find people who cheer us on, and prop us up, and cry with us, not because it’s what’s required of them as friends, but because they truly and honestly understand.
sometimes that’s all it takes.
*beforeiforget: is an ongoing project with the nanay, that hopes to gather our personal essays about more mundane things than politics, seeing as the latter keeps us preoccupied.
**smaller and smaller circles is the title of a novel by FH Batacan, which has no connection at all to what i’m talking about here (haha).
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