this day ten years ago a good friend of mine died of asthma complications resulting in kidney failure.
these days i find it hard to believe that he's gone. it was much easier to accept back then. now when i think about him, i don't think he's dead. i just think he's gone somewhere where there are no cellphones, no postman and no email.
i remember what it was like when he got sick.
it was a few days before he died. i heard news that he was very sick, in the hospital and his parents were just waiting for him to die. i panicked. i was in manila then, in danger of getting dismissed from the university of the philippines. i couldn't afford to be absent.
so i called a common friend. she said he was fine and that he was just in school a few days before. i breathed a sigh of relief. i had written him letters that morning telling him to wait for me, i will be home soon.
it turns out that the friend i had called had not been going to class and that she had no idea he was sick. i panicked anew.
a couple of days later we got word that he was at the kidney institute. common friends were making plans to go there the following day. since i had class then, i decided to go that very day. march 8.
i remember the ward. there he was, gaunt, bearded. but trying to smile. i had no idea how bad it was. i spoke to his parents before i approached. they told me he had been revived several times already and they were hopeful that he'd be stable enough to survive a kidney transplant. he and his older brother were a match.
i stared. he stared back. then he lifted his hand a few inches off the bed and beckoned me. i finally went near him and held his hand. i had forgotten to bring my letters so i settled for holding his hand. he couldn't speak anymore. he was too weak. but he held my hand firmly.
i smiled. i remember telling him that i had letters for him and that i will bring them the following day. he merely nodded. i asked if he wanted me to stay but he shook his head. after whispering i love you, he squeezed my hand and i left. glad. i was so sure he would be okay.
the following day in class i was writing him about how bored i was in class. certain he would be amused. he had a wonderful sense of humor, archie.
i remember the day he died.
on the way to the hospital, i was with my brother in law who brought the contact prints of this portfolio he made of me. while in the car he kidded me. he said arch might croak when he sees my pictures. ha! i looked so pretty!
at the ward i stopped at the door. there was a little girl in the bed. i turned to the watcher at the first bed. she smiled a sad smile and said "hinintay ka lang."
i froze. surely she can't mean what she said?
things were hazy after that. i remember crying. i remember wanting to look for his body to make sure it was just a mistake. i remember my brother in law trying to comfort me, saying sorry for making that crack about arch croaking.
but all else faded into the background. all i could think about was that it was my fault he was dead. if i hadn't gone to see him, he would have waited some more. and he wouldn't have died.
it was my fault it was my fault it was my fault.
i shook the guilt off eventually.
i couldn't believe he was dead. arch. the guy who had ants for pets. who used to write poetry about whatever. the guy who could spike like a huge person, but who was about 6 inches shorter than me. the guy who never let asthma get in the way. the guy i lay next to on the roof to watch the stars till we were coated in dew. the guy who used to say "i love you snowflake" to me.
but he was. and it was something we have come to accept, albeit with some difficulty. he was 18 years old.
we felt the loss. we grieved. i lived with the grief for months. along with the guilt.
and now it's been years.
i feel him sometimes. talk to him sometimes. knowing he probably can't hear me. but i suppose it's for me. i talk to him to make myself feel better. i talk to him to keep up the illusion that he's alive... somewhere.
it's been 10 years.
but he is remembered. as the guy who once called me snowflake.