You can't be in retrograde

Like last year, I spent Christmas at my cousin's house, partly because it's a big enough venue to hold four couples and their rowdy children. Obviously bored - and sleepy, thanks to the noche buena earlier, and the fact that I spent roughly ten hours in the office the day before - I was drifting particularly nowhere, until I spotted a familiar piece of paper on the computer table.

Yellow, blue, campaign-on face? It was an invite to Mon's after-graduation party.

By now this should make sense. Of course, I'm with my cousins at Merville, and demonstrated so many times already, they're close the way we're close. So it wasn't a surprise to see that invitation, printed on photo paper, lying around the house. And it wasn't a surprise that I remembered the after-dinner drinks, the tequila spill on my shirt, and Mon's failed attempts to get me drunk. What I remembered was, well, something way before that.

"Campaign ba itoooo?" I playfully asked her six months ago, when she posted the invite online. I didn't have the actual invitation, after all.

"Hindi," Mon insisted. "Invite siyaaa."

"Campaign?" Les went. "Well, it's sooo blue and yellow." It was funny because Mon's stay at Santugon affected even an invitation to something so non-partisan; the entire thing did look like a campaign poster, even her photograph, reminiscent of Nadia's two failed runs as Student Council trasurer. (Or, as she always said it on the campaign trail, "Student, Council, treasurer.")

But Les wasn't finished. "I am Monica Alcoseba," she went. "Your college assembly president!"

"Thanks, ha," Mon quipped, "Mas gusto kong pakinggan ang, 'I am Monica Alcoseba, your Legislative Assembly representative.'"

I found myself laughing while looking at the invitation.

She wasn't home that day, which was a pretty obvious thing considering it's Christmas day. She was, as she explained, having dinner with her family somewhere in the swankier parts of Manila. "Just felt like mentioning the invite," I explained back. "Reminds me of the good times. Why, oh why..."

"Awww," she answered back. "Senti mode!"

"I know right?" I said. "We all have to grow up, though. Shucks."

Me being sentimental isn't a novel concept. If you see me laughing by myself at the office, in a slightly composed manner, I'm probably looking at old photos during my three years in college. (If I'm a bit more hysterical, it's got to be something on YM.) I merely decided to give it full attention on Christmas eve, when out of boredom - and a lack of actual assignments - I decided to work on a retrospective to the past year. It was hyperlink after hyperlink after hyperlink, and as icing, twelve photos, one for each month, basically highlighting the most significant parts of my year. And not necessarily the happy ones - ever wondered why Kelly was there?

I was so bored, I even showed it to Icka. I don't know if she had work, too, but she also said the same things that Mon would say a day later.

And, on that window, we quickly reminisced about the good times, about the candid photos I became notorious for, and how quick these seemed to pass. Partly, because we're stuck at work on a day when everybody else has been let go. Partly, because we have no choice but to move forward.

"Why do we have to grow old?" she went.

"So we can die," I answered. "Birthdays are there only to justify death."

Sure, it felt like a mock lecture in existentialism, which reminds me of when I was a naïve freshman, not knowing that red shirts would get my professor's attention - something the girls figured out later, and something that wouldn't work for me however much I try. Then it will come up, as it always has, like when I was reading a book about silent films at the bookstore over the weekend, and everything I learned about Lillian Gish and Fritz Lang resurfaced. Why again do we have to leave the good times behind, just to grow old and get closer to ending it?

And your responses...

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