I didn't understand

Jason suddenly popped in. "Punta ka sa despedida ko," he said.

"The details?" I answered, hoping it doesn't happen on the day after my birthday. It was, after all, the most convenient date for anything, being a Saturday that smoothly eases into a Sunday.

"January 9!" he sprung.

"Mas lalong hindi ako available niyan," I said.

Sure, it was just in the Ortigas area, a shorter walk from my office. But I still maintain that it was the worst date he could possibly pick for a send-off party. I understand that he'd want me there, us being thesis partners and all, but it was my birthday. Definitely I'd have prior commitments. You know, birthday stuff.

Yet, I still wanted a compromise of sorts. "Tignan natin," I said. "I might drop by kahit saglit lang. But hindi ako sure sa plans for my birthday, eh."

Perhaps he forgot. "Kailan ba birthday mo?" he answered.

"Sa January 9," I said.

"Wow," he went. "Happy birthday!"

Photos of the event were quick to make their way to my inbox, and only then did I feel guilty for turning down the invitation. Perhaps it was my fault that I kept him hanging, with a promise I wasn't ready to keep, although that's putting too much drama to something I didn't have any control over. He was still sending me text messages about the event as late as the afternoon before, with instructions on how to go to the hotel and how to bypass the front desk. (I still don't know the Ortigas area; I didn't know where the thing was held before that text message came.) I just had to deliver the last blow: "Di talaga kaya, Jason. May dinner kami so diretso na ako dun."

For some reason, I still found these series of events funny. Sure, we're thesis partners and blockmates, having spent practically three years in the same situations, but this state of friendship wasn't exactly expected. More often than not, we disagreed - with the way he did things, with the way he dealt with people, with the way he thought. He's eccentric, perhaps weird, perhaps overbearing and demanding, and eventually he'll get to you. Even his closest friends will probably attest to that. I don't really know.

To be honest, I actually remember our arguments more. I threw him a jacket in disgust at the amphitheater. Sophomore year. I yelled an expletive, he threw it back, we were in cahoots for a few days. Thesis, I was crying when he said I wasn't doing anything, which I thought was a very unfair assessment - I needed my balance wheels, I'll admit, but that was too much. Imagine the kilobytes spent seething in anger.

Yet, it was him who gave me a chance. A lot of them, even. I probably did more school projects with him than anybody else - reinterpreting the Backstreet Boys, dealing with Filipino humor, and eventually, two terms of creating a supposedly deeply personal short film. Before, it was a grouping out of necessity, us being the only blockmates in a class half-surrounded with strangers. For some reason, my sucking up and my standing up got somewhere.

"Ikaw lang kasi ang nakakausap ko ng ganito," he said during a lunch at the Gateway Mall, after one of our shoots. Freshman year. I myself was confused.

The last time we met, he invited me to his graduation from a film workshop he had just finished. The very proud film director was bent on showing me our thesis, which he reedited and shortened. I sensed a tinge of regret in him, for not having thought of the idea while we were all still working on it. The video wasn't on his iPod, for some peculiar reason. He promised he'll send me a copy. As our conversation veered towards film criticism, I was proud of myself. I really can bluff.

I've long known that he's leaving for the United States. He's always been there, having visited his mother during term breaks. I've known far too much about him, or at least beyond what one usually knows - the bank deposits, the back story, the little bits that you wouldn't expect. It didn't take long before I managed to put the puzzle together - the unsolicited advice he'd give me about accepting job offers, the teasing he'd make about whoever I was having a crush on, and perhaps inevitably, my stuck-in-a-box friendship with Issa - but I never figured it out. Perhaps I never bothered to.

I didn't go to his grandmother's wake. Perhaps it's something I should've regretted. But I figured me sending my condolences and keeping my distance was enough.

It's actually funny not being able to figure out these things.

The send-off was something I wouldn't have probably survived. Jenn said she'd feel out of place; I thought the same, even if I knew everybody. Alcohol and smoke and truth and consequences, and long gloopy speeches that merely repeat what we already know. And applause inside a cramped room. And me wanting to fall asleep, unless I decide to fall for someone again, or if I'm drunk. But I doubt he'd let me.

Reading on how much fun they've had, I still figured I did the right decision in skipping. Still guilty, though. It's taken me this long to realize that one of the better friends I've encountered in my life is flying back to the United States, probably for good.

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