The Figaro moment

But of course, Jason would proceed to turn a reunion, built mostly for catching up, into a stretch of introspection.

Granted, the reunion was born of less than happy circumstances. We were meeting at a memorial chapel. His grandfather, the patriarch of the Barbero family, just passed away, and so he took the first flight from Los Angeles to Manila to pay his respects for the last time. While there was time for the usual pleasantries - how have you been? what are you up to now? - we have to keep in mind, Jason isn't exactly in a jolly state of mind.

Also, there's the fact that I went there mostly to open the time capsule we worked on together five years ago, during that retreat in Tagaytay, that retreat where, typically, I felt terrible about having to spend it alone, more or less. I hate to say this for risk of sounding insensitive, but Jason's return smacked of pretty good timing. I didn't want to be the only one opening, and reading, five potentially personal accounts from other people.

I wasn't supposed to be the one bringing the time capsule. That was Burton's gig. I don't remember what made him decide to bring it - a tube of sorts, that thing architects use to carry blueprints, with letters and our handprints inside - but I remember what made him renege on that plan: he didn't want to go up the altar during the retreat's final mass, so he asked me to go up there, and I ended up bringing it home and keeping it for five years.

"Buti na lang pala ako ang nag-uwi nito, ano?" I told Jason.

I hate overnight school activities. You try your best to be with friends - Jaja and I enrolled in the wrong section, switching when we realized almost the whole block was in another section - and when you get there, you see people talking amongst their own friends, and you feel alone. So why did I change sections in the first place? That's always been the prevalent mindset. You think they care for you but they don't, as it turns out, at least not enough to go beyond pleasantries.

While I considered Jason a close friend, we weren't always in the same circle. Five years ago he spent a lot of time with Cuyeg and Burton - the Space Cowboys, they called themselves, three men who shared off-the-charts ideas and the intention to see them through. If things turned out differently they'd probably be working on their thesis, and I'd be forced to do something alone. Sure, they were three different people, but they had something in common, so there they were, and there I was, lucky enough to get myself into their retreat group, if only because there should be five members.

The fifth member was Mai. I know her as one of Icka's friends from her ROTC period; I'd see both of them wearing collared shirts buttoned up to their necks, which I totally understood, but still looked a bit uncomfortable. (That, and the need to stand in salute every single time their superiors walked by.) When we were working on our time capsules that Sunday afternoon I was thinking if I'd ever get her to read what she wrote then, five years later. Turns out I was right: I wouldn't be able to, and only because I can't reach her. Apparently we aren't friends on Facebook, and she doesn't follow me on Twitter, so I can't send her any message. Not that I begrudge her or anything.

Burton was easier to contact, but as he's in Cebu and is always up to something, inevitably I can't get to him. Cuyeg was too busy with work to drop by, at least according to Ella, but he replied to me, at least. Jason replied too, but then again, none of us expected he'd end up in the Philippines the same week I was to open it.

I met him on a Wednesday. The wake was scheduled for the following morning. Huey was also there that day. We had the usual catch-up - talk of jobs and comic books - but then Jason started talking about business. Would we be good business partners? What would be our strengths and weaknesses as business partners? I didn't want the conversation to go there, since it makes me awkward, often, always, but let's go with it.

I don't remember who mentioned my hyperactivity first. I'd say it's me, but it probably was Jason. It definitely was Jason who said that that trait of mine - the trait people seem to hate about me, "huwag kang masyadong hyper" being an oft-said phrase - can be seen as a plus or a minus. Sensible. It does depend on the situation. I get it. I'm having flashbacks of Carrie Mathison trying to drill a prisoner of war as a terrorist proponent. Things blew up badly, but she was right all along. I can focus too much on one thing, like school work, and my mind works on overdrive when it shouldn't and I get back and I have a plan. But I get touchy with people, very touchy with people, and that alone is worth hating me.

When Jason said he appreciates my hyperactivity, I didn't see it as a ploy to placate me. He did mean it. We have seven years of friendship to prove it.

When he also said that all I needed was to find the right crowd - a group of people who'd take that potential negative and see it as a potential positive - I totally got it. I just haven't found the right group of people.

I've always lamented the fact that I never had my own clique. First three months of high school: unmitigated disaster. Rest of high school: meandering along, finally settling down when I was months away from graduating. College: just read my blog archives. Or not. I'll say it anyway. I've always seen myself as a drifter, the type of guy who knows many people, probably has many friends, but has nobody who'll invite him for a casual get-along, nobody who'll be willing to ask him for advice when something dark comes by.

I often assume that I'm too shy to start talking to people, but really, it's the opposite. I am too open with people, and I never notice it. I've tried so many times to make friends. The biters? Another unmitigated disaster. It all seemed to go well until the fact that I was everybody's laughingstock was revealed. My first job? Same thing. Despite attempts at civility I have never forgiven them for how they treated me. It just seems that I could never be at the same plane with other people. And when I do, when I think I do, it ends up being a much more terrible thing.

"[I] can never be [at] par with you," Chesca - yes, her from the Keane concert - told me a few days ago. "I'm dumb. Heck, I'm not even into politics."

"You find someone on your exact wavelength and she turns out to be a bitch," I answered, still burned from seven months ago.

Huey and I were never really close. In theory we shouldn't: I have this thing against people who came from SBCA, because of those first three months, never mind how (surprisingly) well my friendship went with Isa later on, and never mind the fact that I didn't really know him until college. We became good friends, though. Could've been better if he was around and if we were in the same crowd. I mostly hovered around them back in first year, mostly because of my then crush on Ale (not quite an unmitigated disaster), tried to relate, never could quite crack the shell, but definitely, still, made friends in the process.

"Hindi naman kailangang parating nandun ang mga friends mo for you," Huey said, or something like it. I don't have the exact quote, but that's the idea. He talks about his friends, how he disappeared all these years because of work, how the superficial drift didn't do much to tarnish his friendships with other people. I'm thinking, I'm probably overthinking this again - damn it, exactly why people hate me! but you can't blame me for overthinking this, because despite having what some would loosely call as friends, you don't really feel wanted. You can only convince yourself that you have friends for so long.

There will always be a moment when you stop, look at what you're doing, and ask yourself if it's still worth the consequences. The Figaro moment, Huey called it, an obvious callback to, well, seven months ago. That moment when I asked Gwen why she wouldn't say goodbye. You see friends turn into monsters and you know you've had enough. And you become the bad guy. I am overthinking this. Again. But there have been many times when I get this close to having really good friends - or something else, in Gwen's case - and then it explodes in my face, and then you wonder what's the point of it all. You ask. Out loud. What's the point? If you forget about everybody else, you can be forgiven. It consumes you.

Jason hastily organized a mini-reunion with his closest college friends on Friday night. Huey and I were there, as well as a bunch of other people. And, surprisingly, Issa. It was seven years ago when we were introduced, that YM conversation, her looking for a writer to interview for a paper, Sudoy and Jason deciding I fit the bill, even if I was middling then, to say the least. I was happy I finally had the chance to meet her, someone who I talked to a lot about so many things, but then I realized what I've known all along: we are not on the same wavelength, and we are too different people, and I felt terribly awkward.

The reunion was, to me, a bit of a disaster, mostly because everybody left the table to smoke outside, so there were many times when there were just five people around. Usual pleasantries from me. I talked a bit to Cor while she drank lots of water (I think) to counter accidentally eating some chilis in the sisig they ordered. How have you been? What are you up to now? And then I realized I had nothing left to ask, and spent the rest of the night staring into space, listening to other people talk, hoping for an opening I can leap into. I understand Jason wanted to spend more time with me while he's still in Manila - he probably wouldn't, ever, after this - but I wasn't sure if some of the others did.

I didn't feel bad, honestly speaking. I felt more resigned. It's probably too late for me to find my own crowd. We're at this point when everybody's firmly entrenched with theirs.

I still try to make new friends, both in my realms - I only meant to say "work", not sound like a fantasy fanboy - and outside of it. It just feels, most of the time, like a futile exercise, especially since my idea of friends, good friends, still revolve around having a constant rather than a variable. I know, it's not the right idea. But that's what I want. That's what I think I want. And until I get it, I'll just try and try, knowing nothing ever lasts, especially when people start drifting and no amount of catching up can fix things.

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