Perhaps for the last time...

I've been doing these blog entries - the Christmas eve ones, where I send a group message and document the replies for kicks - for almost a decade now, and this year is the first time I thought I didn't feel like it.

But, I argued to myself, don't drop it now. I have to write a few more blog entries, after all. Hit the self-imposed monthly quota of four. Stock up on a few more - there might, might, might be no Internet access in Seoul.

Also, this is a tradition.

So, after running errands - an attempt to buy beef at the grocery, and a few more purchases - I composed that group message. It was a little past one in the afternoon. I was almost done with the initial stages of the K-pop playlist Rainy and I have been preparing for the Seoul trip. (I say "initial" because my completist urges kicked in and I conceded that the project will never be finished. I do not know what I got myself into.) But I still didn't feel like saying anything.

Honestly, I don't really feel particularly Christmas-sy. No presents were bought. Well, I bought one present for my godson - Rainy's troll of a nephew - and that's it. A lot of winter gear was bought too, but there's this feeling of finality hovering around. I don't know. It's, like, I'm not supposed to be that happy, you know? Excited, yes. I clearly am excited. Almost 900 songs for a week-long trip? Those completist urges kicking in? Excited, yes. Happy, not so.

After the shopping, the withdrawing and the gift-giving, I began writing, may we pause to look back at the year that was, and look ahead at the year that will be. Merry Christmas!

Thirty-five people got that text message, and if I understood it correctly, the message did not get through to ten people. I got confused with how my phone worked and feared I'd send the same message twice, thrice, to some of those ten. As for the remaining twenty-five, I got replies from seven of them.

"Sana mabawi mo ang winithdraw mo," Drea, the first one, said. Well, I wish I could.

"Thanks, Niko!" Tootsie said. I haven't talked to her for a while. I tried to have lunch with her the one time I was in Makati, but she wasn't available, so there's that. I haven't seen her around online either. I guess we're both too busy, or I'm just in denial.

"Merry Christmas, Niko," Edsel said. We still talk occasionally, online.

I don't mean to sound excessively wistful, but I'm afraid that's how I really feel right now. And it's not the K-pop kicking in.

"Thanks for the Christmas message," Icka said. "It's a welcome distraction from all the gifts I still have to wrap since I left everything until the last minute."

I mentioned this three weeks ago, me and Icka meeting. It's a welcome meeting, even if I had to be back at the office by one in the afternoon. It's one of the things that proves Huey correct. You don't need your friends to be constantly around you. I'm paraphrasing, obviously. Icka and I never always spent time together, but she is one of my earliest friends in college, and we remain friends to this day. I thank her for sticking around, and spending her money to give me and Rainy a gift we don't exactly deserve. But I guess that's what friends do.

While driving to the mall this morning, I had a thought. I am friendly with a lot of people - have met a bunch of them, to varying degrees of perceived closeness - but Rainy has been my only constant friend these past few years. You know, the whole "we're not just lovers" thing. I love her, yes, but I am happy that she chose me to be her friend, her closest confidant. Sometimes I don't feel like I deserve it. I can be such an ass - you all know that. But she still chose me, and for that I will always be thankful.

Right, I have replies.

"Merry Christmas!" Janelle said. Janelle, by the way, Rainy's friend.

"Withdraw for my libre next year," Mika said. Oh, yeah, I lost another bet and I have to treat her to lunch. She has a boyfriend now, right? Will it look bad on both of us? I am not reneging on my commitments, though. Also, I know I still have to arrange a lunch meet-up with Sam. It's been almost a year. We said March. It's almost January.

The last reply was from Immie. "Merry Christmas too, Niko" she said.

I am not in the mood to provide statistics.

I hate writing like this. It feels like a vestige of my college days, when I had a lot of time to, you know, be in touch with what I feel, that sort of thing. I think back to free time spent in computer shops pouring my heart out on blog entries and I don't as much cringe as I flinch. But here I am, in front of my laptop - my second laptop; the first cracked a screen and so much more a couple of months back - listening to that K-pop playlist, figuring out how well it sounds (we still need to redress the gender balance - too many female voices on uncontrolled shuffle) and writing this crap.

There's a lot of terrible album art, but sometimes the Koreans do it really, really well. But maybe it is personal taste.

I am definitely sure I need a breather, and I hope Seoul gives me that.

If the coming year does not go as well as I hope, there might be none of the replies on its Christmas eve.

To the people I've had the pleasure of knowing, you know. Insert Christmas greeting here. Imagine me smiling, even if I really am just forcing one.

And your responses...

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