I’m standing under a shade, looking at the orange, afternoon sky of my hometown. In my hand is an old and worn-out letter.
“I like you so much.”
The phrase was written in a red stationary, the border is designed with small hearts and rabbits while the main body is coloured with pale pink. One may expect more from a love letter, but in the mind of a 5 year old, the phrase “I like you so much” is already a big deal.
I am 19 years old now, and this letter was written by me 14 years ago.
She was the most beautiful creature I have ever seen.
The memory is still fresh in my mind, a young boy at the age of 5, eager to go to school and get exposed to a new world besides my Lego and my Nintendo.
I still remember my first snack my mom made for me; a cheese sandwich coupled with milk as drink.
The classroom was fine, well it’s not like I had a classroom to compare it with. But seeing a lot of kids my age in one room gave me interest. Of course, not all the kids shared my feelings. Some of them are bawling while clutching their mom’s shirts screaming “I don’t want to go to school” or “I want to go home”.
Me? I was there not giving a damn. My Mom was worried that I might feel uncomfortable during my first day, but then again I was the I-don’t-give-a-damn kind of boy ever since so I guess I didn’t mind it much at all.
It was my first lunch time inside a school. As I have said I was never the boy who initiated conversations. I was just there staring outside the window imagining that I was Mario jumping up and down at the top of the building across the street.
I opened my lunch box, grabbed my milk and opened my sandwich.
It was just now that I noticed that the milk box did not have a straw.
I don’t know about you guys, but when I was 5 years old I did not cry a lot about being alone or not being able to play. There are only three things that can make me cry back then:
My parents, Benny the Bull (my favourite toy)…
And juice/milk cartons with no straws.
At that moment I pitied myself, I felt like I was the unluckiest 5 year old boy in the world.
As I was at the verge of crying (what a loser.), this kid came right up to me, with her pink hello kitty bag and a ponytail, grinning at me with her plump cheeks and big expressive eyes.
She was inspecting me, I was there huddled up, hugging my milk drink and looking down. I’m aware of her presence but didn’t pay heed to it much because at the moment, my milk with no straw was the most important thing in the world.
She tried to get closer, pushing her face closer and closer towards me like a kid trying to see what’s below the wishing well.
“Masiyadong Malapit… (You’re too close)” I muttered. You see lads; my parents told me that I shouldn’t talk to strangers. So I devised a perimeter measured within my arm’s reach. I called it my “personal space” and if someone entered with no permission then that person is dangerous.
So there it is, my 5 year old brain have concluded that this 5 year old girl with plump cheeks and a pink bag in front of me is a dangerous creature from unknown origins.
What should I do? I panicked. You see children; the reason as to why I didn’t give much care about my surroundings is because I really am a shy kid and not because I want to look cool or anything. I really am just a shy wimpy kid who chose not to care for things that didn’t seem to matter so much with what I consider my life.
This new existence in my presence invading my personal space is not just dangerous, she’s super dangerous.
“Straw?” She suddenly said.
And there she was, extending her puny little arms towards me and within her hands is a bent straw.
“Di naman ako nag-sstraw eh. (I don’t use straws so it’s okay)”
I was dumbfounded, how in the world does she drink juice? My question was answered when she drank straight from the carton. This weird creature is trying to communicate with me, it seems that she noticed my predicament and decided to help.
I decided to extend my reach and grab the straw from her hands. I plunged it at my milk box and sipped away. Suddenly my life had meaning again and the world was so beautiful.
I love my god damn milk.
She was not dangerous at all; she was my messiah, an angel in disguise. (All of that for a straw)
I stared at her face while I sipped at my milk box. Why did this foreign creature decided to help me in my predicament? Slowly, little by little, I was unconsciously beginning to accept her inside my personal space.
Kirsten. She said that was her name. Being the five years old that I was, I struggled pronouncing her name. Kristen/Kursten/Kristin. Why her parents didn’t name her Angela or Bianca or something like that was beyond my comprehension and all that I know is that her name is a chore to say.
I then started becoming interested with this creature. And soon after my five year old heart started beating faster each time I take a glance at her.
Lo and behold, my first love.
Days, weeks and months went by and I continued being interested in her. She was bubbly, she liked pink stuff and she had twin pigtails hairstyle. I thought her bag was cute and her lunchbox too. She was always smiling, she frowns when she gets scolded by the teacher and I find that cute too. Everything about her at that time was just too damn cute.
And then came Valentine’s Day.
I knew back then that if you love someone you tell it to them during Valentines. But I don’t know how to express it. What I did was ask my Mom and my Mom told me that I should make a love letter (I love my Mom.)
And so I bought a stationary paper with cute hearts on it, and little bunny stuffs, things that I think she would like.
I was thinking so hard what to put in it; should I put a song? Or maybe my favourite poem. How about describing her like a Pokémon? I was at my mind’s limit back then and I was running out of Chocolate Moo to keep my mind on working.
In the end, I settled with the words “I like you so much.”
And then I went home and before I went to sleep I sprinkled some of Mom’s perfume on it.
February 14, 2000. Valentine’s Day.
I opened my eyes, eager to go to school.
But I felt something unusual. My stomach was aching. I told mom about it immediately, she gave me water and medicine to calm it down. But it won’t.
She asked what I had yesterday.
I said “Cheese sandwich, milk and a lot of Chocolate Moo”.
It was the Chocolate Moo, the stuff I was chugging down like there’s no tomorrow to keep my brain on working.
I had to take a day off from school.
And there it was, I discovered the fourth thing that can make me cry; It’s not the stomach ache… it was heartache.
I never got to give her the love letter. It felt awful beyond words and my stomach was growling and I’m stuck inside the bathroom with it. My mom thought that it was my tummyache that’s giving me the bad day. It was not.
I read it again and again and again that day. “I like you very much.”
And it felt worse every time.
I recovered the next day, February 15.
Mom said that I should give it to her now even if it’s not Valentines anymore.
But I didn’t. Maybe it was my stubbornness, or maybe my childish mind. But I really didn’t feel like giving it. I thought back then that the letter lost its meaning. I didn’t want to throw it either because I would feel like I would be throwing away my feelings and it felt awful back then.
I just kept it, carefully tucked away in one of our drawers.
Days, weeks, months…
Years went by. On fourth grade we had to move so I needed to transfer schools.
The love letter stayed on that drawer since then.
A lot of things happened to me since then. I learned how to make friends, how to study, how to have fun, my talents, my traits, the things that can define me, how to talk to girls, how to live and how to laugh. I experienced a lot of stuff and I grew up.
But still, from time to time she still comes back inside my head. I was wondering what she looked like now or where she’s studying or what she is doing. Although yes I know that my feelings are different now than it was back then, but still I cherished that certain part of my childhood enough for me not to forget it.
But then I moved on. One day waking up and realizing that I do not miss her anymore, she was just one of the many memories of my childhood and nothing more.
She was not that important anymore, I said to myself
14 years layer, May 31, 2014, my parents and I returned to my hometown to pay a visit. We brought the old drawer with us since we have a new drawer and we need to dispose it.
I saw our old house again now transformed into a compound of apartments. We decided to place the drawer somewhere where it will be preserved, underneath the shade of a bungalow on our old backyard.
I pulled out one of its contents. Inside it was my love letter from 14 years ago.
I walked the streets again of my old neighbourhood, holding my old love letter in hand; some things did not change, like the old ice cream cafe I used to go with my mom after school, or the old school supplies store that sells those weird gooey toys with weird stuff in it.
I walked at a familiar path leading to my old elementary school. It did not change much except for a few teachers that I do not recognize anymore going out of the school gate. The old guard was still there but I doubt that he still knows me because we did not talk much back then; all I know is that every child knows him. The old cafeteria is still the same, selling their trademark noodle buns.
I sat down on the familiar bench under a shed outside the school, it was already 4 pm so students are going out, friends are with friends just like the good old days, only now they’re going towards the internet cafes instead of the old play ground at the next block.
It was almost 5 pm when I decided to return to my old house. I was getting ready to go home when suddenly, a pink umbrella happened to pass me by.
Under the umbrella was a girl, with wavy hair. The umbrella is designed with Hello Kitty prints, I know that umbrella. I’ve seen it before; I know I have seen her using it when it was raining 14 years ago.
Everything flashed back.
I stood there, frozen. In my hand is the love letter that I was not able to give to my childhood friend. The letter that served as the only regret of my childhood, I’ve wanted to tell her that she looks so cute, that she’s like sunshine and that I really like her very much, I wanted to give her my love letter but I was never given the chance.
Well, not until now.