After dropping off the letter, I walked to school thinking about maybe sitting with Julie Anne today. I’m beginning to think maybe we could be good friends. She’s pretty interesting, plus she’s kind of the only person who’s ever seen me cry, or at least almost seen me cry, so that’s gotta be some big intimate friendship moment right there. Most of the “friends” I have at school only really knew me because I’m a Magalona, still under the influence of Frank and Maxene’s popularity. Don’t get me wrong, I love my friends. It’s just that, sometimes, they do tend to pressure me to follow in Frank’s footsteps and join the football team. I sometimes get tired of making them understand why I want to be known for something that’s unique to me, and not something that’s already been done by my siblings.
As I was walking down the street, my eyes fell upon a girl walking ahead of me. I squinted to try to recognize who she was because I had a feeling I knew her. I smiled when I recognized her. I walked briskly and caught up with her immediately.
“So… that kiss last night…”, I whispered.
I saw her jump in surprise and glare at me as she looked around. When she recognized me she laughed and punched my arm lightly. “Don’t ever do that again”, she told me. She continued walking and I fell into step with her. “And about that kiss last night… are you still thinking about that? It’s already morning, Elmo, time to wake up, let go of the past, and embrace the present”, she said. As usual, she was being her insightful self.
I laughed. “I wasn’t really thinking about it. I just remembered when I saw you”, I told her.
“So, it’s out of sight, out of mind now?”, she suddenly asked, not looking at me.
I frowned and looked at her. “I didn’t mean it like that”, I said, trying to decipher her facial expression. She was wearing a poker face.
“Are you sure?”, she asked again.
I stopped in my tracks, but she kept on walking. “You know I don’t mean it like that”, I said.
I saw her stop then turn to me… with a grin. “I was kidding. Gotcha there”, she said with a laugh.
I walked towards her and poked her arm because I couldn’t really push her or anything, that’d be too violent. “Should’ve known”, I said, shaking my head and laughing. We continued walking.
“Yet, you didn’t. So there”, she said, obviously rubbing it in my face that she got me.
“Yeah, yeah, whatever”, I said as we finally got to the school gates. “What do you have for first period?”, I asked her.
She stopped and thought for a while. “I have… Math. Why?”, she asked me.
I shrugged. “Nothing. I have History. Let’s meet for lunch, do you want to?”, I asked again.
She nodded. “Sure. It’s not like I have other people to meet. How about your friends?”.
“What about them?”.
“Aren’t you going to have lunch with them? No offense, but if you are, I’d rather not meet up. I don’t really… like them”, she told me honestly.
I appreciated her honesty. I smiled at her. “Don’t worry, I don’t like them that much, sometimes, too. And no, I won’t meet them. I’ll meet you”, I said.
She nodded and smiled. “Alright then, see you at lunch, Elmo”, she said, waving at me and walking away.
I smiled as I watched her go.
“Why the hell are you here? I thought we were meeting up for lunch?”, I asked as I stood over Julie Anne at the school bleachers. I had been looking for her at the cafeteria, and waiting for her there for the past half hour. I was surprised to find her at the bleachers.
Julie Anne looked up at me and frowned. “Yeah, I’ve been waiting here for a while now”, she said, although her voice was calmer than mine.
I sat down beside her and groaned. “When normal people say they’d meet up for lunch, they usually mean at the cafeteria. You know, where lunch is actually eaten?”, I snapped. I was slightly annoyed.
Julie just giggled. “I thought, last night, you said you weren’t normal?”.
This got me to smile. “I think I said maybe I’m not. I didn’t really say I wasn’t”, I teased back.
She grinned. “Same thing, you’ll get there, eventually”, she said.
I shook my head. “I’m beginning to believe you really are weird”, I said as I took out the sandwich I’d bought from the cafeteria.
“Well, I already told you I am, so you better believe it”, she said, biting into the apple she brought with her.
I laughed and bit into my sandwich. We spent lunch watching the football team training on the field below. We talked about school, what classes we loved, what classes we could do without, which teachers we hated the most… the usual stuff teenagers talked about. When it was almost time for next period, we both stood up and threw away our trash in the nearest bin.
“Walk home together, after class?”, I asked.
She shook her head. “Can’t. Need to do something else. But we can walk to school together again, tomorrow”, she offered.
I nodded. “Sure, I’ll walk by your place to pick you up”, I said. We both walked back to the school building. Before we separated, I stopped and smiled at her. “Are we friends now?”, I asked. I knew we were, in my opinion. But I had to know if she felt that way too.
She frowned and pretended to think hard. I stood there, frowning as well. Then, she suddenly grinned and punched me lightly on the arm. “Of course, we are. The weird and the pessimist right?”, she teased.
I nodded and laughed. “Yep, the odd duo. Anyway, see you tomorrow, Annie”, I said, making up a nickname for her.
She wrinkled her nose at me. “Ew. See you tomorrow, Moze”, she said.
I stuck my tongue at her. “That’s just lame”, I said.
“Shut up and go to class”, she said, waving me away and walking to her next class.
I laughed and watched her leave.
When I passed by Locker Letters after school, I was disappointed to find out that there was no letter waiting for me. My letter was gone, though, so my locker partner was probably still writing her letter to me.
I got home to find my mother cleaning the living room. “Hey, mom”, I greeted, making a beeline for the stairs to go up to my bedroom.
“Wait, Elmo, come here”, she called. I turned around and walked towards the living room. I stood behind the couch as I looked at her, standing in front of the couch, fixing the magazines under the coffee table. I didn’t want to sit down. I wanted to make sure I could escape immediately if this turned out to be a crappy conversation.
She put down the magazines she was holding and sat down on the couch. She motioned for me to do the same. I stood there for a while, contemplating, but then, my locker partner’s words suddenly echoed in my head. “You gotta at least give your family a chance”. So, reluctantly, and with a slight groan, I walked around the couch and sat down, dropping my bag on the floor beside my feet.
“Elmo, I never really got to talk to you after you ran out last night”, she started.
I looked away and leaned back on the couch. “There’s really nothing to talk about, mom. What you and dad told me was pretty clear. You guys are getting a divorce”, I said bitterly.
My mom sighed. “It’s not a divorce, honey, it’s a separation. We’ll still be married just not—-“
“What does it matter if you’re still married or not? You won’t be living together. This family will be separated, broken. We won’t be whole. Not like we are, anyway”, I said the last piece quietly.
My mom was quiet, a first for her, if I may add. Usually, when we talk to her in a bad way, she’d immediately snap at us and put us in our proper place. But not this time. And that was the point that I realized, maybe my locker partner was right. Maybe I was just rationalizing, and being moody, and being… well, being a teenager. Maybe my family deserved to be given a chance. I looked up at my mom. She was just looking at the floor. It may be out of my personality, but I did what I thought was right: I reached out and hugged my mother. “I’m sorry, mom. Teenage angst and all”, I apologized shyly. For the record, this is something new to me. I was used to being the “snap back” kid at home, so for me to show affection was a once-in-a-blue-moon incident.
I felt my mom’s around around me, hugging me tightly. “I’m sorry for putting you through this, Elmo. I love you, we both do. Your father and I are just… we’re just going through a phase. But we’ll fix it, I promise. We might not even go through the separation, for all you know. We’re still trying to talk things through”, she said. I could hear her crying from her voice. And, eventually, I realized I was, as well. Silent tears were streaming down my cheeks. I immediately wiped them away.
That night, I ate dinner with my family with a lighter heart than usual. Most of the time, I’d only eat with them out of courtesy. But that night, I actually tried to enjoy their company.
After dinner, I went to Locker Letters and was glad when I found an orange envelope in my locker. I pocketed the letter and was about to walk home when I decided to pay a visit to Julie Anne. Unfortunately, her father, at least I think that was him as I didn’t really ask, said she’d gone out for a walk. I was about to head back home when I had a sudden idea. I went to the park where Julie and I had gone the night before and, as I predicted, she was sitting on one of the swings.
I sat down on the swing beside her. “Favorite hangout?”, I asked, swinging slowly back and forth.
She turned to me and smiled. “Nice to see you here, Moze. What have you been up to, tonight?”, she asked me.
I shrugged. “Usualy family stuff and teenage drama”, I said with a laugh.
She laughed with me. “Your life is just one big drama to you, isn’t it?”, she asked.
“Sometimes, it’s a comedy. But it’s never been action or horror”, I teased.
She glared at me and shook her head. “You can’t take my questions seriously, can you?”, she asked.
I smiled. “Friends are supposed to tease friends”, I told her.
She suddenly stood up and pushed me gently. I pretended that she pushed too much. I forced myself to fall off the swing. I heard her give out a small scream. “Moze, are you all right? I’m sorry!”, she said, crouching down to help me up. I let her help me up.
When we were both standing, I grinned at her. “Now, I got you”, I said matter-of-factly. She frowned at me. Suddenly, she turned around and started walking away. I followed her and grabbed her arm to stop her.
“Oh, come on, Annie. It was a joke”, I said. She turned around and I actually expected her to slap me, but she didn’t.
“You know, I think we need to stop with all this ‘gotcha’ things we’re doing to each other because it’s bound to get old”, she said with frown.
I don’t know why, but for the second time that day, my locker partner’s words echoed in my head. “I think we need to stop with all these lame jokes we’re throwing at each other because it’s bound to get old.” The same phrasing, just different content. I let go of Julie’s hand and nodded.
“Sorry. Come on, I’ll walk you home”, I offered.
She smiled and led the way.
When I got home, I found my mom and dad watching TV in the living room, and it actually made me smile to see them together and, for once in weeks, not fighting. Usually, I don’t greet anyone when I get home, unless they were standing right in front of me, or if they greeted me first, or if they were looking at me. But I was still on that give-my-family-a-chance phase so I actually greeted my parents. “Hey mom, dad, I’m home”, I said, looking at them as I stood at the foot of the stairs.
They both looked up and smiled at me. “Good night, son”, my dad said. “I love you”, my mom added.
I smiled. “Good night”, I said. I climbed up the stairs and headed to my room with a smile on my face.
So, now that we’ve settled the issue about minimizing our lame jokes, on to the next big issue at hand: you’re love for the color blue but apparent hatred (is that correct?) of people who actually parade around the fact that they like blue. Haha! I’m kidding. Well, I own a bunch of things in orange, but I don’t necessarily use or wear them at the same time, so I guess you could say we’re the same. Oreos? I love them! But I don’t like the flavored ones, I only like the original one. And I love fruits! Is that weird? I love apples, in particular! I would actually probably eat that all the time if I didn’t need other foods for other nutrition.
With regards to your family, well, I still stand by my notion that it’s probably a misunderstanding. I mean, whatever horrible news you received about them today, is it really worth it to give up on them? Try to remember that they’ve been there for you since you were born, and they never really gave up on you, did they? Otherwise, you’d probably be homeless and roaming the streets, begging for food. But you aren’t, are you? So, yes, I still really think your family deserves to be given a second chance in terms of showing you their “goodness”, as you say. I’m not going to pretend that I don’t have those moments when I wish some of my family members would just go missing, even for just a day, just so I wouldn’t have to deal with them. But at the end of the day, I try to think of how I would feel if they really did go away. Sure, I’d probably be peaceful for a day, but then again, I know that, at the end of the day, I’d look for them and would want them back. Try to think about that. What if that happens and you can’t get your family back any more? Would you be happier? Those are some thoughts that I think should motivate you to at least try to understand your family even more.
I put down the letter and lay down on my bed. I smiled. Despite this person being a total stranger to me, her words made sense. Her words were making me see sense. I fell asleep smiling for the second night in a row.