When I was a kid, I had one of those friends who just accepted me for what I was. I called him Tan-Tan, as we all did, since we were like 6 or 7-years-old. He was an all-around good guy and smart to boot. We first met through our parents, I don’t exactly know when, but we pretty much kicked it off straight away. We would have sleepovers at his place, and we would play the heck out of Crash Bandicoot. That game was the last game we played together.
I met him years after at a reunion. I had gotten fat, and he had gotten a lot whiter. He apparently had some sort of rare blood disease, but it wasn’t so apparent then. We talked about how we did and what we did since we saw each other. I took up football; he took up archery. I went to musical theatre during summer; he went to science camp during summer. I had turned out to be a delinquent (I never told him that though), he had turned out to be gifted.
A couple of years more, we met up again. I don’t remember much, but I do remember my mother being disappointed at me. “They keep telling me how well Tan-Tan is doing! He has all these awards from school and competitions! AND ALL I COULD TELL THEM WAS THAT YOU COULD ACT!” Then she would hit me while we drove home, and my father would do nothing but keep his hands at two and ten.
A few more years passed, and I heard that he got into the Ateneo School of Medicine and Public Health, one of the country’s top medical schools. He wanted to be a doctor and help those who had the same disease that he had. It’s a noble pursuit and one that I could never top, even until now.
One or two years passed after I heard he got into med school, he was admitted in a hospital. His body was weakening. He eventually passed away. My parents had a long chat with his parents. I heard that he had so many friends that truly loved him, the type of friends that were just like him. I heard that he did so much for the community, he did so much to give back what was given to him, life. I heard that his girlfriend was beyond devastation that mere words could not manifest her emotions.
During the service, I was as silent as a mute. I didn’t dare go close to the open casket and see him in there. I just stood there while old ladies were wailing. “He was too young! WHY COULDN’T IT JUST HAVE BEEN ME!? WHY!? HE HAD SO MUCH TO DO IN LIFE! I’M JUST A USELESS PERSON! WHY COULDN’T IT HAVE JUST BEEN ME!?” Their words echoed and resonated in my head. I had to step out.
I cried in the car on the way back home. My childhood friend, the person who saw the awesome in me, the person that treated me like a brother, the person who I would eventually call my role model, was now gone. I came to realise that this wasn’t fair. Why? He lived an honourable life. He wanted to be a doctor because wanted to help people who had the disease that he had. He did magnificently in his academics. He was very religious. He was an aspiration to many. He was a good friend and a great son. He was everything I wanted to be, and I never lived up to his brilliance, even until now.
He was the certain type of person that didn’t deserve such a fate. He had never done anything wrong. He was a hero in the making.
A miracle never presented itself before him. I kept saying to myself in the car ride back home, “God. If you really are there, take my life and give it to him. He deserves to live. People need him. I don’t deserve this life I exploited. I use this body for my own carnal desires. I have been nothing but a scum. He. Needs. To. Live. Give him back to the world!”
I was ready to give up my life for him, and I still am. All these academical pursuits are my personal desires; he was the man’s man. He was a true man, a real man.