Grade 2. I was just a little girl who was friendless in another unfamiliar place. I was seven years old, on my third school since I started school at the age of four and still clueless about the dynamics and importance of making friends. One thing was clear: I didn’t know anyone, didn’t seem like I’ll be introducing myself to anyone soon, and it seems like the year ahead looks like I’ll be on my own.
All around me are kids my age who are playing with their friends, and then there was the awkward mini me. I was invisible and I felt it clearly. Or so I thought. Somehow you (and Jann) found me and befriended me. I was a shy little kid and suddenly here goes an obnoxiously cheerful white kid with an equally obnoxious friend who claims to be my very distant cousin, both determined to make me their appointed female friend. I had little fight in me; I became your friend (reluctantly).
We were innocent seven-(eight)-year-olds but that day when you deemed my nickname too “food-ish” but oddly fitting, when you “christened” me with a new name (your little Marcia, your Sweetcheeks whose name sounds like Potchi and whose cheeks are just as fluffy)–it looked like I’ve signed myself up for at least a year of relentlessly annoying friends. And what a year it had been. The subsequent years were, let’s just say, quite the experience on their own ways.
Grade 4. I received my first phone, a typical Nokia which used to be my mom’s. We attended different schools. I had a different best friend. But we still somehow winded up with each other’s phone numbers and Yahoo IDs between inter-school competitions. At nine years old, texting and IM-ing were never areas of interest for me. You introduced me to Harry Potter, though, and more than the sweetest words you’ve said to me I’m probably most grateful about that. We rarely saw each other. We rarely talked. But reading about the Golden Trio felt like living our lives through them: Harry-Ron-Hermione as you, Jann, and I. At nine years old, communication was a luxury that seemed petty for our youthful minds. Wizards and magic, jokes and private nicknames were our friendship’s foundation.
Talking to each other used to be a struggle. Between your thick accent and wide (for a kid) English vocabulary, and my small words and stilted English sentences, it should have been hard to communicate. But we understood each other even beyond the slight language barrier. I guess that’s one magic that kids will always have above adults–that with the simplicity of all things in their minds, even communication and language barriers are nothing.
Grade 6. We were budding pre-teens. You were leaving, and I was about to switch schools again. We were both scared, I remember that. But I knew you’d do well because you were Mr. Congeniality. It was impossible to not be friends with you. I knew you’d be up on your feet again in a new country in no time. (And I was right, you know.) We promised each other to e-mail. I swore that my English will be better; if I had to swallow a dictionary to improve our banters, to keep up with you, I would have done that.
High school was good for me. Independence, new friends, new bonds and interests, little (and huge) crushes. I couldn’t tell you all about them all the time. E-mails became almost as hard to send as snail mails. But it was okay since I have my new best friend right beside me. There were days when I wished I could have introduced you both to each other. There were days when boys just confused the bloody hell out of me, and I wished it were so easy to seek your counsel. But we both had different lives already. We were both teenagers whose minds are unstable with hormones and puberty and growing up in the way.
At 15, you found me again. You surprised me, and honestly, creeped the fuck out of me. (Stalker, anyone?) I wasn’t expecting my childhood best friend to attack my Tumblr inbox with an air of mystery all of a sudden. I was fifteen and heartbroken; the last thing I needed was a creepy poser who thinks he’s my best friend. But my secret prince did arrive with his sweet words and even sweeter promises. I was fifteen and sad, but my best friend swept in just in time to give me a reason to smile again even through my first heart break. Just like a super hero.
To my best person Archer, you’re my hero. You’ve always been my hero. You saved me not from bullies but from being alone. You saved me from loneliness. You saved me from a lot more than that. You made me smile and laugh. You warmed my heart with the beauty of your words, your wit and your good heart. At times I still feel weird about our ridiculous friendship. We sound like a trashy, cliché YA novel. But the thing is, we’re not. There will never be plot twists and surprise reunions, tears of joy, late night sneaking out and roadtrips to nowhere. It will always be just us, and our meager physical memories as kids, our even more meager memories as a-little-older-than-kids kids.
You never said “those three words”, at least not directly. You always promised me your “soon”, and I held on tight to your promise without knowing that your “soon” was an uncertainty, a promise you shouldn’t have been making at all. I don’t know if I were ever in love with you; I didn’t think I was. But your “soon” was like my anchor, my lifeline. You weren’t a romantic conquest; you were the hand that pulled me up when I was drowning, the hand that kept me afloat until I reached the pool’s gutter, until I managed to climb back on to dry land. Your implied three words–I never got to hear them from you ever, but I never regretted that I didn’t either. The simple implication suits us, don’t you think? An open ending.
Even when we were still kids, we never really needed to communicate a lot. Those unsaid words–I knew them deep down anyway, and I wouldn’t have wanted it to be different. If you had told me then, I wouldn’t have had any use for them and I wouldn’t have had an answer. For me, it was enough that I had my hero back even for a rushed short period.
I feel afraid sometimes that without the solid proof of your existence, you’d eventually transform from being my best friend to being just this abstract ball of warm fuzzy feeling without any concrete meaning. Sometimes I’m afraid that I’ll forget; it’s funny because it’s almost close to impossible to forget heroes like you. I find you in the literature I read, in my short travels, in some unconscious habits, in other people’s penmanship and other’s poetry. I find you in my dreams and aspirations, sometimes in my “what-ifs” (although I never let myself linger for too long).
There are challenging days, weeks, sometimes months, when I badly need my hero but I know he’s retired now. You made me a lot of [stupid] promises, you know that? Well it’s my turn to make promises now.
I promise you Snape’s “Always”.
I promise you that I’ll remember for the two of us.
I promise to be the one to show you the world.
I promise to move forward and drag your sorry ass to my every success until the finish line.
I promise to study Latin for you.
I promise to always drink tea as British-ly as I can.
I promise to read and collect books I know you would have loved.
I promise to visit every Wizarding village they set up around the world and keep you in my pockets to share to you the magic of our childhood.
I promise to eat a chocolate frog for you even though we both know that I hate frogs.
I promise to dedicate my diplomas, my thesis and the books I will write all to you.
My hero, I promise these all to you and more. Words are never enough to express my thanks, my love and fondness and affection, my sorrow. They never were.
Happiest birthday, Archer. I will always be your Sweetcheeks, and you my secret prince.
May your soul always remain at peace.
From me, [Those Three Words]