My best friend Marcus was already breaking hearts with his playful smile at age seven. Almost 18 years later, he's still at it, making girls gush one day, then cry the next. He never meant to do it, or so he says. He just didn't seem to know what he was looking for.
I was able to witness his attempts at finding love. Since I'm his childhood best friend, the girls he dated always made an effort to be close to me. I was the constant in his ever-changing world of women. When we were 12, he ceremoniously etched our initials on the trunk of my family's guava tree to immortalize our unbeatable duo. Marcus and Maxinne, best friends forever.
I was always around, even when I felt that I couldn't take any more drama from him and his ever-changing romantic status. He would always remind me of our little pact whenever I felt like throwing in the towel.
All this time, I was with my high school sweetheart, Peter. He and Marcus never got along. “He’s too controlling. You need someone who will let you be yourself,” Marcus would tell me. I never listened, even though everyone was saying the exact same thing.
It took eight years for me to break it off with Peter. It was more than difficult given how long we were together, but it felt like the right thing to do. Meanwhile, Marcus didn’t even try to pretend to be sad. He gave me a tight hug when I told him it was over. “You’re free, best. Welcome back.”
I was a mess during the next four months. I would be fine one moment, then break down in tears the next. Marcus was there the entire time. He stayed with me, saying nothing while I binged on ice cream and chick flicks for four consecutive nights. He was with me when I got the proverbial post-breakup haircut, exclaiming “What a hottie!” when he saw the result.
By then, “Kayo na ba?” was a common question from tsismosa officemates and even our close friends. I had gotten used to answering it with an eye-roll and an exasperated sigh. “Pwede ba? Me and Marcus?”
Marcus, on the other hand, would always answer it with a nudge on my shoulder, loudly whispering “Umamin ka na kasi!” as our friends break out in laughter.
One random night at my apartment, he was making popcorn while I was choosing the movie we were going to watch. It was when I caught a glimpse of him in my kitchen, whistling in front of the microwave in his ratty shorts and faded shirt, that I felt a tug at my heart. It wasn’t an explosive feeling or a sudden bright realization; it was a warm, calming, and familiar feeling of being part of something that was real and true.
As he sat down beside me, holding the tub of popcorn and smiling the very same grin he first flashed me when we were kids, I reached out to him and whispered, “Umaamin na ako.”
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