It was the third time the song was sung that day. It was most familiar, after all, it is a celebration of life. The expression of those around me was jubilant, and the young child himself, dearest among us all that day, could not have painted a more joyous expression.
That was my first taste of endearment in that land, the heart of the Orient's Pearl, despite not being the object of its fixation. Did I long for it? Yes, I did. Who does not pine for acceptance and appreciation? I told myself that my turn would come, and, for a day, I shall an apple in everyone's eyes.
The wish was stashed in a red box, and stacked on a shelf in a nearby corner within my mind, never truly forgotten. On sped the days, which flowered into weeks and ripened to months, and I soon found myself on the edge of a smile. I pulled the door open, and found myself alone, again. This was not new, I was used to being too early. I went to my chair and sat, hand-clasped upon my desk.
One person came, and then another, until eventually all of us were there. An elder came and oversaw the daily rituals, and proceeded with her purpose. I consoled myself then - maybe they were much too busy, there was a lot to do after all.
Another elder came with the passing of the hour, and another, and what comfort that glossed over my quiet fears cracked and broke. My spirit fell, its feathers plucked off with each passing moment. I clung on to the cloud-nine that bore me aloft earlier, the weight of my loneliness and disappointment threatening to drag me to my defeat.
With the final ounce of my determination and bravado and even hope, I steeled myself to act. I tapped the shoulder of the girl right in front of me. She turned around, her eyes slightly narrowed into ghosts of haughty slits. She had been talking animatedly with the other girl beside her, and I realized she might have been annoyed, however, I mustered all that I had left to answer her question, with a muted smile.
Birthday ko ngayon.(It's my birthday today.)
Ay, wala naman.(Oh, it's nothing.)
With a final brow-raised glance, she turned her back on me. We are good friends now, and I doubt she remembers that cold January day in 1998. She's one of those whom I can completely place my trust in.
I bear no resentment or ill-will for her. We were children then. On rare times, I often find myself caught in a vision of that day, and how I saw myself sat in dead silence after the short conversation, my spirit dampened, and a part of me crushed. The years would come to teach me things later on, realizations a boy of 8 could not wholly fathom, but perhaps understand a little.
During my inner journeys, I see the box still, colored the stalwart red of hope and passion. On rare times, I look inside, and see the space that needs filling, still, but each and every time, the space is filled a small margin, and perhaps time alone knows when it shall be filled.
Do I sound so sad?
No, not sad. Lonely.
Well, yes. I think that's the word.
I've always asked You where he found his friends.
Where did you find yours?
Thank you, for that conversation, Fairy Godmother.
Yes, I'll call you that from now on.
Do tell me if you prefer otherwise.