By accident, I came across a familiar name online, a name I know so well. A name I’ve seen written on railway sleepers outside our house once upon a time. A name which was converted into numbers as a part of coded messages written on walls around the neighborhood meant only to be understood by me but meaningless to others. A name that has now an extra name added to it, inserted in between and belonged to a familiar face of a stranger. How did it happen?
The face belonged to a friend. A son of one of my father’s workmates and buddies. His father was trying to couple him with me even before I set eyes on him. I always nod and politely smiled whenever the topic was brought up but deep inside I was not the least interested. Judging by the appearances of parents and siblings, this phantom boy who worked in the city will never be anything to me. And so I thought.
Till one sunny afternoon, I was trying to read and heard a commotion outside. Peeping through the slit on the wall I saw two young men carrying air guns chasing each other across the train tracks. I found their accent funny. Clearly, they were from the south and speaking a dialect I heard my father used sometimes. I wondered who they were.
I saw the older of the two boys again during an old fashioned barrio fiesta dance. He was more good looking than I remember, looking like a city boy that he was, fresh and modern. I was charmed.
I wish he wasn’t a show-off. I wish he didn’t dominate the dance floor, I wish he wasn’t so sure of himself the one hundred percent crush I initially had for him reduced by twenty-five percent after his performance that night. On the way home, he deliberately stayed behind to have a word with me he said and I thought: This is it! He gonna professed his undying love for me. But what he actually said was he got an eye for my friend Rose and could I possibly help him to win her heart. The seventy-five percent crush plummeted to fifty after that revelation. When I heard that he was the phantom son of my father’s co-worker, the remaining fifty percent went all the way down to zero and we became best of friends. That’s the face the familiar stranger belongs to.
The name is totally another matter.
It belongs to someone else entirely. Same town, same neighborhood, same young dreamers club (he was the president, the other the vice) but different looks, different age category; he was older. Twenty-six to be exact. I knew right away he fancied me. Actions speak louder than words, right? He showed it in so many little things but he never made an attempt to voice out his feelings or formally court me. I confronted him with it and to my surprise, he didn’t deny what I already knew. When I asked him why, he said he was not a teenager anymore to give in to impulse, too old to be foolish. I was a handful he said. Starting anything with me was like picking a rock to bash your own head. I was too much for him he said. I called him a pussy and he laughed about it. We laughed about the whole thing. I was not the least insulted nor angry. The whole conversation was bordering on funny, a joke. But we understood the seriousness of what being said and not said. We accepted it.
He was a frustrated engineer to be, dropped the dream in favor of drinks. He carries a big scar across his stomach. A souvenir from a street fight which almost killed him. If he learned some lessons from the experience, it didn’t show. Life goes on.
I went away in search of a better future. I lost track of the people I once knew. Forgotten almost. Never seen them again nor I set foot on the once familiar turf once more. Now I saw online a stranger who is carrying his name wearing a familiar face of another. Too much of a coincidence. It piqued my curiosity and started to dig deeper.
Well, it turned out to be this: Mr. Frustrated Engineer married a sister of my once best friend. (Why they all ended up together eventually? Too little choice? Too lazy to cast the net wider? Whatever) Mixing the name and the looks perfectly well. There are six siblings to the familiar stranger. All good looking, all degree holder. Three of them engineers. Not bad I thought. And the familiar stranger who is bearing the name of his father, well, he is an engineer too. Surprise surprise. Kudos to him and to the sister. Despite circumstances, they managed to raise a family of well educated talented young people who will be parents to more successful future generations from my past. Making me wish I am thirty years younger and back to the place I tried all my life to escape from. Fancy that.
And to him, he made the right choice by not choosing me. It would never work out. I am too much of everything for somebody like him. For anybody for that matter. The best way to keep me is to set me free. Something my husband understands so well. And by the way, he’s also an engineer.
Well, Mr. Frustrated Engineer… Do you still remember the song you used to sing to me while strumming your guitar?
This is it:
Something New In My Life
by Stephen Bishop
I guess I wanted something new in my life
A new key to fit a new door
To wake and see a different view in my life
The one I’ve been waiting for
Dreams like everyone I had a few in my life
Who knew that this one would come true in my life
I knew the moment when you touched me
You touched me
You’re like a sudden breeze that blew in my life
A new face, a new smile, a new song
And now I know I wanted you in my life all along
You’re like a chance I had to take in my life
I found you and couldn’t lose you
And all the difference that you make in my life
The feelings I never knew
I guess I must have saved an empty place in my heart
For you to come and fill the space in my heart
That long before I said, I loved you
I loved you
Whatever happens, this is true in my life
When all the springs have come and gone
Whatever doors I may go through in my life
Whatever else that I may do in my life
You’ll always be the something new in my life
From now on
I know there always will be you in my life
From now on…