Letter to Athena Seeking Spring

Lost to be found

The other day, I wrote how it’s okay that people come and go. It was shared around on Instagram for a bit, because many of you were able to resonate with this idea that some people are meant to be in your life to fulfill a specific purpose. To make you laugh. To make you feel like you’re worth it. To make you cry. To break your heart.

Not all of these purpose are our ideal, but those who’ve come and then gone have at least given us a clear answer on a silver platter as to why they were there in the first place. School friends. Colleagues. Networks. Crushes. The moment either one of you leave, you understand then and there what it was all for, what quest you or they have finished that required your meetings to transpire in the first place.

Today, I ponder upon a new question: what do we do with the ones that never really left? How do we make sense of those remaining in the periphery of our vision, constantly hovering and never truly approaching, but also never making the move to walk away?

I don’t mean our family, or partners, or our utmost precious people who we know for certain serve the most critical purpose in our lives: keeping us alive. And not just in the physical sense, of breathing and eating and sleeping, but also in the truest sense of being present, with full-blown laughter and happy tears as a huge bubble of warmth threaten to burst open our hearts.

No, I mean those who we have loved and lost, who were supposed to walk down the hallway and leave through the first door they find but never actually took that one last step out of our lives. So they stay near forever, effectively making us constantly question if there is more yet to come, robbing from us an entire life lesson that could have been crucial to the person that we would have become. We remember seeing their retreating back with held breaths, and we were just about ready to make a lesson out of it when they suddenly stopped and turned back, eyes glaring a clear, We’re not done.

Fine, their doom.

And then we do what we can to continue with our lives, and we make our best effort to soldier on, but we can’t help but to feel their jarring presence like being watched by a hawk. We think of them in every decisions that we make, and we peek around dark corners in sorry attempts to find them despite wanting to be done with them once and for all, to return to what we used to call home, to make things right again, even when the universe have shown us clear signs that it has given us so many chances and our time is up.

“Why is he still in my life?” My friend asks, frustrated. “We were supposed to be done years ago.”

“I thought you said he’s a friend, first and foremost,” I ask with a frown. “Isn’t that what you two are, now? Friends? That’s what you want, right?”

“This isn’t friendship,” she says, exasperated, desperate. “This doesn’t feel casual at all. If we’re friends, he’d treat me like one.”

Hm. Okay. “How is he not treating you like a friend?”

She clenches her jaw. “Do you know that he never acknowledged my partner, not even once? It’s like he pretends they don’t exist. It’s like he wants to keep this bubble of fantasy where it’s still the two of us against the world. If he’s a friend, he’d ask me about my partner, and it wouldn’t matter to him at all because he doesn’t care about me like that anymore.”

“Then I guess he never really saw you as a friend, after all. I think you’re desperately calling him a friend because you want to make sense of his presence in your life in a way that respects your current relationship, and there isn’t really a place for, I don’t know, the one that wasn’t ready to commit, is there?”

She swallows around what I imagine is a lump in her throat. She says, in whisper, “It’s the only way I can have him.”

“And you still have love for him, after all these years,” I say for her, because I can be quite ruthless.

She looks away, defeated.

“You know,” I suggest, tone light and waging war at the same time. “Why don’t you leave? If it bothers you so much, why don’t you just do yourself a favor and leave from his periphery? It’s on you as much as it is on him to end it once and for all.”

A beat. Then, “I’d rather have him as a friend than none at all.”

(What she doesn’t say is she is so hardwired to him that she doesn’t know how else to live, but I knew).

Our eyes meet, and the dark in hers reflect deep heartache that has been there since she first learned what it meant to love. She looks like she wants to say something else, some sort of a closing remark, but she shakes her head because she rarely has it in her to end anything clean. There are always sharp edges to the parts of her that’s broken, and to the parts that she breaks.

I nudge her to speak her mind, for I don’t have the patience to wait.

She exhales, and the hardened smile that she gives me send chills down my spine. Her voice loses its shake when she states, “God brought Musa back to his mother. Yusuf back to his father. Health, wealth, and children were given back to Ayoub. What if he was never gone because he was meant to return?”

My jaw drops, then and there. My throat clenches and all I managed is a breathless, “You’re serious.”

“We never know,” she says, hopes. “If God wills, what is lost can still be found.”

And I can tell from where I stand that she truly, genuinely, and unapologetically believes it.

“How long will you wait?” I ask, even though I think know the answer.

She smiles, and it is a rueful little thing that makes me want to both hug and hit her.

“For as long as it takes?” I ask, defeated for her.

“For as long as it takes,” she promises, distracted, as her eyes strays again to the deep dark corner.

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