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The Railway Platform

Today, we stood side by side on the railway platform as we let the sound of the wind echo between us. It was only three years ago when we would also wait for the train at the same spot, except we wouldn’t let silence fill the space. I never knew silence could be this loud. I can sense the invisible questions and hesitant words filling the air so clearly; I wonder if you can hear it, too.

The sky is getting dark; I remember you would always lend me your raincoat whenever it rains when we got home from school together because you always bring that and an umbrella while I never bothered to. When it would rain for days consecutively, it’s almost as if your blue raincoat found a second home in mine with how often I borrowed it. Sometimes I kept it for days before giving it back to you, and you never minded. 

My eyes wander in search of a light anecdote to tell but the gap of five months since our last conversation (two years and seven months since the last time we talked to each other directly) made me hesitant. It’s almost as if we know there are words to be said, that have to be said, and it itches against my arms, and I can feel you squirming in places where we don’t touch. I ended up not saying anything at all, letting the void fester for another couple of seconds, before letting out a:

“Your hair looks so cute. It suits you.”

You dyed your hair red, which was why you looked different. I hadn’t even noticed how your hair looked different at first, though I just kept that to myself.

“Oh, thank you,” you smiled. I hate lying. I like you better with your natural hair. Sometimes, under the sunlight, it will turn reddish and you will point it out with pride because it looked pretty. I’m starting to think the dye is unnecessary.

The little hamster on the spinning wheel inside my brain ran an extra mile to come up with a conversation topic, but it was difficult when you just looked so different. 

How’s college? How was your mom? How was your boyfriend? Actually, I don’t even know if you’re still together. Your minimalist Instagram feed with only three pictures all unrelated to you or your life doesn’t tell me much, and I’ve never been close enough to still keep in touch with him. 

Eventually, I just waited. Maybe you’re going to ask about my cats if you remember, or maybe you don’t. Or you might want to ask how I’ve been doing in college. In the meantime, I kept myself busy with counting the people coming into the station. You probably have some music playing in your head with how you keep tapping your foot on the ground. 

“The train’s going to arrive soon,” I ended up saying, and, God, do I regret that because I sound annoyed. I don’t want you to think I’m annoyed. 

“Yeah, I know,” you replied. I can’t help but think, were you annoyed? “By the way, happy birthday.”

I was startled. I thought a long time has passed since my birthday, but I just realized it hasn’t, not really. It’s only been two months. Well, one and a half. My inability to keep up with the passage of time couldn’t be worse than when I met my old best friend after years. 

I huffed a laugh. “Thank you.”

I remembered then your birthday is in two weeks. It was a part of the password to one of my social media accounts. I was glad we met so I can set a reminder ahead in case I missed it. Back then, we would surprise each other on our birthdays with pastries from the bakery near our school (always the same variety but we loved it anyway), come to one of our friends’ houses to eat them together, and we would play and laugh and sing and dance until the sun set and we’re reluctant to go home but we’re supposed to so we bid each other prolonged goodbyes. 

It was as if you could read my mind, because the next thing you said was, “Remember when we celebrated your birthday in our last year of high school?”

“Of course, yeah,” I replied. “I had my suspicions, you know. I knew what you were going to do.”

You laughed at what I said, and it sounded so familiar. “Thankfully we pulled through. And then we crashed into Anna’s house, right? It was fun.”

It really was. It was as though we escaped senior year for once to enjoy what was left of us. “And then we did karaoke at her place, that was fun, too. Anna sang very confidently.” 

That was the first time I did karaoke, with the set and everything, and every time I went to one ever since I always get reminded of this. “She’s confident for sure.”

When the laughter died down, it was like everything was fine, even when another pause followed.

“Anyway, we should hang out together again, the three of us. It’s been a long time,” you said, reaching out to grab my arms. Though I looked at you and saw half a stranger, the warmth of your hand still feels like home. 

“Yeah, absolutely.” 

The train would shortly be here, or at least that’s what the announcer said.

Before any of us said anything else, your phone rang. You asked me to wait, and all I can think about is how your ringtone never changed. It was the piano version of my favorite song back then. You didn’t really listen to the artist, but when I played the piano version once when we were doing homework together, you told me you liked it.

When you’re done with your phone, I can hear the faint sound of the train arriving. Shortly before it stopped, however, you bid your goodbye.

“You’re not coming in?”

“No, actually. Mine’s the other train.”

“Oh. Okay. Well, goodbye.”

You nodded. “Bye. Stay safe.”

“You too.”

I hope you didn’t notice the small crack of my voice at the end, I don’t know how to explain that I almost teared up because I didn’t reckon  that I would have missed you this much. How can you miss a person who’s right there next to you?

There was this one brand of instant chocolate drink that I happened to have in my house when you once visited, and that was the first time you drank it and you liked it so much. I was thinking that I might get some at the store just in case you want to come by. You know I would always welcome you. My mom and my sister and my cats would , too. I don’t know how far we have drifted apart, or maybe I don’t want to acknowledge that you have someone else to laugh at and make you smile, but your love and my love for you is the only constant thing I have in this world.

I stepped onto the train. As the door closes, I don’t know if we would ever meet again. But at least you have my favorite song as your ringtone, and I have your birthday as my password, and we can keep each other’s pieces like this and carry them with us to wherever we go after our paths diverge. 

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