My old Nokia phone beeped and vibrated loudly on the table.
The screen lit up. I forced myself to ignore the green light it emitted and focused on the TV screen.
A few minutes later it beeped and vibrated again.
I ignored it once more.
I knew that if I picked it up, I would not be able to sleep. I’d be overwhelmed with envy. The thought of my friends having a fun time will taunt me. And I may regret going home early right after class.
It was more than a decade ago, but I still remember the exact feeling of regret I had when I chose to go home that night.
You see, it was our friend JC’s birthday. And for two years in a row I had missed out on his celebration simply because I did not want to stay out late. Looking back, my reason was very simple: I was just too lazy to go celebrate with a bunch of classmates.
I regret it now.
That particular day, I remember JC egging me to go. I said ‘yes’ just to make him stop bugging me. I told him I’d go home for a while to change clothes and then proceed to his celebration.
I had no intention of doing that. I simply wanted to go home and watch some TV.
I was met with a mixture of hurt and anger the next day. For a minute, I felt really bad. And guilty. Remorseful, I told him, “I promise I will be there on your next birthday. I will be present next time.”
It turned out there was no next time.
There will never be a next time. Ever.
That’s because a few months before his next birthday, JC decided to take a cord, tie it around his neck, and jump off a small stool.
There was a heavy air that fateful day when the news broke out. I remember walking hurriedly towards our building (because I was running late for class) and only realized several minutes later that there were several students outside, crying.
I was greeted by a classmate by the door who asked me if I had already heard the news.
I asked what news.
It took him three times before I could fully comprehend.
“JC is gone,” he said.
I was dumbfounded. And shocked. And hurt. And angry. And guilty.
Funny thing is I was really looking forward to going to his birthday that year, but life has a way of screwing us over.
Just when I was ready to fulfill one of a buddy’s duty, something like this happens. I will never get the chance to see him giddy with excitement because all of his friends were present for his birthday.
I will never experience seeing him getting wasted and doing crazy stuff.
I will never have photos with him to share on my social media for Throwback Thursdays.
It still haunts me to this day. And when I think back to that, I have this urge to kick myself.
Experiences like this make you want to pay more attention, even if it might appear annoying to others. You want to be a little bit more clingy and persistent when it comes to chatting with your friends on Facebook.
Why? It’s because you’ll never know if you will get another chance to talk to them.
That is why I always hit up friends on Messenger, even if there are times when they don’t open the messages or they just seenzone me.
At least I tried. And I want to make sure that they know I took a few seconds to appreciate their existence.
It still bothers me when someone views my message and doesn’t respond or responds very late or doesn’t even read it at all. But that’s no longer on me.
The last time I saw JC, I was really late for class. He was sitting alone with his headphones, and had that stern look on his face.
We’d normally exchange nods or do a high five or jump at each other; but on that day, I chose to ignore him because I was late for class.
The next time I saw him, he was inside a coffin.
That is one regret I will always have. And that is one mistake I never want to commit again. Ever.
To my friends and to everyone I’ve sent random messages to, this is the explanation.
You’ll never know when someone you care about is about to break. They might need someone to check up on them but just don’t have the courage to ask because they are afraid they’ll catch you at a bad time.
This is why I am a bit of a pushover at times. I don’t want to risk people I care about getting mad at me because what if that’s the last time we interact with each other?
There’s nothing definite, sure, especially where mortality is concerned; but I make do with the things I can control, like my actions.
JC and I sort of had similar backgrounds, which is part of the reason why we clicked. And he was not too shy to open up.
I know I am not the only friend he can talk to, but there’s this feeling that tells you that maybe, if you just exerted a little more effort to reach out, you may have talked about stuff and maybe, it would have helped make a difference.
But we’ll never know now.
Just like how I will never know how fun his parties are. Or if he’d pursue acting after college or what kind of celebration he would have had a few weeks from now.
There may not be a next time for you. For us.
You know what to do.