Tomorrow, it will have been six years since that meaningful Independence Day, but I remember everything like it had happened last night. The tang of buffalo wings still tickles my palate, and my fingers feel a little numb as they curl around an imaginary bottle of ice-cold Red Horse. When I close my eyes, I hear fat plop and sizzle into hot plates, and the sinful smell of sisig wafts in spirals around me. The evening air is heavy with the tortured groans of commuters perennially stuck in EDSA Crossing traffic, punctuated by guffaws from the surrounding tables in The Watering Hole. I open my eyes and see myself six years ago in the same gauzy burgundy blouse, a hand-me-down from my sister, waxing eloquent about the insanity of pseudorelationships and hopes for a future love. I also see Grichelle sitting across the table from me in her salmon pink shirt. Surely, it was no coincidence that it had a sequined butterfly right where her heart is. This girl values freedom, and we met again, half a decade after college graduation, on Independence Day.
Grich and I share a passion for writing. We’re kindred spirits, so much so that when she writes, I feel like that’s exactly how I would’ve written the piece. We both love life’s adventures, and adventures require freedom. I remember that back in college, she was part of a student organization called UP Task Force Street Children, while I would take random elderly beggars to the nearest fast-food place. We were young and free, and we could do as we please.
Not long after our first girls’ night-out together, Grich started using words so foreign (especially coming from her), such as “structured priorities.” We weren’t exactly naive, but somehow, we had taken it for granted that there would still be some degree of freedom when a “job” eventually becomes a “career.” After all, despite our hectic schedules, we have always managed to meet up, laugh about everything and nothing, and just revel in each other’s company, when we can be ourselves and not feel the need to watch our backs all the time.
Oh, but we had our bout of cold war, too. I recall that I was on the phone with her, gushing about my latest moment of epiphany: “I’m quitting my job to finish my Master’s as a full-time student!” Grich, who was ravenous at the time and whose lunch break I had disrupted–as I’d found out about much later–mumbled something and had mistakenly used the word “drifter” on me. I didn’t speak to her for a loooong time, two days to be exact. She later explained, and she writes it best,
“A ‘drifter’ for me is someone who doesn’t stay too long at one thing because she knows there is something far better; someone who knows she deserves better. So for me, being a ‘drifter’ is a necessity for those who would still want to take the journey and shop around for something better. Someone who is brave enough to forego tenure and embrace the true path which would eventually lead to contentment.”
And since I’m such a sucker for good writing, the rest is history. Someone in my church, when our pastor asked him what loyalty is, once replied, “I don’t know what loyalty is, but I do know that you can’t prove yourself to be loyal unless you’ve been given the opportunity to be disloyal.” I guess that’s how I’d describe my friendship with Grich. After we said our “sorry,” the next dinner date was never awkward. It actually brought us closer. Soon after that we’ve literally climbed fences in stilettos and gave Catwoman a run for her jumpsuit.
What does our friendship have to do with Independence Day? Well, nothing. For now. It’s Independence Day that has something to do with our friendship. So, each year, when working folks start asking each other whether the holiday would fall on a Monday, I smile. The reason we met up then was that it was the only day we were free from what I call “high-performance prison” and what she calls “structured priorities.”
Grich has been married for years now, and she has this handsome and a livewire of a little boy. For me, though, she will always be Indie Girl. Even in marriage, which most of us think as a total sacrifice of one’s freedom, she remains free… because she chose how her priorities are structured. She may have forgone some opportunities that I wouldn’t have had, were they ever thrown my way, but she did it out of love and not out of bondage.
One of these opportunities is what I’m working on right now. I’m doing it for myself, just like what you said over the phone a couple of weeks ago. I’m also doing it for you, gurl, because as clearly as I can see today what has been six years ago, I can see what’s ahead. In that happy place, we’re laughing at everything and nothing, a red hibiscus tucked behind your ear, and a wreath of plumeria around my head.