this story originally appeared in the philippine daily inquirer on April 16, 2002.

THE YEAR was 1985; Manila was in the middle of a long, hot summer. It was the first day of enrolment in high school. I was standing in line to pay my tuition fee at the registrar’s office when I heard somebody step up behind me. I turned around, and there was this boy, tall, golden-skinned and brown-haired. I felt as if the Big Bang theory was happening inside my chest, my stomach. All the things one was supposed to feel at the onset of a mad, first love, I felt-the tingle, the butterflies, the stars all around my head.

His name was JJ. All through high school, I adored him from a distance, never mustering the courage to approach him. First love can be cruel: you scale dizzying heights of ecstasy and plunge into the dark depths of misery.

Fast forward to 1989, another scorching summer. It was already the middle of my first semester in college. I entered the classroom, took my seat and prepared for the class. I looked toward the door just as somebody was entering. Still tall, golden-skinned, brown-haired, a bit more mature. It was he.

I began to wonder if this was a sign. Or just one of life’s more cruel tricks, in the guise of coincidence. Was I reading too much into it? Or was I being offered another chance to be with my soul mate, the twin half of my heart?

We became good friends soon after that, having come from the same high school and everything. We went to the library together, had lunch together. He came to me when his girlfriend dumped him. I cried on his shoulder when my boyfriend left for Greece. We had the same course, so we always made sure we synchronized our schedules so we’d always have the same class at the same time. There were times when my heart really broke, other times when it was almost all I could do to stop myself from getting rid of this rigid control I had over my emotions: Don’t let him know, don’t let him see. Friendship is better than not being with him at all.

Time really heals. After graduation, we parted ways, lived our own separate lives. It’s been almost a decade since I last saw him. I heard from some friends that he’d gotten married. I went through a few failed relationships before I finally wised up and snagged the real thing.

Present day, year 2002. I am now a 29-year-old wife to a wonderful man and mother to three adorable children. Some sleepless nights I still think of him, of what might have been if I’d acted on my belief that he was my soul mate. And I look beside me and I see this man, this wonderful, wonderful man who truly saw through me, to the soul within me.

And I realized, I got my soul mate, after all.

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