She was cheerful. She makes people laugh but often misunderstood because of her poor English. She sings, she dances and most of the time, she smiles. I always see her barefoot while picking some flowers at the garden. She even plays football with us. These are some of the things I noticed about my friend, Wanida. Everybody loves her. Her simplicty, genuine kindness, and compassion make her who she is.
One time, we had a conversation in class. We were facing each other and I saw her eyes in focus. I knew that within her, there were stories to be told but importantly, waiting to be listened. Then she started talking, “In my age, I know that I may no longer be able to get married.” I was confused. I never thought this thing matters to her despite of the “happiness” I have witnessed. So, I replied, “What do you mean?”. She answered, with a voice signalling tears, “People see me smile and often act as if the world is so perfect for me. However, within me there is fear that until now I wanted to overcome. Yes, marriage matters because it brings happiness with someone you love. I am sick and I do not know when I am leaving this world, today or tomorrow.” She started crying. That very moment, I didn’t know what to say but mere hug was the only response I could offer.
Kuya, it means brother. Fikri is a guy whom I considered my eldest brother in the group. I witnessed the “brother figure” in him. He was kind and he knows how to share the things he has. And if there’s a distinct trait I mostly like about Kiki is that he never coated things for the sake of comfort.
Early afternoon while in class, I received a message from my cousin. The message says, “Patay na si Lolo Intoy” (Grandpa has died). At first, I didn’t know what to say because it was so sudden. I wanted to go back home but I was too far away to make it, especially that I committed myself for a study program abroad. I went out of the classroom without my teacher’s permission. I entered the main house, sat in a wooden chair and started crying. I tried to hide myself from everyone but the silence in the area that seemingly tried to extend empathy and comfort just triggered my emotions. Fikri passed by, he asked, “What happened?” I didn’t say a single word. He hugged me and I started crying again.
The next day, he asked Rose, one of my professors. “Is it necessary to feel empathy to someone? Because yesterday, when RJ hugged me and started crying without any clue what happened, for a minute or two, I felt nothing. Then, he was still heavily crying for five minutes… that I felt connection.”
I knew that even I left Fikri with no answers, my tears were enough to tell him that there was something wrong. His interesting question made me think on how do people react on things that really matter to us. Oftentimes, when we’re stuck in despair, we try to seek caress from someone; not because we want attention but to get rid of loneliness. We may hear comforting words that serve as a symbol of empathy. However, have we asked ourselves, “Do they truly care?”
Sometimes we do not know what lies within a person. It gave me the idea how important human connection is. Connection that brings people together with mutual understanding and respect.