Amer: Juander Where You Are

How does one react to a friend’s death? How does one get used to the idea of using ‘was’ instead of ‘is’ when you talk about the person who you thought will outlive you? What do you do with the thousand memories you shared with this person, most especially the ones created at a time in your lives when you were both younger and braver? Where do you get the courage to attend a funeral that you dread on attending because the idea of him lying in a coffin sounds so surreal? When do you let go of the secrets you kept from him, about him, and with him?

Amer

Rest in peace, Amer Amor.

When you hear of a friend’s passing, time stops before you go through the phases of the whole ordeal. It’s like being told by your doctor that you have terminal cancer but at some point, you just have to take a step towards somewhere. This was what it was like when I was informed of Amer’s accident and up until now, I am still denying the reality of the situation. “That’s not possible, “ I thought. “He was only 31, healthy, and although he took risks, he was also cautious.” I was obviously rationalizing as overwhelming emotions were about to come in waves. I needed some sort of defense to buffer the immediate shock so I took out my phone and drowned the rumbling thoughts in my head with Regina Spektor’s melancholic music.

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2001 in UP Baguio, minutes before the Tayaw Concert

1999 was the year I met him. Long before he was Juanderkid, he was Amer to me. He politely called me Ate Den or Ate Ding-Ding, Ding-Ding Dabaw, when he was in his jollier disposition. He was in every corner of every memory I had in the university. UP Baguio was just a small community and everybody knew everyone back then but this atomity is not my excuse of having kept so many fond reflections of him. Instead, he was, like me, an Arts and Letters advocate, vouched for the humanities for its humane factor and lumbered through the 20s hall like all other HD children and survived professors who terrorized university students in order to make stronger versions of everyday heroes.

We both survived hours that extended to days of dance rehearsals and preparing for performances, both impromptu and scheduled, that were believed to bank our comprehensive list of achievements; and unlike some, he never stomped his foot in rebellion to the methods I used in training our fellow dancers. He will make a joke out of it but he never defected. Amer was not the quarrelsome sort and he believed that diplomacy should have a space in every upheaval, but since he also knew that diplomatic means could not alter my ‘supposed’ feudal rubric, he kept mum instead, out of respect because I was the ‘big sister’ he looked up to in school. You will never catch him disrespecting people who were older than him. If there was even ever an instance (I could not honestly think of one), it was because the person at the receiving end had probably stretched his patience to its limit.

And for a semester or two, we were housemates in that stretch in Cabinet Hill where we taunted another friend who had a habit of culturing maggots by leaving his leftovers on the dining table for weeks. We spent nights laughing at the most absurd things while drinking cheap coffee with other boarders who preferred to waste the night away talking than burying our noses on books and projects. Like all other friendships, there were also cold moments of silence and even colder nights of taking sides of this friend over that friend but eventually, the fights were forgotten and remained as petty as a pebble in a shoe, not worth worrying about.

amer 2

Aymishu, Kapatid. Sad smile

I lost communication with Amer after graduation and it was many years later that I found him again. Thanks to social media, we were reconnected. We made plans of meeting up for expensive coffee this time, of grand reunions with other friends from the university, of performing on that beloved stage again, of travelling together but sadly, not a single one happened. He was busy, I was busy and whatever connection that we had left was abandoned in the last phone call that was not answered.

Amer was always surrounded by friends, family, and good people who shared his enthusiasm for life. He attracted positive energy, luck, and wonderful opportunities; which was why it was surprising to know of his untimely death. Something that violently sudden, that heart-wrenching could have not been drawn by him; but who are we to question the tides of time? All I know is, I am fighting this surge of sadness that loved ones usually leave when they move on to a place where you cannot follow, at least not just yet.

You are loved, Kapatid; and you are missed.

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