Goodbye’s and first loves

Paz came prancing in the family room , in her perfectly starched maids uniform, and her beautiful brown skin. She smiled, tilted her head and sung “Keeeendraaaaaa, it’s RIIIIIISHARRRRD on da pone” in a thick Filipino accent with a giggle and a quick motion leaving the room.

I rolled my eyes, and walked over to the phone “hey!” with another giggle on the line, Paz hung up, and Richard was able to say “hi” back.

On my second day of school, Richard sat beside me in homeroom, we took one look at each other, and we knew each other without having to say anything.  He was tall, lanky, with spiked white blonde hair, and thick glasses. I was short, blue eyed, freckled with auburn hair. Like all kids in an international school, we had our stories, our backgrounds, and our secrets. Somehow, we said Hello once, and I found a safety and a comfort I had never experienced before.

It took a week for him to show up at my house, having ridden his bike from Forbs park to Dasmarinas village. He was stopped by our guards, who called up to the house to make sure this strange looking kid was supposed to be at the house at dinner time. I walked outside and yelled down it was fine. He biked up our driveway, and like any good Ambassador’s kid, he got off his bike quickly put his hand out to shake my Father’s, and quickly introduced himself. I barely could get a word in as my Father, a man of very few words, began to chat with him, we stood at our side doorway, which was where our car port was, my Father was fully dressed in a navy blue suit, his pipe in his hand. Wanito had already started the official car, with the Canadian flag drooping off of the chrome pole attached to the hood of the car, the heat pulling it down. My Father looked at Richard, and smiled in recognition of who he was. My Father, who rarely relaxed in front of any of my friends, looked at us as an odd, yet fitting pair, and laughed as we all chatted. My Mother came down the back stairs, wearing a silk cocktail dress and high heels, reciting names under her breath, as she met the 3 of us in the hall. She quickly looked at Richard, and I  introduced the 2, she nodded, smiled, and then asked him if he had eaten, that was always what she asked, she never wanted anyone to come over and not get fed, and that was it. They left, and we headed to the kitchen to tell my 76 year old cook, who was more grandma than cook, that Richard needed to eat. She clapped her hands, with a big smile, she shuffled quickly to cook. Within 20 minutes, dinner came out for Richard, and Monung was beyond happy. She loved feeding people, especially young boys who ate 5 helpings.

We became inseparable.

He was an only child, his stepfather the Swedish Ambassador, my brother and sister had left home for University, leaving me to be an only child, my Father, the Canadian Ambassador. It was almost instinctive, the moment we met, we seemed to know we were the same. Both our parents spent more time out of the house, leaving us alone, doing homework, eating, watching tv. Our parents spending much of their time at dinner parties, receptions… the part of the job that they all hated, gleaning info, reporting back, making deals at night, then having 5 hours sleep to get up early to then run their respective embassies in the Philippines.

I was 12, and into boys, I had a gaggle of girls I hung out with. But no one seemed to come close to the deep feelings I had for Richard.

Our parents had the same schedule, without fail, Richard would show up at dinner, the table was always set for him when the staff knew my parents were going to be gone for dinner, knowing that Richard would be eating with me. Monong and Paz both hoped that there was a budding romance between us. Trying to check up on us, as we sat on the floor doing our homework, or watching a movie from the couch.

That was the thing, he was the first person I couldn’t wait to see, the person I wanted to say goodnight to, the one I wanted to discuss how much I hated moving so many times, and hated my Fathers vocation, but not in the way that everyone wanted. I didn’t want him to be my first kiss, the first boy I held hands with. Friends tried to push us together, my Mother asked every week if we were boyfriend and girlfriend, but that was the thing, we fell asleep on the couch all the time, he cried with me, I cried with him, we practiced flirting often with each other, but our safety in each other ran deeper than wanting anything more.

When my Father announced that we would most likely be moving again. I was broken hearted.

I went from falling asleep with Richard on one side of the couch, to me on the other side, to seeing him in the hallway and ignoring him.

At 12, I knew that the most painful part of moving again was saying goodbye, not to the country or my friends at school, but to Richard. In order to protect my heart, I ghosted Richard, even though he was still in front of me, sitting beside me in homeroom. I figured it would be better to spend the last couple of months of my grade 7 year in the Philippines to completely ignore him, to sever all ties, to not speak on the phone, to somehow rewire my brain to not need a friendship that filled my heart with more than anyone else did. Because it was rare, very rare to find another kid your age, whose parents did the exact same job, at the same level. We understood each other and our loneliness in a way that no one else could.

For months I sobbed, I tried concocting a story in my head that Richard was a horrible person, but he wasn’t. I missed him.

When the last box was packed, I almost called him. I desperately wanted to say goodbye, but diplomatic kids say goodbye all the time, but this goodbye felt like a life sentence.

I got on the plane back to Canada, never having said goodbye, never getting closure.

A couple of years later, my Father brought up Richard’s step Father. They apparently talked, but I couldn’t even discuss it with my Father. My heart was still broken.

I was a terrible friend. I was immature. I never said goodbye, I just mourned the loss of a friendship that was beyond special, but I did it without ever telling Richard why.

I loved him, but I never wanted to hold his hand.

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2 thoughts on “Goodbye’s and first loves”

  1. Thanks for sharing your story. That goodbyes are always hard. I’ve written about it on the Mother City Time blog too (Far Flung Friendships) The goodbyes don’t seem to get any easier either, even after years of practice. I understand what you mean by ‘ghosting’. We’ve seen it happen with expats. We’ve been on the receiving end of it too. You understand why people do it, as their way of coping. I wonder is it different for TCKs now, knowing that they have Skype, zoom and other platforms to stay in contact?

    1. Thank you so much for reading, Maggie! Goodbye’s have always been difficult, kids find it especially hard, especially when you haven’t been taught any coping mechanisms. At the time, my parents had no guidance on it, there weren’t any books, there was no social media. I don’t think my parents even realized what I was doing because we just never talked about it. I think for a lot of TCK’s now, having Skype, Zoom and social media platforms, makes it easier to move away but still feel connected. I am so sorry that you have been ghosted, it is an infantile move, and one I did in my teens, not so much as an adult.

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