Dear Teen Me,
They’re not going to find his killer.
No. Let me rephrase that. They know who did it; they just won’t care.
This is going to disappoint you, I know. You’re going to have to get used to it. This is the Philippines, after all, and we’ve never been the leading proponents of justice. We’re not usually the leading proponents of anything positive.
Nothing much will change. And twenty years from now, you’re still going to be bitter about it.
We’re not very good with change. You’ve always known this. We Filipinos all know the flaws in our country and with ourselves, but we get so goddamn defensive when anyone else points them out to us. Sometimes self-denial is the only way we can get through the day.
Some might find it laughable that I’ve been nursing this for all these years. You barely even know him. You weren’t in love, you weren’t even in extreme like. You were seventeen, and he was about to head to college.
But you liked him. You don’t forget the first guy who’d singled you out from the rest of your tall, gorgeous family. You don’t forget the first guy to look at you in your baggy pants and your oversized shirt—yes, the white one that’s three sizes too big, the one you used to hide your figure and your lack of confidence—and still think you’re pretty. You don’t forget the first guy to call you up and make you feel like you don’t need to prove anything. Like you don’t need to explain why you’re shorter or not into clothes or makeup, or why you’d rather read books than go out. You don’t need to explain to him why you feel so different from everyone else.
He didn’t deserve to die. All he wanted was to change things for the better. He wanted to clean up the system.
They wouldn’t let him.
They charged the hands that carried out the deed—his own fellow soldiers—but never the one who gave the order, the one at the top of that pyramid. Twenty years on, and you’re still going to want to punch anyone who talks about how glad they are that ROTC is no longer mandatory because it’s such a waste of time. You know the bones in his grave are worth more than the sum of them.
He’s not going to be the only casualty. Two years from now, for example, you’re going to want to be a journalist, but your mom won’t let you. Ten years later, after a terrible massacre, she’ll prove you right. You’ll think about other journalists since then, dead because they wrote things so many powerful people didn’t want the world to know. Hired assassinations cost roughly $250 in the Philippines. You know you’re worth more than $250.
You don’t always see eye to eye with your mother, but you’ll feel thankful for once, that she’d managed to dissuade you from this, too.
Those crimes will be tied up in court for years, quietly dismissed as soon as the public becomes distracted with something else.
Almost twenty years, and nothing much around you is going to change.
But you will.
You’re going to nurse this for all these years because this is going to be your catalyst. You’re no longer going to be mousy and shy and so afraid of what other people’s opinions of you are. You’re going to turn even more to books for solace, and from there you are finally going to start writing the words you never used to have the courage to say. You’re going to write poems, short stories, articles and essays, and eventually books. You’re going to understand that life isn’t fair, but that doesn’t mean you should bend over.
You’re not going to listen to a lot of people. You’re going to join rallies and get involved. Sometimes you’re not always going to be right.
You’re going to be cynical, contrary. You’ll be a bit smug; arrogant, at times. Sometimes, you’ll even deserve it.
You’re going to be angry; so, so, angry. You will channel it in good ways through your writing, but you will channel it in other horrible ways too, like in fighting and in self-sabotage. I understand you. Know that I understand you, and I see you, because most people will not.
People will tell you often that you’re not good enough. That’s not always going to be a bad thing.
You’re going to meet a wonderful guy who can’t tell the difference between Tom Cruise and Brad Pitt, who thinks Madonna’s real name is Marilyn Monroe. His knowledge of pop culture won’t fill a thimble. He’ll ask if he can hold your hand for the first time, in front of an audience, and it will be awkward. You won’t know it then, but he’ll be the one for you. He will work jobs he won’t like just so you wouldn’t have to worry about your future together, but you’ll worry you’re not worth it, anyway.
You’re going to change, even when the things around you will not. And you’re always going to feel guilty that someone died, to realize this.
But you are going to change. And you’re going to be what you wished your friend had been alive longer to be.
Even if you can’t be better.
And for now, that’s good enough.
About The Author: Rin Chupeco has written obscure manuals for complicated computer programs, talked people out of their money at event shows, and done many other terrible things. She now writes about ghosts and fantastic worlds but is still sometimes mistaken for a revenant. She is the author of The Girl from the Well, its sequel, The Suffering, and the Bone Witch trilogy. Her newest book, just released in October, is The Never Tilting World. Find her at www.rinchupeco.com.