June-July 2006,

I finished freshman year and went straight to Middlebury college for summer language school. I had just turned 18 the day before a friend drove me 5 hours from Connecticut to Vermont. It’s not fair to call him a friend. A college-mate. I didn’t know his exact age but he was already balding, wore thick glasses and baggy clothes; and he limped. We had only known each other by name during my first year. I wanted to be around smart confident beautiful women and men, hoping that by association I would turn into one of them. Tito obviously didn’t belong to that group. We didn’t hang out; even worse, I had judged him for his lack of good look and hipness. Summer school was still a couple of weeks away when I had to move out of the dorm. So I crashed in at a friend’s who was sharing an apartment above a pizza shop with Tito. And it only took me a day to see how kind and unpretentious he was and to feel ashamed at myself for my shallowness.

The summer in Vermont was peaceful and idyllic. There’s an organic farm a couple of miles from campus, which I stumbled upon on an afternoon walk and would return a couple of times every week. I would work quietly for half an hour in the dirt, and then sat on the hill, looking down at the green field and the blossoming flowers in purple, red, and yellow. I wasn’t contemplating much. I didn’t know who I was and what I wanted and just needed that little time for my thoughts to drift off.

At Middlebury, I met Annie, from Alaska and going to school in Hawai’i. She is the sweetest girl. Always so kind and caring and has the most radiant smile on her face. The way she talks and the way she touches always gave me such a sense of calmness. I thought she was the most beautiful. I wanted to be that beautiful, kind, and radiant. I felt so smug that I could call her nee-chan, claiming her as my older sister.

There was another girl. Brunette, tall, and slim. Her eyes sparkle, her laughter echos like a ringing bell. In fluent Japanese, she talked about renting an attic in Boston for $50/month, smoking pot and hanging out with artsy friends. She was beautiful too. I don’t remember her name anymore, but can still picture her smile and her eyes. .

And then, there’s Jamie. I had always felt like a loner at that point. I had asked myself so many times, am I the only one that tears up and sobs uncontrollably when when I see the news or read a novel and see that someone suffers? Am I the only that sit at night looking up to the stars and think about the world with every spirit on it? I was romantic, sentimental, but not understood. And then I met Jamie. Jamie talked about how wonderful the world is, and how much he loved it. Yes, he loved the whole world. And I said there agape. He put into words what I had always felt deep down inside but did not know how to express. He was how I was, and so much more than that. He was friendly and well-liked, while I would sulk in my insecurities. He skates and snowboards and I’m sure can do many other sports. I took a tennis class and could barely serve a volley past the net at the end of the semester. Jamie asked me to go out on a walk one night and took me to a field close to school. We stood there. In awe. A million fireflies, a sea of dancing lights in the dark. I never knew there were so many fireflies in the world. We came back to the dorm and kissed at my door. I was 18, and didn’t know a single thing about love and sex and relationship. All I knew was that I was falling hard, if not for a person, then for an ideal. And I was scared. So I ran. Or rather, I made myself stop and stand up. For a long time after, I would argue with myself if I made the right call, if I was missing out on the best things in life. I analyzed and overanalyzed our interaction and dynamic. But it was all in my head. And in my heart, there’s always a small special place for him. We ended up sending snail mails to each other on and off so it is a happy ending to our friendship. I am grateful for having met such a women-lover in the best sense of the word. For he lived with me a moment of magic, and planted in me the first seed of self-confidence.