“My aunt told me that there was no better name for me than the one I have,” I say. My present, first person self. I’m the same height as the older woman in the room, but the way she carries herself makes her look a little taller.

“Do you like your name?” she asks. She looks like me. We have the same eyes and hands. She wears the ring I never took off and there’s another one on the ring finger of her left hand. I wonder if she is excited.

The youngest one out of the three of us pipes up. Her smile is incredibly gummy and as far as I know her, she’s exceedingly outspoken. I can’t say I’m not the same way, but this little one doesn’t really think before she speaks. Her answer to the question is negative, yet loud and proud. She wishes she was called something else and lists off unconventional names that she doesn’t really look like. She seems to like them a lot, but I should probably introduce her to the idea that your name is your name; one day, she’ll give it a meaning that’ll carry more value than any one of those “cooler” names. At least that’s how I think. I’m torn between breaking it to the younger girl and letting her daydream for herself, but the older girl makes the decision for me. She says exactly what I was thinking. I guess she just doesn’t doubt herself as much.

I answer her question, providing a more positive response, and she looks at me oddly. It’s like she was hoping I’d say what I did. There’s a sort of warm gleam in her eyes that makes me want to trust her more than I already do.

The three of us being in the same room is weird. It’s like meeting up with those uncomfortable friends from high school: the one you’re not sure you knew all that well but didn’t really like, and the cooler one that you didn’t know at all but spent a lot of time waiting for when you might. I don’t really know what to say to either of them, but my brain and mouth don’t seem to be requiring much effort to collaborate. I feel like I have the responsibility to impress somebody, but I also don’t really care. This situation can really only go how it’s supposed to.

The older woman tells us about her life as it is right now and my heart skips a little. There’s not a single thing she’s worked towards that hasn’t given the effort right back.  I feel content with and proud of a life that’s not even mine. Little one insists she’s going to be a doctor, “or maybe a fashion designer, or an FBI agent, just not what you’re doing.” I laugh under my breath and she snaps at me a little, but I realize she’s still learning how to defend herself. I let her learn. It takes a good amount of time, and I’m glad she's starting now. She insists on wanting to know what's so funny. While I can’t figure out if she’s just trying to confront me or determine what not to say for her future reference, I just tell her that things change and that there’s absolutely no need to put all of her eggs in one basket right now. Ten-year-olds are apparently a lot more stubborn than I remember being. She quips, “I’m figuring out how to be my own person,” and I can’t protest that. That kick-start years ago makes it a lot easier now.

We continue congregating and I keep catching onto not only the humorously similar mannerisms, but the way the older woman looks at little one and me. It crosses between admiration and gratitude, but simply put, it’s beautiful. Her smile doesn’t come with hands to cover it and my only question is how she does it.

I sit here, listening and taking it in, recognizing that I’m a collection of the three of us. I’m the matured little one and the maturing older woman. The pink opal in all three of our rings glistens the same way, and in a sense, we’re just different variations of each other.

“Are we happy?” I have to ask. Little one looks confused. (Frankly, I must look confused too. I’m asking a question I both know and don’t know the answer to.) She insists we are, but I know she’s lying. At least, I know she will be lying at some point not too far from now. It’s fine, though. I know for sure she comes out swinging.

Present me is weary, though.
There are things and people and days and songs that I love and there will be so many more. There’s a self that I love. That self was different yesterday and will be different tomorrow, and all that excites me. I’m ever-growing and having a good time while doing it, but sometimes it does feel like there’s something missing.

The question’s still on the table. “Well?”

“Well, I think with all the time you spend wishing for ‘later’ to come, you could be answering your own question. Stop blurring our lives together.”

“But you still haven’t answered.” She looks at me and uncrosses her arms. I catch her use her middle finger to center her ring. Little one and I subconsciously adjust ours too.

“You’ll figure it out.” Little one is suddenly next to her and they look about ready to leave, until she lets go and gives me a hug. Her hands are smaller than mine, but she closes them behind my back and it hits me again exactly how much she can do with them. The older woman zip-locks their fingers as they depart, and she turns around in the doorway.

“Thank you,” the little one mouths. I don’t mean to cry, but my vision blurs for a second.

The older one just nods, but it says more than what either of us could’ve. Then, I’m by myself.

Not alone. Not lonely. But by myself.

By Angelica Crisostomo

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