Alex’s Story (Part 2): My First Serious Relationship


In part 1, I discovered how freedom, control, power, and money are all meaningless. I reached a point where I could do whatever I wanted, whenever I wanted. And yet, I was not happy. Instead, I felt quite lonely. I had no one to enjoy my freedom with. I wasn’t happy.

Thus, I determined that happiness in life is spending time with those you love. I did not need God yet; I still had people I love in my life. In particular, I had my best friend.

I met her during my first year of medical school. When you’re thrown into a new environment and when half the class already knew each other, you’ll scramble to make friends if you don’t want to be an outcast.

By the first month, I had a large group of friends. I was always surrounded with people — 80% of them were women. I planned evenings out and invited people over. I was pretty much the center of the social hub. I had a lot of fun.

Over time, as school got more and more demanding, many people stopped hanging out and fell to the side. The few people who remained are what I consider my closer friends in medical school. Helen (not her real name) was one of them.

The cool thing about Helen was that whenever I wanted to hang out or go out, she was always down. So I could pretty much rely on her to come along whenever I wanted to grab a bite to eat or whatnot. Because she was so dependable, I called upon her whenever I needed a study partner. We were becoming close friends.

The Deepening of Our Relationship

In December 2010, after a grueling series of exams, we had winter break. During the first night of winter break, I drove 3 other friends (including Helen) to one of the casinos in Atlantic City. The original plan was to hang out in the bar / lounge, dance in the club, and gamble. What really happened is that 2 my friends followed the original plan. Helen and I did not enjoy the hot, sweaty, smoke-filled club. And we didn’t gamble either. So we sat down in someplace which had random slot machine area and talked.

After my two other friends had their fill of fun, I drove us all back at 5:00 AM the next day. Helen and another of my friend stayed at my place because they were too tired to go back. When Helen left for her apartment, I told her that I enjoyed her company in the casino. And she said, “Me too.”

Since then, we hung out more and more. Later during winter break, when I went up to my parent’s house, I met up with her in New York City. I still remember the night. Originally, I did not want to go because I’m not fond of the city. But she pretended not to hear and I did not feel like explaining myself again. So I went. NYC was cold, wet, and full of slush. It was being with Helen that made the trip worthwhile.

In the subsequent semester, I hung out with her more and more. I would go to her place to study. Then I would stay over for the night. We would go to the mall or take a walk around her neighborhood. I took out her to nice restaurants. Romance was blossoming and infatuation was in the air.

People in school noticed and wondered if we were dating. We probably would have, except for one pesky problem: she had a boyfriend.

Even though we weren’t a couple, we spent as much time together as possible. Cupid’s arrow struck deep in both our hearts. As a result, her communication with her boyfriend became sporadic. He realized something was going on and made a valiant effort to save the relationship. He visited her as much as he could, which were on the weekends. He even stayed with her for a whole week!

Every time I was away from her, I was in pain. Now I understand what a drug addict must have felt like when he isn’t getting his daily fix. Yet, I gave her space because she was in the relationship. It wasn’t right for me to intrude. But the boyfriend could only make so much effort before he had to leave and resume his life. He couldn’t put life on hold indefinitely to save the relationship.

When he wasn’t around, I was. And looking back, I see what I did was wrong. (I justified my actions under the guise of friendship and even referred to her as my “best friend.” In my defense, I did not know how wrong I was because I’ve never had something like this before. Thus, I just went along with what felt natural.)

In the summer after first year, we went abroad together on a medical mission trip to South America. After South America, we each went our separate ways to other different countries. Although we were far apart and lived in different time zones, we remained in contact almost every single day.

Becoming Best Friends

A few days before the start of the second year, we talked on the phone and she told me she broke up with her boyfriend. I asked, “Why?” And she said that he was too far away and had an uncertain future. He is in a school abroad and struggled with his work. It was doubtful if he could even make it back to the US.

But I knew the real reason why and I felt so guilty. I never thought I would break up a relationship. It felt nice to be around her, but my role in the misery of someone else who never caused me any harm was like a splash of cold water to my face. 

When we got back to school, even though she was single, I would not date her. I told her I cannot date her because she was not a Christian. (Looking back, I wasn’t walking in Christ’s footsteps with what I’ve done so far.) But I couldn’t abandon her either because she left her boyfriend for me. Although I did not want to become a couple, I was okay being best friends.

We hung out all the time, ate together more times than I could count, helped each other with school work, and were there for each other. We went on little trips to the beach or to the city.

The relationship kinda reminds me of the type you have with a childhood best friend. I would go knocking on her door almost every day and ask, “Let’s go play, okay?” Or she would come knocking on my door. It also felt like we were in the same platoon, trying to make it through the war known as medical school. We had most of our third year rotations together. And if one of us went through the rotation already or talked to someone who went through it, we would share tips and advices with each other.

We really were best friends. We had our own little inside jokes. We were together all the time.

The Apex of the Relationship

Although I never said it out loud, I loved her. I gave her first portions of my food. I paid for her when we went out (until she insisted to pay for herself). I always made sure I gave more than she gave me throughout the relationship. Whenever we fought, we made up within the day. We never went to sleep angry at each other. I told her whatever I was thinking. We weren’t physically intimate (by God ‘s grace), but were emotionally intimate. When something nice happens to me and when she isn’t around, I wished she was there so I could share the experience with her.

In our fourth year, I pulled some strings and was able to have her come along with me to rotate at my friend’s medical practice abroad. It was the second time we were able to travel abroad together. During one of our days off, we took the metro to the outskirts of the city and walked up the mountain. This was something she wanted to do and I had no clue what to expect. It turns out to be the public museum about the country’s industrialization.

After the museum, we stopped by one of the few shops up the mountain and shared a bowl of flavored ice. This flavored ice blew away any Italian ice. There were tapioca, real fruits, and other goodies. Then we walked around and encountered a huge statue of some a woman in a robe. It was the shrine of the goddess of mercy. To the right of the statue was an area with wooden poles, metal beams, and a thin roof over everything. The metal beams had a slew of wooden plaques, all hung by red strings.

I’ve never seen anything like this before and wanted to take a closer look. We walked closer and saw that people wrote on the plaques. I asked Helen, who was educated in the country for several years, to read one of the plaques. I chose one that had two messages on either side, divided in half by a line in the center.

It was written by a boy and a girl, probably in middle school or high school. They both wrote about how in love they were with each other and how they wished to be together forever. And they asked the goddess to bless the relationship.

I don’t believe in the goddess but thought it was really neat. It would have been nice to share a plaque with Helen and write our own messages. We didn’t know where to find it. We even went back to the shop that sold the flavored ice and did not find it. So we began to head back to the metro to go home. On the way, we saw some shops and found the wooden plaques in one of them.

I bought one and we head back up the mountain to the shrine. And then it began to drizzle. I still remember the rain and the wind because I was worried that the water would wash away the ink. I was right. A little bit of water smudged the ink. Years of rain would wipe everything away. (What a foreshadow of things to come.)

Whatever. We came this far and we were going to write our messages. Helen drew a line down the center and divided the plaque in half. She drew a baby seal on one side and a baby pig on the other. She wrote her message under the baby seal. I wrote my message under the baby pig. I don’t remember exactly what she wrote. The only thing I remember is her wishing everyone good health. I don’t remember exactly what I wrote either. Maybe something about us both being immensely successful after a few years.

After we wrote our message and hung it up in the metal beam (carefully nested among the other plaques to minimize as much damage from the rain as possible), I said, “We should come back in 5 years or so, after our residency and try to find our plaque again.” She agreed.

As I write this, the memory of what happened up in the mountain is still fresh. It happened less than a year ago and is one of my happiest memories of her. In a way, it was the apex of our friendship. We were going to be doctors in less than a month. The future was bright for both of us. We were vacationing in another country. And I got to share a wonderful experience with someone I loved.

I knew little of what was to come ahead. I’ve never imagined it would have turned so bad so quickly. In the next post, you’ll see how God crushed my heart to a million itty-bitty pieces and ultimately pulled me back to Him.

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  1. […] turn to God because I then turned my concentration to the person closest to me — Helen. In part 2, Helen and I developed a deep relationship over the course of 4 to 5 years. I thought it was so […]

  2. […] turn to God because I then turned my concentration to the person closest to me — Helen. In part 2, Helen and I developed a deep relationship over the course of 4 to 5 years. I thought it was so […]

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