Malia Kuo

Plastered to the wall of my room are pictures that I’ve compiled over the years. One of them is of me and my friend Luna holding ridiculous poses in Christmas onesies; another is of us in Vienna, Austria, standing in front of the Riesenrad Ferris Wheel. They’re the kind of pictures that I occasionally look up at and note that I’ll likely show my kids someday.

Luna and I are an odd pair – different in enough ways to make people wonder how we even became friends in the first place. I can’t remember meeting her for the first time, although I know it was during pre-K when we were four-year-olds wearing ugly uniform dresses and shoes with white socks that reached our shins. Knowing us, she was probably playing sports while I was on the swing at our elementary school in Caguas. 

When my parents worked late, I’d leave school with Luna and her mom. Her car would always be full of sand from the surfing trips she took with her brother on the weekends. Her naturally curly hair, now brown, was bleached blonde from too much sunlight. She’d tell me about how she went to a beach where there were sharks or how she had coral burns on her legs from falling off her surfboard. She did yoga in the mornings and refused to eat meat, even as a kid. I was always scared of getting hurt and had no interest in being within 20 feet of any shark or burning coral. I was invested in dancing and drawing, and I wanted to be a lawyer. 

Eventually, when I moved to the States and Luna stayed at our elementary school back home, we drifted out of each other’s lives. We weren’t close enough at the time to make a show of being Best Friends Forever despite the distance. We just hugged each other and accepted that we would rarely, if ever, see each other again. Yet somehow, in the era of Kik and Tumblr, we managed to grow closer with an ocean between us than we had ever been when living five minutes from each other. 

For as long as I can remember, whenever someone asked Luna what she wanted to be when she was older, her answer was always the same: happy. I always associated success with happiness, so my answer changes every few years (or months). It’s funny to think that we’ve had such different attitudes about life, even at that age. I guess that our outlooks balance each other, in a way.  

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Luna and I share the same zodiac sign. We were born less than a month apart, but we have only celebrated our birthdays together once: for our quinceañeras

Neither of us are the type to want a big party to celebrate our 15th birthday, and while she had travelled outside of Puerto Rico and the USA before, I had yet to step foot outside North America. In the years and months leading up to the big 15, I begged my parents if we could pretty-please-with-a-cherry-on-top travel somewhere (anywhere!) outside of the continent for my quince. Both our parents surprised us, and we ended up spending two weeks abroad with my parents to celebrate our birthdays.

Our conclusion at the end of the two weeks was that we’re good travel buddies. During our two weeks together, there was not a single argument between us that lasted longer than two minutes. We both just wanted to explore and see and hear the cities we visited. No need for pomp or circumstance to do so. We wanted to try gelato and walk around. If I wanted to go to a bookstore, she accompanied me; if she wanted to get on a rollercoaster, I accompanied her. It was a refreshing and exciting trip. 

We’ve grown up rooted in the same dirt, sharing values and culture and experiences, and though we have branched out in different directions throughout the years, our friendship has remained a central pillar of support to that growth. 

Ángela Pérez | angela.perez@yale.edu