I desire to tell you stories, of both love and loss sprinkled with sweet little words which mean nothing yet ultimately everything. Knowing you, you will hear them all with your eyes wide open and jaw slightly dropped in enthusiasm as you embrace each one of them as if yours. You cradle them in your arms while humming a familiar somber tune at midnight when you are at the peak of excitement and everyone else no longer cares. That is when you go out: with my stories packed in a large backpack slung over your right shoulder as you and your imaginary friends huddle in a dimly lit streetcorner and there, you share my anguish and despair to them in an animated voice. To make it sound more convincing, you would at times pause for a second, gathering your thoughts, imitating someone who’s picking up memories like broken glass. One of your friends hushes you. It’s okay. You don’t have to. Your eyes start to brim with tears, and a drop or two will roll down your cheeks: slowly, in the most revoltingly dramatic manner. But these stories are not yours to keep. It was not even your love and loss to begin with—not your hurt, not your sleepless nights, not your regret, not your moments of defeat; never your darkest hour. They were all mine. My story begins with Once there was a boy who fell in love with another boy. Yours will end differently. Yet no matter how hard you claim what is mine, in the end, my stories own you.
1. With eyes closed, I could imagine the train gets smaller by each passing second. The midnight air creeps into my entirety—from my jacket through the very skin that covers me. I pick up my bag, which has curiously gone heavier that it really is, and head for the road to take the bus. Why do I always miss the last train?
2. I don’t know, I said to the lady asking for directions. Her lips curve in disappointment before she turns her back on me, only to walk in silence. The blind can’t lead the blind. I continue walking in the opposite way, hoping to never see her again. She is just as lost as I am and I wish she won’t look back.
3. As I listen to his funny stories about his dog, boring job, and some other things which don’t concern nor impress me the least, his voice fades slowly in the background, and I know I’m no longer listening. I smile frequently to show interest—lost in my own contemplation—while I stare at his hair, which is a beautiful mess. I laughed at the thought, loudly. He was already talking about the death of his mom.
4. A blank sheet of paper screams for attention. I hold my gaze at the first line but couldn’t seem to write anything. Such emptiness! I crumpled the paper into a ball, aimed at the rubbish bin in the corner and threw; and missed. Such a waste!
5. “How can we fix this?” I beg. “Can we fix this? I can change.” The person on the other line fell silent for a moment, perhaps thinking of what to say next. “I can change.” I repeated, now with emphasis. “Yes, you can.” said the other voice. “And you did.” The line clicked off and I listened to the static for the next five minutes.
6. He was holding her trembling hands while he looked into her eyes wet with tears. The machine beside them continues to beep in no rhythm, until after a few minutes, it concludes to a steady monotone. She was no longer shaking; her eyes already closed. Boys don’t cry, he convinced himself. But boats don’t fly either.
We’ve only known each other for no less than a week, but we know, even without saying and what’s more with eyes closed, that it was the best of times. If you’d like to be precise, it could be somewhere around twenty thousand two hundred minutes, and counting. As I write this sentence, you keep your eyes fixed on me, probably wondering what I was doing, and I try to ignore you. Twenty thousand two hundred minutes and fifty seconds. But you are not one to easily ignore, my love, and my mathematics is far from precise. After all, before you, what I had were nothing but assumptions—those trembling feet testing the water and some other idioms I stopped understanding. We might have had exchanged smiles and thoughts over coffee and some cigarette sticks until the morning sun began to hurt, yet nothing, really, is absolute between us aside from that when we part, we would crawl back to our own separate places, the pains of distance from north to south—you would go back to your own without me and I to mine where I count the minutes that pass by without you, wishing for my return to your arms and to the unspeakable certainty that you have so effortlessly brought.
Twenty thousand two hundred two minutes. Your humming of Coldplay’s Yellow accompanies my hands as I try to end whatever this is I’m writing, as proof, perhaps, that after all, the waiting has not been for nothing. Continue to sing the songs I love to hear. Remember, I am that soft second voice in the background. I could go low and unnoticed, but together, we are one beautiful harmony.
Twenty thousand two hundred four minutes, my love, until I no longer have to count. And, okay, go on, take a photo of me. Take me always with you.
Nakilala kita isang gabing walang masakyan ang mga tao pauwi. Kunot-noo at pawisan na ang isang ginang na mag-iisang oras nang naghihintay habang tayo naman ay walang paki na nagyoyosi sa gilid–malalim ang mga hithit sa mga paubos nang sigarilyo, madiin ang mga tinginan ng mga matang maraming nais sabihin ngunit ‘di alam kung paano. Maingay man, dinig ko kung paano mo ako tinanong kung kumusta ba ako. Pero paano nga ba sagutin nang simple ang tanong na kasing bigat nito? “Sakto lang,” sabi ko, habang sa tapat natin ay isang jeep na nagbababa ng mga pasahero. Maya-maya pa ay umandar na ito at wala na rin ang ginang na katabi natin. Mabuti naman at isa sa amin ang makakauwi nang maaga ngayong gabi.
After three years, I agreed to meet up with you. I was wearing my casual Thursday while you were in shorts and a tank top. You asked if we could drink in your apartment, “For old time’s sake,” you said convincingly, flashing a devilish grin. At first I insisted for coffee. Yet after a couple of cigarette sticks burnt to their filters and some teasing for my ‘pretentious’ drunken calls, in the end, I found myself walking down the familiar street that leads to your place. “I’m home,” I muttered to myself while you bolted the door shut.
I am finally home
I have been, and always will be, a sucker for romance: the cheesy text messages sent after three in the morning, the occasionally intellectual and naughty banter over wine, the footsies, the reckless and the brave “I like you and I would love to see you again” and “I would pin you on the wall and kiss you on our second date.”
That’s why I suggested that we go to the National Museum, told him it was free for the public during APEC week. I was not sure if museums and conversations in the gutter and long walks are his thing, but he said yes, anyway, and I thought that a museum date could salvage any romantic bone left in me.
As we walked past dozens of art pieces, I swear I could hear the narrator of 500 Days of Summer somewhere.
This is a story of boy meets girl, but you should know upfront,
this is not a love story.
Only he wasn’t Tom. Only I wasn’t Summer. And long walks are no longer my thing. And he couldn’t be naughty and intellectual as I expected. I got an Uber and never saw him again.