Tragique Pas de Deux

PAS DE DEUX, Script

  1. INT. SCHOOL, PRACTICE ROOM – NIGHT

Only a few lights in the room are on. Emil (20) and Agatha (19) is seen standing next to each other in the center. Emil is wearing training clothes while Agatha is wearing a ballerina dress, looking ethereal in it. DANSE MACABE (by Camille Saint-Saëns) is playing in the speaker. Emil’s one arm is wrapped around Agatha’s waist and the other holds the back of her head while Agatha’s hands are placed on his shoulders. He gazes into her eyes adoringly, his lips suppressing a smile. She gives him a weak smile.

Meanwhile, a girl wearing a hoodie is seen intently observing them through the small glass window of the door.

Screen fades.

  1. INT. FLASHBACK. PRACTICE ROOM – DAY

Emil (8) is sitting in the corner of the room while a few other kids are on the other side of the room, not minding him. His knees are pushed to his chest while burying his face on his arms. A girl (7) approaches him and sits in front of him. He moves his head up upon realizing her presence. He glares at her.

 

EMIL

Dun ka nga. Ayaw kita dito.

AGATHA

(Sighs) Bakit galit ka sakin? Ayaw mo ba ‘kong partner?

EMIL

Ayaw kong bagong partner! Di kita kailangan.

AGATHA

Pero sabi ni teacher-

 

Emil doesn’t let her finish her sentence and storms out of the room. Agatha stays where she sits but her eyes follows him until he’s gone. She continues staring at the door and frowns.

  1. INT. SCHOOL, COVERED POOL AREA – NIGHT 

The covered pool area is dimly lit, only the pool lights that are still on are the source of light. A girl (19) whose hair and clothes are drenched, is seen lying near the pool. Her face is not revealed yet. She remains on the cold floor as she moves her head to scan the place, her eyes give no expression. After a moment, she finally decides to sit up. She gives one final look around then at her black hoodie and thights that are soaked wet. She then stares at the pool again. Then she presses her palm against her head, as though trying hard to recall a forgotten memory.

  1. INT. SCHOOL, LOCKER ROOM NEAR THE POOL AREA – NIGHT

The girl comes across a group of swimmers about to get changed, but they ignore her. She just gives them a blank stare and passes by them.

  1. INT. SCHOOL, HALLWAY – NIGHT

The girl is seen alone in the dark hallway walking aimlessly. She stares at the floor wondering why her shoes are not leaving wet prints despite it being wet too. A guy from the far end of the hallway approaches her direction. She stops in her tracks when she hears the echoing footsteps. She looks at the guy who seems to be in a hurry as he walks in a fast pace towards her but he just passes by without even glancing at her.

She gives an awestruck expression that will turn into confusion. She turns her head to the back to look at him, his back facing her. She sees the words “SWIMMING TEAM” printed at the back of his jacket. But he continues to walk away, unaware of her staring.

She finally breaks the long staring then turns to a corner heading towards the practice rooms. She stops in front of the ballet practice room.

  1. EXT. FLASHBACK. BUS – DAY

Emil (15) and Agatha (14) is seen sitting next to each other on a two-seater bus. The entire bus is filled with ballerinas and danseurs busy celebrating a successful performance except in the row where the two is. Emil is sitting by the window, his hair being blown by the wind. He hums to a tune of Danse Macabre.

Meanwhile, Agatha just quietly studies the side of Emil’s face. She gives him a smile even though he doesn’t see it, before she leans back to her seat and closes her eyes.

Miss Faye (early 30’s), their ballet master, approaches them enthusiastically and sits in the empty seats adjacent to them.

 

MISS FAYE

Kayong dalawa, iba din kayo ha. Gusto ko kayong i-congratulate kasi ang galing niyo kanina!

 

Emil turns his head to look at her while Agatha opens her eyes and just smiles to herself.

 

MISS FAYE

Nagtataka nga ako kung paano niyo nagagawang magkaroon ng maayos at magandang performance kahit mula noong mga bata pa kayo hanggang ngayon ay di kayo nagkakasundo.

 

Agatha finally looks at her while Emil keeps his mouth shut.

 

AGATHA

Kaya nga po e. Nakapagtataka kung paano namin nagagawang magmukhang may connection sa isa’t isa tuwing nagsasayaw kahit…

EMIL

Di naman talaga maganda e. Di ko gusto. Para sakin kulang pa.

 

Emil gives Miss Faye a small, forced smile then plugs his earphones and pretends to sleep. Agatha on the other hand gives an apologetic bow. Miss Faye just shrugs and pats Agatha’s shoulder then returns to her original seat.

  1. INT. SCHOOL, PRACTICE ROOM – NIGHT

The scene continues. The girl reaches for the door knob but hesitates to open the door.

 

THE GIRL

(To herself, in a soft voice) Bakit ako nandito? Hindi ko alam kung saan ako papunta. Pero dito ako dinala ng mga paa ko.

  1. EXT. FLASHBACK. SCHOOL, STAIRWAYS NEAR ENTRANCE – DAY

The clouds are spread across the sky. The wind blows through Agatha’s (16) hair. Her face is against her palms as she sobs. Random people are just passing by her.

Meanwhile, Emil (17) exits the building, holding a bottle of juice in one hand. He notices Agatha in the stairways. Her shoulders are shaking from crying. He walks a few steps towards her, hesitates for a while, and then continues walking up to her. He hands her the drink while shyly looking away.

 

EMIL

(Clears his throat) Sayo na o. Di ko pa naiinom yan. Mukhang ang tamis.

 

Agatha confusedly looks at the drink Emil is handing to her then at him who was still looking away. Upon realizing that she’s still not grabbing the drink, Emil turns to her. He attempts to look at her eyes but feels awkward so he diverts his eyes to his feet instead. He throws the drink at her lap.

 

EMIL

May nagsabi sakin na nakakagaan daw ng loob ang matatamis. Ayaw ko naman nito. E di sayo na lang. Baka lang makatulong kahit papano.

 

Then he walks away. Agatha gets the drink from her lap and just stares at it. Meanwhile, Emil stops in his tracks and decides to go back to Agatha and sits beside her. She just lets him. They both sit in silence.

 

EMIL

‘Wag mo na isipin yung mga nasabi ni Miss Faye kanina. Maniwala ka na lang na magaling ka.

AGATHA

(Grins) Anong meron? Bakit mo to sinasabi ngayon? Di ba wala ka namang paki sakin? Ayaw mo nga akong partner e.

EMIL

Nung mga bata pa tayo nun. Tagal na kaya nun. Pero di naman talaga ako galit sayo. Kinailangan ko lang na maging ganun ang pakikitungo ko sayo dahil alam kong magiging partner kita nang matagal. Mahirap na. Pano kung isang araw palitan na naman nila ang partner ko?

Agatha chuckles and takes a sip of her drink.

 

AGATHA

OA naman nito. Sa tinagal nating magka-partner ang sama ng pakikitungo sakin tapos yun pala dahil lang yun sa gusto mo maging handa sa pagkakaron ng panibagong partner?

 

Emil rests his head against his fist while he looks at her.

 

EMIL

Nasanay kasi akong iniiwan ako ng mga taong malapit sakin. Yung tatay ko sumama sa ibang babae at mas pinili yung anak nung babae niya kesa sakin. Yung nanay ko naman sinukuan agad ako. Ayun naghanap ng ibang makakasama. Nagkaron ng bagong anak at kinalimutan ako. Kaya napunta ako sa tita ko, ta’s sa isa pang tita ulit, ta’s isa pa ulit; palipat-lipat. Di ko na nga alam kung ilang beses ako pinagpasa-pasahan. Ano bang meron sakin? Bakit walang gustong pumili sakin? Yung una ko naman naging partner, nalaman kong gusto niya magkaron ng ibang partner. Di nagtagal, iniwan nya na din ako. Tapos, unti-unti nang nagsilayuan ang mga tinuring kong mga kaibigan. Bata pa ako noon pero tandang-tanda ko ang lahat. Yun yung pinaka-ayaw ko sa lahat e. Ang hindi ako ang inuuna. Ang hindi ako ang pinipili.

AGATHA

Ah. Hindi mo kakayanin kung may panibagong mang-iwan na naman sayo kaya ikaw na mismo ang lumalayo ng loob mo?

EMIL

Parang ganun na nga.

AGATHA

Pero ano nang nangyari sa una mong partner bago ako?

 

Emil looks directly into her eyes.

 

EMIL

Namatay siya.

 

Then silence envelopes them. Agatha awkwardly laughs trying to lighten the atmosphere of their serious conversation. She playfully slaps his arm.

 

AGATHA

Wag ka mag-alala. Ako, di ako mawawala. Hanggat wala sating nababalian ng paa, magiging partner mo ko nang pangmatagalan. Oo, pramis. Pangmatagalan.

 

She gives him an assuring smile.

 

AGATHA

Magsasayaw tayong dalawa hanggang sa manghina na ang mga tuhod natin dahil sa katandaan.

EMIL

Talaga? Papanindigan mo ba yan?

  1. INT. SCHOOL, PRACTICE ROOM – NIGHT – CONTINUATION

The girl finally decides to open the door and enters inside, her face still not being revealed. She finds Emil all alone. The instrumental is still playing in the background. Agatha wasn’t there in the first place. Her image was just Emil’s imagination.

The girl takes a few steps towards him.

  1. INT. FLASHBACK. SCHOOL, PRACTICE ROOM – NIGHT

The room is dark and quiet. All lights are off but a few windows are open. Agatha (17) and Emil (18) is lying next to each other on the floor, sharing earphones. Their figures are barely seen as the moonlight shining through the windows is the only source of light. Agatha’s eyes are closed while Emil gazes at her solemn face. He shifts his body to the side so he is completely facing her and continues to watch her. He beams at her.

  1. INT. SCHOOL, PRACTICE ROOM – NIGHT – CONTINUATION

Emil is still unaware of the presence of the girl. He wraps his arms around the air as if he’s holding somebody. He briefly closes his eyes and takes a deep breath. He opens them and says:

 

EMIL

Sayaw tayo, Agatha. Kahit sa huling pagkakataon.

 

And then he starts dancing a pas de deux, a dance for two, even though he’s all alone. The girl just watches him do all these. But then she feels a sudden pang in her chest while watching him. Her expression cannot be seen as her hoodie is still covering her face. She falls into her knees as she tries to understand what’s happening to her while bearing the pain she feels as she clutches her hand to her chest.

  1. EXT. FLASHBACK. SCHOOL, COVERED POOL AREA – NIGHT

The pool is already closed but Agatha (19) and Nathan (21) found their way to sneak inside. The lights are off but the pool lights are still on. They are sitting next to each other while their feet are submerged in the water. They are both wearing training clothes. Agatha’s head is resting on Nathan’s shoulder while he speaks.

 

NATHAN

Alam mo bang may namatay na dito noon?

AGATHA

Di nga? Gawa-gawa mo lang siguro yan e.

NATHAN

Totoo nga. Dito sa pool na to. 12 years ago ata yun nung may nalunod na bata dito. Sabi nila aksidente lang daw.

AGATHA

E ba’t ganyan tono ng boses mo? Parang di ka naniniwala sa kwento mo. Di ka ba naniniwala na aksidente lang yun?

NATHAN

Di ko din alam. Iba kasi ang kwentu-kwento noon sa swimming team. May nakakakita daw na isang batang lalake ang tumulak sa batang babae na namatay dun sa pool. Pero kinabukasan hindi na pumasok yung nakakita. Di na nalaman kung totoo yung kwento o hindi.

 

Nathan grabs Agatha’s hand and intertwines it with his then puts them on his lap.

 

AGATHA

Sino naman yung batang lalakeng yun? Taga-dito din ba siya?

 

Before Nathan could reply, Emil enters the scene.

 

EMIL

Kanina pa kita hinahanap. Nandito ka lang pala.

  1. INT. SCHOOL, PRACTICE ROOM NIGHT – CONTINUATION

The girl continues clutching to her chest with her knees on the floor, while Emil continues dancing, still unaware of her. After a while, her face is finally revealed.

The girl in hoodie is Agatha. Her eyes widen in surprise as she starts to remember everything. Tears start falling down her cheeks. The pain in her chest starts to hurt more.

 

AGATHA

Naaalala ko na.

  1. INT. SCOOL, COVERED POOL AREA – NIGHT

The scene in the pool area continues. Both Agatha and Nathan turns their head to the back upon hearing Emil’s voice.

Emil doesn’t show any expression but his eyes dart to Nathan, not keeping his eyes off him. He mockingly stares at him in a subtle way.

Tension is starting to build up but the silence is disturbed by the ringing of Nathan’s phone. Nathan fumbles for his phone inside his pocket. He hesitates to answer it but Agatha nods in assurance. He gives Emil a look then excuses himself. Agatha proceeds to take her feet off the water and wipes them with a towel.

While putting her shoes on, Emil sits beside her.

 

EMIL

Kanina pa kita hinahanap. Pinuntahan kita sa girl’s dormitory pero wala ka. Ba’t mo ba kasama yung lalakeng yun?

AGATHA

Wala lang. Gusto ko lang makita si Nathan.

EMIL

At kailangan niyo pa talaga tumakas para lang magkita dito? Bakit? Kayo na ba?

 

Agatha sneers, still looking away from him. But before she could reply, Nathan goes back, interrupting her.

 

NATHAN

Okay ka lang ba dito? Aalis muna ako saglit. Kailangan ko lang puntahan kapatid ko sa girls’ dorm. Babalik din ako.

AGATHA

(Smiles) Okay lang ako. Mag-uusap lang muna kami ni Emil.

 

Nathan exits. Agatha and Emil continues their conversation in the bleachers.

 

AGATHA

Does it matter to you kung kami na?

EMIL

Mahal mo pa ‘ko di ba? Akala ko ba mahal mo ko?

AGATHA

Pagod na ko Emil. Tagal ko nang nagmamahal sayo pero hindi mo naman nababalik. Ayoko nang maghintay sa hindi sigurado. Maybe it’s time to give my heart to someone who will look at me the same way I look at him. Si Nathan na yun, Emil.

 

Emil clenches his fists to his sides then aggressively stands up and goes straight to Agatha. He immediately wraps his hand around her neck tightly, trying to choke her. He looks at her furiously. Shock and fear is seen in Agatha’s face. She helplessly tries to remove his hand. To add more pain, he drags her by the neck near the pool.

 

EMIL

(Grins) Siya na ngayon mahal mo, ha? Akala ko ba ako? Ako pa rin dapat e. Ito na o, mahal na kita. Ba’t di mo naman ako hinintay?

AGATHA

(While trying to grasp for air) Hindi… mo ko mahal… Hindi mo… ‘ko minahal…

 

Tears start to pool Agatha’s eyes. But Emil looks at her mercilessly and wraps his hand around her neck tighter. Agatha eventually falls into her knees, looking more agonized and helpless as she finds it harder to breathe.

 

EMIL

Gusto ko, ang inuuna. Gusto ko, ako ang pinipili. Pare-pareho lang kayo. Sige! Iwan niyo na kong lahat. Magsama-sama kayo.

 

Emil chokes her harder, images of a young girl (7) (who was his first dance partner) being choked by his the 8-year old Emil shows up in Agatha’s face from time to time, until she’s almost not breathing anymore and then he throws her into the pool. She tries to fight for her life. But shortly after being thrown, she becomes too weak to try harder to fight for her life. So she just lets herself drown.

Emil just coldly watches her body become lifeless. No sense of guilt or remorse in his face.

  1. INT. SCHOOL, PRACTICE ROOM – NIGHT – CONTINUATION

Agatha remembers everything now. She takes a few steps closer to Emil. She wants to ask him, shout at him, and curse at him but she can’t. He can’t see her. So she just stands there as her eyes follow him as he continues dancing until he trips and falls, ending up sprawled in the floor. Agatha looks at him with wrath which eventually melts into pity then desperation.

He doesn’t move and just stares at the ceiling. He starts laughing, loud enough to be heard in the hallway, until his voice faints. He gives no expression as he stares into nothingness but a tear escapes his eye.

EMIL

(Mumbling) Gusto ko, ako naman inuuna. Gusto ko, ako naman pinipili. Yun lang naman e.

 

He repeats this over and over again until his voice and the screen starts to fade to BLACK.

Only Nathan’s voice screaming Agatha’s name in grief is heard in the background.

 

NATHAN

Agatha!

 

Then the sound of sirens is heard next then a slam of a door being forcefully opened.

 

End.

Circus

“Please, don’t let him see you. Stay behind. Or better, go somewhere else for the meantime.” “Sure. Anything for you, sweetheart. You will not see even a tiny part of my shadow. I promise,” is what I’d always say whenever you’d ask me to stay behind. And by your definition of behind, it means a hundred or thousand steps away from you. Of I course I should; so he’ll never see me, so he’ll never know that I exist, so he’ll never get the idea of what we have (is there even a “we”? An “us”? That I’m not sure of), so he’ll never notice anything suspicious in the way I lovingly stare at you while your eyes are fixed at him as if you are still deeply in love. And like what I always do, I’ll blend in with the crowd and pretend to be a stranger meant to be passed by and forgotten. Someone you never knew about. Someone whose existence doesn’t have anything to do with you. And to ease the pain in my heart a little, I would convince myself that the way you drown in his eyes, the way you whole heartedly laugh at everything he says, the way you bury your head on the crook of his neck and all the lovesick things you do all meant nothing for everything is just a show in this circus. A circus full of lies and deception.

Just for tonight, be mine again

I can see from your eyes how you hard you try to hide those lies

I can feel it in your chest as we’re skin to skin;

your heart no longer beats the way it used to when I am near you.

It used to pound as if it wants to break your rib cage and get out of your chest

just to meet mine and wrap it with the warmth of yours.

I do not have the same effect on you anymore.

Now your heart is calm,

numb,

cold.

I kissed you anyway

But your lips doesn’t taste like your lips.

I felt a pang in my heart,

a punch in the pit of my stomach.

You kissed another girl before me.

I can tell that with the unusual redness and sweetness of your lips.

It was a sickening kind of sweet for I know

it was from the sweetness of the lips of another girl.

But for now,

perhaps for the last time,

let me keep kissing you.

Even until the morning, I’m more than willing to.

For I don’t know when you’ll come home next time again

or if you’ll come home to my arms  ever again.

 

Pahimakas

 Iwasan mo muna si Ben.

Iba na ang panahon ngayon, mahal.

Baka madamay ka lang.

Delikado ang buhay mo kung patuloy kang lalapit sa kanya.

Araw-araw na yatang naririnig ni Diego ang mga salitang ito mula sa kanyang asawa. Pilit kasing pinalalayo ni Chona ang kanyang asawa mula sa kaibigang si Ben dahil sa pagiging drug pusher nito. Ngunit kahit anong pagmamakaawa ni Chona ay di pa rin nilalayuan ni Diego si Ben sapagkat naniniwala ito na kaya pa rin niyang makumbinsi ang kaibigan na tumigil na sa ilegal na trabahong iyon. Mahalaga kay Diego si Ben. Sabay na silang lumaki at nagkamalay. Isa si Ben sa pinakamahahalagang tao sa kanyang buhay. Hindi niya pwedeng iwanan na lang nang basta-basta ang kaibigan. Kaya naman kahit maging siya ay binibigyan na ng mapanghusga at mapagbintang na tingin ng mga tao sa kanilang lugar. Sa kabila nito, patuloy pa rin ang ginagawang paglapit niya kay Ben.

“Ano ba, Diego? Wala ka na ba talagang balak layuan yang si Ben? Paano kung isang araw may bumaril na lang sayo at sabitan ka ng cardboard gaya ng mga napapanood natin sa balita? Paano kung traydorin ka ni Ben? Paano kung idamay ka niya sa mga kagaguhang ginagawa nya?” Sa sobrang inis ni Chona sa kanyang asawa ay tinalikuran na lang niya ito at saka hinayaang tumulo ang kanina pang nagbabadyang mga luha.

Agad namang niyakap ni Diego ang asawa mula sa likod. “Pasensya na mahal. Wag ka na magtampo. Hindi ko gustong lumuluha ka dahil sakin.”

“Di na ako luluha kung lalayuan mo yang si Ben.”

“Chona naman, alam mong mahirap iyan.”

“Ah, ganun? E di tapos na ang usapang ito.”

“O sige, sige, ganito na lang… susubukan kong kumbinsihin si Ben sa huling pagkakataon. Kung di na niya talaga ako pakikinggan, tuluyan na kong lalayo. Pangako yan.”

 

Papa, sana po tigilan mo na yan.

Ben, kaya mo pa magbago.

Tigilan mo na yan para sa amin ng anak mo.

Paano kung isang araw kunin na lang nila ang buhay mo?

Paulit-ulit ang mga paalala ng mag-ina ni Ben sa kanya. Alam naman nya ang mga panganib na dulot ng pagtutulak ng ilegal na droga. Lalo na sa panahon ngayon. Oras na may makaalam na may kinalaman siya sa droga ay delikado na ang buhay niya. Ngunit ligtas pa naman siya. Sa ngayon. Wala pang makakapagpatunay na may kinalaman siya sa droga. Maliban na lamang siguro sa kaibigang si Diego. Ngunit maging si Diego ay isa sa mga paulit-ulit na nangungumbinsi sa kanya na tigilan na ang pagtutulak ng droga. Nung isang araw nga ay nagtalo pa sila dahil pinagbantaan siya ni Diego na siya na mismo ang magsusumbong sa mga pulis kung hindi niya pa rin titigilan ang trabahong iyon.

 

Maghahating gabi na nang niyaya ni Ben si Diego na makipagkita. Wala itong sinabing dahilan. Hindi na rin nag-isip pa si Diego. Basta ay pumunta na lang siya kung saan sila nagkasundong magkita. Nang dumating na si Diego ay may iniabot si Ben sa kanya na tila ba isang regalo. Kahon iyon na may balot na gift wrapper. “Para saan ang regalong ito?” Pagtataka ni Diego. “Kaarawan ng anak kong si Jenny bukas,” ani Ben, “gusto ko sanang ikaw na lang ang mag-abot sa kanya. Aalis muna ako at lalayo para ayusin ang sarili ko.”

“Aalis ka? Saan ka naman pupunta?”

“Basta. Sa malayo. Di ko na sasabihin kung saan. Di bale, babalik naman ako. Hindi ko nga lang alam kung kail—” Hindi na natapos ni Ben ang kanyang sasabihin. Agad ni Diego kinulong si Ben sa kanyang mga bisig saka mariin na hinalikan ito. Pangungulila. Pananabik. Muling pag-alab ng damdaming pilit kinalimutan sa mahabang panahon. Naramdaman iyon ni Ben sa mga halik ni Diego na kanya rin namang ginantihan. Doon sa likod ng puno ay sinunod nila ang pareho nilang ninanais; doon nagduwelo ang dalawang labing matagal na nanabik sa isa’t isa, doon sinulit ng dalawang pusong nangulila at mas lalo pang mangungulila sa isa’t isa ang huling oras na iyon. Ang kaninang nagbabaga pa lang ay unti-unti nang nagiging apoy, nakakapaso—mali, batid nilang dalawa—kaya sabay silang humiwalay sa isa’t isa.

Bang. Isang putok ng baril. Dumating na sila. Ayun na si Diego, napahandusay dahil sa tama ng bala. Bumaba ang lalake sa motor at binuksan ang hawak na regalo ni Diego. Droga. Sangkatutak na droga ang laman ng kahon. Regalo? Walang regalo. Patibong. Patibong ang meron. Trinaydor siya ni Ben.       

“Totoo ang sumbong sa akin, pusher ka nga. O ito,” Bang. Isa pang putok ng baril. Doon sa dibdib. Patay na si Diego. “Yan ang tama sayo.” Ani ng lalakeng namaril kay Diego. Hindi pa nakuntento’t kumuha pa ng cardboard mula sa bag at may sinulat. Pinatong niya iyon sa dibdib ng walang buhay na si Diego at umalis. Pusher ako, wag tularan. Iyon ang nakasulat.

Pinanood lang ni Ben mula sa likod ng puno ang mga nangyari. Si Ben. Si Ben ang may sala sa walang kamalay-malay na si Diego. “Mabuti pang mamatay ka na lang bago mo pa ako masumbong sa mga pulis,” ani Ben at lumakad papunta kay Diego. Pinagmasdan niya ang walang buhay na kaibigan na nakahandusay sa kanyang mga paanan. Maya-maya ay nagdesisyon na siyang tuluyang umalis bago pa magsilabasan ang mga tao. Ngunit bago pa man tuluyang tumalikod si Ben ay may humawak sa kanyang paa. Nanginginig siya habang dahan-dahan na nilingon si Diego na matalim ang tingin sa kanya.“Traydor ka, Ben. Traydor!” Pahigpit nang pahigpit ang hawak ni Diego sa kanyang paa hanggang sa narinig na niya ang pagbali ng kanyang buto.

Hinihingal at pawis na pawis na nagising si Ben mula sa kanyang panaginip… o bangungot. Laking pasasalamat niya na hindi totoo ang lahat. Hindi niya trinaydor si Diego. Buhay pa si Diego. Buhay pa ang kanyang kaibigan—kaibigan na dati niyang naging kasintahan noong sila’y mga binata pa. Tunay nilang minahal ang isa’t isa noon kahit palihim lamang. Ngunit sa di inaasahan ay nabuntis ni Ben si Sally. Doon natapos ang kanilang pagmamahalan. Sa tinagal ng panahon ay natutunan na ring mahalin ni Ben si Sally. Samantalang si Diego naman ay tumibok muli ang puso para sa isang babaeng ang ngalan ay Chona. Sa paglipas ng panahon ay naibalik ng dalawa ang pagkakaibigang naudlot dahil sa isang di inaasahang pagkakamali. Kaya naman ganoon na rin kaimportante kay Ben si Diego at kanilang pagkakaibigan. Hindi niya hahayaang masirang muli ang kanilang pagkakaibigan dahil lang sa patuloy na pagtutulak ng droga.

 

Nagising si Chona sa ingay na nanggagaling sa kusina. Paglabas niya ng kwarto ay naabutan niya ang asawang nagluluto ng masarap na ulam. “Gising ka na pala mahal. Upo ka na muna diyan. Matatapos na rin ‘tong niluluto ko.” Naupo na siya sa may lamesa habang hinihintay na matapos magluto ang asawa. Lumingon siya sa orasan. Di niya inaasahan na mag-a-ala una na pala. Masyado yata siyang tinanghali ng gising.

“Niluto ko nga pala ang paborito mong ulam,” ani Diego habang hinahanda ang mga plato at kubyertos sa lamesa. Sunod niyang nilagay ang ulam at kanin. Nang ayos na ang lahat ay naupo na rin siya. Ngiting-ngiti siya ngunit hindi pa rin siya gaanong iniimikan ng kanyang asawa. “Bakit ito pa ang niluto mo? Napagastos ka pa tuloy para sa isang tanghalian lang.” Hindi pa rin tinitignan ni Chona si Diego. “Ano, nagpapalakas ka na naman sakin? Nang-uuto para payagan kitang makipagkita diyan kay Ben?”

Napatigil sa pagkain si Diego at tinignan ang asawa. “Kasi naman mahal pagbigyan mo na ako. Ngayong araw na lang talaga. At pag wala na talagang pag-asang mabago ang isip niya, suko na ako. Di na ko lalapit sa kanya.”

Binitawan ni Chona ang mga kubyertos at inangat ang tingin sa asawa. “Mahal mo ba talaga ako, Diego? Pinakasalan mo ba ako kasi mahal mo ko o pinakasalan mo lang ako kasi napilitan ka lang? Kasi di na kayo pwede ni Ben dahil nabuntis niya si Sally noon?” Agad namang inabot ni Diego ang mga kamay ng asawa.

“Oo, minahal ko si Ben noon. Minahal niya rin ako. Pero matagal na yun, Chona. Matatanda na kami. May kanya-kanya na kaming pamilya. Ako may asawa na na mahal na mahal ko. At gusto ko magkaron ng pamilya kasama siya. Ikaw yun Chona. Ikaw ang mahal ko. At bubuo tayo ng pamilya kasama ang magiging anak natin.” Pareho na silang naluluha. “Si Ben, kaibigan na lang talaga ang turing ko sa kanya. Gayundin ang turing niya sa akin. Kaya wag ka na mangamba. Ha, Chona?” Tumabi si Diego kay Chona at inakbayan siya saka hinalikan ang noo nito. “Kung gusto mo nga, mamayabang gabi ay magsimula na tayong sumubok makabuo ng anak e,” bulong nito sa tenga ng asawa na nagpatawa sa kanilang dalawa. Pabiro naman siyang himapas ng asawa sa braso. “Loko talaga,” nakangiti na ito, “oo na sige na. Pwede ka na makipagkita kay Ben. Pero mamay    ang gabi ah… yung sabi mo. Wag mo kakalimutan.” At nagtawanan muli ang mag-asawa at saka nagpatuloy sa pagkain ng tanghalian.

Alas-syete na ng gabi nang magkita si Diego at Ben sa may tindahan ni Bebeng. Sila lang dalawa ang nandoon. Nanonood lang ng TV si Bebeng sa loob at tila ba walang paki sa kanilang dalawa na nakatambay doon kaya nagpatuloy na sila sa kanilang usapan.

“Ben, alam ko rinding-rindi ka na sakin. Pero ano, wala ka na ba talagang balak itigil yan?”

“Diego, okay na ko sa pagtutulak ng droga. Dahil dun may kinikita ako kahit papano—” May kinuha si Bebeng sa tindahan kaya naman di niya inaasahan na marinig ang kwentuhan ng dalawa. Ngunit ang sinabi lang ni Ben na iyon ang narinig niya. Dali-dali siyang pumasok sa bahay na katabi lang ng kanyang tindahan. Hindi na niya napakinggan pa ang buong usapan ng dalawa at mabilis na may tinawagan na kung sino. Kung sana ay pinakinggan niya muna ang buong usapan ng dalawa.

“—pero napag-isip-isip ko rin na mali na nga. Gusto ko na magbagong buhay. Ayoko na mamuhay ng ganito. Napagdesisyunan kong sumuko na lang sa mga pulis.”

“Gusto mo ba samahan kita?”

Tumango si Ben. “Pero hayaan mo muna akong makasama ang pamilya ko bukas. Kaarawan ni Jenny. Gusto ko sanang makasama muna siya. Tapos sa sunod na araw ay saka tayo pumunta sa presinto.”

Nangiti naman si Diego sa balita ng kaibigan. “Tama yan. Masaya ako sa naging desisyon mo. Alam ko mahirap para sayo pero sigurado naman akong kakayanin mo to.”

“Salamat Diego. Salamat at nandyan ka pa rin.” Naggantihan ng ngisi ang dalawa at patuloy na nag-usap tungkol sa kung anu-ano, hanggang sa hindi nila namalayan na ilang oras na pala ang nakalipas at gumagabi na rin. Nagyaya nang umuwi si Diego dahil may pangako pa siya sa asawa na kailangan niyang tuparin ngayong gabi. Tumayo na silang dalawa at maglalakad na sana papunta sa kani-kanilang mga bahay nang may motor na humarurot papunta sa kanila. Dalawa ang sakay ng motor; ang isa ang nagmamaneho, at ang isa ay angkas lang ngunit may hawak ito sa kamay.

Bang. Unang putok ng baril. Biglang natumba si Diego.

Bang. Sunod na putok ng baril. Natumba na rin si Ben.

Nagsigawan ang mga tao.

Huminto saglit ang motor sa tapat nila. Bang. Muling tinamaan si Ben.

Gumalaw si Diego at gumawa ng mahinang ingay. Buhay pa si Diego!

Bang. Bang. Ayan, siguradong patay na siya.

Nang natiyak ng namaril na wala nang buhay ang dalawang katawan na nakahandusay sa kalsada ay tuluyan nang humarurot paalis ang motor. Maya-maya ay nagtipon na ang mga tao palibot sa dalawang katawang halos maligo na sarili nilang dugo.

 

Suot na ni Chona ang kanyang pinakamagandang kamison habang hinihintay ang pagdating ng asawa. Sabik na sabik na ito sa kanyang pag-uwi. Kaya naman nang may kumatok ay agad niya iyon pinagbuksan. Nawala ang kanyang ngiti nang ibang tao ang bumungad sa kanya. Kapitbahay nila iyon. Natataranta ang kanyang mukha. “Chona, si Diego…” Kinutuban na si Chona. Dali-dali siyang nagsuot ng jacket at lumabas upang puntahan ang asawang si Diego. Pagdadasal na lamang sa isip ang nagawa ni Chona habang papunta sa kung nasaan man ngayon si Diego.

 

Sa bahay naman ni Ben ay naghihintay rin ang kanyang asawang si Sally at anak na si Jenny. Gumugupit ng papel si Jenny para sa isang proyekto habang nanonood naman ng TV ang nanay niya nang biglang magupit niya ang kanyang daliri. “Aray!”

Agad naman siyang tinugunan ng nanay at naghanap ng alcohol at band-aid. “Ma, bakit hindi pa umuuwi si Papa?” Biglang tanong niya. “Di kaya pumunta na siya sa mga pulis?”

“Pulis? Ba’t naman pupunta sa mga pulis ang Papa mo?”

Naupo sa tabi ni Jenny si Sally at ginamot ang sugat niya. “Kanina po kasi bago umalis si papa nabanggit niya na gusto niya na po magbagong buhay. Susuko na daw po siya. Pero sa makalawa pa naman daw po ang sabi niya sakin. Kasi raw po ay gusto niyang nandito siya para sa ika-walong kaarawan ko bukas.” Bata pa lang si Jenny ngunit mawalak na ag pag-iisip nito. Naiintindihan na niya

“Ganun ba? Di niya nabanggit sakin yan ah. Di bale, kakausapin ko siya mamaya pag-uwi niya. Wag ka mag-alala, pauwi na siguro yun.”

Maya-maya ay mayroon na ring kumatok sa pintuan nila. Agad binalita ng kapitbahay ang nangyari. Dali-dali naman silang lumabas ng bahay para puntahan ang kinaroroonan ngayon ni Ben.

 

Mula sa malayo ay kita na ni Chona ang palibot ng mga tao. “Hindi. Wala si Diego diyan. Wala.” Paulit-ulit na bulong niya sa kanyang sarili. Nagbabadya na ang mga luha sa kanyang mga mata. Nang makalapit na siya ay nakita niyang nakahandusay na nga ang katawan ng kanyang asawa na katabi ni Ben na wala na ring buhay.

Ilang malulutong na mura ang kanyang sinigaw sa mga taong nandoon. “Anong tinutunganga niyo diyan? Tumawag na kayo ng ambulansya!” Lumuhod siya tabi ng asawa at kinulong ang katawan nito sa kanyang mga braso nito. Walang tigil ang kanyang mga luha.

“Diego, naman. Di ka pa mamatay!” Isa pang mura ang kanyang pinakawalan. “Magkakaanak pa tayo diba? Bubuo pa tayo ng pamilya. Gumising ka, Diego! Parang awa mo na.” Iiling-iling na lamang ang mga tao doon. Naaawa sila. Tila yata nakalimutan na rin nilang isa rin sila sa mga gumusto nito. Mga hipokrito.

“Diego, bumangon ka. Paano na yung pamilyang bubuuin natin? Diego…” Ngunit wala na si Diego. Hindi na maibabalik ang inosenteng buhay na nawala.

 

Hindi pa man nakakalapit sina Sally at Jenny ay rinig na rinig na nila ang mga usap-usapan ng mga taong nandoon maging ang hagulgol ni Chona na paulit-ulit na sinisigaw ang pangalan ng asawa.

“Pero sino kaya ang namaril, ano?”

“Baka mga pulis.”

“O di kaya yung boss na nila ang nagpapatay sa kanila.”

“Hala, nakakaawa naman.”

“Nakakatakot!”

Inaasahan na ng mag-ina kung ano ang makikita nila ngunit nang makita na nila mismo ang dalawang walang buhay na katawan na nakahandusay sa kalsada ay nabigla pa rin sila. Nanginginig sa iyak at hinagpis si Sally na lumapit sa kanyang asawa. Wala na siyang ibang nagawa kundi ang humagulgol. Wala na ang asawa niya. Hindi na mababalik ang buhay ng asawang gusto na sanang magbagong buhay.

Sino ang pumatay sa kanila?                                                                         

Totoo nga kaya ang mga usap-usapan na naririnig ko dito?

Bakit pinatay pa rin nila si Ben, e, gusto naman na niya magbagong buhay?

Bakit pinatay rin nila si Diego? Inosente naman si Diego ah.

Bakit nila binabawi ang buhay na hindi naman sila ang nagbigay?

Hustisya.

Nasaan ang hustisya?

Si Jenny naman ay naestatwa na lang sa kinatatyuan niya habang nakatingin sa kanyang walang buhay na papa at Tito Diego. Patuloy lamang ang pag-agos ng kanyang luha. Marami siyang gustong sabihin ngunit walang lumabas na boses sa kanyang bibig. Hindi siya makapagsalita. Tila ba ito’y paniginip lamang. O kaya’y eksena sa teleserye.

Papa, bakit nandiyan kayo ni Tito Diego?

Papa, diba uuwi ka pa?

Kaarawan ko na po bukas. Kahit wala nang regalo. Gumising lang kayo diyan.

Papa…

 

Samantala, si Bebeng ay nasa malayo lang habang pinagmamasdan ang mga nangyayari. Nakokonsensya siya sa kanyang ginawa. Nararamdaman niyang mali iyon. Ngunit paulit-ulit niya pa ring kinumbinsi ang sarili niya na iyon ang tama. Na ang mga katulad nila ay hindi na dapat mabuhay pa.

Paano kaya kung sa kanya iyon mangyari? Paano kaya kung mangyari iyon sa pamilya niya? Paano kung nagsisimula na ring tumikim ng droga ang kanyang anak doon sa syudad kung saan ang akala niya’y masipag na nag-aaral? Paano kung isang araw ay mahandusay na lang sa kalasada ang walang buhay na kanyang anak habang naliligo sa sariling dugo? Kawawang Bebeng. Hindi malayong maranasan niya rin ang nararanasan ng dalawang pamilyang naghihinagpis ngayon.

 

Encore Une Fois

She stirs her coffee absent mindedly as she stares outside the window of the coffee shop, that she didn’t notice her coffee turning cold. She then would glance at the entrance door from time to time just to check if the person she’s waiting for has arrived. She checks the time; 18 minutes has already passed since she arrived. She’s getting more anxious. Whatever might happen, she hopes she’ll be able to act nonchalant as planned. She has waited for two years and eight months for this day. She even practiced how she will act and memorized all the things she prepared to say just for this day. No one approved of her past relationship with the guy, especially her parents who prohibited her to see him or contact him. And today’s the only day her parents allowed her to see him once again, for this might also be her only last chance to see him ever again.She continues staring into the nothingness as her thoughts begin to consume her again. She isn’t aware the person she’s waiting for has already arrived. The guy quietly sits on the chair across her, although he was quite hesitant and shy at first.

“I’m waiting for someone else. You can’t take the seat. Sorry,” she says thoughtlessly without even glancing at him. “It’s… It’s me, Nina.” That voice. Her eyes widen in surprise as she realizes whose voice is that. She still remembers clearly. Slowly, she turns her head to see the guy sitting across her. So it’s really him. She runs her fingers through her hair and adjusts herself in her seat. As if he was a stranger that she has to talk casually to. Unfortunately, he’s far more than a stranger in her life.
“Uh, sorry. Medyo wala ako sa sari–”
“No, it’s okay.” He says, timidly smiling. She opens her mouth to utter something but doesn’t know what to say so she keeps it shut.
“So, uhm, kumusta na?”
His voice would just pass through her ears though. She gets engrossed in studying his face.It’s been years since he last saw this man, since he broke up with her and left her. A lot has changed in his looks. But it just made him more mesmerizing. He has grown facial hair but it looked neat. His hair also got longer but it suited him. She looked everywhere but his eyes. Seeing him again this close makes her feel a familiar swarm of creatures inside her stomach and her heart beat a little faster than usual. And she hates the familiarity of this feeling. When she accidentally looks in his eyes and she catches him staring, her heart pauses for a moment. As if he holds a remote to her heart and intentionally pauses it through his gaze. She wasn’t prepared for that. She tried her best to avoid his eyes but failed. She immediately averts her gaze. She subtly shakes her head, hoping to pull herself back to her senses. She slowly turns to him again, leveling her eyes on his nose just to make sure she doesn’t meet his eyes. “Sorry. Ano nga ulit yun?”
“Kinukumusta kita.” He looks at her with concern but maintains his smile. He can notice that she’s a little uneasy. She used to be really comfortable around him but things are not what it used to be anymore; things have changed.
“Ah. I’m doing well, I guess. Medyo abala sa trabaho pero kinakaya naman.”
After contemplating, she finally gathers all her strength to look him in the eye for the first time since he arrived. She grins, but with a hint of bitterness. “Ang tagal na rin pala, ano? Buti pinayagan ulit nila tayong magkita. Even for the last time. Akala ko talaga hindi na ulit kita makikita.” She bites her cheek wall, trying to ignore the lump on her throat.

“You know me, Nina. Alam mo namang ‘di ko hahayaan yun. I make things happen.”
That familiar line gets her attention. She suddenly remembers her kuya. It was something he would often tell her. How she wishes that he’s with her today. Maybe it would’ve been easier to face this man if only he was here.

 ***

Nina had a bad day in school. So when she got home, she just wanted lock herself inside her room for the whole night. She impatiently knocked on the door. Her kuya opened it for her, and she immediately bolted to her room upstairs as soon as she got inside. She couldn’t help but burst into tears. Her heart was broken that day. She made a confession to his first love but was rejected. His kuya could her loud sobbing. He got worried for his sister so he went inside her room to comfort her. He stroked her hair as she cried, her face buried on the pillow.

“Kuya hates seeing you in tears, diba? Ano ba ang nangyari?”
“I was dumped kuya. Ang sakit! Mahal ko na siya kuya eh. Gusto ko lang naman maranasan magkaron ng boyfriend. At gusto ko siya na yun,” she said in between sobs. The only thing her kuya managed to do was shake his head at his young and innocent sister. She was just 19 and he was 23.
“Yun lang ba gusto mo? Maranasan ang magkaron ng boyfriend?” She stopped sobbing and just stared at her kuya. She weakly nodded.
He chuckled at his adorable sister then kissed her forehead. “Don’t worry. Kuya will make it happen.” He wiped her tears and smiled at her.
“But how?”
***
She sips on her cold coffee. “I know. Kaya nga I’m glad na dumating ‘tong araw na ‘to. Who knows, baka huli na ‘to. Babalik ka na rin ng Italy diba? And you might stay there longer or probably forever. I don’t know.” She shrugs.
“Nina…”
“Eh ikaw pala, kumusta ka naman ngayon?” She places both of her elbows on the table, hands clasped together, and her chin resting on top. “Hmm, naging masaya ka ba? Naging mapayapa ba buhay mo dun? I’m interested to know how your life have been.” She was beaming the whole time but her voice contradicts the smile plastered on her face. Her voice is quivering a bit. He knows her well. He knows that she’s possibly close to being emotional right now.
“Okay naman ako. Sa unang taon simula nung naghiwalay tayo, syempre nahirapan ako maging masaya. Pero ayun, eventually nakaya ko din. But to be honest I had a hard time feeling at peace kasi naiisip kita. Pero ngayon siguro medyo okay na ako.”
“Okay. Good for you naman. Ako kasi when you left me, I was so miserable. I didn’t know what to do or how to handle myself nung nawala ka. I have no one to support me during those times. Even mama and papa. They’re still mad at me, lalo na si mama. Pati mga kaibigan ko tinalikuran na ako. Ang hirap, August. Ang hirap.” Tears start to pool in her eyes but she quickly wipes it away and maintains her smile. He tries to reach for her hand on the table in an attempt to comfort her but she pulls it back and glares at him. “Don’t try to comfort me. Okay lang ako. Di naman kita sinusumbatan. I was just telling you how my life have been since you left.” She takes another sip of coffee to calm herself. She notices that he doesn’t have a drink yet. She decides to excuse herself, making him worry.

“Aalis ka na?”
“No, I’ll just buy you a drink. Then we’ll talk.”
“Ha? Nina, ako na bibili.” He attempts to get up but she pushes him back to his seat.
“I insist. Just please stay there as I buy you a drink.” She turns her back at him then walks to the counter and queues. She felt the need to get out of there for a while. She needs to breathe, to calm down herself, to pull herself back to her senses. She almost lost it. She almost broke down right then and there. Seeing him in person reminded her how he missed him, how she cried every time she counted the days since he left. God, she missed him so much. She just wanted to throw her arms around him and forget everything but she can’t and she shouldn’t.
She hates him. So much. But she loves him too. Just as much.
***
As soon as Nina woke up, she immediately reached for her phone on the bedside table to check for anything she missed while asleep.

Unknown Number:
“Good morning! :)”
“Let me start your day by telling you how precious you are.”
“Never skip a meal, okay? So get up now and eat your breakfast. Get some sunshine. This day deserves to be as lovely as you.”
“Hehe. I love you. (rose emoji)”
Me:
“Aw, ang sweet mo sana”
“kaso boi wrong send ka.”

Unknown Number:
“Hahaha Nina naman eh. Wag mo sirain yung moment. Makisakay ka na lang sa pagiging sweet ko.”
“Wag kang ganyan sa boyfriend mo. (wink emoji)”

Me:
“Gago maghanap ka ng ibang malalandi mo kung sino ka man.”
“Ib-block ko number mo. Hindi ka sa Rico kaya tigilan mo ‘ko.”

She went out of her room and headed to the dining area to eat her breakfast. Their parents were at work so the only one left is her kuya who was preparing her cereals and sandwiches. Her kuya was unusually cheery that day as he greeted her.
“Ba’t ang saya mo ata masyado?
“E ikaw, ba’t ang lungkot mo masyado?” He sat on the chair beside her and turned it towards her. “Di ba dapat masaya ka kasi may boyfriend ka na simula ngayon?” He showed her a toothy grin.
She snorted at him. “So ikaw pala may pakana nung nag-message sakin kanina? Sino ba yun? Barkada mo?”
“Keep guessing.” He wiggled his brows. “Dali, hulaan mo.”
“I’m not in the mood today, kuya. Sabihin mo na lang kung sino yang nauto mo para magpaka-boyfriend sa’kin. At pakisabi na rin na tumigil na. Si Rico ang gusto ko.”
“E kung sabihin kong ako talaga yun?” Her eyes widen in disbelief. She was speechless so he just continued what he was saying. “I’ll be your boyfriend habang naghihintay kang may totoong manligaw sayo. Ayaw kita nalulungkot, Nina. Lahat ng gusto mo ibibigay ko. Kung gusto mo ng boyfriend, ready akong maging pansamantalang boyfriend mo.”
“But that’s disgus—”
“Walang malisya to, ha? Ipaparamdam ko lang sayo kung paano magkaroon ng boyfriend and I’ll exclude the intimate acts like kissing kasi kadiri yun. Di naman tayo talo.”
***
She walks back to their table holding a cup of coffee she ordered for him.
“Thank you.” He says as she places his coffee on the table. She doesn’t respond and just goes back to her seat. When their eyes meet, she looks away. No one uttered a word. She tried to focus her attention outside, observing the people passing by while he just taps his hand on the table as he drinks the coffee; both didn’t know what to say; both were waiting for the other to start the conversation again; both weren’t brave enough yet to tell the things they wanted to say, the things they have prepared for this “special” day.
When he’s halfway through his drink, he finally decides to talk. “I actually missed you, Nina.” It gets her attention, of course. She turns her head to look at him. “Sana sulitin na natin ‘tong huling araw na ‘to… maybe to catch up, to tell each other the things we wanted to say. Anything. Everything. Basta mag-usap tayo. Ayokong sayangin tong araw na ‘to kasi ang tagal ko talaga ‘tong hinintay. And I missed your voice. I wanna hear you talk, please.”
She pinches her fingers under the table. Don’t you dare cry in front of him, Nina. Don’t you dare, she warns herself. Keep your cool. Act as if you don’t miss him as much anymore. She takes a deep breath.
“Okay. So anon a pag-uusapan natin?”
“Do you still think of me?”
“Hindi na. Simula nung umalis ka, kinalimutan na kita. Nilibang ko ang sarili ko sa kung anu-ano para di kita maisip. It was very easy for me to forget you. I don’t miss you anymore—sana ganun nga, pero hindi ganun ang nangyari. Kahit di na kita nakikita, kahit di ko na naririnig ang boses mo, kahit wala na kong alam na kahit ano sayo, sa loob ng dalawang taon at walong buwan, inaalala pa rin kita. Kaya galit na galit ako sayo.” She avoids his gaze and fiddles with her cup. “Kasi iniwan mo na nga ako, pero parang kasama pa rin kita. There’s just so much memories almost everywhere I look. Nakakainis lang.”
“Nina…”
“Don’t worry, August. I’m okay. I’m still thankful for the memories we shared. I was truly happy noong panahon na naging tayo, kahit palihim lang. Siguro kaya ganoon ako kawasak nung iniwan mo ko kasi sobra-sobrang napasaya mo ko nung tayo pa. And for that, I thank you. Thank you for the love and the memories.” She flashes a smile—this time a genuine one—as a tear escapes her eye. She places her hands on the table and he gets this opportunity to reach for her hands and hold them tightly and plant a kiss on it. She wanted to pull her hands back, but she decided to just let him for this might be the last time she’ll feel his touch. And she missed the warmth of his hands too.
He looks her in the eye, her hands still tightly held by his. “I’m sorry, Nina. I’m really, really sorry I left you. But believe me, I treasured every minute, every hour, every day, every week, every month that we were together. I loved you so much—but I had to leave because I got scared.”
“Scared of what?”
***
On the first two months of their relationship role-play, everything was normal. They did the things that most couples do except being too intimate. The most intimate thing they could do was hold hands. And this was Nina’s favorite part of that relationship role-play. They would bravely hold hands in public, not minding if anyone they knew would see them like that. It wasn’t something they had to hide anyway. They weren’t doing anything malicious. And there weren’t feelings involved. They would often just laugh about it. It was plainly a relationship role-play thought by August for his sister Nina.
But one time, being a clingy and sweet siblings that they were, they exchanged I love yous out of the blue. But it didn’t feel the same as before; both suddenly felt something strange. Something was indeed different in that exchange of I love yous. But they just dismissed the strange feeling thinking that it was nothing. Not until that day she decided to stop the relationship role-play.
“Kuya, tingin ko okay na. Pwede ka na siguro tumigil.” She told him inside the car one afternoon while they were stuck in traffic.
“Ba’t naman biglang ayaw mo na? May nanliligaw na ba sayo?” She looked away and nodded.
“Okay,” was his only response. And for some strange reason, they remained silent all throughout the ride until they got home. Before he entered his room, Nina showed up behind him just to tell him, “Kuya, si Rico nga pala yung nanliligaw sa’kin. Gusto ko lang ipaalam sayo.” Again, he just nodded at her and entered his room without saying anything to her.
From that day onwards he became cold to her. He would avoid her as much as he can. She missed him. Not only as her kuya but as her role play boyfriend. She thought she’d be happy that Rico was finally pursuing her. But she wasn’t. Whenever she’s with Rico she’d always feel something lacking. And she would find herself wishing that it was her kuya again and not Rico. So one night she decided to go to his kuya’s room and ask him why he had been avoiding her for the past few weeks.
“Kuya, let’s talk.” She entered his room without knocking and just stood there in front of his door. He lazily dragged himself to get out of the bed and walked towards her.
He crossed his arms against his chest. “Ano ba yun?”
“Ba’t mo ba ako iniiwasan?”
No matter how obvious it was, he still tried to deny. “Di kita iniiwasan. Nagiging busy na din kasi ako sa work ko. That’s all.”
“Bullshit.” She angrily pointed her finger at him. “You were so cold to me!” She mockingly grinned. “You were avoiding me all the time! I keep asking you questions and all you do was answer yes or no. But most of the time you just ignore me. Nakakainis! Ano ba nagawa ko?”
He sighed and looked away. “Sige. Iniiwasan nga kita. Pero hayaan mo lang muna ako please. Para sayo din tong pag-iwas ko.”
He wasn’t giving her the answer she wanted. She covered her face with her hands and sobbed out of frustration. “Kasi kuya namimiss na kita. Please naman, sabihin mo kung anong dahilan para maayos natin.” His expression softened. He hated himself for making her cry.
He removed her hands covering her face then cupped her cheeks and looked her in the eye. “Baka kasi hindi mo magustuhan pag sinabi ko sayo. Mas mabuti na yung wala kang alam. Kaya please, hayaan mo na lang.” She threw his hands from her cheeks and lightly punched him in the chest. Tears stream down her cheeks. This is the sight is that he hated the most. He hated seeing her beloved sister in tears.
She continued the light punches on his chest as she cried. “Nakakainis ka kuya! Ang unfair mo naman e.” She said this over and over before he finally told her the reason.
“Sige, sasabihin ko na ang totoo.” She stopped punching him and lifted her chin to look at him. “Bahala na kung magalit ka sakin. Pero kasi Nina,” he paused for moment. Tears were threatening to fall so he quickly wiped it away. He took a deep breath. “May iba na kasi akong nararamdaman para sayo. And I think it’s not a brotherly kind of love anymore. I think I’m seeing you as a woman now and not as a sister. At alam ko ang gago nun. Please don’t get scared of me.” He couldn’t read her expression but he continued anyway. ”Pero wag ka mag-alala. Baka nalito lang ako. Baka nasanay lang ako na tinuturing kitang girlfriend. Kaya iniiwasan kita. Maybe I just need to stay away from you for a while. Makakalimutan ko din to. Wag ka mag-alala kasi pipilitin ko na mawala agad tong nararamdaman ko. I am trying my best to save you from me. I don’t want this feeling to consume me and make me do irrational decisions. So please, hayaan mo muna ako iwasan ka. And I hope you do the same. Stay away from me, Nina.” He turned his back at her and was was about to walk back to his bed when he held onto his arm and pulled him towards her.
She intently looked in his eyes. “What if I tell you that I feel the same, kuya?”
“Nina naman.” He shut his eye and lifted his chin as if begging, praying to the Lord for mercy. “Stop tempting me from breaking my morals just for the possibility of us… kasi bibigay agad ako kung kasama kita dito.” He looked at her with pleading eyes, hoping to convince her to stop this—or maybe to stop him from giving in to her. “It’s so wrong and selfish kasi kasiyahan lang nating dalawa ang iniisip natin kung itutuloy natin ‘to.”
“I don’t care. I also feel the same. Akala ko ako lang nakakaramdam kaya pinilit kong ibinaling ang atensyon ko sa iba. That’s why I entertained Rico kaso wala din pala. Ikaw pa rin pala. So let’s do it. Let’s be selfish together.” While one hand is holding onto his arm, her other hand sneaked its way to the back of his neck, pulling him close. She stood on her toes to kiss him; he wrapped his arms around her waist and kissed her back. That’s when they started to forget all their inhibitions, all their morals, everything, and everyone for that moment—for that kiss.
***
“Scared of myself. I was so scared of the things I can do for us. My love was starting to consume me. Natakot ako para sayo. Natakot ako kasi patindi nang patindi ang pagmamahal ko sayo sa araw-araw na magkasama tayo. Natakot ako na baka makagawa ako ng maling desisyon, maling galaw. What if we get tempted to make love? What if you get pregnant? I don’t want you to suffer the consequences of a wrong choice. That love will destroy us. I want you to have a good, normal life.”
She closes her eyes and shakes her head in disagreement. “Anong silbi ng good, normal life na yan if I’m not happy kasi wala ka naman? August, I’m suffering more than you think. Ang lungkot-lungkot mag-isa. Naiwan ako dito sa Pilipinas habang ikaw nasa Italy. Mag-isa lang ako, August. Wala akong kakampi kasi lahat tinalikuran na ako. Lahat diring-diri na sakin. Kung tignan nila akong lahat, akala mo nakapatay ako ng tao. Nagmahal lang naman ako e. Yun nga lang sa kapatid ko pa.” She wipes her tears using the back of her hand. But her tears continue falling. “I felt so lonely, so alone. I almost harmed myself pero hindi ko tinuloy, thinking that one day you’ll come back for me. And you did. But you came back only to tell me that you’re leaving for good.” She chuckled as more tears stream down her cheeks. “Ewan. Basta ang alam ko I miss you, August. Pero miss na miss ko na rin yung kuya ko. Yung kakampi ko kapag parang pinagkakaisahan na ko ng mundo.” He places his chair beside her. The proximity only made her more emotional. She missed having him this close to her. “I need my kuya to come back home. Kahit siya na lang yung bumalik. Kahit hindi na si August.” She mumbles against his shoulder while his arms are tightly wrapped around her.
He kisses the top of her head and tells her, “Nina please stop making it hard for me to leave. I need to leave for your own good.”
“But I miss you so much kuya.” She sobs harder. “Please come back home with me. Kuya…”
He leans his head on hers. “The moment you decided to love me as August, as a man, kuya disappeared. He will never come back home again because you abandoned him the moment you chose to see August over your brother. Di na natin kayang bumalik sa dati, Nina. Di ko na kaya maging kuya sayo.”
***
Nina plopped onto the bed after a hard and loud slap from her mother. His father was just holding her mother from behind. She angrily threw a stack of polaroid pictures in her face. It was their polaroid pictures. She knew she hid them well under her clothes so she had no idea how her mother found them.
“Nakakadiri kayo! Ganyan na ba kayo katigang ng kuya mo para patulan niyo ang isa’t isa, ha?”
“Ma hindi po! Wala kaming ginawang ganyan ni Aug—ni kuya.” Her mom turned her back at her and shook her head in disappointment. She couldn’t believe what she just heard.” She looked back again at her daughter who was crying so much that her shoulders were already shaking.
“So August na din ang tawag mo sa kuya mo? Bakit, talagang mag-kasintahan na kayo? Grabe. Grabe!”
August arrived home from work. The moment he stepped inside the house, he heard their mother shouting upstairs. He knew something was wrong. She might have found out their secret relationship already. He was so nervous. But more than that, he was so worried that Nina’s facing their mother’s anger all alone. He went upstairs and saw Nina looking very helpless as their mother vented out all her anger on her and his father was doing nothing else but hold her wife. He immediately ran to Nina and wrapped his arms around her to cover her and protect her. She buried her face in his chest as she shook from crying. The mother couldn’t believe the sight in front of her. She was so disgusted to see their children romantically in love with each other. She walked out of the room. The father patted his son’s back and told August to follow him downstairs to talk, then he went out of the room as well.
August tightened his arms around her. That was the only thing he could do. He didn’t know how to comfort her. He knew from the very start that the love they had for each other was wrong. “I’m sorry it had to be like this. I’m sorry if I can’t do anything. But always remember that I love you, Nina June.”
“You are the world to me, August,” was the last thing she said for that night. He waited for her to fall asleep before he went downstairs to talk to their father.
***
When she finally calms down, he unwraps his arms around her and fumbles in his pocket.
“Nina, may kailangan akong sabihin sayo.” She doesn’t like the tone of his voice. So she tries to prepare herself. She anticipates for the possible bad news.
He shows her a ring. Cracks. She heard cracks inside her. Her heart beats fast but this time it didn’t feel good. Not even a bit. Her hands turns ice cold. “Ano yan?” She asks, hoping a different answer from him. But she knew. She knew.
“I hate to tell you this, but I’m already engaged.” Tears start to pool his eyes. He knows how this is going to hurt her. His breathing gets heavy. Hers too. “Sabrina is a nice girl. She wasn’t hard to love. But believe me, mas mahal pa rin kita. Walang kayang pumantay sayo.”
She just stares at him, silently crying. She didn’t know what to say. She didn’t know what to react. She hates him. How can he love somebody else when her love for him never wavered even a bit?
“Di kasi ako papayagan ni mama at papa na makipagkita sayo hanggat hindi ako nakatali sa ibang babae e. At hindi na ako makapaghintay ng mas matagal pa bago ka makita. Desperadong-desperado na ko makita ka.”
She massages her temple, trying to grasp everything that was said. “So nag-propose ka dun sa—ano nga ulit panagalan nun? Sabrina?—para lang makauwi ka sa Pilipinas at makita ako?” She bites her lower lip so hard it could bleed. It’s painful. But nothing’s more painful than what she’s feeling right now. “Ang tanga-tanga mo, August. Ang tanga-tanga mo. Ang tanga-tanga!” She looks away. She saw the people looking at them. They became the center of attention. But she doesn’t care. Too much thoughts are already running in her head. “E pano yan, huling pagkikita na natin to.”
“May tyansa pa ulit tayong magkita,” she looks at him, “kung magmamahal ka ulit ng ibang lalake.”
She rolls her eyes at him, pulls her hair, and curses under her breath. God, she’s so frustrated at everything. “Tangina, August, mahal na mahal kita. Tingin mo ba kaya pang magmahal ng iba? Di ako gaya mo na kayang makahanap ng iba pa.”
He squeezes her hand. “Nina, yun na lang yung paraan para payagan nila tayong magkita ulit. Kung kinakailangan kong lokohin ang sarili ko na kaya ko na magmahal ng iba makita ka lang, gagawin ko. Basta payagan nila akong makita ka.”
***
“Nina June, kahit bawal, kahit di tanggap ng mundo yung ganitong klaseng pagmahahal, mahal na mahal pa rin kita. Pero kailangan na natin tapusin to.”
“August naman e. Sumusuko ka na ba?
“Di ko alam. Di ko alam kung pagsuko ba ang tawag dito. Basta ang alam ko lang, you’ll have a better life without me. The society cannot and will never accept the kind of love we have for each other. Tatanggapin ko na yung job offer sakin sa Italy. Nina, para satin to. Kailangan natin maghiwalay at lumayo sa isa’t isa…”
“I love you so much, August. I don’t care what people think of us. Please stay.”
“I love you so much too, Nina. This love scares me. That’s why I can’t stay.”
***
He stands up and gets a folded piece of paper from his back pocket. He places it on the table. Nina looks at the paper then back at August. “Sinulat ko yan kung sakaling ito na ang huling beses na papayagan tayong magkita,” he says in tears.
“Aalis ka na?”
“Our parents sent someone to watch over us. I can’t stay for so long. Baka mas lalo silang maghinala.” She doesn’t say anything. She just bursts into tears again right then and there, not minding everyone witnessing how miserable she looked.
He tilts down to wrap his arms around her shoulders once more, so tight she couldn’t breathe. She holds onto his arm, so tight her nails are almost digging on his skin. His chin rested on top of her head. Both wished for the time to stop and just let them stay like that. Both were afraid to let go.
But eventually, one of them took the courage to do so. Because if that person didn’t, no one will.
***

I still love you. It’s always you.

Let’s be selfish together once again. Let’s fool the world so we can be allowed to see each other again. Let’s continue secretly loving each other. And until our last breaths only us will know that no one succeeded in trying to break us.
But if not, I just hope you’ll find a man who’ll love you as much as I did. And I hope you learn to love him too. But I hope you’ll continue to remember the love we shared in a short period of time. Because I’ll always do. I’ll always remember you.
I love you, Nina June.

—August

To Eli

A few nights ago I had a dream.

I’m walking along the aisle while you’re there waiting at the altar. This is really happening, I thought. I’m emotional, nervous and excited all at the same time. I start to feel something ticklish inside my stomach so I let out a laughter I was holding inside, even when tears are already streaming down my cheeks. This used to be just a dream of the two of us. Later when this is all done, we’ll finally share the same surname. God knows how I’d love to have your surname next to mine. Just a few more steps and I’ll be standing there beside you. But someone pulled me in to the pew. Where are you going? You’re not supposed to walk towards the groom, said the one who grabbed my arm. I want to get mad and yell at that person but her attention’s somewhere else now. I want to ask for help but everyone’s busy waiting for something else. Someone else rather. That’s when I realized I wasn’t wearing a wedding gown. I’m wearing something the same as the bridesmaids. I panicked. I turned my head to look at you, expecting you to come here, grab my arm and pull me there beside you at the altar, only to realize that your gaze isn’t fixed at me but outside. You were probably waiting for the real bride to arrive and walk down the aisle wearing a beautiful wedding gown that I can only dream of. All along, I thought this was our wedding. But it turns out that it’s not. I want to cry and scream and rip my bridesmaid dress and run. But I can’t move. It’s as if I instantly lost all my energy. Anyone, save me, please. Please. The only thing I managed to do is cry and cry and cry— but a silent one. When your bride finally arrived, you gave me quick glance with a smug look on your face. That’s my cue. I tried to gather my strength even if I feel like I have none left. I tried hard to move and run away. Away from that place. Away from you. Away from everyone there. I ran and ran and ran until a blinding light flashed in front of me…

I woke up crying and shaking and my heart badly palpitating. I was so scared. No, I wasn’t that scared of not getting married to you. I was scared of you leaving me for someone else. I was scared of being left.

That’s why before you can even think of leaving me, I left you. I had to. I should be the one to break your heart first before you can even think of breaking mine. That was selfish of me. I know.

Yes, that’s why I left you. I’m that selfish and stupid and unreasonable.

I’m sorry.

But believe me, I did love you, Eli. I did.

Gone at Five

One.

One table left. 

We had no choice but to agree sharing the only table left and so we did. At first we were silent, minding our own business. You busied yourself eating your food while I checked my phone. But then after a while, I felt it. Your discreet glances from time to time. I looked up to see If I was right, that you’re stealing glances. Our eyes locked. You were caught by surprise. You shyly looked away, pretending that nothing happened.

Two.

Two buttons undone.

I tried, okay? I tried so hard not to get distracted but my eyes couldn’t stop staring at the exposed skin. That little mole in your neck looks really sexy. I can imagine feeling the skin of your neck under my lips. I suddenly feel like a vampire ready to bite on your neck. Yeah, I know I shouldn’t. I’m sorry but I really can’t help it.

Three.

Three times you cleared your throat.

The first time you did, I thought maybe there’s just something stuck on your throat, so I ignored it. I just kept my eyes on my phone. The second time you did, It was a bit louder. I was about to pour water on your glass but you already did when I was just about to move my hand. And the third time you did, It was the loudest. I bet even the people from the tables around us also heard it. And honestly, the way you did it was attention seeking. So I looked up at you again. I saw how a grin threatened to form on your lips but you suppressed it and tried to act nonchalant. I knew it. You were tying to get my attenion.

Four.

Four random topics.

You finally initiated a conversation. We had four random topics before we got distracted when we realized how intense our gazes were while listening to each other. The hunger in my eyes reflected in yours. We’re feeling the same — some kind of intense burning feeling inside that makes us want to rip off each other’s clothes. Right here. Right now.

“You know what? You actually don’t look good in that black polo shirt.”

You playfully smiled. “I don’t think so. I believe I look good in everything I wear, miss.”

“I guess you look better without it.” I want you naked. Yes. T’was shameless to say out loud such a naughty thought. I know. But I really can’t help it.

“Then remove it.

“Here?” I playfully smirked.

“Inside my car. Yes?”

Five.

Five a.m. 

This is it. Us in the backseat of your car. Your polo shirt thrown at the passenger seat. But my eyes couldn’t help but feast at the sight of your long milky white neck and and the cute little mole in it. But right when I was about to put my hands on you, everything went blank and I woke up at five a.m just because of that one loud nonesense notification on my phone. I should’ve muted it before I sleep. Stupid. It’s always like this, my love. Unfinished beautiful dreams with you in it. I’m getting tired of this. I want to touch you. No, not in my dreams. I want to touch you for real. I want us skin to skin. But I know it’ll never happen. Ever. Because…

                                                          I’m just a girl

                                                                                            who likes a boy

                                                                     who also like boys.

Hinanakit ni Buwan

Gustong-gusto mo tuwing sumasapit ang gabi. Madalas mong inaabangan kung magpapakita ba ang buwan at ang mga bituin. Kaya naman napangiti ako nang makita kang muli habang dumudungaw mula sa iyong bintana. Ang sarap pala sa pakiramdam ng maging isang buwan; ramdam na ramdam ko ito sa tuwing makikita ko ang aking repleksyon sa iyong maningning na mga mata. Ngunit ako naman si tanga, umasang muli na magtatagal ang iyong mga titig sa akin; iyon ay mabilis na sulyap lang pala. Oo nga pala, buwan ako. Buwan lang ako. Hindi nga pala ako yung bituin na inaabangan mo para bulungan ng iyong mga sikreto at hiling. Wala rin naman kasing silbi kung ako’y mas malaki at mas maliwanag kumpara diyan sa mumunting mga bituin, kung hindi rin naman ako ang inaabangan mo para maging saksi ng iyong matatamis na mga ngiting dapat sana’y para sa akin.

Binabawi ko na; hindi pala masarap maging isang buwan. Masakit pala na maging isang tagapanood lang sa kung paano umabot ang iyong ngiti sa iyong mga mata sa tuwing aliw na aliw ka sa pagkislap ng mga bituin.

Buwan ako . Buwan lang ako. At hindi ako kailanman magiging isang bituin na gabi-gabi mong inaabangan sa pagbabakasakaling mahuhulog sa tapat ng inyong hardin. Pasensya na ngunit hindi ko kayang maging isang bituin na maaaring tumupad ng iyong mumunting mga hiling.

 amazing-dreams-galaxy-magic-Favim.com-2855189 (1)

Like Tangent Lines { t w o }

” For the man who told me to do anything that will make me create something beautiful out of a terrible pain from a heartbreak. I don’t exactly remember who you are but this is for you. You are the muse of this book. “

This is the dedication written on Jaz’s first self-published book. There are only few copies of the book so Matt made it sure that he’s among the first set of buyers. But he didn’t show up. He remained outside the coffee shop where Jaz is set to distribute her book to the buyers. His sister claimed the book for him instead. Just like what he usually does, he contented himself in looking at her from afar because he’s not ready to show himself to her yet.

“Kuya, you’re stupid. Why do keep waiting and hiding when you can just go to her, remind her of the things that she’s forgotten, and tell her directly that you’ve been loving her for almost eight years now?”

“I want her to remember me. I want her to remember first that she was the one who asked me to wait and all. I won’t chase for her because I’m waiting. Chasing and waiting are two different things. And I’m on the latter. I want her to realize that first.”

“If I were you, kuya, I’d rather chase than wait. I’d rather chase her now than wait for her all my life.”

He didn’t listen. He just let her sister’s advise pass through his right ear to the left. He’ll keep waiting. Even if waiting means waiting for another book to be written, and another, and another. They agreed to meet again after she has written something that she’ll call a masterpiece. And this is just her first book. It’s not a masterpiece yet. Maybe. Matt’s not really sure. Whenever he attempts to read the book, he’d always get stuck in the dedication page. This is for you. You are the muse of this book. This is for you. You are the muse of this book . He’d be as amused as the first time he read that. He’d just stupidly stare at that one page until he’d realize that once again he wasn’t able to go on to the next page. It’s been five months and a week since that night they met and had an agreement about meeting again. Matt thinks that she has completely forgotten everything that night but reading that dedication never fail to keep alive the little hope he has.

There are times he’d think of ending this waiting thing and just go present himself to Jaz and remind her of that night and tell her that he’s the guy she’s referring to in her dedication just like what his sister have been telling him. But he’d always end up listening to the stupid part of him that thinks that he can wait forever until she finally finds for him. It amuses him that she was able to remember everything he said except him. All except him. And the kiss. And the promise. Little did he know that she actually remembers him. But not completely. She remembers that night, the man, the kiss, and the promise. But the man’s face remains blurry when she tries to remember him. She has the feeling that it’s someone she knows. Maybe it’s Matt, she guesses but she’s not sure and for some reason, she thinks that it’s impossible. Maybe it’s just someone who looks like him. It can’t be him. It can’t be. She wanted to ask him but she’s shy. She can’t accept the fact the she kissed him. She kissed the first guy she ever liked. She liked him before she met Simon. She didn’t tell anyone about it until her feelings died, until she met Simon. But what if it is really him? She actually waited for him, too. Every time she had a meet up with the buyers of the book, she always hoped that he was one of them. All books got distributed but he didn’t show up. No one did. No one presented himself to her as the guy that she has been looking and waiting for.

They are both waiting for the other to do the first move. Both waiting for something so unsure. Both waiting for nothing. Matt’s waiting for himself to finally man up, for her to remember, and for things to fall into place while Jaz is waiting for a confirmation that the guy is Matt. She doesn’t admit it to herself but she’s wishing that it’s really him.

Matt wrote her a new song in hopes that it’ll reach her and make her realize that it’s him and that he’s still waiting and that he’s still clinging to their little promise they made that night. And it did reach her. The song randomly played on her car radio one day. She immediately fell in love with the song the first time she heard it. But things didn’t go as expected. She looked for the singer instead of the song writer. She found her way to this guy named Nico instead of Matt who has been waiting for her for so long.

He feels like he’s being punched, stabbed and shot all the same time whenever she’s with Nico. Nico whom he asked to sing his song. Nico who has been his wingman since highschool.

And maybe, William Faulkner was right when he said:

“Perhaps they were right in putting love into books.

Perhaps it could not live anywhere else.”

He finished reading her book. He was surprised to read a story she made up about them. In the book, they found their way back to each other. In the book, they were both in love. In the book, things were not as ugly as the reality.

In the book, they didn’t need the long-ass waiting.

Like Tangent Lines { o n e }

Matt enters a bar which seems about to close; he sees some staff already arranging some of the tables, but he still enters anyway. Just as Matt enters, he hears a drunk woman spewing curses and rants. The voice gets clearer as he walks by the bar counter. It turns out that the woman is alone and is talking by herself. The people around are just ignoring her, letting her rant about her issues. There are only few customers left inside the bar since it’s about to close; few couples and one group of teenagers left aside from this drunk lady in the counter.  Matt sits one stool apart from the drunk lady. He orders for his drink and while waiting, he glances at the her. The longer he stares at her, the more familiar she gets. Finally he remembers who this lady is. Of course, he would always remember her. He knows her too well. He chuckles as he witnesses the lady alternately crying and laughing, cursing included. Matt got his drink already but he keeps staring at this familiar drunk lady. “What a coincidence that I found you here,” he says, trying to get her attention. The lady slowly turns her head to his direction. “Well, it turns out that he rumors I’ve heard about you is nothing compared to what I’m witnessing now from you. This is definitely worse.” She grins at him but the grin doesn’t reach her eyes – her eyes remain unfocused; torn between shutting it or keeping it open. She leans her arm in the counter and rests her head against her palm and sarcastically replies, “Rumors? Oh, I love rumors!“ She gulps another shot of a hard liquor and continues, “okay then, tell me about those rumors and what makes this state of me worse.” Matt gulps a shot of his liquor too before he speaks. He imitates her position and looks directly at her unfocused eyes. He remains silent until her eyes finally meet his. Her eyes finally focuses on his gaze. “Some of our batchmates speculate that you’d probably commit suicide after Simon broke up with you. Of course it would be a hot topic among our batch. You two used to be popular during our college years; you were one of the most popular couples back then. It’s alarming that you two have broken up three years after our graduation. You two lasted almost seven years, which is quite impressive. We were just waiting for you two to get married not until the news came.” He chuckles a bit as if he just talked about something funny. She winces at what he said. “Suicide? Are you kidding me? Suicide, really? That’s worse. How can you say that getting wasted is worse than suicide?” She sluggishly says, some of her words are unclear but Matt is still able to catch up with what she’s trying to say. “Killing the pain by suicide is faster, but this, you getting wasted probably every night, wasting every day mourning for your broken relationship, is worse. In my opinion, that’s a slow form of suicide. You let the pain drain positive emotions left until it kills your insides while you’re still alive. You’re physically alive but inside you’re already dead. Of course that’s worse.” It takes a while before everything Matt has said to sink in. And when it finally did, the lady bursts again. Matt just lets the lady have another moment of crying and wailing while he drinks his liquor. After a few minutes she starts to calm down. She moves to the stool next to her to get closer to Matt. He tilts his head as he waits for her next move. She reaches for his hand. Her eyes focusing in his. “You talk like an expert with these kind of stuff. Help me, then. Help me, Matt. Help me move on.” Another set of tears escapes her eyes but she keeps her cool and ignores them. “Matthew, how do I move on?” Matt pouts his lips, trying to prevent them from grinning. He composes himself and coolly tells her “you need to look for a rebound. That’s the easiest way of moving on. Manipulate the pain to your advantage.” The grin finally escapes from his lips. “That’s what I did. That’s how I moved on.” She snorts at him with disbelief. “Seriously? Dude, that’s a bull. I may be drunk but I still have my senses with me and what you are saying right now is a bullshit, I’m telling you. Why would I hurt another person? Ugh, that’s so disgusting.” Matt just shakes his head while chuckling. He is about to say something when a staff reminds them that they’re about to close in ten minutes. The lady is still waiting for his reply as she raises an eyebrow at him. Matt glances again at her and he remains nonchalant. “Did I say that your rebound should be a person? I didn’t. A rebound can be anything else, Jaz. Just immerse yourself in the pain, not to hurt yourself more but rather to use it to your advantage. Let it bring out all the emotions in you until you make an art, a novel, a painting, or anything else you can create; let the pain inspire you to create a masterpiece. Keep immersing yourself in the pain until one day it’s hurts no more, you’d be too distracted, and you’d realize that your priority is not him anymore; you’re priority would already be your masterpiece, and yourself. Keep yourself distracted with your masterpiece until you forget that there was once a guy in your life who had broken your heart. After you’ve moved on, you’d probably thank him for giving you the pain that made you create your wonderful works. I’m a songwriter now, and writings songs had been my kind of rebound. My songs are my kind of a rebound girlfriend. And I still thank the girl who had broken my heart for giving me the pain that led me where I am today – a songwriter of well-known songs.” He ends it with a sincere smile. Jaz just keeps staring at him, again taking time for everything to sink in. She remains silent while Matt waits for her reaction. A staff breaks the silence, apologizing that the bar is closing and that they need to go now. Matt pays for the bill and takes Jaz outside with him. As soon they step out of the bar, Jaz slumps herself in the pavement. She just sits there while staring at the blank dark sky. Too bad there are no stars to entertain her. Meanwhile, Matt’s torn between looking for a taxi to take her home or just let her sit there until she’s ready to go. He decides to just sit with Jaz, just a few inches away from her. He joins her as she stares at the night sky. Jaz startles Matt when she suddenly opens her mouth to speak. “I… I…” She starts, still staring at the sky. She slowly glances at Matt who’s now staring at her. She looks directly in his eyes. “I’m actually hoping this isn’t the last time seeing you. I hope we’ll meet again… after probably having written my novel – my future masterpiece, as you call it. And let’s see then if moving on through that kind of non-person rebound can really drain the pain. But let’s not meet while I’m still on the process. Would that be okay?” Matt nods but he doesn’t hide his doubt. “What if you forget? You’re drunk and there’s a probability that tomorrow, everything will be forgotten – what we talked about will be forgotten, this night would be forgotten, and I… I will be forgotten. I’m just one of your batchmates who happen to witness you in this kind of state. And later when you wake up, you’ll think that I was just a figment of your imagination.” She just grins while she stretches her arms upward, her arms slowly goes down, until she reaches Matt’s neck, pushing him closer to her as she seals him with a kiss. Just a simple kiss – just two lips closing the distance in between. Jaz breaks the kiss and whispers against his lips,  “I may forget things but I don’t forget kisses, Matt. Now you calm yourself, ‘cause I guarantee you: later when the sun comes up and I’m already sober, I’ll still remember this kiss; I’ll still remember you; I’ll still remember your lips that told me how I’ll be able to move on.” Matt feels Jaz’s warm breath against his lips. He chuckles. “Okay, then. It’s a deal. We will not meet until you finish your novel. But after that, you will look for me and we will meet again. I will wait. I will wait for you.” “We will not meet until then,” she reiterates and he nods. “Yes, we will not meet until then.” Jaz flashes another smile, her eyes again unfocused – a mixture of being tired and sleepy, and a few seconds later her head falls to Matt, there in the space between his neck and his shoulder.

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Note: The part where Matt tells Jaz that she could move on by using the pain to her advantage and letting the pain inspire her to create her masterpiece is taken from Antoinette Jadaone’s talk on How To Turn Heartbreak Into Nasa Iyo Ang Huling Halaklak.