I never thought the day that I'd be speechless for a long time would come. And it was because of this guy and his actions.
"Ito lang ba lahat ng kailangan?" tanong niya nang nasa counter na kami.
"Yeah," mabilis kong sagot.
He wasn't holding my hand anymore but I still felt embarrassed. Queenie was right. I really like this guy.
Matapos naming magbayad ay naglakad kami palabas ng National Bookstore. Bigla naman siyang humarap sa akin kaya napatigil ako.
"Uwi na ba tayo?"
I wasn't able to finish my sentence because my stomach suddenly grumbled. Nagkatinginan kami at nginitian niya ako ng nakakaloko. That distracting dimple again. Damn it.
"What?" pagalit kong tanong.
"Lunch muna tayo," he suggested.
"I'm not hu—" My stomach grumbled for the second time and this time, he didn't hold back. He laughed at me. "Fine, I'm hungry! Bwisit ka."
"Okay, tara, tara."
Nauna naman siyang maglakad at nakakainis dahil natatawa-tawa pa rin siya. Sa lahat naman ng pagkakataon na pwedeng tumunog nang gano'n kalakas ang tiyan ko, ngayon pa? Of course, that guy wouldn't let this chance pass.
Dumiretso kami sa isang fast food restaurant at siya na ang um-order dahil baka raw marinig pa ng mga tao sa pila ang kalam ng sikmura ko. Bwisit. Akala mo siya hindi naranasan 'yon.
Habang nakapila siya ay tahimik lang akong naghihintay sa table namin. Looking at his broad back, it looked like he became more muscular and tanned. The group of girls behind him were secretly giggling while looking at his body and I almost marched toward them to gave each of them a dirty look. Good thing was I was able to control myself.
Umilaw naman ang phone ko na nakapatong sa mesa at napatigil ako nang makita ko ang pangalan ni Katrina. The last time she called me was when someone confessed to her—before she became a personality in the campus. I was contemplating whether to answer it or not but my curiosity won this time.
“What?” bungad ko.
“Are you dating Jazer?”
Napalakas ang salita ko dahil sa tanong niya at buti na lang ay malakas din ang tugtog kaya ‘yong katabing table lang namin ang nakarinig.
“Sorry, did that surprise you?” she asked and I felt weird hearing her sweet voice again.
I took a deep breath to calm myself down. Katrina didn’t even call me the past few months so why did she bother to do it now? Was it because of Jazer? What happened to Iñigo?
“No and no,” sagot ko naman. “So, did you call just to ask that? How’s Iñigo?” I asked back and I heard how she inhaled sharply after that.
“Good,” she replied. “We’re close now.”
Ilang segundo kaming nabalot ng katahimikan at wala sa aming nag-end ng tawag. Hindi ko rin naman na alam ang sasabihin.
“I’m sorry, Chloe,” she suddenly said. Para namang lumubog ang puso ko nang marinig ko ‘yon dahil naalala ko ang una naming pag-uusap.
I didn’t like how she had changed but she would always have a soft spot in my heart. She was the first person in the campus who had the guts to talk to me even after those unpleasant rumors about me. She was my fist girl friend and the only girl who didn’t give me any distasteful and envious look.
“For changing,” she answered. “I’m sure you already know that I won’t stop unless I get what I want even if it means hurting and abandoning some people.”
“You mean yourself?” I retorted and and she chuckled.
“Take care of Jazer for me. He’s someone I treasure.”
“Why would I? Bakit hindi ikaw?”
“Because I know you will. Nice talking to you again, Chloe. Bye.”
Hindi ko na natuloy ang gusto kong sabihin dahil nawala na siya sa kabilang linya. Sakto namang naglalakad na si Jazer papunta rito at agad kong tinago ang phone ko.
“Kain na tayo,” sabi niya matapos niyang ilapag ang tray sa table.
Dahil gutom na rin naman ako at na-stress ako sa mga pangyayari ngayong araw ay agad na rin akong kumain. Sinamaan ko nga ng tingin ang bwisit na ‘to dahil akala mo ngayon lang nakakita ng gutom na babae.
“Okay ka lang ba?” tanong niya habang binubuksan ko ang burger pagkatapos kong maubos ang rice meal.
“Shut up,” I said as I rolled my eyes.
“Binabawi ko na ang sinabi ko dati na cute ka kapag gutom.”
Binato ko naman sa kanya ang wrapper na nasa harapan ko at binigyan naman niya ako ng isang malaking ngiti. Bwisit na ‘to, hindi pa tumigil.
Habang kumakain kami ay nasa isip ko pa rin ang mga sinabi ni Katrina at lalo lang akong na-curious. I wanted to ask him about her but he might not like it.
“Hey,” tawag ko at lumingon naman siya.
Napabuntong-hininga na lang ako dahil hindi ko ma-open ang topic. I was curious but I was also afraid to ask him. They had a past . . . a connection so deep that I wouldn’t be able to touch. He liked her and he was her treasure. There wasn’t any place for me there.
“Tungkol ba kay Katrina?” bigla niyang sabi kaya nagulat ako. “Mukhang tama ako.”
“Well, I’m curious.”
Tumigil naman muna siya sa pagkain at naging seryoso ang mukha niya. Tuwing si Katrina ang nagiging usapan namin ay lagi siyang ganito. It felt like I was looking at a different Jazer.
“She called me,” I confessed and he tried to hide his shock but I could see it in his eyes. “She said she’s already close with Iñigo and she won’t stop until she gets what she wants.”
He was quiet after hearing that but after a few seconds, he flashed a melancholic smile while staring blankly at his food.
“No, she didn’t change,” sabi niya. “Gano’n na talaga siya dati pa.”
“Really? I thought she’s the cute, clumsy and cheerful type of person.”
“Noong mga bata pa kami, oo.”
“Huh? Sabi mo gano’n na siya dati pa?”
Tumingin naman siya sa akin at hindi ko alam kung dapat ba akong kabahan sa kung ano ang paparating. He looked like he was yearning for her, and at the same time, hurt.
“Alam kong hindi ako ang dapat magsabi nito pero alam ko ring nag-aalala ka sa kanya kaya gusto kong malaman mo kung saan siya nanggagaling,” panimula niya at saka siya huminga nang malalim. “Katrina . . . she’s from a broken family.”
Nagkulong ako sa kwarto ko pagkauwi namin. Czanelle and Clark wanted me to play with them but I left them with Jazer. I still couldn’t believe what he told me about Katrina.
According to him, she was from a broken family. Her parents separated when she was just a child and her mother left them to be with another guy. She was with her father for a year but he also met a woman and fell in love with her. He left Katrina to his younger sister, Katrina’s aunt, who lived in the same neighborhood and went away with that woman. Both her parents lived their new lives while their daughter shouldered all the burden.
Siguro ‘yon ang rason kung bakit siya gano’n ngayon. All she wanted was a love that her parents failed to give her . . . someone who would never leave her. She became selfish because that was what her parents showed her. In order to get what they wanted and to live a happy life, they disregarded someone important to them.
Just like what happened to me, I thought.
“Siguro iniisip mo, parang sitwasyon mo dati,” sabi ni Jazer matapos niyang ikwento ‘yon kaya napatingin lang ako sa kanya. Ngumiti naman siya nang hindi ako nakapagsalita. “Kaya siguro naging magaan ang loob niya sa’yo kahit hindi n’yo naman alam ang kwento ng isa’t isa.”
“How about you?” tanong ko.
“What about me?” he asked back.
“When you saw her earlier, why didn’t you talk to her? You’re worried, aren’t you?”
Asking that question hurt me because Katrina was someone he deeply cared about, being her childhood friend and someone who loved her for who she was, but I wanted to know his answer.
“Of course,” he answered. “Pero alam kong alam niya ang ginagawa niya. Hindi na ako parte ng mundong ginagalawan niya ngayon pero nandito pa rin ako para sa kanya kung kailangan niya ako. I want to protect her because I know what she has gone through.”
“I see . . .”
She still treasures you, I wanted to tell him that but I chose not to. Maybe because I was scared or maybe it was my selfishness but keeping it to myself felt heavy.
Bumangon naman ako mula sa pagkakahiga at pagtingin ko sa orasan ay halos 11 P.M. na. Hindi pa ako nagdi-dinner pero hindi rin naman ako nagugutom. Lumabas na lang ako ng kwarto para uminom ng tubig pero napatigil ako nang makita ko si Mommy sa sala.
She was sitting on the couch with her vacant stares directed on the wall. After hearing Katrina’s story, I felt guilty for taking her presence for granted.
Huminga ako nang malalim at naglakad palapit sa kanya. Nakatulala pa rin siya pero noong mga ilang metro na lang ang layo ko ay tumingin siya sa akin. She stared at me for a few seconds before showing any expression.
“Chloe?” she called and I didn’t know if she was not expecting to see me or she unsure of who I was.
Sinundan niya ako ng tingin hanggang sa umupo ako sa hiwalay na upuan sa kanan niya.
“Why are you still here? Aren’t you sleepy?”
Hindi naman niya ako sinagot. Instead, she gave me a warm smile. I remembered a faint memory of her carrying me when I was a toddler while flashing that kind of smile. She suddenly tapped the empty space beside her, gesturing me to sit there. I hesitated for a few seconds but in the end, I stood up and walked towards her.
Naupo ako sa tabi niya at halu-halo ang nararamdaman ko ngayon. It was still awkward between us and the silence was suffocating but I froze when she enveloped my shoulders and pulled me closer to her chest.
“My baby,” she whispered and I immediately felt a lump in my throat. When she started stroking my hair, my tears instantly streamed down my face. “Sorry for holding you just now.”
No matter how hard I hold back my tears, they just kept on falling down my cheeks. Her words were enough to stir all the emotions I tried hard to hold down. I held her arms and it felt like a child again.
“This is the first time you approached me,” she said with a trembling voice. “Thank you, anak.”
I was silently crying the whole time as she tried to comfort me with her soft and gentle touch. I felt secured but when her illness crossed my mind, it felt like she was slowly drifting away from me.
“Will you promise me something?” I said between my sobs.
“I’ll forgive you if you promise that you won’t forget me.”
I had gathered my courage and swallowed my pride to tell her that but she stayed silent. I already knew that it was impossible but I wanted to believe that she’d try her best to keep her memories.
We stayed like that for a few more minutes. She told me I should sleep but I let her go first. Nang nakaayat na siya sa kwarto niya ay nanatili ako sa sala. I felt helpless and miserable because I couldn’t do anything to stop her memories from disappearing. Marami siyang pagkukulang sa akin pero ngayon ay nagsisisi ako dahil hindi ko alam kung kailan ako tuluyang mawawala sa alaala niya.
I was in the middle of grieving when I saw someone moving from my peripheral vision. Standing in the corner was Jazer. He was looking at me with concerned eyes as I continued crying.
Naglakad siya papunta sa akin pero hindi ko na siya hinintay pa. This time, I ran towards his direction and hugged him.
“Iiyak mo lang,” he softly said as he tightly hugged me back. “Hindi malalaman ng mundo.”
We stood there without saying anything and I knew I’d regret this later because I let him see my vulnerable side again. He let me feel that it was okay not to be okay, to feel helpless and to cry when you need to.
I felt scared because I knew that I was falling deeper. And the scariest part of the fall was knowing that I couldn’t stop it anymore.