Eksaktong anim na buwan na ang lumipas simula nang huli nating pag-uusap. Parang kailan lang noong nagkaroon na rin tayo ng closure pero ibang-iba na ako ngayon.
Maliwanag na ang mga ngiti.
May ningnging na ang mga mata.
Unti-unti nang nagiging masaya.
Sumilay ang ngiti sa mga labi ko nang makita kita ulit dito sa paborito kong coffee shop. Alam mo bang gusto kong bumalik dito noon pero hindi ko magawa dahil baka makita kita? Pero heto tayo ngayon . . .
Pareho nang may kasamang iba.
"In fairness, ha, ang blooming mo ngayon," my workmate said.
I just smiled while sipping from my cup of coffee.
"May namumuo na bang love life?" she teased.
"Wala," sagot ko naman. "Masaya lang dahil natapos ko na ang tatlong progress reports natin."
"Ang sipag talaga!"
We talked about a lot of things, including her lovelife. When she asked me about mine, I just smiled. You remained a secret of mine even though I had already gotten over you. Maybe the only person who knew about us was that guy.
Okay na, sabi ko sa sarili ko. Tanggap ko na lahat ng nangyari. I had feelings for you. I got hurt. I moved on. Now, I could sincerely say I'm glad that you found the right woman for you.
I stole a glance at the direction you used to sit at and it brought a lot of memories. Ngayon, wala nang pagsisisi sa loob ko dahil alam kong hindi talaga tayo ang para sa isa't isa at pareho na tayong nakatingin sa sari-sarili nating hinaharap.
"Sige, mauna na ako. Unlike you, may dalawa pa akong reports na kailangang tapusin," sabi niya kaya tumango ako sa kanya.
"Okay. Maya-maya pa ako babalik. Bye!"
Lumabas siya ng cafe at naiwan akong mag-isa sa table. I was leisurely enjoying my cup of coffee when I suddenly heard a familiar voice at the counter.
"One cappuccino, please."
Lumingon ako at saktong nagkatama ang tingin namin sa isa't isa.
Umupo siya sa harapan ko at ngumiti naman ako sa kanya.
"It's been a while," I greeted.
"Ah. You can stay afloat now," he commented.
"Good for you, then."
We remained silent for a few seconds. Ang tagal na rin kasi simula noong huli kaming nagkita. Hindi na ako pumunta sa mga cafe rito simula noong araw na 'yon. Nagkaroon din kami ng business trip sa US for a few weeks at nag-stay ako ro'n ng isang buwan para magbakasyon.
"Ah. May utang pa pala akong coffee sa'yo," sabi ko nang maalala ko ang ginawa niya dati.
"Sayang, nabayaran ko na 'yong order ko," sagot niya naman sabay tawa.
"How about tomorrow?" tanong ko.
Malaki ang utang na loob ko sa kanya at gusto kong suklian 'yon sa parehong paraan na ginawa niya noon para mapangiti ako.
"I won't be around here for a week starting tomorrow. May lakad kasi kami sa office."
"Oh, I see."
"Next week? Pwede ka?" tanong niya kaya napatingin ako sa kanya.
"Okay, then, I'll look forward for my free coffee next week," he said, smiling. "Ah, oo nga pala. Ang tagal na nating nag-uusap pero hindi ko pa rin alam ang pangalan mo."
Right. Gusto ko ring itanong sa kanya dati pero nahihiya ako. I was close to asking the barista but I decided not to because I knew he'd just tease me just like the last time.
"I'm Aloysius, by the way," he said while extending his hand.
Inabot ko naman 'yon at sinabi ko rin ang pangalan ko. It felt weird because I only described him as coffee guy or smiley guy in my mind but his name was kind of unique.
"You have an unforgettable name," I commented.
Kinuha naman niya ang order sa counter at doon na nag-stay sa table ko.
Muli akong napatingin sa pinto nang narinig ko 'yong bumukas at sa hindi inaasahang pagkakataon ay nakita kita kasama siya.
We looked at each other and nodded. But this time, I didn't feel any regrets and heaviness anymore. It was just pure nostalgia. I just missed the memories, not you.
Because I finally ended our something.
Because I was finally done waiting.
Because I finally crossed the line.
Hanggang isang araw, natanggap ko na ang lahat. At doon nagtapos ang ating kwento . . . isang kwentong hindi talaga itinadhanang magsimula, kaya winakasan ng tadhana.
I was still not sure if what I felt for you was love, but you were special. Maybe it was close to love. Maybe it was, indeed, love. I have no idea. But one thing is for sure:
You are my truth. My lesson. My faded scar.
"Hey, I need to go," Aloysius said.
"Oh. Okay. Bye bye," I replied.
"So, see you next week?" pahabol niya.
I grinned at him. "Yeah. See you."
And this is our ending, as well as my beginning.
Finally closing this journal,
Like what he had advised me to do, I kept myself busy. I did tons of reports needed for my work projects, went out with my college friends and workmates, and did some recreational activities. That was my routine this past month and it was quite effective. I wasn't thinking about you during those times and it helped me know more about myself and the people around me.
Pero hindi ko pa rin maiwasan na hindi ka isipin lalo na kapag nakahiga na lang ako sa kama at naghihintay na makatulog.
Sabi nila, that was a good sign. I could only think of you at night. I needed to break the habit of thinking of you whenever I wasn't doing anything. I needed to stop looking at my phone and reading your messages whenever I missed you.
Pero hindi ko pa rin mabura ang mga usapan natin. Nakakapanghinayang din kasi dahil alam kong hindi na tayo makakapag-usap ulit. Ito na lang ang natitirang alaala mo sa akin.
I could stay afloat now. Even when these nostalgic memories came in waves, I managed not to drown.
Hindi na rin ako pumupunta sa cafe na 'yon para sa peace of mind nating dalawa. Buti na lang at may isa pang malapit sa workplace ko kaya doon na lang ako nags-stay kapag break time.
Alam mo, sabi ng workmate ko kanina, parang may nag-iba raw sa akin simula noong nakaraang taon. Napangiti na lang ako nang marinig ko 'yon. I never thought meeting and knowing you would have this much impact in my life. You made me feel emotions I thought I wouldn't feel in my existence. I experienced a lot of firsts with you.
You were the first guy I liked this much.
My first heartbreak.
My first almost.
And the reason why I needed to move on for the first time.
Napalingon naman ako nang marinig ko ang isang pamilyar na boses at nakita ko siyang naglalakad papunta sa direksyon ko.
"Pumupunta ka rin pala rito," he said while sitting right across me.
Ngumiti naman ako. "Minsan. Kapag puno na ro'n sa isang cafe."
The pager he was holding suddenly vibrated and flashed so he had to go to the get his order. Pagtingin ko, nakabalot ang coffee cups at cakes na nandoon sa receiving area kaya mukhang aalis na siya pagkakuha niya no'n.
"Sige, Miss. See you next time—"
"Can I be happy again?" I blurted out, realizing how moving one wasn't just a one-step process but something that you have to endure every day.
I was happy before I met you.
I was happy when I was talking to you.
I was happy before it all went wrong.
I didn't realize how my happiness depended on you this past year and it was hard to get rid of that reliance.
"I'm sorry, I didn't mean to—"
He suddenly gave me a gentle smile. "You will," he said. "Maybe not right now, but someday."
"I guess it'll take time," I muttered.
"You also have to move along with it," he added. "Time heals nothing if you keep on staying in the past."
Ilang segundo akong nakatingin lang sa kanya. His words were always helpful that it made me wonder if he also followed them before.
Dahil tinatawag na siya sa counter ay nagmadali siya papunta ro'n at saka kinuha ang mga tinake-out niya. He looked at my direction and I nodded in return.
"Like that!" he suddenly yelled. "Find reasons to smile like that and you will be fine."
I didn't realize I was smiling.
"Bye, Miss!" hirit niya pa pero hindi siya makapag-wave dahil may dala-dala siya sa magkabilang-kamay niya.
"Bye . . ."
Ah. I didn't get his name again.
"Bye, coffee guy," I whispered as he got out of the cafe. “Thank you.”
I guess I'm indebted to him once again.
On my way to happiness,
It's been a month since we last met. Naging busy rin kasi ako sa work kaya lagi na akong dumidiretso sa office pero dahil natapos ko ang paperworks ngayon ay naglakad ako papunta rito.
I stood outside and smiled. I kinda missed this place.
Pumasok ako sa loob at agad na umupo sa bakanteng table. I suddenly remembered the time we finally ended everything between us. There were still fragments of pain but it didn't hurt that much anymore. Maybe because I finally accepted our fate.
That we would be happier without each other.
Tumayo ako at pumunta sa counter. I was about to say my regular order but the barista looked surprised, and moments later, delighted when he saw me.
"Good morning, Ma'am. You're back," he warmly greeted.
I smiled at him. "Yeah."
"That guy has been secretly looking for you these past few weeks."
Napakunot naman ang noo ko. "That guy?"
"You know, the one who ordered for you last time."
I tried recalling what he was saying and remembered the guy who saw me crying.
"Ah. The smiley," I muttered.
I instinctively looked around the cafe but he wasn't there. The barista chuckled and looked at me with a teasing smile.
"Looking for him?"
"I'm not . . . I didn't . . ." Napabuntong-hininga na lang ako. "May I just have my order, please?"
"Of course, Ma'am."
Bumalik ako sa upuan ko at sakto namang kapapasok n'yo pa lang. Our eyes met, but I didn't avert your gaze. Because this time, I wasn't holding on to the what ifs and could haves anymore. This time, I knew that we were just mere chapters in each other's story, but not the epilogue. And that we should continue with our lives, even if it meant walking into different paths.
We subtly smiled at each other and I nodded before returning to my seat. The aroma of the coffee calmed me down and all I could think was how lighter my heart was compared before. I didn't know a simple closure could turn everything better.
Nag-browse na lang ako sa phone ko habang iniinom ang coffee na in-order ko nang biglang may umupo sa harapan ko. His familiar face welcomed me with a smile.
"Ah, Miss," he beamed. "You're back."
Naalala ko naman ang sinabi ng barista kanina. The coffee-slash-smiley guy glanced at your direction and back at me. His lips curved upward and gave me a curious look.
"Seems like you're already moving forward."
I snickered and looked at my coffee. "I have to," I replied. Muli akong tumingin sa kanya. "Ah, right. Thank you for the coffee before."
"Ah. That. No worries."
Tumayo siya at pumunta sa counter habang niligpit ko naman ang mga gamit ko. Malapit na rin kasing matapos ang break ko kaya kailangan ko nang bumalik. I almost looked at your direction and I was glad I didn't. Sapat nang nagkatinginan tayo kanina at iyon na rin ang huling pagkakataon na titingnan kita.
Now, I am finally closing your chapter in my story.
Pagkalabas ko sa cafe ay narinig ko ang pagbukas ng pintuan at nagulat na lang ako nang nasa gilid ko na siya. Ito ang unang beses na magkasama kami sa labas ng cafe at hindi ko alam kung ano ang dapat gawin.
"You know what, you're kinda cool," he commented and that made me glance at his direction.
"When I was in that state, I was really pathetic," he scoffed and looked at me. "Falling out of love and then naturally drifting away from each other is the most painful thing that could happen in a relationship."
I agreed in silence.
Napatingin ulit ako sa kanya at hindi ko akalaing parehas kami ng naging sitwasyon. I was suddenly curious but it would be rude to ask him about it.
"But you seem fine now," I remarked. "And I think that's what matter most: being fine and happy with yourself."
He chuckled in return as he sipped from his cup of coffee. "You're right. You'll get there, too."
"I hope so," I replied.
There were a few seconds of silence between us but I broke it when I finally asked him a question.
"What did you do?" I mumbled. "I mean, during that time . . . what did you do to finally move on?"
"Ah. I just kept myself busy. I surrounded myself with things that I love. I spent more time with my family and friends."
"Did it work?"
He smiled but I could see a hint of melancholy in his eyes. "I think," he said. "It's a long and arduous process but it will help you get better."
"So it didn't."
Bigla naman siyang natawa kaya nagulat ako.
"Moving on isn't really freeing yourself from the people who caused you pain and from the feelings that drowned you before," he explained. "It's more like staying afloat in the ocean no matter what happens. Some days, it's just calm and you can just enjoy the soothing feeling it brings. But there are also times where the raging ocean gives you waves and storms of yearning, false hopes and memories. Moving on means slowly adapting to these kinds of situations until you can finally swim again."
He suddenly stopped walking so I halted, too. Tumingin siya sa akin at ngumiti.
"I hope you heal and grow for yourself, Miss," he smiled and before I could respond, he started walking away from me until he disappeared from my sight.
Naglakad na rin ako papunta sa building namin at napangiti.
Even if I had no idea who he was, his words made me realize a lot of things. Maybe sometimes, what we need is an outside perspective to give you a better view in life.
"I will," I muttered. "Thank you."
For this past year, I stayed despite you leaving. I already said my goodbye to you. Now, it's time to walk away.
It's time to choose myself over you.
My head was spinning and I felt lightheaded because I couldn't sleep last night. Kung anu-ano ang naglaro sa isip ko na pwedeng mangyari ngayon.
I was nervously waiting for you here in the coffee shop. My heart was pounding painfully to the point that every beat hurt. It was kind of ironic because this was also how I felt when we first met. Funny how we started as strangers, and we might end like that as well.
I started watching the time.
One minute . . .
Two minutes . . .
Ten minutes . . .
It took you twelve minutes to show up, and for a second, I didn't know what to do. Seeing you walking toward the door made it hard to breathe. Your presence was suffocating.
"Hi," you greeted shortly.
"Hi," I replied awkwardly.
Umupo ka sa tapat ko habang hinawakan ko naman ang order kong kape. I wanted to ease the tension between us so I casually asked you if you wanted to order a cup of coffee.
"Uhm, hindi ka ba oorder—"
"No," you said as you play with your fingers. "Not right now."
"Oh. I see."
Of course. You must be waiting for her.
We were silent for a few minutes. We didn't know how to start. Maybe because we didn't know when to start.
"Kumusta?" you suddenly asked.
Your question triggered the feelings I had bottled up inside for a year but I kept my expression under control. Isang simpleng tanong mula sa'yo pero hindi ko alam kung ano ang isasagot ko.
"I'm . . ." I hesitated but looking at your expectant expression made me utter that word. " . . . fine."
Trying to be, I wanted to clear up but I decided not to. I lied because it would be better for us if we both hear those words from me.
"I see," you said with a subtle smile on your face.
Sa wakas, umaliwalas din ang mukha mo. Gusto kong makita ang ngiti sa mga labi mo. Kahit hindi na ako ang dahilan nito.
"And you?" tanong ko pabalik.
"I'm doing good."
Another wave of silence.
Somehow, it was hard to look at you and talk to you. Pakiramdam ko, ibang tao ka na. Siguro nga, nagbago ka na. I could only remember the past you and I guess I wouldn't be able to know the present and future you.
"Sorry," bigla mong sabi kaya nagulat ako.
It was just a single word, but it stirred a thousand feelings inside me. I didn't know it before, but maybe, that was the word I was waiting for you to say. The word that I wanted to hear before I end these feelings.
I tried to smile despite the pain. "For what?"
You looked at me with apologetic eyes and my eyes started to well up.
"For everything," you replied. "We shared a lot of memories, even though the world didn't know that. You were a part of my life . . . and . . ."
"Sa totoo lang, I liked you back then."
My fissured walls that I was trying to keep together started crumbling down after hearing that.
I couldn't hold back my tears anymore. The words I was waiting to hear before . . . I couldn't believe I'd hear them right at this moment . . . when it was already too late.
"Why?" I sobbed. "Why didn't you tell me that before?"
"I was really happy when I was talking to you. You made my heart flutter a lot of times. But we became comfortable with that kind of setup. We were pulling each other out of our comfort zone, but we didn't really get out of it."
Kahit na may idea na ako sa sagot mo ay lumubog pa rin ang puso ko nang manggaling mismo sa bibig mo ang mga salitang 'yon.
"So you just stopped talking to me," I muttered. "Because you got tired of that kind of setup."
"No," you retorted. "Because we were in an unknown place. Because I couldn't define us. And because I am a coward."
Your words felt like a stab of knife in my heart. I expected this kind of pain, but it still hurt.
"Then I met her," you continued. "I realized I have to be honest with myself. That something between us . . . the feelings I had for you . . . they were slowly disappearing."
Napayuko na lang ako habang nakatingin sa kapeng hawak ko. I couldn't listen anymore.
"I liked you, but maybe, not to the point where I wanted to be with you. That's why I'm sorry for—"
"I liked you, too," I said, cutting you off.
The expression on your face was a mix of surprise and guilt. It was hard to look at.
Maybe I, too, became too complacent with our setup. Siguro kung umamin ako sa'yo noon, iba ang sitwasyon natin ngayon. Siguro kung naglakas-loob akong sabihin ang nararamdaman ko sa'yo noong hindi pa huli ang lahat, ako ang nasa tabi mo ngayon.
But those maybes, what ifs and could have been, only exist in my fantasies. Hanggang dito na lang tayo. Hanggang dito na lang ako. At tanggap ko na, na hindi pa nga nagsisimula ang laro, ipinamukha na agad na ako ang talo.
"But don't worry, it was already in the past," I said, smiling. I wiped my tears and looked straight at you. "Thank you for clearing up everything. Maybe this is the closure we needed."
"Yeah . . . I'm really sorry . . ."
"Again?" I asked. "For what?"
You couldn't answer.
"It was nobody's fault. It just happened like that. Feelings change, and so do people. We can't apologize for something that we can't control."
"But I still hurt you in the process."
"You're right. To be honest, I almost lost myself because I didn't know what happened. I didn't have any idea and that made me anxious and scared. You have hurt me, but I'm glad I finally heard your reason. This way, I can finally breathe. I can finally move forward. So . . . thank you. Thank you for finally putting a period in our story."
Tumayo naman ako habang hawak pa rin ang kape ko. I started walking away from you but I halted after a few steps. Turning around, I looked at you for the last time.
"Don't hurt her," I said. "And I hope you stay happy."
Tumayo ka at humarap rin sa akin. "I hope you will find happiness, too."
I smiled. "Yeah. Someday."
Hindi ko alam kung paano ko nakayanang maging kalmado habang kaharap ka kanina. I thought I had already prepared my heart for this kind of situation but talking to you brought back memories that I had tried to bury at the back of my mind.
I unconsciously opened our conversation last year. Ini-scroll ko 'yon at bumigat ang puso ko nang makita ko ang pagbabago sa messages mo. I could still see the emotions, concern and interest in your earlier messages but they became bland and short as months went by.
Your sweet 'good morning :) Ingat sa pagpasok!' turned into a simple 'morning' and I thought I was just overthinking that time but after that, you suddenly stopped messaging me.
I started doubting myself and lost my confidence when you suddenly left me hanging. A lot of questions lingered in my head. Did I do something wrong? Were my messages too much? Was I boring? Did you get tired of me? I got anxious because you just disappeared without telling me anything.
Doon ko na-realize na naging malaking parte ka na ng araw-araw ko kaya hindi ko alam ang gagawin nang bigla kang nawala sa sistema ko. I didn't want my life to be out of order just because a single person came and left so I made myself busy. That was what got me through the year. But that didn't make me forget about you. Kaya nang nakita kita ay nagsimula na namang gumulo ang buhay ko na pinaghirapan kong ibalik sa ayos.
I had high walls before you came into my life but you managed to take them down. You reached for my hand. I was hesitant to held yours because I never left my comfort zone in my entire life but for once, I was tempted. I wanted to know what was out there. I wanted to know how would it feel outside my safe place with you. It was a huge risk but I took your hand and started walking toward an unfamiliar place where everything was uncertain. I thought everything would be alright as long as I was with you but then . . . you let go of my hand.
I was alone in an uncharted place. I didn't know how to go back. But I struggled on and persevered just to find my way back to my safe place. And when I was just a few steps away from it, you showed up again, but this time, holding a different hand.
Siguro tama na rin na makita kita at makapag-usap tayo para malagyan na ng tuldok ang kwento nating dalawa.
It would be better for me to accept the agonizing truth rather than clinging to an uncertainty. This way, I could finally breathe.
Muli kong tingingnan ang mga nakaraang pag-uusap natin. Isang taon na ang lumipas pero hindi ko mabura ang mga 'yon. I was scared to erase your messages because those were the only memories we had.
But this time, it was inevitable.
I should stop looking back when you were already far ahead.
I should start moving forward even if it meant seeing you along the way.
I should end that 'something' between us to finally let go of these lingering feelings.
Tomorrow, I would set myself free.