After having her heart broken, akala ni Ianne ay hindi na niya muling ipagkakatiwala ang puso niya sa isang tao.
Falling in love was easy, but staying was a different story.
Sa dalawang relationship na na-experience niya, siya ang laging naiiwan. Both cheated on her, and sometimes, she would wonder if she was the problem.
"Oo, tanga ka minsan, pero 'di mo kasalanan na nag-cheat siya," said Elle after a week of her breakup with Mark.
Noong gabing nakipag-break si Mark sa kanya ay nakatulala lang siya. His words would not even sink in. They were together for more than a year, and everything went well . . . until that day. Bakit biglang naging gano'n? O baka naman matagal nang ganoon ang sitwasyon.
Her mind reeled. May nagawa ba siyang mali? Nagsawa na ba ito sa kanya? Nagkulang ba siya? Or was her way of showing her love too much? Was she not good enough?
She couldn't even sleep that night and what was worse was it would be her birthday in a few hours. The day she was supposed the happiest turned into one of her worst.
Ang maganda lang ay may three-day break dahil sa undas. Ayaw niyang makita siya ng coworkers at friends niya sa ganoong estado.
She celebrated her birthday in her room, crying. It was especially hard because her Mom was asking her what was wrong. Noong sinabi niya na break na sila ni Mark ay tumahimik lang ito at binigyan siya ng maraming pagkain na inihanda nito para sa kanya.
"Ikain mo na lang 'yan, 'nak. Makakarma rin 'yon."
Hindi niya tuloy alam kung matatawa siya o maiiyak. Still, it made her heart lighter.
Coworkers, former classmates, and friends greeted her all day. Somehow, it was funny because she was replying with smileys while her eyes were swollen. She was feeling a bit better but then one text pulled her back to the misery pit.
Happy birthday. I'm sorry.
Isang text lang mula kay Mark ay nagsimula na namang tumulo ang mga luha niya. Ang dami niyang gustong sabihin. Ang dami niyang gustong itanong. Gusto niyang magalit. Gusto niyang manumbat. But the pain of being abandoned triumphed that moment.
She turned off her phone and watched movies instead. Of course, Enchanted was the first on the list. That was her comfort movie since high school. Tuwing malungkot siya o may pinagdadaanan, iyon ang lagi niyang pinapanood. Somehow, the theme of true love and happy ever afters would calm her heart despite being unlucky when it comes to those.
Ganoon lang ang buhay niya sa tatlong araw na break. She would make herself busy during the day, watch series or movies at night, and cry when everyone's asleep.
A week after their breakup, she told her friends what happened in a light tone. Tinawanan niya na lang ang nangyari dahil ayaw na muna niyang umiyak. It was hard because she was still not over him, but at least she wasn't chasing desperately this time.
"Hay nako, 'pag talaga nakita ko 'yung hayop na 'yon, may kalalagyan siya," Elle ranted after hearing her story.
Tinawanan niya naman ito. "Makikipagsuntukan ka?"
"Dadalhin ko si Gray, bakit? Saka kukulamin ko siya," countered Elle.
"Sinasabi ko na nga ba't may lahi ka talagang mangkukulam!"
"Ito ba 'yung girl?" Cayleigh chimed in as she showed them her phone.
"Luh, bakit na-stalk mo agad?!"
Her friend shrugged. "Halata naman sa posts nila. Awayin ko ba silang dalawa?"
"Gaga ka, marunong ka bang mang-away?! Role ni Elle 'yan!"
"Akin na, ako ang mang-aaway," dagdag ni Elle at doon na sila nag-agawan ng phone.
Few weeks had passed and she was slowly moving forward. Nahirapan siya noong una dahil nasanay siyang laging kausap ito tuwing gabi. Realizing that a part of her life had been removed from the cycle was something she could not get used to even after several weeks. Kaya naman inilaan na lang niya ang oras sa mga kaibigan niya at iba pang hobbies.
She also blocked his number and social media accounts for her peace of mind. Ayaw na niyang makita ang mga pinaggagawa nito kasama ang bago niyang girlfriend. Fortunately, her friends were there for her. Kapag mag-aaya siya ng gala ay agad papayag ang mga ito kapag walang tatamaang schedule.
Hanggang sa masanay at matanggap na niyang wala na sa buhay niya si Mark makalipas ang ilang buwan.
She was enjoying the single life, but sometimes, she would miss the feeling of having someone to depend on and talk to. Mabuti na lang at may bago siyang mapagkakaabalahan dahil kay Cayleigh.
Ianne never thought her friend would catch feelings again after that fiasco with John the ghoster.
The thing about having an almost lover was that everything was an uncertainty. One would always wonder if it would end up in a relationship or someone would just leave without notice. They had to manage their expectations because there were no commitments nor labels. And if all else failed, they couldn't even say anything because there was technically nothing between them. Only the what ifs and could have beens.
Halos magkasunod lang ang heartbreak season nila last year kaya naman natutuwa siya na may ibang paglalaanan ng attention at feelings ang kaibigan.
The first time she saw the other John Santos, she could feel the sparks flying. She had to bit her lip to keep herself from squealing. John was staring hard at Cayleigh while the latter was explaining the process of their assay services.
"Gaga ka, paano mo nakayang naka-poker face lang habang nakatitig sa 'yo si kuya?!" halos patili niyang tanong habang pabalik sila sa lab. "Bakit ako 'yung kinilig instead na ikaw?!"
Cayleigh just knitted her brows. "Baka gano'n lang talaga siya 'pag nakikinig."
"Ano ba 'yan tey, alam mo, ito na ang tamang panahon!"
"Ano na naman 'yang pinagsasabi mo?"
"Ang tamang panahon para lumandi!"
"No thanks," sagot nito at saka binilisan ang paglalakad.
Ianne could never read Cayleigh's impassive face, but she knew her friend was affected by John's presence. Sanay naman silang walang paramdam si Cayleigh sa group chat tulad ni Chi na busy sa med school, pero kapag si John ang usapan ay lagi lang itong nangsi-seen kahit online siya.
She thought it was fun teasing her because she was trying real hard not to react. Madalas din nilang patugtugin ang "Pag-ibig Na Kaya" sa desktop ng lab kapag nagkakaasaran, o 'di kaya naman OSTs ng Full House pandagdag kilig. Even though Cayleigh insisted that nothing was going on, it was quite obvious that her friend was drawn to him, kaya naman hindi na rin nakakagulat noong nag-decide silang magkita outside of work.
Kilig na kilig siya noong sinabihan siya ni Cayleigh na samahan ito dahil nahihiya ang kaibigan na pumunta mag-isa. To support her friend and to see what would happen, she agreed in exchange of free dinner.
"Oh my god!" she squealed as she watched the two get closer while they were walking. Panay pa ang kuha niya ng picture sa kanila at real-time na nag-a-update sa GC.
Pigil pa ang pagtawa niya dahil masyadong kabado si Cayleigh. Good thing John was patient with her friend.
She had used too much energy following and silently reacting at them, but she could not even eat because Cayleigh was too busy with her date. Hindi pa man din siya nagdala ng pera dahil akala niya ay libre ng kaibigan. Nakalimutan niya rin kasing ipaalala kanina kaya nanonood na lang siya sa kanila habang kumakain.
Dahil ayaw niyang lalo pang magutom ay nag-decide siya na bumalik na lang muna sa lab. However, she bumped into someone upon turning around.
Pareho silang natigilan at gulat na nagturuan.
"Oh! Ka-lab ni John!"
"Ka-lab ni Cayleigh!"
She remembered the guy because they were the only one talking that time they had to eat together with John and Cayleigh. Kung tama ang pagkakaalala niya, his name was Benjamin.
Napatingin naman si Benjamin sa likuran ni Ianne. "Teka sila ba 'yon? Sinusundan mo sila?"
Ianne nodded. "Kabado si Cayleigh kanina, eh, kaya pinapasunod niya ako. Tapos ngayon parang 'di na ako nakikita. Napakarupok na bata," sabay iling niya.
He snickered in response. "Galing ng bata ko."
Natahimik naman sila pareho habang nakatingin sa kanilang mga kaibigan nang biglang kumalam nang malakas ang sikmura ni Ianne. Benjamin laughed heartily after a few seconds and she couldn't decide whether she would run away in shame or smack his head because he wouldn't stop laughing.
"Bakit kasi 'di ka nagdala ng pera, ate?" komento ni Benjamin matapos sabihin ni Ianne ang nangyari.
"Eh libre naman kasi dapat," she complained.
"Pautangin muna kita, gusto mo?"
"Pero may interes."
Sinamaan niya ng tingin si Benjamin. "Ah, sige, salamat na lang."
"Joke lang," he chuckled. "Pero may kapalit nga."
"Ano?" tanong niya.
"May alam ka ba sa pangkulay ng buhok?"
It turned out someone asked him to buy some hair dyes. Dahil wala siyang alam sa kung ano ang maganda o hindi ay tinulungan na niya ito at pagkatapos ay sabay na rin silang kumain. Fortunately, they already met before so it was not that awkward. Besides, pareho naman silang maraming kwento tungkol sa kani-kaniya nilang kaibigan.
Nagpapabidahan pa sila kung sino ang mas na-fall. Ianne said John looked head over heels with Cayleigh, while Benjamin returned that the latter looked way too nervous when she was with his friend. In the end, napag-decide-an nila na pareho lang may feelings ang dalawa sa isa't isa at nagkwentuhan na lang tungkol sa mga nakakakilig nilang moments.
After that encounter, madalas na silang mag-usap sa chat. Nagsimula dahil sa paniningil, hanggang sa napunta na sa asaran. Sometimes, they would also talk about their "ship" and would help them to get closer. Dahil doon ay naging close din sila kahit papaano, though she was not sure if he could consider him as her friend.
Noong naging sina Cayleigh at John na ay siya ang una niyang ginulo dahil alam niyang matutuwa ito sa balita. Hours after her birthday, shinare niya kay Benjamin ang kilig niya sa dalawa at patuloy na kinukulit si Cayleigh habang nagkakaraoke at umiinom.
She was thankful that her birthday this year was different from the previous one. Last year, she was alone and grieving. This time, she was with friends and her ship even sailed.
Still, there was that little sadness in the corner of her heart. Ayaw niyang madala ito pag-uwi kaya naman uminom pa siya nang mag-isa . . . and that was one of the things she shouldn't have done.
"Hi, Miss," one of the guys greeted.
She was on the high top near the bartender because she just wanted to drink and enjoy the vibe. Kaya naman nainis siya nang umupo ang lalaki sa katabi niyang stool at pilit siyang kinakausap.
"May I buy you a drink?" he asked, with an annoying smirk on his face.
She shifted on her seat. "No thanks."
"Ang cold naman, Miss."
Bakit ba ang kulit nito? sa isip niya. She wondered why some people could not accept a refusal.
Lalo pa siyang pinipilit ng lalaki at gusto nang kunin ang number niya kaya naman naubos na ang pasensya na.
"May boyfriend na po ako," mariin niyang sagot dito. "I'm waiting for him."
Palihim niyang binuksan ang messenger niya habang patuloy na nangungulit ang lalaki. Balak niyang i-chat si Gray pero baka nagwo-work pa ito dahil night shift ang kaibigan. Dahil nasa pinakaitaas ang convo nila ni Benjamin ay siya na lang ang chinat niya.
Please, sana gising pa siya, she quietly pleaded, and fortunately, he was.
Benjamin immediately called and she put it on speaker. She felt sorry for putting him on the spot, but she wanted a way out without the guy bothering him. Magso-sorry na lang siya pagkatapos dahil alam niyang mali ang gagawin niya.
"Okay, Miss, just one drink," the guy said while pushing a glass of alcohol in front of her, much to her annoyance.
She was about to act like his girlfriend when Benjamin started speaking. "Babe, saan ka na? Malapit na ako."
She wasn't sure if it was because of his words or because of the alcohol, or perhaps the relief of being saved, that she could feel the blood rushing through her cheeks. For a second, her mind just went blank.
"U-uhm, yeah, palabas na," sagot niya at saka siya tumayo mula sa kinauupuan niya.
"Alright. Hintayin mo na lang ako sa entrance. I'll be there in a minute."
She walked past the guy who looked displeased after hearing that. "Okay. Ingat sa pagd-drive."
"Ingat din. Love you."
Her heart almost dropped upon hearing that unexpected phrase, but he was still near the guy so she still had to continue the act. "Love you, too."
Halos patakbo na siyang lumabas sa KTV kahit medyo umiikot ang paningin niya. Her face was burning red and she could feel her heart pounding loudly despite the loud music blasting from the bar's speakers.
"Nakalayo ka na?" mahinang tanong ni Benjamin sa kabilang linya. She turned off the speaker and put the phone on her ear.
"H'wag mo munang ibaba, baka nakasunod pa sa 'yo. Mag-book ka na muna ng Grab."
Kahit nanginginig ang kamay niya ay nakapag-book naman siya at mabuti na lang ay halos sa kabilang kanto lang manggagaling ang sasakyan. There was an awkward silence between them while she was waiting for the car. Hindi niya alam kung dapat ba siyang magsalita o hayaan na lang na tahimik lang ang linya.
"Okay ka lang?" he suddenly asked after almost a minute of silence.
"Mm," she responded, but she could hear her own voice trembling.
Ianne found herself following his words and took a deep breath to calm herself. Her heart was still throbbing painfully against her chest, but she did not know if it was because of the danger she just escaped . . . or because of him.
That impromptu called would not have worked out if he didn't catch what was going on. Akala nga niya ay hindi siya papansinin dahil palagi niyang pinagtitripan ito. Hindi niya rin naman sinabi na magpanggap itong boyfriend niya kahit iyon ang ginawa niyang excuse sa lalaki kanina. She was thankful that they were on the same page even though they were unprepared.
"Lasing ka pa ba? O tipsy na lang?"
"Uhh, medyo okay na," she replied, though her head was still spinning.
"Send mo sa akin details ng na-book mo. O kahit sa friends mo."
Agad siyang napaisip sa sinabi nito. Her friends did not know that she went to another bar and she would surely have an earful once they learned what happened so she decided to send it to him.
Bigla namang dumating ang Grab na binook niya kaya agad siyang naglakad papunta roon. He was still on the line even though they weren't talking, and somehow, knowing that someone was looking out for her felt comforting.
"Uhm, nandito na 'yung Grab."
"Okay. Ingat ka pag-uwi," he softly said and her heart did a little summersault.
"Uy, ano, t-thank you ulit, and sorry. Sige, babye."
She let out a deep sigh upon ending the call and boarded the car. Napasandal na lang siya habang pilit na pinapakalma ang puso niya. Few minutes later, nag-chat ulit ito sa kanya at nag-usap lang sila para hindi siya makatulog sa byahe.
That was the first time she realized that he was a man. That perhaps, it was not the alcohol that was making her face hot and her heart flutter. And that perhaps, there was an unseen boundary that had been unwittingly crossed.
There was an obvious tension between them after that incident. Kapag mag-uusap sila sa chat ay hindi niya maiwasang hindi iyon maalala kaya naman dinadaan niya na lang sa biro ang lahat. Pero ang ikinagulat niya ay sinasabayan na siya ni Benjamin sa pang-aasar.
Before, he would either ignore her teasing or would reply "wtf" and annoyed memes. Ngayon ay ito na ang nauuna sa pang-aasar. Naisip niya tuloy kung feeling ni Benjamin ay siya ang may advantage at nanalo sa kanilang dalawa dahil nagpatulong siya sa kanya noong araw na 'yon.
She felt more indebted to him after having some run-ins with Mark. He had to act like her boyfriend and even though she did not want to admit it, she was slowly getting attached to him. That it felt good whenever she was with him.
But then she was reminded of her past relationships. Ganoon din naman ang naramdaman niya noong una. They made her feel good and safe. They did things that made her happy. But in the end, they cheated on her. In the end, she was betrayed and left alone.
There was that lingering trauma of being abandoned again even after giving her all. At kung mangyari man ulit iyon ay natatakot siyang isipin na baka nasa kanya nga ang mali. Na baka siya rin ang dahilan kung bakit siya laging iniiwan.
Kaya naman noong nag-confess ito sa chat nang pabiro ay hindi niya alam ang dapat maramdaman. First, she did not expect him to have any feelings for her. Sure, she had been teasing him about falling for her, but she never thought it would really happen. Second, she realized she had feelings for him, too, but she wasn't sure if it was deep or serious enough for her to accept his confession. Third, natatakot na siyang mag-commit matapos ang nangyari sa past relationships niya.
Okay naman siya sa sitwasyon nila. All the jokes and flirting made her happy. And when he held her hand for several times as part of the act as her boyfriend, she felt safe and secured. Hindi mahirap ma-attract sa kanya lalo na kapag nagiging protective ito pero meron pa rin siyang reservations.
Because she could not trust her own judgment, Ianne asked for Elle's advice. Ito kasi ang may wide perspective sa lahat ng bagay. Kahit madalas silang magbatuhan ng panlalait sa isa't isa ay alam naman niyang tutulungan siya nito sa ganitong bagay.
Elle told her to trust her feelings, but to be careful. Na dapat ay alam na niya kung kailan mags-stay at kailan dapat umalis, lalo na kung nagiging problematic na ang tao o ang mismong relasyon.
Kaya naman noong nagbibiruan sila tungkol sa upcoming fair ay sinabayan niya rin ang pang-aasar nito. Somehow, it ended up in a dare. Na yayakapin niya si Benjamin kapag nagkita sila sa fair.
Then came the night of the fair and she was too frantic. Nang makita niya si Benjamin malapit sa isang stall ay parang tumalon ang puso niya sa sobrang kaba. Attempting to hide from him, she got separated from Elle and Gray. Chinat niya si Gray para puntahan ito pero saglit niyang nakita si Andrea, ka-lab nina Benjamin, kaya bigla siyang nag-iba ng direksyon. Baka kasi kasama nito ang tinataguan niya.
She was not sure how many minutes she had been cautious of everyone. Kahit naglalakad-lakad lang siya ay naubos na ang energy niya sa sobrang pag-aalala. At dahil nakaramdam na siya ng gutom ay pumila na lang muna siya sa isang stall ng rice-in-a-box.
Sakto namang Silent Sanctuary na ang tumutugtog sa stage habang mag-isa siya kaya ramdam na ramdam niya ang kanta.
♪♪ Minsan, 'di ko maiwasang isipin ka
Lalo na sa t'wing nag-iisa
Ano na kayang balita sa iyo?
Naiisip mo rin kaya ako? ♪♪
Sumabay sa pagkanta ang halos lahat ng naroon, maging siya, lalo na nang kantahin nila ang chorus, pero agad siyang natigil nang mabasa niya ang chat ni Benjamin. Nakita raw siya nito kaya nag-panic siya.
She wasn't ready for that hug. And she was too embarrassed to do it.
Mukhang nahalata naman ni Benjamin ang pagkabahala niya kaya sinabi nito na hindi naman niya talaga kailangang gawin 'yon kung hindi siya komportable. Then, they talked about how she was not used to being the one on the receiving end of showing effort and affection.
Medyo naging emotional siya nang mabasa niya ang replies nito, lalo na at tumutugtog ang Di Na Kita Mahal.
Ang sa akin lang, huwag mo masyadong sisihin ang sarili mo sa mga bagay na hindi lang naman ikaw ang involved.
Her eyes started welling up. Maybe because of the song and the ambiance. Or maybe because she had been longing to hear those words for a long time.
His assurance that it was not her fault melted her uneasiness. Kaya naman nang makita niya itong naglalakad papunta sa kanya ay hindi na siya nagdalawang-isip.
"Uy," bati ni Benjamin sa kanya habang nakangiti.
Kismet started playing as he stood in front of her. He had that teasing smile on his face, but that disappeared after what she did.
♪♪ I don't mind the distance
This kismet's a dance ♪♪
One step. It took her one step to close the distance between them. Slowly wrapping her arms around his neck, she pulled him into a hug.
♪♪ This time, I surrender
My everything forever
Life doesn't matter
Just our souls together ♪♪
His familiar scent hit her nose. Ramdam na ramdam din niya ang mabilis na pagtibok ng puso nito, maging ang kanya. His shoulders were tensed, but they relaxed a second later.
It was just a hug, she thought, but it made her feel much better. Perhaps because this was one of those times when a hug was the only thing to say. That a hug was strangely enough to convey one's feelings.
During that moment, she felt like every sound was slowly fading away. All she could hear was her own erratic heartbeat. But there was that sense of comfort amid the noiselessness. His warmth and presence were her solace at that little while.
"Thank you," she whispered before letting him go.
Huminga siya nang malalim at tiningnan ang mukha ni Benjamin . . . and she did not expect to see his blushing face. He covered half of his face with his right hand and averted her gaze.
"Huh," he blurted out as his gaze shifted back to her after a few seconds. "Tinotoo mo nga."
A gentle smile escaped his lips and upon seeing that, Ianne realized her face was burning, too. And they just stood there in silence, their hearts and minds gone haywire, as the crowd loudly sang along to the last part of the song.