My eyes looked like they were bitten by mosquitoes. They were swollen from too much crying yesterday.
I went to the library and tried to get some sleep before my first class. My thoughts and anxiety kept me awake last night. I hadn’t checked my messages yet because I was too afraid to see their replies.
Fortunately, my usual seat was unoccupied. I placed my things on the side and slumped over the table. The drowsiness caught up on me after hours of worries and what ifs. Few seconds later, I drifted to sleep.
I thought I was falling.
My body jerked me awake and I got disoriented because of the blinding light. That was when I realized I was in the library and . . .
“Oh my god!” I gasped as I checked the time.
It was already 8:30 A.M. and my class had started. I was contemplating whether to attend it or just skip it since I was already thirty minutes late. Besides, this would be our last week. Maybe it would be alright to be not attend it since we already took our final exam.
Just when I was about to get my phone, I saw King holding some books while searching for a seat. I waved my hand at him and thank goodness he saw me immediately.
He smiled at me and walked toward my direction.
“Your eyes are swollen,” he said as he put the books on the table.
“Good morning, too,” I replied while trying to hide my eyes.
He chuckled in return. “Sorry.”
It felt weird because somehow, after what happened yesterday, we became closer. Besides my brother, he was the only one who stayed by my side and comforted me when I needed it the most.
“Kumusta?” he asked.
I fiddled with my phone which I was turned off since last night. “I . . . I told them the truth.”
He shifted on his seat and leaned closer. “Are you okay now?”
“I haven’t opened our group chat yet,” I admitted. “I’m scared to see their replies.”
“Hmm. Have you seen them today?”
I smiled as I shook my head. “I’m scared to see them in person, too.”
Tears were threatening to fall from my eyes again and I had to choke back the lump forming in my throat. Thinking about them made me lonelier, especially after what happened yesterday.
I remembered typing everything while crying last night. I told them about how I got into the portal and how it works. It was hard to tell them about the malicious articles but I managed to tone it down a bit. It felt like I was just making some excuses but it was the only way for them to understand what I did.
I’m sorry for keeping it a secret. I’m sorry for lying. It’s okay if you won’t forgive me. I’ll understand. Lastly, thank you for reading/listening. I hope you are all okay.
Those were the last words I sent after flooding them with paragraphs of explanation.
My heart raced as I stared at my phone. I was curious about what they replied but at the same time, I was scared to know how they feel about it.
“Why are you scared?” King suddenly asked while flipping the pages of the book he got.
“I don’t know,” I muttered. “Maybe because I feel guilty?”
Tears started to well up in my eyes. I took a deep breath and tried to calm myself but having someone here with me made me feel more vulnerable.
“Here,” he said and offered his black handkerchief. “Don’t worry, I haven’t used it yet.”
I accepted it and wiped my tears off my eyes. He shifted his gaze to the book and continued studying whatever the book was about. I was grateful that he didn’t ask any questions anymore. We were silent for quite some time, minding our own business, until I heard his stomach rumbling.
A smile escaped my lips as he tried to look unaffected.
“Hindi pa ikaw kumain ng breakfast?” I asked.
For a second, he looked baffled. “Not yet. Ikaw?”
“Hindi pa rin.”
“Akala ko hindi ka marunong mag-Filipino,” he commented. “This is quite surprising.”
Gisel’s image flashed in my mind and I remembered how he would always encourage me to speak in Filipino confidently. I wasn’t sure how to tell everything to him . . . or if I even need to tell my side to him.
He clearly hated the articles in the portal. Knowing that I was part of that must have been a shock to him. I wouldn’t be surprised if he hates me now.
“Hey.” King’s voice snapped be back to reality and he was already preparing to leave. “Tara, breakfast?”
Upon leaving the library, my heart started to race. I was anxious the whole time we were walking to the nearest cafeteria, afraid that I might see anyone of them. I still couldn’t face them head on and I will surely cry if they appear in front of me.
Fortunately, we didn’t cross paths . . . but Gisel was in the cafeteria.
My knees almost buckled when our eyes met each other. For a second, I thought his eyes looked sad and wistful which made it harder to watch. I quickly averted his gaze and hid behind King, feeling more dejected.
“Gusto mo sa ibang building na lang?” asked King.
“No!” I protested in a mumble. “I mean . . . n-no, it’s okay.”
I wasn’t sure what was wrong with me. I didn’t want him to see me but at the same time, I wanted to at least know how he was doing. It looked like he would ignore me anyway.
King ordered for the both of us and I picked the farthest table from where he was seated. He seemed to be eating alone and some students kept on stealing glances at him as he stared pensively at his phone.
My heart suddenly felt heavy as I waited for King. Just then, I remembered how he saved me after I passed out and how he got involved in rumors because of that. The guilt was starting to eat me again.
Just when I thought this wouldn’t get worse, the left door of the cafeteria opened and I stifled a gasp when I saw Alice standing in the doorway. When she looked at my direction, I couldn’t hold back my tears anymore.
Run, I told myself, but she was still in the doorway. The door on the right was on the other side and I would passed by Gisel if I chose that way.
My mind went blank. I just wanted to disappear this instant.
Alice’s voice made me whimper. It was just a day yet I already missed how they call my name. Hearing it this time stirred a lot of emotions inside me and it was hard to choke back the sobs to the point that my throat and eyes hurt.
I didn’t notice she was already in front of me. I kept my head down, afraid to see the expression on her face.
“Binasa mo ba ang replies namin?” she asked.
I slowly shook my head. My phone was turned off since I sent them my explanation. My plan was to read it during the break. At least, we wouldn’t see each other anymore. I didn’t have the courage to face them head on.
My body tensed when I felt her hand around my wrist. She gently pulled me toward her and that made me cry harder.
“Kanina ka pa namin hinihintay,” she softly said.
She pulled me along with her. For a second, I wanted to protest and tell her that I didn’t want to, and I was with someone but at the back of my mind, I was yearning for this—for my friends to approach me again. To be with them again.
I quietly moved along with her, my tears streaming continuously on my face. When we got out of the cafeteria, I kept my head down and used my hair to cover my face.
“Nakakainis ka, huwag ka ngang umiyak,” she sniffed, “naiiyak din ako.”
Instead of holding it back, hearing those words made me sob more. Fortunately, King gave me his handkerchief a while ago because I looked like a mess right now.
Few minutes later, she gradually slowed down and I realized we were already in the garden. My heart was pounding painfully against my chest and negative thoughts crowded my mind.
Were they disappointed? Did they get mad? Would they still consider me as a friend?
I was afraid to hear the answers. I was afraid to look into their eyes and see their emotions directed at me.
Alice stopped walking and she let go of my wrist. My body stiffened as I saw their feet right across us. The scene yesterday replayed in my mind like a nightmare.
“Yna,” Jess called as she stood in front of me. “Okay ka lang ba?”
Her question shattered the remaining wall I had put up and made me weep like a child. I wasn’t okay but I didn’t want them to know that. I didn’t want them to worry about me.
What happened next almost made me collapse. Steff hugged me and I heard her suppressing her sobs. I hugged her back and cried on her shoulders.
“I-I’m s-sorry,” I whimpered, clinging to her tighter.
The worries in my head slowly dissipated as they surrounded me and gave me comfort. For once, I was the one being consoled.
“Is your friendship that shallow for you?”
My brother’s words echoed inside my head as I continuously mumbled ‘sorry.’ The questions I had earlier were flooded by the good and happy memories I spent with them.
Even without uttering a word, I knew they understood. I knew the answers to my questions.
This time, I wasn’t alone anymore.