Everything felt surreal. Pakiramdam ko, hindi totoo. Pakiramdam ko, niloloko lang ako ng mga mata ko . . .
. . . but deep inside, I knew it was real.
That I was already gone.
That several years had already passed.
And that I couldn't be with Andrew anymore.
“Ilang . . .” My voice faltered as memories flooded my mind. “Ilang taon na ang lumipas noong . . .”
It was painful but there were no tears in my eyes. Ang bigat ng pakiramdam ko pero hindi ko iyon mailabas. Hindi ko alam kung dahil . . . dahil ganito na ako o may iba pang dahilan.
“Five years,” the guy who called himself Kyle said.
His eyes drifted to the gravestone with his name on it. He stared at it with such melancholy and I felt it, too. Just then, I realized we “died” on the same year, almost a month apart.
Napatingin din ako sa puntod ko pero hindi pa rin nagsi-sink in sa utak ko ang lahat. I felt alive . . . but it seemed like I was in a dream.
There was silence between us, and I was drowning in my own thoughts, when I suddenly heard footsteps. Napalingon ako at nakita ko ang isang babaeng naglalakad papunta sa direksyon namin.
She looked beautiful and elegant but her face was sorrowful. I stared at her as she approached us and I inhaled sharply when she stopped right before the guy’s grave.
She sat right next to the guy, who seemed to be in disbelief. She removed her sunglasses and placed the flowers she was holding on top of his tomb.
“Hi, Kyle,” she greeted with trembling voice. “It’s been a while.”
That was when I realized everything he said was true. She couldn’t see or hear him. She didn’t know he was right beside him. But for him, seeing her here was enough. That was what his expression looked like.
“Sorry kung ngayon lang ako nakadalaw,” the girl continued.
“Okay lang,” sagot naman ng lalaki habang nakatingin sa kanya. “I caused you a lot of pain.”
He kept on replying to her even though she couldn’t hear him and that made my heart sink. Hindi ko maiwasang hindi maawa sa sitwasyon nila.
“I missed you,” the girl quivered. “I missed you so much.”
He let out a sigh and smiled. “I missed you too.”
Napaiwas na lang ako ng tingin. Pakiramdam ko, hindi dapat ako nandito. Hindi ko dapat pinakikinggan ang usapan nila.
I walked away to give them space. My body seemed lighter than before and I realized I was wearing a white dress but barefooted. Siguro ito ang suot ko noong nilibing ako.
That thought horrified me. Hindi ko lubos-maisip na nasa loob ako ng kabaong, pinaglalamayan at iniiyakan ng mga taong mahalaga sa akin.
Kumusta na kaya sila? Kumusta na sina Mama at Kyle? Sina Alleine at Francine? Si Andrew?
I wanted to see them but I was scared. If I was dead for five years, maybe they had already moved on. Maybe I had become a part of their life that they didn’t want to recall anymore. I sincerely hoped they were living well but a part of me was kind of dispirited, knowing that I wasn’t part of their lives anymore.
My heart suddenly felt heavy. And then I felt guilty because I wanted to see if they were still affected by my death. I heaved a sigh and cursed myself for being selfish.
Napahinto naman ako sa pag-iisip nang may marinig ulit akong naglalakad. When I turned around, I was expecting the girl to be leaving . . . but it turned out someone else arrived.
I just stared at the guy who was slowly walking toward their direction, a bouquet of flowers on one hand and a notebook on the other. He looked taller and more mature but I know it was him.
It was Andrew.
“Andrew,” I sobbed.
“Lei . . .” he called as he stared at my gravestone.
Halos patakbo na akong pumunta sa kanya pero bago pa ako makalapit ay bigla na lang nanginig ang katawan ng babae.
“Sab!” the guy yelled.
“K-Kyle . . .” she mumbled while reaching his grave but she passed out.
Lumapit si Andrew sa kanya at mahinang tinapik ang pisngi niya. When she didn’t respond, he carried her and ran to his car. Gusto kong sumama sa kanya pero pakiramdam ko ay may humahatak sa akin pabalik. Nanatili lang rin na nakatayo ang lalaki sa tabi ko habang pinapanood ang dalawa.
“Why?” tanong ko. “Why didn’t you go with them?”
I could see the yearning in his eyes and how much he desperately wanted to be with her but he chose to stay here. There was a terrifying thought looming at the back of my mind but I tried to dismiss it.
He subtly smiled and stared at the two.
“Bakit hindi ka rin sumunod?” he asked back and looked at me. “I think we have the same answer.”
Lalong bumigat ang pakiramdam ko sa sinabi niya at gustung-gusto ko nang umiyak pero parang hindi sumusunod sa akin ang katawan ko.
“We can’t cry,” sabi niya na para bang nabasa niya ang iniisip ko kaya agad akong napatingin sa kanya. “I, too, desperately wanted to cry before but I just couldn’t.”
Napabuntong-hininga na lang ako at bahagyang natawa.
“Life is really cruel, isn’t it?” I muttered.
“It is,” he replied. “But it is more ruthless to those who almost lost it.”
That moment, the thought I was trying hard to push at the back of my mind resurfaced. Andrew was my first, last and true love. I was his first love, too, but that doesn’t mean I’d be his last and true love.
Muli kong naalala ang sinulat ko sa journal ko noong nag-break kami.
Pero sana, wala kang mahalin na iba. Sana ako pa rin. Please? Kasi ‘pag nagmahal ka ng iba, baka hindi ko kayanin.
I realized how selfish I was before. Oo, nasaktan ako noon. Oo, nagalit ako, pero hindi ko akalaing iyon ang nasa isip ko noong panahong iyon.
Nang makita ko si Andrew kanina habang dala ang journal ko, alam kong nabasa na niya iyon. And maybe, in those five years, he was fulfilling my selfish wish.
Now I know why I’m still here.
I still have something to do.
I need to help him to get over me.
I need to see him happy . . . even if it’s not with me.
"Lei! Lei, please . . . please naman, o . . ."
Iyon ang mga huling salitang narinig ko bago ako mawalan ng malay.
My eyes fluttered as I tried to get back my bearings. The last thing that I could remember was getting hit by a car. Tiningnan ko agad ang mga braso at binti ko. There were no injuries and I wasn't hurt. Panaginip lang ba ang lahat ng 'yon?
I just stared vacantly at my hands, trying to figure out what had happened. Pakiramdam ko, galing ako sa isang napakahabang panaginip at ngayon lang ako nagising.
"You're finally awake."
Napalingon ako sa pinanggalingan ng boses at umasang si Andrew iyon kahit na alam kong iba ang boses niya.
And I was right. It wasn't him.
An unfamiliar guy greeted me. Mukha namang magkasing-edad lang kami pero may kakaiba sa mga mata niya. His eyes looked sad.
"Sino ka?" tanong ko.
Doon ko lang din na-realize na hindi ko alam kung nasaan ako. We were standing on a green field, the wind blowing lightly, but I couldn't feel it brushing on my skin.
"Kyle," maikli niyang pakilala at napatigil ako nang marinig ko 'yon.
Kapangalan niya ang kapatid ko.
Nang banggitin niya iyon ay para bang namulat ang aking diwa. I suddenly remembered that day and memories flooded my mind.
Kung papaanong nabulag ang kapatid ko.
Ang surgery ni Andrew.
Ang pagkabangga sa akin ng isang sasakyan.
Ang pagdaloy ng dugo sa aking katawan.
Muli akong napatingin sa mga kamay ko at pabalik sa lalaking nakatayo sa harapan ko.
"Anong . . ."
"Mukhang alam mo na ang nangyari," sagot naman niya.
"P-paano . . ."
"You were with me for quite some time," pagpapatuloy niya. "Hindi mo man ramdam dahil sa naging estado mo, ilang taon na rin ang nakalipas."
He slowly sidestepped and something came into my view. After what he said a while ago, I already had an idea of what had happened but seeing it with my own eyes made me stagger. It felt surreal. Hindi ko alam kung nananaginip pa ba ako o katotohanan na ang nakikita ko.
Kris Leila Asuncion
July 10, 1994 - December 3, 2011
"Hindi na tayo nabibilang sa mundong ito," sabi ng lalaki habang nakatingin sa katabing puntod.
May 7, 1993 - November 12, 2011
I felt a series of emotions after realizing everything. I was in disbelief. And then I was scared. And then sad.
It was hard to accept, but the truth was already right in front of me.
I was already dead.