“Are you here? Are you here already?” Chelle excitedly asked over the phone and I smiled because she was too fired up.
“Yeah, kalalapag lang ng plane. Pababa na ako.”
Narinig ko naman ang boses nina Miley sa kabilang linya at mukhang lahat sila ay napagpasyahang sunduin ako. Sabagay, isang taon at kalahati na rin ang nakalipas nang huli akong umuwi. Looking back, ang dami na palang nangyari at sobrang nagbago ang buhay ko sa nakaraang isa’t kalahating taon. I could still remember what happened that day . . .
My flight was scheduled on Sunday, two days after that confession. Pagkatapos no’n ay nanatili lang ako sa condo at hindi pa rin ako makapaniwala sa lahat ng nangyari. Buti na lang at napasa ko na lahat ng designs dahil wala ako sa sarili para mag-work.
Hinatid ako ni Andrew no’n at sobrang awkward namin sa isa’t isa dahil sa nangyari. I mean, we just confessed to each other in the most dramatic way and now that we were out of the cemetery, we couldn’t even talk about it.
“Uhm, s-sige, u-una na ako,” sabi ko nang makarating kami sa guardhouse ng condominium.
Naglakad naman ako papasok hanggang sa makalagpas ako sa guardhouse. Siguro naman ay nakaalis na siya dahil gabi na rin kaya lumingon ako pero gaya dati, nagkatama ang mga mata namin at ngumiti kami sa isa’t isa.
I spent that night with a light heart and when Saturday came, I visited Kyle one last time before my flight. Mabuti na nga lang at wala ro’n si Andrew. I sat in front of his grave and gave my widest smile.
“I know you visited me last night,” sabi ko at naalala ko naman ang panaginip ko kagabi matapos ang lahat ng nangyari.
Magkaharap kami at nakangiti siya sa akin. He reached for my face and brushed the tears off my cheeks. His stare could melt me and his smile made me weak.
“You finally decided to step forward, Sab. I’m really glad. Thank you for being brave.”
“Kyle,” I said while holding his hand. “I was only able to take that step because you helped me, so thank you for that little push. But I’m sorry for my decision. I’m sorry for lea—”
“Don’t be sorry, Sab. You have already suffered for five years because of me. It’s time for you to be happy, to love and to be loved again.”
“And this isn’t betrayal, Sab. Alam ko namang nandyan pa rin ako sa puso mo. Hindi naman ibig sabihin na kapag nagmahal ka ulit ay mawawala na ako sa’yo. Mas magiging masaya ako kung makikita kitang masaya kaya huwag ka nang mag-alala sa akin.”
“Kyle,” I sobbed and I threw myself into his arms. “Thank you. You know how much I love you, right?”
“Of course,” he snickered, “at sapat na sa akin ‘yon. Sapat na sa aking minahal mo ako nang buong-buo kahit na ako ang sumira sa’yo. Kaya ngayong may taong handang bumuo ulit sa’yo, hinding-hindi ko hahayaang masira kayo.”
“Nakakainis ‘yang mga linya mo,” iyak ko naman dahil sobrang nakakadala ang mga sinabi niya. Narinig ko siyang tumawa at hinawakan niya naman ang magkabilang-balikat ko, saka niya ako hinarap sa kanya.
“Kaya sana, hindi na kita makitang umiyak dahil sa akin. Live a happy life, Sab, and in that way, you’ll make me happy too. I love you,” he said and kissed my forehead.
Out of all the dreams I had, that one was the most unforgettable and memorable because I finally set myself free from all the worries involving Kyle. He was the selfless person I know until the end.
“You will always be in my heart,” sabay lagay ko ng bulaklak sa puntod ni Kyle, “and you will always be my savior. I hope you’ll find your happiness on the other side, too, Kyle.”
Pagkasabi ko no’n ay napatingin naman ako sa puntod ni Lei at muli akong ngumiti. Naglagay rin ako ng bulaklak at umupo sa harapan niya.
“Hello, Lei. I’m Sabrina Han Valencia. Sorry kung ngayon lang ako nakapagpakilala kahit na ilang beses na akong dumadalaw rito,” panimula ko at huminga muna ako nang malalim dahil kinakabahan ako. “First, I want to say sorry because of . . . because of these turns of events. I know that Andrew means a lot to you and to him, you’re her true love. I also know that you just want him to be happy and as someone who experienced the same tragedy as him, I know how hard it is to live. It is a constant struggle but I’m going to support him so I hope you’ll allow me to be his source of strength.”
Nanatili pa ako ro’n ng ilang minuto at pagkatapos ay agad din akong umuwi para mag-impake. Nag-text naman ako kay Andrew dahil hindi ko pa nasasabi sa kanya na aalis na ako bukas. Isa pa, may gusto rin akong sabihin sa kanya.
Nagkita kami sa café malapit sa condo at pagdating ko ro’n ay kumabog nang malakas ang puso ko. Hindi pa rin ako nakaka-move on sa nangyari kahapon at kapag naaalala ko ‘yon ay parang gusto ko na lang umuwi at magtago sa ilalim ng kumot sa sobrang hiya.
Pagdating ko sa table namin ay ngumiti siya sa akin pero halatang nahihiya rin siya kaya nag-order na lang kami ng tig-isang tasa ng kape.
Habang naghihintay ay sinabi ko sa kanya ang sitwasyon ko at mukhang okay lang siya kaya medyo nalungkot ako.
“I think it’s better this way. Pwede naman nating ma-contact ang isa’t isa. Mas maganda siguro na ayusin muna natin ang mga dapat iayos,” sabi niya at narealize ko na tama siya.
After knowing him, halos hindi na ako masyadong nakapag-focus sa trabaho at ayoko namang masira ang career ko. Siguro dahil maging mabilis ang lahat sa amin ay mas maganda na maglayo muna kami.
Pagkatapos no’n ay napunta naman ang usapan namin sa mga hilig namin. Sa halos ilang beses naming pagkikita, ngayon lang kami nakapag-usap nang normal. Kung iisipin, nakakatawa dahil puro iyak ang ginawa ko tuwing makikita ko siya. I was always overwhelmed with guilt because of Kyle that I didn’t notice how unfamiliar we were with each other.
We spent the day together talking about ourselves and this was the first time that I felt genuinely happy. Nakakamiss palang maramdaman ang ganito. Ang tagal kong nakalimutan kung paano tumawa at makinig sa iba dahil sa loob ng limang taon ay puro sarili kong problema ang iniintindi ko.
Hinatid niya ulit ako sa condo matapos naming mag-usap at bago kami maghiwalay ay tinawag ko siya.
“Andrew!” Agad naman siyang lumingon at ilang metro na ang pagitan namin. Nanatili akong nakatayo ro’n at nginitian ko siya. “Mamimiss kita.”
Pagkasabi ko no’n ay ngumiti rin siya sa akin at para bang bumalik ako sa pagiging high school student. My heart was racing and looking at him smiling at me made it hard to move and breathe.
“Sa susunod na magkita tayo, pwede ba kitang yakapin?” tanong niya at lalong bumilis ang tibok ng puso ko. “I will be seeing you soon so be prepared. Sige na, magpahinga ka na. Maaga pa ang flight mo.”
Pagkatapos niyang sabihin ‘yon ay kumaway siya sa akin at dahil pakiramdam ko ay namumula na ang mukha ko ay nagpaalam na rin ako. In the end, hindi rin ako nakatulog at sa mismong byahe na ako nakapagpahinga.
I went back to work in LA and my boss liked the presentation I prepared. My designs were forwarded to our director and got approved for the upcoming fashion show. Naging busy ako sa mga sumunod na buwan dahil sunud-sunod ang opportunities na dumating sa akin. I got assigned as the Head of the Fashion Designer team of our company’s subsidiary and I had to divide my time between that special project and my job. I was doing some designs when my phone rang and I had to look at the screen twice to make sure I wasn’t seeing things.
Andrew was calling.
Agad ko naman ‘yong sinagot at doon ko lang nalaman na nandito siya sa LA para sa isang international conference kaso nga lang, hindi namin kayang magkita dahil pareho kaming busy.
“I guess we need to wait for the right time to meet,” sabi niya at ngumiti na lang ako.
“Mukhang matagal pa ‘yon.”
“I can wait.”
Ewan ko ba pero sa mga salita niya ay mas lalo akong nagkakagusto sa kanya. His words, even in their simplest forms, could leave an impact to me. His sincerity would always reach my heart.
Nag-usap lang kami buong araw at nahirapan pa akong magpasimple sa mga dumaraan sa cubicle ko. I was caught by my boss but it seemed like she knew my situation so she just pretended that she didn’t see me.
Lumipas pa ang ilang buwan at isa-isa nang natapos ang projects ko kaya unti-unti na ring lumuwag ang schedule ko. I booked a flight to the Philippines but I didn’t tell anyone about it. I wanted to surprise them.
Bumili ako ng pasalubong para sa kanilang lahat at binilang ko ang araw hanggang sa makauwi ako sa Pilipinas . . . and now I’m here.
“Eto na, eto na, kukunin ko na lang ang luggage ko,” sabi ko kay Chelle.
Ni hindi ko nga alam kung paano nila nalaman na ngayon ako uuwi dahil hindi ko naman pinaalam kahit kanino. Hindi na tuloy surprise ang mangyayari at parang ako pa ang nagulat dahil nandito sila.
After a few minutes, I got my luggage and went outside. Nakita ko kaagad sina Chelle at bigla akong nahiya. Paano ba naman ay may banner silang hawak at nandoon pa ang mukha ko. Paniguradong siya na naman ang promotor nito.
I hid my face with my scarf and walked towards them. However, before I could even go near them, somebody grabbed my right arm and pulled me into a hug. I was about to panic but he suddenly whispered to my ear.
“Sabi ko naman sa’yo, yayakapin kita kapag nagkita ulit tayo.”
My heart stopped beating for a second and I had to remind myself to breathe. Lihim akong napangiti at tinapik ko naman ang likod niya. Hindi ko akalaing nandito rin siya.
“You scared me,” mahina kong sabi habang magkayakap pa rin kami. I could smell his perfume and it has the same scent as his room, if I remembered correctly.
“Sorry. Sobrang natuwa lang ako nang nakita kita.”
The scene was heart-fluttering but it quickly ended because of my friends.
“Excuse me, nandito rin kami!” sigaw ni Chelle at natawa naman kaming pareho.
“Sorry!” sigaw ko pabalik at naglakad kami papunta sa kanila.
Dahil dala ni Nigel ang kotse niya ay pumasok sila ro’n pero nang ako na ang papasok ay bigla naman akong hinarang ni Rissa.
“Nope. Take her with you,” sabi niya habang nakatingin kay Andrew.
“Actually, I’m planning to,” sagot naman niya at hinila niya ako palayo. Doon ko narealize na dala niya rin pala ang kotse niya.
Dahil wala na rin naman akong magagawa ay sumakay ako ro’n at nilagay niya naman ang maleta ko sa likod. Tahimik lang kami sa byahe at kahit hindi niya sabihin ay alam ko na agad kung saan kami pupunta.
“Are you ready?” he asked while looking at me through the mirror.
Kung iisipin, nangyari ang lahat dahil sa pag-aakala kong masamang tao siya at dahil na rin sa trauma ko tuwing gabi. That led to a series of events and now we’re back to our starting point.
Six years ago, I never thought I’d be happy again, that I’d see the light again. I accepted my fate and decided to survive because of Kyle’s wish. My world was shrouded with darkness and I was scared to navigate, to move forward. However, I saw a flicker of light—something I haven’t seen for a long time. That light gave me hope yet it also confused me. I was scared of the sudden change to my world and almost chose to walk away but that streak of light followed me and in the end, I realized it was my gateway to a new world. To a new me.
I was thankful that the light didn’t give up on me. In the midst of my grief and confusion, it provided warmth and comfort. I was grateful that that light was Andrew.
“We’re back, Lei, Kyle,” Andrew said and we stood in front of them.
May 7, 1993 - November 12, 2011
Kris Leila Asuncion
July 10, 1994 - December 3, 2011
Standing here, I realized I was looking at my lifetime. Kyle, the first person who made me feel special, my savior and the guy who would always be a part of me is my past. Andrew, the person who made me feel alive again and taught me how to be brave after a tragedy, the guy who held my hand when I needed it the most, is my present and hopefully, my future.
Maybe it was because of fate. Maybe it was because we took the risk. I was glad that I didn’t stay trapped in the past and broke those chains because I chose to look ahead. I chose to step forward while holding Andrew’s hand because I know I am worthy of a future.
A future with him.
We sat side by side in silence as we looked at our former partner’s grave. My mind was still disoriented but my heart felt tranquil. Seeing Kyle’s resting place after a lot of confusing thoughts made me smile a little. I remembered that same smile he gave me in my dreams and how he told me to be free.
Maybe he felt the same, I thought, while glancing at Andrew.
After hearing what he had said earlier, I was sure that we were on the same boat. He too lost his lover and I think that was the main reason why we felt connected to each other.
“Mapaglaro talaga ang tadhana,” bigla niyang sabi at napangiti naman ako dahil ‘yon din ang nasa isip ko.
“At tayo ang napiling mapaglaruan,” sabi ko naman.
Silence followed our short conversation but it wasn’t uncomfortable nor suffocating. In fact, it was soothing. Tumingin lang ako sa puntod ni Kyle at nandoon pa rin ang mga bulaklak na iniwan ko noong unang beses kong dumalaw rito. The flowers had withered but one remained alive and radiant. Kinuha ko iyon at habang nakatingin sa bulaklak ay tanging mga masasayang alaala lang kasama si Kyle ang nasa isip ko.
Siguro kung nandito pa siya, professor na siya tulad ni Nigel, pero imbes na History ay Mathematics ang itinuturo niya. Maybe he’d text me corny pick up lines just like what he did in high school. Maybe he’d write letters and give me roses because he was a romantic. Maybe he’d always give me what I want because he was that selfless.
“Hindi ko tuloy alam kung dapat ay hindi na lang tayo nagkita dito dati,” I said while looking at the flower. “Simula no’n, nagbago ang lahat. Nagbago ang nararamdaman ko,” pag-amin ko.
Parang may kung anong natanggal na harang sa isip ko dahil hindi ko na mapigilan ang mga sinasabi ko. Nakatingin lang ako sa bulaklak dahil hindi ko siya kayang tignan, maging si Kyle.
“I don’t know if it’s possible to be attracted to someone in a short span of time since my first love was my best friend, someone who was with me for a long time.” Napangiti naman ako nang maalala ko kung paano ako niligawan ni Kyle—his efforts were what made him so attractive.
“Me too,” sagot naman niya at biglang bumilis ang tibok ng puso ko. “Ilang taon kaming magkasama ni Lei at siya lang ang babaeng minahal ko nang ganito katagal. She was my first love and first heartbreak. I was ready to live my life alone, staying loyal to Lei, yet you came along unexpectedly.”
Napahinto naman ako sa pag-ikot sa tangkay ng bulaklak pagkatapos niyang sabihin ‘yon. My heart was acting crazy and I couldn’t breathe properly. The tension between us heightened and I was terrified to hear his next words.
“I was curious about you and why I didn’t see you visiting him for the last five years,” he said while looking at Kyle’s grave. “I thought it was just transient curiosity but our accidental encounters made it deeper, stronger. Napapatanong ako sa sarili ko kung bakit lagi tayong nagkikita, at sa tuwing nangyayari ‘yon ay lagi kang malungkot. You showed me your vulnerable side and seeing that made me want to protect you.”
We locked eyes, and although there was silence around us, my ears could only hear the heavy pounding of my heart. We were both broken, haunted by our own memories, and faithful yet meeting each other in unexpected ways changed something . . . everything.
“I feel the same way,” I softly said while looking at his eyes. “I was drawn to you because we experienced the same tragedy—losing someone we truly love. Natakot ako nang nag-iiba na ang tingin ko sa’yo dahil nangako ako kay Kyle na siya lang ang lalaki sa buhay ko. He lost his life to protect me and I don’t want to throw his sacrifice away by loving someone else.”
Pagkasabi ko no’n ay bumigat ang loob ko dahil naalala ko ang panaginip ko. I was sure of my decision few hours ago but having the both of them here made me waver.
“And then I realized . . . maybe we’re drawn to each other because we miss the feeling that we have forgotten. We miss the thrill of having someone beside us. And we miss them by looking at each other,” I said as I held back my tears. “Maybe we just confused yearning to some kind of affection.”
Pagkasabi ko no’n ay parang may kung anong lumubog sa loob ko. I might sound immature and dunce but I decided to pick Kyle over Andrew. I’m still not over him.
“I see,” he said and I could see the pain in his eyes. My heart sank deeper upon looking at him and for a second, I wanted to take back my words.
“Andrew, Lei is—”
“These past few days, I’ve been dreaming about Lei,” he said, cutting me off. “I felt guilty because of my growing feelings towards you but do you know what she said?” sabay tingin niya sa akin at naalala ko na naman ang panaginip ko kanina. “You deserve to be happy, Andrew, and the person who could give you that is not me. Iyon ang sinabi niya.”
Ngumiti naman si Andrew at kinuha niya ang journal sa gilid niya. He flipped the pages and stopped, a smile escaped his lips while looking at a certain page.
“Pero sana, wala kang mahalin na iba. Sana ako pa rin. Please? Kasi pag nagmahal ka ng iba, baka hindi ko kayanin. Wala namang masama kung mamahalin pa rin kita ‘di ba? Mag-aaral na lang rin ako ng mabuti pero sana wag ka munang magmahal ng iba, please?” he read and every word seemed to shatter his heart into pieces.
Naramdaman ko naman ang pagtulo ng luha sa mga mata ko dahil naiintindihan ko siya. Alam ko kung ano ang pakiramdam lalo na't nangako rin ako kay Kyle. Maybe for others, it was a selfish request, but for me . . . for us . . . those words were their most honest thoughts and deepest fears.
“She loves you so much,” I muttered and I saw him smiling through the pain.
“Yeah, to the point that I don’t think I deserve it.”
“Why?” I asked.
My heart did a somersault when he suddenly looked at me with such intensity. His gaze was dreamy, as if he was searching and looking through my soul. I wanted to break our eye contact but I couldn’t.
Not those words please, I wished, but what he said next almost made me breathless.
“Because of you,” he softly said. “Hindi ko alam kung dahil ba iba na ang nakalagay rito o naramdaman ko lang ulit ang isang bagay na matagal ko nang nakalimutan,” sabay hawak niya sa dibdib niya at naalala ko ang kalagayan niya.
Nagbago bigla ang pakiramdam ko at nagsimula na naman akong maguluhan. His words left an impact to me. I couldn’t even hide my emotions anymore.
“Minahal ko si Lei nang sobra at umabot pa sa puntong gusto ko na ring sumunod sa kanya nang mawala siya sa akin. Alam kong alam mo rin kung gaano kahirap na bigla na lang mawawala ang taong naging mundo mo na. It was hard to accept yet we don’t have a choice because that’s the only way to save ourselves from drowning in that sea of misery,” he said and I silently agreed.
After Kyle’s death, I had attempted to follow him for several times but my parents managed to stop me every time. Looking back, it was really hard for me but it must be harder for them to see me like that. I was too occupied with my own share of despair that I failed to see how the people around me had suffered.
“But you know what? In my dream, Lei said that I should love someone who makes me feel alive, not the one who will make me kill myself,” sabay tingin niya sa akin. “I was just barely surviving this kind of life but after knowing you, somehow, I would find myself looking forward to our unexpected meetings. Weird, isn’t it?”
Me too, I wanted to say but I remained silent.
Sa gitna ng katahimikan ay kung anu-ano na naman ang naiisip ko. After Kyle’s death, my mind was only drifting from the past to the present but looking at Andrew, for the first time in years, I could see the future in his eyes. My mind was suddenly filled with what-ifs and thinking about them hurt my heart.
“I’ve been thinking about this after our third meeting. I realized I was kind of attracted to you but I was afraid to admit it to myself,” he continued, his eyes constantly searching mine. “I don’t even know why I’m interested even though I barely know you and we just had a few encounters with each other. Parang bigla ka na lang pumasok sa buhay ko nang wala man lang pagkatok.”
Hindi ko na napigilan ang sarili ko kaya tumayo na ako. Akala ko kaya kong panindigan ang desisyon ko pero habang tumatagal ako sa lugar na ‘to ay unti-unting nawawala ang lakas ng loob ko at lalo lang akong naguguluhan.
“Why are you doing this?” tanong ko habang pinipigilan ang nagbabadyang luha sa mga mata ko. “You’re making it difficult for me.”
Napatayo rin siya at sinundan ko ng tingin ang mga mata niya. Halos isang metro ang pagitan namin sa isa’t isa pero pakiramdam ko ay naririnig niya ang malakas na pagtibok ng puso ko. I was scared to move and speak.
He suddenly put his hand over his chest and said, “because of this. Because of this heart that keeps on pounding heavily whenever I meet you.”
After he said that, I felt my heart doing the same thing—thumping crazily against my chest as if it wanted to go out, to burst. I wanted to tell him that I felt the same way but I was terrified of the consequences.
“Andrew . . .”
“Pumunta ako rito para sabihin kay Lei ang nararamdaman ko at para maharap kita bukas. I’m really scared right now but I need to do this because I know I’ll regret it sooner or later when I don’t. My own heart got broken and died with Lei five years ago but I survived with a new one. I never felt this kind of thrill, this erratic heart rate, for a long time and it scares me because of my heart’s history but at the same time, it excites me. It makes me feel alive.”
Nagtuluy-tuloy na ang luha ko dahil sa mga sinabi niya. It has been a long time since I felt this way and like him, it made me feel alive. I, too, was scared to admit this lingering attraction towards him because of Kyle but seeing his display of courage stirred something inside me.
“Wow, you’re really blunt,” I said while looking at my feet because I couldn’t look at him. “I wish I’m as brave as you, Andrew, but I’m not.”
I wanted to tell him how I feel about him, that he too gave me a reason to look forward . . . to start anew. However, saying this in front of our past lovers felt like a crime, a betrayal. I just knew him for a month but our fateful encounters were like a series of storms that swept my feelings and turned my head into chaos. It was weird because I didn’t expect to feel something for a complete stranger but it just happened that way.
“But it seems like my courage didn’t reach you,” he muttered and I could hear the pain in his words. “Maybe you’re right. Or maybe you don’t feel the same. Maybe this is just me. I . . . I’m sorry.”
Nakita ko namang gumalaw ang paa niya at nagsimula siyang maglakad palayo. Inangat ko ang ulo ko at tinignan ko siya habang nadadagdagan ang distansya sa pagitan namin. I suddenly remembered that dream, the one where Kyle walked away from me and I wasn’t able to do anything. Watching Andrew’s back, I felt the same agony and terror. The decision I made a while ago was easily dissolved by the fear of watching him walk away, of the thought that I’m not going to see him anymore.
“It’s because I’m afraid!” I yelled and he halted. Gaya kanina ay tumingin akong muli sa paanan ko dahil hindi ko kakayaning tumingin nang diretso sa kanya. It was hard to breathe but I continued. “I’m afraid to move on from Kyle. I’m afraid to feel happy again. I’m afraid to get hurt again.”
Hindi ko na napigilan ang mga gusto kong sabihin. These raw thoughts and emotions I’ve been keeping ever since I met him were flowing out of my mouth without any restraint.
“It’s just been a short time since we met yet I’m here, thinking about the possibility of us. I’m afraid that people will think we’re just finding comfort because of our past tragedy. I’m afraid of the consequences, Andrew, but I . . . I’m really starting to like you and that’s the scariest part.”
Pagkatapos kong sabihin ‘yon ay nanginginig na ang buong katawan ko at hindi ko alam kung panic attack na naman ‘to. I was able to say what I wanted to say but it still felt heavy.
There was a minute of silence and I thought that he already left, or maybe he chose not to hear my side. I started to sob because of the rising regret inside me and how I ruined my chance to start again. I was bawling my eyes out when suddenly, I heard his voice.
“Then let’s be scared together,” he said and that made me look at his direction. With just those words, my worries started to melt away. I tried to stop myself from crying but it was too hard. My emotions have already overwhelmed me and his words made it worse.
He suddenly walked towards me, making my heart race crazily. He halted a few steps away from me and smiled.
“With our scarred hearts, let’s get to know each other slowly,” he continued and I saw the tears that fell from his eyes.
His voice was like a gentle breeze and it gave me strength to continue looking at him. I smiled in return and remembered what my friends told me.
“You have loved once and lost him but that doesn't mean you can't love again. Don't close off your heart this early. You deserve to love and to be loved.”
With my trembling legs, I took a step forward, but before I could even walk, I felt a light push behind me. I quickly turned around and for a second, I thought I saw Kyle smiling at me, as if he wanted me to do this too. My tears fell again but this time, I felt thankful.
“Thank you and sorry, Kyle,” I murmured and looked ahead.
With my eyes on Andrew, I chose to break the chains of the past, and this time, I chose to be free.
“Yes, Ma’am. Yes, I’ll send it tonight. Okay, thank you, Ma’am.”
Natapos din ang tawag ng boss ko kaya nakahinga na ako nang maluwag. She told me her opinions about my designs and two of them were selected for the fashion week. However, I still need to revise the other drafts since she said I should have at least five approved designs by the end of my leave.
Nagtimpla muna ako ng kape dahil inaantok na ako. It’s almost 3 AM and I have so much work to do. Tinignan ko naman ang phone ko at nag-chat sa akin si Miley, na kasalukuyan ding nagpupuyat dahil sa technical report ng project niya sa work.
Napangiti naman ako dahil may picture pa talaga siyang in-attach. Nagreply naman ako at ginaya ko siya.
Pinagpatuloy ko naman ang portfolio ko at buti na lang at lahat ng atensyon ko ay nandoon kaya natapos ko ang designs na sinet kong tapusin ngayon. Pagtingin ko sa oras, 5:30 AM na. Chineck ko ulit ang phone ko at chinat ko si Miley pero hindi na siya nagreply. Mukhang ‘di pa rin siya tapos dahil online pa rin siya. Balak ko pa sanang mag-stay hanggang 6 AM pero nang humiga ako sa kama ay parang naramdaman ko bigla ang pagod at ‘di ko namalayan na nakatulog na ako.
Nagising naman ako dahil sa naramdaman kong nakahawak sa mukha ko at pagtingin ko ay nasa gilid ko si Kyle. He was caressing my face and his eyes found mine.
“You’re finally awake,” he said.
Panaginip na naman ‘to, sa isip ko at parang lumubog ang puso ko dahil kahit papaano ay umaasa akong totoo. Umaasa akong nandito talaga siya sa tabi ko. Nakatitig lang ako sa kanya dahil natatakot akong maglaho siya na parang bula. Kung panaginip man ‘to, ayaw ko nang magising.
“Wala ka bang sasabihin sa akin?” tanong niya habang nakangiti at para akong sinampal dahil sa tanong niya. I knew it wasn’t right but Andrew’s face flashed through my mind, breaking my heart even more.
“Kyle . . .” I whispered and tears immediately fell from my eyes.
“Why are you crying, Sab?” he asked while wiping off my tears, his eyes filled with concern.
“Because I’m an awful person," sabi ko naman at hinawakan ko ang kamay niya. “Please help me, Kyle. I don’t want to feel like this.”
Dahan-dahan niya naman akong hinatak papunta sa kanya kaya magkaharap na kami. He smiled at me again, the same smile he gave me during his last moments, and it felt like someone just punched me in the gut.
“I told you before, right? Live and love again,” sabi niya habang nakatitig sa akin. “Masakit man para sa akin pero hindi ako ang taong makakatulong sa’yo, Sab. Masaya ako dahil kahit papaano ay naging parte ako ng buhay mo at minahal mo ako pero hanggang dito na lang ang mga pahina ko.”
“Kyle . . .” Lalo lang sumasakit ang puso ko sa mga sinasabi niya at mas nagsisisi ako sa mga nangyari.
“You’re confused because I’m holding you back. Gusto kitang maging masaya, Sab. Gusto kong makita ulit ang ngiti mo. Don’t let your past ruin your future.”
“But how about you?” I sobbed.
“I will always be by your side,” he said, “but I can’t be there physically. You need someone who can love and protect you, maybe more than I could,” sabay hawak niya ulit sa mukha ko. “Bakit kung kailan ka tumanda, saka ka naman naging iyakin?” he joked and that smile on his face was enough to shatter my heart into pieces.
Niyakap ko siya at doon na ako tuluyang umiyak na parang bata. I missed him so much. Gusto ko na lang tumigil ang oras para makasama ko pa siya nang matagal . . . para mayakap ko pa siya nang matagal.
He caressed my hair while gently tapping my shoulders and I felt secured. It felt like home, a sanctuary.
“I love you,” I whispered and I could feel how his breathing changed its pace. He pulled away from the hug and cupped my face, looking intensely at me. I closed my eyes and after a few seconds, his warm lips touched my forehead, stirring up different kinds of emotions within me at once.
“I love you too, Sab,” he breathed and those were the most comforting and at the same time most painful words he said to me. “And now it’s time to let me go,” he said while pulling his hands away from me. “Goodbye, Sab. You are now free.”
My eyes fluttered open with tears streaming down my face. Nanatili lang akong nakahiga at tulala habang inaalala ang panaginip ko. Kyle bid his goodbye and I felt empty, as if something was removed inside me. I remembered Kyle’s face, his words, and how he let go of my hand.
My tormenting train of thoughts was stopped by a call from my phone. Bumangon naman agad ako at kinuha ‘yon sa desk. Pagtingin ko, nag-message si Nigel at gusto niyang mag-meet kaming lima bago ako umalis sa isang araw. Nag-reply naman ako at sinabi kong ngayon na lang ako available kaya nag-set na siya ng place at time. Mamayang 4 PM kami magmi-meet sa favorite naming lugar dati noong high school.
Siguro mas maganda na rin na malapit na akong bumalik sa States dahil lalo lang akong nasasaktan sa lugar na ‘to. My dreams about Kyle were so vivid, as if those were fragments of reality.
Nag-prepare naman ako kahit 1 PM pa lang dahil balak kong kumain na lang sa labas. Dahil Friday ngayon, medyo maraming tao sa mall kahit tanghali pa lang kaya pumunta ako sa hindi masyadong matao. Napatigil naman ako nang madaanan ko ang Wingstop at bigla kong naalala si Andrew.
Bukas nga pala kami magkikita.
Napailing na lang ako at dumiretso sa katabing restaurant. Nag-order ako at habang naghihintay ay kinuha ko ang phone ko.
Wala na kaming sumunod na pag-uusap pagkatapos ng conversation namin few days ago. Hindi na ako nag-text dahil ayaw kong maapektuhan lalo ang magiging desisyon ko. Buti nga at hindi rin siya nagparamdam kaya nakapag-focus ako sa mga gawain ko.
Nang dumating ang order ko ay kumain ako agad at doon ko lang naramdaman ang gutom. Sobrang stressed din kasi ako nitong mga nakaraang araw kaya hindi ako gaanong nakakakain.
Nagpalipas naman ako ng oras sa mall at tumingin na rin ako ng mga pwedeng mabili. Napahinto naman ako sa tapat ng National Bookstore at bigla kong naisip na bigyan sina Nigel ng letters. I bought several blank cards and went to the food court. As a fashion designer, I decided to draw their future selves with their respective uniforms—Nigel as a professor, Miley as a researcher, Rissa as a scientist and Chell as an engineer. I also wrote short messages for them and I had to choke back my tears because I was getting emotional while reminiscing our friendship.
Halos 3:30 PM na ako natapos kaya naman umalis na ako at pumunta sa meeting place namin—ang carinderia sa tapat ng high school namin.
I was the first one to arrive and I just stood in front of the eatery, smiling. It has changed a lot but the ambiance was still the same after nine years. Pumasok ako at mas lumaki na ang loob. May aircon na rin kaya presko sa pakiramdam. Umupo ako sa gilid at sakto namang may narinig akong boses sa likuran.
“Hoy, nandito ka na pala!” sigaw ni Chelle at tumakbo siya papunta rito.
“Bakit ang aga mo? Akala ko male-late ka?” tanong ko naman dahil ‘yon ang sabi niya sa group chat.
“Absent kasi ang prof namin sa last subject kaya ayon, free cut,” sagot naman niya.
After a few minutes ay isa-isa nang nagdatingan ang iba pero bigla akong napatingin sa isang bakanteng upuan sa tabi ni Nigel. I suddenly remembered my dream a while ago and I had to push it at the back of my mind because I might end up crying again.
“Grabe ang bilis ng oras,” sabi ni Rissa. “Aalis ka na kaagad sa Sunday.”
“Oo nga. Hindi man lang tayo nakapag-bonding nang matagal,” dagdag ni Miley.
“Well, busy na kasi tayong lahat sa trabaho,” sabi naman ni Nigel.
“Except for Chelle,” sabay tingin ni Rissa kay Chelle at natawa naman kami.
“Excuse me, gagraduate na ako next sem!”
Nagtawanan naman kami at nag-order si Nigel ng halo-halo, ang pinakamabentang tinda ng eatery na ‘to. Habang naghihintay ay nagkwentuhan ulit kami tungkol sa mga buhay namin.
“Ikaw, Sab?” tanong ni Nigel at ngumiti na lang ako.
“Mukhang alam n’yo naman na,” I murmured as their concerned eyes looked at me.
“So ano nang plano mo?”
Pagkatanong no’n ni Rissa ay kinuwento ko sa kanila ang napanaginipan ko kanina at kung ano ang mga sinabi ni Kyle sa akin. Ewan ko ba pero simula noong umuwi ako sa Pilipinas ay lagi ko na lang nakikita si Kyle sa panaginip ko. I've dreamed of him for many times during those five years but not like this—as if he was really there as a spirit.
“Maybe it was really him,” sabi ni Nigel. “Siguro ay ito na ang panahon para patawarin mo ang sarili mo, Sab.”
“Pero ang hirap. How can I let him go that easily? Pakiramdam ko ang sama-sama kong tao.”
“Mahirap ba talaga o natatakot ka lang?” Miley chimed in and it felt like she just saw right through me.
Maybe she was right. Siguro nga ay natatakot ako sa pwedeng mangyari lalo na’t may kasama nang ibang tao. Mahal ko si Kyle at kahit kailan ay hinding-hindi ko makakalimutan ang pakiramdam na ‘yon. I promised him that he’ll be the only guy in my life but I couldn’t keep that vow because Andrew, a stranger that I met in some stroke of serendipity, came along.
For five years, I was walking through the endless darkness, unable to see anything around me. I was getting used to it but I suddenly found a ray of light, something I had forgotten during those times, and got drawn to it. Meeting Andrew confused me because I felt the same feelings I felt with Kyle and that was frightening. I realized I was already developing some sort of attraction and connection to him.
“Alam mo, sa tingin ko, kailangan ninyong mag-usap ni Andrew,” Chelle suggested. Hindi ko pa sinasabi sa kanila na magkikita kami ni Andrew bukas at wala rin akong balak sabihin dahil baka may magbago sa desisyon ko.
“Chelle’s right,” dagdag ni Nigel. “Mukhang gusto n’yo ang isa’t isa pero hindi n’yo magawang sabihin dahil sa past n’yo.”
“Kaya nga mahirap,” sagot ko naman, “and at the same time, nakakatakot.”
I’m scared to risk my heart again because the first time I did, it got broken. I don’t think I can take another heartbreak that’s why I need to put an end to this confusing feeling.
“You have love once and lost him but that doesn’t mean you can’t love again,” biglang sabi ni Rissa kaya napatingin kaming lahat sa kanya. “Don’t close off your heart this early, Sab. You deserve to love and to be loved.”
Her last words stirred up something inside me and I suddenly felt a lump in my throat. Pinigilan ko ang nagbabadyang luha at ngumiti sa kanila. Iba rin pala talaga kapag tumatanda na. Dati ay puro acads lang ang lumalabas sa bibig ni Rissa pero ngayon ay nagagawa na niyang magsabi ng mga ganitong bagay. Somehow, I felt proud that she has become a matured woman.
“Kainis kayo, tama na nga. Ayoko nang umiyak,” sabi ko naman at saka sila tumawa. Dahil doon ay iniba na nila ang topic at napunta kami kay Chelle kaya lalo lang kaming natawa.
Pagkatapos no’n ay nagpaalam na kami sa isa’t isa pero bago sila tuluyang umalis ay binigay ko sa kanila ang ginawa kong letters. Dahil ayokong mabasa nila ‘yon habang nando’n ako ay sinabi kong sa bahay na lang nila basahin. Nag-thank you sila sa akin at doon pa lang ay naluluha na ako kaya nagpaalam na rin agad ako.
Pumara ako ng taxi at nagpahatid sa sementeryo. May araw pa naman kaya hindi pa ako gaanong natatakot. Mas kinakabahan pa ako dahil dadalawin ko ulit si Kyle at this time, para magpaalam na nang tuluyan. I approached his grave but immediately halted when I saw a familiar figure sitting beside him. My heart pounded heavily against my chest and for a second, I couldn’t breathe. I didn’t know what to do so I just stood frozen behind him.
“Sorry, Lei. I’m sorry.”
Nagulat naman ako nang marinig ko ang boses niya . . . at ang pag-iyak niya. Lalo akong hindi nakagalaw sa kinatatayuan ko at hindi ko na alam ang dapat kong gawin. It felt like I was invading his privacy and personal space by listening.
“Hindi ko na alam kung ano ang gagawin ko. Hindi ko alam kung tama ba ‘tong nararamdaman ko,” he sobbed and the tears I was trying to hold back streamed down my face. We’re on the same situation and I could feel his pain.
Ang hirap. Para sa iba, madaling sabihin ang salitang move on pero sa mga taong nawalan ng minamahal sa buhay, para ‘yong parusa. It’s hard to get over someone who just left without any warning.
“I’m really a bad guy,” he murmured. “You loved me with all your heart and stayed by my side even if I pushed you away. I told you that as long as I’m alive, you’ll be the only one, but here I am with my muddled thoughts and feelings.”
Hindi ko alam kung saan ko kinuha ang lakas ng loob ko pero nagawa kong maglakad papunta roon at umupo ako sa harapan ni Kyle, dahilan para mapatingin siya sa akin.
“I didn’t expect you to be here,” mahina kong sabi habang nakatingin sa puntod ni Kyle, “but I guess we both feel the same way,” saka ako lumingon sa kanya. He was still bewildered but his eyes searched mine.
“Sab . . .”
In that moment of silence, we both realized we couldn’t wait for tomorrow anymore. It’s time to face the key.
Too awkward—‘yan ang pakiramdam ko ngayon. Nandito kami sa couch at nag-serve siya ng french toast pati kape. Kung anu-ano na rin ang tumatakbo sa isipan ko dahil sa nangyari kagabi at hindi ko alam kung paano sisimulan ang usapan. Huminga ako nang malalim at hinanda ang sarili ko.
“Tungkol sa nang—”
Pareho kaming napatigil dahil halos sabay kaming nagsalita. Sinabi niyang ako na ang mauna pero gano’n din ang sinabi ko. In the end, natawa na lang kami sa isa’t isa at kahit papaano ay medyo nawala ang tension sa pagitan namin.
“S-sorry pala sa abala,” I said. “I wasn’t in my right mind last night.”
“It’s okay,” sagot naman niya. He timidly smiled at me and that made me feel embarassed. Hindi ko pa maalala lahat ng nangyari kagabi at hindi ko alam kung may ginawa ba akong kahihiyan. “Good thing na si Francine ang bantay mo,” sabi niya at naalala ko naman ang bartender kagabi.
“Is she your friend?” tanong ko naman.
“Yeah, and she's Lei’s best friend.”
Naging tahimik ulit kami at kumain naman ako dahil nangangasim na ang tiyan ko. Ang huli kong kain ay ‘yong lunch namin nina Miley kaya naman gutom na gutom na ako. Naubos ko kaagad ang tatlong toast na hinain niya kaya naman tumingin siya sa akin.
“Gusto mo pa ba?”
“Ah, hindi. Okay na,” sabi ko.
“Are you sure?”
Sabay naman naming ininom ang kape namin at medyo umayos na ang pakiramdam ko. I stole a glance at him but I was surprised when our eyes met, making my heart thump nervously. Napainom tuloy ako bigla sa kape ko dahil sa kaba pero mukhang maling desisyon ‘yon dahil napaso ang dila at bibig ko. Ang malas pa dahil natapunan ang pants ko dahil sa pagpapanic.
“Okay ka lang ba?” tanong ni Andrew kaya lalo akong nahiya.
Bigla naman siyang umalis at pagbalik niya ay may dala na siyang tuwalya. Kinuha ko naman agad ‘yon at pinunas ko sa pantalon ko pero ang hapdi na ng hita ko. Dahil nahihiya na rin ako sa mga pinaggagawa ko ay tumayo na ako.
“Uhm, kailangan ko na rin kasing umalis,” sabi ko kaya lumapit siya sa akin.
“Sigurado ka ba? Paano ‘yang—”
“Okay lang. Okay lang talaga,” sabay ngiti ko. “Thank you for everything and sorry rin.”
Kinuha ko ang bag ko sa kwarto niya at pinilit kong maglakad nang maayos palabas sa unit niya. Sinundan naman niya ako hanggang sa elevator at nang makarating kami ro’n ay hinarap ko siya.
“Pwede ba kitang—”
Napahinto kami pareho dahil halos sabay kaming nagsalita. It seemed like we both wanted to say something to each other and that made the atmosphere lighter. We smiled at each other and I let him talk first.
“Well, as you noticed, we always cross each other’s path accidentally . . . coincidentally,” he said while looking at my eyes, making my heart flutter. “Maybe we should arrange a planned meeting for once.”
Pwede ba kitang ma-invite na mag-coffee one of these days? Pambawi na rin sa mga nangyari. ‘Yon dapat ang sasabihin ko kanina at mukhang pareho lang kami ng naiisip kaya ngumiti ako sa kanya.
“W-well, okay,” sabi ko naman at binigay niya sa akin ang phone niya. I typed my number and gave it back to him.
“Kaya mo na ba?” tanong niya pagkatapos no’n at pumasok na ako sa elevator.
“Yeah, don’t worry.”
Pinindot ko ang button sa elevator at habang pasara na ang pinto ay napatingin ako sa kanya. In that moment, when I was looking at his face, I knew I was already feeling something strange—something I might either regret or be thankful for.
“Bye Sab,” he said while the doors were closing.
“Bye Andrew,” I mouthed as the metal doors replaced my view.
Napasandal na lang ako at nagpakawala ng isang malalim na buntong-hininga. Sobrang lumulutang ang isip ko at muntik pa akong hindi makalabas sa elevator dahil hindi ko napansin na nasa ground floor na pala ako. Tumawag agad ako ng taxi at ilang minuto pa ang nakalipas ay nakarating din ako sa sarili kong condo unit.
Naligo naman agad ako at doon ko narealize na sobrang pula ng binti ko dahil doon sa tumapon na kape. Ang hapdi tuloy kaya ang tagal ko pa bago matapos. Paglabas ko ay dumiretso ako sa kama at humiga. Habang nakatingin sa kisame ay naisip ko ang lahat ng nangyari.
“Calm down, heart,” bulong ko dahil hanggang ngayon ay ang lakas pa rin ng tibok ng puso ko. It might be because of coffee but it seemed like that guy has greater effect on me.
The last time I felt like this was when I was about to be Kyle’s girlfriend. However, those heart-fluttering moments turned into heartbreaking memories when he died and I had forgotten those kind of feelings . . . until this man appeared.
Hindi ko rin alam kung bakit ako nagka-interes sa kanya. Our meetings were just a series of coincidences but little by little, I found myself being drawn to him. He has been on my mind lately and I felt bad because it should’ve been Kyle. Hindi ko na maintindihan ang dapat kong maramdaman at naguguluhan na rin ako sa sarili ko.
Siguro dapat hindi na lang ako bumalik sa Pilipinas. Kung ginawa ko ‘yon, hindi ko siya makikita at makikilala. Everything would be less complicated and these forgotten familiar feelings would not resurface.
Hindi ko na napansin ang oras dahil ang tagal kong nakatulala at nakahiga lang sa kama. Naisipan ko lang na bumangon nang may narinig akong kumatok sa pinto ko at pagsilip ko ay nasa labas si Rissa. Pinagbuksan ko naman siya at dumiretso kami sa kwarto ko.
“Kaya pala hindi kita ma-contact,” sabi niya at umupo siya sa kama ko.
“Sorry. Teka nasaan ba ang phone ko?” sabay kuha ko sa bag ko pero napatigil naman ako sa sinabi ni Rissa.
“Here,” she said while giving me my phone and I looked at her, confused.
“How . . .”
“That guy called me and said you forgot your phone. Care to explain what happened?”
Napaupo naman ako sa tabi niya pagkatapos kong marinig ‘yon. Hindi ko na kasi chineck ang bag ko kanina at hindi ko naman akalaing wala pala ang phone ko sa loob.
Dahil wala na rin naman akong lusot ay sinabi ko sa kanya ang lahat ng nangyari, simula noong pumunta ako sa puntod ni Kyle hanggang sa magising ako sa condo ni Andrew. Tahimik lang siyang nakikinig at doon ako lalong kinabahan. Mas nakakatakot siya kapag ganito.
“Hay nako. Alam mo namang mababa ang tolerance mo sa alak. Bakit ka nagpakalasing nang gano’n?” sermon niya matapos kong ikwento ang nangyari.
“I told you, I was confused and upset. Gusto ko munang makalimot kaya naisipan kong uminom and I never thought I’d see him there,” I retorted.
“And? What do you feel right now?” tanong niya kaya napatingin ako sa kanya.
She heaved a sigh and looked at me with concern. After a few seconds of silence, she reached for my hand and that gesture triggered my tears to come out. Without any warning, my feelings and her sympathy overwhelmed me.
“Kahit hindi mo sabihin, napapansin namin, Sab,” she said. “Don’t be so hard on yourself.”
“But this isn’t right, Rissa. What about Kyle? What about him? I can’t betray him like this.”
“Sab, kaibigan ko rin si Kyle at mahalaga siya sa akin pero huwag mo namang hayaang sa kanya lang umikot ang buhay mo.”
“But I made a promise to him before he died,” I sobbed and I remembered that awful night.
“And because of that, you’re bound to the past.”
Lalo lang akong naiyak sa sinabi niya at niyakap niya ako. She just let my cry on her shoulders and I was thankful for that.
“You know what, Sab?” she softly said while tapping my shoulder. “The past is like a chain. It binds you and keeps you from moving forward. The key is right there in front of you. How about getting it and for once, allow yourself to be free?”
Humiwalay naman siya sa akin matapos niyang sabihin ‘yon at ngumiti siya sa akin. Pinunasan ko ang mga luha ko at sinubukang pakalmahin ang sarili ko kahit na sobrang bigat pa rin ng pakiramdam ko. Pinainom naman niya ako ng tubig hanggang sa tuluyan na akong kumalma pero napansin ko namang kanina pa siya tumitingin sa relo niya.
“Sorry, Sab, pero kailangan ko nang umalis,” sabi niya at saka siya tumayo. Gusto ko pa sana siyang magtagal dahil kailangan ko siya pero alam kong busy siya lalo na’t supervisor na siya ngayon. “Pero kung kailangan mo ng kausap, just text me and I’ll try my best to reply.”
“Sige na,” saka ako ngumiti sa kanya. “Baka late ka na sa meeting mo.”
Hinatid ko siya hanggang sa pintuan at tuluyan na siyang umalis. Dumiretso ulit ako sa kama ko at doon ko lang naisipang tignan ang phone ko. Buti na lang talaga at isa si Rissa sa emergency contacts ko kaya natawagan siya ni Andrew at naibalik ang phone ko.
2 missed calls from an unknown number.
Sigurado akong si Andrew ‘yon.
Binuksan ko ang inbox at nakita ko naman ang messages ng clients ko pero dalawang text ang nakaagaw ng atensyon ko.
Hi Sab. This is Andrew.
I just stared at his message for a few minutes and in the end, I didn’t reply to him. Sinave ko lang ang number niya at pagkatapos no’n ay binasa ko naman ang isa pang message.
It was from my boss.
You’ll be back next week, right? Please send me your designs so that I can arrange our meeting. Thanks.
Doon ko lang narealize na matatapos na pala ang bakasyon ko. Hindi ko tuloy alam kung dapat ba akong matuwa o malungkot dahil do’n.
Nag-okay naman ako kay Ma’am at binuksan ko ang laptop ko para tapusin ang huling drafts na ginawa ko last week. After several hours, I sent my designs to her, hoping that she’ll approve some of them.
Napatingin naman ulit ako sa phone ko at binuksan ko ang message ni Andrew. Maybe this is the right thing to do, even if I might regret it soon.
Hello Andrew. Sorry again for the trouble and thanks for returning my phone.
While typing the next words, my fingers were trembling, and I could feel the pounding of my heart against my chest.
Let’s meet on Saturday and this time, not accidentally nor coincidentally. I have something to tell you in person.
I pressed send and went back in front of my laptop, hoping that he would decline my offer, but when I saw his reply—that single word—I felt excited and tormented at the same time.
“How about getting it and for once, allow yourself to be free?” Rissa had said.
Maybe, just maybe, this coming Saturday, I’ll be free.
I immediately sat at the bartender’s corner and ordered her to serve her recommended cocktail. After a few minutes, she gave me a glass of pinkish, carbonated liquor. I took a sip and felt a surge of warmth in my mouth down to my stomach.
Tumingin ako sa paligid at mukhang ang saya ng mga tao rito. The EDM songs were also vibrant and bouncy so a lot of people were dancing. Napabuntong-hininga na lang ako at saka ulit uminom.
“I love you, Sab, but you should let me go. Live and love again.”
Even though it was just a dream, his words were still ringing in my head. Hindi naman gano’n kadaling makalimot. Mahirap. Masakit.
Naubos ko ang isang glass ng mixed drink at umorder pa ulit ako. The bartender looked at me as if I was requesting something bad so I just smiled at her.
“Another glass please,” sabi ko at nagsimula naman siyang mag-mix ulit.
“Here,” sabay slide niya ng drink sa harapan ko.
Ininom ko agad ‘yon at naramdaman ko ang pag-init ng tiyan ko at parang unti-unti nang umiikot ang paningin ko. Nakatingin lang sa akin ang bartender at sa tingin ko ay halos nasa twenties lang din siya tulad ko. She looked pretty and her features attracted several guys who were sitting on this side.
Naramdaman ko naman ang pagkahilo matapos kong maubos ang iniinom ko pero humingi pa ulit ako ng isang glass.
“Are you sure, Miss? You look drunk,” sabi niya sa akin.
“Yeah. He’s still in my mind so that means I’m not yet drunk,” I sighed.
Instead of getting drunk, it felt like I was becoming more clearheaded and I hated that. Lalo ko lang naaalala ang panaginip ko at kung paano niya sinabing kailangan ko na siyang pakawalan. His words hurt and the alcohol made it more painful . . . more miserable.
“Ah. So you’re here because of your boyfriend?” she asked, and now, I could see her smiling at me.
“Yeah,” I replied with a strained smile. “He wants me to move on from him.”
“Really?” sabay abot niya ng pangatlo kong baso. “Bakit? Dahil may bago na siya?”
“No.” I stared at my pinkish drink and remembered his face. “He’s . . . he’s gone.”
“Huh? What do you mean—oh. I’m sorry,” sabi niya nang ma-realize niya ang ibig kong sabihin.
Tumulo agad ang kanina ko pang pinipigilang mga luha at mukhang nag-panic siya kaya naman ngumiti ako sa kanya. She offered me a tissue and I took it to wipe my tears.
“Sorry for getting dramatic,” sabi ko naman habang pinipigilan ang luha ko pero tuluy-tuloy pa rin sila sa pag-agos.
“It’s okay. Most people tend to drink when they have problems like that.”
Napangiti naman ako sa sinabi niya at nakakatuwa dahil ina-accommodate niya ako kahit na hindi naman kami magkakilala. Siguro ay marami na siyang na-encounter na tulad ko.
I silently drowned myself in tears and liquor as Kyle continued to haunt my thoughts with his last words. Naka-apat na glass na ako at halos hindi na ako makagalaw nang maayos pero nasa isip ko pa rin siya. Ang hirap niyang kalimutan.
“Kyle,” I sobbed after finishing my fourth glass.
“Miss, okay ka lang ba?” tanong ng bartender dahil halos nakahiga na ang upper body ko sa table.
“No,” sabi ko at may narinig akong nabasag sa gilid ko. Was that my glass? I can’t see clearly anymore.
“Now, you’re really drunk.”
“Mmm . . . not yet,” I whispered. “Could you give me a liquor that could make me forget a person?”
“He wanted me to forget him even if I had spent five painful years keeping him in my heart. What a bad guy,” sabi ko habang tuluy-tuloy na ang luha ko.
Hindi ko na matandaan kung anu-ano ang pinagsasabi ko dahil parang wala nang restrictions ang bibig ko. I can’t filter what I say anymore and I was sure that the girl was getting tired of me.
“Miss, may I have your phone? I need to contact your guardian.”
“Hmm . . .”
“How are you going to—”
Bigla namang nawala ang atensyon ng babae sa akin at napatingin siya sa tumawag sa kanya. ‘Yon ba ang pangalan niya? Hm? That voice . . . it seemed familiar.
“Andito ka na,” she said while pointing to someone.
“Sorry, traffic. Ano na ba ang plano natin sa birthday ni Alleine?”
“Hay. Sorry rin pero na-extend ang shift ko kaya mamayang madaling araw pa ako free. Hindi na kita na-text dahil busy.”
“Oh. Balik na lang ba ako mamaya?”
Dumilat ako para tignan kung sino ang kausap niya dahil pamilyar talaga ang boses niya. He was just sitting beside me but my sight was blurry and I could only see his vague profile.
“Who are you?” I breathed and I felt a throbbing pain in my head. God, the alcohol was finally kicking in.
“Ah, sorry, she’s alone and drunk,” I heard the bartender said while checking my pocket for my phone.
“I’m not drunk. Not yet. I’m . . .”
Napatigil naman ako nang marinig ko ang pangalan ko. Who said that? Was it the guy?
“Wait, you know him, Andrew?”
What? Did she call him Andrew? Did she mean . . . that Andrew? I wasn’t sure. I can’t see him clearly. I can’t hear any sound anymore. My senses were betraying me and my head was spinning like crazy.
“Andrew . . .” mahina kong tawag at iyon na ang huli kong naalala bago ako tuluyang mawalan ng malay.
“Sab, don’t live in the past. Move on and keep living.”
Napabalikwas naman ako at halos hindi ako makahinga nang maayos nang makita ko ang mukha ni Kyle. Panaginip na naman.
Bigla naman akong napahawak sa ulo ko dahil parang pinupukpok sa sobrang sakit. I was about to get out of bed but I froze when I realized I wasn’t in my condo. Hindi ko alam kung ilang segundo o minuto akong nakatulala dahil hindi ko alam ang nangyayari. Pinilit kong alalahanin kung ano ang ginawa ko kagabi at . . .
“Oh my God,” bulong ko. Ang huli ko lang na naaalala ay nakasubsob na ako sa table sa sobrang kalasingan at tinatanong ng bartender kung nasaan ang phone ko. What happened after that?
Inikot ko ang paningin ko sa kwarto at halos puti ang nakikita ko. The theme and design was minimalist and I could smell the strong aroma of perfume. Wait, parang amoy lalaki?
Bigla ko namang narinig ang pag-click ng pinto kaya lalo akong nagpanic. Tinakpan ko ang sarili ko ng kumot at dahan-dahang sumilip kung sino ang pumasok.
“Good morning. Okay ka na ba?”
Memories from last night came rushing in my mind and I just stared at him, unsure of what to do. He smiled at me in return and placed the cup of coffee he was holding on the bedside table.
“We meet again, Sab,” he said and I felt a mixture of emotions—confusion, embarrassment and a little bit of amusement.
Live and love again, Kyle had said. Maybe, just maybe, he could help me.