A few weeks ago I had been hit with a crazy surge of emotions. I think the solitude due to the quarantine and lock down season triggered it. My emotions this time were mostly based on loneliness and depression, and so I did what I do best: write.
To tell you the truth, this probably is not my best short story. But I do feel like if I do not post this out there, I would explode. So, here it is.
A little back story; this is a story of closure. Well, not really. It is more of a story of ‘made up’ closure. You see, this guy I dated for a few years never gave me the closure that I desperately longed for. So I made up one for myself, just for the sake of my own inner peace. So here it is.
I had a dream that we were in Paris. But then I tried to wake up because I knew that I had already been to Paris.
In my perfect fantasy, we would run into each other in a city that neither of us has ever been to. It cannot be Manila, New York, Bangkok, Montreal, or Quebec City. It, most certainly, cannot be Paris, because that is too much of a cliché. All these cities have been too familiar to both of us already, and in my fantasy, we would randomly bump into each other to discover this new city and to rediscover ourselves.
I cannot tell you where this would be, because I, myself, have no idea. But this much I know, it is in Europe. I remembered you saying one time, “I hate Europe. It reminds me too much of Quebec City, and Europeans are very snobby.”
So it shall be in Europe.
Budapest? Rome? Vienna? I will leave the city name in my dreams so I can subconsciously discover it for myself.
I am walking with an umbrella in a rainy European city, trying to find a cafe to wait out this horrid storm. I frantically jump over a puddle, like a kid. As I turned into the corner, I would bump into a guy and say, “I’m sorry.”
“It’s fine,” he said.
I, then, looked up and saw your face.
This was a face that I had spent so much of my late teenage years and early twenties looking into, and just admiring. That this face was the face of someone that I used to love so passionately. The face of the guy I thought that I would eventually marry someday. It probably still is one of my favourite faces to this day. Maybe not. Maybe I just am missing you a lot lately, and am too scared to get rejected to even say ‘hey’ on Facebook.
“Hey,” you said.
I shyly smiled, “Hi.”
I noticed that you are soaking wet and so I shared my umbrella with you.
“Thanks,” you chuckled.
There would be a few seconds of silence at this beautiful moment of serendipity that I would be grateful for for the rest of my life.
“Would you like to sit at a cafe and wait for this rain out?” I asked.
You simply nodded, and then we walked side by side and so closely under one umbrella. Walking in this cobble stoned European city, that you used to hate as a teenager.
I pointed out at a cafe and said, “Let’s go there.”
You broke free from the safety of my umbrella and ran wild into the rain and into the façade of the cafe. You looked back at me and smiled, “Come on.”
What is it with puddles that makes me want to jump into them? I contained myself and walked around it to meet you.
Then, as we entered the cafe, you said, “I totally forgot how addicted you are to caffeine. That’s still a thing, eh?”
I simply smiled. The ‘eh’ at the end of your sentence reminds me of how Canadian you are. I giggled at the thought.
We found a table just around the corner of the cafe and we walked towards it.
“Is this fine?” I asked.
“Yeah,” you answered.
I took off my coat drenched in rain. You practically did the same. I stared at you for a few seconds, just familiarising myself with you and your face again.
“What would you like?” I asked.
“You know I don’t like coffee. Black tea, please.”
I nodded as I made my way into the counter to get our drinks. As I stood in front of the counter, sniffing the scent of freshly ground coffee beans, I remembered all those times we would run around New York City as young adults. The thought of it just made me smile, and I would look back to take a glimpse of you. But then you were already looking at me. Then we smiled at each other.
After ordering the drinks, I carried it over to our table, and we just sat there for a minute.
You took a sip out of your tea and asked, “So, what have you been up to?”
I simply smiled, “Just things.”
You laughed, “You haven’t changed. Still very private.”
I said, “Well old habits die hard, I guess.”
“Honestly though? What have you been up to?”
I took a sip of my coffee and answered, “I work for the United Nations in Geneva. Mainly working for women and refugees.”
“That’s awesome,” you remarked.
I asked, “You? Done with Med School?”
You smiled and answered, “Yeah. Just finished this year actually. I’m looking for a hospital to take up residency in.”
“In Europe?” I was surprised.
“Wow, well you have changed,” I said.
You gave me a shy smile. I remembered that smile. It was the same smile you gave me when we met in Bangkok. It was the same smile you had when I picked you up from the lobby of our hotel in Connecticut after not seeing each other for a year. It was the same smile you had when I met your mother for the first time in New York. It was the same smile you had when you met my mother for the first time in Bulacan. It was the same smile you had when I dropped you off at the airport in Manila, little did I know, it would be the last image of you that I would see for a very long time.
I looked out the window and realised that the rain had stopped.
“The rain stopped,” you said.
“You’ve got anything planned for today?”
“You want to run around the city? For old time’s sake?”
I said, “Why not?”
We sat in silence for the remainder of our time in the cafe, just finishing our drinks. It was not awkward or anything. It was just vaguely unfamiliar in a familiar sort of way. It was hard to explain, because we had never ran out of anything to talk about when we would hang out before. But I guess it was different now. We were older.
As I took the last sip of my coffee, you smiled at me.
I nodded and I smiled back at you.
We got up from our seats and headed for the door.
After a few hours of running around the city, and walking silently alongside each other, we eventually found a park and sat on one of its benches. The sun is setting, and there would be a river in front of us.
I gathered up every ounce of courage in my body and asked you without looking at you, “Were you sad when we broke up?”
You looked at me for a second and answered, “Of course.”
I said, “Yeah, me too.”
(I really did not know how you really felt so I can never speak for you, but I would continue to speak for myself.)
“It’s been forever,” you said.
I smiled despite the past hurt and heartbreak, “I think it’s for the best too. That we broke up. Maybe even broke each other’s hearts. What we had was very special. To me, at least. You made me really happy, but at the same time, you made me really sad too. All those days when you would ignore me because you were mad at me, it would drive me crazy. But despite the fact that we made each other hate ourselves, you made me really glad too. I really did love you.”
You said, “Me too.”
I looked at you, “I guess it’s different now that we’re older.”
“I guess so,” you said as you made an effort to hold my hand.
By now, it would be completely dark with only lamp posts to shine its light on us.
“I really did love you too,” you said.
“I know,” I looked at you and smiled.
You looked at me and said, “I’m very sorry for all the harsh things I told you, and how badly I treated you towards the end of our relationship. I really didn’t mean it.”
“You probably did…at the time,” I interrupted you.
“I probably did,” you said.
“It’s okay,” I whispered.
“It’s not okay. I treated you very badly, and you didn’t deserve that. I’m very sorry. I ignored you a lot, and made you feel terrible, and made you doubt your own self worth. I really hated to see you crushed like that, and I deeply regretted it.”
I nodded and a teardrop fell.
“I really did love you, but I guess it just wasn’t meant to be.”
I squeezed your hand, “I know. I tried really hard to salvage the relationship, but like you said, it just wasn’t meant to be. But I’m glad we tried. I’m really glad I shared some of the most pivotal moments of my life with you, because during those years, you made me really happy, and I really was content with everything I had. I always thought that you were my soulmate, and you will always have a special place in my heart. I will always love you, but just not as strongly as I loved you when we were nineteen.”
“I’m glad I bumped into you today,” you said.
My cell phone rang and I answered it. After a few minutes, I would say, “I actually have to go.”
We stood up from the bench and for the first time since 2017, we got to hug each other again. All the memories, the happy ones, and the bad ones too, suddenly rushed through my head. I hugged you tighter.
“I’m really glad I bumped into you today too,” I said as we let go from our embrace.
“Be careful, and please take care of yourself. I hope you’re happy, I really do. You deserve it so much,” you said.
“I wish nothing but the best for you,” I said as I leaned in for one more embrace. This one was the kind of embrace that I wish it never ended. But I really had to go.
You smiled at me. That beautiful smile. My favourite smile.
“Ciao,” I said as I walked away.
“Try not to jump in puddles,” you shouted from afar.
“I’ll try not to,” I shouted back.
“Ciao,” you waved.
I waved back and kept on walking away.
I know what you are thinking. It is very cheesy, eh? But what can we do? I am naturally cheesy. So, yeah.
I hope that you guys are being safe during this pandemic; safe physically and mentally. It is not enough to check yourself physically, you have to check on your mental well-being from time to time as well. Be careful, because most people are battling their mental issues very quietly and discreetly. So, please, check on your friends, and on the people that you love. It really takes only a minute of your day, so please be a pal, and check on your mates.
For now, it is film time just before bed. I am watching a film called ‘Lion’ from 2016, and it bagged quite a bunch of Academy Awards so it must be good. I am excited. So, ciao, for now. Sanitise!
“For the Spirit God gave us does not make us timid, but gives us power, love and self-discipline.”
2 Timothy 1:7 NIV