When people ask me to define love, I say, "Love is like handing someone a gun, having them point it at your heart, and trusting them to never pull the trigger." (Sponge Bob)

When they ask me why I laugh at my mistakes and even write them with pride in my blogs, I say, "I'm not crazy. I just don't give a damn!" (Daffy Duck)

When one time I was conducting a group activity, a student asked what road sign I love the most, I said, "I like dead end signs. I think they're kind. They at least have the decency to let you know you're going nowhere…" (Bugs Bunny)

And when for the nth time a friend would ask me what do I get from writing, I'm not even sure if there are good old souls out there visiting my site, I just smile and say, "Kung gusto mong maging manunulat, eh di magsulat ka. Simple." (Bob Ong)

And last night when Eva said she wants to quit from her work because nobody believes in her, her boss got mad at her, she doesn't even have friends at her agency, and she's crying like hell, I said, "Either you stay to prove your worth or you quit and just show them you're a loser, you have to strive for your happiness." (MY original)

My CHOICES: I remained believing in love. I continued spicing up my mistakes and rewriting my life, accepting failure but keep on dreaming until words would fade into thin air.

Mar 26, 2008

A Love Story That Never Was

Alumni Homecoming.

Twenty years. Quite long. But it seems it was only yesterday when I last set foot on this same ground in my high school quadrangle.

Mixed emotions. I felt my tummy filled with butterflies. Bringing nausea to my senses. My heart is beating fast. So fast that it seems I will break into tears.

“Haaahh! Twenty years. Would my classmates still know me? Maybe. I have a couple of friends I still communicate with even right after graduation. But the rest, would they recognize me?”

“What changes have I been to? Just the humungous butt, more fats under my belly, in my arms and legs, and some unwanted wrinkles.”

I became more hesitant.

“Argh! I have grown fatter.”

I wasn’t sexy then. The more that I am not now. I wasn’t extra-ordinarily pretty then. The more that I am not now. I wasn’t that intelligent then. Just an average girl. What now?

I asked myself, “What are my achievements so far after twenty years?”

“Not much. I mean, none so far I can really be proud of.”

I started backing out. Not walking. I am more like running. Then I bumped into someone. I almost fell to the ground with my heavy torso.

“Maria! Maria, is that you?”

“Hhmmm… not bad. Somebody recognized me. But was that an interrogative statement I heard?”

“Myra. Yes, it’s me. How do you do?”

“I’m fine. I’m fine. I’m in the advertising. I usually come out in commercials for shampoos, bags and garments. Oh well, the undergarments. You?”

There was an emphasis. I looked at her towering beauty. I closed my eyes before I can say a word.

“I’m a preschool teacher.”

That’s it! I blew it off! I didn’t sound impressive. The more that I didn’t look impressive with my jeans and plain white shirt. No accessory. Just powder and lip gloss.

“Come on. Let’s get inside. The rest are there waiting for us. I heard there’s Bless from Canada, Delia from Dubai, Glenda from London, Roa from Denmark and Tina from California (blah-blah-blah!!!). And guess who I saw early this afternoon?”

I didn’t want to guess who she was referring to. In my heart, I knew who he is. And in my heart, though I prayed for this moment to come, I wish that I just burst like a bubble and be gone.

Myra noticed my silence. She didn’t pursue the topic. Instead she pulled me back to where the crowd was and like in the movies, in slow motion, I was there in the middle of all the classmates I journeyed with in my four years in high school.

“So this is the feeling of going back.” I thought to myself.

There were the people Myra mentioned. Some are still dark-skinned. Others fairer than before. One of them said she is a cosmetic endorser. The other giggled off, “I spend much time at the spa. Scrubbing off every dead skin cell in my body. Quite expensive though. But it’s fine with my British boyfriend.”

I laughed with them. But with jarred pent-up emotion I cannot name.

Some I noticed have yellow gold all over them. Not just one in both ears. They have several in the neck, in their wrists and in their ankles. For some, they look as plain as I am though more sophisticated.

“Nah!” shoved off by that little voice inside me. “They only look more confident. Try leveling your chin to your shoulders. Sit, not slouch. Smile more often. Look at them in the eye when you talk or when you listen to what they are saying.”

I did.

After some time, I became more comfortable. I stopped comparing myself to the rest of the group. My laugh grew more genuine now. I’m starting to enjoy myself.

Our conversations went on. Stories of men in engineering and architecture. Snippets of women’s struggles in a men-dominated area. Tessa was one of them. Very inspiring.

Then came cars they own. House and lots in various points in the archipelago and outside it. Investments here and there. Stock market. Economics. Politics. Commerce. Fashion. Toners. Eye-shadows. Bags. Perfumes. Movies. Local and Hollywood stars. Name it, we have discussed them all. An hour. Two. Three.

Dinner was about to be served.

Our tête-á-tête seem not to reach an end. And just when I thought I am almost gaining confidence, I saw those pair of deep-set eyes. Same pair that melted my heart. Same pair that broke my heart into bits and bits of pieces. I wanted to look away. But they have their own lure that made it difficult for me to do so. Those eyes still have the same effect as it was then.

He was looking, too. Staring intensely. Seem not aware that he was with someone. His wife.

I looked down my feet. I noticed my fingers fidgeting and felt my toes as cold as ice. I felt ashamed. So awkward.

“Hi!” was his short greeting. Same voice I fell in love with.

Then I was transported twenty-three years ago along that small street to Bless’s place.

“I will be coming tomorrow whether you invite me to your birthday or not. I don’t care. My brothers already left for Manila. I asked them that I stay because I want to be with you on your special day.”

I felt so happy. But I didn’t say a word.

“I’ll bring you home.”

Inside the tricycle we were so close I can feel his deep breathing and his heart beat… seems heaven to me. But I didn’t say a word.

“Hope you liked my gift. It’s not as expensive as the stuff toy you received from Eman but hope you appreciate it.”

I smiled. I told myself, “I will forever carry it with me.” But I didn’t say a word.

“Care for another room in your umbrella?” was the chant of almost wet youngsters in the school shed.

I looked up my room. I saw my class adviser by the porch from whom I have promised to strive harder in the academics.

“No boys!” she said early that morning.

“No boys!” I repeated.

Then I walked passed him. Not saying a word.

“I would rather hurt myself, than to ever make you cry. There’s nothing left to say, though it’s gonna hurt us both. There’s no other way, but to say goodbye.”… goes their song.

I head on without looking at his direction. Not saying a word.

“Do you love him?” was John’s question. “He’s waiting for you. He needs you. His mother is not well.”

I went on arranging the flowers for the recognition. I didn’t say a word.

“He’s with someone now.” John confirmed.

I just stared. Moved away with tears welling from my eyes. I didn’t say a word.

“Maria,” Bless’s calling my name brought me back to reality. “Miss Si wants to see you.”

I excused myself. Thankful a bit. At least I have time to think and decide whether I leave the place or stay and hurt myself even more.

After a light talk with my then adviser-mentor turned colleague, I opted to just go home and call it a night.

I passed through the darker alley at the back gate where I usually pass through every time I escape from scrutinizing gaze way back in high school. My mind went back to its natural flow of recollection.

This was the alley that witnessed my tears when I learned he was with someone. I sat near the plants. I even pulled some. All my frustration, my anger and my depression poured into the innocent plants.

Then I heard footsteps. I turned around. I saw his penetrating eyes overpowering me – the little confidence that I have.

Was that pain? I wasn’t sure.

Was that hatred? I’m not certain.

Was that love I see in his eyes?

“You have really mastered the art of escaping.”

I just stared back. I wanted to capture that love in his eyes. I wanted to say something. But at the last minute, I decided to keep my silence. Then I walked away.

If it was impossible then, the more that it is now.

Yesteryears, I should have said something, but I did not. That, I know is my greatest mistake.

But now, if I said what I should have said, I will not just destroy my life and his but cause so much pain to innocent people we both care about and love.

I smiled to myself. A bitter smile.

Then tears welled off my eyes.

Tears that ended a love story that never was.

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