(In which Fate has caught me by [semi] surprise.)
Our work was highlighted by the exchange of loss and resumption of electricity for the last two days, which means less pay and more irate parents. However, the several hours that we were given to enjoy was blissful. Blogging is my only consolation in times like this.
And as expected, a couple of hours before the shift ends, the buildings went dark again so we were sent home. That’s another chunk off our pay slips. Aww…
I saw one of my officemates by the exit door as we walk down the stairs. She lent me her hand which I gladly took.
“I read your note (blog post),” she said with a smile.
“Ah, yeah – “
“-Uy I have good news for you.”
“I saw him – X – at the Korean store. He looked really different! He’s so fair and handsome…”
My heart sank. The last news you would want to hear about a past lover is that he’s more handsome now and he’s over you. What a beautiful recovery! I managed to flash a smile and joked “I want to go home.”
In the comfort room, I heard a friend say “Oh so he’s here? And he looks better? Come to think of it, I thought I saw him in one of those 24-hour convenient stores. But if his face is smoother now then it’s probably not him.”
“Which reminds me of what I told him before he went home.”
“What is it?”
“I suggested that he get a treatment from a dermatologist and eat more.”
“Well at least you know now that he listened.”
I went out of the building and sent a message to my “cab peeps” telling them we’re dismissed. I crossed the streets to the building opposite ours and waited near the Korean store and remembered what she told me.
“Is he still there? I forgot to ask if she saw him today,” I thought. If there’s anything good about the news, it’s the fact that he dared to come in closer proximity to where I am, of course, without the slightest intention of seeing me. But knowing he’s somewhere near is already good news. Or is it another bad news?
I glanced at the store and saw a couple of guys occupying the table near the glass walls. I recognized the guy in blue who’s facing my direction. That long, lean face with glasses – Jeff? I shook my head and looked away. I might be wrong. But if it's Jeff, then the other guy who was with was probably X. Gosh! What am I thinking?
My heartbeats raced. I walked towards the other 24-hour convenient store which was then closed for inventory. I sent another message to my friends telling them I’m waiting. They asked me to go to their office but I declined.
I waited there. My body was aching for an unknown movement but I stayed still. For moments I felt like my heart is going to be thrown out of my ribcage. Then I remembered what my friend told me when we were in the comfort room.
“You know, according to The Secret – “
“You’ve read it?” I interrupted, trying to regain my usual composure.
“No, I watched it on video.”
“Ahh,” I nodded understandingly. Then the feeling of terror mixed with worry that has been lurking in the corners of my mind suddenly burst out. “I think I don’t want to see him. Not now. Why should I – “
“Well, according to The Secret, the universe only gives you what you consistently think of. So if you keep on thinking how much you don’t want to see him, the more the universe will conspire for you to meet.”
“So what should I do? Think of how much I wanted to see him?”
“No. Don’t think anything about it.”
Does that mean I should just refuse to think about anything that has something to do with him? To suppress means to hide the pain in the depths of your soul. It doesn’t mean to kill. And the only thing you have when you suppress the pain is the desperate hope that it will die a natural death. Or should I just indulge my whole being to pain and have my heart and soul be brought to the death row over and over until I am too numb and cold to ever feel any pain? In the end, it is the selfsame desperate hope that reigns. It is but the proverbial choice “between the devil and the deep blue sea”!
Several minutes passed. Out of boredom, I turned my head to the left, just in time to see X walk out of the store with Jeff. It’s really him! I watched them walk away. For a moment, the earth seemed to pause. And then my connection between the present snapped loose. I found myself walking towards their direction, my light steps slowly quickening. Then I stopped and watched them walk away again.
I stood motionless as they get farther by another meter. I watched X intently as if counting the steps that he takes. I know he’s unaware of my presence. I know. So when he slowly looked back it seemed like all the air I have in my body filled my ears, deafening me. For seconds he fixed his frozen, wide-eyed gaze on me. And he continued walking.
The wind brushed the heat off me, freezing me more. I was about to turn away when he stopped and spoke to Jeff in a manner so serious I swear I thought someone’s going to die. Then he gracefully moved his lean physique towards me, his smile widening with his every step.
He smiled at me! And oh! The office mate has spoken the truth indeed!
He passed by me on the left side of the road which makes me wonder why he doesn’t take the wider side. It made me feel as if we were on a stage play where blocking is as important as acting. I swung my head and looked up to him.
“Long time no see,” he beamed at me.
I was supposed to say “It wouldn’t take this long had you not been hiding from me.” But I just said a cool “Yeah. You look good.”
“You also!” he replied in his very unique manner that I longed to hear.
It was just your usual small talk. Until I took the chance to get bolder.
“So how’s your girlfriend?”
The smile on his face vanished as if I hit something vulnerable and he took a light breath. He twitched his lips the way he always does when he’s thinking and muttered “So-so. Just so-so.”
I nodded. “I see.”
“You? Do you have boyfriend?”
“No, I don’t.”
Whether he responded with “Not yet?” or “Ah, you don’t.”, I can no longer recall. He tried to lighten up the mood by saying “I’m studying here.”
“Ah yeah! Do you know that I’m studying – ”
“Red Warriors?” he asked and his eyes brightened up. That simple question made my heart swell to the extent that it’ll explode. I felt like I’m Erik being swept away by Christine Daae’s sweet smile and voice.
The conversation went on. Regarding which, I can no longer remember.
“Uhmm… You want to eat?” I muttered, out of stupidity. I forgot he just got out of the store.
“Aww… But my friend is waiting for me. Some other time. I’ll text you.”
“Do you know my number?”
He held his mobile phone in a way as if to say, “You see? I’ve got one?” But then again, I might be wrong.
I crossed another level of boldness. “I can give it to you if you want,” I said, which I regretted right after I said it. Another comment made out of sheer stupidity.
He smiled. “Well, I’ll just ask Esmeralda.”
I coaxed him with a sideward look and said “You’re lying.”
“No. I will.”
I admired his uncanny talent of telling a lie so effortlessly swift. And what is this moment but a potential six years older version of Maureen Daly’s “Sixteen”.
“You look happy. That’s good,” I commented, unaware if I’m still wearing the smile I’ve been faking from the start.
“Anyway,” I concluded. The moment is getting more and more awkward.
“My friend waiting for me.”
“Your friend is waiting for you,” I replied as my teacher mode suddenly kicks in. “Bye.”
We walked away.
Daroga*, you should have seen him. You should have seen his smile. He smiled at me, Daroga! He’s been nice to me! My angel has been nice to me! Are you listening to me, Daroga?
I walked aimlessly as though the minutes that passed have cost me all my life. And in a matter of a few steps, my entire vision has turned into a mirage.
*Daroga/The Persian was the person who saved Erik (The Phantom) in Gaston Leroux’s The Phantom of The Opera.