Bayugan, May 15, 2005
She was sitting, shoulders hunched over and fingers typing ferociously on her laptop. The thought of her looming deadline wrecking havoc on her already frayed nerves. Just then, a familiar song assailed her ears…
“Oh, god!,” she groaned. “Anything but that song.” She muttered to herself.
She forced herself up from the couch to turn the radio off…when, just then, the chorus came on.
She found herself being transported back in time, about 10 years ago. She was only 14 years old but she thought, her life had already ended.
Her father died suddenly of a heart attack leaving her mom and her in a dire situation. His father, being the Baptist minister, didn’t earn much. Certainly it wasn’t enough to pay for the insurance. What little savings her parents had was spent on the funeral arrangements. And their church was depleted of funds.
Two weeks after they buried her father, they moved back to her mother’s hometown. She just had two whole days to unpack and make the one-bedroom apartment habitable for both of them. And then she had to go to her new school.
The moment she stepped off from the bus, she knew her life would never be the same again. She squinted against a ray of sunlight that temporarily blinded her eyes. A moment later, she was ushered by a girl around her age into the principal’s office. It was there that she first met him.
He was carrying a large stack of papers with the top of his hair barely visible behind the pile of paper works. He bumped into her and she helped him pick up the scattered papers off the floor. As she looked up, preparing to apologize, she saw a faint smile across the boy’s full lips.
Two months later, they were dating…well, sort of. He calls her on average of three times a day and he walks her home everyday after school. They had most of the classes together but spending time with him in class was stressful for her. She wasn’t use to being with a boy. She grew up in the company of her male cousins and she was always thought of as one of the guys. It was the first time that a boy regarded her as a girl.
So she told him that she wasn’t comfortable with showing affection in school. And that was that. When they were in class, she wouldn’t even look at him. She couldn’t. She was painfully aware of his presence every time he walked into a room. But she couldn’t make herself turn around and look at him. He would do everything to catch her attention but still, she resisted. She trembled every time he was inches from her. And her ears ring every time his name was mentioned. But still, she didn’t do anything about it. She couldn’t.
But then she made new friends, girl friends. And she didn’t know what to do with the boy. As time went on, the boy got pushed gradually back in the background until one day, he stopped calling and stopped walking her home. It was time for the annual school prom and she didn’t plan on going. But he called her 4 days before the prom and asked her out. She said yes.
Prom night came and it was both a disaster and a blessing at the same time. Her dress had a large stain as she bought it home from the drycleaners. So she had to use an old dress from a distant cousin who left the dress to her a few years ago. She told him she will meet him in school because she didn’t feel comfortable having him pick her up at their apartment.
At the prom, someone accidentally spilled a drink on her dress, so she spent most of the night sitting down and watching others dance. She told him he could still dance if he wanted to but he just sat there beside her the whole night. Thirty minutes before the prom ended, someone announced the last dance. He held out his hand to her and she took it. She was a terrible dancer but despite stepping on his toes a few times, for her, that dance was the best she ever had.
The prom ended magically for both of them. But as Monday rolled back in, she realized that she couldn’t change herself. She still couldn’t look at him in class, or even talk to him. He waited for her but she never made her move. The year ended and not one sentence was said between them.
She knew she broke his heart but silently inside, she thought, she had hurt herself more than she had hurt him.
Graduation day came but still they weren’t talking to each other. College came and went and she never saw him again, until one fateful day…
She was working as a Production Assistant for a quiz show on TV, when the phone on her desk rang. When she picked it up, his voice was at the other end. She knew he was working in the city too, but she wasn’t expecting they would ever meet. She didn’t trust herself that he had forgiven her. But his voice on the other end was enthusiastic.
“I missed you,” he said.
That weekend, they met for the first time since they broke up. He looked as handsome as the last time she saw him. They talked. They had plenty of catching up to do. And they had a great time. They arranged another meeting. This time, she told him she was seeing someone. They were living together in an apartment. He said it was fine. He wasn’t with someone at this point. He said, he had dated a little over the past few years but it didn’t work out. Then, their date ended and he drove her home to her apartment.
As they stood on the front porch, she felt a sudden desire to embrace him. To let him know that she wasn’t the frigid girl she had been before. But once again, she froze and all she could do was shake his hand before she went inside.
An hour later, her boyfriend came home. He had a somber face. He took her hand and sat her down. Then he told her.
“About a month ago,” he began. “When I was out of town for a convention, I met someone. She was amazing. We talked all night and we had a great time. I think I’m in love with her. I’m so sorry, but I want to be honest with you about this.”
She didn’t know what to say.
Her boyfriend left the apartment with a packed suitcase. He wasn’t going to sleep in the apartment for at least a week.
Strangely, she wasn’t upset about it. She wasn’t happy either but she definitely, wasn’t angry or bitter. But that night, she couldn’t sleep a wink.
The following day at the crack of dawn, she was frantically skimming through her date book trying to find the phone number of her old landlady. After calling her, she packed two suitcases full of clothes, left a post-it note on the fridge and left the apartment.
She sees that boy every now and then. But she still couldn’t look at him in the eye, still couldn’t talk to him beyond casual tones and still couldn’t tell him how much she regretted what she had not done all those years ago. She still couldn’t show him how much she loved him with every fiber of her being.
Now, she was living alone. Forever haunted by that “one” song. The song she danced to in a high school prom once, with a boy she couldn’t forget.