You held it all, but you were careless to let it fall.
—Powerless by Linkin Park (Living Things album)
—Powerless by Linkin Park (Living Things album)
It was a chilly night. She had nothing to do and nowhere to be. And she needed the time for herself.
A week has passed since her outburst in front of her friends. She was very embarrassed about her behavior, at first. But after two days of isolating herself, she finally accepted that the outburst was inevitable. What did she really expect would be the outcome of putting her and Elmo together in a room with booze going around and friends coming at them from all directions, forcing them upon each other? Two bombs on the brink of exploding—-one of them were bound to let loose.
Julie sighed as she pulled her feet up on the couch, hugging her knees to her chest. She looked out at the skyline and the sun setting ahead. She was on the building rooftop where a lounge was set up for residents. She was lucky to be alone up there. She didn’t think she could find this peace if other residents were there with her.
“Ano bang mangyayari satin Elmo?”, she whispered as she thought back to the months they didn’t talk, and also back to the months when they couldn’t stop talking to each other. It was not lost on her how ironic life can be. That the person you were so close to for 3 years could be so far from you emotionally in just a span of a year.
She honestly didn’t know what to do. She wanted to leave her apartment and look for a new one, far away from him, far from all this drama. When she initially came to live here, part of the reason was to see if their friendship still had a chance at salvation. She had wanted to give up badly last year, but she didn’t want to let go that easily. When you have had a tight relationship like she had with Elmo, it was hard to just pack up and leave, even when every hurt you feel is screaming at you to go. She forced herself to be strong for the sake of their friendship, their memories. She had believed that he’d given up on them from the moment he stopped talking to her, but she let that all slide because she knew Elmo to be someone who was honorable, someone who held up his part of an agreement. And despite the fact that they didn’t have any written agreement about being friends—-because who does?—-she knew that their bond was enough to imply that their friendship can last. That was also probably why she decided to live near him. But now, she wasn’t sure if her decisions to hold on were smart decisions, or decisions based on simple denial.
She wiped the tears that rolled down her cheeks—-tears she didn’t even remember she had until they were already on her face.
“Feels like you had me, but I never had you…”, she hummed quietly, playing her new song in her head. She had immersed herself into composing songs these past few days. The words seemed to come to her without hindrance and she had no doubt that her recent emotional rollercoaster was the trigger.
“But you had me. You just didn’t know.”
Julie immediately wiped the tears from her eyes and turned around abruptly. Standing on the top step of the rooftop stairs was Elmo. Despite everything, Julie couldn’t help but notice how handsome he looked in his dark blue V-neck shirt and loose khaki shorts.
On Elmo’s end, he also couldn’t help noticing how stunning Julie looked in her off-shoulder white blouse and white short shorts. Despite the simplicity, she had never looked more beautiful in his eyes, even in her loosely tied bun, with hair strands falling, framing her face. He felt bad, though, when he realized she had been crying.
“Uhm, kailangan mo ba yung lounge… uhm, bababa na lang ako…”
“Julie, please stay. This time, once and for all, let’s talk.”
“Talk about what?” Julie looked down at the floor, propping her chin on her knees.
“Come on, Julie. You know what about”, Elmo answered gently.
Julie nodded and Elmo took this as a sign that it was safe to approach her. He sat down on the opposite side of the couch, with Julie on the other. They were both looking down at the floor.
“Sorry.” Julie began the conversation.
“No, Julie. I’m sorry. I should’ve said that countless times this year, but I didn’t. And that was a dick move on my part.”
Julie looked up at him with raised eyebrows. He rarely cursed in front of her. Then again, it has been a year. He might’ve changed a lot. She might not really know him anymore. That thought hurt her. She looked back down.
Elmo sighed when Julie didn’t say anything and he continued.
“I know… I’ve been such a jerk to you ever since our tandem ended. I really have no good explanation for that, except that I’ve been a coward. The moment the management pulled us apart, kinausap ako ni Mama na my priorities have to center on my career for the time being. She knew that I was still a household name because our loveteam was such a success, but she didn’t want me to anchor my career on simply being a half of a tandem. She wanted me to venture from that. She wanted me to have a name that doesn’t simply paint me as a Magalona or as a loveteam partner. She wanted me to make a name as Elmo Magalona, a holistic performer. So I heard this as a plea from her that I shouldn’t market our pairing too much anymore. I had a hard time, at first. Remember when we still went out every week and met up at home to do our weekly movie marathon even after the loveteam broke up?”
He said this with a small smile—-a smile that was hesitantly returned by Julie. The smile didn’t reach their eyes. They were bitterly remembering better days between them.
“Well, dahil dun, I really had a hard time separating you from my work life just because I’ve been so used to having you there. And then our schedules started getting in the way of our friendship. You would have photoshoots or recordings or meetings when I had spare time and vice versa…we barely spoke to each other, but we made it work for a few months. And then you signed on for your teleserye, and I signed on for mine and that was when I really started feeling the separation. I mean, here we were with our major projects since the movie…and we weren’t together. Don’t get me wrong, Juls, I was very happy for you and Kris. Kris is my friend. But to have to see you work with someone else…that was hard. It made me think of whether you were being treated well on set: if someone was making sure you took your vitamins everyday because you always forget that; if you were getting peace and quiet during shoot breaks so you can do your school work or get a quick nap; if someone was waking you up before you slept too much because we both know you can only tolerate a 30-minute nap and if it exceeds that then it has to go to 6 hours, at least, or else you will get a headache if you sleep more than 30 minutes but less than 6 hours—-“
“Stop, Elmo, please.”
Elmo frowned and watched Julie close her eyes and sigh.
“As much as it’s nice to hear you say these things, it just brings back all the pain I had to endure during those months when you weren’t talking to me.”
Julie opened her eyes and looked at Elmo. He could see how tired she was. Has she even slept soundly since the party? He was concerned.
“I am so sorry for all of that, Juls.”
Julie nodded. “I know you are.”
Elmo was trying hard not to cry.
“But you can’t forgive me.”
He knew even before he said it, that he was right. From the way Julie was looking at him…it was as if she was simply accepting his explanation but it wasn’t changing the way she felt. He felt like his heart would collapse from the pain.
Julie smiled at him slightly. “Was that a question? It didn’t sound like one.”
“Please, Julie, I need to explain. You have to hear me out, at least. Please.”
Julie sighed and stood up. “Maybe eventually I will. Right now, I need to gather my thoughts. Nung nagkukwento ka, para bang gusto na kitang patawarin. Para bang gusto ko nang maging maayos tayo, na bumalik tayo sa dati. At dahil dun, Moe, natakot ako. Natakot ako na masyado akong mabilis magpatawad, na baka sa akin lang din mag-backfire yun. Ayokong maranasan uli yung sakit, Moe. I don’t think I’ll survive it a second time. Kaya bago kita pakinggan, kailangan ko muna maging impartial. Kailangan ko masiguro sa sarili ko na pag pinakinggan kita, I won’t be easily wooed by your sweet words. I need to make sure that the next time I listen to your explanation, I will be ready enough to forgive you, not because I simply want to, but because it would be the right thing to do at that time. Pero hindi pa panahon. Oo, kasalanan ang hindi magpatawad sa taong humihingi nito, pero can you blame me kung maging maingat na ako? Sana naman hindi. Sana maintindihan mo, Moe.”
She turned away and walked back to where he came from. She was almost on the top step of the stairs leading down when he called her.
She turned back to him and tried hard not to cry. The devastation on his face was too much for her to bear.
“You called me ‘Moe’ again.” He said this with the smallest of smiles, if it could even be called a smile. It was hard to tell from the anguish etched on his beautiful face.
She returned the shadow of a smile. “Maybe that’s a good sign.”
She walked away from him for the second time in a week. Will she ever walk back to him again?
Hi! Yes, meron ako softcopy nung iba. PDF though, and hindi pa naproofread.
I was listening to a random playlist tonight and I realized it was the one I named ‘Duets’. You know why? Because all of the songs in it are ones we’ve performed together, or at least some of the songs we thought of playing or singing together. Some made it to the stage, for all to see; some only made it to the rehearsal room, but was cut from the performances due to time constraint or simply because the management thought them unnecessary at the time; some were only our wishful thinking.
Anyway, ‘Endlessly’ by The Cab suddenly played. Remember this song? We performed it together. You were wearing a simple green dress but you looked as stunning as you always looked. It seemed like a lifetime ago, but I can still remember the feel of your hand in mine, the intensity of your stares, the sweet melody of your voice upon my ears, and your breath upon my lips as we moved our faces closer to make the performance sweeter for everyone. I remember every sensation I felt, and every thought in my head that day. Throughout the song, I kept thinking how lucky I was to be partnered with such a passionate, beautiful, talented and down-to-earth young woman. And as the last notes of the song faded into nothingness, with the two of us atop that platform, staring at each other, I was thinking that maybe I was doing something good in my life to be receiving good karma.
These thoughts penetrated my mind tonight, pierced through my heart and hit me with an overwhelming sense of depression. What happened? I haven’t talked to you in a year. Yeah, sure, we talk briefly when we pass by each other in the studio. But what happened to the endless hours we spent on the phone in the past, talking about anything from movies, to music, to books, to TV shows, to our dream performances? We drifted apart, for no reason other than because we were partnered to different people? Is that a valid excuse for us?
I don’t want to be like this anymore. I don’t want to feel hurt when I reminisce our years performing together. Those years were priceless. Those years were the happiest of my career because those were my budding years, and yours, too. Those were the years we fell into our own places in the 2-piece puzzle that would later be called ‘rap and rhythm’. We were so good together. So good. So what happened? I want to know. Help me find out. I need answers.
“Ano? Loko talaga yang si Billy! Teka nga, papagalitan ko.”
“Wag na, Jen. Okay lang yun”, Julie said hurriedly, grabbing her friend’s wrist before the girl could stand up and scold her boyfriend on behalf of Julie.
She had just told Jenny about Billy fetching her and Elmo together and her friend was not too happy with that arrangement. Jenny knew about everything Julie went through when Elmo went radio silent on her and knew how Julie must’ve felt being forced into an awkward position with him. The fact that Billy was the one to force the situation did not sit well with Jenny. But Julie wasn’t about to let her friends fight just because she felt uncomfortable for some minutes. It was her issue, and Elmo’s. There was no need to drag her friends in it, too. Besides, they should be able to settle this on their own, like the young adults that they are.
“Pero, Julie, alam niya ang pinagdaanan mo dahil sa Elmo na yan. Hindi ko maintindihan bakit niya ginawa yun”, Jenny replied, apology evident in her eyes.
Julie smiled at her friend and nodded. “Wag ka na magsorry, alam ko na yang sasabihin mo. Alam mo, hindi dapat kayo nadadamay dito sa…kung ano man itong nangyayari sa amin ni Elmo. Kaibigan naming kayo, oo. Pero problema namin ito. Hindi dapat kayo nag-aadjust dahil lang sa amin. Hayaan mo na yun, okay?”
Jenny sighed and nodded. “Sige, hindi ko na babanggitin sakanya. Thank you for being so understanding, friend”, she said, hugging Julie.
“Sino pa ba magkakaintindihan kundi tayo-tayo din”, Julie said with a chuckle, hugging her friend back.
When Jenny let go of her, she stared at Julie curiously. “Wala naman…uhm, nangyari or what sa car…?”
Julie bit her lip and fidgeted with her hands. Not that something really happened, but they did have a moment, right? At least, that’s what she thought it was. A moment where, for a few minutes, it seemed like they would be able to talk it through and maybe, just maybe, patch things up—-but it was gone before it was even given a chance to take off into…something, at least. Finally, she looked up to her friend and shook her head.
“Wala naman. Basta silent car ride lang. Parang walang Elmo, parang walang Julie.”
It pained her to say that.
“Pero Elmo, kumusta naman ang career natin, pare?”, asked Bryan, one of Elmo’s close friends.
Elmo smilled and shrugged, his cheeks flushed from having drank quite a few bottles of beer already.
“Ayos naman. I hope mag-continue lang siya. And hopefully, madagdagan na ng album”, he replied, taking another swig from the bottle he was holding.
Billy laughed. “Last year mo pa sinasabi yang album na yan, Moe. Until now, puro sabi lang naman”, he teased.
“Perfection takes time, pare”, Elmo said with a laugh, reaching over the table to punch Billy’s arm playfully.
Billy was able to dodge his punch, causing Elmo to fall forward on the table, getting off balanced from the momentum of his supposed punch.
“Oy, oy, ayusin ang sarili naman”, Jenny clucked her tongue as she sat beside Julie, a few seats away from where Elmo was.
Elmo picked himself up and stood upright, turning towards Jenny and raising his bottle with a sarcastic smile and a salute.
“Yes, Maam. Sorry, Maam”, Elmo said, finally sitting down again.
“Hindi ako ang nangangailangan ng sorry mo”, Jenny mumbled, but loud enough that Elmo heard.
“Jenny…”, Julie cautioned her friend with a look that said ‘Huwag mo na palakihin yan’.
Elmo turned to Jenny with a frown. “Excuse me?”
“Jenny…”, Julie repeated.
But Jenny, being the friend that she is and having had quite a few drinks herself, couldn’t stop. “You heard me. Hindi ako ang nangangailangan ng sorry mo. Not that you would know who I’m talking abou—-“
“Si Julie ba?”, Elmo cut her off.
Julie bit her lip and closed her eyes, willing herself not to move. As if any movement from her would trigger what was already sure to be an argument.
“O? Alam mo pala? Nakaramdam ka din?”, Jenny asked, turning her whole body to face Elmo now.
Elmo stood up and bowed. “Sorry po, Julie. Pasensya na sa kagaguhan ko. Pasensya na sa pagiging masamang tao ko”, he said. He stood upright after that and smiled at Jenny, his smile mocking. “Masaya ka na, Jen?”
“Tama na yan, both of you”, Billy warned, standing up and reaching across the table to push Elmo to sit back down.
Jenny simply gave her boyfriend a roll of the eyes before she looked at Elmo again. “At least, you admitted your fault. Not great, but what can you do”, she said, shrugging.
Elmo laughed without humor. “Anong problema mo sakin, Jen? Once and for all, tell me now.”
Jenny shook her head in disbelief. “Talaga, Moe? Talaga? Hindi mo naiintindihan bakit mainit ang dugo ko sayo for some months now?”
“Si Julie ba?”, Elmo asked.
Julie kept still, her eyes still closed, her hands balled into fists.
“Tingin mo?”, Jenny challenged.
“Dahil gago ako? Dahil masama ang naging trato ko sa kanya? Ang ganda ng trato ko kay Julie for the past years na nagkatrabaho kami, na magkaibigan kami—-“
“Yun na nga eh. Years, Elmo, years. Ilang taon kayong magkaibigan ni Julie. Maganda ang trato mo sa kanya, oo, hindi ko makakaila yun. Pero anong nangyari nung pinaghiwalay kayo ng management? Kumalas ka na din sa pagkakaibigan niyo? Hindi ka nagparamdam, walang text, walang tawag…grabe, Moe, kahit snail mail man lang, wala! Wala! Yun ba ang kaibigan? Yun ba ang magandang pagtrato?!”, Jenny said, finally shouting now, her hands shaking on her lap.
Elmo stood up and banged his fist on the table. “Dammit, Jenny! Hindi mo alam ano pinagdaanan ko nung mga panahon na hindi kami magkausap—-“
“Bakit?! Alam mo din ba kung ano pinagdaanan ni Julie dahil sa ginawa mo? Ha? Alam mo ba?!”
“Tama na, Jenny”, Julie whispered, not being able to stop the tears from falling. All the hurt, everything she kept bottled up inside, were bubbling on the surface, threatening to crumble the wall, the defense, she’s allowed herself to create to hide how she felt.
“Hindi pwede eh! Kailangan malaman ni Elmo—-“
“Tama na please”, Julie said, her voice much louder now.
“Julie naman…”, Jenny began.
“Tama na daw, diba? Hindi mo ba narinig yung sinabi ng kaibigan mo?”, Elmo directed at Jenny.
Jenny glared at him but did not say anything.
“Tama na din, Elmo”, Julie said, her eyes still closed.
“Julie, hindi naman ako yung nag-umpisa—-“
“Wala akong pakialam kung sino ang nag-umpisa. Ako na ang tumatapos”, Julie said, finally opening her eyes. She swallowed the lump in her throat and turned to look at Elmo. “Tama na, Elmo. Itigil mo na.”
The look of defeat, the look of finality, in Julie’s eyes made Elmo’s heart break. It looked like she was ending not just the current argument, but whatever was left of their connection to each other. He couldn’t live with that. He placed the bottle he was holding on the table and hurriedly walked to where she was, kneeling so that their eyes were level with each other. He made a move to take her hands but she saw what he was going to do and immediately pulled her hands away, by instinct. Elmo bit his lip to keep the hurt from showing themselves as tears.
“Julie, I really am sorry. I’m sorry for being such an idiot, for being selfish, for being an asshole…for…for loving you and not doing anything about it.”
Julie gasped and stared at Elmo, hard. Elmo couldn’t read what emotion was in her eyes. But if he was hoping that the emotion was love, he was very wrong. In a few seconds, the look changed from something undecipherable to something that was recognizable: hate.
“Loving…”, she whispered. She cleared her throat and stood up, taking a step back from Elmo, who was still kneeling on the floor. “Loving…me?!”, she asked incredulously, her voice rising. “Loving me, Elmo? Love? LOVE?!”, she said, close to shouting now.
“LOVE BA ANG TAWAG SA TAONG HINDI MO KAKAUSAPIN NG BIGLA BIGLA MATAPOS KAYONG MAGING MAGKAIBIGAN AT MAGKATRABAHO NG HALOS ARAW-ARAW SA LOOB NG TATLONG TAON? Grabe, Elmo, LOVE NA BA YUN SAYO?!”, she shouted.
“SHUT UP! HINDI LOVE YUN! ANG TAWAG DUN WALANG PAKIALAM! At ang tawag sa ginagawa mo ngayon? GUILT AT KALASINGAN, ROLLED INTO ONE!”, she shouted, shaking with anger, tears consistently streaming down her face now.
“Julie, sorry. Please, please forgive me”, Elmo whispered, still kneeling. He hung his head, ashamed.
Julie laughed a hollow laugh. “Forgive you? Congratulations, Elmo. You’ve officially made me hate you”, she said, about to turn around and walk away. Before she did, she had one last thing to say: “No, you know what? I don’t hate you. You’ve officially made me not give a crap about you. When you don’t care about someone, you don’t waste time hating them. You don’t waste effort in holding grudges against them. You wanted forgiveness? You wanted me to not hate you anymore? Congratulations, you got it. I don’t care about you anymore so I don’t have to hate you anymore.”
Elmo slumped to the floor as Julie ran out of the room, both of them crying.
“Hi, Billy”, Julie greeted as she got into the car and scooted to the other side to give space for Elmo. She couldn’t believe she was actually going to be in the same car and in the same backseat with Elmo for 30 minutes. It had been months since this happened. She remembered those days when every night, after their mall shows, dubbing sessions or shooting days, they would occupy the same seat in the van and just talk about anything, or play games on their gadgets, or fall asleep together. It seemed like a lifetime ago.
“Hi, Juls”, Billy greeted as he pulled away from the curb when he was sure the two had settled in the back seat.
“Hey, Juls, Moe”, Kevin, their other friend, greeted from the front passenger’s seat.
“Hi”, Julie replied briefly.
“Uy, pare. Kumusta?”, Elmo asked the two guys, leaning forward in the middle of their chairs. The three immediately began engaging in conversation, and Julie eventually tuned out, looking out the window. It seemed like this wouldn’t be too awkward after all, not if Elmo would talk to Billy and Kevin the whole time that they were on the trip.
“Oo, I got the new game expansion set”, Kevin was saying now.
Julie couldn’t help the small smile that played on her lips. She could remember the days, when they were shooting the movie, and Elmo would talk about nothing but his video games. She remembered pretending to know what he was talking about for the first week. Eventually, he figured her out and they started talking about other things.
“We need to pick up some things, first. Bilin ni Jen eh. Do you guys mind?”, Billy suddenly asked, turning towards the parking lot of a supermarket.
Elmo and Julie Anne both shook their heads.
When they were parked, Billy and Kevin immediately got out of the car. Elmo and Julie Anne were about to follow them but Billy stopped them.
“Juls, paantay nalang dito. Para may tao lang din dito sa kotse. We won’t take too long”, explained Billy.
Julie nodded, knowing how dangerous it is to leave your car unattended most of the time. She sat back on her chair and watched Elmo get out of the car on his side.
“Pare, sure ka iiwan natin mag-isa si Julie? Babae yan”, Kevin told him as he walked over to them.
That was all Elmo needed to hear before he realized that he needed to stay in the car, as well. Julie bit her lip as she watched Elmo walk over to his side of the car and get inside. He locked the doors and leaned back as well. A good 10 inches separated them and silence fell upon them for a few minutes before Elmo finally spoke up.
“Julie, sorry about… that first night in your apartment”, he said, looking at the back of the passenger’s seat, not meeting her eyes. It was a good thing he didn’t look at her, because she also wasn’t looking at him.
Julie sighed quietly and closed her eyes, trying to shut out her memory of that awful, awkward first night seeing each other again for the first time since they stopped talking to each other. Or rather, since Elmo stopped talking to her for some reason.
“I didn’t know what I was thinking. I should’ve… I don’t know exactly what I should’ve done, but I know I shouldn’t have surprised you like that. And…”
“Enough, Moe…I mean, Elmo. Enough, Elmo. It’s fine. I…it was awkward for the both of us. And I shouldn’t have been… Ah basta, Elmo. Please. Kalimutan na natin yun. Ayoko na pag-usapan”, Julie said, exasperated.
Silence once again.
“Bakit ka nga kasi talaga pumunta sa apartment ko nun?”, Julie suddenly asked, not looking at him.
“Bakit naman hindi? Eh syempre magkapitbahay na tayo nun. Parang mali naman na hindi kita i-welcome”, Elmo replied.
“Hmmm”, was all Julie said.
Elmo chanced a glance at her. “Galit ka pa rin ba sa akin?”, he asked.
Julie could feel his stare on her and did her best to look ahead, not wanting to meet his gaze, but wanting to meet it at the same time. She didn’t know exactly how to reply to his question. Was she still really mad at him? She believed so. But would it be so immature and selfish to hold on to her anger like this? She thought so. He had made mistakes in the past that she easily forgave. She had made mistakes in the past that he also easily forgave. But why couldn’t she let go of this one? She knew why: because it had hurt so much that the years of friendship they shared just stopped abruptly, without any obvious reason. It still significantly hurts. Not enough to be maimed by it every day, but enough to remind her just how hurt she had been those first months and how she wasn’t ready to trust in his attempts at friendship again.
“Siguro. Hindi ko alam eh. Parang oo.” It was a vague, if confusing answer. But that was how she felt right now: confused.
Silence fell between them.
“Bakit hindi mo ako kinausap ng ilang buwan?”
There. She said it. She didn’t know exactly why she just came out and said it, but it felt right to ask him at that moment. They were alone. This was probably the only time they would ever be alone. They both don’t have the guts to voluntarily be alone with each other for more than a few seconds, enough to talk about what happened. If she didn’t bring it up now, she knew she would never do it, and she just really wanted to know what happened to make his behavior towards her change, those months ago.
He wasn’t given a chance to answer, though, because at that moment, Billy and Kevin appeared a few feet ahead, carrying four grocery bags. Elmo turned to his door and was about to get out to help them, then turned back to Julie, knowing the question was still hanging in the air, between them.
“Sige na, Elmo. Tulungan mo na sila magbuhat”, she said, looking away, out the window again.
She heard the door close as he finally got out and it felt like that was the second closed door to the possibility of them getting their friendship back, the first door being the one she shut in his face on that first night in her apartment. Julie wasn’t sure how many closed doors they still had to have between them before they finally decide to give up on each other.
“Jen naman. Alam mo namang andun siya…”, Julie said meekly through the phone as she inserted the key to her apartment’s doorknob. She had just gotten off the elevator when her phone rang. It was her friend, Jenny, asking her to a party tonight. Julie would’ve instantly agreed. She hadn’t seen her friend for over a month, but the problem was…
“Eh ano naman kung nandun si Elmo? Andun naman ako. Tsaka, madami naman kakilala yun dun mamayang gabi. Di ka naman siguro gagambalain nun! Sige na, Juls! Tagal na natin hindi nagkita o”, Jen pleaded.
Julie sighed as she entered her apartment and closed the door behind her. She wanted to go to this party because most of her friends would be there. But the fact remained that Elmo would be there and she wasn’t sure just how ready she was to handle a whole night out with him in close proximity.
When she’d moved here, knowing that Elmo lived in the building, she thought she’d prepared herself enough for inevitable encounters. She’d spent months watching all of their videos together in hopes of desensitizing herself for what was to come: the awkwardness, the rush of emotions upon seeing him again for the first time in months, the unbearable hurt she would remember she’d been through after not hearing from him for a long time and the anger that would follow the hurt. She’d forced herself to feel all of those over and over again while reviewing their past videos, hoping to numb herself of them so that she won’t experience them anymore once she does see him.
But all of her mental preparations proved to be futile from day 1, when Elmo came into her apartment, claiming to see how she was doing. Everything she worked hard to bury deep inside of her came crashing down and bursting out, resulting to that harsh encounter. Her unexpected breakfast with him and Jean just served to break down her resolve even more; besides making her remember her hurt and anger, she was hit by the sadness of it all: how far she and Elmo have come, from spending almost everyday together in the past to being this close physically at present but being so far from each other emotionally. It had been 2 weeks since that breakfast but she can still feel the melancholic air that they both exhibited towards the end. She wasn’t sure if she could cope with another bout of that when she sees him at tonight’s party.
“Jen…”, she said now, exasperated as lay down on her bed and stared at the ceiling.
“Juls, please”, Jen pleaded. “Miss ka na ng barkada. Please.”
Julie sighed. She knew then that she couldn’t possible turn down her friend. Jen was right; it had been a long time since she saw her friends. What with the preparations for moving and her own preparations for her possible encounters with Elmo, she hadn’t been able to go out with them for months.
With an ounce of reluctance and a silent prayer that she would not regret this decision, she said, “Sige na nga.”
Even before she turned around, she knew who it was. She could never forget that voice. A voice she worked beside for years.
She was standing in front of her apartment building, waiting for her friend Billy, Jen’s boyfriend, to pick her up. Jen had told her this morning that Billy had already agreed to take Julie to the party since her building was close to where he lived. Julie had insisted on simply taking the cab, but Jen had insisted even more. She said it was the least she could do to repay Julie for agreeing to go to the party. Julie had felt bad that Jen would think it was a chore for her to agree to go so she hadn’t pushed the subject and simply agreed. Now, Billy was running a little late and Julie was dreading turning around at the sound of her name.
“Uy. Hi”, she replied as she finally turned to see Elmo standing outside the door to the building, dressed to go out. No doubt, to the party she was about to go to as well.
Elmo stood there for a while, not making a move to step forward, simply staring at Julie as if he was only seeing her for the first time. And it could be said that he was seeing her for the first time tonight; first time in two weeks that is. He hadn’t seen her since their breakfast with Jean.
“Hi. May lakad ka?”, he asked softly as he finally had the courage to step forward slowly, sidestepping Julie discreetly so that they weren’t standing too close to each other. While he wanted to be closer to her, he wasn’t sure how she would respond if he made a move to stand beside her. He didn’t think he could cope if she flinched or openly moved away.
Julie gave him a tight smile. “Oo. Hinihintay ko lang si…uhm, si Billy”, she said, her voice becoming smaller towards the end of her sentence. She suddenly remembered that Billy was one of Elmo’s close friends. In fact, Elmo was the one who had introduced Billy to Jen in one of Elmo’s house parties a few years ago. Telling him that Billy was coming to fetch her made her feel uneasy, especially since they have this gap between them right now. She felt as if she was stealing his friend somehow, even though it wasn’t she who had requested for him to fetch her.
“Susunduin ka din niya?”, asked Elmo, a note of surprise in his voice.
Confusion was etched in Julie’s face. “Din?”, she asked softly, before she was able to put the pieces together. A look of realization and anxiety crossed her face. “Susunduin ka din niya?”, she asked, unconsciously echoing Elmo’s earlier question.
At that moment, a black car pulled up in front of them and honked. Both Elmo and Julie recognized the car as Billy’s. But neither of them moved.
“Uhm, look, Juls, kung gusto mo, magtataxi nalang ako…”
“Wag na, Elmo. Andito na si Billy. Sayang lang yung magiging pamasahe mo”, Julie cut him off. What she really wanted to say was ‘Sige, Elmo. Kitakits nalang sa party’. But she didn’t. She wanted to be rid of this awkwardness between them. And if a 30-minute car ride together can be a stepping stone to that end point, then she would take it. She figured she’d probably outgrow this anxiety around him soon enough.
“Sigurado ka?”, Elmo asked hesitantly.
As a reply, Julie walked to the car and opened the back door.
“After you”, she said, trying to keep the mood light.
NOTE: Not my best work. But someone requested for a one-shot, and this is all I could muster after a 9-hr straight workday. Sorry :(
“Break na daw sila ah.”
Parang regalo sa akin yung mga salitang ito nung sabihin ni Ate sa akin nung kausap ko siya kagabi sa video call.
“Bakit naman ngiting ngiti ka dyan, hoy? Di mo ba naisip na baka malungkot yung kaibigan mo ngayon? Heartbroken siya, siyempre. Isang taon din sila nun, noh”, pagsaway niya sa akin.
Natawa ako. “Eh yun nga eh, nabulag siya dun sa ugok na yun ng isang taon.”
Inirapan ako ni Ate. “Loko ka, Moe, ha. Kahit pano naman minahal din niya yun. Tsaka anong feeling mo, ngayong hiwalay na sila, magiging kayo na? Manligaw ka muna uy.”
“Wow, ha. Salamat naman sa vote of confidence mo sa akin, Ate. Tsaka bakit hindi? Matagal na kaming magkakilala. Walang ibang mas nakakakilala sa kanya kesa sa akin. At ganun din naman na walang mas nakakakilala sa akin kung hindi siya”, sagot ko naman.
“Uy, nagdrama daw siya bigla? Hay naku, anong balak mo? Nandito siya sa Pilipinas, nandyan ka sa Amerika. Ano, uuwi ka para sa kanya?”, tanong niya sa akin na natatawa.
Hindi ko siya sinagot, siyempre. Ang hindi niya alam? Oo…oo ang sagot sa tanong niya.
“Basta ayoko na pag-usapan yung lalaking yun”, sambit ni Julie habang kausap ko siya sa video call pagkatapos ko tawagan si Ate kagabi. Pagsagot palang niya sa tawag ko, alam ko nang kakatapos lang niya umiyak. O baka talagang hindi pa tapos pero ayaw lang niyang makita ko kaya pinigilan niya. Yan kasi siya eh, ayaw niyang may nakakakitang mahina siya, kahit ako pa na matagal na niyang kakilala. Gusto niya lagi siyang mukhang matatag. Macho nga daw kasi siya.
“Pwede bang tanungin lang kung bakit nakipaghiwalay ka sa kanya?”, tanong ko.
Tinaasan niya ako ng kilay. “Sino naman nagsabing ako ang nakipag-break?”
“Hindi nga ba? Eh kasi, ang tanga naman niya kung siya ang mang-iiwan sayo. Not to mention, ang kapal naman ng mukha niya kung ganun”, sagot ko naman agad.
Natawa si Julie ng bahagya. “Sira ka talaga. Salamat naman sa suporta, friend, pero siya ang nakipaghiwalay sa akin. Hindi daw kami magwowork-out kasi mas bata daw ako sa kanya. Ulul niya, ang sabihin niya matagal na siyang may gusto dun sa bago niyang katrabaho. Buwisit yun”, sagot niya sa akin. Narinig ko ang bahagyang paghina at nginig ng boses niya sa bandang huli ng sinabi niya. Hindi ko na ito pinansin.
Umiling ako. “Ang kapal naman ng mukha niya para gawin yun sayo. Di bale, buti nalang lumabas yung tunay niyang kulay bago pa kayo nagtagal.”
Hindi na naming uli masyado pinag-usapan ang hiwalayan nila. Ang mahalaga, nasigurado ko nang pwede na uli si Julie. Oo, makasarili yung iniisip ko, pero kung ikaw ba, mabigyan uli ng bagong pagkakataon para maitama ang katangahan mo, hindi mo ba ito kukunin?
Ganito kasi yan. Si Julie at ako, matagal na kami magkakilala. Naging magkaklase kami nung elementary palang. Tapos, dahil malapit ang bahay naming sa school, at sila Julie ay malayo, sa tuwing merong event na ginagabi sa school, sa bahay nakikitulog yang si Julie. Syempre, hindi kami magkatabi. Tabi sila ni Ate Isa. Tapos nung papunta na kami ng high school, lumipat sila Julie sa village namin kaya mas naging malapit na naman kami.
Si Julie, napakaganda niyan. Kaya madaming nanliligaw. Pili lang ang nagiging boyfriend, pero ni minsan, hindi niya ako naging boyfriend. Bakit? Kasi torpe ako. Nakakatawa man aminin, pero totoo. Matagal ko na gusto yang si Julie, Grade 5 palang kami. Napansin agad ni Ate yun pero wala eh, talagang hindi ko siya kayang ligawan. Hindi ko kasi lubos maisip ano naman ang magiging pag-asa ko sa tulad niya?
Kaya ayun na nga, mula Grade 5 eh nasa tabi-tabi lang ako, pasulyap-sulyap. Laging sumbungan tungkol sa problemang boyfriend pero hindi nagiging boyfriend. Eh ganun talaga. Tinanggap ko na yung kapalaran kong yun noon pa.
Tapos, nung second year college kami, kinuha ako ni Papa dito sa Amerika. Hiwalay na kasi sila Mama at Papa. May sarili nang pamilya si Papa dito. Kinuha niya ako dito para siya ang magpaaral sa akin ng college. Noong una, ayoko. Pero kasi maganda yung music program na nahanap ni Papa, eh yun talaga ang gusto kong kunin, kaya napapayag din ako.
Nung araw na hinatid ako ng pamilya ko at ni Julie sa airport para umalis, humagulgol si Julie at yinakap niya ako ng sobrang tagal na para bang ayaw na niya akong bitawan. Dun ko naisip na, “Teka, baka naman may pag-asa ako dito”, kaso siyempre huli na kasi aalis na ako. Kaya sinabi ko sa sarili ko, paguwi ko sa summer vacation, aamin na ako kay Julie.
Kaso, sa malas ko, may boyfriend na si Julie nung unang summer na umuwi ako. Nung sumunod na summer na paguwi ko naman, mayroon pa din. At nitong nakaraang summer lang na paguwi ko, yun na nga, boyfriend niya yung ngayon ay ex-boyfriend na niya.
Tatlong summer na yung pinalipas ko. Dadagdagan ko pa ba?
“Basta pumunta ka sa airport bukas please?”, paki-usap ko kay Julie.
Mahigit isang buwan na simula nung nagbreak sila ng dati niyang boyfriend. Simula nung araw na tinawagan ko siya para makibalita tungkol sa kanila, nung araw na namumugto ang mata niya, may mga ibang naging tawagan at usapan na din kami. Araw-araw naman din kasi kami nag-uusap niyan. Kahit madaling araw na dito, tinatawagan ko pa din yan pag hiniling niya. Hindi ko naman matitiis yan eh.
“Siguro dadating ka bukas noh?”, dagdag niya, sabay ngiti na para bang nasabik siya sa ideya na yun.
Natawa ako. “Julie, alam ko namimiss mo na ako pero diba kalagitnaan ng semester ngayon? Paano naman kaya ako uuwi?”, tukso ko sa kanya.
Nayamot siya at inirapan ako. “Sorry naman kung excited ako makita kaibigan ko noh. Eh teka, ano gagawin ko ba sa airport bukas?”, tanong niya uli.
“May padala kasi ako para kay Ate at kay Mama, kaso walang pwedeng kumuha nun bukas kasi pareho silang may lakad. Sige na, please?”, pakiusap ko uli.
Nagpanggap si Julie na para bang isang napakabigat na Gawain ito para sa kanya. Pero sa totoo lang, hindi din naman ako matiis nito minsan. “Sige na nga”, sagot niya sa akin, bahagyang pinahaba ang huling salita na para bang napipilitan lang siya.
“Salamat! The best ka talaga!”, sagot ko naman.
Alam ko dapat inaantok ako ngayon, lalo na’t iba ang oras ng Pilipinas sa oras ng Amerika. Dapat inaantok ako dahil napagod ako sa biyahe. Pero paano ka aantukin kung ang pagkakataong makuha mo ang gusto mo eh nasa harapan mo na?
Kanina pa ako dumating dito sa airport, exactly 28 hours simula noong huli kong nakausap si Julie sa video call.
Nagsinungaling ako sa kanya kagabi. Wala akong padala. Hindi busy sila Mama at Ate. Ang katotohanan niyan, kanina ko pa din sila kasama dito sa airport. Sinundo nila ako. Kasi, oo, umuwi ako para kay Julie. Kalagitnaan nga ng semester, pero dahil isang subject lang ang kinukuha ko ngayon, isang beses lang sa isang linggo ang pasok ko. Kaya pwedeng pwede ako umuwi ng ilang araw. Kahit kaunting araw lang yan, kukunin ko kung si Julie naman ang magiging kapalit ng pag-aabsent ko at pagod ko sa biyahe.
Kinakabahan ako. Gagana kaya ang plano ko? Sa mahigit isang buwan nang nakalipas simula nung naging single si Julie, hindi niya na uli nabanggit ang ex-boyfriend niya. At mukha naming masaya siya. Pwede naman na siguro naming subukang kami naman?
“Andyan na siya”, bulong ni Ate mula sa tabi ko.
Tumango ako nang nakita kong pumasok si Julie sa revolving doors sa first floor ng airport. Umalis si Ate sa tabi ko at bumaba para salubungin si Julie, hawak ang isang kahon. Sa loob ng kahon na iyon, may sulat.
Sorry kung nagsinungaling ako kahapon. Sorry din kung natagalan ako masyado.
Pinanood ko silang dalawa, si Julie nagulat sa pagkakakita niya kay Ate. Bakit nga naman hindi siya magugulat eh sinabi ko nga naman sa kanya na busy si Ate ngayon. Kaya nga siya dapat ang kukuha ng “padala” ko. Pinanood kong binuksan niya ang box at inilabas ang scroll na naglalaman ng liham ko. Bago pa man niya ito mabuksan, lumapit sa akin sa Mama. Tinignan ko siya.
“Bababa na din ako. Bahala ka na dito”, sabi niya.
Tumango ako at tumingin uli kay Julie. Nabasa na niya ang liham ko at kausap niya si Ate. Kitang-kita ko ang pagtataka sa mukha niya. Si Ate naman, ngumingiti lang.
Maya maya pa, si Mama naman ang lumapit sa kanila. May hawak din siyang kahon. May liham din sa loob.
Alam ko naguguluhan ka ngayon, pero ako hindi. Wala nang ibang bagay sa buhay ko na mas sigurado kesa dito.
Hindi ko na hinintay ang pagbubukas ni Julie sa kahon. Tumalikod na ako at pumunta sa kuhaan ng padala. Sinabihan ko sila Mama na huwag sasabihin kay Julie na umuwi ako. Basta sabihin lang nila na may kukunin siyang padala.
Habang hinihintay ko si Julie dun, bumilis ang tibok ng puso ko at bigla akong nagdalawang-isip. Paano kung masira ang pagkakaibigan namin dahil dito? Higit sa lahat, yun ang kinakatakot ko. Hindi na ako natatakot na ma-reject dahil kung tutuusin, matagal ko nang nakondisyon ang sarili ko dun. Pero yung epekto nito sa amin ni Julie bilang magkaibigan, yun ang hindi ko matatanggap kung dahil lang ditto eh mawawala lahat ng pinagsamahan namin.
Bago pa man ako makaisip na umalis at tumakas, nakita ko sa malayo na naglalakad si Julie, hawak ang dalawang liham ko, binabasa uli ang mga ito, nakakunot ang noo.
Pinapawisan na ako.
Naglalakad pa din siya.
Nasusuka na ako sa nerbyos.
Malapit na siya.
Kailangan ko yata muna magbanyo.
Ayan na siya.
Bigla siyang tumingin pataas at nakita ko ang mabilis na pagbabago ng mukha niya: pagtataka dahil sa mga liham, bahagyang pangingilala nang una niya akong makita, pagkagulat, pagkatapos ay tuwa.
“Hoy, Elmo!”, sigaw niya, sabay takbo papunta sa akin.
Pinagtinginan kami ng mga tao, pero yan si Julie. Pag masaya siya, masaya siya. Wala siyang pakialam na madaming nakatingin.
Mahigpit niya akong niyakap at narinig kong bigla siyang humikbi. Umiiyak siya? Sa harap ng ibang tao?
“Sssh, wag kang umiyak”, bulong ko sa kanya. Niyakap ko din siya ng mahigpit.
Hindi pa din siya bumitaw sa pagkakayakap niya sa akin. “Eh kasi naman eh…ikaw…sinungaling ka…sabi ko na…eh kasi…ikaw talaga! Kasi naman!” Hindi na niya halos masabi ang gusto niyang sabihin dahil sa tuwa, na ikinatuwa ko din naman. Ibig sabihin namiss din niya ako!
“O tama na, tama na. Oo, sinungaling na ako, sorry na”, sagot ko.
Dahan-dahan na siyang bumitaw at agad pinunasan ang luha niya. Nang magkatinginan kami uli, natawa siya ang sinuntok ako sa braso. “Bakit di mo sinabing uuwi ka?”, tanong niya, sabay hikbi.
Natawa ako. “Pwede naman siguro surprise diba?”
Natawa siya. “Hay, naku ka. Ilang araw ka dito? Kailangan pumasyal tayo! Magkita-kita tayo nila—-“
Pinutol ko ang pagsasalita niya. “Julie, shhh”, sabi ko. Nang tumigil siya, kinuha ko ang kamay niya at huminga ng malalim.
“Huy, anong nangyayari sayo?”, tanong niya sa akin, pero nakita kong may pag-aalinlangan sa boses niya. Na para bang gusto niyang malaman ang sagot sa tanong niya, pero parang ayaw din niya malaman dahil baka hindi niya kayanin ang magiging sagot.
Huminga ako uli ng malalim bago tuluyang nagsalita.
“Matagal na kitang gusto Julie. Mga bata pa lang tayo. Uhugin pa tayo nun. Naka-brace ka pa nun. Naka-pigtails. Uso pa Backstreet Boys at N*Sync. Wala pang Justin Bieber nun, pero gusto na kita. Cliché man tong sasabihin ko pero hindi ako umamin sayo dahil bestfriends tayo at ayokong masira yun. Tsaka, ang ganda ganda mo eh. Sino ba naman ako para magustuhan mo? Ilang taon kong tinago ito. Ilang taon kong kinimkim. Ilang taon akong tumahimik at tumabi sa sulok habang sinasaktan ka ng mga naging boyfriend mo. Galit ako sa kanilang lahat dahil hindi ka nila pinahalagahan. At itong huli, ito yung nagtulak sa akin para umamin na sayo. Ayoko na uling maiwan ng pagkakataon. Ayoko na uling may lalaking mananakit sayo. Hindi ka dapat sinasaktan. Napakabait mong tao para mapunta lang sa isang lalaking hindi marunong mag-alaga. Ako, matagal na kitang inaalagaan. Kahit alam kong wala akong pag-asa sa iyo, andito padin ako, laging nakaabang para tulungan ko o alalayan ka sa tuwing may lalaki na naming pumilay sayo. Sa tuwing nasasaktan ka, nasasaktan ako. Sa tuwing masaya ka sa boyfriend mo, masaya din naman ako, pero nasasaktan din. Pero nanaig yung pagiging kaibigan ko, kaya hindi ko pinakita yun lahat sayo kasi ayokong tumigil ka sa pangangailangan mo sa akin. Kasi parang yun yung lifeline ko eh. Parang yun yung role ko sa buhay, at yun yung role na gusto kong gampanan habang-buhay. Gusto ko pag masaya ka, ako yung dahilan. Gusto ko pag malungkot ka, ako ang dadamay sayo. Gusto ko magkasama tayo sa pagtupad ng mga pangarap natin, hindi lang bilang magkaibigan lang. Alam ko, masyado pa siguro maaga para manligaw, at kung ganun man, bibigyan kita ng oras pa. Pero gusto ko lang malaman mo na mahal na mahal kita, at hindi ko na mababago yun. Ang nais ko na lang ngayon eh mabago yung tingin mo sa akin, mula sa pagiging kaibigan lang.”
Tahimik siya pagkatapos ko sabihin lahat ng iyon. Para akong nabunutan ng tinik nung ibinubuhos ko ang nararamdaman ko. Pero ngayon naman, parang mas malaking tinik yung nalunok ko sa paghihintay sa sasabihin niya.
Maya maya pa, ngumiti siya at pinitik ako sa ilong.
“Bakit kasi ang tagal tagal mo gumalaw? Ang tagal tagal na din kaya kitang hinihintay,” sambit niya.
Eto na yun. Sa wakas, nakuha ko na yung isa pang pagkakataon ko para makuha ko ang gusto ko. Bibitawan ko pa ba?
Niyakap ko siya ng mahigpit ng mga oras na iyon at pinagdasal kong sana hindi na matapos ang araw. Sana doon nalang kami habang-buhay, magkayakap, masaya, dahil sa wakas, tapos na kaming maghintay para sa isa’t isa.