Certain places in the city never catch my attention and make an impact — like the crowded stretch of a boulevard or the blinking signal of traffic lights. I consider them ordinary, the way most people do, and recognize them as merely a part of the overall rhythm of the life force that drives and moves the city.
But when I stepped out of my door that night, about three nights ago, it was as if the landscape of the whole city changed in a fraction of a second, completely and permanently leaving a mark, sealing my fate for all time.
Clad in a rosy sweater, tight-fitting jeans, and a pair of Vans, I barged into the almost sleeping streets of Manila, armed with only my flimsy courage and my colossal anticipation of finally seeing him again, after what seemed like an eternity of estrangement and disconnection.
I remember being so terrified of the world, being so blinded by the glittering glow of the orange street lights along España Boulevard. I remember the luminescence from the glossy skin of speeding cars and I remember the striking slap of loneliness within me when I caught a glimpse of my reflection and realized I do not know myself anymore.
I scanned the place with my squinting eyes and searched for him in the streets, as far away as my eyes could take me. I waited for a second or two, and when I finally looked up again, I began to see a familiar silhouette walking from across the other side of the street, toward my direction.
His face emerged from the blackness of the night like salvation. He held out both of his hands to meet mine, and when he flashed that old familiar smile that I know so well, I began to feel the violent tide of time closing in upon us, mending all the years that we’ve lost.
We roamed the streets of Manila in the middle of the night like two restless ghosts in search of human flesh. The entire city is dark and dead, reeking of silence and commercial waste.
We took a cab to take us to the bay. At midnight, the bay almost looked like a haunting mirror portal into a brave new world. The weather was gloomy and the clouds were heavy with rain and sleep. The waves crashed angrily across the pavement and the air was a strange blend of midnight mist and garbage. The cruisers across the horizon sit silently in an eternal standstill, emitting faint lights from the distance.
We talked about everything, as words began to span the past and the present. We remembered what we were once: two lost college kids, sitting side by side and trying to make sense of the world. Halfway through the night, the rain started to pour. We ran with our hands above our heads as we hurried to cross the other side of Roxas Boulevard to seek shelter. As we ran, I caught a glimpse of him from the corner of my eyes, looking and smiling at me with what felt like all the happiness in the world.
He said he was happy to see me. He said he never felt something so good in such a long time. The soft city lights showered upon his dreamy face and in that moment, I felt all the good feelings in the world coming together as one.
Certain places in the city never catch my attention and make an impact. But from this point forward, I don’t think I can ever think about these boulevards, these street lights, these points of encounter, without ever remembering that smile, that glint in his gentle eyes. Looking back, I could only think about how much I want to build a monument at that exact spot in the intersection where I first met him again and forever consider that place sacred.
We parted ways at daybreak. He held out his hand and bid his farewell. His eyes welled with bliss and sleeplessness. I walked the steps back home, thinking what kind of a beautiful dream it was.
But that dream didn’t last long. I was soaked with rain and emotions. I was feeling ten million feelings all at once. The reverie of my lost youth, the irretrievable sliver of the past, the missed chances for love and friendship — all of them crashed upon me as forcefully as the imminent truth that I am happy and hurting still at the same time.
You see, I actually believed that after this encounter, I could finally begin to heal and to put to rest the phantoms of my past. But I was so naive to think that things could actually work as easily as that.
I could try to ignore the fact that certain things do not matter to me anymore and to play numb against the enduring call in my head to not rush and dive into the purple ocean of his heart. But I am helpless every single time, powerless even to protect myself from all of my assumptions.
He told me he would try his best to not fuck this up, that he would try to stay, this time around. He asked me if I was ready to let him come into my life once again. But how do you answer questions like that really? Questions that already assume answers, questions that no longer demand answers because the answers are already embedded in the spaces between what I know and what I want.
I was cursed by the Universe with a heart that only ever knows how to love you.
I lay my head on my pillow and closed my eyes tightly, shutting away the light of the rising sun by the window. The memory of that night burned into my memory and lulled me into a trance. For the first time in forever, I clutched my hands together and asked for healing, for the strength to forget the pain of it all.
Sleep fell upon me like a blanket of death, slowly and softly enveloping my jagged consciousness.
I don’t ever want to wake up from this dream again.