In celebration of Single Appreciation Day (originally Valentines’ day), and in tune with my much-awaited DepEx detox, I present to you this short story that I have long been contemplating on. I hope that it reaches your heart and inspires you in line with the “festivities.”
Midnight. Living Room. I was browsing the channels on our TV, bored and not knowing what to do, even if I was pretty sure I was supposed to be asleep. In a few minutes I ascended the stairs and prepared to sleep. Just as I finished my prayers and unfolded my blankets, a text flashed on my phone’s LCD: 1 New Message.
"Hi! Gising ka pa? Di mo naman kailangan magreply. Gusto ko lang remind yung bukas. Uhm, 10.30 ah, sa Jollibee Kalaw, ako na bahala from there. Haha. Sige, tulog mahimbing, See you. :)"
I was supposed to reply, “Di ka naman excited?” but what the hey.
"Ate, Shishing na." (Gising na)
Had the above statement been replaced by the sound of an alarm or the trigger of my reticular activating system, surely I would not have gotten up. But it was hard to ignore such a cute wake-up call. It was my little cousin, Baby Dana. At two, she has an incredible ability to converse fluently beyond her years. She’s been quite a chatterbox now, never lasting 30 minutes not talking. She just has to say something, even if it means asking where she is.
Anyway, it was my cousin who woke me from my slumber. I reached for my phone and discovered it was 7AM. I would have opted to get back to sleep, but my aunt remarked, “O, ligo na ‘te. Ma-late ka pa.”
Oo nga pala. I nearly forgot. I went to the closet and hastily chose my wardrobe. My other cousin,two months older than I am, came in and helped me out. We pulled out a skirt I wore last New Year. Realizing red would be the color of the day, we chose my black blouse. Black also lost me excess weight. :D
With bath, dress-up and powder out of the way, I descended to take my breakfast. To my delight, it was my favorite, broccoli omolette. As more of my family came for breakfast, I heard the expected teases.
"Naku, may date yan ngayon."
"Wala. It’s not a date."
I quickly loaded my shoulder bag with my necessities, almost forgetting to bring my comb. My aunt stopped me on the way out. She pulled out her special perfume that she uses for special occasions. She sprayed it all over my body. My cousin arrived and declared her intent on fixing my hair. Ate Melissa is a maestro at things like these so I trusted my crowning glory to her.
I bade everyone goodbye and stepped out of our gate. I checked my watch and discovered it was 9:00 AM. I hailed a tricycle upon exiting our subdivision. When I got in, I looked directly at my reflection in the tricycle. My cousin did a good job. I had slight curls that masked my unmanageable hair and a cute clip somewhere on the side.
In no time, I was at the highway waiting for a bus. When I got on the bus. I quickly took the farthest seat at the back near the window, my favorite spot. It wasn’t so crowded in the bus today, maybe because it was a Sunday. But still, I expected a lot more to be traveling. After all, it’s Valentines’ Day.
As soon as I paid my fare, I leaned my forehead on the window, staring at the traffic and metropolis scene on the other side. My mind began wandering, particularly on the reason I was even going to Manila today, on a Sunday, and more so, on Hearts’ Day. How did it go again?
We started talking thru text. It’s been a long time since I had a text mate. Before I knew it, he had met my entire family from various occasions. Next, I was surprised to get down to breakfast one morning to see him smiling in the living room. What surprised me all the more is that my family was OK with it. Apparently, he had contacted them and asked for permission. Knowing my family, that was quite an achievement.
On that visit, he asked permission to take me out today. And there I was. On the bus, on the way to meet him.
I had no idea at all what to feel. It never started like anything special, or at least I did not take it that way. I did not even notice the subtle hints he left along the way, if any. Somehow the usual kilig feelings weren’t there either. I was lost in a kaleidoscope. No idea where I would go. No idea what I was doing.
Bus trips are fortunately or unfortunately quick on Sundays. At least I didn’t need to wait long, but then I had to find a way to kill time. For some reason, all my past dates/pseudodates saw me always waiting for the guy. I have a tendency to become extremely early, so I always take the burden of waiting.It was still 10AM. 30 minutes to kill.
When I stepped into the fast food, I scanned the area for the least populated area and chose a seat near the window. I stared outside, expecting to see him walking towards the entrance. This was when a soft touch alarmed me from behind.
"Uy, di mo ako nakita?"
I was shocked to see him right behind me. “Andito ka na?”
"Uhmm, mga 20 minutes ago pa lang. Eto naman. Di ko nga napansin eh. Haha."
"Aga mo naman.Haha. Ano, order na tayo?"
He looked puzzled. “Hm? Hindi kaya tayo rito.”
Why would he want to meet here if we weren’t eating here? “Eh saan tayo maglu-lunch?” Di ba niya ako papakainin?
"Meeting place lang kasi tayo rito. Dun tayo sa may Rizal Park. Haha. Ayaw ko lang naman na maghintay ka lang sa labas, delikado na."
Na-touch at na-weirduhan ako at the same time. Haha. I followed nevertheless. As we walked, I noticed a paper bag with him but hesitated asking him what was in. I let my curiosity run wild.
We chose a spot near Lapu-Lapu. Haha. I just watched him as he unfolded a blanket, brought out tupperwares and tumblers. Picnic? An internal audience in me just had to say “Awwww.”
"Oh, upo ka na." He smiled. I followed, "Grabe naman paghahanda mo. Di ko ineexpect."
"Haha. Ayoko kasi binibili lang lahat."
"Niluto mo to lahat?"
"Oo, tapos tinulungan ako ni Mama. Sabi ko kasi special day ngayon."
Skeptical, I asked, “Eh di marami na kayong napagluto ng Mama mo.”
"Hindi rin. Sa pamilya siguro. Pero for my dates, this is the first time."
"Weh? Bola yan eh."
"Hindi nga. Dati kasi, like you expected, I just take my dates to restaurants and fast foods. Kita kami, order, bayad, usap. Minsan sine. Ganun lang."
"So bakit iba ngayon?"
"Ewan ko. I just feel like those things won’t be enough anymore."
Ayun na naman ang internal audience.
I would have loved to narrate the conversation we had word per word. I’m usually good at memorizing conversations. But at the moment, words and memory fail me. It’s either I spent too much time laughing or too much time listening. All I know was that I had a great time. He was a superb cook. His adobo, rice and mango float - all my favorites- were so delicious.
It was 12:30 PM when we finished our meal. I helped him pack up and and was prepared to leave. Ang bilis lang pala.
"Uy, thank you ngayon. Ang saya," I said, preparing to leave.
"Your welcome," was all he said, smiling. I noticed how perfect his teeth were.
"Sige, alis na ako."
"Bakit? Uwi ka na?"
"Oo, diba tapos na?"
He laughed and passed his arm around my shoulder. “Excited kang umuwi ah. May pupuntahan pa tayo.Tara. “
I followed with extreme curiosity. In a few moments. I saw a kalesa complete with a white horse. “Oh my gosh. Ang tagal ko nang di nakakasakay rito,” I exclaimed with my hands cupping my face.
He helped me aboard the kalesa and continued explaining how he got Kuya Kalesa to take me out today. In a few moments, he asked me to wear a blindfold.
"Basta. Magugustuhan mo ito. Swear."
Sige na nga, I said to myself. I need not worry, anyway. I trusted him, and the dark trip wasn’t that long or scary, especially when he said, “Wag ka mag-alala, kung gusto mo makita yung scenery magkakalesa pa tayo pag uwi.”
Finally, he helped me remove the blindfold. “Ayan, go.”
I was speechless. He took me to a place I hadn;t been to for a long time.
"Ayaw mo ba?"
Of course gusto ko. Museo Pambata has been a huge part of my childhood. I was always a frequent here and it was one of my favorite places to visit with my family. I never expected him to take me here, but I was really happy he did. Excitement made me get off the kalesa and head for the entrance.
Again, narrating our trip would have been long and fun, but I find no words to describe how much fun I had. We visited replicas of caves, churches and forests. We explored the solar system. We stepped on gigantic piano keys. We played dentist. We played dress-up as firefighters. We studied different anatomical parts of the body. We went up and down the mini houses and in and out of bahay kubos. I hadn’t had so much fun in so long.
After exploring, we got out and played tag on the playground outside and went up and down the slide. He brought me back to my old self, the me as a child, who loved to play around and explore, without a care in the world.
As he promised, we rode the Kalesa back and I was given a chance to admire the scenery. It was already around 5:00PM and I was wondering why my family didn’t text. When he noticed my anxiety, he remarked, “Tinext ko na sila. Don’t worry.” Napangiti na lang ako.
We went back to our picnic spot earlier, where I said, “O, don’t tell me may surprise ka pa.”
"Last na. Promise. Haha." His brown eyes twinkled. "Pikit ka."
I closed my eyes not knowing what to expect, then I felt him pulling my right hand. Then there was a sensation of a leathery, rough stick. Flowers perhaps? He placed my left hand over the long stick. “Open.”
For the fourth time, he surprised me.
"Ayaw mo ba? Uhm, ikaw kasi naisip ko nung nakita ko yan, diba favorite color mo yan."
I was right, he did give me a flower, a rose. It could have been an ordinary red one, but the one he gave me was different. It was a blue rose. A rose I have long waited to receive. It was a gift I inwardly believed to be a sign of something special, something out of the box, since blue roses weren’t natural. The thing is, I only told this secret superstition to close friends. Though we were relatively close, I never mentioned this to him, which made me all the more happier. As if involuntarily, I wrapped my arms around him in gratitude and said, “Thank you talaga. You don’t know how happy you made me.”
He hugged back, caressed my hair and whispered, “Glad you liked it, I love you.”
I’ve heard this before.
But it I never felt this special.This time, in the middle of the park, where other couples were plenty, I felt safe and secure. Some time in that embrace, streetlights might have brightened the twilight, just like in the movies, but I was too happy to notice. I realized how superficial such things were compared to his warm embrace. I thank God I was with him.
We hailed a bus back to Cavite and I was expecting to wave goodbye, but he followed me on board. I did not mind. I had fun all the way home. We never stopped talking or laughing. Our conversations just went from one topic to another. It was like being lost but still knowing where you’re going, trusting that you have someone with you.
He accompanied all the way to my house, where we were welcomed by the tease committee. He had dinner with us, divulging as little of our date as he could. Around 8:00PM, he left.
Before going to bed, around midnight, I sent him a message:
"Hi! Sorry medyo delayed na to. Thank you ngayon. Di ko ineexpect na ganito kasaya yung araw. Salamat sa lunch, sa kalesa ride, sa museo pambata, sa habulan at sa blue rose. Di ko makakalimutan ang araw na ito. Goodnight."
Unlike me, he replied.
"Wala yun. I’m glad you enjoyed. Masarap pakinggan na masaya ka. Sana ganyan ka lagi. Ngiti lagi. Thank you rin at pumayag ka sa araw na ito. Di ko rin to makakalimutan, kahit kailan. At sana, maulit pa ito. Sige. Goodnight din sayo. :D"
"Ate, Shishing na."
I opened my eyes to see my cousin. I reached out for my phone, expecting it to be February 15. To my surprise, it was 7AM of Feb 14. How come? Did my calendar stop? Were me settings tampered? What happened?
It was quite long before I realized it was just a dream. But still, it was a dream I would never forget, It was a dream date. A date I shared with a guy whose name I do not know. It’s quite funny that I dreamt it on this day. Out of desperation? I’d like to think not.
I believe I dreamt this dream with hope and love in my heart; hope that dreams like this still exist, and guys like him are still alive, out there, waiting, and love for the guy who would one day take me on this date and love me for who I am, unconditionally and selflessly. Ladies and gentlemen, this was the story of the date that never was, and the girl who still believes that one day, it will. Maybe not in the same manner, maybe not on the same day, maybe not in a way anyone would expect. But one day, it will. One day.