It’s all I know.
“So… This is goodbye?”
No, this isn’t. No, this’ll never be. My mind started to encode the words, waiting to be spoken. But instead I moved my head to gesture a no.
I love Jasmine. I really do. She was smart and beautiful inside-out. Her eyes told me the existence of something real. Her smile promised rainbows after heavy rains. Her laughter sang melodies in the midst of my noisy life. Her touch never lets me feel alone in this lonely world. That she was there. She’d be just there.
Of all people, she understands me the most. She’s patient and uncomplaining. I receive no pressure from her. She doesn’t nag, or pester, or irk with issues big or small. But I can hear her cry in my mind, because she never cried and probably will never cry with me around.
And above all, she loves me more than any girl has made me feel, and probably no girl will ever do.
But I’ve made a mistake. I took her for granted. I intentionally forgot to say how beautiful she was, or how much I wanted to look into her eyes, or how much I long for her touch, or how much I miss her, or how much I love her. Instead, I said the right words, which should have been to her, to another girl.
And if she’s asking me now if I’d let everything between us go, if she’s asking me if I’d throw it all away, of course I’ll say no. And saying it should be easy. It was supposed to be easy.
She took a deep sigh. “What are you going to do now?”
“I don’t know…”
“You see, I don’t want to make things difficult for you. But, David, you have to choose.”
I looked at her, not knowing what to say. Or maybe I know, but I just don’t know how. Or maybe I just don’t know anything at all.
“Okay,” she said, walking past me. “I’ll wait. I’m not going to force you to decide tonight.”
She stopped, and looked back at me. Tears were forming from her eyes. “But if ever you choose her, tell me,” she reached out and touched my shoulder, “I’ll let you go.”
I saw a tear ran down her cheek before she turned away.
“Jasmine…” I called out to her, begging not to leave. I reached out my hand, wanting to touch her and feel her in my arms.
“Who’s Jasmine?” a girl to my right said, “That’s Angel Locsin! Her character’s name is Grace,” she sounded irritated, “who’s Jasmine?”
“Uhh… Yeah. Right. Grace. The characters’ names are just confusing. Don’t know who’s who.” I lied. She, then, looked back at the wide movie screen.
Bah, what a boring movie. I don’t like movies like this. I had chosen Resident Evil, with all the zombies and guns and blood. But this girl, for God knows who, insisted we watch this movie.
I heard her sobbing. “Oh my… GOSH! She’s going to lose her child.” Then she hugged my right arm and cried harder.
Oh, darn it, I thought. How did I come to this place?
“Uhh, wait…” I said, an idea came into my mind, “I need to pee.”
“Oh,” she let go of my arm, black streams of tears ran down her face, “okay.”
I stood up and headed to the cinema exit. I let out a sigh of relief, swearing that in no way am I getting back there.
I looked at my right sleeve. It was wet and black and dirty. But I took my attention away from it. What’s important now is to get away from this place. I headed right away to the mall’s exit door, and rushed my way out.
I walked to my apartment. The road was not too hot. Large trees shaded the pavement, and the wind blew gently against my face. And it was not very noisy. One, two… three cars went past me.
Giggles and laughter started to come to my ears as I headed a small park just across the street. Two… three more cars.
I remembered how the afternoon wind blew her hair away from her face when I brought her by the nearby seashore, how the afternoon sun shone on her lovely face, how her brown eyes almost defeated the afternoon sun’s brightness, how her smile made the time stood still, how her presence said it all.
Everything could have been perfect then. Her with me, it could have stayed that way.
It was more than four years ago when I last saw her. It was more than four years ago and, right now, the memories were coming back to me—all at once. And now she was there… in the park. She was sitting alone on a bench, wearing a knee-length short-sleeved floral dress, and half of her hair was clipped back. She leaned both her hands on the bench, and swung her crossed feet.
It was her. I could swear to God that it was her. Or was I starting to see things that should not be there?
Nevertheless, I approached her as time paused like it did before. My mind says I run to her, get myself to be near her fast, but my feet seemed to be so heavy. My eyes were locked on her, afraid she’ll poof if I blink.
She smiled, straightened her back and placed her feet flat on the ground. She made a wide smile and reached out her hands as a little boy in blue shirt and jeans came running towards her.
My feet seemed to get heavier that instant. My heart skipped every second beat. The afternoon dimmed all of a sudden.
I moved a little more slowly. Was she married? If yes, just… just when? Who was the man? For God’s sake, who was the lucky man?
The boy raised his hands up as Jasmine took off his shirt. She grabbed a small towel from her bag and wiped the boy’s forehead and back. She grabbed the bottle of powder, poured some on her hands and wiped it on him. The boy raised his hands up again, and Jasmine wore him a white shirt.
What would it be like if I was there? What would it be like if I was beside Jasmine, grabbing the things she needed from the bag and giving it to her? What would it be like if we shared the same smiles as we listen to the child tell stories of who he played with, what they played, and how they played it?
She looked so happy while she hugged and tickled the boy in her arms. It was a perfect picture of love that I thought I might burn it if I come any closer.
“Hey, you!” I looked to my left. A man, fat and angry, beeped and had his head out of his car window. He shouted, “Die some other place! Get out of the way!”
Why don’t you just hit me hard and run? I took some steps forward, and the car zoomed away behind me.
I looked back to where Jasmine was sitting. I wanted to see if her husband, if ever there really was, was just around to buy some hotdogs and balloons. Or if he would come any minute in a car to pick them up and bring them home. Or if he just went to the comfort room and would arrive any minute to carry the bag for her.
I wanted to know… but they were gone. She was gone.
“I won’t go anywhere, don’t worry,” she said, giggling.
“I know,” I said, and squeezed her hand firmly—more firmly than I ever did.
It was a cloudless night. The stars were like the sun powdered in pieces, scattered on the dark sky. The wind is chilly against my skin; the dewy grass complemented the coldness in the air. We were lying, feeling all these, fighting it all away.
Her skin touched mine, and I felt a sudden shock of warmth run through my veins across my freezing body. I looked at her, only to find her eyes already fixed on me. And the stars seemed to come down from the silent night sky to her gaze.
This night’s going to be memorable, indeed. Just letting the night pass without speaking, just letting it pass with gentle gestures, just us next to each other.
She sat up without letting go of my hand, without looking back at me. I sat up, feeling the urge to do so too.
She looked at me, at last, as if asking why I sat up and that I could stay lying. I let go of my hand from her grip and reached for her face.
“What?” she asked, finding my action unusual and absurd. But she knew I wouldn’t answer. She knew me too well to wait for one.
I brushed her hair away from her face, and touched her with both hands. I leaned forward; my world zooming closer in slow motion. I leaned unhurriedly, carefully. This could only be just one moment, so I’m trying my best not to rush it out, to savour every sensation. Anyway, she’ll only just be there, unmoving and warm in my hands. She’ll only be just there, real and true.
I closed my eyes as I felt her hot breath against my face, sending all the surviving chills to fading. I am ready, she was ready.
‘Ready, set, go! It’s time to run. The sky is changing, we are one!’ My eyelids jerked from the sunlight passing through the window covered with curtains.
Darn it, I swore. I’ve got to change the tone, or I won’t get any rest from now on.
I reached for my phone on the bedside to my right, swearing a little more for disturbing the peace I rarely had since that afternoon by the park.
I’m giving my best to forget it, to convince myself that it was all a pigment of my long-corrupted imagination. I admit that I badly want to see her and to hear her voice again. Even if all I’d see are frowns and angry expressions. Even if all I’d hear are shouts and foul words. Even if all she’ll welcome me with all the things I deserve.
I pressed the answer key and put the phone on my ear without bothering to know who it was. I wouldn’t be Jasmine, for sure, anyway. It would just be some girl I left in the restaurant to pay the bill, or the client I had an overdue workload with, or some wrong-number calls.
Concluded in Part 2.