“I can see it now,” she said, pointing excitedly to the sky.
Outside their house was a grassy area where they spread their blanket to sit on. The smell of the earthen fragrance from the dew on the grass and the chilly wind sent shivers down their skin that they made themselves smaller in their jackets.
It was 2:30 in the morning of June 24. Yesterday, they heard the news about the planetary alignment that was said to be a rare phenomenon and they purposely woke up early just to get the perfect spot for stargazing.
“Are you sure that’s it?” he asked hesitantly. “I think those are just dust in the heavens.”
“Well, I can’t blame you if you don’t have microscopic eyes like mine,” she teased as she stretched her hands to the horizon, as if trying to hold the universe in her hands.
“If you say wearing glasses means having microscopic eyes, then that’s a lie.”
She lowered her glasses and raised her eyebrow to confront his sarcasm. He didn’t mind her. Instead, he squinted his eyes, trying to zoom in on the tiniest details.
“I’m still not convinced.”
“You better be! I’ve been studying the planets for five years now.”
“Yeah right. In a formal education?”
“Hey!” she nudged him on his elbows. “That doesn’t mean all my self-learning is worth nothing.”
He continued teasing her until the conversation naturally died down.
For a moment, they were both quiet. They let the stillness of the white noise consume the environment. Others would probably be bothered by how quiet they were. It would kill the mood. But not for them. That silence was only theirs to enjoy.
Some tunes would be nice, he thought. So he turned on his bluetooth speaker and Ella Fitzgerald with Louis Armstrong started singing.
I’m in heaven
And my heart beats so that I could hardly speak
“How old were you the last time the planets aligned?” she asked, still staring at the dawn skies.
“What year was that?”
“Maybe 7. Or 8.”
“I was 7. Obviously, I didn’t know anything about astronomy at that time yet. Had I known, I would’ve done the same thing we’re doing now.”
He opened his camera from his phone, zoomed in, and took a photo of the stars. But ended up disappointed with how hazy the photo was. It looked like a picture of a black cardboard with tiny specks.
“Could you imagine living in this historic moment?” she said. When she started speaking again, his phone pointed to her. He smirked when he saw how much she admired the heavens. Lovely, he thought to himself.
He hurriedly kept his phone when she turned to look at him.
“The next alignment will be in 2040. Where will I be when that year arrives?”
“Do you want an answer?”
“Not really. I was just…thinking out loud.”
“Maybe you’ll be old enough to have great grandchildren.”
“Very funny! I’ll only be 40-something when that time comes, you know!”
“You’re a year older than me though.”
They giggled and continued teasing each other. Secretly, she was wishing for that dawn to slow down. Even just for a bit. They had not shared that kind of moment for quite a while after the continuous change of schedules from their works.
He could only stay home twice a week after he got accepted at his new job that was a 4-hour drive away, while she stayed behind trying to keep herself busy to distract herself from missing him. It was a difficult situation for her in their relationship, but she understood. The least she could do was help him when he asked her.
And during all those time spent alone by themselves, she always wondered how he thought of her. Or if he ever thought of her.
So she swallowed her timidness and asked him the question she hoped would lead to her answers.
“Do you really think I’ll have a husband by then?” she asked.
“Would you like to get married?”
Yes, she replied to herself. But if she said that, she knew he would pair her off with another guy when the only place she was familiar with was with wherever he was.
“Maybe. But not really,” she lied. She knew she had to say that so he’d think they are on the same page.
“I think you will. You have to. It doesn’t feel good to be alone in that age.”
“How about you?”
“I think I’d like being alone.”
“But you said it doesn’t feel good.”
“I don’t have a choice. I have to live by myself.”
He stared into the nothingness, imagining what life would be after 18 years. It wasn’t true when he said he’d like to be alone when he turned 40. He would very much like to live with someone, have a daughter whom he’d name “Amara”, teach his kids his hobbies, and build a home for his own family. He once wished it would be with her, but she broke his heart once so, in a snap, he built his defenses up against her.
It had been over a year when their relationship started failing. He found out that she had been offering words of comfort to a male co-worker. She knew that that co-worker liked her but she did not make a big fuss out of it and just continued working. Unfortunately, the wife messaged him, accusing her of infidelity.
And unfortunately, no matter how much she explained the truth to him, it didn’t matter anymore.
“You know what you did?” he asked her when they talked about it. “You let him inside your boundary. And that is a huge disrespect on my part.”
“But nothing is going on between us,” she explained, crying and on her knees. “Everyone knows I have you. I did nothing wrong. All I did was being a friend.”
“So you, offering him a crying shoulder, makes you a noble person? Did you even think about me?”
“All the time.”
For a year, it continued haunting him. When that happened, he would sink deeper in despair. How many times will the people I love leave me behind, he would ask himself. And sometimes, when he’s left alone with his emotions, he would ask her to leave him and never return.
She would give him what he wanted — space. But that did not mean she would not think of him. That she would not get distracted the entire day with her conscience always hounding her. If he would only tell her when the memories came flashing back again, she would have been willing to explain herself to him again and again just to calm him down. Her mind was always telling her that she did not deserve any form of happiness in a relationship unless he forgave her. So, sometimes, she would practice a day or two without him.
Then when her heart was getting used to him being away, he would pop up and they would continue talking again.
Not only that, his work was exhausting him. Being the firstborn of the family, he gladly took the responsibility of being the breadwinner. He had debts to pay and he was left with no choice but to be swallowed up in a job that was gradually killing him inside. Slowly, she saw how his career took away his drive to be more than who he used to be. He was once enthusiastic to learn and develop, and she was always there to listen. But lately, her encouragement was not getting through to him.
“I miss my old self,” he would tell her.
“What do you really wanna do?” she would ask.
“Resign and sleep.”
“You know you can’t do that. Anything else that might be possible to do?”
“I want to continue with my graduate school.”
“Maybe it’s tiring because you’re still adjusting. But eventually, when you get used to the system, you’ll get your energy back to study again. You don’t have to rush.”
“You think so? With how busy I am? You really believe I can still do that? And how old would I be when that time comes?”
She would propose to him a new schedule on how he could manage his studies and work, but she felt his disinterest on the topic. Still, she continued in the hopes that she would get his attention.
This was how their year went.
Always hesitating. Anxious. Draining.
It wasn’t going anywhere. Yet, they stayed.
Both were bruised and broken. Yet, they managed to survive another year together.
Whatever the spiritual meaning of that night’s cosmic occurence, he had to ask her about the year 2040. Or anything about the future.
“Where are we headed?”
“Are you still thinking about your career? Because my answer will stay the same. This, too, shall pass. It’s not all the time that…”
“No. Where are we headed, Eli? I mean us.”
She turned to look at him and he was already staring back at her. She swore she could feel her breath going deeper with every inhale, as if a big rock was weighing her chest down. He rarely asked questions about their relationship, and when he would, she badly wanted to ask him to take her back again.
Her eyes reflected her soul. It was warm and pure and kind. A soul that he would very much want to keep, but he just could not forgive. And he was drowning with the priorities on which he had to focus. Sometimes, he wanted to lock himself up away from her, thinking that she might hurt him again. And sometimes, he wanted to keep her safe from everything and everyone that was hurting her.
After looking for the safest answer, she replied hesitantly with, “I…don’t know.”
“You know my situation, right? You’re the only one who knows everything. I’ll be staying at this crappy company for five years, holding myself back, praying my bosses would only see the gooodness in me. After five years, I can’t promise to be the same person again as I was before when this stupid work has consumed all of me.”
“But you’ll be free after five years, right? You can start all over again.”
“That’s not the point.”
The point is that will you still be around, giving me the same answer, that ‘this, too, shall pass’, everytime I tell you about my worries, he asked himself. But he chose to keep it inside because he would not want to pressure her from staying despite all the doubts surrounding their relationship. Especially that he was not sure on when he would be stable enough to be with her. Keeping her for himself while he could not figure things out just yet was, for him, a selfish act.
But, she knew what he meant. He might change how he phrased what he was trying to say, but she always knew what those meant underneath.
She inhaled deeply. Eyes still glued to him, she smiled. She might not know this, but sometimes, her smile put him at ease.
“Remember the old couple who sat beside our table at the restaurant?” she started.
It was just last week when they had a quick getaway from the corporate world and spent their time relaxing together. It was also their first time eating at a fancy restaurant with a hard-to-read menu. What was funny was that it never once crossed their minds that they would be sitting and eating at a classy place like that.
They were almost done with their meal when an old couple in their mid 70’s walked in while holding each other’s hands and sat beside their table. He beamed admiring how they stayed in love even in their golden age. It was there when somewhere, in their hearts, they wished for a youthful love like that throughout the years of staying together.
“Of course,” he replied. His memories flashed back to that getaway, remembering how happy he was to spend the weekend with her. “How could I ever forget?”
“I will be blunt in saying this. After all, we’ve known each other for almost three years now. I don’t know how you’d react to what I’m about to say, but since you asked for
it, I’ve given you an empirical scenario.”
She never ceased to surprise him everytime she would tell him what she felt about their relationship. She always has a way to sound smart when talking about something complex. Like love. Or even loneliness. That was why he loved talking to her about everything.
“Well,” she continued. “How nice would it be if that would be us when we turn 80?”
In a split second, he imagined a peaceful old life with her. Those images he saw in his head about having his own family came back to him.
And she was there. With him.
And they would be watching their favorite movies. He would annoy her with the lines he memorized from them. She would probably be pissed from not remembering if those lines were ever said. At night, when they’d be tucked in bed, she might be a deep sleeper but she would always wake up when he would have nightmares. Half-asleep, she’d ask him about what he saw, and half asleep, he’d also answer her. He might think she forgot about it the next day, but she actually remembered them. When she’d be having trouble, he would look for ways on how he could help her. But for a capable woman like her, he’d probably end up offering little more than how much he was getting from her. Though he was sure he’d be the one reminding her of the smallest things she might forget like her car keys or her phone.
Then she’d be writing her stories. Maybe novels. And he’d sit beside her, working on his piece. The silence between them would not be distracting. They both liked it anyway. How he could connect with her in silence and still admire each other even without saying anything is something that he only felt with her.
He grinned wide, a smile so genuine that she felt her heart melting despite the cool air. “Yeah. I think that would be very nice,” he said.
“Then maybe we could go back to this place and the places we used to go. Not to create new memories…”
“…but ‘reliving and looking back to them.’ I think that’s what you were about to say.”
Her lips slowly pulled on each side of her face and her raised cheeks turned to light pink. Radiant, he thought while staring at her as her background turned to a blurry vision.
“But of course, we need to have money for that,” she joked, breaking the ice.
“Yes! Definitely,” he exclaimed, laughing at how financially unfortunate they were.
He sat upright and let her slid her arm in his arm. She rested her head on his shoulder as he smelled her fragrant hair. Her scent that he memorized, always made him want to forget his worries and live in the now. In silence, they sat there, wishing to keep that night in their memory forever.
Soon enough, the sun’s rays showed up. The clear sky showered them a deep blue color gradually turning into light blue. When she looked up to the east-northern horizon, the Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter, and Saturn were nowhere to be seen.
And when it was time to leave, they stayed when that song so common to them was played. That mushy song that they agreed was the reason why their relationship was so fast yet so beautiful. That song that explained why their love felt so familiar even when they just started. And perhaps, a billion years and lightyears away from that dawn, they had already met.
I loved you forever
In lifetimes before
Khamille Ann A. Linsag is navigating through life as a teacher, a student, a mom of 14 cats, and an adult at the coast of Mati City.