It’s forty minutes past three in the morning. You are wide awake. The woman, you just slept with for the first time, is fast asleep. You cannot sleep, not even in a half-sober state. You light a cigarette and stare at the window. Outside, you hear the rustle from the foliage of Molave. Crickets throughout the field, from Mount Pangasugan to Lagolago, down to your boarding house in Patag are the night’s ambient sound. Occasionally, you hear motorcycles from the main road. Oh, those kompadres. Have they not had enough Emperador, yet? It’s funny how after a wild freshmen fellowship party, Baybay becomes quite—awfully quiet—you think. You look at the woman in your bed. What was her name? You do not remember. Was she Mike’s friend? Or maybe Elaine’s? Who is she? You eagerly attempt to recall. You remember, not her name, no. But the woman, the one at home, her name. Yes, her, the one whom you first planned to do it with for the first time. The image of her flashes in front of you, as if she was somewhere out in the cogon field, looking, not at you, but at this beautiful sky.
You let out a sob. It’s okay. The woman in bed won’t wake up, she was too drunk to wake up, remember? Too drunk.
The week before you were supposed to do it with her, the right woman, you were at McDonald’s, the one at Rizal Avenue in Tacloban. She talked about her plans for college. If she passed, she would attend UP Tacloban. A bachelor’s in psychology, she said. You planned to attend Visayas State. You already passed. Agri-business. You’ll be great at it, she said. You topped exams in Leyte High. You ask her how long distance will work. If she believes in it? She says, she doesn’t know but she’s willing to try. You say it will be hard. She says the both of you should at least try and try something new for the first time as well, something to seal your commitment. You understand what it is. You are worried, conscious, because you have not done such before. You look outside, Cancabato is about to drown the sun. You look at her. She is beautiful. How golden she becomes when this Cancabato sunset touches her cheek. You become sure. Positive, in fact. And so, you gesture to hold her hand. She looks at you, deep through your eyes. You look at her in response. You tell her, I trust you. She tells you not to be afraid. She tells you to believe, your relationship will be everlasting should you do it together for the first time; together, before college. You are still anxious, but you agree.
That evening, she texts you her first “I love you”. You say, “I’m not sure what to say.” She says, you do not have to, but teases you to say it back. You say you’ll tell her when it is time. She asks what happens if she does not wake up in the morning. You say it’s a bad joke. She does not reply. You say good night. Before falling asleep, you murmur to yourself: I too, love you. Remember?
Two hours later, you wake up to a call from her classmate. There is a heavy downpour of the rain outside. Her classmate says it’s an emergency. He utters her name with sadness. Your house is not far from hers. You ask what happened. Her classmate drops the call. You look at your phone. She cannot be reached. You check Messenger. She is not online. You rush outside. There is still a downpour. You do not care. You take your brother’s motorcycle and ride to her house. There is a perimeter. The Vice Mayor is at the scene with the firemen. Her classmate is there. She attends to you.
Three days later, a body is found from the landslide. Authorities ask you to identify the deceased. The face is destroyed, clearly unrecognizable. You notice the jacket. It’s yours. Remember?
A month later, the UPCAT results are released. She passed. BA Psychology. Her sister posts the announcement on Facebook. You heart react, then sad react. You remember the things she said at McDonald’s, “Somethings last forever when experienced with another.” You quote it to yourself when her sister allows you to witness the embalmment. You see her body without your jacket, naked—fully naked. Buried for three days beneath the earth, her body has rotten. Her sister stands beside you. The both of you cry. You try to console her sister. “This is the first time I’ve experienced the death of a loved one,” her sister confides. “Mine too, this is my first time,” you respond. This is your first time.
The day she was buried, Tacloban’s city engineer released a statement to the public; that the accident was a tragedy, and that they are deeply sorry for her loss. The Supreme Student Government of your school releases a statement as well. They demand the city be held accountable for her loss, arguing that dynamite used to construct Congressman Mate Ave a year ago was the cause of the hill’s eventual instability. The demand becomes viral. You become angry because you know she just wanted a peaceful life. You wanted a peaceful death for her.
During graduation, the principal mentions her name and asks for a moment of silence. You utter the words you were about to say the morning after the landslide: I too, love you. You stare at this woman in your bed, your first time. You do not remember her name. You look at her bare back and remember how it felt just an hour ago—soft, sweet, sexy. You do not want to remember, but you do.
It’s forty-one minutes past the hour of three in the morning. You put out your cigarette, keep staring at Mount Pangasugan, then let out a sigh. The woman in bed changed her sleeping position. You wipe your tears. You slide yourself back to bed, careful not to wake her up. You hope this woman leaves quietly in the morning. You still cannot remember her name, but you remember the woman with whom you were supposed to do this for the first time. Of course, you do.
You need to sober up. You have class tomorrow. It’s okay to forget her name. Remember: it’s okay. After all, this is your first time.
Lakan Uhay Alegre is a member of UP Writers Club. He has performed his poems in the Philippines and New York. Some of his works have been included in Lunop, voices and narratives of typhoon Yolanda, Dagmay, the Literary Journal of the Davao Writers Guild, and Katitikan Literary Journal of the Philippine South. Currently, he is a BA Comparative Literature student majoring in Philippine English Literature and English Translation in UP Diliman, where he continues writing despite struggling with his readings.