Segunda Katigbak

It wasn't much of a first meeting. In fact it was a sickening cliché of boy bumps into girl that almost toppled her off, boy apologizes and girl sees his face — a love at first sight. She was always the shy one. A reserved and quiet girl, she was content to linger on the shadows, observing and watching people reveal who they were. She took note of the simplest things that others tend to take for granted, and with each little information she had, the more she knew about the kind of people she was surrounded with.

He was a cool guy. Although not considered as the coolest guy to be around with (not the tallest ones who made girls swoon), his lifted spirits and his boyish, dimpled smile were enough to make her chest muscles clench and her heart give a little twitch.

It stretched for three years, without a word spoken — the boy never really understood what she wanted to say. Perhaps he took a few hints, but whether he understood or not, he never said a word. She knew he'd say no and she'd end up rejected — it was too humiliating to actually even imagine it. Besides, the courage was so little that the words were held back and remained stuck at the back of her throat.

Maybe she was wrong; maybe she wasn't. Maybe it wasn't the right decision to hold back, shut up and merely watch him from short distance; or maybe it was. She would never know either way; she never even tried to find out. It always kept her wondering what could have happened if she ever did, whatever could have happened if she just stepped on the line and pushed her luck.

But years passed. Things changed. Sixteen years after graduation made a huge difference. A large tarpaulin spelled their batch's school year on the newly-refurbished bulwagan. The meeting was awkward — it was something a few had rehearsed before they came there — the beso, the hello's and how-are-you's after nearly two decades of losing in touch. But despite the repetitive dry runs, the greeting and gestures still appeared sloppy and discomfited. Cameras were either draped around the neck or on the shoulder or sat on the hands of a few guests, ready to capture each moment to preserve it on social networking sites — films were already obsolete.

She was one of those. The words were rehearsed beforehand, but like others, plans were jeopardized as soon as mouths opened and unexpected questions were fired. They met near the buffet table, as she stole photos on the food presentation and the cake before it was touched; he was nicking sushi on a large platter. It was a career she never imagined herself to be in ever since; she worked as a contributor at a local newspaper company and part-time at a men's magazine. The pay was low but at least she loved her job.

He worked at a big firm in Manila, where he had decided to settle down when he eventually got used to the traffic and the pollution it packaged — free of charge. He loved his new place on the ninth floor of an average condominium in the heart of the city; the large windows overviewed Manila Bay and it was a sight to behold, whenever he got the chance to get home before dusk, or whenever he would wake up before the break of dawn.

No matter how she looked at it, he almost never changed, save for the slightly larger built and the faint hint of wrinkles on the sides of his eyes each time he laughed. The smile was still boyish, childlike. The permanent dimples that dotted his cheeks made him look younger and more vibrant. The familiar twitch has now become little fainter, but it was still there nonetheless. She smiled, over a glass of punch, as they shared a few bits of conversation with sushi on the side. At last.

But he was getting married soon and he showed her the ring and the photo of an ultrasound; she jokes him about it, and he laughs.

"Are you happy?" she asks, her voice uncontrolled and it was one of the hints he caught and understood. Of course, he knew. She did a very poor job at hiding it and at times, he would laugh whenever nobody was around — not to mock at her but to mull over how cute she would look like while she quietly fussed over her slips when he was around, hearing or seeing.

"Of course." She smiled. "Are you?"

She laughs but eventually responds with a yes. "I have a lot of things to be happy for."

Without a doubt, there are.

Consideration/s: Originally posted on Wattpad 24 July 2011.