It was twelve years ago; on a cold, windy night similar to this; on a ship bound to Cebu. I was a nerdy college boy with braces, carrying a guitar, trying to remember the chords and the lines of a Spongecola song, with a bunch of flowers hidden in my back pocket, looking at the door. She would open it soon, and I will begin strumming and nervously singing. The nerves got the best of me, and things didn’t exactly pan out as planned. But on that night, I finally expressed my true feelings for a best friend; my first love.
A montage of fastfood dates, movies, and jeepney rides later, I found myself crying in the cold breeze of Tagaytay. Don’t judge me. I was young and juvenile, and I thought it was the end of the world. If you know me well today, you’d think I would have done a “nagmahal, nasaktan, nag-travel”. But that JD twelve years ago was practically a travel virgin. I was actually a little scared of travelling, more so travelling alone. So I did what I thought at that time was the best thing to do – get a job.
My first job was perfect. BPO. Travel. If you’re from the industry you would know. It paid pretty decently. I met a lot of new people, and even dated once in a while. Although I was initially doing it out of bitterness and heartbreak, I soon fell in love with that job. And I learned so much about travel while I was at it.
The next three years meant I was single for three Valentines days. Honestly though, I vaguely remember how I spent them.
I may have spent them with friends, most probably drinking at the balcony of a cheap apartment somewhere in J.P. Rizal.
I may have spent them with family. Typical mall dinner, pretending to be stoic about every bug-bitten couple, holding hands, flowers, chocolates, movies, and every cliché in between.
Or I most probably may have been alone, flicking the remote to Cinema One to find out if John Lloyd and Bea was playing, and immediately flicking to Jack TV, settling for South Park, pretending to cringe at the sight of Popoy and Basha making juvenile promises at the UST school grounds in the rain.
I may have had friends and family and TV, but the reality was I was alone, like all single people feel during the love month. But what I didn’t know is that 2009 is the last year I would be alone, and not just on Valentines.
I remember how excited I was around this time that year because in less than two weeks, I would ride the airplane for the first time in my life and, coincidentally, it was a trip to Cebu. I vividly remember the first time I stepped on the sands of Bantayan; my first sniff and bite of ngohiong (which I would discover later on that wasn’t the best yet); colourful jeepneys with route codes unlike in Manila; and walking inside our Cebu office for the first time (it was partly a business trip).
The office almost looked exactly the same. The same computers, the same phones, similar carpets. And then I saw her. She was wearing jeans and a white shirt. She had long black hair, and her eyes looked at me cheerfully. Then she smiled at me as if we have been friends forever.
I instantly forgot about my ‘best friend’ and how I cried on the phone when she got married a year ago; I instantly forgot about getting wasted every night for two weeks before deciding to move on and get a job; I instantly forgot about the jeepney rides to Project 8, the night classes at PUP main, and the 15-peso lugaw dates; I instantly forgot being the newbie shy nerd in the office trying to improve himself, not just to fit in but also to bitterly show a better face should I get the chance to meet her again; I instantly forgot about me ugly-crying at a chilly roadside, waiting for the bus home, contemplating whether I should ride it or stand in front of it to die. That moment, all the pain and bitterness was gone.
What I didn’t realize is that the pieces of my heart were no longer scattered around Tagaytay, Sta. Mesa, and Quezon City. I found it whole in Cebu, carefully held by this woman smiling at me. I fell in love again.