I was prepping to go back to Manila when I heard a knock on the door. I was dumbfounded for a second because I was not expecting anyone.
"Sino naman kaya to? Gabi na ah."
It was after office hours and I just went to my unit to get my things. As I approaced the door, another set of knocks reverberated.
I turned the knob to open the door and was surprised to find a grinning face.
"Anung meron? Bakit ka nandito?" I asked the smiling man outside my door.
"Uhm, tatanungin sana kita kung gusto mong sumabay saken pauwi?", still smiling.
"Huh?" I silently exclaimed.
"...di ba medyo short ka na sa budget?" He continued. "Sabay ka na saken para makatipid ka."
I raised an eyebrow and was a bit annoyed. But I kept it with my self and politely declined his invitation.
"Sana tinext mo nalang muna ako para di ka na naabala pa. Nagdetour ka pa dito." My innocent but icy remark.
"Nagtext naman ako sayo kanina eh. Di ka naman nagreply. Mukhang busy ka sa trabaho eh." Wow, he seems geniunely concerned. Actually I read that text earlier, I just chose not to reply.
"Ah eh di nako nagreply kasi late ko na sya nabasa nung uwian. I figured, umalis ka na agad nung tapos na office hours." Uhuh, me trying to be slick eh? "Tsaka ayoko namang maabala ka pa. Kaya sige na mauna ka na."
"Tutal nandito naman na ako intayin na kita. Andito lang ako sa labas, sa loob ng kotse. Get your things tapos sabay ka na saken, ha?" Still with his stupid smile. Why is he being stubborn? Can't he take a hint that I don't want to come with him?
"Jusko, bat ba ang kulit mo? Ayoko ngang sumabay. Tsaka baka matraffic ka kung di ka pa umalis." A little bit of bitchiness slipped but I regained it with my faux concern for his time.
It seems he understood what my small nasty slip-up meant. His smile disappeared and got all serious.
"Please." Woah there, serious guy.
"Please sumabay ka na." Yikes. "Please..." Now with puppy eyes. I don't know if he is consciously doing that but it will not work mister.
"...I need you..."
He said it.
He said the magic words.
I swore that I will never abandon anyone who mutters those words.
"Sige na nga. Sige dun ka na muna sa kotse, mukhang uulan na oh. Ayusin ko lang gamit ko." I finally surrendered to his pleas. Ugh. Why did he say those words? I bit my lower lip.
He walked backed to his car while I fixed my things. I already got everything packed so it didn't take a while. I locked up my unit and went straight to his car. I sat down in the passenger seat and threw my things in the backseat. I strapped myself down and was ready to be the shotgun of this ride to Manila. It was then that the rain start to go down.
"Ready ka na?" He asked sheepishly.
I nodded without looking at him. The engine was already on when i got in so we drove off instantly.
Familiar roads and surroundings was enveloped in wetness. His wiper noisily but effectively doing it's job as we go along the highway. I was quiet for the most part. I have no intention to start a conversation with him. I was not there on my own. I was just compelled because he said he needed me. Whether that's true or not, well... he's the one who can answer that.
"Galit ka ba saken?" He broke the ice cold silence.
"Huh? Baket naman ako magagalet?" External words. "Maang maangan at it's finest!" My internal thoughts. I was prepared for this question!
"Lately kasi parang iniiwasan mo ko. Di mo sinasagot ung mga tawag ko, kahit sa office phone. Di ka din nagrereply sa text, kahit sa messages ko sa Viber..."
Wow! So he noticed that. I'm surprised.
"Tapos ang sungit sungit mo pa saken. Ramdam na ramdam ko din na ang cold cold mo saken. Wala na ung sweet and light presence mo..." Woah. Sweet and light? What am I a dessert?
"May problema ba?" A very curious question was thrown at me.
I was not sure if i should answer that question. Maybe I was not prepared for the emotional distress that I know will follow once I answered it. So instead of answering, I just turned on his radio. Being the shotgun and all, it requires my mad dj skills.
But to my dismay he quickly turned it off and quiffed: "Sagutin mo naman ung tanong ko please. Importante saken to." As we continue to drive in less than optimal visibility.
Wow! Big words!
"Dahil ba saken kaya ka nagkakaganyan?"
It seems I can no longer evade his question. For the first time in that ride home, I looked at his face. His face is serious and he seems a bit distraught.
Sighing. I softly remarked, "Pabayaan mo nalang ako. Ganito ung way ko para i-let go ka..."
Saying that out loud felt like something got stuck in my throat. I don't like this kind of drama. To be more accurate, I'm fed up with this kind of drama.
"Ayoko naman na palakihin pa ung issue kasi ang gusto ko nalang mawala nalang ung attachment ko sayo."
We were still in the highway. We still have a long way to go and probably, lots to talk about. I knew I opened a big can of worms with what I said. But here's a chance to finally tell him why this is happening.
"i-let go ako? Baket?"
"Sa tingin mo baket?" Ha! Nice counter!
He got quiet for a while then remarked: "Dahil ba to sa girlfriend ko?"
Wow! He's surprisingly very receptive ah! For a straight guy! I'm impressed!
"Eh sabihan ba naman ako na mangaagaw ng boyfriend sino bang matutuwa?" Baring my fangs and claws. "Wala akong ginagawang masama. Walang namamagitan saten. Magkaibigan lang tayo. Tapos sasabihan ako ng ganon? Fuck diba?!"
I exploded. I was so damn furious because I am being accused of doing something I did not. I'm simply a friend. His friend.
He didn't say a word. He's probably trying to check my temper. I don't really lash out like this so he's new to this.
"I'm sorry pero I'm never going to be used to this drama. This is not the first time that this has happened. Dati sinabihan ako na naiilang daw sya sken! Fuck! Mukha ba akong nang-aakit? Mabait ako kasi kaibigan nyo ako! Pero binibigyan ng kulay ng ibang tao ung kabaitan ko!", My mouth slew words in rapid succession. "...Kaya ako nalang maadjust. Ayoko na ung drama! Nakakasawa na eh!" I added, my body trembling with anger.
"So ang solusyon mo eh i-let go ako?"
"Oo! Pag nawala ang attachment ko sayo, hindi na kelangan isipin pa. I'm sorry pero friendship with me comes with this attachment and special services. I'm just trying to still be your friend and give you the services kahit hindi nako attached sayo. Ang labo lang kasi na mawawalan ka ng kaibigan over something this trivial." I was fighting back the tears amidst my loud voice.
"Sorry ganyan na pala nararamdaman mo. Sorry talaga. Pabayaan mo kakausapin ko girlfriend ko."
"Alam mo wag na. Mag aaway lang kayo. Alam ko na yun kasunod nyan kasi nga sabi ko sayo hindi to first time na mangyari saken. Kaya ako nalang magaadjust. I just dont want the drama. Mukha namang mahal na mahal mo ung girlfriend mo, tsaka i want you two to be together."
"Pero unfair naman sayo na ganun iniisip nya sayo. Wala ka namang ginagawang masama."
"Exactly. Wala akong ginagawang masama. Kaya nga ang sama sama ng loob ko. Para akong sinampal kahit na wala naman akong kasalanan. Pero wag na, kasi nga mag aaway lang kayo. And I am not worth it."
"Pero... what if ikaw ang kumausap sa kanya?"
"Makinig ka. Kung mapapaliwanagan ang girlfriend mo, hindi issue sa kanya ang presence ko sa tabi mo. Hindi mo nga nadefend sa kaya na wala akong gusto sayo eh, what makes you think na makikinig sya saken?"
He suddenly became silent. I don't know, maybe he was thinking about what I said? Uncomfortable silence filled his car. Even with ambient rain drops as background noise, i couldn't bear the silence that we have in that car.
I turned the radio on again, hopefully to break some ice. And Adam Levine's voice echoed as he belts out the song, She will be loved.
Song faded and Stay by Carol Banawa played its intro.
"Punyeta. Nananadya ba tong radyo?" I thought.
🎵 i want you stay 🎵
🎵 Never go away from me 🎵
🎵 Stay forever🎵
He lowered the volume of the radio then said, "Hindi ko na ba mababago ung isip mo? Ano na lang magiging set up natin?"
He seems to be really concerned about this. I can discern his melancholy just with the way he asked his questions.
"Wag ka na malungkot. Kaibigan mo pa rin naman ako. Iiwasan ko lang na magselos ung girlfriend mo. Ako na mismo ung pipigil sa sarili ko na maging malapit tayo. Basta kung kelangan mo ako tutulungan kita. Pero hindi na katulad dati na kahit di mo ako kelangan nandyan ako."
"Bakit mo pa kasi kelangan gawin yan? Kakausapin ko na lang girlfriend ko para matapos na to!" He's getting a bit agitated.
We just entered the expressway. No traffic despite the heavy rain throughout our journey. I kept quiet after he raised his voice.
"Sorry." I mumbled.
"Sabi ko sorry." With confidence.
"Bakit ka naman nagsosorry? Ako nga may atraso sayo."
"Di mo naman kasalanan yun. Di naman kita sinisisi dun. Nagsosorry ako kasi, selfish decision ko to."
"Panong selfish decision?"
I gave a very deep sigh and proceeded to tell my true reasons.
"This is the only way for me to save myself from the pain. Nasasaktan ako. Masakit para saken gawin to." I am desperately trying to fight back my tears. "Pero ayoko naman mawala ka completely sa buhay ko. Ayoko na mawalan ng kaibigan dahil lang sa ganito."
Silence again. Ice cold silence.
We continued our journey in the express way in that quiet moment. Neither of us said a word. He continued to drive while I looked at the window pane on my right. We passed by fields and buildings. Familiar sceneries from my weekly travel back and forth from our plant and home.
After a while, we stopped by the toll plaza. While waiting our turn, I looked at him. Surprisingly, he looked into my direction as well. His eyes were filled with sorrow. It pains me to see him like this. I bit my lip again then looked away.
When it was our turn, I gave him the exact amount for our toll.
"Wag na. Ako na." He said. While trying to sweep my hand away.
"Sige na. Eto na oh sakto na oh." I knew the exact amount because my job requires me to go to Manila once in a while aboard our service.
"Kaya ka nga sumabay saken para makatipid ka diba?"
"Sige na. Baka eto na ang last na maisakay mo ko dito." Yes. It will be.
With that quip, he froze for a good few seconds then took the money and payed the toll lady. He was silent while the lady processed our transaction. As soon as the bar went up, we went our way again towards Manila.
"Huli na ba talaga?", he asked while not looking at me. His eyes still on the road.
We both exasperated deep sighs. I looked at him and continued my litany.
"Alam mo, kung ako lang, ayoko naman sanang may magbago saten. Pero acknowledge naman natin ung mga nangyayari ngayon. Iba dati na tayo tayo lang ang iniisip natin. Ngayon may iba na... May girlfriend ka na." My voice softens as I say those words.
"Hindi mo naman kelangan pumili.", I continued. "Kaya ko nga ginagawa to para hindi mo na kakailanganing pumili..."
"Damn!", he exclaimed while hitting the steering wheel. He then became silent. You can read what he is feeling from his face.
I let him be and i just sat there silently. Quite frankly, I'm trying to fight of my tears. My heart has been aching since the moment I saw him distraught. Yet, I can't do anything to help him.
We just stopped talking in the remainder of the ride. I turned up the volume of the radio just to mask the obvious tension between us.
Soon after, his cellphone rang. His girlfriend was calling. I knew it was her. I was the one who told him to assign a specific ringtone for his girlfriend so he knows if she's calling immediately. I turned down the volume so he can talk to her. When he answered the call, I busied myself with the other cars on the expressway. Pardon that I cannot describe them in detail as I am completely clueless in car models. The best I can describe them is by color or size.
"Tinatanong lang nya kung nasan ako." He broke the silence, "nagpapasundo sya sa isang mall."
"Ah ganun ba... sige, ibaba mo nalang ako sa may overpass pag nakalabas na tayo ng NLEX para makadirecho ka na sa pagsundo sa kanya." I replied, mellowing out.
"Okay lang, ihahatid kita sa inyo.", he replied.
"Wag na, masyado nang out of way. Malelate ka pang sunduin ung girlfriend mo. Remember Friday ngayon. Kaya naman siguro yun nagpapasundo kasi ayaw na nya magcommute.", reasoning with him.
"Okay lang yun. Inaya kitang sumabay, marapat lang na tuparin ko ung end of the bargain." At this point, I'm starting to get pissed.
"Kaya magseselos ang girlfriend mo eh! Don't add fuel to fire!", my icy remark. Well it's true!
"Anung fuel to fire ang pinagsasabi mo dyan?! Wala akong ginagawang masama! Ikaw na nagsabi kanina magkaibigan lang tayo! Ginagawa ko to bilang kaibigan mo!"
"Alam ko naman yan! Pinagseselosan ako ng girlfriend mo! Alam kong alam mo yan! Kaya nga hindi mo sinabing kasama mo ako ngayon diba? Kaya nga simula ng malaman mo na pinagseselosan nya ako, kinailangan ko nang maging hangin pag kasama ka!" I blurted out in a fit of anger. It's true! He hides the fact that I'm with him everytime his girlfriend calls!
"Akala mo ba di ko napapansin?!", I continued ranting, "... Di ako nagsasalita kasi yun ang mas makakabuti! Dahil ayoko na nga ng drama! Bakit akala mo wala lang saken un? Ha?! Nung araw na unang ginawa mo saken yan, umiiyak ako sa likod ng kotse mo! Hindi ako humihikbi pero ung puso ko durog na durog! Ikinahiya mo ko! Dineny mo ung pagkatao ko!"
I wiped away my tears as a blurted out those words. All the pain in my heart just urged me to say everything. I may have planned not to leave him but it seems it's inevitable.
He continued to drive silently. As if he did not hear me. Not that it matter.
Finally, we exited the expressway. We were silent all the way out of it. I shouted at him 3 times that day. The first 3 and last 3 times i raised my voice in front of him.
"Itabi mo na lang dyan sa may overpass." I calmly declared.
He turned to the side shoulder and stopped the car. I looked at him as he stares back at me. His eyes, I can read it in his eyes. He's telling me to stay. But I made up my mind. I will not trouble him anymore in having to him choose between me and his girlfriend. It's just not fair for him.
I placed my left hand on his right shoulder. "Take care of yourself okay?" I said and gave a shy smile. A smile so fake it's made in China. He nodded but I can still see sadness in his eyes.
I took of my seatbelt, gathered my things, and stepped out of the car. I went straight to the overpass. As soon as I began ascending the stairs, his car passed where I stood. It was a slow mo moment. I was able to catch a glimpse of his face as his car whizz by.
At the top platform, I was not able to contain my emotions anymore. I broke down while I watch his car disappear in the metro. That must have been a goodbye.
I continued on walking in the platform while crying. Good thing no one was around to see that I was in tears. I gave a deep sigh and went down the stairs.
On the ground, I was 'normal' again. As if my breakdown never happened. My mask is now on again. Defenses up! I hailed a jeep, rode the vehicle, and it drove away.
"Ma, bayad po!", smiling but silently in tears in the passenger seat.