Wednesday, May 14, 2014

A Thousand Ways We Were Lovers, Though We Weren't Really Were

WE WERE WAITING at the bus stop. For some reason, as if on cue, I looked at you and you looked at me, and at that moment, side by side, we were lovers and we didn’t even know how or why. Maybe it was the way the wind tossed your hair, strands touching my cheek, and I let them stay on my skin, the whiff of fragrance teasing my nose, until you said “I’m sorry” and you brushed them back with your fingers, and I thought I heard myself say “No no no please don’t I like it,” but all I could manage to say was “It’s OK.” You tied your hair into a bun as I looked at you, wondering if miracles are true on this side of the world. Then you had a curious glance as though you were suddenly cautious of everything, or at least me, the stranger about to make your day a lot more different than the ones that went by, hopefully, so it was my turn to say “I’m sorry” and I had to look away for a while.

Three or five seconds.

I looked at you again, feigning innocence, and I almost had to keep my heart from diving to my toes when I found out that you were still looking at me, except that you had that impish smile, and I didn’t know if I had to smile back or just simply melt on my two feet and exit my way to the sewer beneath the highway by way of liquefaction and stay there like a recluse, unseen until you’ve gone, because if the prospect of love has its way of crawling up my skin and making me wear its scent like perfume you would have already inhaled all of me, so I had to hide it, mask it with the stench from the underworld for whatever it is worth.

Of course you would have scoffed at me and cleared my face with a hammer.

But I stood my ground and said “We’re late.” “Yeah,” you said, and I thought we were late and this should have happened a long time ago miss whatever-your-name-is. We were waiting at the bus stop, except that, perhaps, it was not the bus we were waiting for. Maybe we were waiting for ourselves. When the bus came and left, we were still there. “There goes our ride,” you said, eyeing the vehicle speed in the distance before it disappeared, with it the day’s worth of our wages.

So I waited. You waited. We waited. Nothing much happened.

Perhaps miracles aren’t so true after all. Or maybe we hardly realize it even if it is already looking us straight in the eyes, because in a machine the size of a metropolis there is hardly any room for miracles. I got her name, though, but that’s all. She took the next bus. She was in a hurry to get inside that escape pod. She didn’t even get to hear me say my name. I said it but it felt like I said it to the busy city. To no one in a sea of strangers.

“Well that sucks,” I said.

THURSDAY THE FOLLOWING WEEK you had a different name. Another face. A different you in a different place.

Lunch time by myself, though it seemed that everyone had someone else with them. The sound of spoons and forks and plates. Of chatter. Of laughter. Of glasses of water. Noise. Head bowed, I listened. Downed a spoonful of rice. Then another. And another. Time’s wasting, I thought. And then there was a hush, a partial silence, as though something was about to happen. A divine joke, perhaps, because fate has its way of playing tricks on lonely people, something to make them remember that solitude is no easy business.

A shadow loomed over my plate and I heard a voice ask, “Excuse me?” I looked up, still chewing, and ohmygod miss you look cute I would like to have you for dessert no questions asked. But that was just in my head. Good thing my mouth was full. I stopped chewing and looked around. All the tables and seats were taken. Some of the men glanced in my direction, eyebrows cocked. Envy me, I thought to myself. Envy me all ye bastards, for thy queen has chosen her king among mortals! Victory! Muhahaha!

“Is this seat taken?” you said. I wish I could’ve said “No, and so am I” and winked at you, or perhaps I could’ve stood, arms akimbo, and declared “Well well well, what do we have here? You’re late for our date, my love,” but sitting on my throne all I managed to do was to shake my head and say “No.” Then you said “May I?” Of course I said “Of course, love,” which left you somewhat confused, but you placed your tray on the table and sat down anyway, like a royalty, the canteen our kingdom, all the lords and ladies and lesser mortals present in such an unceremonious banquet to celebrate what I thought was a betrothal among gentry.

You had chop suey and half a cup of rice on your plate. Ah, queens these days, I thought. You forked a slice of broccoli gently, as though your fingers were dancing to a lullaby only you can hear, and your lips had a certain gracefulness in them as you chewed your food I imagined you were mouthing poetry all the while, like ambrosia for the soul of immortals. The pace has been reset, so I had to go with the flow, had to slow down, too, time be damned, because there before me was a piece of heaven, an eye candy, a gift from the gods that must be enjoyed gradually and from a safe distance, which is to say the length of our table. I had to restrain myself from giving you a footsie. I tried hard not to, though it felt like my feet were starting to have a life of their own.

Behave, feet. Behave.

I was almost out of rice, and I figured I’d soon have no more reason to stay on the table with you. There were some others just outside, waiting for their turn. So I stood, hesitated a bit, left our table, and went to the counter to buy another cup of rice. I was last in line. I kept looking back at our table, at you, making sure that you haven’t left yet, or that no asshole dared to trespass and usurp my favorite spot in the universe at that moment. Otherwise, I would’ve returned in haste, confronted the unwelcome intruder, and proclaimed with an air of bravado: “Hey, is this foul creature bothering you, love?” And I would’ve defended you, would’ve raised hellfire, burned the fiend, impaled him and fed him to the hungry canines in the dungeon of our castle.

But none of that happened.

By the time the woman at the counter handed over the plate I looked back and you were gone. I walked to our table — well, my table — with a derailed sense of urgency. And the noise came back as if to boo me off stage — the laughter, the chatter, the glasses of water, spoons and forks and plates and damnit can you all just shutthefuckup? — though at that moment it sounded like a dirge to my ears, a farewell hymn, and I cannot help but sigh. I sat with a heart too heavy the chair might collapse. I looked at my table: two plates, one with an unfinished meal, another with a full serving of rice. A setup to remind me that someone used to be on the other side of the table, like an irreparable hole in my world that no cup of rice can ever fill.

Then the familiar epilogue: “Well this sucks,” I said. By then I’ve lost my appetite. Two men, each holding a tray, approached and asked “Are you done?”

“We are,” I said, but after glancing at the other side of the table I corrected myself and quipped, “I meant, I am.” I stood and walked away.

THERE ARE A THOUSAND WAYS we were lovers, maybe more, though we weren’t really were. A thousand people, perhaps more. A thousand names, maybe more. A thousand faces, perhaps a thousand more. But there’s no more use counting. The difference is the same.

I guess you are the “one” in everyone.

I meet you everyday. In the bus. In the canteen. Everywhere. You are the world where I live, and maybe someday, probably by some kind of accident, you will be where I need you to be and I will be where you want me to be. At the right place. At the right time. We will recognize the moment and we will not let it slip us by, because we’re growing old and no one wants to be alone for the rest of their lives. Our lives.

Until then, we wait. We search. We imagine. We write.

Or at least I do.


Anonymous said...

I love it! Oh I really do! :))) every single goddamn word. Footsie. Behave feet. Well this sucks. Heheh. Wow. You never fail to amaze me. The last part: reminded me of this: we will be where we were before, at our own pace, at our own time. Now is this foul creature (moi) bothering you, love? :)))

SPLICE said...

Hahaha! Not at all :))