Sunday, June 1, 2014

How I Remember Her Before She Left for Tokyo

[Part 1 of 6 of "Once There Was Anne"]

THERE ARE MEMORIES I wish I can just let slip through my fingers like water, stubborn as they are like my restless hope that there will be years far better than the ones that went before them. As I look back, these fragments of a time long gone feel as if they have lingered indefinitely, and the more I think about them the more I remember the day when the sun seemed to have been trapped by the sky, a suspended ball of ancient fire refusing to sink far west, which was the day Anne and I were close to the sea. At the time, I thought that that Saturday in 1991 will never end. Looking back, I wish it never started at all.

What brought us there was the handiwork of chance, or perhaps that is what I have led myself to believe all these years. She said she wanted to go to some tranquil place before leaving for Tokyo the following morning. Without much thought I told her “We can go to Batangas. I know a beach in Nasugbu.” “OK,” she said, “though I don’t feel like going for a swim.” I said, “We don’t have to.”

A little later we were at the terminal, inside the bus with not much to say save for the occasional “Are you OK?”, nothing in tow but her purse for her bare necessities and I with a heavy heart for a baggage I was less than willing to haul around, as if heading to the clear waters some seventy miles away was the most normal thing to do before Japan and a master’s degree change her forever into someone who will return six years after, a woman with all kinds of apologies for everyone for her protracted absence but none for me whatsoever, not even a trivial sigh for an excuse. I don’t remember now why, of all places, I had that beach in mind. I have only been there once, a fine morning when I decided to skip classes, two days after that incident when I bruised my hands so bad I thought they’d never heal again. From here I must admit that I am rarely in my best whenever I take spur of the moment decisions. As things turned out, the day I brought Anne to Nasugbu would not be any different.

Two hours after what felt like an agonizing eternity on the road, we had the beach all to ourselves. “It’s nice here,” she said, walking to the edge where the earth meets the sea, hands in her pockets, the wind tossing her hair, her eyes probably gazing at the stretch of pristine blue beneath the sky, as if in search of something that should have been there. A distant memory, too, perhaps, but now gone, sunk by the tempests of our time. I followed her to the shoreline, as I always had wherever she went. Where she goes, there I find myself, like a shadow at the mercy of the sunlight.

She turned around and said, “Do you go here often?” and I said, “Just once,” although what I really wanted to tell her was Yeah I go here often so that I can forget you, at least for a while, or just before sunset, perhaps before you leave for Tokyo, because by nightfall, as with the countless other previous nights, there’s nothing else I can do but to think of you again until, slowly, you creep into my dreams, the only welcome intruder in my sleep, and then I’d be helpless again, overcome by a desire so strong it’s practically pointless for me to resist.

“Just once,” I repeated myself instead.

“What is that island’s name?” she said, pointing at the barren hill that seemed to have risen from the depths of the seafloor to catch its final breath. “I don’t know,” I said, “but would you like for us to swim there and find out? C’mon, let’s go.” I held her hand, tried to pull her away gently from where she was standing, and she said “No no no you’re crazy!” She laughed, and I said “Well aren’t we all?” But she did not budge. Instead, she sat on a large rock in her attempt to dissuade me, convinced as she was, perhaps, that I meant what I said, so I gave up and sat beside her. After all, it was enough for me that she believed, just like the day when I told her that I’d visit her in Tokyo after I have saved enough money for the trip that no doubt will cost me a fortune. To me, the price I had to pay matters least. If a lonely island by the fringes of the sea can surface and gamble for a breath of air, I saw no reason why I should not have mine, in Japan or anywhere else in the world where she might be.

As the waves scurried to the rocky shoreline and muffled the sound of her laughter, her back to the setting sun, I brushed her hair behind her ear, hoping that nothing in the world will mute my words the moment I tell her that I love her.

I told her.

She looked at me, her eyes suddenly amused at something I cannot explain, in them a glimpse that seemed to force itself into my heart straight from her pupils. She smiled, bowed her head, sighed as though, at last, she knew that she was right, a confirmation of what was obvious right at the outset, and I had to repeat myself because, truth be told, there were so few things left for me to say when everything I ever needed in my life was already right in front of me, holding my hand as if to pardon my unfortunate errors in previous years, like a promise that one can hold and has no intention of being let go, and her touch felt so reassuring I could have momentarily forgotten who we used to be before that day. Her hand felt moist, and, strangely, it was as if she was water slipping through my fingers.

The sun seemed to hover over the horizon forever.

I waited but she did not say anything in return, just like the many other times I told her that I love her, a question cloaked as a declaration that grovels for the only preferred response, the pain of waiting in that extended silence almost unbearable, and that is how I remember her before she left for Tokyo. When she returned six years after, Anne told me something that continues to haunt me to this day.

“Of all the two thousand one hundred and ninety one days I lived in Japan, I forgot about you only once, and I don’t know why.”

“When was that?”

“The first day I was there.”

Part 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6


kae said...

One day forgotten? That's something! Yes? :)

SPLICE said...

Yeah :) But you know what they say: even a single day can feel like a lifetime.

kae said...

But you weren't forgotten for 2,190 lifetimes. ;)

SPLICE said...

I give up, you win haha! :)