Ang sabi nila, darating ang panahon na tatawanan na lang daw natin lahat ng masasakit na nangyari sa atin sa nakaraan… pero bago naman tawanan ang mga iyon, matagal muna nating iiyakan. Iiyakan nang iiyakan nang iiyakan…
Here I am inside my walk-in closet, in ‘the shoes section’ as my girl-friends call it. I still have an hour and thirty before my commercial shoot so I decided to tweak a few minutes sorting out my shoes according to kind, and to particularly look for one of my A. Mc’s.
There I saw it— on the upper left side of one of the shelves— the huge ‘Ex Box’.
I pulled my footstool under my accessories’ table and reached for it.
“To the left, to the left. Everything you own in the box to the left…” I laughed at myself while singing. I carried it with both hands and was surprised at how heavy it was.
“Anu-ano ba ang mga ipinaglalagay ko dito?” sabay bukas sa kahon. Painstakingly arranged and enclosed in cloth bags all gifts that came from him. As in LAHAT.
I took them all out. The shoes— the Tributes, the custom-made wedges, sneakers, flats… shirts, jeans, designer dresses, sunglasses, bags. (oh, the bags!) His stuff— his shirt, denim jacket, ballers, couple bracelets, our couple watches; the necklace, the rings and THE ring.
My smile turned poignant as I rummaged the tiny casket from the bottom of the box. Slowly, I opened it.
The ruby ring… hindi kumupas ang kinang nito simula nang una kong isuot, kahit pa maraming buwan na ang dumaan. I took it and held it between my thumb and forefinger. My birthstone. My engagement ring. The last gift I received from him, his symbol of love and promise of forever…
“I promise you I will love and cherish you forever… I will protect you with my life. I promise…”
I don’t know why, but I wore it. And I’m sad it didn’t fit my ring finger anymore. Maluwag na dahil pumayat ako…
My tablet pinged that I almost jumped. I forgot I brought it with me expecting my sister would call any moment.
“Salut, Chéri! How are you?”
I smiled, moving the Ex Box aside. “I’m doing good, Ate. It’s been a while…”
Her eyebrow rose. “Where are you? Carrie Bradshaw’s wardrobe?”
I tilted my head back while laughing. “Ano ka ba? I sent you a picture of this, remember? Noong bagong pina-renovate ni Daddy,”
“Oh, ‘yan ba ‘yon? Eh wala kasing laman no’n, eh,” I could tell her eyes shimmered. “Magnifique! I like it. I can’t wait to get home,”
“I can’t wait for you to get home. I missed you, ‘te. Have lots to tell you…”
“I know,” She sighed and took a long look at me. “The last time we talked you looked like a disaster. Thank God now you look… très chic. Welcome back,”
I laughed and Indian-sat in front of my accessories table. I’ve waited a while until I could talk to her again. We got so busy the past months. “It’s all thanks to you and everyone. How are you? At nasaan ka nga pala? Hindi ‘yan ang pad mo…”
Ate laughed sweetly. “I’m at a friend’s house. Well, it’s her birthday and she invited us for her party and to sleep over. I couldn’t say no,” she yawned. “Don’t worry, walang boys dito. Hindi mo ako kailangang isumbong kay Mommy,”
“Hindi naman kita isusumbong. In fact, I’ll be happier if I knew na may kasama ka ngang boyfriend diyan,”
She gasped and faked a shock. “Sis!”
“I’m kidding,” I grinned. “But really, wala pa ba talaga?”
“Hmm… well, there’s this guy who’s been so nice to me since I came here. He’s Fil-American… I don’t know, sometimes I could catch him staring at me. He sends me gifts during special occasions but other than that…” she shook her head. “He’s friendly, he’s caring… but he never said he likes me, nor asks me to go out with him. I don’t know,”
“At ayoko naman na ako ang unang magtanong. Maybe he’s still waiting for the perfect time,” she shrugged and held her chin with her elbow on her pillow.
“Enough about me. So I just heard they’re officially ON. Ayoko na’ng makakarinig ng tungkol sa kanya but I found out by accident,”
Uh-oh, here we go, I thought. I just nodded and smiled. “Yup, matagal na rin,”
She rolled her eyes. “Like when? Right after he broke up with you? He kept her at bay but couldn’t stand the guilt and in the end, chose her?”
I kept my smile. I want to tell her I don’t want to talk about them anymore but there’s no stopping my sister once she began talking.
“Nagtataka nga ako sa ‘yo, eh. Kung nandiyan ako, nabatukan na kita. Ang dali mong napatawad ang dalawang ‘yon…”
“’Yun kasi ang pinakamadaling gawin,” I shrugged. “Ang sabi nga, the best revenge is not to get mad or get even… it’s to forgive and be happy. Move on na lang kaming lahat para masaya,”
“Hay, ewan ko sa ‘yo,”
I chuckled. “Ano ba ‘te? Get over it! Okay na ako; kayo na lang ang hindi pa,”
“Talaga! I’m still seething so bear with it. And that girl?” she said the last two words as if she tasted bile in her tongue. “Isn’t it an unwritten rule between girl-friends na walang talu-talo ng ex? Sa totoo lang ha, mas naaawa ako do’n sa best friend niya kaysa sa ‘yo,”
Sighing, I held my tablet and fell with my back on the carpeted floor. “Well, I guess that rule doesn’t apply to everyone…”
There was a short pause while she intently stared at me. “Yeah, you’re one to talk. Mom told me you and that girl’s ex are getting extra close. And now he’s courting you…”
I bit my lip. By the tone in her voice I could tell she didn’t like the idea. I know some of my close friends too, and even some of my fans.
“You went out a few days ago with Mom and Dad and his parents, at ipinakilala ka na raw niya. Tell me, Chéri … do you like him, too?” she inquired gently with that tone she uses on me since we were kids whenever she saw me crying.
I nodded, staring at my tablet’s small screen as if we were face to face. “He makes me happy… he’s nice to me ever since. He’s sweet, kind, gentle, cheerful and smart. And you know how Mom and Dad are like with our suitors. He’s not scared of them. Kahit noong sabihin kong ayaw kong parang ayaw ko na muna uling magpaligaw, nagpilit pa rin,”
I smiled remembering how he asked for Mom and Dad’s consent. “He said he’ll never give up on me… that he’ll wait. At ‘no retreat, no surrender’ daw siya pagdating sa ‘kin…”
“Sœur, how many times have we heard that? Syempre, ‘yon ang sasabihin niya, tulad din ng iba. Pero… oh, well…” my sister waved her hand in resignation.
“You know I just want you to be careful. By this time, alam kong natuto ka na. We love you too much we don’t want you getting hurt again. Alam mo ‘yan, ‘di ba?”
“Yeah… I know, that,” I answered, trying to hold my tears. That’s when the door opened and Mom came in.
“Hanap ako nang hanap sa ‘yo kanina pa,” her eyes darted my tablet and then lingered on the Ex Box. She carefully looked at me but didn’t say anything. “We’ll leave at thirty. Get up and get dressed already,”
She closed the door but opened it again. “And oh, sabihin mo sa ate mo tawagan din ako,”
I got up and dusted off my pants once the door’s shut. “Narinig mo ‘yon? Tawagan mo raw siya,”
There goes the eye-rolling again. “Kanina lang kami nag-usap. May nakalimutan na naman sigurong sabihin,”
“Si Mommy pa,” I laughed. “’Have to go, ‘te. Talk to you again, okay?”
“You bet. Take care. And I love you,”
“I love you, too,” I blew her a kiss and ended the call.
By this time, alam kong natuto ka na, her voice replayed in my years and I suddenly remembered Mom saying the same thing.
That time, when I told them we got engaged before we broke up, but only after Dad saw his vacation pictures with someone very familiar. I’ve never seen Daddy that angry before I thought he’s going to have a heart attack.
“’Yan ba? ‘Yan ba ang lalaking pilit mong ipinaglalaban sa amin?” he yelled, his face red in anger.
“Ang sabi mo, okay ang lahat… ang sabi mo huwag ka naming alalahanin. Tapos ganyan ang makikita namin?” I flinched when he threw his iPad beside me on the couch.
“At kailan mo ito balak sabihin? Kung hindi pa nakita ng Mommy mo, magugulat na lang kami isang araw na bigla ka na namang magbe-breakdown sa harap namin!”
I sobbed silently and looked at Mom standing in the middle of the living room, her arms crossed on her chest, her face void of any emotion. She has always been so strict and straightforward when it comes to disciplining me, but now she’s so quiet it scares me more.
“Pinagkatiwalaan namin siya… kayong dalawa na aalagaan niyo ang isa’t-isa…” Dad continued, stroking his nape. There was still anger in his voice but it mellowed down a bit.
Standing up, I made him sit down and held his hand. “Sorry po, Dad, Mom. Ayoko lang po na magalit pa kayo lalo sa kanya. May pagkukulang din naman po ako kung bakit kami—,”
“Huwag mo na siyang ipagtanggol sa amin, anak. Kahit sa paanong paraan pa namin malaman, alam mong magagalit kami sa kanya. Hindi mo ‘yon mapipigilan. At hindi mo kami masisisi,”
I kept on sobbing, now feeling more than ever the weight of things and how I tried to bear them all alone. I couldn’t. I never could…
“Mom,” I went to her, holding her arm. “Please say something. You’re scaring me…”
Only then that she looked at me. Tears were about to fall from her eyes as she pulled me for an embrace, surprising me.
I cried all the more. She held me to her chest, her hand gentle as it stroked my hair.
“Wala kaming ibang hinangad at ipinagdasal ng Daddy mo kundi ang kaligayahan at kabutihan ninyong magkakapatid… ano sa tingin mo ang nararamdaman namin sa tuwing nasasaktan ka tulad ngayon?”
She sniffed and embraced me tighter. “Wala na akong ibang sasabihin dahil pagkatapos ng mga nangyaring ito’y may tiwala akong alam mo na ang gagawin. And we’re here for you. Alam mong susuportahan ka namin; tutulungang bumangon sa bawat pagkakadapa. You know that. Iyon ang tatandaan mo, okay?”
I nodded, my cries louder but my heart lighter. My mother has always been my citadel. Where I run to first when I get hurt, when I fail, when things get difficult for me…
I heard Mom’s voice again reminding me I only have less than twenty minutes to get ready. I put the huge box’s lid back and carried it, staring at it for a while before putting it back in place.
My Angel… I sighed deeply, ignoring the slight piercing in my chest. Kung tulad lang sana ng pagtanggal ng mga apps sa mobile phones ang pagtanggal sa feelings ginawa ko na… I couldn’t tell my sister earlier that when I saw him a few days ago everything went back to me.
With that fleeting moment when our eyes met, all the wonderful, bittersweet memories flooded my thoughts in a surge. The questions left unanswered… all the confusion, pain and anger… ‘yung pakiramdam na kung gaano niya kadaling naiwanan at binalewala ang lahat sa amin, ganoon naman katagal at kahirap para sa akin ang mag-move on…
“Stop it! Stop it!” I poked myself angrily. “Time to get ready! Wala ka pang isusuot!”
Skimming through my wardrobe real quick, I grabbed the first pair of jeans and blouse my eyes had lain on. And too bad, I couldn’t find those pair of shoes I’m looking for.
In five minutes flat I went out of my room and headed straight to the car.
“Ano ba ‘yung malaking box sa closet mo?” Mom inquired casually once I sat down.
Pasimple pa ‘to si Mommy, kunwari ‘di alam, I laughed inwardly. “Old stuff, Mom. Mga ilang buwan ko nang hindi nagagamit…”
“Eh, bakit ‘di mo pa ilagay sa bodega? O kaya i-donate na natin. Para may mailagay ka pa sa top shelf. Ang laking bulk no’n doon,”
“S— Sige po,” I answered hesitantly. I don’t know what’s the better option. Sa totoo lang, nanghihinayang ako…
Half an hour later we arrived at the shoot’s venue. Everyone’s getting ready when we arrived. I went straight to the commercial’s production team and beamed upon seeing someone I didn’t expect to be there.
“Hey, Loveliest,” my dashing and ever-resolute suitor greeted me with a smile. “Surprised?”
“What are you doing here?”
He shrugged. “Just wanna watch you. Okay lang ba? Kung ayaw mo, wala ka namang magagawa. I’m staying,”
I laughed aloud, walking closer to shoulder-slap him. But he held my hand and took it to his lips, giving it a gentle kiss.
My heart raced. The background fades into the set and all unnecessary thoughts left me in an instant.
Disclaimer: This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places and incidents either are products of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual events or locales or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.