The Haunted: Chapter 10 Ex-Center of His Universe

“So, ano talaga ang ipinunta mo sa Baguio?” tanong ni Rupert.

“Panagbenga.”

Napangiti si Rupert, yung ngiti na parang hindi naniniwala sa sinasabi ko.

“Okay, so bale pinapasyal ninyo ni Jim ang kids ninyo?” follow-up question niya. Nakatingin sya ng taimtim sa akin na parang pulis na nag-uusisa sa kawatan.

“No, I came here alone,” hindi ako tumingin sa kanya kaya hindi ko alam ang naging ekspresyon niya.

“There must be trouble in paradise?” seryosong tanong niya.

“Wala naman…” maagap kong sagot habang naglalakad ng kaunti papunta sa front door.

“I wouldn’t ask more questions about your family. Anyway, what’s your plan for today?” nakapamewang niyang tanong.

“Kukunin ko siguro ang TOR ko at diploma sa school,” ang naiilang kong sagot.

Nahalata kong medyo nagulat siya.

“Are you sure? Nawala ba ang transcript of records at diploma mo?”

“Hindi ko pa talaga nakuha. Noong umuwi ako pagkatapos ng graduation, hindi na ako bumalik pa. It took me almost 20 years to finally have the courage to come back,” seryoso kong sagot.

Hinawakan niya ako sa kamay, hindi ko alam pero hindi ko binawi ang pagkakahawak niya.

“Leona, don’t tell me hindi ka nag-pursue ng career na gusto mo after college?” naroon ang concern sa boses niya.

Nagtama ang mga mata namin, binabasa ng bawat isa sa amin ang nilalaman ng puso at isipan. Binawi ko ang paningin ko sa mga mata niyang nangungusap, iniingatan kong buksan anuman ang damdaming nakatago sa akin. Takot? Hiya? Pagkabahala? O baka naman may natutulog pa kaming damdamin para sa isa’t-isa?

“Hindi naman ako nagtatrabaho sa isang sikat at malaking kumpanya. Hindi nila ako hiningan ng mga bagay na iyan. Pinakita ko lang ang school ID ko and that was it,” nahihiya kong sagot.

“Oh, hindi pala natuloy ang Jessica o Korina dream mo?” pagtutukoy niya sa mga idolo kong sila Jessica Soho at Korina Sanchez.

“That’s life. It has full of surprises. Para namang bago ka nang bago,” sagot ko.

Bumitiw siya sa pagkakahawak sa akin at humalukipkip.

“Ano’ng oras ka ba pupunta ng SLU? Samahan na kita,” alok niya.

“Pagkakain ko ng breakfast.”

“Ooops, sorry. Nagpa-deliver lang ako kanina. I wasn’t expecting any visitor.”

“What about your wife?” ganti kong tanong.

Napangiti siya, yung ngiti na hindi malaman kung maiinis o matutuwa sa tanong ko.

“I’m a damaged man, kahit si Abigail na napakabait ay hindi talaga tatagal sa akin,” napapailing niyang sagot.

May kurot ang pangalang binanggit niya sa akin. May kaunti din akong pagsisisi kung bakit ko pa natanong.

“May breakfast namang inihanda si Dina. I should go now,” pagpapaalam ko.

“I’ll be there in 30 minutes. Antayin mo ako. Sasamahan na kita,” sabi niya habang binubuksan ang front gate.

“Hindi ba magagalit ang boss mo kung ma-late ka sa trabaho?”

Napangiti na naman siya na alanganing natutuwa at alanganing nagtataka sa tanong ko. Lalong lumulutang ang angkin niyang kagwapuhan sa facial expression niya.

“Sasabihin ko na lang na may old friend akong nagbabakasyon at gusto naming sulitin ang panahon. Sa palagay mo, pwede na bang dahilan yan?”

Napangiti ako at napatango. Habang nilalakad ko ang pauwi sa college house ay hindi ko maintindihan ang sarili ko kung bakit nasaktan ako sa salitang “old friend.” Hinahanap-hanap ng pandinig ko ang mga matatamis na kataga o taguri niya sa akin noong mga panahong kami pa.

Princess.

Ms. Universe.

One of a kind.

Love of my life.

Hayan ang mga tawag niya sa akin dati. At ngayon ay isa na lamang akong old friend. Nalulungkot ba ako dahil hindi na ako ang center of his universe o sadyang bad news lang talaga ako kahit kanino? Nagsisikip ang dibdib ko sa nagsisimulang bugso ng mga damdamin. Dinukot ko ang bulsa ko at hinanap ang isang bagay na makakapagpakalma sa akin.

I Love You in Different Times

The 80s I love you: Party Line Problem
The phone sans the caller ID rang.
I picked it up.
“Hello?” I said.
Silence on the other end of the line.
(says my codename).
I smiled, careful not to let my parents hear that I was talking with him.
“How are you?” he asked.
“I’m good. What about you?” I replied.
“I just thought about you,” he said.
We talked about childhood stuff the way tweens did.
The party-line interrupted us and told us that she would use the phone.
“We have just started talking,” I contested.
“Oh, are you entertaining suitors over the phone?” she dared ask.
It was the late 80s where people were conservative.
“Just give me the line; this is an emergency!” she demanded.
We let her use the line; he promised to call me up later.
After half an hour, I picked up the handset.
The party-line was still talking with her boyfriend.
It was not an emergency!
I interrupted them, “I’m expecting a call.”
“You rude little girl! We’re still talking!” she said.
Rude? I showed them how rude I could get.
I placed the handset beside a loud walkie-talkie.
I heard a woman screaming in anger.
I won.
The phone sans the caller ID rang.
It was him.
We talked again.
I heard my father’s footsteps.
I told him that I needed to hang up.
“I love you,” he said.
I did not respond.

The 90s I love you: The Operator-Assisted Call
“Hello?” I said
“Why did you ignore me this morning at school?” he asked.
“I did not notice you,” I said.
“But you noticed “X,” he replied.
He let out a deep breath.
Then we talked about our Science subject because we both liked it.
“I will be out of town this weekend. What do you want as pasalubong?”
I told him that I was not after the pasalubong.
“Okay, I’ll just buy what my money could buy. I love you.”
“I love you, too,” then I hang up.
The phone rang again.
“What did you just say?” he asked.
“Ah, that’s nothing,” I said.
“No, I heard you said that you love me, too.”
“Brotherly love,” then I hang up with blushing cheeks.

Three years later, the phone sans the caller ID rang.
“Hello,” I said.
The operator said that it was a long-distance call.
I accepted the call, excited about the person on the other end of the line.
“I miss you,” he said.
“I miss you, too,” I said.
We ranted about how long the sem-break seemed to be as first-time lovers normally did.
And as expected, at the end of the long-distance call was this: “Bye for now. Take care and I love you,” he said.
“I can’t hear the last words,” I said.
He shouted the last words and I could just imagine how the other callers from the phone booths reacted.

The 2000s I love you: Age of Shortcuts
Text message.
“Mis u. Luv u,” he said.
“Luv u 2,” I said.

This further evolved into instant messaging two decades later with emojis and .gifs.

I’ve seen, heard, and felt love since the late 80s up to the present times. I notice how saying “I love you” becomes easier now than before. It could be because the emojis allow people to express themselves openly that is why saying “I love you” becomes as normal as saying “Please” or “Thank you.”
Don’t get me wrong, I support expressiveness between lovers, families, and friends. When it comes to people who do not share a deep relationship, I find it odd when they say “I love you” as an expression of approval or agreement.
The changing times allow my thoughts to wander to the days when saying “I love you” was difficult because the recipient would hold on to it and expect that those words and actions would last.

The Crown

The Crown, Queens Don't Chase
The Crown

“Queens don’t chase. That’s how the crown falls.”


I am trying to find the author of this quote but different names popped out. Anyway, this quote sends a powerful message not only to the women out there but also to men. Should a woman accept the size of the crown that her man gives just to please him?


When the crown is too small for the woman’s head, it will fall off. When the crown is too big for the woman’s head, the same thing will happen. Wearing an ill-fitting crown will not only make the queen uncomfortable but it will be prone to accident, as well. Besides, this is the reason why queens don’t chase because that’s how the crown falls.


Of course, I am not talking about the gender superiority complex here. I am talking about reminding couples in a relationship that compatibility plays a big factor in a long- lasting partnership. Most women fall into the trap of finding excuses for their man’s bad behavior. They become the chaser and not the chased. Men take advantage of this and continue with their misbehavior. When the woman starts to behave like a queen with a precious crown on her head, she is more in tune with her feelings and how she should behave.
Of course, there would be some men who would dare challenge women and question what’s the big deal with having an ill-fitting crown? Those men are so selfish, they do not care about offending women. If this type of man has this mindset, the woman must think twice before marrying him. And should a woman has already married this kind of man, she should prioritize her sanity and guard her feelings. Selfish men all care about what is good for them. Sometimes, insecurity triggers their selfishness, and women are not obliged to change how men should behave. Women are obsessed with the idea of being the one to transform men’s behavior and the success rate is small.


The truth is, men will change for the better when they deeply love a woman. The bitter truth is, men don’t care about offending women that they don’t really love and they take pride in getting away with it. A good relationship is for better and for worse. Don’t chase after somebody who is not into you. Believe in action and not by words.

Closure

I guess people see me as somebody trustworthy enough so they don’t feel awkward in sharing their life/love story. Somebody asked me about my opinion on closure. I told her that the moment two people fall apart, that’s closure; no more no less.

Why do we have to romanticize the end of any relationships? It must be the inner struggle to let go of the person and come to terms of accepting that things do really come to an end.

Why do we even bother to know the reasons behind the other person’s change of heart when it’s quite obvious that he/she just fell out of love? It must be the secret hope of winning back the other person and continue whatever is left of the relationship.

More often than not, we cling to the beautiful memories of the past because it feels good to be reminded that once in our life, we were happy with the other person and we wish that that moment will be duplicated. But we fail to recognize that people change, either for the better or for the worse and that we just need to accept if the other person is no longer into us.

Closure is like the ending of a chapter in a book, keeping it in a year and then reading it again to find out that you have a different interpretation of the paragraphs. With another year of closing it and leaving it as is, you become more mature and see the broader scenario instead of confining to what you initially thought the plot is all about. Then comes another year of leaving it as is and then re-reading it until you fully understand that there are paragraphs that are nice on the eyes to read but do not necessarily have an impact on what you currently believe as a person. It’s like a past relationship where you’ll be fascinated to discuss about but not necessarily wish for a second chance.