I dragged myself to the curb to text him. I dusted the rubble off my shaken body and struggled to compose my thoughts and a message. My sides hurt when I breathed, signifying a tear somewhere or perhaps a fractured rib. I lit up a cigarette, hoping I could smoke the pain away. The nicotine hit me fast and hard and I had to hold on to the pavement or else I felt I’d float away.
“Oo nga. Papunta na nga sana. Eh malamang, di ko naman ginusto madisgrasya diba?”
“Sinasabi ko naman kasi sayo noon pa. Delikado yang pag-motor motor mo. Ewan ko ba kung bakit di ka kasi nakikinig sa kin.”
“Sorry na. Di ko naman to ginusto. Kahit anong oras pa, pupuntahan kita. Antayin mo lang ako.”
And I thought about all the things that have happened that led me here. That first miscalculated turn, the cold bead of sweat that ran from my temple to my chin, the seed of doubt that got planted in my head. Kaya ko ba talaga to? Baka naman nagtatapang-tapangan lang ako? It took a few more blocks and crossways before I realized I’d turned too soon. Panic settled in and for a few seconds, I was mid-air in slow motion. The buildings and the streets traded places. I landed on the sky.
When strength and courage returned, I got back on my bike. I put the key in the ignition. Click. Thud. Click. Whirr. Click. Shit. Now what am I gonna do?
“Mi, ayaw na mag-start.”
“Anong ayaw na mag-start?”
“Yung motor. Eh ayaw nga. Anong gagawin ko?”
“Iwan mo nalang diyan. Balikan natin bukas. Punta ka na dito. Tulog na yung gata sa hapunan. Ako, inaantok na rin.”
“Di naman pwede yun. Baka pagtripan ng mga adik. Sira-sira na nga, nanakawin pa.”
“Eh anong gagawin mo? Diyan ka nalang pipirmi? Papabulok ka diyan?”
“Sorry. Nasan ka ba? Ako nalang pupunta diyan.”
“Hindi. Ako na. Gagawan ko nalang ng paraan. Basta antayin mo ko. Sorry.”
I dragged that motherfucker a mile and a half, my lungs burning, my feet screaming bloody murder. I arrived at his doorstep close to dawn. He opened the door, sleep and anger in his eyes, his eyebrows close to meeting.
“I’m here. I’m sorry. I’m here.”
He dropped the first aid kit he was holding and rushed towards me. He wrapped his arms around me and…
“Aray! Easy. Easy.”
“Ay sorry. Sorry.”
He wrapped his arms around me and it truly felt like I’d come home.
“Grabe naman pala yung sira,” he said, looking over my shoulder at the huge pile of metal garbage that lay smokey on his driveway. He surveyed the damage, making tiny calculations in his head. “Pero kaya pa yan. Oo. Kaya pa yan.”
“Oo. Dalhin ko nalang sa talyer bukas.”
He wrapped an arm around me as I limped my way inside. Outside, the September winds were cold and restless but inside, I could feel nothing but warmth.
He sat me down on the couch and put a pillow behind my neck. He propped my legs up and unlaced my boots. He disappeared into the kitchen and for once, I felt safe enough to close my eyes and let go.
“Ito, may dala akong yelo. Saan ba masakit?”
“Dito, mi. May bali ata.”
He pressed a bag of ice on my side, kisses me gently on the forehead.
“Buti nakarating ka.”
“Buti naghintay ka.”
I pray the next man I love will be patient. I pray he closes his eyes, sees me dragging this old heart down a dusty highway as I find my way to him, and realizes that his waiting is all that’s keeping me alive right now. The sun looms as dawn breaks and I begin to fully accept that this chapter of my life has finally come to an end. I’m terrified, so much so that I wake up at odd hours of the night in a cold sweat. But I know this will pass. Like all the other times I’ve sat on the curb smoking, staring at the mess I made, I know the hours will keep passing, the world will keep spinning, and this heart, however wounded, will keep beating. There is fear. There is anger. But when the dust settles, I know there is also a faint heartbeat of excitement. I can’t wait to meet the man I will be after you.
“Saan ba masakit?” he asks, and I show him my heart. He holds it in his hands, runs his fingers through scars, both old and new and says “I can fix it.” I will fix it.
I pray the next man I love will be me.
♫: Mayonnaise | Paraan (2015)