What he wanted to say
She sat at a corner table with her back against the rest of the coffee shop as he approached her with the words in his head playing continuously on a three-day loop, which was slowly segueing with the beat of that muscle on his chest, like a sudden heavy downpour in the middle of summer. “Hi,” he said. “Hi,” she said. And the heartbeat disappeared in the background as they exchanged monosyllabic greetings with the warmth of that night. It was 31 degrees, 7 p.m. in Manila.
She sat beside him on a grassy patch on a 17-degree Paris’ timeless east bank nine months earlier, with the words on his head playing continuously on a three-day loop. It was 7 p.m. and the sun made her face still clear enough for him to see the slivers at the corner of her eyes, gracefully tracing the crow’s feet wrinkles every time she smiled. They were both in France for an academic pursuit. They both wore blue that night. A beautiful coincidence, he thought. The Eiffel Tower from a distance was beautiful, she said. So was she, he thought.
They both wore blue, again, that night in Manila. Another beautiful coincidence, he thought, as he raced against the night to say his piece. She told him about her current preoccupations, and while he was listening, he was also occupied with that burning sensation that kicked him from the inside. He had to tell her, but the risk of turning the so-far-beautiful night into something he was not prepared to handle, in a not-so-good way, lurked somewhere within the corners of the restaurant they headed to for dinner. To say those words would be courting the huge possibility of ending up shattered into pieces. He wasn’t young anymore, and bouncing from rejection was something age was not an advantage in.
Or maybe it was. Previous experiences of unrequited feelings might have made this imagined impending doom just another one of those. It was nothing new. But at that point, he wasn’t thinking along this strand. She was too important to risk.
Of course, there was the possibility of hearing what he wanted to hear, but age reminded him of the difference between possibility and probability.
He thought about the possibility of hearing a response he was not prepared to take, like it was the default response. Life, after all, is a collection of possibilities. She was a possibility. Maybe he wasn’t her possibility. But she was in every possibility he wanted to end up with. The words he prepared to tell her were about to jump out of his chest. His lips were too scared to let those words out.
But what are the probabilities of 7 p.m. meetings and blue-colored outfits? It must be a sign, he thought. Or it must have been pure coincidence. What beautiful coincidences they were, like how beautiful it was that they were in the same class at the university the first time he saw her five years earlier. With her shoulder-length hair following the contours of her face, she brought nostalgia of their university days.
But yes, why risk destroying that night? It was a blue moon in the French capital. “How many times in my lifetime will I be able to be with her, in front of the iconic tower, on a blue moon?” Of course, it could have been the night of his life, or it could have been the night he will regret for the rest of his life. It was a double-edged sword of a thought. He was losing the race against the night. Fear is a force to be reckoned with.
There wasn’t any blue moon that night at the restaurant. There was just her and him. And the rest of the blurry background of people going about their business, and perhaps also fighting to transform their useless thoughts into spoken words that will work in their favor. At certain points in their conversation, she paused. Maybe she was waiting for him to say something. She knew how he felt about her. She didn’t know how much.
He was drowning in his thoughts and he wasn’t very successful in saving himself. She didn’t even know he was drowning.
Like all nights, it had to end. It was midnight in Paris, and fate placed them in opposite parts of the arrondissement. Back in Manila, she took the train going north and he, going south. Opposites. And Lang Leav’s “Almost” echoed as he beat himself up being such a coward. “But we were a maybe and never a must when it should have been us.” And the maybe fell slowly into never.
They both said their goodbye spiels, how they both enjoyed the night, and all the other pleasantries, but the words he longed to say. The set of three-day words kept on playing on the loop in the background, silently. No more heartbeats doing the percussion. He watched her disappear in the swarm of people waiting for the train, as the 31 degrees made his forehead cry with defeated sweat, rolling down his face faster than he could ever break his silence.
Another coincidence. He will have to wait for another coincidence. The probability is as bleak as the MRT running on empty cars.
She never heard those words. He never got to say them. But what he really wanted to say was …
Johnrev Guilaran is a university assistant professor in Iloilo. He loves traveling. He has two dogs.
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