I have been waiting for this for quite some time, but I can’t quite figure out the reason why. I used to be wary of going home; a particular disagreeable portion of the time spent there was getting bombarded with questions like, “When are going to get married?”, or “When are you going to settle down and start your practice here in town?” Every damn time.
But, somehow, I am not extremely bothered despite the inevitability of that happening.
I even booked an UberX despite the triple-price surge. Michelle, in a black Ford EcoSport.
She was still four minutes away so I smoked a stick, my final one before home. Two minutes away, I puffed just a bit harder; most Michelles I knew did not like the smell of tobacco so early in the day.
Arriving now. She opened the front passenger seat window.
The melody her words swim in shook up any sleep-seeking cells I had. The minute nicotine I’ve managed to shore up was dispelled and my neurons too flooded with nostalgia, I failed to notice the ajar door hit my right knee.
“Good morning! Do you have a preferred route to the airport?”
How could she ask me that?! She should know all my preferences! Playing dumb, eh? Let’s see how far you’ll take this Michelle.
“Excuse me, Michelle? Did you, by any chance, study Accountancy?”
She looked at me, then laughed. She asked me how I figured it out. I knew because she used to bitch about her professors to me. I knew because I used to console her when she failed a quiz or fucked up a presentation. I knew because I memorized her schedule just so I can be there to pick her up, on time. I knew, but she clearly did not; she has no inkling of an idea as to who I am, who she was to me.
Drudging along EDSA, she offered me to play music from my device. With every fiber of my being, I mustered up my stubborness and chose to play CeeLo Green’s classic, Fuck You/Forget You. Though not the most apropos insult, given that she’s the one with the car, I stuck with my song choice and iced her out until we exited EDSA. I’m mature like that.
Friction is a bitch. My buttocks could pass for a panini press and my fragile ego was slowly broken down by my backfiring contempt, sliding off her impermeable ignorance. Holding a grudge against a person feigning amnesia is idiotic, apparently.
“Are you flying off to vacation? Hong Kong or South Korea?”
I shook my head. I told her, “I’m flying domestic, off to see family. It’ll suck but it has been a while so I’m overdue.” She cackled and placed her gear-shifting hand on my left shoulder. The traces of sweat on her clammy hand lingers on my sleeve. It smelt of the back rubs I used to guilt her into giving me.
So, I guess she’s not breaking character.
The chill of the A/C now scalded my forearms; syncing with the fury drudging beneath my skin. But her smile dispelled all, quelled me down, and left me stunned by the stark contrast of my memories of her and now.
Then the contrast died down, slowly pulled back, as trees started to creep up along the highway. It seemed proper since I was on my way home that images of roads bridging Cagayan de Oro and Butuan swam in my mind, and a tad improper that the person she once was seemed long gone. I’m stuck with this amnesiac angel driving me; mad and then some.
We were nearing the toll gate when her phone rang. She asked me if she could pull over to take the call. I was early for my flight anyway. I never eavesdropped on her phone calls in the past, but since things are in seeming disarray for today, why not add to the chaos, right?
Turns out, I’m lousy at eavesdropping. The most I could make out was that she’ll meet with whoever she was talking to when she would be done with “this”.
We arrived at Terminal 3. I was about to get out of the car but she asked me to wait.
“For what?”, I asked.
“Just let this song finish. I don’t have Spotify so please let this finish. Before you go.”
She sang along, wrapping every note with the velvet of her voice and every quiver of her lips ripple through the air. The singer’s vocals hit its peak, sustained, then—
The once-muted noise of the terminal dropped. It now drowned out the fading song as she hurried over to the trunk. The peculiar sight of the absence of lines into the terminal was punctuated by a quite emphatic sprint. As he blurred past my window, I moved to open the door.
As I took in the atmosphere, my ears slowly acclimatize and caught the tail end of hushed goodbye. A thud. She had already unloaded my luggage, and now he was in the driver’s seat. I closed my eyes and tried to hum the melody of the song, in an attempt to induce the effects of theso-called Last Song Syndrome, just so I can make it through this flight, clinging to that. Only that. Then, a second thud.
“You forgot to pack your favorite hoodie. I guess it’s good someone never returned it.”
She bent down and opened a side pocket on her suitcase. A small, black box. She removed what was inside but kept it hidden inside her fist. She took my hand and gave me the object.
My cheeks were flushed, almost feverish, and further heat streaked by the gush of the warm creeks flowing from my eyes. I rested my lips upon the bridge of her nose and put my arms around her.
As the black Ford EcoSport sped off, we walked together to the terminal gates, and I mutter under my breath “Yes”.
“Louder. Say it like you mean it. Or you’re not getting your hoodie back.”