“I love you.”
And there they were, the words I’ve been craving for months, the same words that have escaped my stupid mouth and received no reply, the sentiment that was now giving me the worst case of butterflies since I met him. Three words, here, finally— and displayed on the unromantic screen of my unromantic cell phone.
This meant that he had read my letter. Although I never mentioned his name nor sent them, one quick once-over was enough for a sound conclusion of who it was written for. Fearing the rejection that was bound to circle back if I dared to surrender my feelings, I kept the letters in the safest place I knew, where it could get due attention—everyone’s except his. But I should have known better than to trust the Internet.
My friends warned me that putting up such a personal letter on my blog was going to come back and bite me on the ass but of course I didn’t listen. Of course I thought I knew what I was doing. He made it clear that I had no place in his life so I wasn’t counting on him keeping tabs on me. I assumed that he forfeited that right when he decided we go our separate ways. It was a simple break-up; he got bored. He was fed up. I couldn’t keep him interested while I was too interested.
I couldn’t help it. My first sight of him was a scene: arms stretched out, feet chasing the music around a concert compound, a flood of people following his lead because he knew what the night was all about. I couldn’t take my eyes off him. The music made a day for falling in love maybe.
Eventually, he took notice of my ogling and misinterpreted my surveillance as an invitation. His first words to me were “You like what you see?” He kept his kind face under wispy hair. He kept his arrogance in check and played it to his advantage; he had on a cheeky smile for his well-rehearsed pick-up line.
His vibe was magnetic and he knew it; he probably thought I’d giggle and fawn over his silly attempts at flirting like the handful of girls watching us then but I knew better than to trust the mischief leaking from his teeth.
Even then, I was smarter than him, about him. I only shrugged and replied, “There’s something on your face.” I betrayed nothing of the erratic thump-thump-thump happening with my traitor heart.
This confused him. For a moment, he thought I was serious and he tried rubbing his face to get rid the mystery “something” but when his hands and sleeves came up clean, the jig was up. At this, he assumed a second smile that was different, less teasing. He was trying very hard to hide the fact that he was amused with me—and he failed. I raised an eyebrow as a challenge and he pursed his lips like he was considering if I was sassy enough to be sexy but by now I was bored with our exchange. I exhaled in exasperation, turned and walked away but he fell in step with me.
“Hey wait, don’t go! Can I walk with you?”
I smiled. Look at that, the snake charmer surrendered his tricks. He looked at me like I could save his life with a word.
Since then, all we did was surrender: opinions, insecurities, dreams, fears, defenses, pretenses, secrets…
But six months into our un-infinite playlist, the music stopped. Now, the inside of my mouth was dry while my fingers were poised on top of the keypad. I had a fistful of words tailored for this situation but I was drawing up a blank. I wanted to tell him I missed him in a way that was also an insult to his existence.
Because he was probably the love of my life— past and present tense. And he doesn’t know what these pop-ups of his meant to me. I wished I had the capability to produce a volume fit for “leave me alone”; I wished that if I stomped my feet and let my pieces fall at his feet, he’d take his mixed signals with him and disappear for good. If I stood in front of him to beg for peace, I wished he had some to spare. Because if it hurts this much, can I call it love? If I said I had waited, would Time run back on its course to give him back to me when I was still unscathed? I couldn’t type back a reply.
Three hours later, he wasn’t taking silence as an answer.
“So, did you get my message?”
I said yes. He only breathed in reply.
I knew him well enough to know what that silence meant: at his end of the line, he was probably pacing. His hands would have just combed through his hair, down to his neck where he’d try to squeeze the tension out. His hand would stay there, his head hanging low, his feet making dents on the floorboards of his room. He’d be biting his lip and if I was there, I would be kissing that lip.
“Why are you calling me?” I made sure I hinted at annoyance.
“You know why.”
“And you should know by now that I don’t have it in me to say it back.”
“Then what was the letter for?”
It was for six months ago. It was for when you had the ears to listen and I had the courage to knock on your door and demand for my love to be returned. It was for the plans we made that never saw the light of day, for the promises you vowed to be the only things you’d remember. It was for a time when you didn’t need to read a public declaration to realize what I was to you. It was for a better time, a different me, a better us, a closer you.
But I didn’t have the breath nor the bravado to throw all that pain in his face just so he could understand that goodbyes were meant to set people free from their baggage.
I came clean: “You terrify me. These words, these feelings? I don’t know what to do with them.”
“Show me,” he said.
My hesitation collapsed: “I love you too…“ And I swear I heard him smile…
Then I woke up.