Personal

Maybe one day, a few years from now, you will take the bus ride home.

You have with you a single backpack, after all, it is only a mini vacation; a brief escape from the demands and obligations you left in the jungle that is the corporate world. You find a seat beside a man in his forties. You ask if the seat is taken and he says no. The bus moves. You settle in and make yourself comfortable. The conductor turns on the TV and chooses a movie. You watch him scroll through a list of movies most of which you have not seen yet. The older man asks you if you would be willing to change seats with him. I’m not comfortable sitting beside windows, he says. You change seats. The conductor picks a movie you have already seen with an office mate which you didn’t enjoy. You decide to look through the window.  For now, the bus takes you closer and closer to the terminal of your youth. You pass familiar sights, buildings, places. You pass by your old school and you smile because even after all those years, not much has changed. You pass by the traffic light– now LED– and remember the moments where you wished you didn’t have to go home and you laugh at what a fool you were for wishing that. You pass by your favorite food place and realize it has become an internet shop. You wish you were there before it permanently closed; to eat one last time before it vanishes… taking away with it good old times with friends. You remember the people: the teacher who gave you a grade you didn’t deserve or the girl who asked you out for a date or the classmate who kept competing with your performance or the other classmate who made you feel unimportant. You remember the girl, too, the one who you were always with. The girl who always had your back. The one who pushed and encouraged you in times of failure and discouragement. The one who never tired to listen to your rants and troubles. The girl you took out on “friendly” dates. The girl you found beautiful but could never say it out loud. The girl you spent Valentine’s day with drinking coffee and tiptoeing around the fact that it was Valentine’s day and you were together. You laugh at yourself because you couldn’t even bring yourself to say what you two looked like. She was almost like a best friend except that she was more than that but you couldn’t say it. Even when you spent your last day in town together and you knew, somehow, that she was waiting for it and you wanted to say it, but the words would not come through. They remained in your head even when you rehearsed it again and again the night before. It was special, what you had for her, but you couldn’t say it. So you parted ways that night, heart in your hand, regretful for not having said it. For not holding her one last time before you both embark on different roads that may not cross each other’s again.

And indeed your paths haven’t crossed again since that eventful day. For the first few months you try communicating: update each other on whos and whats. But then responsibilities increased, obligations became heavier, tasks became arduous and demanding until communication decreased to occasional notifications and birthday greetings.  You see her occasionally on Facebook: smiling with old and new faces, wearing what both of you should have worn had you not decided to pursue a different career. You see her blowing cakes and celebrating birthdays with people you barely recognize wishing that you were there with her. You see a photo of her with a guy you don’t know and it stings you because you wish it was you.

Your phone beeps. It is your mother asking you what time you will arrive and you text her a short reply. You resume your thoughts and wonder where she might be at this very hour. Briefly, you wonder what it would look like if you two were together. The bus stops for the red light. You look out the window. And as if fate could not be any crueler, you see her standing beside the road, waiting for who-knows-what. You could not believe your eyes and you had to blink twice to make sure that you weren’t imagining things, that you didn’t just mistake anyone for her, but there she is: the girl– the one you were always with. You grab your bag and start going for the exit when you stop yourself midway– what am I doing? The bus starts moving and you look back to the window and she has vanished. The girl– the one you were always with. Your heart breaks. Was fate playing you a cruel trick?

After all those years… after all those years of trying so hard to keep people away. After all the almosts and could-have-beens. After all those women who asked for your heart and cried because you told them you couldn’t give it away. Not because you didn’t want to, but because you already had: a few years ago to that girl you were always with. It was her. It was always her. And after everything, it is still her. She still has your heart. It was special, what you had for her, but you couldn’t say it.

You couldn’t bring yourself to leave if she said it back.

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