“What great gravity is this that drew my soul towards yours? What great force, that though I went falsely, went kicking, went disguising myself to earn your love, also disguised, to earn your keeping, your resting, your staying, your will fleshed into mine, rasped by a slowly revealed truth, the barter of my soul, the soul that I fear, the soul that I loathe, the soul that: if you will love, I will love. I will redeem you, if you will redeem me?” Donald Miller
Something always brings me back to you
It never takes too long
No matter what I say or do
I still feel you here ’til the moment I’m gone
You hold me without touch
You keep me without chains
I never wanted anything so much
Than to drown in your love and not feel your rain
“How about tomorrow? Pwede ka ba? Plee-ease…kahit after na ng work mo.”
“H-a?” she asked distractedly, clumsily pulling the bag straps over her head, trying to balance her mobile phone in her other hand.
She has just come home and the day couldn’t have felt longer. Tempers had been flying all over the office as each harassed employee frantically tried to beat the ominous threat of impending deadlines that were hanging all over their heads. Angry words had been thrown left and right and even she, who was never in the habit, had helplessly mumbled a word or two when somehow caught in one of the cross fires that eventually drifted her way.
“Bukas. Ano, daanan kita?” he asked lightly, encouragingly, undeterred by her not so warm response and her somewhat indifferent manner. “Kain tayo sa labas,” he coaxed.
Her breath swooshed silently out of her as she slumped clumsily on her sofa, just realizing who the person was on the other end of the line. He couldn’t have called at a worse time. All her strength had been depleted by the busyness of the day and whatever was left of it is reserved for tomorrow’s wakeup call so that she could live through another day just like today. ‘Hurrah!’ she thought self-deprecatingly, ‘another 24 hours of pure bliss.’
She lolled her head back both in abject frustration and sudden tiredness. She’s giving it to him. He is persistent. Truth is she doesn’t know what to do. Lord knows how much she wanted to give in to the temptation that is ‘John Lloyd Cruz’ but then it wouldn’t be called “temptation” if it was good for you.
Not that he’s a bad person. Nothing like that. He couldn’t be any kinder, or sweeter—which ironically, were the very things that were scaring her, making her want to run as far away from him as possible.
It’s been six weeks since that fateful and bizarre night they were left stranded inside the house as the storm continued its devastation on the land. The deafening sound of the heavy rain tirelessly assailing the defenseless city echoed unrelentingly in the small unlit room where they were fortuitously bound together and, by some miracle, she has become impervious to its threat. She fell asleep in his arms, comforted and lulled, oblivious to the strangeness of the moment.
When she woke up dawn the following morning she thought she would feel awkward and embarrassed in his presence remembering only how she broke down and confessed “everything” to a complete stranger—but, thankfully, he made it easy for her. He didn’t mention what happened the night before. His manner was charily impeccable and compassionate, gentleness layering his every action. Sadly, he needed go home while it was still dark to prevent the neighbors from seeing him leave her apartment. Afterwards she thought that that was the end of it, all too ready to put it all behind her but that very evening, he called just to ask how she was doing. How can you fight ‘thoughtful’ and ‘considerate’?
That’s how things are now between them—he would call and she would answer, which would turn out into hours of meaningless conversations. Of course, first few minutes she would be all mum and reserved, but then all awkwardness would eventually fade, his mostly inane stories peeling off her inhibitions quite rapidly. Suddenly, nothing could be more normal than talking to him on the phone in her pajamas, drinking tea, unreservedly allowing herself be lulled to sleep by the monotonous drone of his voice.
It would have been okay for her to just stay like that the rest of their lives—talking on the phone, unburdening to each other, complaining about nothing and everything—just friends, no expectations and no demands. She was satisfied to keep it their little secret, away from malicious eyes and disapproving looks—and besides, she knew it wouldn’t sit well with her if her editor found out about her relationship with a star, a really big star like John Lloyd Cruz, no matter how shallow or innocent it was. That opportunity would just be too good to pass up.
But what she wanted is not necessarily what he wants. Foolishly enough, he wanted to put it out there. He’s been asking her to go out ‘just as friends,’ he emphasized, since it’s actually ‘what friends do’. Those were his words. She doesn’t know if she should feel offended for his stress on the word ‘friends’ or just be relieved that that’s how he merely sees her—no romantic intentions, which is alright by her since she’s not a fan of ‘complications’ at the moment. But his friendship has become very important to her and exposing it would ensure its destruction.
Suddenly feeling a headache coming on, she unconsciously rubbed her temple in uneasy silence trying to think of ways to turn down his offer—again. She didn’t want to be rude to him since he was nothing but nice to her but it seems that there’s no other way around it.
‘Maybe she should just stop talking to him altogether,’ she thought resignedly. She could only see heartbreak coming her way as long as she allows herself even a sliver of hope that this would turn out into something serious. Not that she was “wishing” for anything of the kind. No, no. It didn’t even cross her mind. But why, then, was she thinking about it now as if it was even possible?
She moaned frustratingly, confusion overcrowding her thoughts. Why is life so unfair to her? Why wasn’t she born gorgeous and—rich and—famous? She knew she wouldn’t think twice if that was the case.[put eye rolling here]
“Well, that was encouraging,” the person in the phone chuckled, surprisingly not offended by her lack of excitement.
She groaned, disgusted with herself, suddenly realizing she sounded as if she was bored with him. “Sorry, may naisip lang ako, kasi…”
“Ano ka ba,…binibiro lang kita, alam ko naman na pagod ka,” he assured her kindly, laughing a little.
There he goes again, making excuses for her. He is making it more and more difficult for her to say ‘no’ to him.
Her tears suddenly welled up in misery. She just feels so exhausted—and hungry and sleepy. Now she is wishing that he’s already there to comfort her. But maybe he wouldn’t want to come anymore. She’s just been rude to him even though he’s still trying to be nice to her. Maybe he would want to forget everything about her. She wouldn’t blame him. She is just plain awful. She doesn’t deserve him. People like her should be…
“Eh, how about now?” he suggested cheerfully, cutting short her depressingly private pity-party. “Kumain ka na ba?”
“Ha-a?” her voice shaking, unnerved, too busy berating herself. “Anong sabi mo?” she asked wearily, sniffling. Can he now read her mind?
“Wait—umiiyak ka ba?” he asked, concern now clothing his voice.
She couldn’t answer. A sure way to make people cry is to ask them if they’re crying.
There was a short pause, both of them unable to articulate their own troubled thoughts.
“Gusto mo ba ng kasama?” he asked quietly, cautiously, not wanting to force himself on her if she didn’t want him there.
She held her silence a little bit longer, afraid she would reveal how much she wanted him there, but was unable to stifle a sob from escaping her lips.
“Ok, that’s it,” he said roughly, disappearing for a few seconds, “pwede ‘bang paki bukas ng pinto?” he finally requested.
“Ha?” she mumbled, feeling more and more stupid, unable to decipher what he was saying.
Her heart almost jumped from her chest when three raps emanated from her door.
“Ako ‘yung kumakatok sa pinto mo,” he enunciated patiently in the phone, “pwede po bang paki bukas?”
Confused but somehow elated, she absently walked to the door and opened it, one hand still clutching the phone to her ear. His expression was stern but she knew it was not for her but for whatever it was that was making her cry and, when his face melted into a gentle smile nothing could’ve stopped her from flying into his arms.
He didn’t say anything, and she didn’t say anything but they both knew what the other one was trying to say. His arms around her were comforting, warm, firm and gentle—all strangely but reassuringly familiar.
“Tsk, tsk, tsk—sabi ko na nga ba miss mo na ako eh,” he teasingly chided after awhile, ruffling her unruly hair with his breath. “Hayaan mo,” he said playfully, trying to pull her back into his arms when she petulantly pushed him away, “simula ngayon dadalawin na kita araw-araw.”
“Hmp,” she grumbled, glaring angrily at him. Noisily, she pushed the front door shut and stomped her way towards the sofa, leaving him to follow her inside. “Ewan ko sa’yo,” she grumbled huffily, loud enough for him to hear, “bahala ka sa buhay mo.” His laughter exploded after her, frighteningly loud enough to alert any gossip standing outside the door.
She inelegantly flopped back down on the seat she vacated earlier and leaned her head back on the sofa. Lifting her legs on the center table, intentionally closing her eyes, she then smiled secretly at his ever-present arrogance. She wasn’t really upset with him. She’s gotten used to his overconfidence in their phone conversations and, somehow, she knew that his teasing was his way of giving her time to compose herself.
He slumped clumsily beside her and poked her playfully on the shoulder. “Gutom na ko,” he complained.
“Ako rin,” she grunted without opening her eyes.
“Eh di kumain na tayo,” he suggested matter-of-factly.
She opened one eye first and saw him point towards her diminutive dining table resting against the far wall of her small kitchen that also converts as her home office. She noticed a couple of plastic bags at the center laden with Styrofoam takeout containers that weren’t there before.
“Dala mo?” she asked incredulously, truly surprised by what he brought for her. She looked at him wide-eyed. “Kanina ka pa ba dyan sa labas?” she asked, quickly calculating how he happened to know to bring food that fast when she just came home herself.
He shrugged unconcernedly, obviously not caring to explain himself. “Gutom na ako,” he whined pitifully, brushing her question away.
She stared at his boyish, unrepentant face staring back at her. It’s obvious that there’s no use pursuing the topic so she just stood up in resignation and prepared the food for them.
But you’re neither friend nor foe
Though I can’t seem to let you go
The one thing that I still know
Is that you’re keeping me down
You’re keeping me down
“Hay salamat, dumating ka rin,” Beth, the newspaper’s entertainment writer senior to her, gasped in relief, stuffing a rolled newspaper and a notebook she was reading inside her big satchel before standing up. “Halika ka na. Huwag mo nang ibaba yang bag mo,” she added vaguely, obviously in a hurry, pulling her along with her to the elevator.
Sarah looked back at the big wall clock situated above the door of the editor’s office wondering why the office was already a-buzz with activity when she was sure she’s at least an hour early.
“Bakit ang aga-aga ninyo? Ano ba’ng nangyari?” she asked worriedly, staring at her officemate’s frowning face.
Beth’s face suddenly broke into a big grin, looking like the cat that got the cream. “Di’ ba kagabi natapos natin yung article tungkol dun sa mga bagong movies na naka line-up ng Star Cinema and GMA films and how their themes look very much alike? Di ba we were complaining na sayang na we didn’t have enough time to collect more data about it—na parang rush-rush yung pagka gawa ng article? Well, guess what? We have been given a reprieve,” she finished with a chuckle.
“Bakit daw. Eh, hindi sa nagrereklamo ako pero anong nangyari,” Sarah asked frowningly.
Pulling the rolled newspaper from inside her bag, Beth handed it to Sarah. “Basahin mo ito,” she exclaimed excitedly,” front page tayo ‘teh!”
JOHN LLOYD CRUZ IN A SECRET RENDEZVOUS
Sarah almost dropped the newspaper after seeing the front-page. A picture of John Lloyd Cruz leaving an all too familiar apartment building and another one where he was almost inside his black Range Rover looking quite pleased with himself, both splattered on the front page of their newspaper. She didn’t know how to react. The pictures were damning to say the least. Her mind now rushing, trying to remember who among her friends knew where she was living.
“Paano…,” she started, swallowing hard, unable to complete a sentence sensibly.
“Hahaha,” Beth laughed happily, “suwerte no?”
“Suwerte?” Sarah asked controllably, trying not to break into a thousand pieces.
The elevator doors finally opened and they walked towards the parking space where Beth’s white car, a 2002 Ford Lynx Ghia bought second-hand from her sister, was usually parked. “Oo, suwerte talaga. A friend texted me those pictures last night. Sabi niya he was in a taxi when he saw John Lloyd coming out from a building. Ginamit lang nya celfone nya to ‘capture the moment’. I contacted our very supportive editor and asked him if we could run the story and delay the other one and he gave his go ahead.”
Sarah remained silent, still in shock, talking herself out of a panic attack.
“So, ngayon I knew I have to go find out for myself kung saan yung building na ‘yon,” Beth said determinedly, “and who he was visiting there.”
Sarah stopped mid stride, thinking if she should continue following the animated older woman in front of her. Wouldn’t it be better to run now while she still has time to hide from the imminent doom coming her way?
“Kailangan mag madali tayo,” Beth instructed, not allowing her anytime to hesitate, “once people get a hold of this story kailangan handa na tayo para sa follow up. We should keep people hungry.”
“Eh, anong gagawin natin dun?” she asked worriedly.
“Research, my dear. We need to know yung name ng ka-date niya,” she replied distractedly, craning her neck everywhere, seeming to have forgotten where she parked her car. “And maybe also take some more pictures,” she shrugged.
“Eh baka naman friend lang nya…o kaya relative…”
“What if it’s a new girl friend,” she quipped happily, finally locating her wayward car, motioning her to take the passenger seat.
“Baka naman gusto nilang gawing private kaya hindi nila pinapaalam sa public,” Sarah reasoned weakly, snapping the seat belt automatically, her mind trying to grasp on straws.
Beth’s head swiveled quickly towards her trainee/friend, her face contorted in amazement. “Ano nga ulit ang trabaho natin? When we became reporters it’s with the understanding that we will do anything for a scoop—and this one landed on our laps without any effort. Isa lang ang ibig sabihin niyan, this is our time to shine,” she ended with a boisterous laugh.
This is what she’s been afraid of all along. She knew people would make a big deal out of it and the circus resulting from the expose would surely hurt them both. How could they possibly escape this situation?
Suddenly Beth’s celfone started to ring. “Hello? O, Jun, bakit? Papunta na kami dun sa apartment. Kasama ko si Sarah,” Beth spoke brokenly all alert as she maneuvered the car through the building traffic. She’s talking to their Assignment Editor. “Ganun ba,” Beth said frowningly, “okay, diretso na lang kami sa ABS. Baka kasi hindi pa kami makaabot sa sobrang traffic. Okay, bye.”
“Ano daw sabi ni Sir Jun,” Sarah asked, hope building in her chest.
“Postponed muna yung sa apartment kasi merong palang press conference si John Lloyd mamayang after lunch. Ano sa palagay mo ang isasagot niya mamaya,” Beth wondered aloud, excitement rising from her voice.
Pulling out her celfone discreetly, Sarah started to type an all too important text message, “may problema,” and sent it to John Lloyd Cruz’ personal phone.
Gravity is not responsible for people falling in love.
I have made this letter longer, because I have not had the time to make it shorter. Blaise Pascal