It was a long weekend and the holidays stretched out before her. Alice decided to take a vacation and told their team leader of her plans.
“I am going on vacation,” she said without preamble. “I am leaving for a week starting Saturday. Which is tomorrow,” she added, just to be clear.
Melissa peered at her through her horn-rimmed glasses. There was a hint of amusement around her lips. “Is your boyfriend in Mindanao again?”
“Yes, Mel. And Jonas and I are just …”
“Dating, going out, seeing each other … whatever. Sweetie, you have got to loosen up. You have the makings of an old maid already and you are not yet 30.”
Alice stared at her boss, wondering if she should be insulted.
“Statement of fact, sweetie, no judgment at all,” Melissa said. “You can have one week, talk with HR regarding the paperwork.”
“That’s it? That’s all you will say?”
Melissa looked up, smiling (smirking?). “Alice, you’re 24 and your resume said that you graduated magna cum laude. What else can your 47 year old boss tell you that you don’t already know? Have a safe flight … and for god’s sake, safe sex okay. I don’t want you coming to me asking for maternity leave in two months.”
Safe sex indeed! Alice was still bristling at that when her flight landed in the Davao airport Saturday.
She doesn’t know what in heavens made her clear her schedule and come scampering here after some guy. God, she is really some cliché. Like that Julia Roberts character that went after Hugh Grant and said: “I am just a girl standing in front of a boy asking him to love her.” Uggh!
It was Jonas who said the words first. Actually, he’s the one who keeps saying them. It’s not as if she asked him to.
When he left at dawn a week ago, what he said was: “I love you Alice. Hell, I can’t believe I’m leaving. I’ll miss you, honey.” Quote unquote.
And what she said was: “Okay.”
So now. She’s here. She texted him that she had arrived and that she will see him in Tagum and that don’t worry she knows how to commute and that the people can understand her Tagalog (thank God because she doesn’t know a word of Bisaya).
He texted back: Okay
She was grimy and weary by the time the bus stopped at the terminal. Jonas said that he’ll meet her there and to wait for him. A young girl selling native cakes greeted her as she stepped down. She went to sit down on a wooden bench beside the ticketing area and texted: “I’m here. Where are you?”
And then, (like in a movie) the crowds parted, a fresh amihan wind blew softly against her face, the hustle and bustle of the terminal seemed to quiet down and all she could hear was the thudding of her heart.
Alice grabbed her handbag, her backpack slung on her shoulders. And ran.
“I love you,” she said when she reached him. “I don’t know why I couldn’t say that before. I really wanted to. When you left. Well even before that, actually. It just felt … weird and stupid. What is love anyway? It’s just a chemical reaction, right? Like endorphins and serotonin playing havoc in our hypothalamus. Even if I say that … what’s the difference if I say that or not? What will be the point? I don’t even know why I’m here. It’s not as if you can’t come back to Manila in a few days as you said. I am just being weird and stupid and …”
Jonas kissed her on the lips. Which stopped her rapid-fire, manic ramblings. Kissed her right there in front of all those people who must have been scandalized. It was Tagum, not Manila, after all. Kissed her like in a movie. Only, in this case, nobody clapped and nobody really paid attention. Save for the little girl who was selling native cakes – she was staring at them open mouthed – everybody just went on doing what they were doing.
So after about about 3 or 5 seconds, Jonas ended the kiss, took the backpack from Alice and hand in hand, they started walking towards a motorbike.
“You just did that to shut me up, didn’t you?”
“Yep,” he answered. “But you also looked so cute and I couldn’t help myself.”