Ironia

Isn’t it ironic how a person can love someone, yet hate him at the same time?

The world has long been filled with irony in every single one of its nook and cranny, crevices that have crawled among the surfaces, and even the gaping holes that people long to ignore. Even the people are bathed in it; christened to be a walking paradox that strolls among the grasslands, runs across roads to buildings, and even swims in the oceans that are as vast and colossal as the sky.

I tell myself that I’ll be alright. I whisper it to the wind first thing in the morning and even before I go to sleep. But no matter how much I try to convince myself, answers keep on piling on top of me, seen yet never noticed.

And now, the time has come where I have started to hate things about you.

I hate your brown eyes and the spark of passion that dwells in it. The way it lights up to things you tell me about, you share about, you care about. Even its tiny glances and relentless flickering to drink in any observations around you have started to annoy me in ways that I understand but still, a tiny voice inside tells me not to. I see your whirlwind of emotions in those eyes, the true mirror to your soul.

And I’ve wished on dandelions that you’ll look at me with passion and happiness as if you were a blind man who has just seen the sun. But that’s not the case.

I hate the way you talk about the things that matter to you. The way you describe them in rich details makes me feel as if you’ve stripped them naked until vulnerability and have gone to convincing people to believe in everything that you’re saying. Your words are filled with so much sincerity that even the simplest vocabulary begin to sound impressive. The way you speak the truth makes it seem as if the facts have their own branches to spread all over in a reach that an be as high as the Empire State Building and as wide as Russia.

I do not see you as a manipulator but someone I wanted to be described by. I am curious. How do you see me?

I hate the way you act as if nothing happens. A private chat and a personal message can mean so much for a person like me who has grown up needing the love and attention of the others. And yet, when I see you, when I remember all those lengthy conversations, my hesitation heightens because of the gut feeling that you might not even remember all the tiny facts I have been dropping as hints. I am not afraid to admit that may I not remember every single detail, I still remember most.

Do you even know me at all? Or is it all different from what I think this is?

I hate the fact that you’re oblivious about me. I see you and talk to you everyday, and the change may be gradual but it’s there. A lingering fact seems to hover among you and yet you keep your head low in oblivion, unaware of my feelings and maybe too afraid to even look up.

I thought the tables could turn. I thought you could flip. Maybe I was wrong.

But most of all, I hate how I still like you after all of this time. I hate the fact that I still care and I still feel the flutters in my heart, the somersaults in my stomach and the rush of blood in my ears whenever you’re near. I hate how you would casually sling your arm over my shoulders and pull me near, or even the times wherein you tell me secrets and I feel the burden of carrying it alone, the moon too far away to have listened and the stars too many to confide in.

Hearts will break, eyes will cry, noses will sniffle, and lips may dry. But believe me I know that. And I hate that I do and yet I ignore it.

You’re my friend. I’m your confidante.

I’ve been pondering on this so much and I’ve come to a conclusion that maybe there will be a “someday” that I’ll get over you. That there would be a time where my hate would subside and my feelings will fade.

And as ironic as it may seem, for now, let’s stay this way, yeah?

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Four Seasons + You

When I first saw you, you were twirling your pen between your index and middle finger, deep in thought and might as well have been contemplating on what the future held. Maybe you were.

I was sitting two tables away, my chair facing your direction and a book laid open in front of me: Inorganic Chemistry with its colorful graphics of molecules dotting the cover, connected. Maybe I wanted to connect with you then, but I shook my head, thought I was too pathetic and carried on reading.

I saw you again after quite some time. It was just the start of spring and the flowers have just blossomed open, the leaves have become greener, and the sun shining warmly as it crept into the window of my favorite coffee shop. It was probably yours too since the cashier asked whether it was the usual or you’d like to try something new. You’ve been hanging out here since, bringing the same old black notebook and still, you twirled your pen, lost in thought. The rays turned your hair brown as you sat by the window in the red ottoman and you squinted as you peeked out the window. Were you waiting for someone?

Spring became livelier by the day, the bermudas growing taller in my front yard, the orchids that my mom has been nurturing turned lovelier even more and as they continued to blossom, my curiosity did too. You sat by the same space everyday and by the hour, I had to order the same old thing so I could act like I was studying too when really, I was just building the courage to approach you and strike up a conversation. It’s never easy when you’re the girl. But the chance never came. We came and went, just like the spring.

Summer arrived quickly. I haven’t been inside the coffee shop for a month since. I wondered if you would be there but I also wished you weren’t. I was trying to drown the curiosity that was bubbling continuously inside me; it bugged me between study periods, raced across my mind during lunch time and even danced around my thoughts when I prepared myself for bed. I haven’t seen you around in school, too.

The soft rattle of the wind chimes above the door got your attention. You looked up and our eyes met for about half a second and then I looked away. I approached the counter and smiled, flattered, when the cashier asked me where I had been all this time. As I tried to answer her questions, I threw casual glances at your table and faltered when I saw another girl directly beside you. Funny that I didn’t notice her before. Was she your girlfriend? Surely…

As quick as I could, I paid for my iced coffee and bolted out the door and under the rays of the sun that scalded my bare skin. The pavement was hot and my shoes were wearing thin on the soles. The shop windows were presenting their annual summer sale and as much as I would have wanted to look through those racks, I just wanted to get home. Summer became dreary yet bright, rainfall missing in action. The air became humid yet stale, and I could feel my plants starting to die. And just like that, so did my curiosity for you.

It has been 2 months since the start of my college year. Studying in an Ivy League had a lot of pressure; more than I thought I could bargain with. Sleepless nights ensued, endless flipping of pages, and jotting down notes that filled half of my notebook (and it was only after 2 weeks that I had to buy a new one). Autumn has come, turning the trees and its leaves inside the campus into an array of golden brown, yellow, red, and even green. The fallen ones were strewn around, littering the pathways from building to building. The wind became stronger every day until I couldn’t stand to be out too long without a hoodie to protect myself with.

Flitting thoughts of you continued to crowd my head. I didn’t know you personally, you were just a boy from school, and yet your presence had greatly affected me. Maybe it was the kindness I saw in you that day you helped an elderly woman cross the road. Or the time you dropped a particularly huge bill inside the jar for UNICEF. Or yet, it was that time that you saved me from a bad fall with the teacher in journalism class when you answered the question with wit and humor, taking the attention away from me (I was too embarrassed to even say thanks). Perhaps, I was yet to discover.

Autumn continued to come in a shower of color, and when I began to decide that I was most definitely over you, I stopped myself, thought I was too pathetic, and carried on with my academics instead of also wondering where you could be.

Winter, ah, my favorite season. The white, fluffy stuff always captured my attention. It reminded me of a vague memory of spilling slush all over my shirt when I was young and having my father wipe the front of my blouse with his handkerchief, and I having to step over the fallen drink, listening to its crunch under the heels of my shoes. The icy breeze made my teeth chatter, my hands shake, and my knees lock that it takes me a long time to cross from one building to the other. And yet, I still love its uniqueness.

It’s almost a year wherein I would have to celebrate my infatuation or cry over it as I try to bury it six feet under the ground. I remember you being aloof in some classes, with a demeanor that was like ice; hard to break yet you looked fragile as you focused and zeroed in on everything that was discussed. In a way, as I trudged down the walkway with the snow that continued to fall, I am reminded of you. I didn’t even know your name since we only had one elective that didn’t even require a whole lot of discussions; just basic instructions and we were off to write a creative output. True, I’ve wasted dozens of opportunities in that little coffee shop. My heart squeezed a little when I remembered your smile, like it had become a secret between you and I because you rarely did that outside that shop; or when you brushed past me by the entrance, I on my way in and you on your way out.

We have become very much like the four seasons. Our lives have continuously shifted in a pattern that we had no choice but to be accustomed with. We were totally different, and yet we cross paths and exchanged places for some time without the acknowledgment of one another. We came and we went.

Suddenly, I slip and land on my back. Air whooshed out of my lungs in a pace that left me coughing so hard as I sat up and tried to brush off the cold snow that were starting to melt and drenching my clothes, my rear. I could have cussed in frustration but a hand stretched towards me and I pull on it without hesitation.

“Thanks–” I had started to say when you cleared your throat and I had to look up. And stared.

After three months, it’s you.

“I remember you,” you said, “The girl I always saw hanging around in the coffee shop, yeah?”

I remembered nodding but I was frozen with giddiness. Who would have thought I would see you again?

You smiled and my heart squeezed; not in pain but with joy because after all this time, you finally had it directed at me.

“Oh yeah. By the way, my name’s Dean.” You said and offered a hand. “You okay now?”

I shook it. Despite the woolen gloves I wore, I felt the warmth of your hand. The same hand that twirled the pen over and over, having me locked in a trance most of the time, back at the coffee shop.

Talk about serendipity. Was this even destiny?

“Thanks,” I said. “My name’s Jean.”

In that briefest moment, I saw the sincerity of your smile and the interest in your eyes.

The snow continued to fall. And so did I.

Photographs

I’ve never given much thought as to how I would spend my Christmas this year. It’s all the same anyway; a perfectly normal day, secretly wrapping of presents, a dinner out, and lounging in the living room waiting for the clock to strike 12:00.

I don’t make a big deal out of it.
But my best friend does. And he’s made the effort to come home just for the holidays.

He wraps his arms from behind me and envelopes me into a tight bear hug, lifts me feet off the ground and twirls me around. I close my eyes, dizziness coming onto me and I let out a shrill “stop it!” and he puts me down.
“I swear to God, Alex–” I start to say when he turns me around and embraces me, though this time, a little more gently.

I love hugging people who are way taller than me. It makes me feel safe and protected, like they could be this cute human shield whenever someone tries to harm me. I rest my head on Alex’s chest, just under his chin, and feel the warmth radiating from his body despite the thick jacket he has bundled himself into. I wrap my arms around his neck and ruffle his hair from behind.

I missed him so much.

The airport’s bustling with activity as flight after flight departed and arrived, bringing homesick people into the arms of their family just in time for the holidays. Wreaths hang from every post, twinkling with Christmas lights that run in an array of red, green, blue, white and yellow. Songs play in the speakers, filling the cavernous area with cheerful spirit mixed with laughter from the people and shouting from the children.
I missed him so much.

When Alex got his letter from Yale, he had jumped around the house in pure joy and grabbed his mom for an impromptu dance as a sign of celebration. Then he climbed over the coffee table and hugged me so tight, I was sure my lungs would burst. I knew how much time he sacrificed to bust his ass off just so he could get the best grades for an Ivy League. And he did it.

It’s only been 4 months since our separation but the emptiness that hung between our distance sent our emotions into ricochet as soon as we saw each other in the flesh. No amount of texting or skype-ing could have prepared us as he barreled behind me and went on with his trademark hug. People usually think of us as a couple and I don’t doubt the ones here would think any differently.

But I know what we are and what we are not.
“Jazz, oh god, I missed you so much!” Alex whispers in my ear, tightening his hug even more.

“4 months,” I reminded him. “I missed you, too.”

He lets me go and he grins at me mischievously. I could feel something was coming and before I could fend off his incoming question, it beat me to line. Spotlight’s on me.

“Where’s Connor?”

“Connor…” I trailed off. I admit, I haven’t gotten around to telling him that Connor and I were over. One month ago.

“Jazz…” He knows I’m hiding something. He knows me too much. “You’re not making eye contact. Are you keeping something from me?”

I back off a little, hand in the air like I surrender. “Well…” I gulp. “Connor and I are over.”

He crosses his arm. “I bet you’re planning to use the–” he makes air quotes, “It’s-better-to-tell-you-in-person excuse.”

I hit him in the arm, a little too hard to show him I was serious. “It is better to tell you in person!”

He just nods. “Whatever you say,”

But his voice was taunting me. And he knew I hated that.

But before I was riled up, he envelopes me into another hug and plants his forehead against mine. “Doesn’t matter. Now, it’s just the two of us again.”

Alex always says I’m the best photographer in town. Sometimes, he says it so persuasively I almost believe him. And even if I tell him I’m not, he stands firm anyway. I value memories so much that I keep them forever frozen in photographs. Polaroids and developed pictures in frames take up half of my bedroom wall back home. I even brought some to my dorm in Columbia, where my roommate enjoys looking at Alex’s pictures too much and even to the extent of fawning over our pictures together because she says we have chemistry.

“Where are we going?” I ask as he slung his arm over my shoulder and pulls me close to his side as we walk out of the airport.

“Ah,” he smells the air, “Welcome to New York.”

I look up at him. “Dude, it’s only been 4 months.”

He looks down at me, his trance broken, and waggled his eyebrows. “Which felt like 4 years.”

I stick my tongue out. “Better get used to it, then.”

He meets my gaze and we lock eyes for a moment. The sound of car horns faded away in the background as I noticed the tiny golden flecks in his green eyes. My hands wanted to get my camera so that I could capture this moment forever, the snow gently falling on top of Alex’s head and melts as quickly as it had come. Suddenly, his grin wolfish, he breaks the contact.

“Let’s get to Central Park,” he says.

Central Park looks like a winter wonderland in this time of the year. It always has been.

Memories come rushing back of a 10-year old Alex gliding across the frozen lake, ice skating shoes on and a 10-year old me, wobbly, even with both of his hands gripping my own. I was too wrapped up with the thought of humiliating myself in front of kids who were way better and experienced than me. But Alex never let go and said:
“Jazz, you’re safe. You’ll always be safe with me.” And patiently glided alongside as I struggled and fell a dozen times, laughed at the appropriate moments and cheered when I finally maintained balance.

Even Central Park in summertime held memories I’m sure I’d never forget. Only that time, I was the boss and I was teaching Alex how to ride a bike at 12 years old.

It had been hot and humid, and yet I forced him to wear his protective gear (kneecaps, elbow caps, and helmet) even though I knew he’d be bathing in sweat by the time we finished. It’s a best friend thing, you know.
“Ahhhhhh,” Alex yelled as his bike swerved a hard left and he toppled over in a heap. “Jazz!!!”
I ran over to where he was, laughing despite his furious look and offered a hand. He took it quite hardly and pulled me down in a heap beside him. We laughed some more.

Somehow, I have photographs of those moments too, though it wasn’t as accurate as what really happened.
And now, as I take a look around, with Central Park illuminated in twinkling white lights, I catch sight of Alex sitting down on a bench. He pats the space beside him, beckoning me over.

“Melancholic, don’t you think?” I say as I sat down, my hands nestled deep within my coat pockets.

“Yes, I think so too,” he answers and turns to look at me over his shoulder since his elbows were propped on his knees. “I have something to tell you.”

My heart starts to pound so fast against my rib cages. Blood floods my face and I am glad it was starting to get dark. Around us, figures grew shadows as they stand under the light and then disappear.

He continues, poker faced. “Jazz, I’ve been thinking about this since I was in Yale.” He looks down for a while. Then he locks eyes with me. “I’ve been thinking about you.

I start to open my mouth so that I could as why when he shook his head. I stop.

“Remember that time when someone gave you a bouquet of red roses during Valentine’s day, senior year? How you thought it was Connor who gave you those and when you asked him, he said yes?” He gives me a crooked smile. “He lied. I sent those.”

I falter. No wonder he seemed so bitter that day. I had to practically beg him so that we could go and watch the movie we’ve been waiting for years.

“You did?” I whisper.

He nods, fiddling with this fingers, twisting the ring on his middle finger. “Also, I didn’t really want to go to the Tinseltown Prom with Natalie. I wanted to go with you since you seemed so lonely but Natalie had expected too much and so I relented.”

One by one, his confessions hit home. And one by one, my heart started to jump in joy. Of course I liked Alex. And he liked me back.

But it was an unspoken understanding between us. And it was enough because we weren’t in a hurry.

As the snow fell from the sky, the faint voices kids signing Christmas carols filling the air between us, he suddenly zips his bag open and fumbles for his phone.

“Alex, what are you doing?” I ask.

Music comes playing and he says, “Dance with me, Jazz.”

And we smile as he wraps his hands around my waist, bringing me closer, taking my hand in mine and resting my other on his shoulder.

“I’m not too late, am I?” Alex asks, his voice barely a whisper.

“Why are you whispering?” I giggle.

“Jazz,” his voice is back to normal, “I’m not too late, am I?”

I shake my head slowly. “You’re never too late, Alex.”

He leans his head forward and we kiss, his arms going all the way around my waist and my hands gripping the nape of his neck, going all the way through his hair.

Sometimes, why settle with photographs when alive and moving memories are so much better?