I hurriedly drove back to the firm, careful not to get into an accident after Cris arrived. I just need to finish two plans for two more projects then I’m good to go. I’ve always known that finishing projects early would come in handy, one day. Yes, the site visit tomorrow near Maya’s photo shoot did make everything fall into place.
I almost kissed her earlier. It was when she almost fell and I had to get up to catch her. The same feeling is there and I know she felt it too. Everything’s still the same. I swear, I’m never going to give up on her. If it takes a lifetime to make her remember everything then I would gladly spend those years beside her, even if I’m grey and already old.
Earlier, she asked if I did move on. I said no. There’s this song that James played to tease me when I started working back at our firm. One line said ‘How can I move on when I’m still in love with you?’ and it’s exactly what I’m feeling towards Maya. I can’t move on because I’m still in love with her. I can’t move on because she’s still here, within my reach and I just need to make her feel that the man she’s looking for is me.
When I asked her if she’s thinking of letting go of the man in her dreams and she said that she’s been thinking about it, I felt crushed. I hope I was not that obvious with the things that she just said because I just couldn’t help it. She’s almost there. She just has to dig deeper. Before I left, she said that I was right, that she’s not giving up. But she’s hoping that she will feel his presence not just in her dreams. I know she’s been dying to meet him, er, me, but for now, I have to settle for making her feel that I’m just around.
Instead of heading straight to my condo, I took a turn and went to my old place. For months I’ve avoided my old condo. Memories of us together always hunt me and would always push the tears out of my eyes. I used to love being alone, the silence, the no taking care of me but Maya changed all of that when she came. And when she left me, I hate the silence, because it will remind me that I’m all alone.
I went to my old room and was surprised when I didn’t felt that feeling inside of me. Whenever I go to this room, images of us cuddling together will flash in my mind. Then sorrow, sadness, pain and all those things comes in. But now, I felt this familiar thing. I feel hope, love, longing, because I know, I’m sure that time will come when it will be like that again.
I opened my cabinet and got this box and opened it when I’m already sitting on my bed. This was Jerry, Maya’s former doctor, advised. He said that I should put all of the things that would remind me of Maya in a box then stock it away if I don’t have the guts to burn it. Jerry was the one who confirmed that Maya can’t remember me when she left. He also knew the amount of pain I’ve been through when she left. He’s one of the very first persons who thought Maya and I are meant for each other.
Inside the box is the Polaroid camera I gave her a week before her birthday, two notebook sized photo albums where she kept out pictures, a smaller box where I placed all of her photography shots and a folded paper that contains the goof off sketch she made for me. I took the paper out of the box and grabbed two photos from the small box. I returned it inside my cabinet and headed outside my room. I stopped first on my home office before I left. A frame is placed on my table facing down. I carefully reached for it, turned it over and wiped my hand across it to remove the dust.
It’s the last house that I drew. It’s my family’s old house. Two years ago, it was renovated by me and Papa’s mixed ideas. This house is why we reconciled. And this is the house that I planned on living with Maya. I specifically made more rooms to accommodate our will be family. I want us to grow old and grey together in this house. That’s why I made her sign this sketch. I put the frame back on my table and left.
“O Ricardo, gabing gabi na ah.” The familiar voice of a woman welcomed me.
“Manang, gising pa ho kayo?” I asked as I went inside of Papa’s house.
“Pinagbilin ka sa’kin ng Papa mo. Dadating ka raw eh. Nakahanda na yung isang kwarto. Wag na daw kitang paalisin ng bahay. Dito ka na raw matulog.” She said. I was about to argue when she pointed a finger at me. “Ricardo, gabi na. Wag mong pairalin ang tigas ng ulo mo.”
I sighed. “Fine. I’ll stay.” Some person doesn’t really change at all, like Manang Fe. She’s been here since I was born and became Mama’s best friend. When Mama died, Manang acted like my mother though she does everything differently. Mama spoiled me when I was a kid and with Manang, I have to do chores and homework before I could do what I want. “Nasaan po si Luke saka si Papa?” I asked.
“Si Luke, nasa kwarto niya, ang Papa mo, nasa veranda, nagkakape.” She answered.
I nodded. “Manang, makikitimpla naman po ako ng isa pang kape sa veranda. I’ll just borrow something from Luke, then I’ll join him.” Manang Fe nodded and proceeded to the kitchen. I took the stairs and knocked on Luke’s room.
“Kuya!” He exclaimed when he saw me enter his room. He stood up and gave me a hug. “Ang tagal mo nang hindi pumupunta dito ah. Busy ba?”
I nodded. “Yeah. Ang daming trabaho eh. Why? Do you need me for something?” I asked.
He nodded and grabbed his laptop. Then he opened two files of photos and placed them side by side on the screen. “I need an advice on what to wear at our Prom Night. Dad’s always say I’d go for black. Nung panahon ata niya puro black lang ang tuxedo eh!”
“Luke, I know Papa’s old pero hayaan mo na sya. Maybe he really prefers black. Why?” I asked when he just stared at me. “Is there something wrong?”
“Alam mo Kuya, ibang-iba ka na talaga. If I said that some years ago, I bet iinsultuhin mo pa lalo si Dad. Now, you’re defending him.” He said and I ruffled his hair.
“A lot of things change, Luke.” I just said. He’s right. I hated Papa years ago. Then I learned that everything is just a misunderstanding. There are always two sides to a story and through those years, I’ve only known my side. I never even cared if I hear Papa’s side or not. I believe nothing could change what I believed in. Big mistake. Clarity slapped me on my face when I heard Papa’s side. Everything changed when we talked. And that everything was because of Maya.
“So? Which one is it? Should I go for this black tux, like Dad said or with this silver one like you suggested?” Luke asked. “Oh, Aira’s gonna be wearing blue.”
“You know I will choose what I suggested, right?” I said.
Luke sighed. “Now I’m still torn. Maybe I should ask Aira instead.” He said and I just nodded. “Ah, Kuya, pwede ka ba this Friday? Prom Night namin. Our adviser required us to have a chaperone per student. Overprotective masyado.”
“It’s a way to prevent the inevitable, Luke. I suppose I can check my schedule. Teka, sa Friday na tapos namomroblema ka pa sa susuutin mo?”
“Pinagawa ni Dad pareho. He said I can use them both sa mga events.” Luke answered. I should’ve known, it’s so like Papa.
“Okay, I’ll go this Friday pero there’s a catch. I need to borrow your DLSR camera. Just for tomorrow. I’ll return it tomorrow evening.” I said. Luke eyed me before he stood up and opened his cabinet to retrieve a camera bag. Luke treats his camera like it’s his only treasure. Papa bought it when he got first honours at last year’s recognition.
“Here. Pero saan mo ba gagamitin?” He asked me as he pushed the bag in front of me.
I knew he will ask this question so I already have an answer. “I have this client and he asked me to take a photo of his building’s project. I was planning to use my phone instead but he said that he doesn’t like photos from phones, mababa daw ang megapixel though I already explained to him na mas tumataas na ngayon ang pixels ng phone kaysa sa cameras.” Okay, I might’ve gone a little overboard.
Luke continued to eye me but he seemed to buy my excuse. He took out his Nikon and demonstrated it. “Ito ‘yung on and off, the preview button, this button is for the aperture, ISO and shutter settings, this button for the flash settings, and you have to flick this switch before you can use the lens manually. My camera’s fully charged and you can use it kahit ilang oras, depende sa kung paano mo ginamit ‘yung camera.” He said as he pointed at the different buttons with his thumb.
I grabbed his camera and tried it. I took a photo of what’s in front of me. I was satisfied by what I’ve captured. The background’s blurred while the foreground is clear. “Who knew you can shoot huh, Kuya?” Luke said as he looked at the screen of his camera.
“Your Ate Maya does.” I muttered. During our free times, she used to teach me things about how to capture photos. I glanced at Luke and saw that he’s giving me a sad smile. “Yeah, well she did a fine job. And because I vowed not to ever say a word about her again, I’m keeping my mouth shut.” My little brother said. I gave him a hug and closed the lid of his laptop. “Matulog ka na, may pasok ka pa bukas. I’ll join Papa downstairs. Goodnight.” I said.
Luke got up and opened the lid of his laptop to shut it down properly. “Goodnight Kuya. Please take care of my camera.” He said and I got out from his room. I went downstairs and saw Papa sitting alone at the veranda. I sat beside him and placed the bag on the table. “This is a nice house, Pa.” I said. “It looks a little bit like our old house.”
My father looked at me and gave me a smile. “I have to make it like this. Your mom was my architect when I we first build the house. She was my boss. Siya yung nagdidikta kung anong gusto niyang itsura ng bahay, taga drawing lang ako!” He exclaimed. “I don’t really want to throw her away. I was trying to forget the pain I felt when she died, that’s why I said those words that made you hate me so much.” I nodded and sipped my coffee. “I perfectly understand, Pa.” I said.
“So, how’s the firm?” He asked and I chuckled. I know he’s worrying about his firm. Who wouldn’t? After spending most of your life in making a firm shine, you’re just going to hand it over to your son because you’re now getting old.
“It’s good, Pa. I think the interview did a really good job. We got more clients now and I’ve got more projects to look at.” I replied. “You have nothing to worry about.”
“I’m more worried about you, son.” Papa said. “The firm is just .. just a building. We can always renovate it, we can rebuild it and there are so many ways to make it stand tall again when it fails. And Ricky, you’re not a building, you’re my son. I can’t renovate you, I can’t rebuild you. I saw you at your worst when she left and I don’t know if you’re doing well now.”
I nodded and gave him a smile. Is it really possible that even if I used to hate my father, he still cares and loves me like nothing happened? I guess it really is unconditional love. “I’m doing well, Pa. And .. I –I saw Maya again.” Papa’s eyes went wide. “She was the photographer during my interview. I spent the day with her today.”
“Do I hear wedding bells ringing? Son, this is big! If your mom’s here, she would’ve been hysterical. She would keep yelling that everything is fate and that you two are destined to each other.” Papa said and he must’ve seen the hesitation in my face. “Why? What’s wrong?”
“What Angela and Doc Jerry said were true. Maya can’t remember me.” I said.
“Hmm.” My father lifted his hand and rubbed his jaw like his growing a beard. “Do you need any help in making her remember? Do you want me to talk to her? She knows me after all. Or take her to the firm! She might remember something because she worked there. Oh, and does banging her head –“
“I’m not going to bang her head!” I exclaimed, making my father laugh. “I got it covered, Pa. I just have to take things slow and don’t worry, you can always help me anytime wag niyo lang ipipilit sa kanya yung alam niyo, baka lalo siyang hindi maniwala.”
My father nodded and patted my shoulder. “I’ve got your back, son. I need to go to sleep. I just waited for you. Goodnight.” Papa left. After I finished drinking my coffee, I retreated to the guest room to sleep. I still need to wake up early.
I arrived at Maya’s house around four in the morning. I got out from my car and I’m holding an envelope where I put the sketch and the two photos. Before I could even press the door bell, Maya got out from the house with a smile on her face. She’s wearing jogging pants and a tank top.
“Good morning!” She greeted. I found myself smiling back as my heart stopped beating. She used to greet me like this every morning. After years of being in agony every morning, my day is already complete by just the sight of her smile.
“Good morning Maya.” I greeted back. She locked the door behind her and the gate when she got out. “Tara na.” She said. I opened the door for her and found her eyes looking at something. “Ano ‘yan?” She asked pouting her lips to the envelope I’m holding.
“Ah ..” O crap. I was suppose to put it on their mailbox! “I .. I found it lying in front of your gate. Baka nahulog ‘dun sa .. sa mailbox niyo.” I lied and handed her the envelope.
As Maya inspected the envelope, I went around the car to get inside. “I’ll open it later. Baka mamaya kung ano ‘yung laman.” She said and I just nodded. I can feel her staring at me as I was driving and I caught her staring at me when I glanced at her. “Why?” I asked.
“Richard, bakit ka naka jogging pants din? Anong meron?” She asked.
“Well, since it’s early and I am still due by nine in the morning, I decided to join your activity. And don’t tell me that I can’t. I borrowed my brother’s camera. I’m going to be a photographer for today, ah, no, just for this morning lang pala.” I said and her laugh filled my car. “Don’t laugh at me. Magaling ata ‘to.” I continued.
“We’ll see Mr. Lim. We’ll see.” She said and I knew that this will be a good day.
I’m with her after all.