Hugo, the old man I met at the airport took me to my hotel. He is my personal driver throughout my stay here in Paris. I don’t know how long I’ll be staying here. I don’t even know why I’m here. It was my father’s idea that I should take a vacation. He even volunteered to pay for my expenses. He just said that I’ve been working too hard and I don’t have any time to relax. And then there’s the part where he said that he’s worried that I might look older than him because of all the stress.
Now I’m here in Paris, on vacation, in this huge bed that my father paid for me and all I can do is stare at the ceiling. My life is a mess. Maybe I’ll just spend my whole life with work. At least I did something great. But .. but no one to share it with.
I reached for the phone in my pocket to text my dad. As usual, there’s no texts and calls from somebody. I deeply sighed. I just wish something different would happen, something that would turn my whole world around.
My phone beeped. It’s a text from my dad. Go on Skype.
As weird as it is that my dad asked for a skype video, I still pulled my laptop out of my bag and went online. I quickly pushed the button of the name of my dad and clicked video call.
“Hey Dad.” I said as soon as I got a clear video of him. “Why do I need to call you at this hour? Madaling araw na dyan sa California.” I said.
“I’m in the Philippines, Frank. Sorry I forgot to tell you. Your Ate got some trouble in the business, napapunta tuloy ako nang wala sa oras. I left the same day that you left.” He answered.
“I don’t really need this vacation, Dad. If I were still there, edi sana ako na lang ‘yung umuwi ng Pilipinas.” Edi sana I had the chance to check up on Chinggay.
“You need that, Frank.” My Dad answered. “Ever since you came back from your trip from here three years ago, you buried yourself more on work –“
“There is a client that I really really want to sign a deal with. At kilala mo ako Dad. I always –“
“You always get what you want.” He interrupted. My dad gave me a smirk and then he sighed. “But, I guess you didn’t get her.” He said.
“I know she’s the reason, Frank.” Dad interrupted again. I don’t really want to talk about it. “And you were stupid enough to let her go.”
“I know that it’s your thing to keep that strong, unapproachable, cocky façade of yours. But I know deep down, you are hurting.” He continued. I just remained mum. He got me spotted on. “I am sorry that I only got to talk about it now. And I’m sorry dahil nung pinakilala mo si Chinggay sa amin three years ago, I didn’t approve. I guess you got that stupidity in me because I am also stupid enough to realize that I wouldn’t trade any tradition for the happiness of my son.” He said. My eyes widened and my heart doubled up its speed. “What I’m saying is, you’re free to choose any woman that you wish to spend your life with. And I’m guessing that it’s Chinggay.”
I just shook my head with a sad smile. “Yes, Dad. But .. but I’m afraid it’s too late. I am three years late. Maybe she’s already married.” I sadly said. “It wouldn’t be impossible. I would find it impossible if any man failed to love her like I do, maybe even better.”
“I am sorry, son. It was all because of me.” My father admitted. “Well, I do hope that you enjoy your stay in Paris. I don’t know why you chose to spend your vacation there, but I do hope that you can rethink what path you will take next. As much as I love my son being the hard worker that he is, I just want him to find his happiness.” He said and then he disconnected the phone.
I laid back on the bed and stared at the ceiling again. The City of Love. How ironic is it? To be in a place where people call the capital of love yet most people here are not. Do they have some kind of instrument to measure that? Cause if they do have one, I would need to sign on it.
I took a deep breath and decided to get up. My father is right – I need a breather. I grabbed my jacket and left my room. I asked for Hugo in the reception area and I just told him to bring me to the famous spots here in Paris. I don’t mind being in the crowd. I actually need to exercise my French.
Hugo dropped me off in Champ-Elysée, the heart of Paris. I told him to just wait for me until I got back. This place is one of the famous avenues in the world. There are a lot of shops, a lot cafes and restaurant but I really want to go to a certain place – the Arc de Triomphe.
It is the famous Arc in Paris and holds a lot of history. I explored the museum first but I did it quickly. I took the stairs to reach the top and saw the panoramic beauty of Paris. The view is actually breath-taking.
The reason why I’m here in Paris is because it’s the only place Chinggay wants to be. I don’t know what she sees in this place. When we used to be a couple, she would talk for hours and hours about the places she wants to visit here and what her itineraries would be. For five years, she bugged me with this and if I can remember it correctly, this is the first place she would visit. And I’m somewhat regretting that I did not take her here. Maybe if I did, maybe things would be different.
“Well, Chinggay, it’s really beautiful up here.” I muttered. I stayed there longer that I expected. I guess it’s just one of those places where you can think. I was looking around when I saw a lady taking selfies a few meters away from me. Her back was faced on me but I couldn’t prevent the grin emerging on my face. If Chinggay is here? I bet she is already taking endless pictures.
Then the lady turned to her side and saw a glimpse of the features of her. Her hair is just as short as her, and her eyes .. c-could it be?
“Excuse me Sir!” A voice stopped me from taking another step. “You’re Mr. Frank Sison, am I right?” The lady continued to ask and when I failed to say a word she squealed to her friend beside her. From their looks, I already know that they are Filipinos. “Me and my friend attended your seminar years ago. I was wondering if we could take a picture with you?” She asked.
I just found myself nodding, then the two of them quickly stood beside me. After the picture was taken, I turned around to look for the lady I was going to approach earlier. She’s nowhere to be seen. I bid my farewell to the Filipino ladies and I quickly left the Arc. When I reached the bottom, there is still no sight of her.
“You’re doing it again, Frank. You’re seeing her again.” I muttered. I took a deep sigh and made my way back to Hugo. He quickly got out of the car and opened the back door for me. “Je me demandais si nous pouvions avoir le déjeuner. Connaissez-vous un endroit? ” I told him that I am looking for a place to eat and if he knows a place. Hugo raised his brows. I guess he didn’t expect that I could speak French.
“Oui. Il y a ce lieu près –”
“Génial! S’il vous plaît joindre à moi. Je ne suis pas bon dans les directions suivantes.” I interrupted before he could start giving me directions. I just asked him to join me since I am not really good at following directions.
Hugo led me to a restaurant somewhere in Champ-Elysée. He insisted that we eat outside so that I could further enjoy the ambiance of Paris. As we wait for our food, Hugo mentioned different places that I could visit. He said that there will no trouble reaching any of it since he knew every route here in Paris. I guess at his age, he really knows what he is talking about. He really reminds me of my father in his younger days.
After eating, we went to a local pub to share a drink. It’s getting darker here in Paris. We were seated outside again and I could easily see why Hugo likes it here. The place is just so alive. It somehow reminded me of home. Not in California, but the one in Taguig.
I have no idea how many bottles I’ve been drinking then I saw her again. That lady on top of the arc. She looks so much like Chinggay. Without saying anything, I stood up from my seat and ran for her. I could hear Hugo calling me but I refuse to look back. I just ran and ran for her. I ran until I lost sight of her. I found myself back at the Arc. I leaned on one of its walls to catch my breath.
“You’re just drunk, Frank.” I muttered. I took a deep breath and stood up. I wonder if Hugo finds me.
“Frank?” I heard a voice which stopped me from moving. And I think my heart stopped too. I slowly turned around until I saw the lady I was chasing. “Frank ikaw nga!” She repeated.
“Chinggay.” I muttered. A huge smile crept on her face as she walked in front of me and gave me a hug. “H-How are you?” I managed to say as I returned the hug.
“Eto, sobrang saya!” She smiled again. “This is Paris, Frank! This is really a dream come true for me!” She exclaimed.
I smiled at her. As always, her mood can really uplift mine. “Well, it’s your lifelong dream ‘di ba?” I replied and she giddily nodded. “But I thought .. I thought a part of your dream to bring someone here in Paris with you? Someone special?” I dared ask.
Chinggay replied with a smile. “I came here alone.” She replied.
My heart started that beating thing again. “Why? Nag-asawa ka pero iniwan mo siya sa Pilipinas? Bakit hindi mo sinama?” I teased.
She just laughed at me. “Who even told you that I got married? Frank, sa hinaba haba ng taon na lumipas, single pa rin ako.” She said.
“Well,” I started. “That’s .. that’s good news then.” I continued with a smile. And I think she already got an idea of what is about to happen.
“Ikaw ba? Are you married? Have you met the one?” She inquired.
“Oh I’ve met the one.” I replied. Her eyebrows shot upward immediately.
“Talaga?” She quickly asked.
“Yes. Pero hindi pa kami nagpapakasal.” I answered.
“Ha? Bakit naman?” She asked again.
“I left three years ago. Ngayon lang ulit kami nagkita. Here in Paris. Actually, she’s standing right in front of me.” I replied and I could see the faint color of pink on her cheeks. “I missed you.” I added.
Chinggay took a deep breath and just nodded. “Are you with somebody here?” She asked.
I just shook my head and just stared lovingly at her. Then a thought slapped me on the face. “Oh, no.” I muttered.
“Why? Is something wrong Frank?” She asked.
I shook my head again and took a deep breath. “I am drunk Chinggay. Is this really happening? I mean, you, here in Paris. It happened to me before. I was hallucinating. I thought I was talking to you when I’ve been talking to a lady that doesn’t even look a bit like you.” I answered. I walked back to the arc and leaned my back on it again and then I sat. I held my head between my hands and just breathed in deep. Then I felt an arm sneak around mine. I turned to my left and saw the woman I’ve loved over the years.
“Everything’s real Frank. I’m really here.” She muttered.
A smile slowly crept to my face. I guess this really is real. Then a few seconds later, I could hear someone shouting my name. Then when he saw me with Chinggay, he muttered something under his breath then after that, he suddenly broke into a series of French words which is about me running off and leaving him behind. I felt like a kid being scolded by his son. When he ran out of breath, he took a deep one and stopped.
I slowly stood up with Chinggay’s arms still around me. “Chinggay this is Hugo. He is my personal driver here in Paris. Hugo, cela est Chinggay. Elle est un de mes amis.” I introduced. I just told Hugo that she is a friend of mine.
“Mademoiselle, C’est un plaisir de vous rencontrer.” Hugo said.
“Frank, ano raw sabi?” Chinggay muttered beside me.
“Ah, he said it is a pleasure to meet you.” I translated.
Chinggay nodded her head. “It’s a pleasure to meet you too Hugo.” She replied. Hugo gave her a smile and said that he’ll be waiting inside the car. “Bakit ganon Frank? Bakit parang pinapagalitan ka nya kanina?”
“Actually he did.” I just replied. “It’s a long story. Maybe I could tell you tomorrow? I’m a bit drunk. I don’t know if I’ll be a good company.” I said. I took out my phone and gave it to her. “Can I have your number?”
Chinggay gladly accepted it and punched in her digits. “I’ll see you tomorrow Frank. Take care.” She said with a smile. I bid my farewell, and I too, walked away with a huge smile plastered on my face.
Sorry po! Got caught up po sa mga outings haha! Bukas na po yung WYWG. Goodnight po!