That first Wednesday of October way back in 2001 was supposed to be an ordinary day. In fact, there was really no other reason to remember that day. Hectic schedules had just fizzled out as the Church’s anniversary had just concluded the week before. I had just gone through the tough finals of that semester, and i was just waiting for the turn of my last two exams. And of course, the prayer meeting, that was everything but distinctly special. The day was supposed to end in a plateau of normal moments.
Until I got my cellphone and started texting Cess.
It began as a quick greeting. Then the greeting turned into a conversation. Then the conversation turned into a session of confessions…
“Is it okay if kept going on this texting? Somebody might get mad at me…” I said.
“Mad? Who would get mad at you for texting me?” she asked.
“I don’t know… your boyfriend maybe…”
“I don’t have a boyfriend right now.”
“Oh, is that the case? I see.”
…and the long, torturing pause..
“Have you had any boyfriends before?”
“Yes, but we broke up already, remember.”
“Oh… I see… i’m sorry for that.”
“Oh it’s okay. It’s been a long time now.”
“I see, would you mind if I ask you what happened?”
“Well… he broke my heart… found someone else.”
And here comes the most unforgettable part…
“Why’d you ask,anyway?” she said.
… again a long pause… a much needed pause I took so i could properly phrase my answer… all with the ingredient of honesty and sincerity…
“Honestly?” i replied…
“Yes. Why were you asking about it?” she asked as well…
“So that if I’m ever in that same position with you,I’d know what to do not to break your heart…”
“Huh? What do you mean by that?”
“Honestly,” i said, “i’m beginning to like you Cess. More than just a friend. i really can’t explain how, but i’ve got this inexplicable feeling for you. It’s as if i’m drawn to you. And it’s not your smile, or your hair, or anything physical that has caught me… it’s you. Everything about you.”
“Cess, I don’t know how this means to you,but I just want you to know that whatever this means for me or for you, I will do my best to make sure I won’t hurt your feeling or destroy this friendship we have built. If it’s not too much, I hope you’d give me a chance to prove myself before you. I will prove myself that I am a faithful God fearing man you could respect and look up to and trust.”
…and the reply that took my breath away…
“Umm, I really don’t know what to say… but the truth is… i feel the same way for you. You’re a nice person, and i feel comfortable and happy with you. I like you also, and I value the friendship that we have so far. thanks for the honesty and sincerity you’ve shown for me. For sure we can work things out for us soon. Okay?” she said.
“That’s more than enough you could give for me right now. Thanks Cess.”
“Okay. Gudnyt RC.”
…and from here on, my texts were never the same…
“Gudnyt, Cess. ÜÜÜ”
So what’s unforgettable about that night?
The three smiles at the end of the text.
From that time on, when I finally got to be introduced to Cess, things began to turn in a different direction for me. Among other things, this new beginning caused a lot of unnecessary moments of my life in between that time and the closing of summer to be deleted from my memory. As the season went along, I hardly noticed that two months have already passed. I was soon busy prepping for my sophomore year in college at UP, while she was entering PNU as a freshman.
Another significant change I felt in my life was the way I woke up. I had become eager and excited of what the day has in store for me. I recovered my zeal and drive to take on the day’s challenge. I picked up from where I left off with a lot of lags and unfinished businesses, and soon i was checking them off my to-do list. The blood surge in my veins was running 70 an hour. Quite exagerrated, one could say. But that was simply how dramatically different the velocity of my life was going than when before I met Cess.
Though we hardly talked in person, we kept in touch through the text line. Though texts were often times vague, they helped me add the colors to my sketches of her in my head. And from one message to another, I was gradually understanding the deeper side of her. A vivid idea of her persona was now coming into the picture of my mind, and it was incomparably unique and intriguing.
As for my part, I was also opening up my real world to her. And for the first time in my life, I was revealing the side of me that hardly anyone had known or would I ever allow anybody else to know. We were both drawing and digging into each other’s lives, and it was an enjoyable time.
But love was not yet a part of that grand scheme.
At that time, my mind was simply fixed with the idea of strengthening our friendship. I wanted to be someone she could easily connect with, and me to her on the other hand. And my wish was never denied, for she had also thought of the same idea. Soon enough we had become close friends. Still we hardly talked to each other. I guess at that time, we were not yet at that level. But our short glances, with an added dash of a smile at each other, signified how much we have grown comfortable and easy to one another. I would often utter simple “hi, hello, how are you’s” to her, and she would never deny me a decent reply. I cherished each moment she did that, no matter how seemingly small the gestures were. At least, I knew I was headed somewhere…
…a place where she was also there.
But among many other things that happened during that time, I can remember one moment in that early stage of our friendship, that I knew there was something in me that had more than just the intent of keeping in touch.
During one of our Workplace Bible Studies, I was attending there as an invited musician together with Cess’ aunt, Tita Sally. When the meeting was over, I hitched a ride with them back home. As we were walking towards the parking lot, the following conversation took place:
“Tita, where’s Cess right now?”
“Oh, okay. How’s she doing?”
“Fine, so far. Why’d you ask?”
“Well, umm, nothing. Was just asking.”
For a moment, I thought I hated myself for making that conversation. But in a way, it had confirmed something for me: that I was feeling something more than just a connection of friendship to her.
That night, she texted me.
“Gud pm. I heard you were asking Tita about me.”
“Yeah, I was.”
“What’d you tell her?”
“Oh nothing really. I was just asking how are you?”
“Well, I’m doing quite well. Thanks. Why’d you have to ask Tita about it? I mean… you could just have texted me, right?”
“Well, i don’t really know why. But, ummm, at least I know you’re ok. I’m glad to hear that you’re doing good.”
“Thanks. How about you? Are you ok? I hope you’re ok too.”
For whatever reason, among the thousands of conversation we have had in the past, that was a conversation I would never forget. For me, it was the first time that I began to seriously care for someone. And for me, it was also the first time that I felt someone seriously care for me.
It was at this time that our friendship began to bloom more than the normal. And as if couldn’t get any better, it was turning out to be something more than expected…
“When would I see her again?”
I rhetorically asked myself that question as I was getting ready to sleep. An otherwise toxic day turned out to be a memorable one, thanks to that quick snapshot of beauty I saw in the office. My room had the dizzying scent of dry wood and moist brick wall. The bed creaked as I stretched my body’s weight across it. The gentle evening breeze sieved its way through the window, kissing the dark green curtain draped across it.
I laid there at my bed, staring at the flesh-colored ceiling, hoping to recreate the vision I captured that afternoon from the office.
The name seemed to reverberate inside my head. And what am I supposed to make of it? Am i going crazy about it? I didn’t think so, or at least I did not want to think that i was. So, in an attempt to prove my sanity, i tried to remove the echo effect of that name, and simply dwelt on re-sketching her image in my head.
But as my eyes grew weary, and my mind slipped away into the dark cover of my eyelids, the image also slipped away into oblivion. Time went by, and not a single shadow of her face was left in my canvass of dreams. Another meaningless night came.
Morning. I wished it came earlier than 5:00. And I wished it had also come earlier for her, so that I could be right back at the office, hoping to bridge the long agony of not seeing her since yesterday afternoon. But I was there at the house–stuck for the next two more hours. I had nothing to do outside, and more frustratingly, I also had nothing to do inside. And so I tried to go back again to sleep. But the attempt all went for naught. I was simply fully awake… and fully alone.
As the clock struck seven, I was inches away from the front door’s office. A few meters earlier, I had been practicing my smile–my new found arsenal. I was rehearsing my “good morning” script in my head, as I was plotting how to go through my plan of introducing myself. But I soon found out, I would have to file away that script for another day.
It was Saturday. The office was closed…
But as if all hope was gone, I caught a silhouette of an angel walking from a distance toward the office. She was wearing a yellow printed shirt, a yellow hair band that kept her hair at bay, and a primly ironed denim skirt that covered her knees securely. Her slow stride gave me enough time to capture my second image, this time with a zoom-in effect. Again, her eyes and mine met across the four meters of distance we had between each other. I could see her whispering my name, waving her hand to me. Her face was beginning to lighten up with the killer smile. I turned my body to her direction and started walking towards her…
…but it was just another wishful thinking…
…and then she detoured towards the parking lot.
“Aaargh!” I screamed inside my head. “When do I get to finally meet her?”
I picked up the church publication from the usher’s desk, while shaking hands with a church mate. As I crossed the third row, I stopped to get a good look at the news. From there I heard my sister softly calling my attention to where she was seated.
And there she was… sitting beside Princess.
Good thing I stopped.
As I walked towards their place, I noticed she was smiling at me with an air of familiarity. As my sister formally introduced Cess to me, I reached out my hand to shake hers. Without hesitation she also held her hand out. We shook hands.
The day went on as usual. And that night, I went back home and headed for my room. I changed clothes, dimmed the lights and laid my body in the bed.
Just before i closed my eyes, I looked at my hand and stared at it for quite a moment. I then reached out for the ceiling and rehearsed the whole thing that happened that day. I imagined her again as if reaching out for my hand from the ceiling…
…and then I put my hand back across my chest and closed my eyes.
Finally, the long wait was over. In the least possible way, I was finally part of her life, and she of mine. Her image had finally registered permanently in my head.
Hardly any people was in the office that Tuesday afternoon. The fluorescent bulb in the middle of the room gave a dim ambiance, which meant work was on a halt for the next two hours. The paperworks were left unstacked; sort of a reminder for those from the incoming shift that they’ve got a load of work to think and worry about. The phone kept ringing, but no one who was there bothered to pick up. “At last!” I said to myself. “I’ve got the office all to myself.” Almost an hour ago, it was thick with all sorts of people. I had business to do there, but since it wasn’t a rush matter, I waited for the crowd to thin. 45 minutes of waiting seemed like an eternity, especially if you had to wait outside the air conditioned room. At that time of the day, the room was like next to heaven. The clock struck 1:30PM. My time had finally come. It was supposed to be an insignificant invasion of the office, hoping that none among the people inside would care to cock their heads the front door and notice my entry. With an air of snobbishness, I walked in to that room, with my head locked towards the cabinet. Until my eyes rolled to my left… … and there she was.
Her hair was neatly clipped to her left side. She was wearing a pastel green checkered jumper and a white shirt. Her earrings seemed to flicker the sole light from the ceiling. Her hands were smoothly gliding through the table as she scribbled some notes in an info sheet. And her head was softly turning from left to half-right as she copied one item into the other. Things were moving in real time… until she looked back at me… … with that quick lock between our eyes, every thing else went into background. The world seemed to move slower than normal. Her eyes followed mine as i cruised along the ten feet of walking distance i had from the door to the cabinet. It blinked gently for a while, and as it reopened in the split second that it took, her lips simultaneously drew that smile–the smile that could have murdered me if she had the motive to. But it was, in that sweet and mild way, doing a great job of keeping my heart thumping above normal. And as her head turned back to resume it’s business, my mind tried to capture as much of that image, hoping that I could recreate it in my dreams that same night. I never even noticed I had reached the cabinet.
It was only when the drawer was excruciatingly clipping my thumb that I was snapped back into reality. I was done with the insignificant invasion. But for the next 10 seconds i tried to invent a dozen other reasons for me to stay inside that room. The next ten seconds seemed longer than the eternity I spent waiting outside that room. “Hey… you done there?” Whispered my co-staff softly. She was supposed to get something also from the drawer. “Oh…” I said passively. And I walked away from the cabinet, aware that my co-staff was perplexed at how i dumbly looked for those ten seconds. I glanced at her again, hoping she’d reciprocate. But she was already caught with her work. I snapped my finger just after i heard the click of the door knob as the door closed.
I looked up to the sky, and it seemed to be clearer than two minutes ago. I felt my cheek bones raised as i was madly smiling in and out of myself. I walked away from the front door… a hopeful and a believer of love.
Summer was just beginning. School had just ended, and I was moving from one stress point to another. I had just come from a rough time of my life. It was a complicated season of my life, which can be pictured with too much uncertainty and passivity. My drive to wake up and accomplish my commitments for each day was gone. For the most part of the day, I would go blank, giving the sky a senseless stare. I would lend my ear to people’s conversation, but not my mind. I was expecting to wear off this stupidity in no less than a week after a heartbreak.
But it had been three months already. Three colorless months, and I was growing numb about it. The pain from the heartbreak was further complicated by a lot of miscues on many decisions I made that time. Not to mention that the whispers about my breaking apart were growing louder as each bad call piled up one after another. It had seemed to be an impossible time for me. Among other things, God was definitely the only sure Refuge for me at that time. Though without any proper motive, I tried to salvage my backslidden heart with a barrage of prayers from me to the throne of grace. I had felt, though, that they seem not to go past the ceiling. But it was a desperate time, and I was hoping that at least one of the many utterances I have made would make it to heaven. It was really a time of lack of faith. A time of emptiness.
I was like a little child lost in the midst of a throng of people who didn’t even care to stop by and ask what was wrong with me. I was screaming for help, but it was a pointless effort. I wanted for someone to help me, but I wasn’t never expecting anyone to respond. Everything had become an abstract image. It was simply chaotic and complicated.
And it was in the midst of this complicated time of my life that I met Cess.