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quiet times… (written some 7 years ago)

Her name was Vera, Ver for short. She had the most perfect small brown eyes you had ever seen. Her oval fair face supported a thin nose and clear pink lips. Her black soft hair ran down half of her back. She was around 5 feet 3 inches tall. I remember almost everything about her. Even the way she talked. She had this husky cracked voice that made her simply more adoring. I last saw her around a year ago, but that was after more than 20 years when we had lost touch…

cubao

        Locale of Cubao, Metro Manila

The year was in the late 70s. I was seventeen then. She was also my age. We were both very busy with our studies and active with Church affairs being Iglesia ni Cristo members. Though we were quite close and both shared a mutual affection for each other, we never did come to admitting it. She had a boyfriend and I had my own. In fact, I knew her boyfriend and she knew mine. Everything was ok until the time she had to leave for Baguio, for good.

“Jim, the family’s returning to Baguio.”

“So what’s the problem?”

“We’ll be moving to Baguio next week. I’ll be finishing my studies there.”

It was so sudden and unexpected, all I could say was,  “How long will you be there?”

“Can’t say really. Since my olds have sold the house, I really don’t know. Anyway, I’ll keep in touch.”
  
“Write me, ok?”

“Sure,” she said.

natu27Then I learned that she had left for Baguio with the whole family. For the first few days I thought I would be all right. I was wrong. As the days turned to weeks and days to months, I started missing her. One night as I was walking home I decided to take a different route. I passed by her place and saw the same house but the people there were total strangers now. There was the same front gate where I would bring her home regularly and say “sleep tight friend”. “You too,” she would reply.

Then out of the blue, I received a letter from Baguio Colleges. It was from her. I never thought she would write after all these months. She described her life there, her studies, her new friends. We continuously exchanged letters explaining to each other how things were. But never did we touch on anything more than that. I wanted to but somehow couldn’t. But after a few more letters, I brought up enough courage to say what I felt deep down inside my heart.

“Friend, I have been wanting to say this for so long but I just wasn’t able to. You mean so much to me, and I don’t want to lose you again. I love you and miss you very much.”

Well, that was the last time I heard from her. She never answered it. I didn’t know what her silence meant. She completely cut our communication. I never expected it. I never saw her again…until 20 years later.

upIt was enrollment period at UP last year. I was there to meet Bobby a long time friend who was teaching special classes. My brother had given me Bobby’s number. I called and we agreed to meet after his classes. I arrived at UP around 2:30 in the afternoon.  I was early so I decided to take a short walk. The afternoon was perfect, the trees swaying slightly to the afternoon breeze. A cluster of mayas landed on the grass before me. I couldn’t help but notice a lady in black slacks with matching blazers engrossed in a paper she was reading. As expected she didn’t notice the sudden slope in the grass, causing her to slip and her things scattering about. I immediately got hold of her.

“Careful Miss,” at the same time picking up her things. I gathered a few books but mostly papers and gave it to her.

“Thank you, thank you, that was really clumsy of me.” putting on her glasses and getting hold of herself.

Then our eyes met and time stood still.

“Jim?”

“Ver?”

“What are you doing here?” We both asked simultaneously.

Well, to put a long story short, it happened that she was teaching at UP and living in Cavite. We couldn’t talk long because she had classes and Bobby was already waiting for me. We decided to meet the next day at 5 in the afternoon at the school café. I arrived before her and had some apprehension that she might not come but she did come some 15 minutes later.

“Coffee’s bad and the food sucks, want to go elsewhere? 

“Sure, where?”

 “The nearest place I can think of is Gotesco, Commonwealth. Good fast food there. Would that be ok with you.”

“No problem, let’s go,”

She stood up and proceeded out of the cafeteria. I couldn’t help notice. She had aged but physically not as I presumed. She still had that clear brown eyes and that cracked husky voice. In fact she was slimmer than I remembered. I walked her to my car and opened the door for her.

“Nice car.” 

“Second-hand but serves its purpose.”

We drove to Gotesco and decided that Pizza Hut would be great. We ordered some fried chicken, pizza, and drinks. Then we talked. She was separated, her husband had left her and she was now living with her daughters who were also teaching at UP. She also had two adorable grand daughters. She showed me their pictures. After some laughs, comments here and there, I asked her:

“Why didn’t you answer back, why didn’t you write back?”
  
“Huh?”
  
“Why didn’t you reply to my letters?”

She blushed then after a few seconds answered   “I don’t know, I really don’t, I wanted to but…I don’t know.” 

I had waited more than 20 years and this was the reply I got. But this time I was sure what I saw in her eyes. The years had not erased it.

“Let’s go watch a movie.”

“I’d like that.”

Imagine, all those years when we were together some 20 years ago, I never saw a movie with her and right now I’m asking her out and she’s saying “yes.” We stood up and as we walked towards the cinema house, I asked her,

“Do you believe in dreams?”

“Yes, I do.”

“So do I,” I then gently took her hand in mine and walked to the cinema where a good action movie was showing.

night skyThe night sky was beautiful. I drove her home way back to Cavite. In fact she insisted that I just drive her to the bus station. I said no and drove her home. Met her daughters and grand daughters who were asleep by now. Since it was late I said I should be leaving. She walked me to my car and said,

“Thank you”

“For what?”
 
“For everything”
 
“At least for the first time we agreed in one thing,” I said

“What’s that?”
 
“We believe in dreams.” 

She smiled and when I was about to get into the car, she gently touched my shoulder. I turned and she softly put her lips to mine and whispered “I love you.”

“I love you too…have always,” I replied…..after more than 20 years.

(On March 26, 2007 at exactly 11:00 PM, Ver died of cancer at a hospital in Manila.)