It was around the end of summer, the hints of fall showing in almost everything around if one were to really take notice—as if the world were shedding. Of course, this wasn’t really the case. Back home, some leaves do turn red, orange, and yellow, but not like this. Here, one would think there was no exception. Whether that were in fact true or not remains to be seen. Well, except of course the evergreens.
He counted the number of autumns he’s had in this foreign but now familiar country. He started to think of the season changes and for a moment got confused with the number. There would be three season changes every year, and while for some years he barely remembered one, for others, he could recall almost every special occasion. Especially those of the last three years.
There was a sense of longing for that quite fateful day those years ago. People do sometimes tend to look at the past with more frosting that it originally had that sometimes we get stuck with the nicety of perfect images in our minds and we preserve them as much we can—every reminiscence adding a layer of trimmings.
It was a mere coincidence. And they were in California. Here, Filipinos who were strangers back home meet and greet, wine and dine, hook up then shack up or take off all the time. That the conditions for their meeting were so unique shouldn’t be used to qualify their love story as any more special than the rest’s. If one were to only apportion his time to listen to other people tell of their romantic lives, there can be found some good laughs and heartwarming sentiments too.
But however inconsequential, this was his story. And however many a time he tells it, to continue to narrate it he should, as no one else certainly will.
Not the driver of the bus who’s never been late, not only as it was standard company protocol, but also because it was one of many personal tenets he imposed on himself—to regard time as sacred, as there is never any going back with the real clock.
Not her friend, who was running along with her trying to catch the last bus trip for the day.
And not even her, with her dyed blonde hair flying and falling behind as she ran toward the leaving bus. His peripheral vision caught the quick movement of a distinctive bright green and yellow, and sure enough, his eyes found that the object was a college jersey of his school back home.
There was a time when he told that story and blamed the jersey for everything that followed, but a friend pointed out that had a guy been wearing the same thing, he wouldn’t have batted an eye. He conceded. Indeed it was the conglomeration of many pieces falling into their respective places. But it’s not as if he knew of such expectant spaces and what pieces fit and where beforehand. It is like a person drawing numbers at random, then deciding afterward that the numbers drawn are his lucky figures.
He’s told the story as many times as the number of friends he talk regularly to, and with every glossing over of his favorite details, somehow the less important ones found themselves being pushed further and further to the blurry background. Like what he was doing at the bus terminal where she and her friend were trying to catch that last trip somewhere. He wasn’t running with them; he wasn’t waiting for a bus nor had just alighted from one. But what he did clearly remember was that he went back the next day.
He went an hour early, then stayed another hour after. Had he not had his trusty earphones with him, the wait would have been unbearable. But two albums of his favorite band made it not all too bad when she didn’t show. He didn’t come back the next day—or anytime else after that. If he were to believe in chance, then he would have to believe through and through. Except for lottery scratchcards. Somehow every time he finds a few minutes and a few change to spare to indulge himself with a light gambling, he always aims for just a few thousands—believing that doing so gave him better odds.
For a few days after their “meeting,” she would wander through his thoughts, especially those leaning on homesickness. With just the first few repetitions of that clip of her running for that bus, he’s convinced himself that she was the cure for his yearning for the things he left in his old city. Unknowingly, she’s become a player, albeit minor—at least at first—in the scenes his mind somehow had on loop.
In one, she missed that bus, and bummed as she was about not catching up, he was there to her rescue. In this made-up memory, he had his most charming self at the ready, and she was glad for the delay.
In another, she came back the next day, and he made sure to take the seat near her. Cross that off. Next to her. Good thing this time she was alone (he was the one doing the imagining—he could decide if she were with her friend or not, and he chose that she be alone for this moment in this alternate universe).
However, after about a week, she was gone from his immediate thoughts and moved to join other less intimate recollections, as what usually happens to newly discovered strangers, however beautiful they may be, when they don’t make it across the binding bridge.
Then one Saturday night, he was at the bar he and his friends frequented, and he was earlier than usual. There were bands playing later on, but at the moment, the bar staff were merely playing something from their playlist. He took out his cell, plugged in his headphones, and pressed play. Radiohead’s “No Surprises” came on. Just then, one of his friends was at the door. He waved excitedly to his friend, and the latter did see him. However, instead of going straight for him right away, the friend turned around instead and made an inviting gesture to someone he was apparently with. When she appeared at the door too, she wasn’t wearing green nor yellow, but her hair was still just as golden under the club’s lights as it was against the setting sun just days ago.