A Promise Not To Break: Chapter 10

This entry is part 12 of 18 in the series A Promise Not To Break

“YOU need to talk about it to them as soon as possible, Prie. Mga magulang mo sila.”

“I know. But I can’t. Lalo lang silang mahihirapan.”

“Paano mo ipapaliwanag sa kanila ang biglaang pag-alis natin? Siguradong magtatanong sila. Besides, hindi magtatagal mapapansin din nila ang pagbagsak ng katawan mo. They’re bound to know it sooner or later.”

“I’d rather have them know it later than sooner.”

“There’s a big possibility that your body will betray you. Leukemia is a tricky bastard and you know it.”

“Ayoko ng makita pa silang naghihirap dahil sa’kin, Mael. Ayoko ng makita ang awa sa mga mata nila! Remember the day I graduated from college? I couldn’t even walk on the stage dahil sa pesteng sakit na ito. Everyone was looking at me like I’m some kind of a pathetic idiot for wanting to attend graduation on a wheelchair and a bandana on my head.”

“Prie…”

“No. Go ahead, arrange the papers, just don’t tell them yet. ‘Di ba ang sabi mo naman ay hindi pa final ang lahat? I still want to hold on to that uncertainty. I want that uncertainty. I don’t want to die yet.”

“Hush. Hindi ka mamamatay. That’s what I’m here for. Look, minsan mo ng natalo ang sakit na ‘to. You can do it again. Okay?”

“I’ll try my best.”

“That’s better.”

Silence.

“Will you tell him?”

“No.”

“He loves you.”

“I know. That’s why I won’t tell him. Masasaktan lang lalo siya.”

“You love him.”

Silence.

“That doesn’t matter at all.”

“It does. It does for me. If you need him, I’ll let him have you. I will not be so selfish as to take you away from your heart.”

“You’re not.”

“Prie…I don’t like being a martyr here, but if you need time with him, I’ll give you that. I’m a doctor, I’m not God. Hindi ko kayang ibigay lahat. I’ll have you with me anyway pagdating natin sa States. If this will be the last time you’ll be with him, I want to give you that chance.”

“So you’re saying that I could die this time, right?”

“I’m not saying anything. Gusto ko lang maging masaya ka.”

“I’m happy with you.”

“You’ll be happier with him.”

“How can you say that? I thought you love me.”

“I do, Prie. Believe me. I do. And it’s because I love you that I want you to be with him habang may pagkakataon ka. I may sound like I’m giving you up, but I’m not. I’m giving you—him—this chance, because by the time na umalis tayo, hindi na kita bibigyan ng chance na bumalik sa kanya.”

**


Alam niyang hindi tulog si Prie ng pumasok siya sa kwarto nito. He felt the tension surrounding her even though she was lying on the bed facing away from him. Even her breathing was ragged.

“Prie?”

“I told you, I’m okay. I don’t need someone to babysit me.”

“You don’t seem to need anyone, do you?” tanong niya rito na may halo ng sarkasmo. Ng hindi ito sumagot, nagpatuloy siya sa pagsasalita habang nakaupo sa gilid ng kama at tinititigan ang likod nito. “I want to babysit you whether you need it or not, so hindi mo ako pwedeng paalisin. Gusto kong maging katulong mo.”

“Ikaw? Katulong?” may ngiti sa boses na tanong nito.

“At bakit? May karapatan din naman akong maging katulong ng taong mahal ko ‘di ba?”

Sandaling natahimik si Prie sa sinabi niyang iyon. He could have said something, but he wanted to wait her out. He had a feeling that she had something important to say.

Unti-unti itong humarap sa kanya at tinitigan siya sa mga mata. He was right. His heart started beating faster.

“Do you really want to be with me?” seryosong tanong ni Prie. His heartbeat went overdrive. What was she getting at?

“Yes,” marahang sagot ni Dave. Halos hindi na siya makapagsalita sa sobrang kaba niya.

“Do you really love me?”

What are you getting at? he almost shouted.  She was slowly driving him crazy! “Yes.”

“Will you stay with me?”

“What?” gulat na tanong ni Dave.

“Will you stay with me? To love me?”

“Wh—what?” he sputtered. Was she trying to tell him that she wanted to make love with him? In her condition?

To his surprised, she laughed. “I knew you had a dirty mind,” wika ni Prie habang hindi mapigilan ang tawa. “But I didn’t know how dirty.”

“Ano ba talaga ang gusto mong sabihin?” galit na tanong niya rito. She was playing with him and he hated it.

“Hanggang kailan ka sa Pilipinas?”

“What? Dammit! Stop playing with me and answer my question!”

“Answer mine first, and then I’ll answer yours,” kalmanteng sagot nito na hindi pansin ang galit niya.

“I’m supposed to be here until the first week of June. Now answer me.”

“Would you like to be my boyfriend until the first week of June?” nakangiting tanong nito sa kanya. And then she laughed when she saw his reaction.

**

She must be crazy, she told herself again and again. Sino ba namang matinong babae ang gagawa ng ginagawa niya ngayon? And to think that she was enjoying it! She must really be mad.

But seeing the look on his face, hindi niya talaga mapigilang hindi matawa sa ginagawa niya ngayon. Dave was really still a child, she told herself. Kahit na malaki na ang ipinagbago nito at hindi na ito ang inosenteng Dave na kakilala niya dati, deep inside, he was still the same cute Dave.

Sandaling dumako ang kanyang isipan sa naging pag-uusap nilang dalawa ni Mael kanina. Maybe he was right after all. Mahal niya si Dave. And even if isang buwan lang ang kayang ipahiram sa kanya ng pagkakataon upang maipakita niya kay Dave ang pagmamahal niya, maybe it was all for the best.

She loved Dave very much. But it’s Mael whom she needs. Masama siguro siyang babae. Ginagamit lamang ng utak niya ang kanyang puso para sa pansarili nitong pangangailangan.

But what if you die there?

She didn’t want to think about dying. She just couldn’t.

“Nagdedeliryo ka ba?” tanong ni Dave ng makarecover ito mula sa pagkabigla. Dinama pa nito ang kanyang noo just to make a point.

Tinitigan niya ito sa mga mata. “I’m not joking,” seryoso niyang sagot.

What if mamatay siya sa gitna ng operasyon? Ayaw niyang mamatay ng may pagsisisi. Ayaw niyang mamatay ng hindi man lang nararamdaman ang tunay na pagmamahal. She loved Mael, but it was the kind of love that evolved from gratitude dahil sa ginawa nitong pagtulong sa kanya ng muntik na siya mamatay eight years ago. And his acceptance of her flaws, when he chose to love her still despite her adulterous heart.

“Then don’t damn well play with me. Haven’t you hurt me enough?” galit na tugon ni Dave sa sinabi niya sabay tayo mula sa kanyang kama na tila ba napaso ito.

“I’m not playing with you, David,” mahinahon niyang sagot. What if she dies…

“Then why are you doing this? After you’ve done everything to push me away from you, you’re suddenly asking me if I want to be your boyfriend? Anong kalokohan ‘yon?”

What if… “So you don’t want to?”

“Shit. Shit. Shit,” paulit-ulit na wika ni Dave habang pabalik-balik na naglalakad mula sa magkabilang dulo ng kanyang kwarto. “Why are you doing this?”

She didn’t answer. She didn’t have the answer. Hindi rin niya alam kung bakit ginagawa niya ang bagay na iyon.

“What about Mael?”

“What about him?”

“I thought you wanted to marry him…?”

“I thought you wanted to be with me?”

“You’re changing the subject.”

“I’m not. This is about you and me. Not Mael. So do you want to be with me or not?”

“Why the sudden change of heart?”

“Your answer?”

Bigla ay tumigil ito sa paglalakad at humarap sa kanya. His eyes were orbs of confusion. He was about to say something when he changed his mind and went to her instead.

Nang yakapin siya nito, naramdaman niya ang pagpatak ng mga luha nito sa kanyang balikat.

“I love you. I love you, Prie. I love you so much.”

She smiled as tears threatened to run down from her eyes. “I’ll take that as a yes.”

**

It doesn’t matter. Hindi na mahalaga na ayaw sagutin ni Prie ang mga tanong niya kung bakit nagbago ang pakikitungo nito sa kanya. It doesn’t matter. He was happy. Happy to be with her. Happy to love her. At kahit na hindi nito sinasabi na mahal siya nito, he felt her love. It was always there in her eyes when she gazed at him, when she talked to him, when she smiles at him. She loved him. That’s what matters.

At kahit binigyan nito ng taning na isang buwan ang relasyon nila, he knew that he could change her mind. Malamang ay natatakot lamang si Prie na baka iwan niya ito dahil ang sabi niya ay isang buwan lamang siya sa Pilipinas. He knew it. And he’ll do his best to make her realize that he wanted to marry her. She couldn’t marry Mael. He won’t let her. Hindi niya kayang mapunta sa iba si Prie.

“I’m ready,” nakangiting wika ni Prie pagbaba nito sa sala. Nakasuot ito ng body-hugging cartoon t-shirt and faded jeans, which hugged her legs a little too tight, with white rubber shoes. He felt his jaw drop open while his chest tightened.

“Hoy, anong nangyari sa’yo?”

“Are you—sigurado ka bang ‘yan ang susuotin mo?”

“Why? May mali ba sa damit ko? Sabi mo picnic?”

“Oo nga…”

“So what are you yapping about?”

“I just thought—Marami kasing tao sa—Aren’t you too sexy?”

“Ha? I’m wearing everyday clothes.”

He shook his head. There’s no point in telling her that she looked too sexy for his taste—well, too sexy to be seen by anyone except him. Baka pag-awayan na naman nila iyon. For the past week that they’ve been with each other, natutunan na niyang hindi kalabanin si Prie sa mga gusto nito. She was a stubborn woman. Kapag kinakalaban ito, lalo lamang itong sumisige.

“By the way, where’s the food?”

“In the car.”

“Good. So, let’s go?” nakangiting tanong ni Prie sa kanya sabay abot sa kamay nito. He took her hand and closed his fingers around hers. Nang mag-umpisa itong maglakad palabas, hinila niya ito pabalik.

“What’s wrong?” tanong ni Prie. He smiled. Then he pulled her to him and kissed her on the lips.

“I love you,” wika niya sa mga mata nito ng maghiwalay ang kanilang mga labi.

She smiled. And then she kissed him again.

“Tara na,” yaya nito sa kanya after a while. “Sayang ang oras.”

“We can always stay home, you know,” nagniningning ang mga matang wika niya rito. “We can do lots of things aside from kissing.”

“Pervert,” balik ni Prie sa kanya, at pagkatapos ay tumatawa itong hinila siya palabas ng apartment.

**

“Prie?”

“Hmm?”

“What do you want me to play for you?”

“Ngayon?” Umiling siya. “Sa concert?” Tumango siya, habang patuloy na hinahaplos ang buhok nito. It was the same thing that she loved doing to his hair when he was little.  “Hmm, ‘forevermore’ will be nice. Pero pwede ba ‘yon? I mean, it’s tita’s concert and all.”

“Actually, it’s half my concert too, so I can do a few pieces of my own choice.”

“Ah.”

“I’ll play it for you,” nakangiting wika niya kay Prie na nakaunan sa kanyang mga binti. It was almost sunset, and the sun was casting a beautiful orange tint to the surrounding meadow. “You’ll be there, won’t you?”

“Of course,” sagot ni Prie. “It’s just that—”

“What?”

“Tita Alexa. Hindi ba ang sabi mo hindi niya alam na, you know.”

“Yeah. But it doesn’t matter. You have to be there. Sooner or later malalaman din naman niya na tayo na, so what the heck. And besides, ang inaalala naman ni mommy ay ang magiging reaksiyon ko sa’yo. I think I traumatized her with my actions then.”

Sandaling naghari ang katahimikan sa pagitan nila bago nagsalita si Prie.

“What really did happen then, Dave? Well, may mga pahapyaw kang nasabi noon—nung nagkita tayo sa mall, pero never kong nalaman yung buong istorya.”

“There’s really nothing much to tell besides that,” sagot ni Dave as he gazed to the darkening horizon. Parang kabute na sumulpot sa kanyang isipan ang itsura ni Prie noong sabihin niya rito ang nangyari sa kanya ng iwan siya nito. He didn’t want her to cry again.

“I promise I won’t cry,” wika ni Prie na para bang nabasa nito ang naiisip niya. Maybe she did. Somehow, alam niyang may untangible connection silang dalawa ni Prie, that is why they seem to read each other’s thought.  But maybe he just watches too many paranormal shows.

Ngumiti siya. “Actually, halos nasabi ko na lahat. Ayun nga, I was obsessed, depressed and out of my mind. Nung magising ako sa hospital, ikaw ang unang hinanap ko. Pero wala ka. Akala ko itinitago ka lang nina mommy sa ‘kin, but then, nung malaman kong wala ka na talaga, hayun, nagwala na ‘ko. In every sense of the word.

“There were days na hindi ko na maramdaman yung katawan ko dahil sa dami ng gamot na itinutusok nila sa ‘kin para kumalma lang ako. Mga ganun. Kung hindi ako nagwawala, hindi naman ako nagsasalita. I just write and write and write you letters. Then kapag walang dumadating na sagot, nagwawala ulit ako. The nurses got sick of me, so dinala ako nina mommy sa isang mental institution. I did the same things there.

“Then, nung mga panahong hindi na ‘ko nagwawala—I mean, no tantrums, inilabas ako nina mommy at inuwi sa bahay. Enrolled me back in school. Which was a mistake, I think. Kasi nung mga panahong iyon natutunan ko ng kontrolin yung galit ko. I turned inwards. Inwardly destructive, that is. Kasi pagbalik ko ng school, puro mga sanggano yung kasama ko.”

“I thought you were friends with that kid—ahm, Caleb?”

Lumipat sa mga labi ni Prie ang kanyang tingin. “Caleb? Hindi mo ba natatandaan? The fight?”

Her lips formed an “O” shape that he found so hard to resist that he kissed them so suddenly that Prie wasn’t able to react. Ng matauhan ito, tumatawang iniwasan niya ang sampal nito.

“Hey! Tama na—tignan mo ‘to. Nagkukwento ‘yung tao tapos sampal ka ng sampal.”

“Pervert ka kasi.”

“Gusto mo naman, eh,” ganti niya rito. Ng akmang sasampalin na naman siya nito, “Oy, stop. Do you want to hear my story or not?” Tumigil ito. “Good. Now behave.”

Sinuntok ni Prie ang tiyan niya bilang ganti. “Quits lang. Now continue.”

“Quits, quits. Ang sakit mong manuntok, ah,”  tinignan siya nito ng masama. “Fine, fine. Asan na na ako? Ah, ayun.  Si Caleb. Noong mga panahong iyon, iniiwasan namin ang isa’t isa. Galit siya sa ‘kin dahil may gusto sa ‘kin yung gusto niya, and I was angry with him because he danced with you.”

“You’re abnormal.”

“Whatever. So because of that, I hung aroung the ‘other’ crowd. You know, the rich, famous, and dickheads. Now that I think about it, it was kindof ironic actually. They were the ones who bullied me—remember the week I was missing?  I had a ran-in with them before you found me. Well, to make the long story short, I was angry at you and the world, and they didn’t seem to remember anything that they did to me—I realized then that that was because they were in drugs—so I hangout with them, became like them, and so on. Until mom found out that I was using and dad sent me to a rehab. Took years. But that’s history.”

Hindi nagsalita si Prie. And when he looked down on her faced, tears were streaming down her cheeks.

“Hey, akala ko ba hindi ka iiyak?”

“You weren’t supposed to notice.”

“Well, I did,” nakangiting sinabi niya rito as he gathered her up to a tight embrace. “Don’t worry, that was all in the past. I’m clean now.”

“It’s not that,” she said between sobs. “I—I thought I was—was doing you a favor when I left you. I made you so miserable and confused. And I knew—thought that I couldn’t give you—give you the love you wanted from me.”

“Shh. You were doing what you thought best,” marahan na wika ni Dave kay Prie as he stroked her hair. Then the thought suddenly hit him. “Wait. You thought you couldn’t give me the love I wanted? You thought?” She nodded. “Thought…Then you did love me then—even then?”

She smiled. “Holy sh—” he laughed. “And here I was thinking that you never did love me then. Stupid.” He hugged her tighter.

“I wrote back, you know.”

“Ha?”

“I wrote back to every letters that you sent me.”

“Ha?” he asked, confused. “Then how come—”

“I never sent them. I figured they would only cause you pain. So I didn’t send them.”

Dave was dumbfounded. After a while, he said, “Well, that was stupid.”

Prie smiled and hugged him back. “Totally.”

**

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