Special II — Anatomy of Love

Quarantigang
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hesitant to share this but i promised this special chap to an anon in my cc before. this has been sitting in my drafts for so long now so im not rlly sure how this will go haha 

part 1/2 of qt christmas special,  a trip down the memory lane b4 we end :)

Merry Christmas? yes

#HappyBenteTres

TRACKS 15-20:   |

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Joohyun

 

 

“Merry Christmas.”

 

Natawa ka at tinanggap ang inabot ni Jisoo. “Ano ‘to?”

 

“Maagang pamasko. Nakakahiya naman na ikaw lang nagbibigay eh, tapos aalis ka na bukas.”

 

“Sira,” you giggled, “Pero thank you, Jichu. Merry Christmas din.”

 

Binawi niya ang ito mula sa kamay mo at nilagay sa mesa. “But now I remember, may utang ka pa rin sa ‘king regalo.”

 

“Huh?”

 

“Kwento kung paano kayo nagkakilala ni Seulgi.”

 

You looked at her in disbelief. “Seryoso ka ba?” ugong mo at lumayo na sa kanya. “Kailan mo ba ako titigilan diyan?”

 

Natawa rin si Jisoo at bumalik na naman sa pangungulit sa ‘yo. “Sige na, please!‌ Ngayon nga lang tayo nagkasama nang ganito katagal oh. Napakadaya mo, kinwento ko nga nang very detailed ‘yung amin ni Chan!”

 

“Sino ba kasing—”

 

“Tapos ang blooming... bright... glowing... mo pa these past few months kaya sagarin na natin ‘yan!”

 

Natigilan ka tuloy at mabilis na napatingin sa kanya. Tinaasan mo siya ng kilay. “Blooming...?”

 

“Nagkausap na kayo ‘no? Kaya pala hindi na nagdadrama sa ‘kin si Seulgi. Ayieee!”

 

Jisoo’s brows were wiggling as she playfully nudged you. For a moment, you stared at her and pondered. Are you really? What… made her say so? Napakurap ka na lang and settled a smile— one that reached your eyes before you turned back to the said girl.

 

“You’re so annoying.”

 

“I know,” she said, voice full of excitement now.

 

You heaved out a dramatic sigh and slumped beside her. There was already an unknown grin lingering from ear to ear as you reminisced a story you kept dearly.

 

A beginning.

 

A beautiful beginning.

 

How could you forget?

 

“It was a July...”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

ANATOMY OF LOVE
A SPECIAL CHAPTER II

 

 

 

 

 

2013

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

“Gusto mo bang sumama?”

 

“P-Po? I-I mean, Doc?”

 

Pinakita sa ‘yo ni Dr. Min ang isang letter, “I got invited as speaker sa isang Science Summer Camp. Sa Luzon kasi ang venue this year kaya I agreed. I asked if I could bring someone with me and they said it’s okay.”

 

And... ikaw ang dadalhin niya?

 

“Gusto sana kitang isama, Dr. Bae.”

 

I-Ikaw? Hindi ka kaagad makasagot dahil, bakit ikaw? Bakit hindi ang ibang mga kasama mong residents dito? O ‘yung mga senior residents? Mukhang napansin ni Doc ang pagkalutang mo dahil narinig mo ang tawa niya nang tumayo na siya.

 

“Think about it, okay?” ngiti ni Dr. Min at tinapik ang braso mo, “You’re doing a good job, by the way.”

 

Iyon ang huling narinig mo bago napatitig sa papalayong si Dr. Min.

 

 

 

 

═══

 

 

 

 

 

It’s finally July.

 

After a two-hour scenic drive along SLEX, you finally arrived safely in Batangas na sakto sa pangatlong araw ng event.

 

Nahanap mo ang sariling nakatayo sa harap ng maraming tao. Hindi ka naman pumunta ditong walang bala. Dr. Min told you beforehand about this certain segment that she wants you to takeover— and honestly, you’re more than thrilled to share your knowledge to these young kids.

 

The camp’s theme has something to do with Biology kasi.

 

Kaya pala si Dr. Min ang inimbitahan nila. She’s one of the notable doctors in the metro. She’s a very skilled mentor on top of that. They really picked the right person for this.

 

“Thank you sa inyo, doktora. We’re really honored to have you here,” a young woman, whom you recognize as the head organizer, approached you. You also shook hands with her and thanked for the opportunity as well.

 

It was really fun.

 

Especially during the team workshop where you got to talk to a bunch of kids. Nakakatuwa nga dahil mga high school students kasi ang mga participants.

 

This was really a much needed break from the hospital.

 

Buti na lang talaga at pumayag ka.

 

You excused yourself for a while. Mukhang napapasarap kasi ang usapan nila ni Dr. Min at ihing-ihi ka na talaga. Buti na lang nahanap mo naman kaagad ang CR pagkatapos ang pag-iikot mo sa malawak na venue. Pagkapasok mo, dalawang babae ang nadatnan mo sa may lababo— at mukhang wala sa mabuting lagay ang isa.

 

“Okay lang ba siya?” agad mong tanong.

 

Sabay silang lumingon at napatitig pa saglit ang isa sa ‘yo na parang inaalala ka.

 

“A-Ah, masama raw ang pakiramdam niya.”

 

Out of instinct, lumapit ka sa kanila at tinanong kung anong nararamdaman ng kasama niya. She’s nauseous, she said. Kahapon pa raw niya iniinda. Nag-aalala mong hinagod ang likod ng bata.

 

“Sumuka ba siya?” baling mo sa kasama niya. Hinawakan mo ang leeg at noo ng bata at ang init-init nga niya.

 

“Oo. Sabi ng mga studyante ko, kokonti lang kinakain niya mula nang dumating kami dito.”

 

You nodded, but at the same time, hid your surprise.

 

Tinignan mo ulit ang kausap mo.

 

Oh. Teacher pala siya.

 

Nag-ayos ulit ang bata at nakalimutan mo na ang pakay mo dito. You helped the teacher usher her student palabas sa lobby kung saan niyo muna siya pinaupo.

 

“Pinainom mo na ba siya ng gamot?”

 

Umiling siya kaya kinuha mo mula sa bag ang hindi pa nabubuksang mineral water mo at ang gamot. Tsaka mo ito binigay sa bata.

 

“T-Thank you po,” sabi niya.

 

Ngumiti ka lang. Hinawakan mo ang kamay niya at minasahe ito. Sobrang putla niya, grabe. Do they even have an infirmary dito? Or something? Good thing she already threw up. You’re sure she’ll feel slightly better in a while.

 

A few seconds into it, napatingala ka nang mapansing nakatingin pala sa ‘yo ang teacher na may namamanghang ngiti. “Dala-dala mo ba lagi ‘yan?”

 

Nagtagpo ang mga kilay mo. “Huh?”

 

Pero umiling lang siya at mahinang natawa.

 

“Dadalhin ko na siya sa room nila.” Tinulungan niya ang studyanteng makatayo bago humarap sa ‘yo. “Thank you talaga. Sorry sa abala.”

 

“It’s fine. Please let her drink plenty of water and let her rest muna.”

 

The teacher smiled at you too, her eyes smiling along with it. “Noted. Thank you again.”

 

Nag-thank you rin ang bata sa ‘yo bago mo sila pinanood na umalis.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

═══

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

That same night, you couldn’t catch your sleep.

 

Ano nga bang bago? Ganito ka talaga tuwing nasa isang bagong lugar. Hindi mo rin alam kung bakit. Kaya andito ka ngayon, mag-isang nilalakad ang resort sa ilalim ng malalim at maginaw na gabi.

 

Ang ganda talaga dito.

 

Bihira ka lang makapunta dito sa South kaya medyo na-excite ka talaga nung nalaman mong it will be held dito sa Batangas. And wow, the venue? Nasa isang resort lang naman kayo dito sa Mataas na Kahoy na may overlooking view ng Taal.

 

Inggit na inggit si Jennie nang pinakita mo sa kanya ang mga pictures mo kanina.

 

 

 

 

Nakarating ka sa pool area kung saan ikaw lang ang kaisa-isang tao. Sabagay… maghahating-gabi na. Sino nga bang pupunta dito nang ganitong oras? Natuwa ka pa rin dahil 24/7 pala ang mini-bar nila dito.

 

You bought a can of Coke.

 

Hindi mo rin alam kung anong pumasok sa isip mo’t bigla mong gustong mag-soft drinks nang ganitong oras. Let alone, you’re not even fond of drinks like this. But you thought: a relaxing moment by the pool with a can of Coke while marvelling at the night beauty of Taal? You’re suddenly up for it.

 

Tumambay ka muna sa isang bakanteng parasol… hindi ka naman siguro papaalisin dito ‘no?

 

You took in a breath of fresh and crisp air. You really love the ambiance of this place. It’s your cup of tea, with the trees and mountains surrounding it adding flavors to your taste. Bakit walang ganito noong kapanahunan niyo? Hahahaha! Nalaman mo kasing yearly pala ‘tong Science Camp na ‘to. Alternating venues pa from Luzon, Visayas, or Mindanao every year. Ang daya, hindi man lang kayo pinasali sa mga ganito noong high school. Ang saya siguro nun.

 

“Oh?”

 

Napaigtad ka kaagad sa gulat nang biglang may nagsalita sa likod mo.

 

Nilingon mo.

 

“Ikaw nga.”

 

‘Yung teacher pala kanina.

 

You were still a bit surprised to say something so she chuckled, akala niya siguro hindi mo siya naaalala. “Ako ‘yung teacher kanina. Sa lobby.”

 

Alam mo naman.

 

You awkwardly smiled, “Hi.”

 

Lumapit siya sa ‘yo, may hawak ring Coke sa kamay at nag-aalinlangang tumayo sa gilid mo. “U-Uh... do you mind?”

 

“No,” agad mong iling, “Not at all.”

 

Napangiti siya at agad rin namang umupo sa harap mo.

 

There was this short silence that followed. You wanted to strike a conversation by asking why she’s awake at this hour but you were never really good with strangers, so you kept your mouth shut and stole a glance at her instead. She always has this small amused smile sitting on the corner of her lips. Does she do this often?

 

“Thank you pala kanina,” she breaks the silence.

 

“It’s nothing. Kamusta na pala ‘yung studyante mo?”

 

“Okay na siya ngayon. Bumaba na lagnat niya.”

 

Tumango ka lang. Buti naman.

 

Wala na ring nagsalita ulit pagkatapos. Pareho kayong nakatingin sa kawalan… minsan sa buwan at nagniningning na langit, minsan sa magandang tanawing sa harap na tinatago ng dilim. No one still pointed out about how two strangers are sitting here with a can of Coke, at past twelve midnight while everyone’s fast alseep. You don’t mind. It’s not like here presence bothers you, anyway.

 

“First time mo ba dito?”

 

Her soft voice brought you out of your trance so you turned to her. You just hummed, actually feeling shy talking to her like this.

 

“That’s sad,” mahinang tawa niya. “Lagi kaming pumupunta dito dati. Malapit lang kasi sa amin… sa Laguna.”

 

So she’s from Laguna.

 

That means she’s teaching somewhere in Laguna, right?

 

“Ang ganda nga dito,” sabi mo na lang.

 

“Nga pala, nakinig ako sa discussion mo kanina. Ang galing mo. Very detailed ‘yung pag-explain mo about the brain, the sensory something, lahat.”

 

So she does remember you.

 

“Thank you,” you shyly smiled and looked away.

 

“Para ka nang doktor kung magsalita.”

 

“I’m a doctor.”

 

“Huh?”

 

Nilingon mo ulit siya. Napatitig na pala siya sa ‘yo, na parang nagtataka at hindi makapaniwala sa sinabi mo. “What?” tanong mo. Ba’t naman siya nagulat?

 

“Doctor... ka na? Like… licensed…?”

 

Ikaw naman ngayon ang nagtaka.

 

“I mean—”

 

Tch.

 

You looked away with a slight, subtle roll in your eyes, “I don’t know if you’re trying to offend me or not, but I am.”

 

“Huy, grabe naman ‘to!‌ Hindi naman sa ganun! Hindi ba pwedeng nagulat lang?!”‌ she quickly dismissed your thought. You just took a sip from your drink at hindi na siya pinansin. “Sorry, akala ko kasi nag-aaral ka pa. Parang narinig ko kasing sinabi mong mentor mo ‘yung kasama mo kanina.”

 

Didn’t she hear the host introduce you as a doctor?

 

Hindi ka na lang sumagot.

 

“So doc, saan ko ba mabibisita ang clinic mo?”

 

You almost chuckled at her teasing tone.

 

“Hindi pa naman ganoon katagal. I’m not yet in practice, sorry.”

 

“Huh?”

 

“Residency,” sagot mo.

 

“Ano ‘yan?”

 

Sigh. This woman knows nothing about medicine at all, huh.

 

“It’s a training. For specialty,” simpleng paliwanag mo. Siguro naman magegets niya na.

 

“Oh... I see... edi anong specialty mo? Adobo?”

 

Napatitig ka sa kanya. Seryoso ba siya?

 

“Biro lang!‌” tawa niya, “So ano nga?‌ Cardio? Pedia? OB?”

 

Medyo natuwa ka naman dahil may alam pala siya kahit papano.

 

“Neurosurgery.”

 

“Ows?” manghang sabi niya at parang napaisip pa, “Neuro? Brain? Like, brain surgery stuff? Derek Shepherd in the making?”

 

You had to bite back a laugh with how she described it. “Yes, yes, ganyan nga.”

 

“Ang cool mo naman! Kaya pala…” she placed her Coke down, drumming her fingers on the table like she’s thinking of something while having that amazed look on you. “Taray, good luck sa ‘yo.”

 

Napangiti ka naman kahit papano, “Thanks.”

 

“Ilang years ‘yan?”

 

“Six.”

 

“So kakasimula mo pa lang?”

 

“Hmm… hindi naman. Pero hindi pa rin ganoon katagal.”

 

“I knew it. You still look young. Feeling ko magka-edad lang tayo.”

 

Tinignan mo siyang nakataas ang kilay, “How old are you?”

 

“Twenty-three.”

 

Natahimik ka. Twenty-three?

 

“Fresh graduate ka ba?” agad mong tanong.

 

“Grabe siya,” rinig mong agik-ik niya. “Alam kong sobrang baby-faced ko pero hindi ‘no! Maaga nga akong nag-aral eh.”

 

“Ah-”

 

“Teka, teka, ikaw pala?”

 

Hindi ka sumagot at tumawa lang.

 

“Ang daya, pa-showbiz pa. Mas matanda ka siguro ‘no?”

 

Napailing ka lang, finding the air between you suddenly light and freeing. Was it because of the gentleness of her perky voice? Her eye-smile? The way she talks to you like you’ve known each other for years? You don’t know.

 

“Saan?” biglang sabi niya.

 

“Anong saan?”

 

“Saang ospital ka?”

 

Tinaasan mo ulit siya ng kilay, may bahid ng ngisi sa labi mo. “Ba’t naman kita sasabihan?”

 

Sumama kaagad ang mukha niya at pabiro kang pinanlisikan ng mata. Natawa ka tuloy, at mukhang hindi na rin naman niya itutulak pa.

 

“Ikaw?” Napahalukipkip ka sa malamig na hanging dumaan, rubbing your arms with your equally cold hands. “What do you do?”

 

“Teacher.”

 

“I know.”

 

Natawa siya, “High school teacher sa isang science high school sa Manila.”

 

Wait.

 

Manila?

 

So she’s actually from Manila too?

 

“Which school?” you intently asked, now sitting up.

 

“Ba’t naman kita sasabihan?”

 

What-

 

Your pursed your lips and chewed on it.

 

Sumandal ka na ulit sa kahoy sa likod mo at sinamaan siya ng tingin. Siya naman ngayon ang tumatawa sa panggagaya niya sa ‘yo, tuwang-tuwa sa paghihiganti niya. This girl is cutely annoying for some obvious reasons.

 

“Fine,” you say, pretending to be unbothered by your unresolved curiosity, “What do you teach then?”

 

“Physics.”

 

Napatango ka. Physics…

 

“Kakatapos ko lang ng masteral, actually. I’m applying for doctorate ngayon.”

 

Naptigil ka sa pag-inom at muntik pang masamid sa gulat. “W-What?” ‘di-makapaniwalang tungo mo sa kanya. “…no way.”

 

At twenty-three?!

 

“Sabi ko nga, maaga akong nag-aral kaya ganito.”

 

“With no gap years?”

 

Nagbikit-balikat lang siya.

 

Mas lalo ka na sanang mamamangha, kung ‘di lang diyan sa nakakainis na mukhang meron siya ngayon. That smug face, lopsided smile. You scoffed and rolled your eyes in jest, “Ang yabang.”

 

She laughed at your reaction, and right there and then you knew she was just being cocky. But on a serious note, that’s… amazing? She’s just twenty-three, how awesome is that? Napatitig ka tuloy sa kanya. Grabe. Sobrang career-driven niya siguro to pursue the academe like this.

 

And so she went on about her interesting love for Science.

 

Ang comic pa niya magkwento kaya kanina ka pa tawang-tawa.

 

You also found yourself sharing small bits of yours.

 

“…kaya ayun, na-enjoy ko naman kahit papano ang research.”

 

“You must love Physics a lot then,” you , still amazed.

 

“You must love slicing brains, too.”

 

“Please,” tawa mo.

 

A moment of silence engulfed after your giggles. Nanatili ang tingin mo sa harap, finding the scene suddenly more appealing even without having to see it in a broad daylight. Hindi mo namalayang mag-iisang oras na pala kayong nandito at nag-uusap.

 

“Alam mo bang sobrang relevant ng Physics sa field mo?”

 

You groaned. Ayan na naman siya.

 

“Diagnosis? Imaging? X-Ray?” Tinignan ka niyang nanghahamon, may nagbabadyang ngisi sa mga labi niya na hindi mawala-wala. “Sinasabi ko lang.”

 

Tch.

 

Inirapan mo ulit siya. “Kami pa rin ang nagpaanak sa ‘yo.”

 

Isang malakas na tawa ang umalingawngaw mula sa kanya. Oh ano siya ngayon? Hindi mo rin tuloy mapigilang mahawa sa ngiti niya.

 

“Alam mo doc, ang cute mo ‘pag naaasar.”

 

The remark had your small laughter subside. You quirked a brow at her but she’s not anyhow moved by it. Then you realized, umiinit na pala ang pisngi mo sa sinabi niya. Ganito ba siya kahit sa mga hindi pa niya kilala? You feel your stomach turning by the way she’s looking at you now. It’s the same gaze… like how she watched Taal just a few moments ago.

 

You wonder.

 

Tinapon mo na ang ubos mong Coke sa basurahan at tumayo na.

 

“Matutulog ka na ba?” agad niyang tanong.

 

Pinasok mo ang parehong kamay sa bulsa ng jacket mo at lumayo na, habang siya, nanatili pa ring nakaupo. “It’s late. Aren’t you supposed to look after your students?”

 

Tumawa lang siya sa panunuya mo at tinignan kang nakakiling ang ulo. There she goes again with her drumming fingers and that look.

 

“Anong pangalan mo?”

 

Your eyes locked for a moment, her anticipation reflected in her pensive brown orbs. In this litte while, you got lost in a gaze of a stranger’s eye, maybe silently thanking those for a good company, for a wonderful night.

 

With the flick of her eyes, you also blinked.

 

Anong pangalan mo?

 

You shook your head and slowly turned away. Rinig na rinig mo pa rin ang mahinang tawa niya habang papalayo ka na. Even so, your steps were all light and slow and a smile was kept in your lips since the second you turned your back.

 

“Edi ‘wag, makikita ko naman ‘yun sa program.”

 

Mag-isa kang natawa sa pahabol niya.

 

“Teka, may tanong pa ‘ko, hindi mo ba talaga sasabihin kung saang hospital ka?”

 

There was this wider dumb grin breaking out from your lips.

 

“Huy,” she calls you, voice slightly raising habang mas lumalayo ang pagitan ninyo. “Huy!”

 

The truth is, you find it somehow funny how you lowered your walls for this random stranger you just met tonight. Isn’t it odd? The good kind of odd? She’s cool… ridiculous—

 

“May LinkedIn ka naman siguro ‘no?”

 

See? Talagang natawa ka na.

 

“Sasama ba kayo sa city tour bukas?”

 

She’s one hell of an interesting stranger— right— a stranger, she’s a stranger. Kaya there’s really no reason for you to extend this growing curiosity and fondness. But maybe, maybe you wish your paths would cross again. Maybe. You won’t leave like this anymore by then, kung sakali, baka.

 

“Huy!” sigaw niya.

 

You giggled yet again.

 

“Huy,‌ Doc Cute!”

 

Unti-unti nang bumagal ang lakad mo.

 

“Mahahanap kita sa Manila, diba?!”

 

Dito ka na huminto at nakangiting nilingon siya. Why does this girl act like you’re long lost friends who have a lot to catch up? Even from a meter away, there’s still this hopeful and dazzling look you could see from her… so eager… so peculiar…

 

“Yes… or no?” huling tanong niya.

 

Joohyun, you wanted to say. It’s Bae Joohyun.

 

“No…” her face instantly drops, a frown forming in her face that made you swallow a lump in your throat, “…no, no, and yes.”

 

Her face contorts into a baffled one, and you had to force yourself not to giggle at her confused state. It took her a few seconds to get it, her eyes lighting up when she finally realized the fun of strutting around. God, this woman.

 

“Okay ka na?” You prepared for another cocky, cheeky response, yet, it surprised you when she only stood up and gave you a warm smile instead.

 

“If we ever bump across each other again in Manila, promise me you’d let me take you out for a dinner.”

 

Now, that’s more unexpected.

 

“At bakit?” you asked with folded arms.

 

“Something tells me we have this… potential friendship. I just have a feeling.”

 

Now, you managed to giggle. “That sure is a weird feeling.”

 

She just shrugged and placed both of her hands inside her pockets. “Deal?”

 

Muntik ka nang matawa ulit dahil parang seryosong-seryoso talaga siya. She’s not thinking at all. Manila’s too huge, crazy, and fast-moving for fate to reunite two strangers again. Ewan mo na lang. Parang sinasabi niyang hihintayin niyang pumuti ang uwak. So you shrugged too, nodding, and finally said,

 

“Deal.”

 

Her lips beamed a huge smile.

 

“But!” agad siyang napatingin sa ‘yo ulit, “Only in one condition.”

 

“Ano ‘yun?”

 

“Don’t come finding for me in every single hospital in Manila. It’s unfair if you’ll ‘intentionally’ look for me, right? That’s cheating.”

 

She stared at you for a second, that wry smile still not leaving her. And in that same moment and sight, you realized what you just said, and you can’t take it back now.

 

“Well,” she chuckled, taking small steps away from the parasol, “What made you think ‘I’ll intentionally look for you’?”

 

Right.

 

She’s charming.

 

But annoying.

 

Really annoying.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

═══

 

 

 

“Ang arte! Ba’t ‘di mo binigay pangalan mo?! Edi sana nahanap ka niya sa epbi dot com tapos happy ever after na kayo kaagad!”

 

“Gaga ka ba? Hindi ako ganon kadali ‘no. Malay ko bang jinoke-time niya rin ako that night. Uso pa naman networking nung panahong ‘yun.”

 

Natawa si Jisoo sa sinabi mo, “Shuta ka talaga pero sige, tuloy mo na, paano kayo nagkita ulit?”

 

 

═══

 

 

 

 

 

 

“Congrats!” Nagulat ka nang biglang may bumunggo sa ‘yo habang naglalakad kang mag-isa sa lobby. Si Jennie pala at ang bagong kaibigan niya mula sa OB na si Solar. “Bali-balita ikaw daw pina-scrub in sa long surgery kanina ah?”

 

“Ah… oo, ang tagal nga natapos eh. Sakit ng leeg ko,” pagod na sabi mo at nag-unat pa.

 

 “Akala nga namin may zombie na naglalakad kanina, ikaw pala.”

 

Sinamaan mo ng tingin ang dalawa lalo’t tawang-tawa sila. Napasimangot ka tuloy at ‘di napigilang tignan ang sarili mula sa screen ng phone mo. Gosh… ang haggard mo nga tignan.

 

Rinig mong pinag-uusapan ng dalawa ang bagong mag-jowang doktor ngayon dito sa ospital. Hindi ka naman interesado sa pinag-uusapan nila kung ‘di lang ito napunta sa ‘yo.

 

“Tigilan niyo ‘ko,” pagbabanta mo.

 

“Sa ganda niyang ‘to, walang kinikita ‘tong si Joohyun?” gulat pero nang-aasar na sabi ni Solar, “Hindi mo talaga jowa ‘yung gwapong sumusundo sa ‘yo dito?”

 

“Si Minho?”

 

“Yieee! Hindi man lang dineny!” Si Jennie ang bumunggo sa ‘yo, na siyang binalik mo.

 

“Tumigil ka nga.”

 

“Inamin mo rin na gwapo ‘yang manliligaw mo!”

 

“Hindi siya nanliligaw, okay. Tsaka hindi ko siya type ‘no,” irap mo, face scrunching at the idea. Alam na alam naman ni Jennie ‘yan, ewan mo ba ba’t ‘di ka pa niya tinatantanan diyan.

 

“Ano bang type mo, Joohyun?” curious namang tanong ni Solar, “Wait, do you—” nag-aalinlangang turo niya sa ‘yo, “—do you, uh, you know?”

 

Hinawakan ni Jennie ang balikat niya at tumawa, “Girl, ika nga nila, birds with the same feather flock together. Kaya nga tayong tatlo magkasama ngayon oh.”

 

Napatingin si Solar sa ‘yong nakataas ang kilay, na siyang ginaya mo. Ngayon ay nakangisi naman siya.

 

“I see, I see. Have you been going out with some?”

 

“No…” you muttered under your breath, cheeks burning for whatever reason.

 

“Anong type mo? Marami akong friends, share ko lang.”

 

Hindi mo alam ang isasagot. You’re not that open talking about it unlike them kaya nahihiya ka talaga ‘pag pinag-uusapan ‘to, bigtime. To the rescue naman si Jennie sa ‘yo.

 

“Kung sa panlabas siya babase, feeling ko ‘yung matangkad, malinis tignan, tsaka may mala-Rachel McAdams na ngitian.” Natawa ka sa sinabi ng kaibigan mo at napailing na lang. “Diba, diba?”

 

“Ewan ko sa ‘yo.”

 

“Feeling ko rin bet niya ‘yung may magandang fashion sense. ‘Yung masasabi mong maporma kahit nakatalikod,” dagdag pa ni Jennie na nagpipigil ng tawa.

 

“Like that?”

 

Tinuro ni Solar ang pigurang nakatalikod sa ‘di kalayuan. Pinagmasdan niyong tatlo ang babaeng mukhang may kausap pa sa telepono. White button-up shirt, some loose denim pants, heels, silver watch, brown wavy hair, a tote bag…

 

“What do you think?”

 

Sasagot ka na sana nang biglang lumingon sa direksiyon niyo ang babaeng pinagpiyestahan niyo. At parang may sariling buhay ang mga paa mo dahil agad itong napako nang hindi mo man lang inisip.

 

No way.

 

Agad na nagtagpo ang mga mata ninyo.

 

Just no way.

 

You just stood there, completely frozen on your spot. Parang lumisan ang kaluluwa mo sa ‘yo habang sinisigurado kung totoo ba ‘tong nakikita mo ngayon.

 

There’s no way you’re seeing this right.

 

“Joohyun?”

 

Sa boses ni Jennie ay natauhan ka. Dito lang nag-register sa ‘yo lahat kaya agad kang nagtago sa likod ng katabi mo at huminga. What the hell?! Siya yan, diba?! Bakit siya andito?! Ang lakas ng kabog ng dibdib mo na hindi mo alam. Tinignan mo ulit ang sarili sa telepono mo at mabilis na nag-ayos ng bangs. ! Ang haggard mo pa naman ngayon!

 

“Hoy, anong—”

 

“Oh my gosh!” Imbes na magtaka ang kaibigan sa inasal mo ay nabaling ang atensyon niya kay Solar na ngayon ay lumalapit na sa babaeng dahilan ng pagkataranta mo. “You’re Seulgi, right?!”

 

Ha—

 

Ano?!

 

Magkakilala sila ni Solar?!

 

 

═══

 

 

 

Kang Seulgi.

 

So that’s her name.

 

Turns out magkakilala pala sila ni Solar, or more like, nagkita lang pala because Seulgi said she doesn’t remember the doctor. According to Solar’s brief introduction, they met pala sa isang bar ‘daw’ a week ago because of some common friends. Nalaman mo rin mula sa kanya na nagtuturo ‘daw’ siya somewhere in QC, sa Pisay. She’s not so sure kasi sobrang vague ng memory niya from that drunken night at sadyang naalala niya lang si Seulgi because the girl was so attractive ‘daw’. You almost scoffed when you heard that.

 

Seulgi.

 

So it’s Seulgi, huh.

 

Her name rang inside your aching head again.

 

You still can’t believe it.

 

Of all the places and time you’d meet her again, ngayon at dito pa talaga?

 

Or you could rephrase that.

 

Nagkita talaga kayo ulit?!

 

Gosh, hindi mo ma-absorb.

 

Sumasakit ang ulo mo dahil hindi ka pa rin makapaniwala.

 

 

‘Di nagtagal ay nakita niyo siyang paparating sa caf. The two eventually invited her over for lunch, much to your anxiety. Tinaas ni Solar ang kamay niya kaya agad niya kayong nakita. Seulgi’s eyes were fixated on you as she walked. You had to look away.

 

Oh, you wonder how they would react ‘pag nalaman nila ang fateful encounter niyo ni Seulgi a month ago. Would she tell them about it? Hindi mo nga alam kung paano mo ito i-iinsert ngayong andito na kayong apat.

 

“Gosh, nagtatampo pa rin akong hindi mo ako naalala.”

 

“Sorry talaga…” kamot niya sa kilay, smiling apologetically. You don’t know why, but a part of you’s relieved na hindi niya kilala si Solar.

 

“Right! I remember!” tawang alala ni Solar at napapalakpak pa. “I remember it now! Naalala ko si Seulgi dahil pinag-uusapan siya ng mga kaibigan ng ex ko! Si Calcu girl! Hahahaha!”

 

“Calcu girl?”

 

Your brows quirked up when a shy Seulgi looked down.

 

“Eh pano? Mag-isa lang siya sa table nila tapos nakita namin siyang nag-cocompute ng grado sa class record niya. Hahahahaha! Everyone was getting wasted and all and then there’s her. Imbes na beer, she had this calculator in her hand instead kaya tawang-tawa kami!”

 

Namumula na ang katapat mo na parang gusto niyang patahimikin si Solar pero hindi niya magawa. Pati ikaw, hindi mo rin mapigilang matawa imagining the same very scene. You’re guessing she’s not that type of girl, huh… then you remember what she told you, the masteral, the doctorate, her jokes, the deal, the—

 

Teka, ba’t mo ba iniisa-isa?

 

You bit you lip and examined the girl who’s attentively listening to whatever Jennie was saying.

 

“Anong ginagawa mo sa isang… bar?” singit mo at kay Solar nakatuon ang tanong mo pero pasimple mo ring tinignan ang babaeng nasa harap. A teacher, she’s a teacher, right? Why the hell would she be in a bar?

 

“Chill bar, a rooftop chill bar,” Solar clarified, giggling. “Grand opening ‘yun. Actually, sumama lang ako sa ex ko dun. Wala talaga akong kakilala that night. Teka, friend mo ba ‘yung may-ari, Seulgi?”

 

“Ah, oo, kuya ng kaibigan ko,” she politely answered. There’s that charming smile she pulled off once again. Hindi mo alam kung bakit parang out of reflex, nagkatinginan kayong tatlo. You bet. They’re thinking of the same thing too.

 

“By the way, bakit ka pala andito?”

 

Ayun, there’s this student of hers pala na bumagsak pala sa klase niya. She was just kind enough to accompany dahil tapos na rin naman daw ang klase niya. At kaya pala siya nasa lobby kanina dahil hinihintay niya ang parents ng bata dahil kailangan pala itong i-admit.

 

“Oh… bait mo naman. If you want, you can give me your number so I can update you. I think dun ako ang rounds ko mamaya.” What the hell? You gave Jennie a knowing look but she just smirked at you. Seriously? Is she flirting with this woman?

 

“Uh, s-sure. Thank you, Jennie, ” sagot naman ng isa.

 

“Yieee, first name basis. Single ka ba, Seulgi?”

 

Oh my god, these two…

 

The girl nervously chuckled, “Y-Yes.”

 

“Open-minded?”

 

Nagtawanan pa ang mga bruha pero tumango rin naman siya. Napunta ang tingin mo sa plato mo habang tuwang-tuwa ang dalawa.

 

“Ooooo, interesting,” satisfied na sagot ni Solar at hindi ka sigurado pero mabilis ka pa niyang binalingan ng tingin. “Alright, feeling ko kailangan ulit natin ng formal introduction.”

 

Nagpakilala ulit si Solar at ini-isa nga niya kayong pinakilala rin sa kanya. This time from your full name, down to your little life here in the hospital. God, you never imagined you’ll be seeing her again like this, but with these two. How much better would it have been if you did all these introduction by yourself.

 

“Single rin siya, kung nagtataka ka,” pahabol pa ni Solar sa pagpapakilala sa ‘yo. You rolled your eyes, trying to ignore that added pounding of your heart.

 

“Hi,” you smiled at her like it was the first time. Nilahad mo ang kamay mo sa kanya.

 

“Hi, nice to meet you,” abot niya nito, grinning, her soft hand gently shaking your own, “…again.”

 

Para kang binuhusan ng malamig na tubig sa binanggit niya.

 

“A-Again?” pag-uulit ng katabi mo.

 

“Nagkita kami ni Dr. Bae sa isang Science camp last month.” Tinignan ka niya at nginitian. “Diba?”

 

At talagang tuluyan nang nabilaukan si Jennie.

 

 

 

 

═══

 

 

 

 

“Go mo na. Mas maganda pa ngiti niya kay Rachel McAdams mo,” bulong ni Jennie at tinapik ang balikat mo, “Vouched by yours truly.”

 

Bago mo pa siya maitulak ay kumaripas na ng takbo ang gaga palabas ng caf. Argh, they’re so annoying! Nang malaman nila ang tungkol sa nangyari sa Batangas, they wouldn’t stop looking at you suspisciously. You’re sure tatadtarin ka nila ng tanong once makabalik ka sa on-call room mamaya. They even left you two alone here!

 

Bigla kasing pinage si Solar at si Jennie naman, bilang isang napakagaling na best friend, ay sumama sa bruha. Obvious naman na gusto nila kayong iwanan dito.

 

Wala ka na rin namang magagawa.

 

Parang kanina lang gusto mo silang umalis, diba?

 

You sighed and glanced at the figure behind the glass. Kinakausap pa kasi ni Seulgi sa labas ang parents ng bata dahil hinanap siya.

 

A smile suddenly crept on your lips when you saw how she politely stood there.

 

She’s really there.

 

You really met again.

 

You still can’t wrap your head around it.

 

Maya-maya ay nakita mo siyang papasok ulit. Biglang bumilis ang tibok ng puso mo. You saw she’s confused kung bakit ikaw na lang ang natira but she didn’t say a word about it nang umupo sa tapat mo. Her signature smile was still there, and you just want to wipe it off her once and for all.

 

“So…” she started, mimicking your folded arms and crossed legs, “Dr. Bae Joohyun… 2nd year resident… PGH Neurosurgery… wow…” manghang iling niya, “We really did meet again.”

 

Now she’s looking at you like how she did under that parasol.

 

All the curiosity, excitement, and fondness from that night came rushing back to you in a split of a second.

 

A staredown.

 

You don’t know what to say.

 

You tore your gaze away first.

 

“Hindi pa rin ako makapaniwala,” iyan lang ang nasabi mo, trying to ignore the churning of your stomach at that charming gaze she won’t ever stop giving you.

 

“Ako rin. Pero sabi ko naman sa ‘yo, baka tinadhana talaga tayong maging friends.”

 

Tinignan mo ulit siya. Friends…

 

“Anong tingin ‘yan? Promise, hindi kita hinanap. Kahit sa program, hindi na kita hinanap. At mas lalong hindi kita sinundan. I really, really did not expect to see you here.”

 

Hindi mo pa rin tinatanggal ang tingin mo sa kanya.

 

Napataas na siya ng kamay niya, “Totoo nga!”

 

Having enough of this new, giddy, odd feeling you’re having, you unfolded your arms and leaned over the table to get a good look of her. “Why do you want us to meet again?”

 

“Ayaw mo ba?”

 

“That’s not an answer, Seulgi.”

 

“I never wanted us to meet again,” she said, sheepishly smiling to lean over like what you’re doing, “Don’t tell me you did?”

 

“No,” agad mong iling, pulling back, “Hindi ko na nga naalala.”

 

“See? ‘Yan ang sagot ko sa tanong mo, Joohyun.”

 

Hindi mo pa rin maintindihan, at mukhang napansin niya ang pag-bibig deal mo dito dahil tumawa siya.  

 

“Just consider this a fortunate accident, Doc Bae. Maybe we were bound to meet again.”

 

Nanatili ang mga mata niyo sa isa’t-isa. Maybe, maybe that was what you needed to hear because you stood up completely getting it now. You exhaled and wrinkled your nose as though thinking deep.

 

“Are you free tomorrow night?” you finally asked, handing her over your phone.

 

Saglit pa niya itong tinitigan bago nagtatakang kinuha. “Huh?”

 

“Tomorrow night. I asked if you’re free.”

 

“W-Why…?”

 

You gave her an unimpressed look.

 

“The dinner. The dinner, Teacher Kang.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

═══

 

 

 

 

 

 

The addition of Seulgi’s presence in your life was something you never expected. Hindi mo inakalang magiging ganito pala kalalim ang pagkakaibigan niyo. You’re not surprised either. Sa eksena pa lang kung paano kayo nagkakilala and nagkita ulit, you know there’s just something about her that you have to keep.

 

You’ve only held unto persons you can only count by your fingers. Honestly, you weren’t planning on adding one this soon.  

 

“You’ve gotten closer,” naalala mong sabi ni Jennie sa ‘yo kamakailan lang.

 

“Sino?”

 

“Seulgi.”

 

“Oh,” you looked away, “Pa’no mo nasabi?”

 

“I don’t know. Napapadalas na paglabas niyo, and you know how much you hate going out. You look extra happy lately din. I’m just guessing it has something to do with your new friend.”

 

“And why do you think it’s about Seulgi?”

 

“It’s a best friend’s instinct.”

 

You snickered, “Everything just feels so light these days, that’s all.”

 

“Ayun na nga. There must be a reason.”

 

“Dapat ba talaga?”

 

“Siguro. It’s part of acknowledging this added happiness, right?”

 

When she said that, you never really realized you were out with Seulgi frequently these days and let alone, look extra happy, too, like what she claimed.

 

Are you really?

 

O sadyang magaan lang ang mga bagay sa buhay mo ngayon?

 

Maybe it was a good addition.

 

Because when Seulgi came into your life, it was no longer all hospitals anymore.

 

Madalas kayong kumakain sa labas, na kahit isang minuto lang kayong magkita at magkasama, sapat na at buo na ang araw mo.

 

Madalas ka niyang dinadala sa mga lugar na hindi mo alam na nag-eexist pala all this time sa Manila.

 

Madalas mo siyang sinasama sa mga kalokohang napapanood mo sa internet.

 

Madalas na kayong nag-uusap, sa texts man, sa chats, o sa bihirang tawagan bago matulog.

 

Madalas, o baka nga lagi, laging siya ang pinaglalaanan mo ng oras tuwing nagpapahinga ka sa gitna ng mahahabang duty.

 

Parang ang eventful ng mga araw mo these days.

 

Isa lang ang sigurado ka, gusto mo siyang kasama.

 

Seulgi became a window to your inner child, to a life that you probably have been missing when you only swamped yourself with work and work alone. She’s been nothing but a great companion, a dependable friend, a confidant to all pent-up frustrations from work.

 

Nakapagtataka lang na kahit sa konting panahong nakilala niyo pa lang ang isa’t-isa, ganito mo na siya pinagbuksan at pinapasok sa buhay mo.

 

You’re starting to believe that this… this potential friendship she’s been bragging… isn’t a weird feeling after all.

 

 

 

 

“Come on, it’s Friday!”

 

“Pagod nga ako,” nguso mo na parang nakikita niya, “Pinagalitan pa ‘ko ng isang senior kanina. Gusto ko nang humiga.”

 

“Kahit sa 7-Eleven? Nasa harap mo lang ‘yan oh!” panunulak pa niya. “Libre kita ng dinner. Umoo ka na habang hindi ko pa binabawi.”

 

Sa wakas ay natawa ka na, “Next time, please? Super pagod talaga ako ngayon. If you want, you can come over instead. Please? I bet you my entire condo you’ll see me slumped on my bed. Tsaka, palabas na ‘ko, edi hihintayin pa kita dito kung ganon. Gusto mo ba akong makatulog dito?”

 

“Sino namang nagsabi sa ‘yong maghihintay ka pa?”

 

“A-Anong…”

 

Mas lalo mo nang binilisan ang paglakad mo palabas ng ospital at hindi ka nga nagkamali. You chuckled in amusement, watching a familiar face beaming at you with the same flashy grin you’re used to. She’s here… what is she even thinking?

 

The long surgery and this bad day certainly drained you but suddenly,

 

“Dami mo pang satsat,” huling rinig mo sa telepono bago niya ito binaba. Sa isang iglap ay nasa harap mo na siya, may kamay nang nakalahad sa ‘yo, “Tara na nga.”

 

Suddenly, you’re not so tired anymore.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

═══



 

“So paano mo nasabing gusto mo na siya?”

 

“I was just about to skip to that part.”

 

“Come on, na-eexcite na ‘ko! Did she do something? Who said it first? Did you slow-dance under the moon? Did she kiss you on the cheek tapos dun tumibok ang puso mo’t nalaman mong gusto mo na pala siya?”

 

Natawa ka, “No.”

 

“Anong ‘no’?”

 

“No.”

 

“Huh?”

 

“Gumising lang akong gusto ko na siya.”

 

 

═══

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Something changed.

 

You know it.

 

You feel like you're a different person now, a good kind of different.

 

Napapadalas na ang pagngiti mo— na kahit sa simpleng paghuhugas ng pinggan, tuwing naglilinis ka ng kwarto, tuwing naghahalo ka ng kape, o ‘di kaya tuwing inaayos mo ang mga gamit sa OR ay hindi mo napapansing nakangiti ka na pala.

 

At hindi ka na natutuwa.

 

Hindi talaga.

 

Lalo na tuwing naalala mo kung bakit,

 

Kung paano,

 

Kung sino.

 

And it’s frustrating! Dahil kahit anong pilit mong 'wag pansinin, ito ang paulit-ulit na sinasabi ng mga tao sa paligid mo.

 

Si Jennie na nagseselos na raw dahil may kaagaw na siya sa ‘yo.

 

Si Solar na nakaka-close mo na, na sinasabing bagay na bagay kayo at nakipag-pustahan pa kay Jennie na magkakatuluyan kayo ni Seulgi bago matapos ang taon.

 

Heck, pati ang mommy mong walang kaalam-alam, ang mommy mo who’s miles and miles away from you ay ganoon rin ang sinasabi.

 

They all tell you the same thing.

 

That you’re happier.

 

And that you look in love.

 

 

 

“Ngayon lang ako nakakita ng resident na ganito kasaya umagang-umaga.” Naputol ang pag-iisip mo at napalingon kay Dr. Min na papasok pa lang ng ospital.

 

“Oh- good morning, doc,” agad mong bati.

 

“Galing night shift?”

 

“Opo,” ngiti mo.

 

 “I see. May hinihintay ka ba nang ganito ka aga?” Nahihiya kang tumango. “Jowa?”

 

Muntik ka nang maubo sa sinabi niya.

 

“H-Hindi po. Kaibigan ko lang.”

 

Natawa siya at tinuro ang sasakyang nasa harap niyo. Nagulat ka dahil andiyan na pala si Seul. Huh? Kanina pa ba siya diyan?

 

Tinapik ni Dr. Min ang balikat mo at naglakad na, “Ingat sa pag-uwi,” at kaluna’y lumingon para sabihin sa ‘yo ang mga salitang laging nagbibigay sa ‘yo ng lakas, “Keep up the good work, by the way.”

 

She always does that.

 

Mag-isa ka tuloy napangiti habang naglala

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Omg thanks for the feature?!?! Ang cute ng star! Para at para lang po sa inyo ‘yan! Merry Christmas pala talaga!
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