Chance Encounters

by joanabagano


Looking at my fancy clothes, I whispered to each disappointed fabric, “Oh, poor you, I should have worn you sometime else.”

I rode a jeepney, 2 trains and another jeepney just to reach this place, not to mention dealing with moshpits just to get train tickets, and find out that the special screening I was supposed to watch would already end in 15 minutes. I wiped sweat off my temple as the lady at the ticket booth frowned at me.

Wanting to console myself and the pieces of clothing that hung on me like the cloud above my head, I got out of the main theater, crossed the street to the food park and just lost myself in the food stores and thrift stalls.

I thought I could use some moments alone to finish a book and have a drink. I settled at Pancake House near the bay area and hoped I could really focus on this one book I’ve been trying so hard to digest. I did, for a while, until I could no longer think straight because I just wanted to watch the film I missed and go back home for a dinner meeting.

Tick. Tock. Tick. Tock. The clock in my head had been telling me to go because it was nearing sunset and home was a long way to go. The clock also told me that at this same hour the mobsters and burglars would be tying their shoes and heading out their doors into their workplace.

I thought about the burglars so I hurriedly asked for the bill, gaped at the digits and left a 10Php tip for the waitress who opened the door for me.

And then I saw him. He was sitting by the bay with another guy, munching on what looked like a burger. Flashes of our classmate days tracked swiftly across my head like a camera scanning a scenery. Our eyes met the instant I got out of the store. We studied each other for about three seconds until it hit us.

Say ‘hi’, crazy.

I waved my hand at him and saw him return the action.

Talk to him. Walk away, now. No, talk to him. No, let him walk up to you. Now. Or you’re in a hurry. It’s okay to leave. Now.

It would have taken me six seconds to say all those words in the last paragraph. That afternoon, they just floated and bumped into each other in my head for a nanosecond. He must have felt it so that when he saw me stop walking, he ran up and said hi.

“So uh, what are you watching?”

What are you doing here?

Guess what, I’ve shifted.

“I’m still waiting for a job.”

You’re not in uniform.

“It was nice seeing you.”

Yeah. You too.

He was a burglar. He stole my heart.

Not. You shouldn’t have expected me to tell you a love story, if you had. He was a good friend and one of my first classmates in UP. We both applied for the Writers’ Club and a year after that, the Journalism Club, both of which I left for some insane reason only God-knows-what. He stayed with the WC and left the JC. After that last semester, we only saw each other on a few chance encounters. Mostly I would see him at the library.

I guess I had to write this to remind myself that the trip wasn’t a waste, after all.

And when, by an unnamed sidewalk, you would meet someone from the past — someone who can give you a flashback of memories — don’t just wave your hand. The wave can swipe the memories off with the wind. A good dialogue won’t hurt. It can even help you better remember.

“How have you been?”

Great! And you?

“There’s this good Journalism professor, they say.”

Oh her? Yeah, I was in one of her classes last year.

“Really, cool!”

Yep, my professor now can’t even measure up to her.

“Ingat ka!”

It was a word for the burglars. And then I realized how I could have robbed myself of a good memory if I went straight home.

I now whisper a short “ingat” to myself before I even miss out on the more beautiful things in life.

Chance encounters? Chalk it up to a life that needs more spontaneity. Ingat, though.