Baguio-Manila Missed Connection or An Almost Love Story

by joanabagano

Photo from Yale Alumni Magazine

Photo from Yale Alumni Magazine

It was a chilly afternoon in Baguio. The bus station was empty compared to when I last saw it during the holidays three weeks before. At the ticketing area, I was standing next to a guy in a black hoodie. I didn’t know which window he was lining up for so I told him to go first when it was supposed to be my turn. He bought a ticket to Cubao, the same place I was headed, except I didn’t know what time his trip would be.

To cut the story short, we sat next to each other inside the bus, the black hoodie guy and I. In my mind we were talking and in my mind we shook each other’s hands after introducing ourselves. In reality we were just sitting there, my eyes on the road and his at the back of the seat in front of him.

Black hoodie guy, let’s call him that from now on, had a fair complexion that could pass for a vampire’s. I wanted to ask him how he was related to those movie vampires girls swoon over but he was a stranger and if he was indeed a vampire, I was in danger. My mother gave me a caveat in talking to people I don’t know: talk to them if they talked to you first. I wonder if his mother told him that too because he wasn’t talking to me.

I fell asleep for about five minutes and when I woke up, messy hair and all, black hoodie guy was standing and asking, “Can I spread the curtain over the window? The sun…” I knew it! He was a vampire. I nervously felt for my neck in case I had to call for help. Unfortunately for my imagination, I was fine. The guy was looking at me, still waiting for an answer. I indifferently asked, “What?” The truth is I wasn’t ready to make a cute response (which, by the way, I was also not schooled in).  He finally spread the curtain over the window and I said, “Oh…” before getting back to sleep.

When the bus arrived at its first stopover, black hoodie guy got off, probably to buy himself a drink. I fumbled my bag for a notebook so I could pretend-read while guilty of overthinking about this guy who was highly likely to be gay (and therefore not interested in me) or in a relationship or yes, a real vampire. All I knew for certain was that he liked black (his bag was black too) and that he somehow disliked the sun. That’s always a good place to start – know the person’s likes and dislikes and proceed from there. But where would I go next?

Black hoodie guy aka Edward’s relative got back on the bus gripping a cup of street food in his right hand and a bottle of water in his left. After a few seconds from sitting down, he called me “miss”, poked my arm and asked if we could share his food. He was reaching out his cup, waiting for me to take a piece of his food. My vegetarianism became a wall between me and my loved one so I rejected the offer before thanking him. He laughed and smiled at me. I smiled back and regretted that I didn’t indulge him. I was hoping he would share his bottle of water so I could finally say yes. He didn’t.

Three hours into the trip, I pulled the curtain aside and realized that it was already dusk. The moon in the east was glowing in its fullness. A few stretches from it was the slightest hint of a rainbow, a result of the slight drizzle earlier. I glanced to my right and saw black hoodie guy looking at the pink and red sunset that spread over the west horizon. Three shows at once. I wanted to talk to him about it so we could enjoy the scenery together. Instead I took out my journal and started writing, “It is the 14th of January, 2014, a month before Valentine’s Day and I am comfortably fitted on seat number 14…” This coincidence of numbers and simultaneity of beauty led me to believe, all sanity aside, that I was going to marry this man.

The night had finally set in and it started to get colder. I brushed my two hands together but I couldn’t generate enough heat to stop me from shivering. Black hoodie guy stood up and adjusted the airconditioning above us. “Cold huh,” he said. Those would be his final words because the day’s work immediately sent me to a deep sleep after nodding at him. When I woke up the bus was already at its destination and the seat beside me was empty. For a few seconds, I wanted to run out, look for him and ask his name but I knew he was gone. Without a trace, not even a simple note or a candy wrapper to remind me of him, he sped off. If you’d look in my planner, you would see my bus ticket tucked neatly inside it.

My heart had hoped that our story would have been more than that. Looking back, I am perfectly satisfied with the transience of it. Maybe I should have engaged him, maybe I shouldn’t have. What won was the thought that my heart could use some rest from such a needless fascination for romance. Also, I had to keep my motives in check.

In my own capacity, I would have given effort to get to know him. At least that’s how it went in my history book. In a case such as this my tendency would be to expect something for my effort and that black hoodie guy had the ability to either fulfill that expectation or break my heart, no matter how fleeting our encounter was and especially because it was fleeting. I have learned enough to stop trying to grab every opportunity for a love story because timing merits respect and destiny is not something I can fabricate just because a guy politely offered me food and turned down the airconditioning to warm me up.

Maybe my love story isn’t made for the movies, after all. The encounter could be on a random street on a random day this week or five years from now. Maybe my future husband is an old friend my idealism and wishful thinking have overlooked or an acquaintance whose name I forget every time I see him. And why not? Maybe I’ll see black hoodie guy again somewhere and we’d recognize each other as ‘the one that got away.’  The possible narratives are endless but one thing is certain: he will come. It’s time that I stop taking my heart too lightly and giving it away too soon for fear that there might not be a next time.

Let your story happen as it should, not because you are afraid it wouldn’t. Not because you can take the matter in your frail and human hands. Not because you are impatient and longing for affection right now. As in a bud that has been forced to bloom, the petals would more likely fall off than open up. The most beautiful flowers are those that naturally take their time to grow.