June 20, 1966
Maya and I almost kissed! I tossed and turned that night, replaying that moment in my head, and thinking of what happened after that near kiss in front of the bell tower of the majestic Sta. Maria Church in Bantay where we heard mass that morning!
It was almost a week by then since Maya and I met each other, a meeting that really changed our lives forever. We spent most of those days with each other. There was just us and this seemingly unquenchable thirst to know every little detail about each other, to spend every moment possible together, as if at the back of our minds, somehow, we knew that were on borrowed time. Though most of those times, I tried to forget that I have another life other than the wonderful one I was having with Maya. It consumed my being. By then I knew that I love her with all my heart. I never felt like that before and I never thought that I would feel like that, like my whole being was on fire for this beautiful and wonderful lady. She was my world and I was like on an all time high when I was with her, even if we were just spending it by the veranda of either of our houses, sipping coffee as we watched the sun to set. I was not completely sure, but I felt that she has feelings for me as well, and that too had fallen in love with me. What I was feeling then can’t be unreciprocated as it was so overwhelming. However, as if by tacit agreement, we never talk about what we really feel for each other. I for one, just decided to show her how I feel about her, through my gestures, my deeds, and by spending most of my waking moment with her.
When most of the churchgoers have left, we decided to walk around the church grounds, marvelling at the view before us and the ingenuity of the people who have built this beautiful structure dedicated to God and the spiritual well-being of the people of Sta. Maria and the nearby areas!
We were gazing at the bell tower which was built separately from the church, when suddenly, out of nowhere, a child of about seven, run towards Maya and shyly told her that she is very pretty, like a manika. Maya stopped down, smiled at the little girl and asked her what’s her name. The girl told her that her name is Miriam. Before long, Miriam’s mother came running and apologized profusely, saying that her daughter thought Maya is a doll as she looks so pretty in her long flowing skirt, embroidered blouse, and with her hair loose. She wanted a closer look and wanted to touch the ‘talking doll’. Maya assured the embarrassed mother that it was okay for Miriam to do so, and that she likes Miriam, affectionately ruffling the little girl’s hair, and hugging her as the little girl touched her face. Maya gave the little girl some candies she had in her bag and asked her to wait a bit as she had a treat for it. She got the sketch pad from her bag and draw the little girl, much to her delight and also her mother.
While this was happening, I was just gazing at Maya and admired how she interacted with the little girl, thinking that she would make a very good mother, and that she is, indeed a very beautiful person inside out, and very caring one too. I wish then that it was our own little girl she was hugging and sketching.
When Miriam, clutching her sketch, and her mother left, Maya caught me gazing at her intently. She told me she called my attention as I was so deep into my thoughts. Thoughts actually of her and a little girl who looks like her, and maybe a boy who is the spitting image of me, but there is also a bit of his beautiful mother in him.
Maya had to call my attention several times and had to touch my arm, before I was jolted out of that dream and back to where we were. I smiled at her and told her softly that she is very beautiful, inside out, and that she will make a good mother. Maya blushed. We gazed at each other and before we knew it, as if there was a strong force pushing us, our faces got closer and closer to each other. I cupped her chin, angling to kiss her, and then because I can’t help myself, I whispered to her that I love her very much. She was startled, I can see it in her eyes, but didn’t say much, instead I saw love in her eyes after the initial surprise at my words, which she was not expecting I would say at that moment, I guessed. However, before our lips finally met for the first time, several people arrived at where we were, catching their breaths from climbing the 80 plus steps leading to the front of the church.
We looked at each other again, both unsure of that to do next. I took matters into my own hands. I felt that moment that Maya and I needed to talk as it was the first time I declared my feelings for her openly. She must have felt the same as she didn’t protest or say anything when I guided her towards the side of the church overlooking the mountains of Abra. We sat on the low wall, and for several minutes, we stared at the beautiful scenery before in silence, as if absorbing the momentous event that happened in front of the church. With those words that I uttered, the world we created shifted.
Taking a deep breath, I forged on, cupping her chin and looking deeply into her expressive and beautiful eyes, I told Maya that I meant what I have said earlier, that I love her very much, that I have fallen in love with her. That for the first time in my life I am in love, with her, even if I am not free to do so. I heard her catch her breath, then teary-eyed and with a soft, shaky voice, she told me that she felt the same. She confessed that she love me too and that despite everything, she had fallen in love with me. Hearing her said she loves me too was like music to my ears. However, after she did, she got sad, and told me that we can’t be, that there would be no us as it would mean hurting and disappointing our loved ones and that she can’t have it that her happiness would be built at the expense of others, that the two of us had indeed found a love, she knows would last a lifetime as she never felt the feeling she has for be in her entire life, but it happened at the wrong time.
In my rational mind, I know that what she said was right. But my heart says otherwise. There was a part of me that wanted to forsake everything just to be able to spend the rest of my life with her. We hugged each other, and held hands as we quietly contemplated our situation. My heart sang knowing that she loves me too. But at the same time, I felt this overwhelming sadness that we can’t be, she was right, my rational self admitted. After a while, I told her that I just want to make most of the time I have with her if that is all I will have. It has to last me a lifetime, it has to last us a lifetime. Sometimes, it was not really a matter of how long the moment lasted, I told her, but how that moment was spent. She squeezed my hand and nodded, understanding that our short, intense moment was better than a lifetime of nothing. We decided to live for the moment and squeeze life of every moment we can have with each other.
From the Sta. Maria church, we traveled to Vigan and nearby areas, putting in more memories for our treasure box of memories, something to remember in the years to come, something to treasure when we finally say goodbye. We returned to our place by the beach late that evening and had dinner at my house. But instead of ending the night after that dinner, and as if we were very reluctant to part that night, we camped out under the stars, chatting and just enjoying each other’s company. When it gotten so cold and, she was almost half-asleep in my arms, I took her home. I hugged her, then squeezed her hand tight, kissed it and uttered a soft good night before I reluctantly left her for the night, consoling myself with the fact that I will see her again the following morning and that we will have several more days together before the inevitability of our parting.
I spent most of the night tossing and turning and feeling very restless, for some reason I can’t explain. When I managed to fall asleep I was plagued by a series of dream. At one time, I dreamed that Maya and I were walking in the very beach where we met, carrying two beautiful toddlers, a boy and a girl, our twins. Our twins were so happy seeing the waves crashing to shore and then rolling again. We let them play in the sand and help build a big sand castle. I woke up suddenly and got a bit disoriented as to where I was since the dream was so vivid.
I forced myself to fall asleep again as when I checked the time, it was just three o’clock in the morning. This time I have dreamed that I saw Maya walking along the beach, but away from me. I called her, several times, but she didn’t seem to hear me and continued walking towards the opposite direction, until she disappeared into the night. I woke up drenched in sweat and feeling very distressed. I felt so tired. I didn’t realize then that was a foreboding of what was coming.
The next thing I knew, there was a knock on my door and I felt very tired. I remembered feeling a heaviness in my heart which I can’t explain. I checked the clock and realize that I overslept. It was already 10 o’clock in the morning. Manang Felicing told me, when I opened the door, that Maya was downstairs, waiting for me. I smiled and felt lighter. Maya was there and knowing that, dispelled the bad feelings I was having.
When I went down, I immediately sought Maya where I knew she would be, eager to catch a glimpse of her. True enough, she was standing by the veranda, looking out the beautiful view before her. As if sensing my presence, she turned, but instead of the sunniest smile, one that lit up and transformed her face, that she gives me every time we see each other, her face was etched with sadness. I also noticed that she was dressed more formally, as if she was about to take a long trip. Beside her propped against the wall was rectangular material. It looked like one of her canvases.
Maya gave me a sad smile, hugged me tight and told that she is going back to Manila that morning. Her father has sent their family driver the night before and asked her to return to Manila as soon as she can as her fiance is in the hospital. He had an accident and in a serious condition. Hearing that, I felt the heaviness I was feeling doubled. I knew then that it was the end for the two of us. She touched my face, saying softly, sadly, that maybe it was better this way as it would have been so much harder for the two of us, to part, that maybe, fate has intervened as we were not meant to be. She told me, that maybe in another lifetime we will meet again, we will seek each other again, and we will be free then to love one another. She told me that she will not love another and that I will be forever in her heart. I professed the same to her. My heart was breaking into million pieces.
I told her I will love her until to my dying days and if finding her in another lifetime is possible, that is the first thing I will do. I hope that fate will be kinder to the two of us then. I embraced her tight, holding on to her and not wanting to let her go. I then cupped her face and lowered my lips to her. We kissed, and kissed as there was no tomorrow, putting our feelings in those, letting each other know of our love for each other with the fusion of our physical selves. With tears flowing from her eyes, and mine too, we kissed one last time, before she said a soft goodbye. I walked her to the car that would take her away from me, forever. I stayed at the gate of the beach house, long after the dust has settled, and I can’t see the sight of my beautiful love.
I went back to the veranda. I never knew how I made it back there in the state I was in. I felt like I died a thousand times. I sank into the wicker chair, shell shock. My gaze caught the object that Maya left there. We never gotten around to looking at it or her telling me about it. My name was on the Manila paper protecting it, and when I removed the wrapper, I gasped. It was a painting of me, the one Maya was working on, but refused to show me, no matter how I teased her about it. It was an image of me I have not seen, a happy, carefree me, looking out of the canvas, with so much love on my eyes, to the person I was gazing at, my beautiful Maya. Unknowingly, Maya has captured it in her canvas. It was obvious that she saw a part of me that no one had seen before, and that the painting was done with love. I saw her name scrawled on the bottom of the painting. I touched it reverently, lovingly, sadly. With tears in my eyes, I stared at the painting for how long, I can’t remember. I mourned, until deep into the night, the love that was not meant to be. I didn’t sleep at all.
Two days after Maya left, I packed my bags too and returned Manila. I just can’t bear to stay in that place anymore. Everything was bleak, as if the place was leached of all colors when she left. I tried walking along the beach, trying to think of our happy memories together, instead of the sadness of our parting, but I failed miserably. All I felt was this immense sadness. Taking with me the painting and the photos that the photographer delivered the day after Maya left, I headed back to my reality. A whole lifetime without her! How I still miss her so!