As is my custom, I arrived 30 minutes early sa Rufo's. We were supposed to meet at 11PM, but I was nervous, and extremely tense so I arrived early.
I was nervous because I was meeting a former friend of mine. I was tense because I didn't know what he wanted.
Why do I say former friend? Easy. He used to be a friend of mine, but then... well, let's just say he kinda stabbed me in the back. Multiple times. He ruined my relationship with my bestfriend and spread nasty rumors about me.
Let's call him Red.
That was a couple of years ago. We haven't seen or talked to each other since. Nor did I want to.
And then, the other day, I received a text message:
"Hi Bookie, can we meet? I really need to talk to you."
Hala. After years of ignoring each other, ganun na lang?
But I was curious. Why did he want to talk to me all of a sudden? Wouldn't you be curious?
So I replied:
He texted back:
"Sa dating tambayan. Is 11pm ok with you? Ngayong Friday?"
So there I was on a Friday night, sa dating tambayan naming tatlo, sa Rufo's sa Makati Ave. Pero this time, kaming dalawa lang ang magmi-meet.
Wala ang pangatlong miyembro ng barkada, ang aking dating bestfriend. We used to be inseparable, the three of us.
But after all the drama... siyempre, I kinda lost track of what happened to the both of them.
Ang alam ko, si Red, sa ibang company na nagtatrabaho. Si Blue, yung dati kong bestfriend, dito pa rin, I think. Pero I rarely see him. And on the rare occasions that we do see each other, we pretend that the other doesn't exist. At first it was really awkward, people kept asking me what happened, and I'm assuming he got the same queries from our other friends. I don't know how he dealt with it. Ako? I just answered people that Blue and I weren't friends anymore.
I miss Blue. A lot, actually. Pero... Ewan. I don't know what to say about him. I just miss him.
Rufo's was surprisingly almost empty that night. Usually, punung-puno siya ng diners and lasinggeros, pero that night, ang kasabay ko lang ay tatlong lalake, about three tables away from me, and they were talking about the calls they received that day. Nagkalat talaga ang mga call center agents.
The television was on and fixed on a local music channel, and Katie Perry's song, "Thinking of You" was playing.
I ordered a beer para lang masabi na um-order ako. Pero sa totoo lang, ayoko talaga ng beer.
At exactly 11pm, nakita kong bumaba ng taxi si Red. Naka-skinny jeans at red na shirt.
Dire-diretso siyang naupo sa silya sa harap ko, naka-ngiti, parang walang nangyaring samaan ng loob.
Ako naman, tahimik lang, walang expression sa mukha. That is, I hope walang emosyon ang mukha ko, pero deep inside, parang gusto kong mag-walk out na lang.
Um-order ako ng isa pang beer since nalagok ko agad yung una.
Um-order rin si Red ng beer, at sisig, sabay tanong sa akin, "May gusto ka pang kainin? Sagot ko."
"Ok lang ako," sabi ko, pumipiyok pa.
After a moment, nagtanong siya, "How are you?"
Uminom ako, bago sumagot, "Ok lang. Ganun pa rin. Walang masyadong nagbago."
Tumango siya, at nagpahid ng pawis sa noo niya.
Tahimik lang ako. Hinihintay kung ano pa ang sasabihin niya.
"Anong balita mo kay Blue?" tanong ni Red.
Medyo nahihilo na ako, tama siguro ng beer, o baka dahil sa tanong niya, "Wala akong kahit na anong balita about him. We don't talk."
Tahimik siya, nakatungo, um-order pa ng isang beer. Para kaming nag-uunahang malasing.
Binottoms up ko na ang akin at um-order ng isa pa.
"So, kamusta ka na?" tanong niya ulit.
"You already asked me that," sagot ko.
He said nothing, seryoso lang ang mukha. Nainip na ako.
"Look, we can't sit here pretending to do small talk, you obviously have something on your mind, so spill it," sabi ko, habang binababa ng waitress ang Red Horse na in-order ko, napatingin pa sa akin ang lola mo, nagulat yata dahil medyo malakas na ang boses ko.
Kinalahati ko agad ang beer habang nakatingin kay Red.
At naalala ko bigla nung unang pinakilala sa akin ni Blue si Red. It was during a company party. Red is good-looking, pati si Blue. Mabenta sila sa gay circles.
We were all drunk that night and Red told me, secretly, na crush daw niya si Blue. Pero wag ko raw sasabihin sa kaniya. I laughed, kasi alam ko type rin ni Blue si Red. Bagay naman sila, in fairness.
Tinanong ako ni Red noon kung type ko ba si Blue. I laughed again, and told him, "No, he's my bestfriend."
Pero mukhang di siya naniwala.
When I found out a year later na they were secretly seeing each other, aaminin ko nagulat ako, pero to be honest, di naman ako na-hurt eh. Siguro slight lang, dahil Blue never confided to me about it. Yun pala, ang sabi sa kaniya ni Red, huwag daw sabihin sa akin, dahil feeling niya, patay na patay ako sa bestfriend ko. Which wasn't true. Unfortunately, naniwala si Blue sa kaniya. Things started going to hell from there.
At eto ngayon si Red, sa harap ko, at hindi siya makapagsalita.
Napansin ko na malaki ang ipinayat niya, at mukhang di na siya malusog, nawala na ang dating matinee idol looks niya.
Gusto kong maawa pero... tao lang ako.
"What do you want with me, Red?" sabi ko.
Nagsindi siya ng yosi, tapos sumagot ng, "I want to explain..."
So I waited for his explanation. Pero wala siyang imik. Nakatingin lang siya sa sisig sa lamesa namin. Medyo naweweirduhan ako sa tahimik na version na ito ni Red. Dati kasi, lagi siyang life of the party, at super-kalog.
I guess he couldn't explain why he did what he did.
But I knew why. He was in love. We all do crazy things when we're in love. Some just resort to lies and deception. Like what he did.
"I don't think it matters, at this point," I told him, as I stood up, gathering my things, and leaving some money on the table.
He looked up and I saw something that looked like panic on his face.
I wanted to tell him na ok lang, matagal na yun, napatawad ko na siya, pero I couldn't. He was the one who was good with lies, not me.
The last thing he said to me before I left him there was "I'm sorry, Ryan."
I smiled at him as kindly as I could, and replied, "I know you are."