City of Manila
"You have pretty eyes." I glimpse into a woman. She's a sales clerk in a jewellery store. She looks so embarrassed after what I said to her. I could tell from her eyes that are moving. I don't want her to feel uncomfortable.
"Do you think this bracelet will be good for an old woman?" I asked her.
She smiled and I feel like I don't want her to misunderstand me.
"It's for my mother by the way." I smiled.
She looks not interested in knowing it. She didn't say a word about what I just said but instead. "Nope, I think a younger woman will be suited on this."
"This one would be better--,"
"But do you think that would be nice for you?" I look at her in the eyes.
She didn't reply, "oh, I'm just kidding."
"What's your name if you don't mind??"
She looked at me. I thought her eyes were cold. "Sorry, sorry. Help me please to find one for my mother."
"Sure," she replied.
She helped me to buy one for my mother. Today is my mother's birthday. I was in another region because I'm a soldier. I asked for a leave of absence just for this day. I wanted to celebrate her birthday with the three of us. Me, mother and father. They are old and I know how emotional they could be if I will not be around.
I'm planning to go home after I bought the bracelet. But I was thinking earlier to know the name of that woman in the jewellery store. She caught my attention and I'm so eager to know her name.
I saw the store was closed while waiting outside. I ran immediately when I saw that woman walking outside alone.
"Hi, miss!" I'm on her back. She didn't turn her head and keep on walking.
I feel that I like her even more. I walk beside her.
"Excuse me, Miss, I was that guy in the store earlier?" I said while smiling like a stupid guy.
"I know," she replied.
"May I know your name, please?...." I beg.
"Why?" She asked.
I suddenly felt speechless because I didn't know how to answer that.
"Wel……," words won't come out. I still don't know what to say. I think I will be too straightforward if I said: "I like her." I'm still thinking about how to answer her not being offended.
I'm walking together with her. I scratch my head even though it's not itchy.
"You see….-," she stops.
"Excuse me." She said and got inside the car.
I watch her leaving in that car. I'm not feeling sad because I will be staying at home for a week.
I arrived home and my mother is in tears seeing me. I knew it already because it's always like this. I gave her the bracelet I bought and she's delighted with it. I'm happy watching my mother so happy. After I lay down on my bed and she's all in my mind. I'm thinking about what kind of excuse to let her tell me her name.
"Miss, may I know your name, please?" I said it with a begging face. Another night came and I waited for her outside again. But again I was ignored.
"Miss, I mean no harm." Another night again.
"Miss, I want to know your name, please…" Again ignored.
My vacant days should be enjoyable but it didn't happen. I kept on waiting for that woman. She still didn't tell me her name. I don't want to ask her co-workers because for me it's not good to do. But a week seems so fast that it's my last night here.
"Sorry for troubling you or even made you scared. I will not be bothering you anymore. I will leave tomorrow at 5 in the morning sharp. I'm really, really sorry." An action of a desperate man to have a woman's attention.
I'm acting like I'm not waiting for her reply. I stopped walking and slowly turned around to leave. I did it slowly. I'm still hoping she'll ask me.
I turned my back already to her.
"Where are you going?" she said.
I smiled because she asked me. I didn't turn right away. I'm happy when she said it and I wanted to show a sad face.
"I'm going back to Tacloban where I'm serving as a soldier," I said it with a sad voice.
"So you're a soldier?"
"Yes, Maam," I replied with a proud voice.
"Thank you for protecting us."
"Okay, my name is Lara." We started walking together.
"My name is Jhun. Thank you very much." I told her with so much happiness.
"I don't usually tell my name to strangers. Especially to the men. I promised myself not to be friends with them." A voice from her suddenly made the mood sad.
I know something had happened. I just pretended I didn't know. I really like her and I want her.
"There was this man whom I loved so much. I thought we could start a family together. But for---," she stops talking.
She's wiping her eyes. Tears are slowly falling. I feel so much sadness just by watching her. I handed her my handkerchief. She took it and wiped her eyes. "Thank you and sorry."
"No, it's fine. Just don't tell me now if you're not ready yet."
"Thank you," she said.
I smiled and said, "don't worry about it."
"Hello, Lara! How are you?" A first message I sent from the time I arrived at the camp.
"You know, it's a bit lonelier here. I was thinking not to go back yet. I just learned of your name and I thought we became friends."
"Anyway, you take care there. I will be out to search the enemies hideout."
I'm thinking that maybe she's not allowed to send messages in time of work. I left without reading her message.
It's not easy to find a signal to send a message. We are in the mountains and remote areas. It's a week before we went down. I immediately searched for a signal. I'm excited to check my phone if Lara replied to my message.
She didn't reply to my message. I sigh and got emotional.
"I hope you are doing fine there." I sent her a message immediately.
I thought I needed to tell her how eager I am to see her. How desperate I am to be with her. But something inside me that is losing. I just don't, to do that. I don't want her to feel pity. I only want her attention and love if it's possible. I stopped myself from doing that.
We stayed in the mountains for 3 months. Every night when I sensed danger. I prayed that God would help me to be safe. I wanted to see her even though she doesn't. I miss her every day. Weather in the mountains felt so cold. But I thought my tears were way colder. It fell even in the daytime. It showered my soul to feel so much loneliness.
I asked for two days of leave. My heart is breaking each day. I'm desperate to learn why she ignored me. I know I'm a pathetic soldier. Look brave and strong to others. But actually, I have a weak heart. I can't take it anymore, my heart is bleeding.
"Hi, Lara!" I went to her workplace when I arrived in our town. I'm desperate to see her.
"I know it's not right for me to ask. But--,"
"I was waiting for your reply to my messages."
Her eyes moved away from mine staring at her.
"I thought I told you I have no time for that?" She said.
"Please Topher." Her tears are falling.
"I don't want to think I will have my own sweet family. Don't encourage me to hope." She sobs and I'm wondering why.
"I had believed once before. He died, he was a Police Officer. I admired him so much and I loved him so much. But--, but---"
"All I dreamed was lost. I was so eager to have my own family. I envied those happy families out there. I grew up as an orphan. My father left us with my mom. My mother couldn't bear the pain and ended up killing herself." Her cries became so intense. I comforted her by giving handkerchief and saying sorry repeatedly.
"And now you are here. Giving me hope again. Of course, I like you. Who woman will not fall for a sweet man like you? Not only that, you're kind and loving. But--- I just can't, there's no room for happiness in me."
"Why will you not? I promise to stay by your side. To love you, to take care of you and to make you happy always." I forced her to believe what I wanted to happen.
"Please Topher, I'm begging you. It will be hard for me to accept if you will be in my life."
"Leave me alone, please….!" She cried so much and walked so fast.
I wanted to hold her and stop her. I wanted her to tell me everything. I'm so frustrated with what I will do to her to trust me. But I don't want her to think of me as a nuisance. Even if I'm desperate to have her love me. I decided to let her go with my heart breaking into pieces.
I went home and decided to kill time. I told my mother about what I've been through. She listens to every heartbreaking word I'm telling her. My mother was there for me and even just a little. My heart feels a little bit lighter.
I'm packing my bag to go back to the field. I'm hesitating because I want to see Lara at least one last time. But whenever I think of going to her. I imagined what she said and what I must do.
"Riiiiinnnngggg" the phone is ringing.
I checked it right away because I thought it would be urgent. My eyes grow bigger as my heart bounces with joy. It's Lara, she's calling me.
"Hello…." I answered the phone.
"How are you?" A happy voice.
"Hello.." I paused because it's a man's voice. My heart melts immediately.
"Is this Topher?"
"Yes," I answered an unmotivated voice.
I don't have the time to have a sweet conversation. I feel like I wanted to end it.
"Please come to the hospital with this address. I checked Lara's phone and only your number was here."
"What's wrong? What happened to her?" A panic voice from me.
"She collapsed when she was having a check-up earlier. Just come here and I will state the details."
I rushed immediately to go into that hospital. I called my mother on the phone for her to understand why my bag is still there.
Sweat is all over my body. I ran to arrive in the hospital because I was so afraid of what happened to her. The Doctor told me the address and her room. Thanks to it I arrived in front of Lara right away. I'm waiting for her to wake up after the Doctor told me what happened.
She was in an accident months ago. She was hit by a car. Her head was the one who took a serious injury. There's a crack in her skull. The Doctor thought that her brain might be affected. If it's getting worse it could have a tumour in her brain. I closed my eyes when the Doctor told me everything.
I stay by her side while staring at her. I'm holding her hand and hoping she will wake up soon. I prayed to God that she will be fine. I rub her hair slowly.
"Sorry Lara, did I wake you up?" She opened her eyes slowly.
"How are you feeling? Oh, sorry just don't answer me right away."
"I'm fine but a bit dizzy." She replied and she rose in bed.
"Why didn't you tell me what happened? I'm always here for you." I started crying knowing what happened to her.
"My love for you will never change. I decided to love you eternally."
She wipes my eyes and says, "sorry."
She hugs me tightly as well I. I'm sad about what happened but I remain positive. It will be fine for sure and I will make sure to make it happen.
I called my senior officer and asked for an extension of my leave. I'm glad that my officer granted me. I took Lara to my house and introduced her to my parents. I told her I can't wait for us to be together. I love her and she said she loves me. No need to waste especially now that she's feeling something. It's better to have my parents while I will not be around.