I always see that guilty look on your face floating in my mind. It was a look of pure shame and culpability right after you uttered those spiteful words to me. Do you remember?
Well, I sure as hell do. Did our friendship mean anything at all? The ice cream cones after classes, the sleep overs during summer, the movie marathons, even the severely unproductive afternoons spent just sitting on the swing at the playground. It sounds silly now, but it meant everything to me at that time. We spent those years trying to put together the puzzle pieces of our future. But in just one day, everything fell apart. And I'm not yet strong enough to put it right back.
You called me a lot after the fight. I ignored them, however irrational I knew I was being, but there were times that it felt nice to hear your voice even if it's just from the answering machine. Sometimes, I would hug my knees close to my chest as I sat on the sofa and pretended to be engrossed in whatever there was on the television. Sometimes, I would listen to the phone ring, my hand already on the receiver.
Then, there came a time when I picked up the phone.
"Hey." I don't even know why I did. Maybe I got too sick of talking back to the phone. Maybe I was too tired to stop myself from doing what I have imagined doing for days now.
"Thank God, you picked up the—don't hang up!" I heard you take a deep breath over the line. "Please, let's talk."
A sigh. "What's there to talk about? All the talking is done." It is, and yet, I can't fathom why I am here, still listening.
You started talking fast, expressing your regret.
"Stop. Haven't you done too much damage already? Stop calling me, my friends can't get through."
My apartment felt cold. My feet were numb from the tiled floor. I raised my feet from the ceramic tiles and sat on the carpet with my legs tucked under me.
"No! This is unlike you. Let us fix this." He paused and continued in a softer voice. "Please."
Every once in a while, I'd see you around the city. I knew you saw me as well because you would try to come over by me but I always walked away. People would look at me oddly as I suddenly walked briskly, bumping against walls and tripping over my own feet. Sometimes, I would see you in my favorite bookstore or in the cafe I frequented so I started avoiding those places too. I actually kind of hated you for that. It felt like you robbed me of my sanctuaries.
But despite everything that happened between us, I never stopped thinking about us, and I hated myself more. "Fine."
"Meet up with me." A nervous sound. "Meet me at the café."
I would call you every day. And every day, I would go into the café where I met you, sitting on a corner seat by the window. And there, on that corner, as the sun hits my back, I would call you. It was a busy day in the city. With every step I took, I either rammed into someone by accident or some perverted dolts would take the chance to grope my ass. I was frustrated and I needed some coffee.
Tugging the hem of my loose sweatshirt, I entered the café, glanced around and spotted the table by the clear window, unoccupied. I got in line and ordered a cup of coffee.
Sitting down, I pulled out my phone out of my pocket. I took a sip of my coffee and set the cup down, keeping my hand wrapped around it. I tapped my foot unconsciously to the music as my fingers punched your number on the keypad.
I heard only three soft beeps before you picked it up.
I was surprised, of course. You never answered my calls before, but still, I continued calling, hoping that at least, you would hear my apologies through your answering machine—that is if you even bother to hear it out. I understand your anger because personally, if I were you, I wouldn't want to listen to myself either.
Your voice made me shiver. The last time I spoke with you, I did most of the talking. Or shouting, rather. I had not heard from you for months but I can still remember your gentle voice.
Now, it was unyielding, cold—not unlike the rain starting to fall outside the establishment.
I didn't know how to react. And before I even had the sense to stop myself, I started rambling, wishing for you to understand. "Thank God, you picked up the—don't hang up!" I took a deep breath. "Please, let's talk."
"What's there to talk about? All the talking is done." The hardness of your tone does not suit your usually sweet voice. It bothered me, and I had to pause before speaking again. My voice trembled and some of my words stumbled over each other.
You interrupted my disorganized defenses. "Stop. Haven't you done too much damage already? Stop calling me, my friends can't get through."
"No! This is unlike you. Let us fix this." I berated myself for losing composure. I remembered that my hurtful words were the last straw in our relationship, and I continued in a softer voice. "Please."
"Meet up with me." My mind was screaming with trepidation. What would I tell you? You hated hearing apologies. How could apologies help, you would say. They're just words, meaningless without action. But what else could I say? "Meet me at the café."
When you just stared down at me, taking in my appearance, I urged you to start talking. "Go on. You don't have long."
The café seemed too quiet despite the buzzing of the customers ordering and conversing with each other; all I could hear was your voice.
You spoke for a long time, telling how you could be better. I started rubbing my temples, and I noticed that you were tapping your fingers against your thighs, which you only do when you're nervous.
After a few moments, your voice softened. You started pulling the hem of your shirt, a mannerism you often do when you do not know where to put your hands. I hate that I still knew all these things about you. As you finished, I saw you smile sadly at me.
I called you by your name, and stared straight into your blue eyes. Ah, blue eyes. I used to think I could swim in them. "No," I shook my head in disbelief. Now, I felt like I was drowning.
"No." You shook your head, and glared.
I tried again. "I was irrational and angry, and I lashed out with cutting words." I felt silly explaining myself without you talking back. "It was stupid and hurtful, and you didn't deserve it."
When you just kept looking down at your hands, which were playing with the tissues on the table, I continued. "I'm sorry."
"I am too."
Tears were now openly flowing from your dark eyes. I stared at the wall behind you, and before I knew it, you have already turned away from me and out into the street.
"But I'm still hurting." I heard your whisper.
I went to the park. It's my next favorite place after the cafe and the bookstore. I didn't feel like going straight home after talking with you. A part of me wanted to fix it, and longed to trust you again. The other part was too tired and bruised from the frequent arguments towards the end of our relationship.
I didn't know what else to do. So I got up, and left with tears dripping along my cheeks and thick snot running down from my blotchy nose. The poor security guard by the cafe looked worried sick about me walking around in this condition. That good old man, bless him.
You, on the other hand, didn't call after me, which I honestly half expected. And half hoped for.
He slowly walked towards the swing. He remembered this place. It was near the apartment so they usually sat there whenever they had nothing to do. Just sat there and talked.
Other times, they would not say anything at all. They would kick against the ground repeatedly until the wind buzzed against their ears and their butts ached for sitting too long. This was exactly what she was doing as he strode over her. For a while, he was scared to walk closer as she might kick his shin instead.
She finally met his eyes as he sat on the grass patch in front of her. She immediately stood and walked around the swing so she could sit, facing away from him.
How could this simple childish action make his chest burn like hell?
She let out a cry of frustration, kicking the ground in some sort of an attempt to release her anger.
Her kicks became stronger, causing him to back away from the violently swinging metal seat.
He watched as she continued to vengefully hit the innocent mounds of earth, relieved that it was not him taking the blows but knowing that it was well reasonable if she decides to shift her vindictive attention to him.
"I'm sorry." He whispered.
"You've said some really upsetting things." She mumbled, almost inaudible.
"I've said some pretty spiteful things too."
"We could be better."
And that was all it took. Yes, they could be better. He could be more sensitive, considerate. She, too, could be more attentive, responsive. The admission lifted the heavy weight bearing down on them.
"We both could do better next time." she said. Next time, she hoped, we could put our puzzle pieces back to where they should be.
They stayed at the playground, lying down on the overgrown grass, until the inky shadows pooled between the alleys and underneath the parked cars. "You owe me a lot of tubs for this, just so you know."
Later that night, he'll drive her to the grocery to get her her ice cream and they'll both be smiling for the first time in months.