The Time Capsule
By: Miyano Ran
The winter air tickled my nose which caused me to sneeze. My eyes fluttered open in annoyance to see my six year old brother Cayson opening the window. I shivered on my bed when I realized that my blanket wasn't on me anymore and I was completely freezing as the December wind slammed against me. I sleepily bent down to grab my blanket which had apparently fallen on the floor and wrapped myself with it before yelling at my brat of a little brother. "CAYSON! It's freaking cold out there, why on earth did you open that window?!"
Cheekily, he stuck a tongue out at me and hopped out the window excitedly. Yes, we're on the first floor and he did not just commit suicide. He laughed so loud and screamed, "It's winter, Achi Cress; snow is here!" I rolled my eyes in response to the obvious and retorted as I grabbed my alarm clock, "It's 6AM Cays! Give me some peace!" "You're just bitter achi cuz' you've turned older today! I'm gonna have fun!" He said while running around outside the snow with our sister, Cheska. "Achi" means "elder sister" in Chinese. My mouth was left opened due to the shock when I realized three things. First, it's just 6AM and Cayson and Cheska are actually all dressed up for the snow, mittens, hats, and mufflers all worn! Second, today's my birthday, and lastly, did Cayson actually greet me in that manner?! Ugh, he is such a bully for his young age but I love him oodles.
I just realized that I turned 25 years old today. Wow, I'm so old. And it has been four years since I left the Philippines and moved here in Toronto to stay for good. Right after I graduated Nursing back in the University of Saint Dominique, I moved here with my whole family – my parents, one ahia (elder brother) Dale, my shoti Cayson and my shobe Cheska. We also have a couple of relatives who moved here in the recent years because Canada has a really nice education system and also has lots of scholarships and freebies to offer for employees to enjoy. They always said that we will visit, but we haven't, and I miss my home back in Manila. I've lived two decades of my life in that wonderful tropical country and I have made too much beautiful memories and too many amazing friends. Canada ain't so bad but sometimes I ponder of going back home. Though I am Chinese with a Fookien ancestry, the Philippines happens to be the closest to my heart.
I am actually about to be engaged to this guy named Nate. I met him in one of our family gatherings. We weren't exactly arranged to marry, but we were arranged in a get-to-know each other arranged date (called Kai Siao in Chinese) and he was a pretty nice guy. I was surprised when he proposed to me, too, because I actually just saw him as a really good friend. Nate is smart and he is now a law student, he is also religious, kind, respectful, and sweet. He is actually anyone's dream guy. But I'm not a giddy bride-to-be or not even half as excited as when Chinese New Year has arrived when I think of our soon-to-be wedding. He's cool, yeah, but until now, I still have second thoughts whether I should still back off before it is too late.
I know that I am a terrible person, leading him on like this and after that, not really feeling much for him. But he knows, the family knows, they know. They can see it when we are together. I know he can feel it. I absolutely love his company but no matter how much I try, I can only see him as a brother. Is that enough for a marriage? I don't mind living with him for the rest of my life, because like I said, he is like a brother to me, but I cannot love him the way he loves me… and I think that it would be incredibly unfair for him if I cannot reciprocate. He deserves someone better.
However, I still think of my future of course. I don't want to grow old alone. I want to have my own family and my own kids, since I absolutely love children. I want to have a place to call home, my refuge, where I can relax and be with the people I love most after a long tiring day at work. And so far, Nate is the only guy I can imagine spending the rest of my life with, building that home with…
Oh, but it's not that I have never fallen in love for real. I have, once. I have, but right now… I think he'll just be a fond memory from the past. There was never an "us". It was most likely all in my head. I was foolish back in college, and I fell in love pretty…hard.
Some people think he's the wrong person, but I won't ever really know because we have never actually spoken much. He's not Chinese; and because of that, I was afraid to open up about him to anyone, not only to my conservative and traditional Chinese family but even to my Filipino friends back in Manila. It was an unspoken rule that a Chinese like me should only marry a fellow Chinese. I didn't understand my feelings back then, nor did I know how to handle them.
I just sat here in bed, unable to control myself from reminiscing my college days with Blair. He was tall, dark, and handsome and his eyes twinkled every single time he smiles. His laugh is masculine and deep, and it used to send tingles down my spine. His arms were muscular and his enticing fragrance never failed to enchant me. He was highly intellectual and he also had a soft heart. I remembered how he went to the other side of the room just to get me a chair to sit on during exams when this other guy took my seat. I didn't say anything as I answered my exam while standing. But, he noticed me and grabbed me a chair, carrying it with his sinewy arms. He just put the chair in front of me without a word. My heart fluttered and soared up in the sky. I smiled and whispered a thank you to him, and he just rolled his eyes in response, which to me, was really cute. He had been my classmate throughout my college days, and though we frequently interacted during group works or study sessions, we never really talked. Our only conversations are either, about our classes, or his jokes. His jokes, I miss them so. His jokes are the only things he's ever said to me, and his teasing.
And the only things I have ever spoken to him about are my replies to his questions on assignments and projects, or my retorts on his teasing and jokes. Occasionally, from afar, I would steal a glance of his angelic face from the other side of the room, and sometimes, I would catch his eyes wandering towards my direction, too. But aside from that, we have never had a real interaction, a real conversation. It is ironic that I knew him for four years and yet, none of us even talked to each other. No one ever initiated. I was always contented with his smile, his jokes, and his funny posts on Twitter… all from a distance.
I always felt this tug at my heart that he wants to know me more, to talk to me about random things aside from our classes and his jokes, and to be closer to me, but he was shy and didn't know how to. With his constant glances, I could feel, just maybe, he felt the same way I did for him… but he was afraid to tell me, afraid of how society will react, and apprehension just got in his way of being closer to me. I feel like we both want to know each other more, but there was this invisible wall between us… that we were from different worlds… and that we should just stay as acquaintances.
I can still recall when I went to a friend's apartment near school for a sleepover slash thesis night. That night was probably the only time we had the most intimate, normal conversation. It was about midnight when I felt a throbbing in my head then I realized that I was having a fever. All my friends were sprawled on the floor mat, dead asleep. I couldn't wake them up and ask them where the medicine kit was. I wasn't even sure if they had medicine there. I planned to go to the convenience store outside to find myself some paracetamol tablets. Since we were on the twenty-first floor, I rode the elevator. It was pretty dark, quiet and scary throughout my elevator ride, but when I arrived at the eighteenth floor, I was shocked to see the doors open since the first time I entered.
I was even more surprised to see him to be the one to enter the elevator. His eyes were wide in shock as well upon seeing me. It's like our world stopped at that moment and I suddenly forgot to breathe. If it weren't for the door closing on us, he wouldn't have remembered to move his feet to enter. He silently stood beside and cleared his throat. My heart skipped a beat as I bit my lip, feeling very nervous of his presence. His emitted a very intimidating yet protective aura of masculinity.
He was first to break the silence. "What are you doing here?"
"I'm sleeping at Gayle's for the night." I said softly, trying to hide the shakiness of my voice, but my voice betrayed me as the quivering was evident.
"Gayle's…?" His head shot up to meet my eyes. "And he's…?"
"She…" I corrected. Sheesh, he must have thought Gayle was a guy's name. "She is my thesis mate from class A. We became friends in the org. We're five girls on the 21st floor."
"Oh." He muttered. I don't know if I was making things up in my head or if it was the fever, but I was sure I heard him heave a sigh of… relief?
"So, where are you going this late?" He asked again, his voice filled with concern.
"I'm going to the store." I said simply. Now it was my turn to ask. "What brings you here?"
"I live here. I just couldn't sleep; I need some air." He said, looking away.
"Why? What's on your mind?" I was surprised with the concern that radiated from my voice. It was spontaneous.
"My baby sister just died of congenital heart failure."
"I'm so sorry for your loss, Blair; I know she's in a better place now." I said.
"Thanks, Cress." He mumbled as he ran his hand through his hair.
The elevator was taking long; we still had six floors left. It was nice that I wasn't alone in this creepy elevator.
We just enjoyed each other's silence as we both looked at the floor numbers change. Finally, we heard the bell and the elevator door opened. I stepped out of the elevator and walked in large steps, not looking behind.
"Hey… take care." I heard him whisper. Without turning around, I said, audible enough for him to hear, "Thanks, I will."
I was really frustrated. There was no medicine of any kind in the convenience store I was in! My head felt heavier than ever and I felt really warm. I was struggling to keep my composure but my legs were already shaking. Staying up late all night for several days to complete our thesis must've taken a toll on my health. I sighed in surrender; this convenience store was not at all convenient. The nearest pharmacy was inside school, and now, the school is closed. Maybe I would just sleep this off and I would get well naturally. When I opened the door to leave the store, I was dismayed to see it raining like cats and dogs! I was probably so sick that I didn't hear the strong pellets fall from outside. And I didn't have an umbrella. Oh wait, yes I can buy an umbrella here at the store. Just when I was about to go back inside, I felt a strong hand grab mine.
Instinctively, I jolted; worried that it was some kind of robber or worse, a rapist. I sighed thankfully when I saw that it was Blair, but the fact that he was currently holding my hand for the very first time sent my heart beating like mad. "I have an umbrella." He said as he opened it up. Just after a few steps under his umbrella, I couldn't hold my headache any longer and I almost fainted to the ground if it weren't for Blair's fast reflexes and strong arm supporting my back with one hand as he held up the umbrella with another.
His strong arm pulled me up and I faced his incredibly worried ebony eyes. "Are you okay?! What just happened to you?" He asked with creases on his forehead. "I'm fine…" I reassured him with a weak voice, but my eyes were probably so red that he could tell something was wrong. His hand touched my forehead and I think my skin burned upon his touch just as his did, not because his hand was warm but because that warm electricity I felt from his hand was due to my silly feelings for him, the feelings that have kept me awake in some nights and caused my stomach to twirl at his handsome sight.
"You have a fever! Why didn't you tell me? Why are you going out at midnight when you are sick?" I heard the pain and frustration in his voice as he scolded me. Take note, we were still on the sidewalk, under his large umbrella, under the heavy rain. I defended myself and said, "I went to the store to buy some medicines, but there weren't any being sold…" I was feeling weaker by the moment. My whole body feels like it has been set on fire. "Come with me, I have medicine." He said sternly as he pulled me towards the apartment.
My brain just had an internal panic. Wait, he has medicine. Where, in his apartment? I'm not entering any guy's apartment, even if it's Blair's! Not that I don't trust him, but no, I can't. I just can't, this will be too embarrassing. He felt my resistance but continued to pull my wrist. "I… I feel better now thanks, I don't need medicine." I said while trying to escape his tight grip as we rode the elevator. "You're obviously not fine, Cress. I'm not leaving you alone." He said ever so gently as he squeezed my hand for assurance. I was feeling too weak to even argue, and Blair wouldn't take no for an answer. My heart continued to pound harder as the floor neared the eighteenth.
When the doors opened, he pulled my hand but my feet were glued to the ground. I was too nervous. It is midnight, and Blair and I are now alone… and he is bringing me to his room. I whimpered when he tugged my wrist once more, and this time, with a little more force, he was able to pull me from the elevator, causing my feet to reluctantly follow his footsteps. When he opened the door to his apartment, I was just staring at the ground, swallowing hard.
"Come in, I'll get medicine." This time, I looked up and my eyes roamed around his room. The walls were painted light blue and his desk was filled with lots of books. His bed was tidy and he had a small laptop on his bedside. "You're the first person that has ever been here aside from my mom who visits me occasionally." He said with a small smile on his face. This made my heart swell with joy, knowing that I'm technically the only girl… or the only person for that matter who was able to see his room.
"Sit." He said. I sat on his couch and rested my head on my hand as I bent down. My head hurt like hell. After not more than a minute, he came with warm herbal tea with a pleasant scent and a paracetamol tablet. "Here, drink this. This is fast-acting, and non-acidic." I took the tea and tablet on my hands and drank them. I smiled and said, "Thank you Blair…" "That's nothing." He said formally as he placed a cool wet towel over my head. Since I was sitting, his hand held the towel on my forehead in place. His proximity, his manly scent, and his chiselled jaws sent all my hormones haywire which caused my hands to quiver and my breath to halt. He held my hand firmly and said, "You're shaking. Are you feeling worse?" That was the last thing I heard before I lost consciousness.
When I woke up, surprisingly, I felt relaxed and the throbbing headache was gone. My body also felt cool and it seemed like I had already recovered. I sprang up from my sleeping position when my mind has just registered where I had been sleeping. I felt the cold towel fall from my face, down my lap. I realized that a fuzzy warm blanket wrapped around me, which was why I felt cosy. My eyes were wide with bewilderment as I looked around. I was still in Blair's room, and lying on his bed, too! I was surprised to see Blair seated on a chair in front of me, fast asleep. As I got to my feet, Blair's eyes suddenly opened up, those beautiful eyelashes framing them… and he said, "Oh, you're up. How are you feeling now?"
"Better." I said. He might have sensed the panic in my voice when he said, "Don't worry, you've just ben asleep for…" he looked at his watch, "two hours. It's now 5am. I'll bring you to your room."
"Why was I…?" I asked shyly.
"You fell asleep on the couch while I was putting cold compress on your head. I couldn't wake you. You were in deep sleep, so I… uh… I carried you to my bed, so that you could rest more comfortably. And, I sat here to watch over you." He explained as my cheeks felt hot in an instant. He looked away.
I was stunned. He was too sweet. He did all that for me. "Thanks Blair, you're always so nice." I smiled.
He just rolled his eyes again in response and said, "I'll bring you to your room."
"Uh… I can go there on my own, thanks anyways." I said before I left his room.
We never talked about that incident again or told anyone because, you know, if people knew that we spent the night in his apartment, they will have weird presumptions. But he just really took care of me when I was sick. He was overprotective and amazing like that, even though he isn't so showy when you're not in need. He showed me that he cared.
During our graduation, I remembered how we were seated on the opposite sides of the auditorium, but our eyes met several times throughout the ceremony. I don't know if I'm just putting too much meaning on our eye contacts or if he was really trying to give me a sign of some sort. I remembered how we passed by each other as we left the grad hall and locked eyes only for a few seconds before he looked away and turned the opposite direction.
But of course, all these are just my interpretation, and maybe I'm just deluding myself with these conclusions. Maybe he never really felt anything about me; maybe it was just my one-sided yearning to be closer to him. I never asked him, so I never really got to know. Sometimes, I wonder if my feeling can be called love, or just a simple infatuation? What if the reason why we never spoke to each other is because we didn't have anything in common? Maybe I just found someone I couldn't reach so attractive, but in reality, we won't even be able to last a day together without feeling bored?
I jumped out of bed when I remembered something. The time capsule, yes I can now open the time capsule that we were asked to make during our spiritual camping trip exactly five years ago. Our camping trip happened exactly five years ago, on my birthday, and our counsellor told us to write down short letters to friends and drop them in their respective time capsules near the bonfire. Those capsules were egg-shaped plastic containers. Our counsellor told us that there are some things we want to tell our friends and classmates, but can't in person because we are afraid of their reaction. We were told to write those secrets deep in our hearts, on those letters, and drop them in the time capsules of those people in class who matter to us the most. If we didn't have the courage to say something to them now, we should drop those letters in the capsules, and these capsules can only be opened after exactly five years.
And that is today. I can finally open my time capsule! I can't believe time flew that fast. It was only like yesterday when I was wishing for it to be 2020 just so that I could read the letters. I used to be like a curious and impatient little kid, waiting for Christmas Eve before opening gifts under the tree. And now, that day has come without me noticing. I wonder what letters are in stored for me.
I remembered clearly how I spilled to my closest friends about my feelings for Blair during that camping trip. They were giddy, and encouraged me to confess but I didn't have the guts, of course. And that joker might just not take me seriously, and must just see it as an April fool's greeting. I recalled how I stayed up until three in the morning near the bonfire writing him a heartfelt letter about everything I thought about him and our weird friendship-but-no-talking status. I planned to drop that letter in his capsule, but when daylight came, I ended up throwing the letter, or rather, flinging it away towards the woods as a sign of letting go. I never got to give it to him.
During that camping trip, we had a Courage Test activity and we had to go into the woods with our flashlights by pair and find some treasure boxes. My friends betrayed me and I ended up being partners with Blair. He was so funny, he actually ran off and left me all alone without a partner in the woods… but what's sweet is that, when he realized I didn't run after him, he turned around and ran back towards me. And when he arrived, he shone his flashlight to his face and gave me a scare! We practically walked down the road in pure silence while other pairs chatted a lot. He held our flashlight on one hand and chewed his bubble gum loudly. I said "shush!" because he was chewing so loudly. And every time I did that, he would roll his eyes and chew even louder just to spite me. His loud chewing and my "shush" was the only conversation we had throughout the treasure hunt, but it was like our secret code for greeting each other and acknowledging each other's presence that only we understood.
"Breakfast is ready!" I got back to reality when I heard my mom call me for breakfast. Apparently she has been calling me a couple of times and I have been daydreaming about my first love back in Manila. And I'm now here in Toronto, a world away from him. He is nothing but a beautiful memory. I will be getting married to Nate soon, so I should just move on and accept reality. There was never any progress between us back then, so why now? He might not even see me the way I want him to. I groggily got up to get dressed for breakfast.
The day was long but fun as well. I got to celebrate my birthday with family and friends. It was already night time and I was so sleepy lying down on my bed. I was about to doze off when I remembered about the time capsule! My eyes fluttered opened and I ran through old boxes of old stuff from Manila. Finally, I had the capsule on my hands. My hands opened it up excitedly and rummaged the contents of the egg. I read through each and every letter which either made me laugh, or cry… so many memories from the people that made my college life wonderful. I grabbed my phone and started messaging friends on Facebook messenger in response to their time capsule letters. I posted a status on FB saying that I am now finally reading the time capsule from five years ago. I saw many friends post a similar status. My heart made a happy dance for the first time in so long when I saw him… Blair… "Like" my status. It has been so long since we have last communicated on Facebook.
Speaking of Blair, I wonder if he wrote anything on my capsule. I wrote him one, too, but I didn't say anything incriminating or significant. I simply told him there that he has been a wonderful friend and that I wish all the best for him in the future. Remember that my true emotional letter to him was thrown away to the woods? I thought I was finished reading all the letters until I came across a tiny paper crumpled deep inside my egg capsule. I thought it was just trash because all the other letters were folded neatly and it was obvious that they were letters. This was so tiny and was just crumpled. I took it and unfolded its creases. I gasped when I saw the heading: "From, Blair" My heart was pounding wildly again and all the feelings I had in those four years in college came back now, and not just like a memory but it felt too real.
I was so excited yet nervous of the content of his letter. Why is it so tiny and crumpled? I looked up the ceiling and took a deep breath, garnering all the courage I could muster to read the contents.
Time just froze. My chest tightened. And my tears started falling fast from my face.
On the piece of paper, it said.
Hi Cress, I have always wanted to talk to you, to be closer to you, but I didn't know how so I always joked around instead and cynically rolled my eyes at you. I wanted to joke around so that I could just be near you, even if we don't talk much, I consider you as a real friend. I was afraid of telling you this, I know I'm not Chinese, and we have different cultures, and by the time you read this letter you are probably going to get married to some Chinese dude which I hope will make you happy, but…
Even if you just saw me as a friend…
And I know I won't stand a chance…
I just wanted you to know.
I love you.
I have always loved you."
I cried my heart out and read the letter over and over again. I don't know how I should be feeling. Should I be happy since he felt the same way I did? Or instead, should I be depressed as hell because I'm set to marry Nate?
He was online, now, on chat. My heart was pounding. I wanted to contact him so bad but I just ended up closing my laptop out of anxiety. I was up all night and I couldn't sleep. Blair's husky voice, angular jaw, and amazing smile just kept flashing through my mind.
The next morning, I don't know what got into me but I immediately booked a plane ticket to Manila without telling anyone. The week after that, I just packed my things and left for the airport, leaving a long note to my family at the dining area explaining everything. Sorry Nate, sorry family. We're all grown up now, Blair; we don't have to be afraid of what people say anymore. This time, I'm following what my heart wants.
When I arrived at Manila, I had no idea where to start searching for him… I roamed around Manila aimlessly until I reached our university. I went in and strolled in the park. Suddenly, I caught sight of that familiar face. That face that always took my breath away… that face that I haven't seen move in years because all I had were pictures and nothing animate. He looked even more dashing now, so desirable in every way. There was gleaming hope shining from within me. There was hope, there he was and here I am. We can start over.
As I paced myself towards him, my chest tightened when I saw him with another girl… a beautiful girl about our age, holding a little toddler's hand as they strolled. Is that his family now?
Oh my God.
Was I too late?
Tears were threatening to fall from my eyes.
Then suddenly, I had to hold my tears because the familiar voice called out.
"Cress! Is that you? Oh my God!" Blair's face lit up as he ran towards me, grinning from ear to ear as he faced me.
"Congratulations, Blair, I didn't know you are married now…" I couldn't hide the anguish in my voice. "It's been five years after all."
"Married? Me?" He exclaimed in shock. Then, he turned around to face the woman with the toddler and started laughing, laughing with that same masculine tone, his chest vibrating attractively. I watched him in confusion.
"Cress, this is Kiara, my sister. And that's my nephew, Royce."
I couldn't hold the relief and joy on my expression. "Oh!"
"Kiara, this is Cress." He turned to his sister and introduced me.
"So nice to finally meet you, I have heard so much about you!" Kiara took my hand and shook it, and afterwards she gave me a warm hug.
"I'll leave you two alone for a while." Kiara said with a smile while pulling her toddler towards the swing to play. Now we were alone. It has been too long since I last saw him. I miss every detail of his countenance, and his scent is still the same. Now we were silent again. Just like the old times.
He ruffled his hair nervously and started whistling. I "shushed" him again and then he rolls his eyes, this time, with a grin on his face. Then, the cycle went on. His whistling got louder. This time, I decided to speak up, for the sake of the both of us, since now I know he might be a really shy coward, and if I didn't start it, we would end up like before again, it would end up nowhere.
"How have you been?" I asked sincerely.
"Amazing, I'm now earning but still taking my Doctorate. And, I'm single, always have been." He added with a large grin on his face. "You know, I read your letter."
Wow he was always single. Wow. Wait, the fact that he read my letter didn't take me aback anyways because he was supposed to, last week. "Of course you have read my letter; last week was when we open our capsules. Nothing much was written on it though. But, I already read yours as well." I said shyly.
He grinned even more and something which shocked the hell out of me, "No, I read your letter at the night of the camping trip, right before our treasure hunt."
"What?" I didn't understand. How could he have read it before the treasure hunt even if he were to peak at his egg capsule? I dropped his letter the morning after the courage test.
Noticing the confusion in my eyes, he cleared his throat and said, "Your real letter to me. I saw it lying on a leaf while I was strolling in the woods."
Oh. My. God!
My face must've really turned crimson because he laughed even more.
"Oh my God you read that." I just said in amazement. That sappy long letter confessing my love… the one I wrote until three in the morning. The one I supposedly threw in the woods… he saw it… Damn, I should've burned it in the bonfire after all. How embarrassing!
"Oh…so that's why you were so silent during the treasure hunt…" I concluded while grinning naughtily.
"And when I'm really nervous around the girl I love, I chew bubble gum to calm my pounding heart." He shyly said with a smile. "I didn't run after you anymore because I think you deserve to be with a Chinese man… I thought, I'm just a phase, and you will get over me soon."
"You're stupid, you know that?" I smiled while punching his arm lightly. He chuckled.
After a few moments of silence, both of us smiled knowingly at each other and took steps closer to each other… until, I didn't realize how it happened, but I ended up being enveloped in his brawny arms with my eyes closed, feeling the pounding of his chest against mine, and his lips passionately kissing mine.