A snapshot in time

It was supposed to be a simple hello. Late afternoon, he was standing on the field of the Sunken Garden in UP Diliman, tall and dark and strong. I called his name, and he turned to me, giving that little half-smile that older guys seem to do so well. Not that he was that much older, though sometimes it felt like more than five years stood between us. Among our group of college friends from our hometown, he was the kuya and I, being a naïve freshman newly arrived in the city, was treated like everyone’s little sister.

But that afternoon, none of the others were there, and he stood alone under the windy sky. I walked towards him, meaning to give a warm hello, chat a little, maybe ask if our other friends were going to show up. But something changed as I came closer. The wind playing with my dress and tossing my hair as I walked, the afternoon light falling on his shoulders as he waited for me to approach, even the smell of newly mown grass made every step seem breathtaking. Significant.

He stretched out his arm, and I put my hand in his when I was near enough. He pulled me closer, slowly, and I lifted my face up to touch my cheek to his. It was just a friendly gesture, nothing more, a customary hello that I’d given to countless others.  But there was…something. A thrill, a current. Like for a moment we had stepped into a story, where we were different people in a different time.

Then we said hello, and the spell broke. Our friends came, we played frisbee, normality returned. In a movie, perhaps it would’ve been the start of a lovestory, with a soundtrack by Jason Mraz. But this was real life. We settled back into our roles, though sometimes I would look at him and wonder if that moment really happened. If he felt it, too, if he remembered. Because that memory stayed with me, and whenever his name pops up in my newsfeed, I remember him not as an old college friend, but as a man standing tall under the windswept sky, reaching out his hand to a girl.

As time went by, I realized that it wasn’t really about him, or me, or the two of us together. That memory had power because it reminded me that there are stories beneath our ordinary lives—possibilities—and now and then we’ll get a glimpse, but we still have to choose which ones we want to live. I had a glimpse of something and chose to leave it behind, but I don’t think it’s either happy or sad. It just is.

This post was a response the “face to face” Red Writing Hood prompt from Write on Edge.

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18 thoughts on “A snapshot in time

    • Thank you, Cait. Writing it gave me a chance to crystallize those realizations that have been waiting under the surface. I’m not sure if it’s the same for everyone, but there are many times when I don’t know that I know something until I write it down. This was one of those times.

  1. This continued to resonate with me beyond the page. The cheek to cheek greeting is at once both innocuous and highly sensual. It made me wonder about those moments of “electricity” between men and women and if it is possible for them to be only once-sided. I can attest from my singular male perspective that a moment of physical intimacy like that rarely goes undetected.

    • “Innocuous and highly sensual.” You captured it perfectly. I don’t know if that tension can be one sided, and I’ve wondered it often myself. What I do know is that those moments of intimacy—when we let someone else across the space that separates us—are vital and nourishing. Electric or not, even the briefest of those connections feed something inside us that make us human.

  2. Maybe I’m a hopeless romantic, but I enjoyed reading this even more because it was simply a moment and not the beginning of something more. Both the moment and the way you wrote it and captured it so clearly are like a small breath of beauty interspersed in “normal” lives, and there’s something lovely about that.

    • We’re both hopeless romantics, then, because I feel the same way. I didn’t mind that nothing more ever came out of that moment, it was enough that it happened. Not everything has to have a happily-ever-after for it to be significant. 🙂

    • I think that’s why the moment stayed so powerful: it simply was, and nothing more. If it had become something else, that one memory would be colored by everything that comes next. I didn’t intentionally set out to “preserve it in amber,” so to speak, but that’s what happened, so now I can look back and savor those untouched possibilities.

  3. Oh my gosh, I am hooked on this snapshot. I love how you captured it so easily, too, the way he half smiled and the gesture and that feeling of something beneath it but wondering, always, if there was something real or imagined. I love the idea of stories beneath our ordinary lives, ones we might forget in the day-to-day but exist and then, weeks or months or years later, seem so much easier to discern, the highs and the lows playing out like a novel arc. This is beautifully written, really. Thank you for writing it.

    • Wow, I don’t know what to say. That was a much needed piece of encouragement, coming at exactly the right time. Thank you so much, Kaleigh. Your comment inspired me to keep seeking those stories underneath.

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