Tag Archive | fiction

Reunion

There’s something poignant and exquisite about love affairs that never happen. You know, those stories that are never written, those “what ifs” and “almosts” that remain unresolved. What if they dared, what if they gave it a shot? The possibilities linger, in the sad, sweet way of fading dreams. They’re like old love letters, yellowed and unopened, hidden in the most secret drawers of memory. Once in a while you take one out and touch the flap, but you never actually open the envelope. To do so would end the delicious freedom to wonder, to imagine.

He looked at her. She seemed different, yet somehow still the same. “Do you still remember?”

“How can I possibly forget?”

They’ve always been drawn to each other. She, an old soul with the eyes of a child. He, a dreamer with an intensity that has never failed to move her. Seven years later, the fascination is as potent as ever.


“You knew, didn’t you?”

“I think I always did,” she replied softly.

It startled him a little that she admitted it. “Then why didn’t you say anything?”

“Why didn’t you say anything?”

Seven years ago, he realized that he loved her. Some people speak of falling in love as a homecoming — warm, joyful and familiar. Others describe it as a lightning display — explosive, stunning and magnificent. For him it was a dream — powerful, alluring and heartbreakingly impossible. She belonged to someone else. So he left the words unsaid. It was the one thing he could not tell her in all their years of friendship.

Slowly, he moved away. She could never be his, and he tried to learn how to live with that. So when an opportunity came to work in another city after graduation, he left. Then he heard through the grapevine that she broke off her engagement. Nobody knew why. Looking at her now after all those years, he knew she wouldn’t let him ask.


“You still have too many secrets.”

She smiled at him, that familiar, teasing smile. “And you still have none. Tell me about her.”

“What do you want to know?”

“Everything that matters.”

He considered that. “Her name is Catherine. I love her.”

And he did. Not with the burning ache and the unbearable longing that came with his love for her, not with the wistfulness and nostalgia that rushed into him when he first saw her again. This had a sense of rightness, a sense of being comforted and thrilled at the same time. Like watching a storm from the shelter of one’s own home. Like having a dream come true in a completely unforeseen way. Loving Cathy made him feel like he had hit a mark he didn’t even know he was aiming for.

She would always be his might-have-been, a symbol of all the forfeited hopes of youth. What he would always be to her, that he didn’t know. He might never find out. But he found something else, something entirely different and unexpectedly satisfying. Maybe some paths are meant to be untraveled. But for every beckoning horizon unheeded, another destination is reached. And he knew, instinctively, with the sudden clarity of hindsight, that she has learned this as well. Seven years, perhaps, before he did.

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Coke Floats and Letting Go

My mind drifts as I watch my plastic straw chasing the chocolate syrup around the bottom of my coke float. It’s four o’clock in the morning, and nobody else is on the second floor of the 24-hour McDonald’s. It is my first time to be here alone.

For two years now I’ve been trying to say goodbye to him. I’ve been trying to escape the memories, trying to accept that the dreams we had would never be more than dreams. He is gone. Forever. The finality of it chills me, and I am starting to discover that there are some hurts that even time cannot erase.

I scoop up some of the sundae floating on top of the cola and I can’t help but reminisce about our long,easy conversations over this same table. For hours we would talk about anything that caught our fancy. We quoted movie lines and discussed books, we laughed about other people and about ourselves. But mostly we talked about dreams. And life. One night the mood turned philosophical and he told me that there are certain times when life itself resembles a coke float: soft and sweet on the surface but dark and acidic underneath. I looked at him for a long time after that remark, then he winked and tried to steal some of my sundae with a french fry. I laughed, but what I really wanted to do was to hold him and try to heal the brief flicker of painful memories I had glimpsed in his eyes.

Looking back, I wish I did. Because looking back, I know that I would never get another chance.

One week later, a split-second misjudgment of a taxi driver robbed me of the chance to hold him again. In one brief, life-changing moment, I lost the man who held my dreams and my heart in the palm of his hand. Suddenly, I was left with a wound that nobody’s embrace could heal. Suddenly, I had to learn how to say goodbye.

For two years now I’ve been trying to say goodbye to him. Tonight, in the place where he had taught me so much, I realize that I don’t have to. Because just now, as I remember the pain I once saw in his eyes, I suddenly recall the intense, irrepressible hope that also shone in them. No matter what bitterness lay in his past, he was determined to dream again. In that fleeting, unforgettable moment, even when he had no idea what it would mean, he had given me permission to move on. He had given me courage to take the pleasure along with the pain, and to see our memories not as a reminder of a future that we can never have, but as souvenirs of a past that is too precious to be forgotten.

He will always be a part of me. When love comes again, he will be that inner voice urging me to settle for nothing less than what we had: tender, spectacular, and real. And I will listen to him. He has, after all, taught me all I need to know about forever.

It is almost morning. I raise my empty glass to him in a silent salute. Then finally, after a long night, I smile and walk out to welcome the dawn.

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“Stay”

Tonight’s the perfect night to think about you. The rain is falling hard on the trees outside, the wind is rushing through the night, and a woman is singing of memories and regrets on the radio. So tonight, I remember you. I remember us. And I wish, I wish on the silent stars hidden by the rainclouds, that I could somehow turn back time tonight.

What have I done?! I should have known this was coming. I should have known, the moment I said goodbye, that there would be a thousand nights like this. But it’s too late now. It’s too late to finally admit that I can still feel you, and that I’ve never lost the feeling.

I honestly thought it would be easy. I honestly thought I could just walk away from you without leaving the best part of me behind. But the undeniable emptiness inside me is telling me that I’ve just made the biggest mistake of my life. It’s telling me that I was a fool for wanting to chase El Dorado whan Heaven was already mine. I’m starting to realize that what I tried to escape wasn’t entrapment, but the only real freedom I have ever known. So now I have what I wanted, only to find that it isn’t what I needed at all. How could I have been so blind?

Let me come back to you. How I wish I could say those words. But I don’t have the courage, and I don’t have the right. I forfeited it when I decided that my fear over your power to make me feel so much was more important than the future I could have had with you. You deserve someone better, someone who would never even think of hurting you as deeply as I know I did. And me? I’ll try to forget you. I’ll try to forget your warmth, your laughter, and the way you brought life to everything you touched. The way you brought life to me, and changed me, and made yourself part of everything I am. But how can I escape myself?

Tomorrow, the rain will stop and the wind will be silent. But for me, there will always be memories and regrets. Only a miracle can change that, but I guess the heavens have decided that miracles are wasted on me. I look up to the stars for wishes, but the stars are crying, and my wishes are unheard tonight. All that’s left for me to do is to whisper to the wind what I wish I could say to you.

I love you. I am so sorry. Thank you for the best days of my life.


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Reminiscence and Regret

She sits
alone in the silence
of the city’s most opulent room
In her aged hands,
a bouquet of weeds
Dry, brittle
As fragile as memory itself
and she remembers…

Youth, in the countryside
A young girl
with the lure of neon lights
in her eyes
And a boy
who offered her the stars instead.

She remembered
how she chose the unknown
knowing it would break his heart
not knowing
it would also break hers.

But as the train rolled away,
her tears fell on his final gift
Fragrant, familiar
the final offering
of a broken heart.

In one moment
a frozen teardrop of time
all she knew
was the urge to cry out –

Stop! Wait –
I have made a mistake…

But the impulse is silenced

So the train rushed on
And life rushed on

And the musty sweet scent
of dried wildflowers

is all that is left
of the dream.

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El Nido Summer

He was older and witty and smart, and I fell for him, of course. I was young, passionate and idealistic, and I felt that he loved me, too. It was a season of hope, promise, and shared dreams; and its memories are as deeply imprinted on my soul as the limestone cliffs are rooted in the shores of El Nido.

El Nido. The name itself brings on a rush of nostalgia. It is a land of contrasts: soft, powdery white sand against stark, somber boulders and the ever-changing sea pounding on dark cliffs that are as steadfast and immovable as faith itself. It was there that I spent my eighteenth summer; it was there that I began to truly live; and it was there that I finally learned that living is a cocktail of both joy and pain.

His name was Nathan. He was there as a tourist from Bagiuo, I was there to visit an aunt who lived alone. We met, naturally, on the beach. He was watching the sunrise, I was gathering seashells. I saw him first, a tall, solitary figure paying homage to the crimson sky. The wind was tugging at his hair and his jeans were drenched by the surf, but he didn’t seem to care. I watched him watching the sunrise, and he must have sensed it, because he turned directly towards me as soon as the sun was well above the horizon. My first startled reaction was to turn and walk away with embarrassment, but he smiled and walked casually towards me. I watched him come closer, and I knew, as clichéd as it sounds, that it was meant to happen exactly as it did.

That morning was the beginning of a meeting of souls that I have never experienced before or since. At first, our meetings were coincidental, and then we gradually found ourselves wanting to spend more time with each other. We walked on the beach, chased the waves, and counted shooting stars. We shared every sunrise and dreamed of sailing off into the sunset. And we talked. We laughed and listened and learned about each other in endless conversations about anything and everything. I asked him why he loved the sunrise, he told me that he found beauty in beginnings. Then he asked me why I collected empty seashells, and I confessed that I was trying to find meaning in death. For the first time since a year, I shared the pain of losing a baby brother my family had prayed for for so long. I wept and he held me, and as the night wind dried my tears, I knew for the first time that I would heal.

The end came sooner than we expected, an intrusion into the world we had woven with the summer enchantment of El Nido. He received a call at his hotel from his family in Baguio, urging him to come home because of his sister’s car accident. I went with him to the airport, and I almost had to pry my hand from his and force him to leave. It was ten years ago, but letting him go was still the hardest thing I’ve ever had to do. As he walked away from me, it was like losing a part of me that I never even knew existed before I met him.

I never saw Nathan again. There were no cellular phones yet in those days, and the only way to keep in touch was through the mail. He wrote my address in his palm a few minutes before he left, but for some reason I forgot to take his. I never heard from him. Maybe my address was erased, maybe his letter got lost in the mail, or maybe he simply didn’t write. I don’t know. And slowly, the dream died. Years passed, and those wonderful weeks in El Nido were revealed for what they were: an interlude of beauty, a gift of grace. I am old enough now to accept that the odds of us meeting again are slim. And it is okay. I have made my peace with losing him.

I stand now on the shores of El Nido, ten years from the day that we met. The sunrise is breathtaking, a masterpiece of the softest pinks and glowing yellows. It is a reminder of how beautiful beginnings can be; a compensation perhaps for the bittersweetness of endings. I remember how, ten years ago, a part of my life ended and another one began. On this very spot, I had stepped away from the easy comfort of childhood into a complex new world, a world where the memories of first love linger, but summers always end.

* also posted in peyups.com

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Books I will always remember

Some books are read and then easily forgotten. But there are those that, after many rereadings, still spend more time on the bedside table than on the shelf.  Here are a few of those rare ones (in random order) that have stayed with me no matter how many other books I read.

FICTION

1. THE LORD OF THE RINGS TRILOGY, by J.R.R. Tolkien – My absolute favorite! Adventure, enchantment, wonder, depth, tragedy — all these and more. One does not just read about Middle Earth, but dwells in it, and never completely forgets

2. THE BLUE CASTLE, by L.M. Montgomery – My first L.M. Montgomery experience, and one of the most vivid memories of my childhood (I read this when I was about 11 years old). She enchanted me most with her whimsical and almost lyrical descriptions of nature; and her books became an unforgettable part of my childhood daydreams.

3. VERONIKA DECIDES TO DIE, by Paulo Coelho – A beautiful young woman who has everything except the desire to live finally finds it while she is waiting to die. A wonderfully fulfilling story.

4. TIGANA, by Guy Gavriel Kay – Brilliant, satisfying, and lyrical. The characters are wonderfully complex, tragic, and unforgettably real. There is no lack of depth, intelligence, and intensity here. You’ll want to read it again and again.

5. WATERSHIP DOWN, by Richard Adams – An unexpectedly fast-paced, thrilling book combining epic fantasy, adventure, and ecological themes. There are moments of profound insight, heart-stopping suspense, and intense sadness. The emotions are raw, pulling you into the world of creatures with a fierce desire to live. All in all: a first class, fascinating read.

6. STATE OF WAR, by Ninotchka Rosca – A dreamy, intricate, poetic novel of the beauty and the heartbreak of a wartorn country’s history. Every Filipino seeking to find his or her national identity should read this book.

7. THE WIND’S TWELVE QUARTERS, by Ursula K. Le Guin – A collection of seventeen short stories from award winning F&FS writer Ursula K. Le Guin. I especially like “Semley’s Necklace”,  “Darkness Box”, “Direction of the Road”, and “The Ones Who Walk Away From Omelas”.

8. THE COMPASS ROSE, by Ursula K. Le Guin – Also an anthology of short stories by Le Guin. My favorites are “The New Atlantis”, “The First Report of the Shipwrecked Foreigner to the Kadanh of Derb”, “The Diary of the Rose”, “The Pathways of Desire”,  and “The Wife’s Story”.

9. THE CHRONICLES OF NARNIA, by C. S. Lewis – A classic series beloved by generations of both children and adults all over the world. It’s a timeless masterpiece whose message never gets old.

NON-FICTION

1. I KISSED DATING GOODBYE, by Joshua Harris – A sincere, inspiring call to genuine romance and real purity in a time when the call to wait for true love is seldom heeded. I encourage every young person to look beyond the title and give this book a chance.

2. BOY MEETS GIRL, by Joshua Harris – A refreshingly honest, biblical look at relationships and how to avoid the heartaches and regrets of careless dating. A must-read.

3. WHERE IS GOD WHEN IT HURTS?, by Philip Yancey – All of us, at one time or another, have been haunted by this profound question. This book is an honest, straightforward look at the seeming paradox of the goodness of God and the presence of suffering in this world. A masterpiece, complete and moving without being sentimental. Where is God when it hurts? The same place He was when His Son was on the cross.

4. WHAT’S SO AMAZING ABOUT GRACE?, by Philip Yancey – Significant, compelling, powerfully convicting. This book explores the depth of love and sacrifice found in the word “grace” and emphasizes the responsibility of all Christians in spreading the message.

5. EVIDENCE THAT DEMANDS A VERDICT, by Josh Mcdowell – A must-read for every skeptic who is honestly investigating the claims of Christianity. Clear, precise, and factual – this book is an important defense of the faith. It explains how Christianity is not a “blind leap into darkness”, but rather a “step into the light”.

6. HE STILL MOVES STONES, by Max Lucado – Stories about hurting people who are changed by an encounter with the Savior. Stories of healing. Stories of hope. Stories of grace. They tell us that He really does understand, and He cares more than we dare to imagine. This is a book that will open our eyes to miracles.

7. CAN MAN LIVE WITHOUT GOD, by Ravi Zacharias – A brilliant and compelling defense of the Christian faith using a logical and philosophical approach. Recommended for all Christians who want to present an intellectual argument for the hope that we have, and for every skeptic who is honestly seeking answers.

8. CAPTIVATING, by John and Stasi Eldredge – Delving into the mysteries of the feminine soul, this memorable book attempts to describe a woman’s heart, its longings, and the way for them to be fulfilled. It encourages women to ground their identity on the Creator and to live the lives they were meant to live.

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