Five Years and Ten Minutes

“You never told me what happened between you and, well, you know…”

I smiled as Robert took another drag from his cigarette. Robert was a security guard. I hadn’t seen him for five years. He and his dog were my companions most of the days I spent outside this school. For the longest time they thought I would cause a ruckus somehow. The day Robert “figured me out,” as he would say, he became more cordial. He started offering me cigarettes when all the teachers had gone. The dog, however, never really liked me.

“She’s here, you know. I saw her come in,” said Robert.

I didn’t know what to say to this.

“Then maybe you get to find out the answer to your question tonight.”

I finished my cigarette and headed in. On the gate hung a banner: “Welcome back, Class of 2008!”

As I stepped inside the campus, the memory of the first time I saw her came flashing back. She was a freshman; I was a senior from a rival school. Her school was hosting the inter-collegiate Battle of the Bands, and I was performing for one of the competing groups. We met backstage. She was one of the production assistants handling “outsiders” like us. After we took the stage and played our cover of Matchbox 20’s “Unwell,” small talk led me to asking her out.

Our first date was the stuff of legends. I think some people still  believe that we did the trademark “Titanic pose” on a balcony on that date.

I started seeing her almost every day after that. I would stay outside the school gate for a couple of hours, waiting for her to finish her tutorial sessions. And then I’d get ten minutes of conversation with her…If I were lucky. Her driver would come by and pick her up, always on time. I’d have one last cigarette with Robert, then go home and think of her all night.

Every moment I spent with her was better than the last. It got a little scary, to be honest ,and I figured it was too good to be true. I was falling in love with her. And she told me she was, too. We shared our deepest fears, our greatest wishes, and our wildest dreams. We were going to see the world together.

It was perfect. I was hoping against hope that there wasn’t a catch somewhere.

There was.

I wouldn’t wish for my worst enemy to be told the things I was told that day.

“You’re ruining her life. She has so much ahead of her. What does she even see in you?”

“She deserves better.”

“She’s just humoring you.”

I wanted to know if she believed the things her family told me. I wanted to hear her say it. So I waited for her, like I always did.

She didn’t come.

And for a week I waited—and hoped. But she never showed up again.

I never got an answer to my question, “Is it true, what they said?”

But fate has a funny way of fucking with you when you least expect it. Our band got hired to play an intermission number in their batch’s reunion. I didn’t think it was possible to feel so many emotions at once, but there they were. I wanted to say no, but a part of me really wanted to in the off-chance that she’d be there. I convinced myself by saying that I could always use the extra money.

As I walked around the campus, I could see so many stories—lovers reunited, friends reconnected, old hatred dissipated. The food was mostly good. Some people even stopped me and said they remembered me: “You were the boyfriend, right?”

“Yeah, I was.”

“Yup. Was.”

“Nope. Haven’t heard from her.”

It was finally time to play. Before I could stop myself, I said, “This one’s for you. You know who you are. Wish you were here so we can talk. Wish you weren’t so you won’t see me make a fool of myself.”

Awkward laughter from the crowd.

The night deepened and the crowd started to thin. I was talking to the few who stayed. She was here. Was she still here? Probably not.

I stepped out of the gates and lit a cigarette.

“Hey.”

I turned around and there she was.

“Hey.”

“What have you been up to? I haven’t seen you since…”

“The usual.” I smiled. “The band’s still together. We’ve been playing everywhere. We just signed an international contract. You?”

“Well, I’m a dentist now. Your teeth are going to go bad with all that smoking, you know.”

“Then I’m lucky I have you to check them for me, yes?”

“Maybe. I’m moving to London some time next year.”

“Oh.”

We stood there awkwardly. There were so many things I wanted to say, so many things I wanted to ask. I felt guilty for blaming her for suddenly disappearing from my life. And now that she’s here, now that we’re talking, they all seem like bullshit.

We stood there in silence for what felt like forever.

“Hey, listen. I need to ask you something.”

“What is it?” she said, her eyes locked on mine.

“Is it…”

A honk. It’s that goddamned driver.

“I have to go.” She blushed and looked away.

“Five more minutes?”

“I can’t. You know how he gets.”

“Will I ever see you again?”

“Probably not.”

She turned and started walking toward her car. But I couldn’t let her leave without knowing, so I shouted, “Is it true, what they said?”

She froze, her hand lingering on the car’s door handle. She looked at me, tears streaming down her face. She went in and shut the door.

They drove off. I lit another cigarette.

Robert appeared by my side a few moments later. He put a hand on my shoulder. I could feel tears on my own cheeks.

“Ten minutes. Just like back in the day.”

“Yeah. Some things never change.”

“So you never told me what happened between you and, you know…?”

“Well, there are some questions that you don’t really get to find the answers to.”

And for the first time in five years, I was content. I tried to pet the dog, but it still hated me. I wanted to decline the cigarette that Robert offered, but I couldn’t. I wanted to know the answer, but I still didn’t. I bade goodbye, and started walking home.

Some things just never change because they are never meant to. Some things you get answer to, and some things you just never do.

Photo by Elaine Tacubanza

Edited by Jen Jalandoni

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