I must admit– I have been an adamantine heart. I’ve never been soft. I’ve never been light-hearted. I’ve been tyrannous. I’ve been ruthless. And my attitude kept on hardening since the pandemic surged. It feels stupid wearing masks and face shields. It's too annoying to have those around your face.
At first, I already got used to people loathing me. With all their prejudices, it was nothing for me.
“Gabriel!? Nah, he’s b**l**it.”
“If anyone would marry him? She’d be jinxed.”
These were just some of the many improprieties I’ve been listening to from the people. It sucks already. It’s way too far from what I have eavesdropped from other people when I and Sheila were still in sync.
“Is that Gabriel? I wish I was Sheila. If it was me, I could have married him immediately.”
“Every time I can see both of them, I always feel hankered about them.”
But now? Hmph! It’s the exact opposite.
Just yesterday, I drove over the McDonalds and bought a cup of brewed coffee. It was still the good-old me– with all my griping words.
“Good Morning sir. Welcome to McDonald's!” the drive-in teller clamored gleefully.
“Piss off!” I insultingly answered back while I let my face mask run down.
“I’m sorry sir.”
“Give me a cup of coffee with three packs of cream, got it?”
“What was that again, sir” she clarified. You know, I’m not that kind of person who wants to repeat a thing a thousand times. If I said it, then I already said it.
“Do you have any hearing problems? I said it loud and clear. I said I wanted a cup of coffee. C-O-F-F-E-E!” I took off my mask and spelled it out. Hoping that she could already hear me.
Suddenly, the teller already started to shed tears. Because of her baby crying, I became indignant.
“Miss, I said give me a cup of coffee. Is it that so hard to do?”
The other cars lining up for the drive-through service had already honked their horns hardly. I almost felt I lost all my earwax.
The teller ran away. Because of it, my blood boiled with anger.
I drove swiftly and parked outside. I went out of my car and closed the door strongly.
I furiously walked towards the door of the McDonalds. I was so furious that even forgot to wear my face mask. No customers were lining up to purchase food. And when I went in, I saw Sheila– with her arms crossed, staring at me. At first, she was mad, I can see it on her face, but when she saw me, her face softened. Her crossing eyebrows melted.
I stopped and stared at her. All our memories seem to spill over my face. It felt like lying down on a bed of thorns. The pain I’ve felt fifteen years ago seems like to be coming back, with an upgrade.
“Ga...Gab...Gabriel ?” she stuttered. “W...Why are you..you here?”
“Sheila?” I didn’t stutter. I’m used to feeling pain. Pain? I can swallow it whole in front of everybody.
I saw the teller I yelled at. She was at the back of Sheila. And now, I get it– Sheila was their “boss.”
“Miss it was him,” the teller told Sheila while pointing her finger towards me. “He was the one who screamed at me.”
The security guard went near me and reminded me to wear my face mask. Luckily, I had placed my face mask in my pocket.
“So, it’s my fault now? Isn’t it your job to lend service to us?” I protested while I wore my face mask.
The teller continued crying. Sheila turned to the teller and hugged her.
“You continue working. Okay? I will talk with him outside. Cheer up. Can you do that for me?”
The teller just nodded. And walked briskly towards her post.
“Can we talk outside?” she asked.
I did not respond. I just immediately walked outside and waited for her.
“Hey,” she called me lightly.
“Hey,” I said back. It felt awkward– you know, talking with your five-year girlfriend. Objection! She was my ex, actually.
“What happened a while ago?” she asked.
I answered her but I tried to make it as short as possible.
“Oh, sorry about that. She is still a newbie. She just had her job starting yesterday.”
I cannot consider such a thing. But for her, I just took it naturally. But actually, it took me a hard time. I had to swallow my ego.
“Oh is it?” I said sarcastically. “Never mind. I still had to go to work,” I just said flatly and walked out.
I was about to grab my keys and leave, when on the spur of moment, Sheila grabbed me by the hand.
“Hey, can I…,” she said as I removed her hands from my wrist. I thought that there should be social distancing as a safety protocol.
“Sorry,” she said. “Can I get your Facebook account?”
I ignored her. She broke my heart. She lost me. And she’s never getting me back.
I slid down the key to its hole and with a click, the door swings open. I sat at the driver’s seat and started to rev up the car.
Sheila knocked at the window. She gestured to let my window slide down. With a smile, she handed me a piece of paper with her Facebook name.
“I know you’d never forgive me. I know my words wouldn’t heal scars. But you know?” she said as she chuckled, “maybe you’d change your mind.”
At first, I actually hesitated to receive it. If I will, I was only like drinking a glass of poison. If I won’t, I knew, the scars would only worsen. And yes, I received it. I chose to drink the glass of poison.
I grabbed the paper. I placed it at the top of my ash-powdered color dashboard. After getting the paper, she smiled and went back inside.
And I headed straight home.
And today, I just couldn’t get out of my mind of what happened yesterday. Now, I have the piece of paper. I’m holding it with a cold heart and shrinking emotion.
Grabbing my phone, I tapped the Facebook app and jotted down her name, S-h-e-i-l-a R-i-z-o-n. Within a split of a second, I immediately found her heavenly face. It was kinda awkward– I was kinda immersing myself in deep toxic water. With her love intoxicating me once more. With her caressing words that have been my refuge over the years that we have been together.
I scrolled down and read her status– “TAKEN.”
So, this is why you wanted me to look for you? To spit on my face that you are taken. I read that she had just updated her status yesterday– the same day when we had met again. It tore my heart to know that she had found her synonym on the same day when she had met me again. I almost asked myself, why not me? Even though I knew the risk that I’m taking on, I managed to tap “Add friend.” I placed my phone on the wooden table in front of me and stood up to get a pair of sliced bread.
When I had just stood up from my chair, Sheila immediately chatted.
“I’m glad that you changed your mind.”
I smiled. Shit. Why did I? I feel dumb smiling after the lady who broke my heart chatted. I just pressed the “like” sticker and turned my phone off.
It’s almost a month since I and Sheila were conversing with each other. And with every week passing, words seem to flavor up with sweetness and sincerity. It felt like the memories replayed. It felt like we had stitched up what we had torn. It seems like we were back once again– but this was only my intuition. I’m enjoying what I am hallucinating about even though the status “TAKEN” was still on her Facebook.
One day, we had decided to meet up and eat dinner at Max’s Chicken House.
“Hey there,” I chatted.
“Hey, how you doin’?”
“Fine. Perfectly fine,” I chuckled while pressing the letters on my phone’s keyboard. “Let’s have dinner together. My treat.”
“Who’s going out with us?”
“Just the two of us”
She sent a smiling emoji with a heart. “Yeah sure. Let’s meet at Max’s. I’m craving chicken.”
“Yeah. 8 PM?”
“Okay,” I agreed. When my clock struck 7 in the evening, I took a shower. I wore perfume and my best shirt– the gray shirt she had given me as her birthday gift for me way back then. Now, I decided– I’m taking her heart back again. Its time to use the threads and needles that we had developed over the month that we had spent inquiring on each other. I wore a gray surgical face mask and a face shield.
I arrived at Max’s at quarter to 9. I picked a place near the window. Although the tables had boundaries, maybe protecting each other’s saliva from transferring from one to another, I still feel that the place was romantic enough for us to mend back again.
Hours passed by and she hasn’t still arrived. I called her too but she did not pick-up. I chatted with her but she won’t reply. Now, I feel lost again. Lost in the wilderness of discouragement and rejections. I feel like maybe she had other plans with her “TAKEN” partner and that it had coincided with what we had planned. I glanced at my silver wristwatch and watch as the hour hand strike 11 PM.
I went out and headed home. I feel stupid. Why? While I was driving home, I kept on crying. Why would I cry when I and her hadn’t got back again? Why would I cry over someone who had hurt me in the past, had hurt me again? Why would I cry over someone whom I knew is bound to hurt me again?
The next day, I went to her house. Her family was there, which was odd since her family was in the Philippines making money out of their business. They were crying. Her mother, who saw me, ran towards me and hugged me. Her tears flowed from her cheeks to my shoulders.
I was shocked at what just happened– Sheila had…Sheila had..d..died.
“She died!” her mother cried out.
I almost fainted upon hearing it. I wanted to kill myself. It feels like I was still so stupid. I kept on thinking negative things about her, but she had just died.
“She was wearing her best skirt and polka-dotted black sweater. She dressed up neatly as if she was going somewhere nice with someone.”
I remembered. We were supposed to meet up and have dinner. I realized that she had died on the way.
“She died from a car crash,” her mother kept on crying.
I knelt and let the tears run on my cheeks. The words I missed to say to her, the years I have missed spending with her, the moments I missed to be with her when she needed me the most– I regretted why I haven’t done it when I had all the time.
Her mother handed over to me a notebook. It was her diary.
I flipped the pages and found a piece of a life-changing journal that she has written for the past month.
Today, I met Gabriel. I just feel so happy meeting him again, though it was in an unfavorable situation. I decided that I should change my status to “TAKEN” once more. Though we have parted, though I have hurt him, I knew that my heart still belongs to him. I hope, one day, he’ll know that this heart still beats for him. Goodnight Moon! Keep Shining!
Now, I realize, prejudices should never blur your sight on how you see a person. See, I was too harsh. Because of my rash judgments, I lost the chances I know that won’t ever come back.
Five months after Sheila had passed away, I can still feel the hurt and pain. With the pandemic now gone, she also had passed to eternity. The pandemic hadn’t touched me, but the days during the pandemic were most depressing. Now, I’m happy pulling as a Human Resource Manager in a telecommunications company. I must admit– though the pandemic had passed, its impacts are lasting. Though she had passed, my thoughts with her are still growing inside of me.