Essay / Non-Fiction

11:16

“Anong oras na sa’yo?”

“11:16 po.”

That was the only interaction that we’ve had for the past month that I’ve known you. Whenever you were around, either you were sleeping, preparing to sleep or preparing to leave. But that night wasn’t that special. I saw you arrive and go to bed without even changing your clothes. But a few hours later, you woke up and started to curse repeatedly because apparently, you were late for work. And your phone’s time was not that reliable so you had no choice but to ask me because I was the only one awake.

Do you remember the first time we saw each other? I was inside the room, fixing my things, when your head suddenly peaked inside the room, asking our other roommates about something. My first glimpse of you struck me: not him again. At first I thought I was having delusions, I thought I was thinking him too much that week but I knew I wasn’t. Or maybe because I just recently “sealed” my last souvenirs of him that was why I was having some illusions. But when you entered the room and I saw you entirely, everything became clear. Yes, it’s him again.

Our two seconds of interactions gave me flashbacks of my two years with him. It was long enough for me, although too short in some aspects. Just like the way you turned your back the moment you got what you wanted, my time with him ended just like that. I wasn’t even aware it already ended. Until I felt the pain rushing through my veins, crushing all 206 bones in my body.

Your mere presence reminded me of him: his posture, his appeal, his subtle way of controlling me. I couldn’t help myself but to compare you with him. You have the exact hairstyle, the exact shape and color of the lips, the exact timbre of voice, the exact habit of sleep talking. You even have almost the same name!

But his shadow of him on you stopped me from befriending you. Our closest relationship could be deemed as acknowledgement. Nothing more. Most of the times we shared inside the room, you were sleeping, and sometimes I was watching you, but most of the time, I didn’t care. There was something in you that repel my interest of you. Don’t get me wrong, it’s not your attitude, the way you look, or your smell. It’s because it was like I was being transported a year ago, with him sleeping while I was on his side, sometimes watching him, most of the time not caring at all.

That’s why I couldn’t even look at you when you’re near. Those glimpses that I had of you while you were sleeping brought back memories of my last night with him. He was peacefully sleeping, just like you, while I couldn’t. I was watching him intently, trying to memorize every detail and contour of his face. Because I knew, when the sun goes up, he would be gone. And I would be alone.

That was it, the reason that I was too afraid to admit. I was always thinking that when the time comes that I would see him, all the pain were already flushed down. It would be like the first time I saw him, though I couldn’t remember how I felt that time, all I knew it wasn’t hatred or angst. But who am I kidding. Now I know I am not really prepared. I am only seeing you who are reminiscent of him and I am already acting like this. What’s more if I see the real him?

I thought all this time, I haven’t moved on because all along, he was still occupying a significant part of myself. But now I know why. I couldn’t move on because I couldn’t forgive him. I couldn’t forgive him because I couldn’t forget what he did, the pain that I had to go through, all the things that I suffered from. I couldn’t forget how he ditched me in an instant the moment he felt stable, while I was on the verge of wrecking my life. I couldn’t forget how I blamed myself, how I almost believed it was all my fault, how I easily forgotten that I didn’t do anything at all to trigger what happened. I couldn’t forget how he was blaming me to appear innocent. To forgive is to forget. Nobody can forgive without forgetting. Those who say they forgive but they don’t forget are seriously kidding themselves. That’s why I couldn’t move on. I haven’t forgotten a thing.

You will be gone in the next hours. He will be gone in the next months. Too bad, you and I weren’t able to talk at all. Or at least be friends. We were just strangers to each other. Just like with him. We were perfectly strangers to each other, trying to avoid any form of contact or any communication. As if some deity of memory erased all the good times we shared, the promises we vowed to keep.

At first I thought the reason you came into my life is to remind me of him, of our anniversary of not seeing each other, of him leaving soon. But then I realized, you brought back memories that I was trying to forget, and you helped me reconcile some issues with myself. You made me think over again what happened, what went wrong and what could have been done instead. You made one thing clear for me: I shouldn’t care anymore. I should start forgetting. I should start forgiving.

Thank you for helping me, unintentionally. It was a real boost on my moving on process. Before, I flinch every time I think he’s having a good and happy life now. But everyday that I was being reminded of him not caring anymore, just like you do, I slowly accepted the fact that I should forget everything, all the pains and the unresolved issues, for me to finally move on to another chapter of my life. I couldn’t proceed if I still go back to the point where all we-could-have-beens are. I tried so many times before, but they all failed. Now I am sure why. And I should start learning to stop finding his shadow, and thinking that everyone that will come after is just like him.

So long, acquaintance! I couldn’t really give you a good farewell advice because I couldn’t even start a conversation with you in the past month that we’ve seen each other. You came, you left. This was the only difference of you and him. We never had the chance to be friends. But if ever there will be, no worries, I won’t fall for you. With your looks and appeal, I won’t risk it. I already reached my quota of pain for this decade. And I don’t have any plan to exceed it.

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