by Kath C. Eustaquio-Derla
In my heightened state, I walk the entire length of the parking lot looking for Matthew’s car. I feel like a madwoman, walking from one aisle to another, checking the car plates. I finally find the car on other farthest side of the lot, far away from where Denver and I parked.
The lights and engine are off but I can see Matthew and Bridgette inside the car, clearly having an argument. When they finally realize that I am right in front of the car staring at them like a woman on the edge, Matthew starts the engine and I immediately walk to his side and start rapping on the window, telling him to open the goddamn thing.
I honestly do not know what I will say. I feel like I’ve said everything. But there are still so many loose strings, so many open wounds. I need to know exactly what role I played in his life in the past years. I need closure and I will not leave until I get it. Like what Denver said, I’ve come this far to go back. And going back means waiting and putting my life on hold much longer.
He keeps the windows up. I try the door and find it locked. I continue to pound on the window and by this time, I couldn’t help the tears anymore. And so I yell and pound and yell some more until finally, I see Bridgette reach out and open the power window on Matthew’s side.
From where I stand, I can easily reach out and grab her by her pearl necklace but instead of feeling hate, I feel shame. Here is a girl who can easily just hurt me, physically, and make me pay for what I did to her. But even in my heightened state, I sense that she knows, somehow, that I am not the only player responsible for whatever pain she had to endure. Somehow, woman to woman, I feel that she knows. And under the harsh light of the street lamps that line the lot, I see her eyes, pleading for me to stop.
“Please, don’t do this to yourself,” Bridgette says. She hands me a piece of folded paper and adds gently, “Please stop.”
I gently unfold the paper and see my heartfelt letter to Matthew, printed as an email straight from the internet. And at a moment, when I thought I couldn’t go even lower, she touches my hand and say, “Please leave us alone.” Throughout the whole exchange, Matthew never looks at me. He just sits there, hands firmly gripping the steering wheel, eyes focused on the vacant lot in front of him. Slowly, I removed my grip on the car window and move away just before Matthew guns the engine and speeds away from the parking lot and away from me.
I must have stood at the vacant space for a long time, trying to collect my emotions and fix my face before I make my way back to venue proper. But what I find on the other side of the road is the other victim of the complicated web I’ve spun, Tristan. He is leaning on one of the cars that lined the road, smoking.
He is wearing an elegant Barong Tagalog. He looks well dressed in a classic pair of black slacks and formal shoes but his face shows the turmoil inside of him. He has a five o’clock shadow on this face and he looks as if he has been wrestling with something other than cigarettes. For as long as I can remember, Tristan quit the habit a long time ago, even before he broke up with his American girlfriend.
I slowly walk towards him. I figure, if I can’t fix my other issue, I might as well start mending some of the things that I still can. He watches me with sad eyes.
“Tristan,” I start and I could smell alcohol on him, even from a short distance. He finishes the stick, drops it the pavement and kills the fire with a foot.
“You’re really something else, aren’t you?”
It seems that he’s more drunk than I realize. He pulls out a small metal flask from his right side pocket and takes a sip of what smells like really good whiskey. He takes a second sip, never looking away from me. I could smell trouble but I don’t want to walk away just now, just when Tristan feels like he needs someone to walk him back to the venue.
“First, you sleep with that asshole,” he says. “Then you sleep with me and tell me you love me. And boy did I believe you.
“And now what? You’re dating that model? You really take your rounds seriously, don’t you?”
At that moment, all the love I have ever felt for him turned into hate. I slap him on the face so hard that my own hand hurt from the contact. His flask drops to the ground as he staggers a bit. In this light, I see a tinge of harsh realization on his face, the same kind I saw on my last day in Bellaroca. It is only now that I understand that we both know very little about each other, despite having known each other all our lives. And even though I first think I don’t need any kind of closure from this drama, I feel that this is all the closure I need from him. I am walking away from him for the last time. For good.
I start my way back to the venue. I hear Tristan following me from behind and when he catches up with me, he grabs my right arm with the same force he had shown in Bellaroca and I recoil instantly.
“Kit, wait, I’m really sorry,” he says. I can smell whiskey from his breath. “God, I don’t know what’s wrong with me, Kit. I, I just don’t know what to think anymore. I saw you with that model that whole night and, what do you expect me to think?”
“He’s my friend,” I tell him, pulling my hand away. “And I am not sleeping with him!”
“I didn’t know that.”
“You don’t know anything about me, that’s the point. Can’t you see, Tristan? We’re not the same people we were in high school! We’ve changed. You don’t know me. And clearly, I don’t know this side of you even exists. You’re right, I’m broken. I am so broken that I don’t even know if I can be whole again. Don’t you see that?”
For a brief moment, Tristan’s eyes change into the same ones I’ve looked into all those years in high school. The same ones that twinkled with so much potential, so much promise, so much innocence. The same eyes that I knew, from the start, loved me. “I can fix you, Kit,” he said. “If you can just give me that chance, I can fix what’s wrong in your life.”
“No,” I say. “Nobody can. Or maybe, I don’t want to be fixed! I don’t’ know. I don’t know what I want. But I do know that I can’t be with you or anyone else.
“I can’t be who you want me to be, Tristan. I can’t be that shiny, straight-A girl you met in high school anymore. I am not her anymore. You’re in love with the memory of me and I can’t do this to you any longer.”
And with that, he stiffens and moves away from me. He breathes out hard and in another second, he punches the window of a parked car. We are standing near the road and both patrons and passersby walk to see where the noises from the shattered glass come from.
“Hey!”I hear Denver shout from somewhere. I see my friend come up behind me and check to see if I’ve been hurt. “What the fuck was that?” he says to Tristan who stands beside the car, his right hand bleeding. The broken window sets off an alarm that causes everyone to walk to the road-side parking lot.
“Pare, are you okay?” Denver walks to Tristan and asks but in an instant, Tristan punches him in the face with his bloody hand. Denver punches back and soon, they were on the cemented floor trying to punch each other in the face.
“Stop,” I yell at them but they keep throwing punches that Tristan’s once immaculate Barong Tagalog is now a bloody mess. Denver’s tuxedo is torn and he has blood all over his face.
“Someone please stop them,” I beg the curious bystanders of patrons but they keep their distance or perhaps the deafening sounds of the car alarm has drown out my voice. None of the civilian passersby care to try to stop the two men so I did what I think is the most logical thing to do. I walk to them and try to pull one of the men away. I got hold of Tristan’s bloody arm but he pushes me away just in time to land another punch straight on Denver’s already bloody face. One of my shoe heels broke. I lose my balance and everything happens so fast. The last thing I hear is the sudden sound of car horn. The last thing I see is a pair of headlights. And then, everything turns to black.
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