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Phil was surprised by how Dimitri appeared to be, restless and intense. It looked like his friend had something big to tell him.
“So,” Dimitri began, sitting up to face him. “Do you think you can talk to Brenda and Girlie?”
Phil swallowed a sigh, relieved it seemed to have nothing to do with him. He pushed his sunglasses back to his head. “Why, what’s up?”
“Just…” Dimitri paused to lick his lips, a sign Phil knew his friend was about to ask a favor. “The girls listen to you, right? Can you ask them to cut Drew some slack?”
Of all things, that was the last Phil expected Dimitri to ask of him. “Dimitri,” he said carefully. “You remember what happened, right? The cheating?” Dimitri nodded. “And now, Drew has cheated on his wife by kissing Girlie,” Phil continued.
“I know…” Dimitri said quietly.
“So why?” Phil asked softly. “You must have a good reason for asking this.”
Instead of replying, Dimitri pulled out his smartphone and showed Phil an email he got from Drew a couple of years ago.
Dimitri’s first migraine in Dubai struck him while he was surveying the construction site where his design was to be built. Alarmed by his collapse amidst debris, the workers managed to drive him to Al Zahra Hospital, the nearest medical center in the area.
While at the waiting room, Dimitri noticed a familiar silhouette: a tall, lean guy with a strong jaw and hair that stuck out instead of down. He squinted to get a clearer view.
Was it him? Was that my old friend?
Dimitri couldn’t believe his eyes. It was Drew, his barkada from high school! He tried to stand up but his head still pounded, and Drew was already on his way to him.
“Pare! Kumusta?” Dimitri greeted as Drew dropped next to the seat beside him, clapping his shoulder as a friendly gesture.
“Ikaw ang kumusta!” Drew replied. “What are you doing here? I didn’t know you were based in Dubai!”
“I got hired to design a building here,” Dimitri answered. “You, how have you been? What are you doing here? Of all the places we could meet again!”
Drew laughed. “I took a break from the gasoline business,” he said. “Thought maybe I’d try travelling to get a much-needed break.”
Just then, a head popped out from behind the door. It was the nurse that fetched the patients. “Mr. Perpetua? Andrew Perpetua?” she called.
“Hey, that’s you.” Dimitri nodded at his friend, whose hand was raised to make his presence known and the other handing out a phone to him. “Save your number. If you’re not busy, we can catch up later,” Drew said.
Dimitri quickly typed in his digits onto Drew’s phone. “I’ll watch my phone like a hawk,” he said as he returned the phone to his friend, who just laughed in reply before standing up to follow the nurse, who pressed ‘8’ on the elevator. Dimitri looked up the hospital map hung on the wall to his left. On the eighth floor was Hematology and Oncology.
Drew kept his word, and later that night, he and Dimitri met up at an Asian fusion restaurant in downtown Dubai. The way they bonded felt like no years had passed. They could even guess what the other had ordered, from the meat down to the drinks. Dimitri talked about his building design, touching a bit of his best experiences with his late grandfather. Drew, on the other hand, talked about the difficulties of running gas stations and how far his wife was coming along in the pregnancy.
“Twins, can you believe it?”
Dimitri laughed. “Well, you better pray they take after Lia!” He expected Drew to catch on but his face suddenly turned dark. Maybe he wasn’t the same Drew anymore. Dimitri decided to take it back. “Hey, I’m kidding. You’re pretty great.”
Drew grabbed a napkin from the table and wiped his mouth. “No, you’re right,” he said. “I do pray they take after Lia.”
Sensing there was something more in between the lines, Dimitri considered to push. “Is there anything wrong, pare?” When Drew lowered his eyes, he pressed on, remembering their encounter at the hospital earlier. “Is this trip not a vacation?”
Drew sighed. “I have cancer,” he answered, and Dimitri felt his heart cave in.
“What the fuck, Dimitri?” Phil was bordering on livid. “Why didn’t you tell us? Why didn’t Drew tell us?” He had thrown his sunglasses to the sand and had a wild look on his face. “He is sick and we’re not doing anything!”
Dimitri shushed him. “Calm down,” he warned. “Drew doesn’t want anybody else to know. But I’m telling you because I want you to know. So you can help.” Dimitri rubbed his temples. “I don’t know anymore. The cancer’s Stage 3.”
“Oh my god, what does that mean? Is he dying? Shit, Dimitri!” Phil grabbed his friend’s arm and pulled him up. “Let’s go talk to them right now.”
“Wait, Phil, come on, stay calm.” Dimitri pulled Phil back. “Let’s not ruin… this.”
“What, this trip? Drew’s life? Our lives?” Phil was definitely livid now.
“We deal with things differently, Phil, you know that,” Dimitri said. “Keeping it a secret is Drew’s.”
“But that’s being selfish! Look, Brenda is a doctor! She can help him. Why wouldn’t he tell us?!”
“Phil, stay calm,”Dimitri said again. Then he picked up the sunglasses Phil threw and perched it back on top of his friend’s head, trying to act normal as they were in the line of vision of their friends. “I don’t know why he decided it that way, either. It’s unacceptable, and this is why I’m asking for your help.”
“It’s just weird that he would keep something like this from us,” Phil said, shaking his head. “Remember in high school? We were the best buds! I don’t know what happened to us…” His voice then trailed off, his eyes getting wet with tears.
Dimitri was about to reach out to him but Phil let out a small, breathy laugh. “We were the best buds. I don’t know what happened to us,” he repeated. “That’s what John told me before I walked out on him that night he–“
Both Phil and Drew turned at Brenda’s panicked cry. As they did, they saw her and Girlie ran to Drew, who was lying face down under the tree.