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Wait for Me

At ten in the evening, I am already halfway on my second pack of Marlboro lights, still struggling to produce even just a semi-perfect ring and knowing that I failed even before I puffed. 

Bits of music from the karaoke of our neighbor resound inside our apartment, aggravating the silence that I deserve since I started eating the chocolate pudding cake my brother had given me. They’re having a celebration; after all, it is valentines’ eve. I check my watch and realize it will only be minutes until the time she promised she would arrive.


Tell me how you do that.

Laura told me one sunny afternoon, while waiting for a jeep. I turned to look at her, but the sun’s sharp rays blocked her face from my view.

Do what? I asked, as I smoked yet again from my cigarette.

That one. You know, how you smoke. I’ve always wanted to know how. She stopped, and smiled shyly, a soft, sweet smile. I tried it once, which was months ago, I think. But I just ended up in a coughing fit.  I think I did it wrong like I inhaled or something. And then she laughed. And I laughed too.

Oh but I’m serious. Tell me how you do it. And I saw her, her eyes trusting and waiting for my answer, very expectant.

I know you are. Nodding, I assured her.

I recalled what my friend had told me when I asked him just the same thing, I told her all I remembered. I told her how to smoke, when to inhale and when to let it out. I told—

I think I know how. And with a reassuring stare, she had me believed. I lent her my cigarette, now about the size of her little finger, slightly damp at its end. She did as I had told her to do, precisely. I thought perhaps, she was kidding when she said it was her second time.

When she was about to exhale, she coughed. I thought she would get in a fit so I started to worry, I leaned closer.

I’m alright, she said after coughing a few times. Her eyes began to water.

You don’t have to do this, Laura. I’m already thinking of quitting, I said. I told her that I would quit then and there. And I honestly tried; though I returned to my habit two weeks after.


Our neighbor with the karaoke is singing a popular rap song, loud for a late night. I let out another puff, and promise myself it would be the last. She’ll be here any minute, I thought. I stare at the half-eaten chocolate cake and restrain myself from taking another bite. We could eat this cake later, together.


I did not hear an engine stop close, or someone opening the gate, so hearing her voice just behind the door, I could not think straight. One could have even mistaken it for a tire squeak, the way she said it, or leaves rustling, the sound of the s pronounced throughout, the v a hard f sound. But that was just her saying my name. Laura.

I open the door, feeling its weight every second. There she is, in a black sleeveless shirt, looking expectantly down, I guess, at her feet. Her hair is a ruffle, unkempt and her hand bobs up and down, touching her pants every now and then. She smells of San Mig light, strong and sharp. She isn’t like this before, I don’t even know she drinks this hard, but I thought, I like it anyway.

She looks at me, or seems to. I can’t really tell, her drunken state couldn’t make her focus. And I force a smile, a greeting required on a late night, but it’s hard. How does one go about that, meeting your ex the first time after you broke up? And I try to say something but she outdid me; I am glad. Only for a moment though.

You told me you didn’t love me, she said. Her voice is clear, like every word is practiced. She stopped after the first three words for emphasis, uttered them slowly, making sure I heard what she said. And yet it even occur to me that maybe I can pretend I did not hear it.

It’s cold here, Lau. We could get inside first.

You broke up with me because you told me you didn’t love me. Her voice a silent whisper, but even clearer than the first one. Every word a constraint of shaking teeth and locking jaw, every emotion repressed.

Lau, you’re drunk. Maybe we could talk about this—

She shakes her head, Steve, I don’t care, she said and hiccup after, two, three times.
I don’t care, she said. Her cheeks are a little pink and puff out, if you smoke and I don’t. She clasps her hands together and starts rubbing them off. Or if you’re an inch shorter when I’m wearing heels. And then she looks at me, in both of my eyes, I turn away. Or if I graduate sooner than you do.

Now how could I do any better?

God, Steve, I really don’t give a damn!

The neighbor with the karaoke sings his heart out, an old love song. I thought of the half-eaten cake waiting in the sala, and the earlier thought of eating it with Laura. It was just minutes ago, I told myself.

But you do. She said. Then she turn back slowly and start walking away, unsteadily, her stance a little unorganized.

Laura, wait! She stops, as I seek my mind for the things I want to say and realizes there are many. I want to tell her that I lied. That it isn’t that I didn’t love her. That it isn’t about love at all. That it isn’t about insecurity, or her graduating earlier. It is about that which we have tried for so long, and keep on failing no matter what we do. I want to tell her that we couldn’t live on trying.

But I didn’t say any of these things; I couldn’t say anything at the moment. Maybe it should be left just as it is, rhetorically. Just wait.

Wait for many things. Wait for me.

She starts to bend herself, to stoop, as if she’s in pain. She starts to gag, an old churning sound from her stomach, softly at first then growing louder each time. Deep, too much pain. And then before I know it, she’s throwing up.

I run to her. I clamp her hair in my hands so it wouldn’t get dirty. I stroke her back gently, to and fro, a rhythmic pattern in my head, as she vomit everything she could, every bitter thing in her stomach in front of my doorstep.

I didn’t talk; I didn’t ask if she’s alright. I didn’t get her a towel; I have tissue in my pocket. I didn’t go anywhere.

I couldn’t leave.

When she’s finally through, I ask her if she want to get inside but she still would not. She said she want to stay by the door, because it’s colder and she said she’s leaving soon. So we sit there, by the door; she, in my arms, half-asleep.

But she didn’t leave. Our neighbor with the karaoke had already said his good-night, and the whole neighborhood is filled with silence. I thought of ants feasting on the half-eaten cake I saved earlier, and I don’t mind.

The warmth brought by the early sunrise balances the cold morning and we’re still there. It isn’t dark anymore; streaks of orange are visible in the sky and Laura is still asleep. I watch her for a while, her subdued breathing is regular and I thought of controlling mine to go with hers. It’s funny that I failed even at that.

Unable to think of any more things to do while waiting, I whisper a silent prayer that this would last just a little longer. And then, I close my eyes.