It was a rainy Monday morning and I was lining up at the coffee shop to buy myself a sweet blend of hot coffee to warm myself up through the cold atmosphere. I bought myself a Caramel Flan Latte, her favourite. It’s not what I’ve always wanted, but today is going to be a special day. It’s not about me; it’s about her.
I grabbed a seat by the window and took a sip from my cup of coffee as I watch the raindrops run down the glass window. I took a piece of folded paper from my wallet and read what was written on it. It contains a list of some famous places and other tourist attractions that I really wanted to visit. Alongside them were check marks, indicating that I’ve already been there. From museums and parks around the city to the beaches and resorts in the country, I’ve already been there. The list goes on, but there is one last thing that is left unmarked. One place left to go until it’s all over. After that, I can finally move on. It’s that one place we promised to go together. And now, I’m going there.
I took the bus so I could go to that particular place – the museum. We promised to each other that that would be the last place that we’ll visit together, so we put it last in our bucket list. But we never actually visited any of the places listed down because we don’t have a budget yet. Both of us were still in college and were busy with our school work. It’s great that we still have time to be together back then, but we aren’t able to go out together that much. She said that she would love to travel or perhaps become a tour guide. So we planned a bucket list together and listed down all of the places that we wanted to go once we have graduated from college. But that was a long time ago, she might have forgotten about it already.
Today is her birthday, and finishing this list will be my birthday present to her.
I finally arrived at my destination. Several buses filled the parking space in front of the building. I guess there’s a school having their field trip today. I went inside and bought myself a ticket. Since I don’t want to mingle with the noisy young children, I went to an empty gallery where there are no people inside and admired the paintings hung on the wall.
The room was extremely cold and I felt the air hugging me as I stared at one of the paintings. I looked deeper. The noise of the children outside the room vanished. I closed my eyes. Is this what it really feels like to be alone?
There was chaos suddenly. I opened my eyes and looked at the door. I heard a familiar voice coming from outside.
“In this gallery, you’ll see some of the paintings by Juan Luna.”
Is it who I think it is?
Two lines of children, together with their parents, went inside the gallery all gazing upon the paintings by the famous Filipino painter. I was zooming through the faces of each of them, looking for the tour guide who was speaking to them.
Then I saw a familiar face.
I looked at her and she noticed me. I stood there and looked at her as if I’ve never seen her before. She approached her partner and asked if he could tour the children for her. Then she walked towards me.
I tried to smile, but I looked away instead. I walked away slowly, but she grabbed my shoulder.
“Hey!” she called me.
I looked back at her with a straight face. She looked at me with a faint smile.
“Uhh, hi,” I muttered.
“Long time no see,” she said. “It’s me, your ex-girlfriend. Remember?”
I tried my best to deny the fact that I remember her.
“Ah, yeah. I remember you,” I said.
“What are you doing here?” she asked.
I placed my hands in my pocket.
“Um, you know,” I stuttered. “Just finishing the list we never started.”
She paused. She might have remembered about it.
“How about you?” I asked, trying to change the topic. “What are you doing here?”
“I’m working now as a tour guide,” she answered confidently. “I didn’t expect you to be here, actually.”
“Wow. You finally became what you wanted to be.”
“Yeah…” she bowed her head and sighed.
I looked at her pale face. She has always been so beautiful until now. I wonder how she lived through without me.
“You still have it with you, don’t you?” she asked.
I know that she’s talking about our bucket list. I did not say anything.
“I thought you’ve already forgotten?” she said.
“How would I forget if it’s always on my mind?” I told her.
“Why are you still doing this?”
“We made a promise, right? I’m just fulfilling my part.”
I showed her the list and she took it quickly to read it.
“I don’t understand,” she sighed. “You did all of this alone?”
“How could you be so selfish?!” she almost yelled.
“I’m not doing this for you anymore.”
“Don’t be such a hypocrite! You were the one that got away, remember?”
Some people were already looking at us as she’s trying to create a scene. I tried to look away from them to avoid embarrassment and looked directly at her face.
“You know what,” she continued. “When we broke up, I thought that I would never have the strength to go to such places anymore because I’m now all alone. I thought that nobody would be there anymore to come with me and enjoy all the places we go together. But then I thought, maybe I don’t need someone to come with me at all.”
I paused. There was silence. I don’t know what to say.
“Would that be your reason?” she asked. “That you don’t need me at all?”
“I’m sorry,” I said. “I didn’t know what was going on in my mind that time. I began doubting myself if I could still stay in our relationship for long. I couldn’t imagine myself being with you in the future. I don’t know if–…”
“But didn’t you think about me?” she interrupted. “Didn’t you think about how I would feel after you leave me? Didn’t you think about how I would be without you, especially at a time when I’ve already decided that you are the one whom I wanted to be with forever?”
She crumpled the list and threw it on my chest. It fell on the floor, but I didn’t pick it up. Her eyes were almost teary. I waited for her to speak.
“I ask you again. Why are you still doing this?” she asked.
“As I told you before, it has always been on my mind,” I answered. “You have always been on my mind.”
“Don’t tell me another joke this time,” she shook her head. “If I really was on your mind all along, you’d never leave me.”
She began to cry and she tried to hide it from the people inside the gallery. I picked up the ball of paper on the floor and unraveled it. I put out my pen and placed a check mark next to the last item on the list. I handed her the piece of paper and said, “Happy birthday.”
I turned around as soon as she took the piece of paper. But I stood still when she called me for the last time.
“Why… Why are you still doing this?”
I looked at her and took a deep breath. In a lucid voice, I answered.
“I’m not doing this for you. I’m doing this because it’s over.”
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