Friday, September 30, 2016

Friday Fiction: Buses, Bruises, and Waves

Ali let her forehead touch the window of the bus as she watched the Metro Manila cityscape scroll by. The sky was still dark and the cars on the road were few and far between. It won't be another hour until the traffic congestion starts. With a five-hour trip ahead of her, Ali tried to get some sleep.

It didn't work of course. The minute she closed her eyes it all came back to her: the screaming, the tears, the feeling of her heart wanting to jump out of her chest. Her left hand immediately went to her right arm, and she squirmed as she imagined how it looked underneath her green long-sleeved shirt. The apple-sized bruise is only starting to show, in a couple of days it will turn purple, and she'd have to make sure she keeps it hidden from everyone.

She'd have to wear a sleeved rash guard when she goes out to catch the waves. She didn't want anyone asking about anything, she just wanted to surf. She just wanted the sea to swallow everything up, like it's always done. The ocean has always been her dumping site for every emotional garbage life throws at her. This was just another thing she has to unload.

The bus was moving fast but Ali still caught sight of the building where it all began. Where she met him. She wondered what her life would have been like had she not gone there that day to visit her friend. For the hundredth time, she wondered how different things would have been had their paths never crossed two years ago.

It had been a hot and humid Wednesday afternoon, and Ali shielded her eyes from the 2pm sun, her top clinging to her back. She had taken the train because her car was stuck in their garage, the MMDA's number-coding scheme banning it on the roads that day. Matt had invited her to a late lunch/early dinner because he needed to vent out to someone regarding the bad day he was having. Ali was then in between jobs and dying of boredom at home, so she happily agreed.

She heaved a sigh of relief when she saw the big glass doors of Matt's office, and welcomed the blast of airconditioning once she stepped inside the lobby. She registered her name, got her visitor's pass, and sat on one of the couches to compose herself. She took out her cellphone and texted Matt that she was already there.

Ten minutes. I'll ring you when you can go up. I'm on the third floor.

When she heard her phone ring, Ali stood up and headed for the elevator. As the doors closed, she checked her reflection on the mirror to her right. That's when she saw the navy bowtie attached to a suit of a smiling guy behind her.

"Are you here about your complaint?"

What is he talking about?

"You're going to the complaints department," said David Blaine-wannabe. Then he pointed at her chest.

Ali looked at her visitor's pass and sure enough, it betrayed her destination.

"Oh no, I'm just here to visit Matt Perez."

Ali broke eye contact first and looked at his shoes instead. Dark brown wingtips. Dapper.

"I didn't know Matt had a girlfriend."

"What makes you think I'm his girlfriend?"

"You're not?"

"Why do you want to know?"

He smiled. He touched his right earlobe and shook his head.

"It doesn't matter. Can we start again? I'm Ralph." He reached out his hand.

Ali was about to extend hers when the elevator doors opened. She turned her head as she stepped out and said, "See you around Ralph."

The bus's loud horn brought her back to the present. They're just about to enter the expressway, and her seatmate was deep in sleep. Ali's stomach grumbled, and she took out a pack of cheese crackers from her backpack. She'll have a hearty breakfast later at the resort, her usual plate of tapsilog. She'll rest for an hour, catch a nap if her mind will let her, and then go surf. She wasn't an expert, far from it, even after several trips to the beach. She spent more time sitting on her board staring out to sea, waiting for a good wave, then chickening out the last minute. She's wiped out more times than she can count. But when she does catch one, when she's able to stand up and ride, she remembers why she keeps doing it.

She thought back to her past trips to the resort, her many sunset surfing sessions. She recalled how she thought she would rather wipe out a thousand times, how she'd rather drown than go back to her life with him. But now she doesn't have  to, because he's no longer in her life. She actually managed to walk away. Scathed, yes, but she can heal. She will heal. That's what the ocean is for.

*Friday Fiction is my attempt at writing again. Writing to better myself, and not just because I need it to earn money. On Fridays (not every Friday though), I'll be posting something I wrote. It can be snippets, short stories, or even poetry. Hope you can come back and check! 

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