The bell rang. Thank God it’s lunch, meaning I survived half of the day. I don’t have to pretend to listen to teachers. During lunch break, I just pretend to listen to my friends. There’s nothing wrong with them, really. I like my set of friends. I just find it difficult to always give my full attention to different people blabbing gossip about strangers I don’t care about.
Sometimes, I wish I could just fly with my thoughts. I want to be outside. I want to be at the ocean.
As I walk along the halls towards the cafeteria, we stop by each of my friends’ lockers, like picking them up until we’re all complete for lunch. I guess we’re really close that way. All my friends say hi and wave hello to classmates along the way. I’m usually friendly like all of my friends, but these are the days I just don’t want to be the social butterfly I’m expected to be. I put my earphones on and I hope they get the sign I’m not in a friendly mood today. I hit play when I find the right soundtrack in my playlist – Everything by Ciudad. The best I can give to people right now are soft half-hearted smiles. My friends don’t seem to mind and the crowd doesn’t seem to notice. But the moment I see him coming our way, I quickly drop my smile. I look down on my shoes trying to control my pace as I secretly steal a look. He doesn’t see me. He pretends not to. I continue walking.
I take my seat at the lunch table with my friends whom I’ve been sitting with since freshman year, eating the same stuff they’ve been serving us since the golden age. Some things never change. My friends start the blab. I start my pretence while I peel the napkin off my utensils. It’s become a reflex of mine to glance at his table. He sits in his usual spot, the same old table with the same old friends. While his friends are busy laughing their heads off at some toilet humor, he leaves the table. I see him head to the exit, but he looks at me first and signals me to go out.
As I go through the door, I see him waiting for me outside. He’s leaning back at the same bench where he always waited for me. The sun hits his hair just right to make it shine its usual glow. His gaze looks up to me slowly from the floor. He flashes a smile. I get the familiar butterflies. “Wanna get out of here?” he asks and gently grabs me by my wrist.
He runs and leads me to his car. He starts his engine when I ask, “Where are we going?” He slowly backs up his car and he says, “To the ocean.”
I can never know how he knows what I want, and when I want it. I can never know how he knows when I want to have a road trip or just lock myself in my bedroom and watch Ghibli films. I can never know how he knows when I’m just too shy to get the last piece of pizza, and when I’m too full and he needs to finish my plate. I can never know how he knows when I try to be strong and keep pushing, and when I just want to give up. I can never know how he knows.
I watch him drive as I try to decipher everything in my head, and I get surprised as he reaches for my hand and intertwines his fingers with mine – I let him. Familiarity strikes me. I get comfortable. I don’t remember how many times we’ve done this together before, and until now I don’t picture doing this with anyone else.
We were driving in silence for a while just listening to Ebe Dancel in his playlist. I’m not sure if he remembers it was me who put it there.
“So what are you planning after graduation? It’s only a few months away.” I ask.
“Me? Still the same plan. Nothing changed.”
“And you? Did anything change?”
“… A lot.”
He stops the car as we reached the ocean. He takes off his seatbelt when he looks at me intently and asks, “Ready to test the waters again?”
“No, I’m just here to see it.”