And so after six years, we see each other again. In church, of all places. Her husband is a deacon now and she is all smiles as they greet the members after service. How red her face turns when I come up to them; maybe it is my billowy Espada wrap-around dress that shocks her. (If she knew how much I got it for, she’d really have reason to blush. I have long renounced my ukay-ukay days with her, rummaging for “vintage” clothes.) For a while I wonder if she would even introduce me to him. There is nothing to fear now, after all; I am just someone from her dark past, who did not even come back to haunt her. I have always wanted to attend one of these exclusive invitational church services to find out what the hell was happening behind their closed doors. And why she had chosen this over me. I never cared for religion, especially after what happened between us. Which wasn’t much except for kissing in my old box-type Lancer and that one time in her room when she let me rub my leg against her hot crotch, fully clothed. The only damage I did to her virtue was a burst blood vessel in her left eye, which I hoped was due more to her sexual frustration than guilt. The next day, she proclaimed she was getting married. To that guy she had recently met in church. I imagined she needed to do that to protect herself against what she felt for me, which was wrong. After all, I didn’t belong to the same church.
Between then and now, I finished my M.S. in Systems Engineering at the National University of Singapore under an ASEAN scholarship in one year, working twice as hard as the others in my batch. On slow weekends I went to the Botanic Gardens and took macro photographs of plants. I had always been amazed by how the Fibonacci sequence appeared in flora. Especially in the panicles of the Amor secco (Andropogon aciculatus), whose seeds cling to pant legs with tenacity. Or in the alternating purple leaves of the Ti plant (Cordyline terminalis), which my mother always recommended for feng shui. “Just poke a mature cutting into the ground on your front yard and watch your fortune grow!” I’m not sure it worked for her though. Sometimes I wondered if I should have majored in Botany instead. But I’ve been working with the info systems department of the largest telecomm company since returning to the Philippines. I’m proud to say that my office developed the fully automated 3333 platform, which is used to register for special load packages. The beauty of the system is that it actually allows the company to track customer behavior and design promotions specifically to each user. We give you what you want. And we get what we want. I love my job. I never bothered her again.
And now here we are.
She hugs me and whispers, “I’m so sorry.” Then she takes my hand and leads me to a small room behind the altar, lit by those creepy electric candles. I wonder what she is up to. Doesn’t even bother with the niceties after all these years? She sits me down and finally asks how I’ve been. I tell her, but the suspense is killing me. I notice that her eyes had lost their shiftiness, as if she now knows something certain that I didn’t. She holds both my hands in hers, and looking at me intently, says, “I’m sorry I abandoned you.”
I’m not really sure I heard correctly. But I revel in my triumph. I have always known she would be sorry. My hands begin to sweat so I pull them out of her grip. I wonder why I also begin to sweat down there. I’m certain I’m finished with her. Maybe it is just the dim light of the room; or our shadows dancing on the walls. Or the opportunity to get even with her.
But before I could tell her I didn’t want her back, that I didn’t want to have anything to do with her again, that I was seeing someone else, her husband enters with Doris, the woman (from our customer relations department) who had invited me to the service. “Hon, we are ready,” he announces. Just then, Deacon comes towards me and places his right hand over my head. They stand around me with closed eyes in a circle of faith. I shudder as he “casts out” the evil from my heart. I imagine that was just the tailspin left by the escaping devils. I look at Amor and her tightly closed eyes, and her lush lips mouthing “Amen, in Jesus’ name” after each prayer. And know she wants me still.
I decide to come back next week.