Does every one of us have that one person who will always haunt us, no matter how far away we move from them?
The light folded around you in ways it never did around other people.
It was a long time ago. On an island far away.
Do you remember the night the shadows looked like monsters, ancient twilit-colored beings, when we stood and talked to each other as the stars came out?
You didn’t really know me.
“I love you,” you said, “It’s not that I’m attracted to you. Nothing like that. It is only that if I would forget you, my life would stop having meaning.”
You didn’t know I was a teacher. That my father was Spanish, my mother Filipina, and that I had never been out of the Philippines. That I was 20, loved books, loved horses, and was afraid of becoming invisible. What kinds of scars I had, and how many. What I would do if the sky fell on me. If I knew the names of the stars, and which one was my favorite.
“Love isn’t numbers,” you said. “It’s magic.”
But I let you go.
The lights are blunt-edged, bouncing off the groceries I have in my shopping cart. Do you know what grocery-shopping is like in Metro Cebu? It is standing in a long line of impatient, foot-tapping people, all glaring angrily at the heavily made-up cashier who seems to think that there is an eternity of time before her in which she can run items under the barcode reader.
The mind wanders in such a tedious, air-sucking space. The eyes wander, across bags of Tang powdered mango juice, packages of ready-made chocolate stew and instant noodles, neon-green bags of baby diapers. Across the dull gray-white floor, wandering, wandering, they land suddenly on you.
Is it really you, after a silence of 7 years? You are looking at me in the way you used to, like I am something rare and intangible, about to disappear.
It is not you.
The light never folds around anyone in the same way it folded around you. I cannot remember your face; but I cannot forget you.
Where are you?
I sit with my family and listen to music, and words like “birds” and “fly” remind me of you.
You wanted to be a pilot.
“Vamsi? Is this you? Do you remember me?” I type on a Facebook account I have found, after hours of exhausting searching.
“WOW! Yes, this is Vamsi. How did you find me? You still remember me; that’s great! How are you anyway?”
We meet; we drink coffee; we talk; we laugh; we drive; we watch a movie; we put each others’ arms around one another.
I know you now.
You know me.
We are both married. To other people.
Nikki Martinez is a research writer from Cebu, Philippines. She collects prize-winning books and writes for local newsletters. She is currently working on her first novel, Green Stones.
–Art by Piotr Kaczmarek