walking-sticks

After Forever (1/2)

“..I vow to tolerate your mood swings, as much as I can. I vow to try my best to keep you calm whenever you have your period and you want to transform into a monster; a very beautiful monster, of course. I vow to let you hold the remote control, like, 90% of the time during weekdays and and 65% on weekends. I vow to cook for you whenever you’re hungry or not or whenever you pretend to be on a diet but you’re really not, I will force you to eat, because I don’t really care if you will be big as an elephant, as long as you won’t look like a walking stick. I vow to listen to you, to you every drama, no matter how pointless they could get. I vow to ignore that fact that, sometimes, you love Channing Tatum and John Lloyd Cruz more than me. I vow to pretend that I love The Vampire Diaries when I really do prefer watching Games of Thrones, it’s more awesome. And hey, fine, I will let you use my poor finger and toesnails for your nail polish experiments, just promise you get rid of them afterward. I vow to take your side when all of your friends are against you, even if you’re the that’s who’s wrong point. I vow to shut up when you want me to, and talk when you want me to, and do both when you want me to. I vow to be your best friend, your brother, your father, your grandfather, your pet, your pillow, your blanket, your punching bag, you shoulder to cry on and your stress absorber all the days of your life. I vow to be the boy, the guy, and the man who will love you for the rest of his life. I vow to keep my every vow and you will always be my number one girl. I will love you forever.”

Julie smiled. She felt her tears fall from her eyes. She wiped them away and looked around to see if anyone caught her. Luckily, all eyes were at the two people exchanging wedding vows at the altar.

It was one of the sweetest vows Julie has ever heard. At hindi nya mapigilang hindi ma-touch. 

Then her phone vibrated inside her clutch bag. Pagtingin nya’y muli syang napangiti. Lumabas sya ng church at doon sinagot ang tawag.

“Yes?” Sagot nya.

“Pop quiz. How much would you do for love?” tanong ng lalaking nasa kabilang linya.

“Hmmm… how?”

“Really? Di man lang sumubok na sagutin?”

Julie laughed. “You should be here. The wedding is so beautiful. Narinig mo sana iyong wedding vow ni Brad kay Chin.”

“I’m the one who wrote that for him, I know every word! Please, tell me, he didn’t add any more freakin’ baduy lines.”

“He didn’t dare.”

“Good.”

Julie smiled and looked back at the church. “I really hope they will live happy ever after.”

“You organized a perfect wedding and reception for them and you weren’t talking to me for days for Pete’s sake, they owe you a lifetime of marriage.” 

Muling natawa si Julie. “I miss you. Kelan ka ba uuwi?”

“Very soon, Malay mo, I’m on my way na.”

“You know I hate surprises.”

“Don’t worry, I won’t surprise you.”

“I need to go back inside. I’ll call you later. You need to prepare that phone patch message or else I won’t talk to you for a month, okay?”

“Ang layo ko na nga, nagagawa mo pang maging bossy. Alright, alright. Enjoy the wedding. i love you.”

“Love you, too.”

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“Oh.  My. God.”

“Hello to you, too.”

Nanatiling nakatayo si Amber habang pinagmamasdan ang binatang kaharap. With an obvious expression of disbelief on her face, napailing na lang sya until a smile appeared. “You are unbelievable, you bastard.”

Elmo snorted and laughed, and put his bag down. Hewelcomed Amber into his arms as she walked towards him. His sister didn’t say anything and just hugged him for a long time. Napangiti na lang sya nang muli sya nitong titigan pagkatapos nilang magyakapan na para bang literal syang bumangon mula sa hukay.

“Dad’s right.” sambit ni Amber. “The prodigal son always comes back.”

“So you’re still his number one fan, huh.”

Amber released a cold laugh. “He just bought me a new car.”

“Tsss.” react ni Elmo. Saka napansin ni Amber ang malaking maleta na nasa likod ng binata.

“Would that be good for a month or two?” tanong nya sa kapatid.

Elmo took a deep sigh and gave his sister a very sincere smile. “It’ll be good for good.” Amber narrowed her eyes at saka inubos ang natitirang wine sa bitbit nyang baso.

“You’re kidding.” Elmo didn’t answer. “I know you and there’s no way you will stay in one place for a long time, especially not here.”

“Bakit? Ayaw mo ba?”

“For one, kahit na mukha ka pa ring sira ulo, I’m actually, sincerely happy to see you. At kung seryoso ka nga, I need you to keep your word.” Kapwa sabay na nagbago ng mood ang magkapatid at naging mas seryoso ang usapan. “He’s dying. And now you’re here, it’s time for you to finally fix things. Don’t you think?”

Elmo glanced at the stairs and when Amber noticed, napalingon sya at nakitang nakatayo roon si Brad. Maya-maya'y lumapit ito sa kanila. Diretso itong nakatingin kay Elmo. Amber looked at her two brothers. She made way for Brad to get closer to Elmo, and eventually, she felt so relieved when the two finally reached other and hugged.

“You’re back.” bulong ni Brad.

Elmo nodded slightly. “Yeah.”

“Photography?!” natatawang sambit ni Amber. “Seriously?”

Napasimangot si Elmo. “Why do you sound so surprised?”

“Wala. Hindi ko lang in-expect na kahihiligan mo iyon. I thought-”

“You thought what?”

“You’ll be into…I don’t know, business, music, or whatever. Not arts.”

“He’s our father’s son.” Singit ni Brad. “That’s just a proof.” Napabaling si Elmo sa pinakamatanda nilang kapatid. One of their dad’s hobbies is photography, at nagpe-paint din ito. “What kind?”

Elmo tried not to smile or laugh. “Weedding.” And the reaction from Brad and Amber was what he was already expecting. Hindi na nya napigilang matawa sa mga kapatid dahil sa pagkabigla ng mga ito. They look at him as if he isn’t the brother they thought they knew. Well, he’s obviously changed, so he’s not surprised.

“You hate weddings!” bulalas ni Amber.

“Who are you and where the hell is our brother?” si Brad.

“Very funny.” sagot nya. Binalingan muna nya si Amber. “I used to hate weddings, not anymore.”

“But why weddings? So you do prenups din?”

“Yeah.”

“Oh my gosh.” At saka nya pinagtawanan si Elmo. “You’re so cute, Moe, my baby brother.”

“How long have you been into wedding photography?” tanong ni Brad.

“Two years. Actually one of the reasons why I’m here is because I have two clients for this month. And I-”

“Now, look who’s here.” Sabay-sabay na napatingin ang magkakapatid sa pinagmulan ng boses na iyon. Napahinto si ELmo nang makitang nakatayo sa may pintuan si Logan, ang papa nila. Naka-simpleng t-shirt at pajama lang ito at kahit halatang maysakit ay  hindi pa rin nawawala ang kaguwapuhan nito.

Tumayo si Brad at nilapitan ang matanda. “Dad, why did you go out? You need to stay in bed for-”

“I don’t need to rest.” sagot ni Logan. “I’ll be sleeping for the rest of my life in a couple of months.” katwiran nito. Saka ito mulimg bumaling kay Elmo. “Son.”

At ang salitang iyon lang ang hinintay ni Elmo para tuluyang gumaan ang pakiramdam nya. He stood up and walked towards his dad. “Dad.”

“Moe,” si Amber, “Take dad to his room, please.”

Pagsandal ni Logan sa headboard nya'y hinila ni Elmo ang isang upuan at inilapit iyon sa kama nito. Doon sya umupo at sinalubong ang mga tingin ng ama. He’s just 50 years old when he was diagnosed with cancer, and he’s been fighting it for almost 20 years now. Nagpabalik-balik ang sakit nito hanggang sa dumating sa puntong hindi na kaya ng kahit anong treatment dahil nagkalat na sa bawat parte ng katawan nya.

“Two months.” Umpisa ni Logan. “The doctors said I have two months.” Nagbaba ng tingin si Elmo. “You know, my doctor is a very religious man. He knows miracles can really happen. He’s been a doctor for 30 years now but he never stopped believing on a higher power.” Elmo’s still looking down. “It was just 3 days ago when I came home from the hospital. I told him, ‘Are you sure I still have 2 months? Pakiramdam ko hindi pa ako nakakauwi e mamamatay na ako’. And then, you know what he told me? ‘I wish you would have more than that. But if you won’t, you have to make it at least 2 months.You still need to wait for your son to come back’.” Dahan-dahang nag-angat ng tingin si Elmoat tinitigan ang ama. "That’s why I like him very much.“ tuloy ni Logan. "And since that day, all I’ve ever wanted was for you to finally come home.  Because doctors aren’t always right. And I’m scared of thinking…hindi ko man lang makikita ang bunso ko bago ako sintensyahin.” Then Logan finally showed that smile he’s been hiding since he saw Elmo. It’s been 4 years nang huli itong umalis. “I’m happy to see you, son.”

And the tears came in quicker than the words for Elmo. “I’m so sorry, dad.” Saka ito lumapit sa ama at maingat itong yumakap. At para itong batang maliit na umiyak sa magulang. “I’m sorry.”

“It’s okay.” mahinang sagot ni Logan. “It’s okay, son.”

Elmo’s suitcase is still full and he hasn’t emptied his bags yet. Nakahiga sya sa kanyang kama, sa kuwarto nya na walang ipinagbago simula nang huli syang umuwi doon. He’s staring at the ceiling. The little stars are still there.

It was his dad who drew those stars, at ito rin ang nagpintura sa buong kuwarto nang bata pa si Elmo. He hated the design, at hindi na rin nya maalala kung ilang beses na silang nagsigawan at nag-away sa silid na iyon, sila ng daddy nya. But now, for the first time in a very long time, he finally feels he’s home. And he missed everyone so much, especially his father.

Saka sya bumangon at nilingon ang malaking bintana sa kuwarto nya na nakabukas. Madilim na sa labas at ilang oras na lang ay matatapos na ang araw na iyon.

And once again, he thought of her.

“Knock, knock!” Lumingon sya’t nakita si Amber. Nabuksan na nito ang pinto bago pa man ito kumatok. “Can i come in?”

“No.”

Amber smiled. Pumasok sya’t isinara ang pinto. Nilapitan nya si Elmo at saka umupo sa kama nito. “The old man was asking about you before I’ve convinced him to go to sleep.”

“Sinabi ko na sa kanya. I’m not going anywhere.” sagot ni Elmo.

“I know. He knows. It’s just that, hindi mo rin maiiwasang hanapin ka nya. When all you’ve done was leaving, people would always think you will leave again. Leave, come back, leave. Never stay.”

Tinitigan ni Elmo ang ate nya. Amber has been separated for 2 years now and simula noon ay lagi na itong umiinom. She stopped working and focused herself on taking care of their father, but there are time when she till breaks down and she seeks comfort on wine and liquor.

“Not if you have a reason to.”

Amber smiled and touched her brother’s hand. “It’s okay kung darating iyong araw na gusto mo ulit umalis. Just promise me, you’ll stay with dad while he’s still around.” Elmo smiled back at her and slightly nodded. Napabuntong-hininga si Amber at saka pumwesto sa tabi ng kapatid. They’re both facing the same direction and she’s still holding his hand.

“I know that… dad and us and your work aren’t the only reasons why you’re here.” Elmo didn’t react. He knows exactly what Amber’s talking about. She turned to him. “In a day, nagawa mong maayos ang lahat sa pagitan nyo ni dad, at sa inyo ni kuya Brad. You’ll be able to fix things with her, too.”

Nilingon ni Elmo ang ate nya. “I hope it’ll be that simple.”

“Just talk to her and tell her everything.”

“Ano bang kailangan kong sabihin?”

“I don’t know. You know.”

“I broker her heart.” mahinang sabi ni Elmo

“She broke yours, too. And she’s the only one who can fix it.”

,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,

The next day, Elmo woke up early to meet his first client for that month. He checked on his dad and assured Amber and Brad that he’s definitely going home after work.

He arrived at  the meeting place at exactly 7:30 AM. And he had time to study the pre-nup and wedding theme for 30 minutes. At 8:05 AM, his clients arrived. The engaged couple and their common friend, Felix.

“Moe!” At nagyakapan ang dalawa. “Sorry pare, we’re late. Traffic.”

“It’s okay, Fel.”

“Here, I want you to meet, Jessica and Billy. Jess’s my high school classmate and a very good friend. Billy’s my former officemate.”

“Hi.” Kinamayan ni Elmo ang dalawa at nagpakilala na rin sya sa mga ito. “When Felix knew we’re getting married,sinabi nya agad na he knew someone who could be the perfect photographer for us.” si Jessica.

“And since, we trust him,” si Billy. “We immediately said yes.” Elmo smiled.

“Well, this guy here,” turo ni Felix kay Elmo, “He’s really good. He’s been around Europe and South America covering all kinds of weddings. You sure won’t regret it.”

“Coincidentally, Felix is the president of my fans club so I’m glad you guys found me.” Pabirong pagmamayabang ni Elmo. “You won’t regret it indeed.”

Felix rolled his eyes. “Just excuse the conceitedness.” Sabi nito sa magkasintahan. And they all laughed and started ordering for food.

“We already have our coordinator, medyo nagtampo nga nung malaman nyang hindi namin kukunin iyong photographer nya. But she’s nice and she wants to have a meeting with you, too.” ani Jessica.

“Ahm, sya nga iyong kinuha nyong coordinator?” biglang tanong ni Felix.

“Yeah. She’s my brother’s-”

“I actually invited her to be here.” singit ni Billy.

“Oh, you did?” BIglang nalimutan ni Jessica ang nais sabihin kanina.

“Yeah, baka na-traffic din.”

Saka napansin ni Elmo ang naging reaksyon ni Felix at ang pagsulyap nito sa kanya. Napakunot-noo sya nang nag-peace sign ito at hindi pinahalata kina BIlly.

“There.” sambit ni Jessica. At dahil sa hindi maipintang expression ni Felix sa mukha, nagkaroon na ng ideya si Elmo sa dahilan kung bakit ganon ang reakyson ng kaibigan. Saglit syang napapikit at bumuntong hininga, at saka lumingon.

He saw how that beautiful smile disappeared from her face. And from the way they stared at each other, the soon-to-be-wedded-couple realized the two know one another.

“Mukhang there’s no need for introduction.” sambit ni Billy.

“Julie!” masayang bati ni Jessica. Tinignan sya ni Julie at saka ito muling ngumiti. Nagbeso-beso ang dalawa at nakipagbeso rin ito kay Billy.

“Good morning.” bati nya sa mga ito. At simpleng nginitian naman nya si Felix na kumaway sa kanya.

Elmo’s just watching her, until she sat on the remaining vacant chair across him. And their eyes met again. No one smiled. No one talked.

“Julie, seems like you already know Elmo?” tanong ni Jessica.

“Yeah. I do.” sagot nito.

“Great. Since you two already know each other, for sure hindi na kayo magkakaproblemang magtrabaho together. Elmo, Julie’s our wedding coordinator.” sabay tingin ni Jessica kay Elmo. Pagdaka'y binalingan nya ulit si Julie. “Elmo will be our photographer, Jul. Small world, huh.”

“Photographer.” sambit ni Julie habang nakikipatitigan pa rin sa binata. “Nice.” At siguradong na-sense ni Elmo ang sarcasm sa tono ng dalaga.

“Teka, parang ang tagal nyo na ring hindi nagkita ah.” sambit ni Billy. “Judging by the way Elmo being…speechless.”

Elmo was the one who looked away and turned to Billy. “Four years.”

“Oh.” At tahimik lang si Felix habang pinapanood at nakikinig sa apat. “Do you used to be lovers?” biglang tanong ni Billy.

“Honey.” awat ni Jessica habang tumatawa. “Seriously?”

“Why?” At sabay-sabay silang napatingin kay Felix na biglang napa-ehem. “They seem like they have 'a past’.”

“Actually,” Julie spoke. “We weren’t. He used to be my crush but…he didn’t feel the same way about me.” At nalipat sa kanya ang atensyon ng lahat. Muli silang nagkatitigan ni Elmo. “Did you?” And she gave him a smile.

Nanahimik sina BIlly at Jessica nang mapansin ang makahulugang titig ni Elmo at ngiti ni Julie. They finally felt the tension and both looked at Felix for help. And the latter understood.

“Well, sabi nga nila past is past. We’re here for Jess and BIll’s wedding and their future, so, lets’ eat and get started?” suhestiyon ni Felix. It was a terrible way of diverting the topic but it worked.

Julie remained composed and acted like Elmo’s a total stranger she just met and Elmo tried to do the same. After a couple of hours, their meeting ended.

“I’m so looking forward for our prenup shot.” si Jessica. “I’ll see you both in 2 days.”

“Ingat.” taning nasagot ni Elmo.

Naunang umalis ang dalawa at naiwan sii Felix kasama sina Elmo at Julie. When Elmo found a chance to talk, Julie grabbed it first. “So since you don’t have your guys with you and obviously, you can’t do it all not alone, I’ll take my photography team with me sa shoot.” seryosong sabi ni Julie.

“Sure. Just make sure you pick the ones who are not difficult to deal with.”

Julie smiled. “As long as you’re not being difficult, we won’t have any problems. Mauna na 'ko sa inyong dalawa. See you in two days.”

Felix watched as Julie walked away while Elmo just stood there and didn’t move at all. “Hey, Moe. What’re you doing?”

“What?”

“Habulin mo.”

Elmo took a deep sigh. “She won’t talk to me.”

“Pare, kung kinamumuhian ka pa rin ni Julie, hindi na yan tumuloy na makipag-meeting sa 'tin.”

“She’s just being professional.”

“Look pare, sorry kung hindi ko nasabi na sya yung coordinator, ang sabi kasi ni Jess hindi pa sure iyon. Pero you and Julie will be working together, on a wedding, for the next two weeks! You can’t have this cold relationship with her.”

Hindi na nagsalita si Elmo at napabuntong-hininga na lang nang malalim. He didn’t expect na sa ganoong paraan pa sila magkikita ulit ni Julie. And clearly, she still hates him as much as she did four years ago.

Nakahawak na sa pinto ng kotse nya si Julie pero hindi pa rin nya iyon binubuksan. Muli syang pumikit at huminga nang malalim at pilit pinakalma ang puso nya na mabilis pa rin ang pagtibok. Hindi nya alam kung galite ba sya o ano. Soon as she saw Elmo’s face, she’s been trying very hard to get herself together.

“Are you okay?”

Napalingon sya bigla at nakita ang binata, She took anothesr deep breath. “Yeah.” tatalikod na sana ulit nang,

“Can we talk?” pormal na sambit nito. Tinignan nya ito.

“No. I’m a busy person. At kung hindi tungkol sa kasal nina Jess ang gusto mong pag-usapan natin, I don’t think I have time for any 'talk’.”

Elmo took a few steps closer to her, without breaking their eye connection. “No. We need to talk about 'us’.”

Napataas ng kilay si Julie. “Us?” at sarkastiko itong tumawa. “Oh my God, are you for real?!”

“I’m serious. I need to-”

“You need to what?” biglang seryoso ulit ni Julie. At hindi na nya itinago pa kay Elmo ang galit sa mga mata nya. “I have to go-”

“Julie-”

“Don’t waste my time!”

“I want you to come with me.”

“What?! And why would I do that?”

“So we can talk?”

Hindi kaagad sumagot si Julie at galit na tinitigan lang ang binata. And then she took a couple of steps forward and didn’t blink while looking at Elmo. “I don’t want to talk to you.”

At wala nang nagawa si Elmo kundi panoorin na lang kung paano sya iniwang mag-isa ni Julie doon. He wanted to follow her and convince her, but he knows her well and her stubborness hasn’t changed. He just let her go, again.

 

“I heard that his dad’s sick.”

Nilingon ni Julie si Kasey. Kasama nya ito sa bahay at matagal nang kaibigan. Inaayos ni Julie ang planner nya at nabanggit nya kay Kasey ang pagkikita nila ni Elmo.

“Paano mo naman nalaman iyon.” tanong nya.

“Magkasama sa work ang ate nya at ate ko, remember? Di ko lang binabanggit sa iyo dahil baka mamaya mawala ka lang sa mood.” Hindi kumibo si Julie. Umupo si Kasey sa kaharapan nya. “Ano nang hitsura nya?”

“Nino?”

“Ni Elmo!”

“Ganun pa rin.”

“Ganun pa rin? Sure?” Julie just rolled her eyes. “Bakit ‘di mo man lang kinausap?”

“Seriously, Kas?!”

“What? Matagal na rin naman iyon diba? Don’t you think it’s time na para mag-stop ka na sa pagiging bitter mo? isa pa, hindi naman naging kayo-” napatigil si Kasey nang mapansing iba na ang tingin ni Julie sa kanya. “O teka teka, baka sabunutan mo ‘ko ha, tandaan mo hindi ka sa akin galit. Sinasabi ko lang naman iyong totoo e. Malay mo, binalikan ka nya para once and for all ayusin na iyong sa inyong dalawa.”

“Ikaw na nagsabi diba, di naman naging kami. Wala namang dapat ayusin.” sagot ni Julie.

“E ba’t ganyan ka ka-bitter?” Inis na tumingin si Julie sa kaibigan. “Kausapin mo na, kung ako sa iyo. Para finally, matanggal na yang mga ‘what if’ at ‘whys’ sa puso mo. At nang hindi ka na um-ampalaya.” Saka na tumayo si Kasey at tinuloy ang pagluluto ng hapunan nila.

Hindi na nakipagtalo pa si Julie. Alam kasi nyang kahit na ayaw nyang aminin ay tama si Kasey. 

,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,

“Good morning!”

Napalingon si Julie nang marinig na bumati si Billy. Saka nya nakitang dumating si Elmo at binati ang dalawang magkasintahan. 

“G’morning.” Nagtanggal ito ng shades at tinignan sya. Saglit na nagtama ang mga tingin nila at saka na umiwas ng tingin si Julie.

“Julie, nandito na si Elmo!” tawag ni Jessica.

Humarap sya sa kanila at ngumiti. “Alright, let’s start!” Sambit ni Felix. “Jess, Billy, here ipapakita ko sa inyo iyong sketch plan ni Julie.”

Nilapitan ni Elmo si Julie at pinakilala ng huli ang tatlong mas nakababatang lalaking magiging assistant photographer nya. “This is Ronie, Glenn and Jayjay. Sila iyong maga-assist sa iyo.”

“Hi.” simpleng bati ni Elmo sa kanila. Nakasabit sa leeg nito ang camera nya. Then binalingan nya si Julie. “You did the sketch plan ng photoshoot?”

“Yeah. Why?”

“Diba dapat ako ang in-charged dun? Since I’m the photographer.”

“I’m the wedding planner and I know exactly what they want, do you?”

Bumuntong-hininga si Elmo. “Are you going to be that rude to me the whole time?”

“I’m not being rude.”

“Really?”

“Guys!” Sabay silang napalingon kay Felix. “Ready na iyong dalawa. Kayo ba?”

Elmo just glanced at Julie and then finally approached the couple. Sinundan sya ng 3 nyang assistant.

Sa isang lumang church na napapaligiran ng napakagandang garden sa may Batangas sila nagpunta dahil doon napiling mag-prenup nina Jess. Pagkatapos nun at sa beach naman at ang huling location nila ay sa resthouse nina Billy.

Habang nagsu-shoot sila sa may garden ay nakaupo lang si Julie at pinapanood sila. Maya’t maya’y napapasulyap sya kay Elmo at napapansin kung gaano kaseryoso ang binata sa ginagawa nito. Hindi pa rin nya akalaing magiging photographer ito. Dati-rati’y kasi wala itong hilig sa kahit anong klase ng art puro sa pagta-travel lang ang interes.

Nagtagal ng 3 oras ang photoshoot nila sa church at garden at sa kalagitnaan ng shoot nila sa beach ay nag-decide silang mag-lunch na muna.

Nananghali sila sa isang malaking cottage malapit sa beach.

“Guys, sya  nga pala,” si Bill. “After ng shoot natin, I’m inviting everyone to stay with us sa resthouse and spend the night there. Bukas na tayo umuwi ng Manila.”

“Oo nga, para makapag-rest tayong lahat.” dagdag ni Jess.

“Go kami dyan!” sagot ni Felix na tila sumagot na sya para sa lahat.

“Elmo?” si Jess.

“Ahm…sure. Though I need to leave early tomorrow, I promised my dad na uuwi ako bukas sa bahay.”

“Alright.”

Muli ay nagtama ang mga tingin nila ni Julie at ito rin and unang bumitaw. Napansin iyon ni Felix at hindi na lang ito nag-react.

“By the way, you guys haven’t told us yet, Julie, Elmo. How did you two know each other?” Kapwa sila napabaling kay Billy. At nang walang sumagot sa kanilang dalawa’y,

“We all went to the same school nung college.” si Felix na ang unang sumagot.

“Oh, really. Matagal na pala kayong magkakilala.”

“Julie said you used to be her crush pero you didn’t feel the same way, bakit naman?” biglang tanong ni Billy kay Elmo. “Who wouldn’t like a girl like Julie?”

Nakatingin ang lahat kay Elmo maliban kay Julie, waiting for his answer. Then he smiled. “I actually did. Kaya lang, when I was meeting her halfway she’s not there anymore.”

Lumipat ang tingin nila sa dalaga and Julie was already cornered. She tried to smile, too. “Well, I wish I knew he was on his way, right?”

“Damn.” Sambit ni Billy. Habang si Jess nama’y lumilipat ang tingin mula kay Julie papunta kay Elmo. “You two have the most pointless love story. Meeting each other halfway di nyo pa nagawa, tsk tsk. Sayang.” Biro nito.

“If you knew, you would’ve stayed?” biglang tanong ni Elmo.

And everyone went silent at nagseryoso ang atmosphere. Hindi sumagot si Julie at nang mahalata ni Felix na naiinis na ito, sya na mismo ang nagbago sa mood ng usapan. “O guys, eto may tanong ako… Anong isla sa Pilipinas ang babalik-balikan mo?”

“Ano?” tanong ni Billy.

“E ‘di… CAMIGUIN!”

At dahil sa kakulitan at mga korning jokes ni Felix ay nabaling na sa kanya ang atensyon ng lahat at nakalimutan na ang topic nila kanina. Tumatawa ang lahat pero napansin ni Elmo na medyo tahimik pa rin si Julie.

Matapos nilang mananghali ay tinuloy nila ang pagkuha ng prenup shots. Julie completely ignored Elmo at hindi rin ito pumayag nang i-suggest ni Jess na sumabay na lang sya sa kotse ni Elmo habang papunta sila sa resthouse para mapagusapan nilang mabuti ang photoshoot.

Pagdating sa resthouse ay doon pa lang pinakita ni Julie kay Elmo ang sketch plan. At hindi iyon masyadong nagustuhan ng binata.

“I suggest we make some changes dito sa ginawa mo.” diretso nyang sabi kay Julie.

“What?!”

“Gusto ni Jess and Billy na sa loob ng bahay kunan lahat ng pictures at halos lahat ng mga sketches mo nagre-require ng outdoor shots. Are you sure you know exactly what the couple wants?”

Inis na natawa si Julie. “Yeah, I’m a hundred percent sure. Before they hired you to be their photographer, we’ve already talked about that. Kung magaling ka talaga, magagawan mo iyan ng paraan.”

“You don’t understand-”

“No, it is you who don’t understand. I don’t want to argue with you, okay? That’s the plane, that’s I made, and that’s exactly what we’re going to do. Clear?”

At kagaya ng inasahan ni Felix ay hindi lang iyon ang pagkakataong nagtalo at nagkontrahan ang dalawa. Halos sa buong shoot ay hindi sila nagkakasundo at napansin din iyon nina Billy at Jessica.  Because they weren’t just arguing, they’re attacking each other na para bang may iba pang dahilan kung bakit galit sila sa isa’t isa.

“Are you two, okay?” tanong ni Jess sa kanila pagkatapos ng shoot.

“Yeah. We’re good.” Si Julie na ang sumagot.

“Sensya na guys, ganyan na talaga sila ever since.” Biro ni Felix.

“By the way, Jess. Hindi ako makakasama sa inyo sa second shoot, I need to start finalizing everything. The wedding is in 10 days so ayaw kong ma-rush. I need those to be done as soon as possible.” Paalam ni Julie.

“Alright. No problem.”

Sama-sama silang nag-dinner at pagdaka’y nagpahinga na silang lahat sa kanila-kanilang mga kwarto.

Kahit pagod na’y sinimulan na ni Elmo ang pagaayos ng mga shots nya. He was busy editing some of the pictures when he accidentally opened a folder na nasa desktop. He saw some old photos from his old camera at lahat iyo’y mga litrato ni Julie, all were candid and stolen.

He stopped editing and just stared at the pictures of Julie. And he recalled the way she was treating him since they saw each other again after 4 years. He recalled the way she’s looking at him, and the way she talks to him.

Maya-maya’y nag-print sya ng isang litrato gamit ang portable printer nya.

Julie couldn’t sleep. She left her room and went outside with her laptop and a cup of tea. She opened her mcbook and dialed a number on her phone pero hindi nya nakontak ang taong gusto nyang makausap sa mga oras na iyon. She felt frustrated and sadder and lonelier.

She tried to distract herself by updating her website. She’s been an in-demand wedding planner and organizer for 2 years now and she’s created so many beautiful and memorable weddings that she couldn’t pick a favorite.

She was about to respond to a follower’s email when a photograph fell in the keyboard.

“That’s one of my favorite pictures of you. ”At alam na nya kung sino ang taong nakatayo sa may likuran nya. “That was 7 six years ago.”

Umikot si Elmo and he sat on the chair across Julie. He’s watching her looking at the photo. “Gumagawa kayo ng music video para sa isang school project. I was there, you didn’t know.”

Julie looked at him. He continued talking. “When I was in Mexico, a friend invited me to a wedding and the photographer didn’t come. Then someone handed me a camera and asked for a favor, he asked if I could take some pictures. I said yes and I ended up being the unofficial photographer that day. Nung na-print na iyong pictures the newlyweds told me I did a good job and they gave me a gift, a new camera. Then I remembered that you used to tell me how much you love weddings, then I decided to study photography and chose to cover weddings. You have no idea how much I wanted to share all those wedding experiences I had, para inggitin ka. And you have no idea how every wedding I went to reminded me of you and made me miss you more.”

“What do you want?”

“I like to talk. And to give you that picture.”

“What part of ‘I don’t want to talk to you’ you don’t and can’t understand?”

“I’m sorry.” Sagot ni Elmo.

At sapat na iyon para mag-walkout si Julie. Kinuha nya ang laptop nya’t iniwan ang tasa’t litrato sa lamesa at saka naglakad paalis. Elmo followed her and walked faster than her kaya’t naabutan nya ito’t hinarangan.

“Just leave me alone, okay?!” sambit ni Julie. “It was something you’re so good at, remember?”

“Julie.”

“Ayokong kausapin ka-“

“I’m sorry!” ulit ni Elmo.

“I don’t care about you anymore!”

“I don’t believe you.”

Julie released a sarcastic laugh. “Well, problema mo na iyon. Alis-“

“Can you just please hear me out first?!”

“No! Ayoko.”

“If you don’t care about me anymore bakit mo ‘ko iniiwasan?” Hindi sumagot si Julie at inis na napatitig kay Elmo.  “I don’t care if anything I will say won’t change whatever happened in the past or make you forgive me but I need to say it, I need you to know everything I failed to tell you. Because the last time I kept the truth, I just didn’t lose you, I lost ‘us’.”

Julie raised her brows. “Us? Bakit, naging tayo ba?” She sounded bitter, yes, but she didn’t care. She was so hurt and she never got the chance to let everything out. “Ano pa bang gusto mong sabihin? You just said, it won’t change anything and you’re right. So wag na tayong magaksayahan ng panahon, okay? I don’t want to be involved with you again.”

“I know that you still hate me-“

“No, I used to hate you so much, pero ngayon? As I’ve said, I don’t care anymore.”

“And as I’ve said, I don’t believe you.”

“What makes you think na okay lang sa iyo na gawin ‘to, ha?” Galit na na tanong ni Julie. “You broke my heart after I told you what I feel about you and you left and you were gone for 4 years, tapos bigla ka na lang susulpot ulit at you’re acting like I need to hear whatever you need to say? Na parang ganun lang iyon kadali?”

“I’m sorry-“

“Stop saying you’re sorry! Just leave me alone!” Tinulak nya si Elmo para makadaan sya. And when she was just a couple of steps away,

“I loved you.” Biglang sabi ni Elmo. That surprising confession made Julie stop. “I did. And that never changed.”

Dahan-dahang humarap si Julie sa kanya. “Hindi mo na kailangang sabihin iyan para pagaanin ang loob ko.”

“Hindi ko pinapagaan ang loob mo. It’s true. I just didn’t tell you.”

“Kasi?” Hindi sumagot si Elmo. Paiyak na natawa si Julie. “Sh*t ka pala talaga e. Ang tagal kong inipon iyong lakas ng loob at kakapalan ng mukha at katapangan para maamin sa iyo noon na mahal kita, para itanong sa iyo kung ano ba tayo, para malaman ko mula sa iyo kung ano ba talaga ako sa buhay mo. Ano’ng sinagot mo sa akin? Naaalala mo pa?” Elmo didn’t answer. “Hindi mo na naaalala? Ang sabi mo…you never saw me ‘that way’. Tapos sasabihin mo ngayon sa ‘kin minahal mo ‘ko? Paksh*t! Kailan mo naramdaman iyon? Bago ba ako umamin o pagkatapos? O after 2 years? O nung umalis ka na lang bigla?” Elmo was just staring at her. “Mamahalin mo naman pala ako, hindi ka pa sumabay sa akin.”

“Julie-“

“You asked me earlier, if I knew you were meeting me halfway, magi-stay ba ako? Magaantay ba ako? Ang sagot ko…oo, oo naman. I was that stupidly in love with you. Kaya lang ano? Nasaan ka nun?”

Dahan-dahan syang nilapitan ni Elmo. “I was so scared to tell you. Natatakot na baka kapag sinabi ko sa iyo at hindi ako sigurado masaktan lang kita. Hindi ko alam. I just realized how much a part me was missing nung wala ka na. I was thinking about you every day. I was longing for you every day. It may sound really foolish but, I realized how much I’m in love with you nung wala ka na sa buhay ko.”

“So kaya ka bumalik?” tanong ni Julie. “Kaya sinasabi mo ‘tong lahat sa akin? So ano ba talagang gusto mo? What the hell do you want?!”

“I want you back.” Hindi iyon inasahan ni Julie ngunit nagdulot iyon ng magkasingbigat na sakit at tuwa sa puso nya. “You’re the one I’m still in love with.”

Muling pinigilan ni Julie ang luha nya pero di pa rin nya magawang kontrolin. “Yes, I loved you. I loved you longer than I’ve ever loved anyone. I was willing to give you my whole heart but you pushed me way. You almost had me, but you chose to break my heart. You want me back? Minahal kita pero kahit kailan…hindi akong naging sa iyo.”

“Julie-“

“Babe?”

Sabay silang napalingon sa pinanggalingan ng boses. Mabilis na pinunasan ni Julie ang mukha nya habang gulat na nakatingin sa guwapong lalaking dumating.

“Matt?” Matthew smiled at her.

“I’m back.”

………………………tbc

3

here’s my faun evolution

1- windigo not finished yet. Quickly thrown together for dorm costume contest

2- full Windigo! mouth full og teeth, balancing antlers on my head, wig hot as hell

3- photo by Jason J Kim photography. improved by no wig, smaller anters and a walking stick! that thyrsis saved my life this year

So..

I happened to be out late in the city with friends and this random guy came around. He was holding a stick with three pieces of meat. There was an event where people throwing sticks on fire and he wanted to take a picture.

I happened to be the closest to him.

He gave me the stick and walked around taking pictures. I have to admit it was weird.

My friends now tease me.

“It was your first late night out with us and you held a guys meat stick. Welcome to College”

C25K ... wait, no

So I’ve decided to do my feet and knees a favor. I’m gonna stick to walking on the treadmill until I’ve lost some weight. 35-45 minutes of fast walking 3 times a week is better than nothing, and there is always room for improvement. I’d like to speed up but I have to accept I can’t right now. 😐

The end of Charles Darwin walking stick.

Charles Darwin owned this walking stick. It is made of whalebone, a hard-wearing material suited to walking sticks. The ivory hand grip or the pommel at the top of the stick is a skull. The skull has two glass green eyes. Darwin called his stick his ‘morituri’, a type of ‘memento mori’. These objects remind their owners of the short time people live on earth. Charles Darwin (1809-82) is famous for his theory of evolution outlined in The Origin of Species, first published in 1859. Darwin’s walking stick was collected by Henry Wellcome as a relic of someone Wellcome considered a ‘great man.’ Darwin was famous for having his great ideas when walking

2

Grass-like Mantid (Thesprotia graminis)

Also known as the walking stick or grass mantid Thesprotia graminis is a species of thespid mantid that is native to the southern United States and Mexico. Thesprotia graminis typically inhabits shrubs, flowers and grass and will catch and feed on any insects that happen to get to close. Adult T. graminis are typically active from late summer to early fall and eggs will overwinter and emerge in early spring.

Classification

Animalia-Athropoda-Insecta-Mantodea-Thespidae-Thesprotia-T. graminis

Images: Ryan Moody and Cletus Lee

2

Goliath Stick Insect (Eurycnema goliath)

…a large species of phasmid (walking stick) that occurs throughout Australia, save for Victoria. E. goliath is the second largest species of phasmid native to Australia at 25cm , dwarfed only by A.titan at 30cm. Goliath stick insects typically inhabit Eucalyptus trees and acacias, like other phasmids they feed mostly on leaves and other plant matter. Although adults have wings, only lightweight males can fly. Large males and females can only fly for a limited time as they are to heavy.

Classification

Animalia-Arthropoda-Insecta-Phasmatodea-Phasmatidae-Eurycnema-E. goliath

Images: Finalion and Nev Cross

4

Flexyfoot Ferrules

These arrived today and are absolutely AMAZING! Not cheap (got mine for £24 last week but they seem to have gone up to £32.39 for a pair) but they should last. And, once you buy them, you don’t have to get completely new ones. The end screws off and you just replace that. Available in lots of different sizes and strengths to fit walking sticks, canes, crutches, walkers etc.

They have built in shock absorbers which makes a massive difference when walking. They have this sort of spring thing in them which lets them bend so the full base is always in contact with the ground making them much much more stable then normal ferrules. I honestly can’t explain how much safer I feel. The path to my house can get quite slippy when it’s wet and I’ve fallen there a few times and the crutches have slipped countless numbers of times. They don’t slip with these ferrules! It’s also much easier to turn as the bottom part of it doesn’t move off the ground, just the top part spins.

It’s like going from a Reliant Robin to a Ferrari!

Hope to notice a difference in my hands after using them for a bit. So far, I would highly recommend them!

6

Ok, so, I’m not sure how I found this, but it’s a real thing. These are a series of illustrations from "Self-defence With A Walking-stick: The Different Methods of Defending Oneself with a Walking-stick or Umbrella when Attacked under Unequal Conditions“ by E. W. Barton-Wright, published in the Jan., 1901 issue of Pearson’s Magazine. I stole it from this site.

It reminds me way too much of Sherlock Holmes and his fighting style. 

Also, look at this mustache  

4

Walking-Stick Self-Defence in Edwardian London

The fashion in walking-sticks is to have a silver-mounted Malacca cane; everyone uses one. Everyone knows that in choosing a Malacca, it will not only serve the purpose of something to carry in one’s hand, but that this beautiful cane, the most up-to-date of all sticks, can render great service as a means of self-defence, for it can become a formidable weapon in the hands of those who have learnt how to use it.

Stick exercise falls essentially under the head of gymnastics, but if it develops muscular strength it must also be borne in mind that it renders limbs supple and gives everyone agility, elegance and grace in their movement. Moreover, referring to my long experience as a professor of physical exercise specially adapted to self-defence, I can confidently assert that the cane is the most perfect weapon of defence, as with it no one can be handicapped by size, weight, or strength, it equalises the chances of two people each armed with sticks.

There are various ways of using the stick:

1st – Holding the stick by the grip of the whole hand, the blow is delivered with a swinging hit.

2nd – The left hand can be used just as well as the right by alternately passing the stick from one hand to the other.

3rd – The stick may also be held at the ferrule end.

4th – The stick may also be held in both hands.

The blows are delivered at the head, face, body, on the hands, and at the legs. To deliver a point, the stick is made to glide through the hands. The end of the stick can also be used as a dagger.

From: "The Walking-Stick as a Means of Self-Defence,“ by Pierre Vigny, Health and Strength, July 1903, pages 253-254.