When asked by Pauline Navarro

When Asked

Like this.
I was minding my business, as I always do when I board a bus home. I came from an exhausting one hour appointment in Makati, and all I want to do is to sleep on the way back to Lipa.
Being myself, I would’ve normally chosen to sit by the window. I tried thinking that it happened that way, with me there, but the image of my face leaning against the glass just wasn’t clicking in my head. I guess, that day, I was different, and so I sat closer to the aisle.

Like this.
You were loud. Everything about you was a fuzzball of loudness – your bouncing curly hair, your overstuffed backpack and your fumbling about and bumping into people. There was no way for me to miss you.
The seat beside me somehow ended up being your target, and before I knew it, you were skipping towards me.
I moved over when you came, as politely as an anxious person could, and let your occupancy settle in just so I could set the proper distance between us. To no avail, of course. You kept opening and closing your bag. Looking around. Fidgeting. You moved so much that looking at you made me feel like the bus was shaking.

Like this.
You began talking to me. I can be pretty self-absorbed when lost in thoughts about just wanting to relax back in the province, and you talked to me. Strangers don’t talk to strangers. That was the cardinal rule.
I didn’t know you but you talked to me like I was familiar. It felt like a scam. My walls were already high up, you know. (But of course, you didn’t.) And so you rambled on about how amazing it was to finally meet me today and about how you’d really love to eat with me once we got off the bus at a fast food chain by the toll way exit.
I didn’t trust you and you said that so yourself, so you promised to let me hold your phone when we get off. It was proof that you won’t hurt me or something. But I was a stranger to you too, you forgot.
Why did you strike up such a weird conversation? You felt like you should, you said. I was that girl you meet once, during a commute that you will never see again unless you take chances.
The deal-maker: you told me that if you were my soul mate and I denied you the chance, it might take another lifetime to find each other again. I was sappy. You took the words right out of the back of my mind even if they didn’t make sense.

Like this.
You were supposed to keep quiet. We were done acknowledging each other. Yet you asked about the actor acting as the male lead of the bus movie that was playing.
I was surprised you were so casual. We were not even friends and my trust would take more than a bus ride to be earned.
But you kept prodding, and with defenses still up, I surprised myself by responding. Being generally nice meant I wasn’t deliberately rude to anyone, and I admit, you were someone that I was intrigued by.
You were too chirpy and when I kept my replies short, you continued telling me your story. Why was it so easy for you to open up to a no one? I looked disinterested but I was already weaving your story and figuring you out. It was dangerous to be that spontaneous and honest, if you really were, and you must know that.

Like this.
I was getting travel-sick. It was hard to keep a conversation, trying to face you. By this time, I already wanted to keep listening. You were talking about your dog.
Of course, I told you I wanted to nap. We were beyond pleasantries for me to be uncomfortable about being frank. You understood.
I leaned to the side away from you and placed my weight on my right arm. I closed my eyes and started taking everything in.
A few minutes later, barely into a decent sleep cycle, you tapped my shoulder. It was cute, how you held one end of your earphones and offered it for me to listen to your songs too. I accepted, shrugging it off as an okay.
We had the same taste in music. Or at least, I liked your songs.

Like this.
I fell asleep. And when I woke, the bus took its last turn and we were back home at last. I remembered you telling me about still feeling strange that you now live here, having come from Manila initially. I wondered if you shared my sentiment then.
We got off and I told myself to forget. You didn’t mean asking me out, did you?
But you were awake the whole trip and you were sure about remembering asking me like you seemed to be sure of everything in your life. Saying what I couldn’t, you asserted once again that we should eat together and that if you should try something funny, I could just drop your phone on the floor. You smiled so so widely.
Okay. Reality check: everything about the whole situation didn’t make much sense. I must still be asleep.
Nonetheless, I walked with you anyway.

Like this.
Exiting, it was the cue for your loudness to end and for me to start replaying everything in my mind. We waited for a jeepney by the road when we’d already said goodbye. Yet again, you didn’t respect the boundaries of polite conversation. Apparently going the same way, we ended up commuting together.
I got off first. In a span of minutes, you were able to get my number so it was alright for you, you said. You’ll keep in touch. Of course, I was content with just the moment.
Walking down the street, silently counting the footsteps from where we separated, I laughed about the coincidences. It was a good day.

Like this.
When asked how I met you, how I came to like you, I would answer them like this.

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