Thousands of people ride the MRT every single day. Maybe more than 10,000 purposes and more than 10, 000 destinations from 13 stations, whether purposely intended or the result of aimless meanderings from 5:30 am-9: 30 pm.
I do not usually ride the MRT whenever I go to Makati. I prefer the frenetic commute riding the LRT, masochistically bearing the sweaty, odoriferous, and noisy trains instead of the zooming Metro Star Express. As convenient (and clean) the MRT is, I am afraid of getting caught in its granite maze of stairs, escalators interspersed with shops, restaurants, and thousand of pounds of metal rail tracks and thousands of voltage of electricity.
Did I say the word destination? Destined. Destiny. From the Latin word destinare meaning ultimately. But do not I extol the virtues of existentialism in my daily life?
It was an uneventful ride, really. I knew where I was going, what I’m going to do when I get there. But getting there was a whole different story.
Have you ever looked into the eyes of a stranger for a minute or two, then suddenly finding yourself drowning with both feet planted firmly on the ground? All of your instincts are telling you to run away and never look back because if you don’t, you would find yourself in trouble faster than you could say heartbreak and deeper than the Y-incision of an open heart surgery that could kill you if handled by an unskilled surgeon.
That is what my gut feeling told me when I saw you approach while I was waiting for the train to arrive. Did our souls somehow recognize each other, which is why you’re face seemed so familiar? I was so sure that I’ve met you before (I just don’t know when and where) that I knew that I could reach out and trace the contours of your face and kiss you fully on the mouth without any words exchanged. Was it the way your backpack was slung casually over your shoulders or the shy smiles that we bestowed upon each other for what seemed like a million years? I don’t know. I don’t care. All I knew was that I intended to keep on drowning for as long as I could.
You could have chosen to sit not beside me but you did. I could have let other people sit between us but I didn’t.
For 10 stations, we sat beside each other. I was leaning towards you, and your hands lingered on my knee, leaving indentations on my skin as if there were no fabric that bars our skins from meeting. I caught you smelling my hair, lingering on my nape, your warm breath tickling me. I reveled in the feeling. Passengers who sat across us would think that we are lovers, sitting so close to each other that not even the merest sliver of shadow could ever pass through. They would never know that we have exchanged not one word but this connection is better than any words ever uttered. Every station that passed by signals the end of this clandestine encounter. But I knew that if we alighted on the same station, this was fate, spitting at me in the eye and kicking at me in the teeth. And we did.
At the escalator, on the way up, we were again side-by-side, like the stiff groom and bride getting nailed with rice as they were marching on the aisle. That was the last sign I was waiting for. Why I turned away and did not ask for your name or number, I would never know. I’ve reached my destination and so did you. I never knew which one of the numerous exits that you took but as I was crossing the footbridge, I looked back, somehow wishing that you followed me. But you didn’t.
Did someone conspire against me so that my appointment was moved and that I rode the MRT instead of the LRT?
The return journey was the most difficult of all. My usually relaxed and bouncy steps were replaced by the heavy thud of my sneakers. Instead of climbing the stairs (which I usually do for exercise), I took the escalators. I did not want to drag myself, loaded with disappointment and regret. I bumped 9,999 other people but I might as wheel have been in a solitary confinement. Each time the train stops at a station places more and more distance between our bodies, but not our psyche, that much I’m sure of.
Every door that slid open and closes sounded like a death knell. Heavy and unforgiving. No more second chances. Never had I been more sorry to reach the last station of the MRT. The sky was dark and the rain was threatening to fall, but this time I did not mind it. Yes, let it rain. I hope it washes off the acrid bitterness and caustic longing that lingers in my gut.
Thousands of people ride the MRT everyday, and somehow it was so inevitable that I found you. Only to lose you at the end of the line.