After the fiasco last time, I was glad that the articles about us had somehow dwindled. Ang dami nang naging version ng story na hindi mo na rin alam kung ano ang dapat paniwalaan. However, every article boiled down to one conclusion—that Darryl and I were already over.
“I think everyone was giving up on scoops because you haven’t been seen together for a month,” sabi ni Yna habang naglalakad kami papunta sa audio-visual room. Isasauli niya kasi ang projector na hiniram niya for their class presentation at dahil wala ang prof ko ay sinamahan ko na lang siya.
I sighed in relief. “Good. It was exhausting to be at the center of attention for months.”
There had never been a peaceful day for me since I crossed paths with Darryl. Students were always stealing glances at me, murmuring things that I could hear, every time I passed by them. It was particularly hard during classes. Instead of focusing on the lesson, most would talk quietly about me. At least now, there would be less attention, I hope.
For the past few weeks, I concentrated my energy on studying and making sure I’d maintain or improve my academic performance. Malapit na rin ang finals week kaya kailangan ko nang mag-prepare.
“The finals week is in three weeks,” sabay tingin ko kay Yna. “Make sure na basahin mo na ang Filipino readings mo habang maaga pa.”
“It’s still too early to study,” she protested.
“You’re still having a hard time understanding Filipino subjects, so you need to start early. Mahirap pa naman daw magpa-exam ang CAL department kapag finals.”
That scared her enough to worry about the finals.
Kilala ko sina Alice at Yna. Those two liked procrastinating and cramming when it comes to exams. They could score well if they put an effort, but sometimes, I worry about their laidback attitude in reviewing. Madalas ko pa silang matulungan noong high school pero dahil demanding ang course work ko kahit first semester pa lang ay hindi ko na sila masyadong natututukan. Buti na lang andyan na rin si Jess para tulungan din sila kahit papaano.
Yna and I parted way after since she still had a class. Dumiretso naman ako sa library para magbasa ng references at mag-try ng problem sets sa Math 36. I managed to get a high score in the midterms, but there were rumors that the final exam for every Math subject was the real deal. Kaya nga raw mayroong chapel room sa loob ng Math building ay dahil desperado na ang ibang estudyante sa pagpasa.
The downpour was pretty long this time. Buti na lang at nagdala ako ng jacket dahil paniguradong sobrang lamig ngayon sa library.
It was unexpectedly full when I arrived. Some were busily typing on their laptops while others were just asleep. Puno na ang solo tables at cubicles kaya naman sa long table na lang sa gitna ako naupo. I placed my things on the seat at the farthest end of the table, beside a sleeping guy, and went to search for the books I needed.
Ilang minuto naman akong nag-search sa computer para malaman kung saan nakalagay ang mga kailangan ko. Out of the four books I wanted to read, tatlo lang ang nakuha ko dahil hiniram na raw ang last copy ng isa. Agad naman akong bumalik sa table at pinatong ang books sa puwesto ko pero napatingin ako sa katabi ko nang bigla siyang gumalaw.
His head was buried on his arms and on the table a while ago, but he subtly shifted his position, enough for me to see his face. I almost fell back in panic when I realized the sleeping guy beside me was Darryl.
Good thing I managed to suppress the yelp that was about to escape my mouth. I didn’t want to cause a scene especially since everyone would surely hear it. Gusto ko sanang lumipat ng puwesto pero occupied na lahat ng seats sa long table.
I tried to focus on reading my notes again, but this guy was just too distracting. Bakit ba kasi dito siya natulog?
Bigla namang nag-vibrate ang phone ko kaya tiningnan ko kaagad ‘yon pero agad din akong na-disappoint sa nakita ko. I rolled my eyes upon seeing the message.
Hello, Tiffany. I heard you’re single already. Want someone to mend your broken heart? Haha.
Ever since our rumored breakup exploded, I started receiving a lot of anonymous text messages from creeps. Ni hindi ko nga alam kung paano nila nakuha ang number ko. I had to block and delete several numbers every day because of messages like this. Minsan, ang disgusting pa ng words na ginagamit nila. I wanted to change my number, but it was too much of a hassle lalo na at iyon ang ginagamit kong contact when it comes to projects and group meetings.
Darryl squirmed again and a crease formed on his forehead. Was he having a bad dream?
Somehow, it felt strange to see him again after a month. There were visible bags under his eyes, and it seemed like he had lost some weight. Was it because of acads? Or because of Tricia?
My shoulder flinched when he suddenly turned his head to the opposite side. I realized I had been staring at him for a long moment, and my cheeks instantly felt hot. Goodness, what was I even doing?
Steff, get yourself together! I chided myself and went back to reading.
The Math 36 problem sets made my head ache. Ilang items pa lang ang nasasagutan ko pero pagod na agad ang utak ko. Seriously, ganito ba ang problems na lalabas sa exams? Kaya ba maraming bumabagsak ay dahil ganito kahirap ang puwedeng maging tanong sa finals?
I had to take a breather after answering a difficult item. Dahil bawal kumain sa library ay palihim akong kumuha ng chocolate candy sa bag ko. The sweet taste did little to soothe my headache, but at least it eased the stress building up in my chest.
I was just staring vacantly at the shelves because my brain was already overloaded. Gusto ko sanang umidlip kahit sandali pero baka hindi ako magising dahil nakakaantok din ang ambiance ngayon.
Babalik na sana ako sa pagbabasa pero napatigil ako nang makita ko si Tricia na naglalakad. She seemed to be looking for a place to sit, and before I could turn away, her eyes had already found mine. Sakto ring bumangon si Darryl at ang una niyang nakita ay si Tricia.
I had to pull my gaze away since the two were looking at each other longingly. From my peripheral view, I saw Tricia walking out of the library while Darryl heaved a deep sigh. Bigla naman siyang lumingon sa direksyon ko at nanlaki ang mga mata niya nang makita niya ako. I immediately gestured him to keep quiet, and he managed to contain his shock.
He cleared his throat after a few seconds while I got back to reading even though I couldn’t understand the sentences any longer. I missed my chance to leave when they were staring at each other earlier, and now, it would be awkward to do anything.
Despite staring at the book, I could see that he was stealing glances at me, which made me feel unconscious. Hindi ko tuloy alam kung dapat ko ba siyang kausapin o umalis na lang ako nang walang paalam.
He suddenly leaned on the table again, but this time, his head was facing my direction.
“Did you see that?” mahina niyang tanong.
I was contemplating whether to reply or not. In the end, I gave in. “Who wouldn’t?”
Nanatili siyang tahimik matapos ‘yon. He had that melancholic expression again, but this time, he wasn’t even trying to hide it. I felt a little sting in my chest, and I wondered if it was because of his expression.
“I know that you don’t want to involve yourself with me anymore—”
“Correct,” I interjected in a whisper.
“But please hear me out.”
His pained voice almost made me feel guilty for being distant. This was not the Darryl I knew, and it was honestly hard to see him like this. I could hate and curse the conceited and jerk Darryl, but this one looked too vulnerable right now.
“This is making me crazy,” he mumbled. “This may sound ridiculous, but can you help me?”
I arched my eyebrow. “In what?”
“I desperately want to move on, but I don’t know how. Please help me.”