The best thing I like about fiction is how it emulates reality, so well that fiction becomes life in itself.
This I wrote many months ago for a workshop I gave on a state university on short story writing. Take the time to read it. I think it is a beautiful, sad, story.
The Words I Would Say
A Short Story
He did not come out of the car, the way he always did, but she knew he was perfectly waiting for her to come out; they were both running very late, after all.
“I was almost afraid you’d show up with the dirt bike,” she greeted in fake amusement, taking him in wearing a plain white shirt on the driver’s seat, as the soft thump of the door he opened from the inside closed beside her.
His hands that stretched to the steering wheel tightened. “Would you not come with me if I did?”
The question was very casual, yet the intensity of his gaze caused her to turn away. She pretended to think about it as the car began to move, but she very well knew the answer faster than diffusion, and realizing that made her laugh.
He smiled, contented with that for a reply. “I wanted to, but I won’t have space for my barong, would I?” He pointed at the traditional Filipino suit that hanged behind him. “Do you think purple is my color?”
Her eyes turned on the oversized suit inspired by Grimace. On normal circumstances, she would have answered “it’s fine,” and totally thinking it was not fine at all, but imagining his charm placed on anything, she knew it would eventually work well. “I think it would be okay, as long as you don’t go to Mc Donald’s,” she teased, and he turned to her, gazed for what felt like forever, breaking into a smile.
“Did the SUV break again?” she asked, crossing her legs.
He had that amused look she knew all too well. “No, it’s actually doing great,” he nodded with a mischievous smile. “I just wanted to try out how this car would feel,” he rested his back on the seat.
“So how many have you brought to try how this car would feel?”
“Including you?” he tilted his head to the side. “It’s been awhile, so…” he drummed his fingers on the steering wheel. He took a quick glance at her and finally answered, “One.”
It was not the answer she expected, and she drew a long breath. She shifted in her seat as an awkward silence started to creep in, only to be disturbed by the chime of his cell phone on the dashboard, and her eyes quickly darted from her feet towards the sound, and he reached for it with one hand to read the SMS, his eyes alternating between the phone and the road.
He hesitated for a moment, then announced, “They are asking me to pick them up,” without bothering to send a reply to whoever sent the message.
She was surprised to find herself biting her fingernails. “How many of you are coming?”
“Three boys, plus my partner.”
“Yes, a former classmate.”
She crossed her arms, squishing strands of her hair that reached her chest, and looked outside the window, like the greens outside where the most interesting thing in the world. “I think you five would fit perfectly here.”
His phone lit up again and her attention came back his way. He ignored the beeping and told her sourly, “I’m hungry.”
She smiled and shook her head. “Why did I expect this?” She reached for her bag and took out a sandwich Ziploc that contained flavored pieces of bread.
“It’s very early.” She took a bite of choco-marble bread and nodded at his thought. “I actually expected you not to make it,” he continued, making fun of their huge difference in sleep-wake cycles, him being very much the early riser as opposed to her having brunch every day.
She playfully hit his arm and took the piece of bread she was holding near him so he could take a bite, smiling as he did, a very good one, one of tenderness, and they continued down the road, being just like that, him driving slowly, eating in contented silence.
“Now I’m sleepy,” he complained in mock seriousness after finishing their own version of breakfast. She stroked his arm repeatedly with the back of her hand. “Maybe we should not have stayed so long last night,” she threw back thoughtfully, referring to yesterday’s birthday celebration of one of their common friends.
She tried to hide a lazy smile as she remembered how much their friends teased them before leaving the party that night, knowing that they would still be together the next day.
“No, I had a lot of fun,” he said meaningfully interrupting her thought, and their eyes met, knowledgeable of what they both mean, in full understanding between each other that goes beyond many, many words. The moment could have lasted to infinity if only her cell phone did not break out into a trance.
She rummaged inside her bag and took a glance at the blinking lights. She did not take the call, instead turned to him and asked, “What time do you think we’d be there?”
His eyes darted to the digital clock on the dashboard. “Give me fifteen minutes.” And he finally revved the engine up.
“Should I leave you here at the gate?” he asked, his clutch at the steering wheel tightening once more.
“Yes, I’ll be fine here,” he heard her reply, unbuckling her seatbelt. She leaned in and gave him the lightest kiss on the cheek. “Thank you,” she said softly he barely heard, hating herself afterwards for making it sound the way it did.
As the distance between them widened again, for a split second she saw there in the deepest darkness of his eyes, written and screaming, was the very truth they both thought they have kept from each other, but apparently seeped everywhere whenever they came close… and for a moment, her breath stopped, her chest stiff and scared, because he looked like he was about to say it out loud.
Instead, he lowered his gaze, drew a long breath, and smiled as he said in his most charming voice, “Do you think I can catch the garter and place it on some pretty girl’s leg?”
She opened the car door, resumed her breathing, and before stepping out and letting him go, she threw back, “Yes, I really think you can, if you don’t stay very long at the buffet.”
And they both laughed it out, the way they always did, the way they always would. She was not waiting for any answer after all, and he did not offer any. The last thing he said was take care. She stepped out of the car, watched it disappear, and walked away.