Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Almond Eyes

It’s a lovely afternoon. The weather is cool and the sky is clear and blue.

Jonathan gives his signal and the camera begins to roll. Julia gracefully plays a province girl washing clothes by the river. She is laughing and chatting with other girls. She throws her lines, she laughs again. Then, she points out a rainbow shining in the quiet horizon. The girls show their excitement. Julia smiles more. She looks very comfortable in the picture.

Jonathan stares at her from his director’s seat. Her beauty is soft, enchanting, and he likes it when her eyes twinkle every time she beams a smile.

Finally, Jonathan says, “Cut.”

The girls start to get off from the water. Julia follows too. Her head hurts. She wasn’t really feeling well since this morning but she’s glad she was able to finish the last shoot for the day. Suddenly, she feels dizzy but she keeps walking. She needs to change, she feels cold with her soaked clothes.

Her assistant, Sheila comes to her holding a bathrobe. But just before Julia could reach for her robe, her sight blur and everything turns black.

*********************************************************************************

The bedroom is dark, except for the light that comes from the lamp stand beside her bed when Julia opens her eyes. She slowly gets up. She doesn’t feel cold anymore but she can still feel a little pain in her head. She swings her legs to the floor and stands up.

The door opens and a tall man turns on the light. It’s Jonathan.

“What are you doing here?” Julia asks, a little disoriented.

Jonathan opens the door wider to give way to Sheila who is holding a tray with a bowl of fresh noodles and vegetables. She places the tray on the coffee table beside the glass door facing the bed. Then she opens the glass door so fresh air could come in.

“Are you hungry?” Sheila asks.

“Yeah…”

Julia sits on a chair.

“Just call me if you need me.”

“Ok, thanks Sheila.”

Sheila leaves and closes the door.

“Do you still feel cold?” Jonathan asks.

“No…” she says lightly.

He sits on the chair next to her.

“You passed out this afternoon after we did the last shoot.”

His gaze is fixed on her.

“You had a high fever.”

“I’m sorry…I wasn’t feeling well today…” she says quietly.

“And you didn’t tell me? Or Sheila?” his voice is cold.

“I’m alright now, Jonathan….” she says, not looking at him.

“Do you know that you, passing out this afternoon, show how irresponsible you are?”

“It won’t happen again, I promise…”

She takes a sip of soup with her spoon and starts eating her noodles.

Jonathan’s gaze is still on her. She must be hungry. Sheila said she loves noodles and it looks like she’s enjoying it tonight. Her hair is a little rumpled and she looks so frail and pale and beautiful.

Julia looks at him.

“What?”

“You are so thin. You’re skin and bones. I honestly think I could break your bones with my bare hands. Haven’t you been feeding yourself?”

“I’m fine …How many hours did I sleep?”

“Five.”

*********************************************************************************

Jonathan was having his regular morning jog when he saw a woman sitting on one of the benches along the jogging area of Manila Bay. She was facing the sea, holding a notepad on her lap. She was wearing a comfortable vintage t-shirt and a pair of jeans, and she looked simple, very simple. But there was something about her that drew his attention. He couldn’t figure out what it was so he decided to sit beside her. She glanced at him for the first time and there he saw what he was looking for – her almond eyes that reflect both serenity and solitude. He didn’t want to look away because he wanted to see more, to know more and understand more about those eyes. That moment, he promised to himself not to end the day without him convincing her to play the lead role in his next independent film.

*********************************************************************************

Julia finishes her bowl of noodles. This time, Jonathan gives her a tablet of aspirin. Julia takes the tablet and drinks some water.

“Thank you…”

Suddenly a mild wind blows.

“Do you feel cold again? Would you like me to close the glass door?”

“No, it’s okay…”

Jonathan leans his back comfortably on his chair.

“You won’t be on the set for the next two days…”

“What?”

“You heard me.”

“But I have a lot of scenes to finish for the next five days… you know that…” Julia says, a little worried.

“You can finish them after you take your rest…”

“Jonathan, you know I cannot do that…The crew worked so hard to prepare for this week’s shoot… I can’t afford to be the cause of delays…”

“For once, will you stop being stubborn, Julia,” Jonathan says strongly.

“You know I’m making sense here.”

“I’m the director… I call the shots.”

“I’m the one who owns my body and as far as I’m concerned, I’m the one most capable of knowing the things that I can or cannot handle…” she says defiantly.

“Really? So that’s why you ended up passing out this afternoon… because you are very capable in knowing what you can or cannot handle, right, Julia?”

She falls silent, a little irritated.

“Do you think I don’t know?”

Jonathan looks at Julia intently.

“You’ve been tiring yourself every single night writing on your notepad. And sometimes, you just go out of your room in the middle of the night, and watch TV. And you don’t eat on time. Are you trying to kill yourself?”

“Do I have to explain every single detail of my life?”

Julia is furious.

“And what is it to you if this is how I live my life?”

“I hired you for six months to do the role, and I have no plans of dropping the film on the second month just because my lead actress died due to lack of sleep and starvation,” he says dryly.

They are both silent for a while.

“Okay, I’m sorry… But I still think it’s absurd that you will postpone the shooting just because you think I need to rest… ”

“Aren’t you giving up, Julia?”

He speaks her name with an icy menace.

“Fine.”

She tries to stand up trying to dismiss their argument but then she felt a tinge of pain in her head again. She decided to stay seated.

“You can’t do this forever, Julia…”

Her almond eyes meet his gaze and immediately shift on the table, but even then, she could feel the force of his gaze.

*********************************************************************************

Julia had given her first love to a man whom in the end made her feel unloved, unappreciated and unimportant. She lost her smile since then. It’s a good thing there’s a camera that could command her to smile or laugh. Those are the only times that people could see her brightened face.

Sometimes, he would hate her for not fighting a good fight, for not being strong enough to face pain and letting herself lose the battle of failed love. Sometimes, he would hate the man who had done this to her. He would want to beat and crush him into pieces. But most of the time, he would want to take care of her and protect her from all the dragons of the world.

*********************************************************************************

“What are you trying to write on your notepad by the way?” Jonathan asks in a gentle voice.

“Anything…”

“Like what?”

“My thoughts…”

“You like doing that?”

“Yeah… it makes me feel better…”

Jonathan nods.

“So…how did I get into my room after I fainted this afternoon?”Julia asks lightly.

“I carried you from the location and asked Sheila to call for a doctor.”

“You didn’t have to do that…”

“Didn’t have to do what? Call a doctor to examine you?”

“You didn’t have to carry me all the way from the location and bring me to my room. You have your crew or other people to do that…”

A bitter smile curves his lips.

“You don’t have to shut your doors twenty-four hours, Julia. Let someone help you once in a while… Let me help you…”

Her throat is tight and painful.

“Why would you want to help me, Jonathan?”

“I don’t know… I just feel that I need to…”

Her almond eyes turn to him.

“You always love helping people…” She gives a brief genuine smile.

It is Julia’s first real smile tonight. Jonathan is pleased.

“You should learn to smile even if you’re not in front of the camera…”

Julia chuckles.

“See…you look younger and lovelier…” He smiles with genuine amusement.

“Stop mocking me, Jonathan…” She smiles again.

That smile. Jonathan is willing to give anything for that smile.

“So what do you intend to do after the film is finished?” he asks.

“I guess I’m going home to Davao,” she replies.

“But… you’ll still be coming to Manila once in a while, right?”

“Yeah, definitely… You know what, you should try filming in Mindanao… It’s a beautiful island…”

“I know… I have plans of doing that… maybe after this film. But you should promise me that you’ll let me hire you again…”

“Sure… but since that would be my territory, I’ll be establishing some rules…”

“Like what?”

“You’ll not be allowed to whine…”

“Whine?”

“Yeah…”

Jonathan gives a short laugh.

“Julia, you are the most stubborn woman living on earth… Well, at least for me… How do you expect me not to whine over your stubbornness?”

Julia laughs too.

“I can’t believe that you’re making me laugh after you infuriated me with your whining tonight…”

Jonathan hopes that it will always be like this – seeing her laugh on a beautiful night with the glittering stars laughing along with her, and the friendly wind blowing her hair as if blowing all her hurts away.

“You’re beautiful…”

Julia’s hearty laughter fades. Her soft gaze rests on Jonathan. A slight smile curves her lips. Her eyes are smiling too. Suddenly, tears start to flow from her eyes down to her cheeks.

“You are such a good person, Jonathan…”

Jonathan’s throat is clipped. He can only stare at the woman in front of him smiling and crying at the same time.

All the more, he feels the desire to hold her and assure her that everything’s going to be fine, and that she can cry as long as she wants until the last drop of tear escapes from her eyes. Then, she will be happy again.

Julia wipes her tears.

“I’m sorry…” she smiles again.

“Do you know why rainbows are so special, Julia?”

She shakes her head, still wiping he tears.

“No…”

“They are special because you can see them now and they are gone in a moment... so every second that you spend just looking at them is important, because you know that at any moment, their beautiful colors will fade away and you’ll see them no more…”

Julia is gazing at Jonathan’s sincere eyes.

“I guess you should also see your life like it is a rainbow…”

Julia smiles.

Someday, Jonathan will let her know that she is special, she is loved, she is important and she is accepted.

For tonight, Julia doesn’t need to hear those words from him, because just looking in his eyes, she knows that she is.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

White Roses


“I’m sorry I’m late.”

“It’s alright.”

Noah is busy adjusting the lens of his camera. His back is facing Karen, who arrived fifteen minutes late. She’s upset. It’s not usual for her to be late especially in business appointments. And who can blame her? Her boss just asked her to drive all the way from the city to his rest house which is practically located in the middle of a forest.

Now, she’s standing here in her boss’ safe haven surrounded by trees which are approximately fifty feet tall. She watches him take pictures of leaves and flowers and insects and so much more. The trees around her scare her a little. But the place is peaceful…very peaceful and she likes it.

Noah turns around to face her, “Do you have it?”

“Yes,” she answers, showing him a white folder.

Noah covers his camera lens, packs it in his bag and says, “Come with me.”

He immediately makes his way through the thick forest.

Are you serious? Karen says to herself. Is there any living person on earth who would actually sign a document in a forest? She adds.

Nevertheless, she follows Noah. As she makes her first step into the forest she finds herself entering a different world. The tall trees still scare her but she tries her best not to be bothered by them.

Noah and Karen can smell the fresh scent of nature and the only sound that they can hear is the music made by the serene voices of the trees. It gets cooler as they continue to make their way into the forest. They step on moist ground where wild grasses grow. They step on dry leaves, on twigs, on small stones. Karen is just glad that she’s wearing flats today.

Noah keeps his eyes straight but his thoughts are with the woman behind him. He has seen the look on her face when he told her to come with him. He smiles with the thought of it. He hopes she’s not scared or displeased.

“Are you okay?”he asks.

“Yah…”

After a few minutes of walking inside the forest, Karen feels better. She realizes that she needs that particular moment, that moment of peace.

“We’re close…”

“Okay…”Karen replies.

It’s funny how two people who used to be friends suddenly feel cold about each other or perhaps pretend to be cold for some reason.

This time, Karen can see a colorful lawn ahead of them. She’s excited to see what it is. A few more steps and they reach the place.

“We’re here,” Noah says.

Karen is speechless. She is now looking at a small circular meadow surrounded by trees. She can see roses of different colors. She has never seen such gorgeous roses like these, right at the heart of the forest.

“You’ve grown all of them?”she asks.

Noah smiles and nods.

Of course, she tells herself. Noah was good in growing different kinds of roses.

“I’ll show you something,” Noah says.

Noah leads her closer to the roses and shows her the only white rose planted in the middle of the other colored roses.

“Why, she’s alone,” Karen says.

“She’s the only survivor among the other white roses that I planted. I never thought growing white roses would be that difficult.”

“She must be special to you.”

“She is.”

Suddenly, there is silence. Both of them are looking at the only white rose in that garden. They both know how Karen loves white roses so much. She could place dozens of white roses in her flower vase if only she could spend a fortune for them every day. And Noah used to give her white roses too, not just once but many, many times.

Karen was sixteen. She was walking on the streets of Liliw, Laguna holding a basket of white roses. It was her birthday. She was wearing her favorite yellow dress and white shoes. She was so happy that she has bought all the white roses available at Adelina’s flower shop at a discounted price. She was excited to go home and place the white roses on her vase.

She was peacefully walking until a group of young college boys appeared. They were enjoying themselves in a bicycle race. She knew some of them. They were her neighbors. She walks toward the side of the street to be safe. Unfortunately, one of the boys lost his balance and accidentally crashed into her. Karen lost her balance too and threw her basket of white roses. Suddenly, Karen found her dress soiled and her white roses ruined.

She stood angrily and shouted at the boy wearing faded blue jeans and white t-shirt.

“Look what you’ve just done!”

            “I’m sorry miss… it was my fault,” the boy said in an apologetic and sincere way.

            “Of course! Who else’s is it?” Karen was seriously irritated.

            “I will buy you another bunch of roses…” The boy looked concerned.

            “I’ve bought all the white roses in the market today, just to let you know!”

         She was close to tears. Before teardrops could flow down her cheeks, she ran away leaving her basket and her ruined white roses.

            The other boys were just smiling, feeling like they were watching a scene in a movie of some kind.

            “Who is she?” the boy asked.

            They replied in chorus, “Karen.”


         It was already four in the afternoon. Karen was sitting on a rocking chair on their veranda holding Paolo, her favorite teddy bear. Her eyes were still sore after hours of crying and weeping. She couldn’t forget her white roses.

            Everybody was busy preparing a hearty dinner for her birthday. But she has lost all excitement since that boy on the street murdered her lovely roses. She was sitting comfortably when she noticed a boy waving his hand behind their wooden gate.

            She went to see who it was. When she drew closer, she recognized that it was the boy who crashed his bicycle into her on the street this morning. She opened the gate and snarled, “What are you doing here?”

            “I came to give you these roses in exchange for the ones I damaged this morning,” he said in a humble voice.

         Karen’s eyes brightened. The white roses in front of her looked beautiful…very beautiful and they looked fresh too, fresher than what she has bought this morning. She took them from his hand without any hesitation.

            “Thank you… Where did you get them?” she asked, unable to hide her fascination.

            “I grow them in our backyard…”

            “Oh, really!”

            The boy gave a sweet smile and extended his hand, “I’m Noah,” he said.

            Karen looked at him with gratitude in her eyes, extending her hand as well.

“I’m Karen.”

            She invited Noah to come in.

“Please stay until supper. My family is preparing a delicious dinner. It’s my birthday…”

            “Oh… Happy birthday…”

            “Thanks…”

           Noah was twenty one. He was new in the neighborhood. He just lost both of his parents in an accident so he was left under his grandmother’s care. Noah and Karen became friends. They went out with their other friends and they rode bicycles together. Noah even taught Karen how to grow roses but she always failed, and when she finally decided to give up, she ended up receiving roses from Noah every time.

“She’s beautiful,” Karen says, almost in a whisper.

“Would you like me to take a picture of you with the roses?”

“No, thanks… it’s okay…”

“I wouldn’t mind,” Noah insists.

“Okay then…”

Noah takes a picture of Karen – the woman whom he had loved for many years. But they were so young then. Her parents didn’t approve and he couldn’t blame them. All parents feel responsible for the future of their children.

The camera flashes.

“Thanks,” Karen says.

Yes, she loved him. It has always been him. But she was scared – of love and of the future. He left and she never saw him ever again. Until that one Monday morning. A new IT head was assigned in their department. It was Noah. She was so surprised to see him, and happy, and excited. She felt so proud of him.

But they were never the same again. The friendship that they had was long lost, forgotten and left behind. Ten years have passed. Ten long years, and it was as if the long waiting, and pain, and regrets, and sorrow have swallowed everything that was left for them to be together.

“Oh, before I forget…” Karen hands him the folder in her hand.

“Let’s sit over there…”

They sit on a rock shaped like a perfect seat. Karen gives Noah a pen and he starts signing.

Has he brought her here too? Karen asks herself.

The first time she saw Marie, Noah’s fiancĂ©e, at the office, she felt her heart was being crushed by thousands and thousands of boulders. She couldn’t breathe. She wanted to shout. She wanted to tell Noah he was making a big mistake. That they belong together. That they should be together. She has cried for long nights. She got tired and beyond any doubt, she forced herself to understand and realize that the hope between her and Noah died after he left ten years ago.

Noah signs the last page and hands over the folder to Karen.

“Thank you,” she says, “I need to go.”

Karen quickly stands up wanting to run away from Noah, from the roses, from everything.

“Sit down,” Noah says in an authoritative voice.

Karen obeys. He is her boss.

“What’s wrong?” Noah asks looking at the woman beside him.

“Nothing…” Her eyes are on her lap.

He stares at her. She’s pretty, he says to himself. She has always been pretty. The truth is, the first time he saw her on the street holding her basket of white roses, he thought that she was the prettiest girl he has ever seen. He was enthralled by her beauty and that was probably the reason why he lost his balance that day.

Noah looks away to face the roses in front of them, “I saw you at church last Sunday.”

“Really?” Karen’s eyes are still on her lap. Her fingers are playing with the pen.

“I haven’t got the chance to thank you for bringing me to church ten years ago,” he says. “That day really turned my life big time.”

Karen smiles.

“I’m so glad you’ve finally reached your dreams...”

“Thanks…it wasn’t easy but it’s worth it.”

“How’s your Nanay Nita?”

“She died last year…”

Karen knows how Noah loves his grandmother so much.

“I know she’s proud of what you’ve become…”

Noah smiles as a reply and then there is silence again.

“Your roses really look good, you know… I mean, fabulous.”

He smiles again.

“Does she like roses too… Marie?” she asks.

“Hmmm… not really… but she appreciates them. She likes pets more than flowers.”

Karen gives a slight nod.

“So how is it going between you and Michael?” Noah asks.

“What?” Karen is surprised and a little confused with his question.

“I mean…”

“You think Michael and I are together, don’t you?”

“Aren’t you?”

Karen laughs.

“Michael and I are friends. We have been since college. He’s getting married this year.”

Good.  

“I should be the one asking… how is it going between you and Marie?” Karen forces a smile.

“She broke off the engagement.”

Karen looks at him in astonishment.

“I’m sorry…”

“It’s okay… she deeply believes I’m in love with someone else.”

“Oh… so, is it true?”

“I haven’t faced that reality until she slapped it to my face.”

Karen keeps silent.

Noah stands up and makes his way to the roses. Then he comes back holding a white rose.

“You just picked the only white rose out there,” Karen says. “I thought she is special?”

“She is…but her worth won’t mean a thing if she’s not offered to someone who is more special than her…”

The rays of the sun beam on the quiet meadow illuminating everything that it touches. The trees sing their songs, the roses dance with joy and heaven looks down and smiles at the woman in a yellow dress and the man wearing faded blue jeans and white t-shirt. 

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Purple Coffee


The alarm clock rings at 5’oclock in the morning. Jasmine lazily stretches her arms and reaches the side table to turn off the alarm. Once again, she hugs her pillow and folds her legs. She’s still sleepy from last night’s dinner date with her friends. She doesn’t want to get up but she has to. She made herself a promise and she has decided.  She slowly forces herself to move; she gets up, washes her face and brushes her teeth. Then, she pulls her running clothes from her closet. She combs her hair and pulls it up and finally wears her socks and slips her feet into her running shoes.

It’s the first day of September and this day will be different for Jasmine. Today, she will not be reporting to the architectural firm which has stressed her for almost 5 years, she won’t be meeting Paul and she will be living her life in such a way that she has never lived before. She closes their front door and looks at the purple hue of the peaceful sky. A mild breeze plays with her pony tail hair. It’s quite dark and she’s a little scared because she has never done this alone before. Nevertheless, she takes the last step on the porch, gets into her car and leaves.

She reaches the place. She gets out of her car. The sky is a little lighter now. She can hear the music-like chirping of the birds and notices a group of people doing their warm-up exercises together. She distances herself a little from the group and does her own warm-up exercise her older brother Dan taught her years ago.  It would have been better if she’s doing this with him today or with her little sister Micah, or with her best friend Vashti or with Paul, she thought. But they are not with her right now. The two are out for a long weekend; the other one is busy with her growing business and the last one - the one she will never have the chance to be with ever again.

After a 10-minute warm-up, she starts to walk leisurely on the paved pathway. The park is neat and clean, peaceful and relaxing. It is a 15- minute drive from her house. She used to come here with her two siblings when they were kids. They loved to run around, play hide and seek, fly kites and so much more.  It’s a good thing that they can still spend time with each other in this park despite their loaded schedules. Just two weeks ago they had picnic together. They went biking and flew kites. They had fun as always. But today would be different. Jasmine will face her day alone with all her comforts laid down on the ground - leaving her job, her old habits, her routine and Paul. She has decided to begin a new life and a new hope to live for.

The air is so cool that it could actually pass through her white cotton jacket and jogging pants.  She begins to jog slowly and carefully. The air that she breathes is so fresh that it brings comfort to her soul. She smiles as she sees the sun peaking behind a huge cloud. It’s almost sunrise. She continues to run as she gradually sees the colorful bougainvilleas along her path. After a few minutes, she stops and stands under a huge acacia tree to see and experience the sunrise. The sun rises slowly and magnificently as if it intends to conquer the world. Its light shines brighter and brighter bringing warmth to every creature that it touches. Jasmine closes her eyes and utters a prayer.

“Why close your eyes when the most magnificent sight lies in front of you?”

Jasmine opens her eyes and is surprised to see a man standing beside her staring at the sunrise.

“Dave…”

“Hello Jasmine.” Dave smiles as he looks at her.

“I didn’t know you’re in the country…” Jasmine says, so surprised to see Dave.

“Are you jogging alone?” Dave asks, still smiling.

“Yes…”

“Would you mind if I join you?”

Great, so I wouldn’t be alone this morning, Jasmine thought. She smiles and says, “I wouldn’t mind…”

They face the sunrise once again. This time, just the camera does in the movies, their view of the sunrise zooms out making them see the whole picture of the grandeur in front of them – luscious trees, bright blue sky and graceful birds welcoming the magnificent sunrise.

            “It’s a wonderful day, isn’t it?”

            “Everyday in this hometown is a wonderful day,” Jasmine replies.

            Dave gives a warm smile. “Let’s go.”

            Both of them start jogging in a slow pace. The sun is up but the air is still cool.

            “I heard you’re working in an archi firm.”

            “I did... but I resigned a month ago…”

            “Oh… That is surprising...”

            “I guess I needed to turn my life a little bit...”

            “For what?”

            “To make my life more beautiful… I guess...”

Dave nods. “So how’s the newly unemployed girl?” Dave asks with smile on his lips.

            “Happy and so free as a bird.” Jasmine smiles almost laughing.

            “So what do you do now?”

            “Well, I’m starting to paint again and do some sketches.”

            “Good…Are you planning to open up a studio soon?”

            “Yeah... Definitely.” Jasmine’s eyes shines as she answers his question.

            “That’s good for you.”

            “Thanks.”

            They start to jog faster and suddenly, everything feels right for Jasmine – jogging in her favorite place, leaving behind all the things that bring her stress and looking forward to her new dreams.

            “I heard you’re doing business…”Jasmine asks.

            “Yes and so far, everything’s fair and good…”

            “Wow, congratulations,” Jasmine says.

            “Thanks...”

            Dave and Jasmine went to the same high school. Dave was a year older than Jasmine. She was a junior when they got acquainted in a student organization.

            “So, how are you?” Dave asks.

            “Me?” Jasmine gives a short laugh. “I’m… better…”

            Jasmine lets out a smile but Dave can sense a tinge of sadness in Jasmine’s face. It may not be that deep but he knows it’s just there, hiding in the sheen of her eyes.

            They continue to jog while taking pleasure in gazing at the beautiful sight that they have missed for a long time. Dave thinks about the woman beside him. He wonders how she is feeling right now, after all the sudden changes that happened in her life. He wonders how she is coping with all of those things. Is she really feeling better now? He hopes she will tell him something or anything to lighten whatever she is going through right now.

            Jasmine is thinking about Dave jogging alongside her in this perfect place. She’s just glad she has Dave to join her this morning. They weren’t particularly close when they were in high school but being both student leaders, they frequently interacted with each other, like when there are school programs and off-campus activities. Looking back, she can say that she knew Dave as a responsible person, intelligent, humble and compassionate. She also remembers that he’s good in playing the guitar and sings well too.

            After a few minutes of silence, Jasmine starts to jog slower and eventually starts to walk. Dave also slows down to her pace.

            “I’m sorry... I’m tired...”

            “It’s okay… You haven’t jogged for a while, have you?”

            Jasmine smiles. “Yes… I guess I need to start working at it again...”

            “Now, you have all the time you need to catch up…”

            “I haven’t done this since… since Paul... left…”

Paul, Dave thought. Suddenly he feels jealous hearing his name.

            “I heard about what happened… I’m sorry…”

            “It’s okay Dave… I’m not here to grieve… After I left my job and when I left home this morning, I decided to live again – to do the things that I loved doing, to do the things that I would want to do, to embrace life as it is.” Jasmine smiles although sadness is still visible in her eyes.

            “Do you miss him…? Paul…?”

            “Yes… I miss him everyday…”

            He shouldn’t have asked, Dave thought.

            They continue walking then suddenly, “Look!” Jasmine points at a flock of birds flying in a V formation. She stops to gaze at them.

            “Do you like birds?” Dave asks.

            “Yes,” she replies still looking at the birds.

            Standing beside Jasmine, Dave stares at her simple yet pretty face smiling at the birds above her. Nobody knew that Jasmine was Dave’s first love. He kept it a secret in high school because he was too shy to let her know or perhaps he wanted to become a much better person first, someone who could be worthy of her. So he waited until they finished high school. But he was forced by his parents to study abroad. After college, he learned from his friends that Jasmine was engaged to a man named Paul.

            “Do you know that when birds decide to migrate from one place to another, they are actually taking a big risk?” Jasmine asks in a soft voice.

            Dave looks at the birds flying farther. “No… Why?”

            “Because not all of them will get the chance to get there. Some of them will get tired, some will starve, some will get sick and most of them will eventually die…”

            Dave stares at Jasmine once again. She is looking at the birds flying farther and farther in the sky.

            “I really hope all of them will make it…”

            Still staring at Jasmine, Dave thinks. Jasmine is so different from the many girls he had met in different places. Even way back in high school, and this morning when he saw her closing her eyes with the rays of the sun touching her face, every time she flashes her sweet smile, when she says words with all gentleness and sincerity, Dave knows Jasmine is special.

            “Days before Paul died; he brought me to church, just like he always does… He told me that life is a battle of passion…unless you find that special thing, that very thing that will stir your soul and will make you wake up every single day and gives your life meaning, then you will never be truly happy. That wonderful thing is meant to be lived for, he said, it’s a blessing from above.”

            Dave looks at the sky thinking about how deep the presence of Paul was in Jasmine’s life. Will she ever want to open her heart for a new man to love her and take care of her for the rest of her life? But he’s glad hearing those words from Jasmine. Those words gave him the assurance that Jasmine was cared for by a good man. 

            Jasmine crosses her arm and looks at Dave. “Have you found yours?”

            Dave smiles and suddenly thinks about his life abroad. He was in college when he started to extend help and service to nursing homes and then eventually, he decided to plant and grow the seeds of a business venture which will enable him to support the homes financially. That personal ministry gave him great joy and gave his life a purpose.

            “I guess I had…,” he answers.

            Jasmine smiles.

            “Let’s sit for a while, your legs must be tired,” Dave says, leading Jasmine to a wooden bench a few meters away from them.

            “I remember you as a junior student in high school – smart, driven and a dreamer.” They are now sitting comfortably on the bench. “I know you can get through this.”

            “Thanks Dave… You’re still the same Dave I met in high school.”

            “You mean I still managed to maintain the youthfulness in me?”

            Jasmine laughs. “Whatever you say David…”

            Dave is good-looking guy. He was the campus crush way back in high school. But Jasmine only saw him as an older fellow student leader in school. She admires him for his intelligence and his dedication to the principles that he believes in. More than that, she sees him as a good role model and perhaps, a good friend.

            “So how’s David the Great?” That’s what they called him in high school. “You’ve been away from the country for years and I’m just so surprised to see you today… really…”

            “I’m visiting my outlets in the country…”

            “What’s your business by the way?”

            “Coffee shops…”

            “Oh… so you own coffee shops in the country… What’s the name of the shop?”

            “Purple Coffee…”

            Jasmine faces Dave, filled with surprise. “Really?” Jasmine asks wide-eyed. “That’s one of my favorite coffee shops! Nobody told me you own those shops…”

Dave smiles.

          “Hey, this is my chance to get an answer to my long time question straight from the Purple Coffee shop owner…”

            Dave laughs, amused with Jasmine’s excitement. “Okay, shoot!”

          “Why Purple Coffee? What’s the relevance of purple to coffee?” she asks, thrilled to know what Dave’s answer to her question would be.

            Dave clears his throat and with a smile on his lips says, “Well, I always like to drink coffee after dawn waiting for the sunrise when the sky starts to turn purple… It calms me when I’m sitting at the porch waiting for the brightest part of the day to come… It’s like having a new hope and new things to look forward to…” Dave slowly leans back on the bench. “Did I answer your question perfectly?”

            Jasmine turns her gaze on the little pond five meters away from them. But her mind is on Dave’s answer. She imagines a man sitting on the porch looking at the purple sky waiting for sunrise and enjoying every second of it with a coffee mug in his hand.

            “That was so nice Dave…” She looks at Dave. “I like it.”

            “Thanks…”

            “So when are you leaving the country?”

            “I don’t know yet... maybe after a month or two... I’m not sure… I missed so many things here… I just… I just want to stay for a while…”

            “That would be great Dave… You should have a break… Life loses its meaning without a great break.” She smiles.

            “Ok, I’ll take that break on one condition…”

            “What condition?”

            “You’ll give me some of your time spending that break with me.”

            “On one condition…”

            “What condition?”

            “You’ll treat me to your Purple Coffee every time you get to steal my precious time,” Jasmine says with a smile. “Deal?”

            “Deal.”