It’s strangely a longer drive today going to work, because it’s supposed to be my vacation.
My watch says it’s just five minutes before 5 a.m., and here I am, already coursing through Governor Pascual Highway, alone, without breakfast, and cold.
I wouldn’t normally roll my windows down, but the atmosphere is tempting. Street lights are off, and headlights blur both drivers and passengers of every vehicle I see. I try to breathe in the relatively clean air, a luxury when you are tied to a depressing job that pays well. I wish I have more moments like this, where I don’t need to worry about getting stuck in traffic, or about picking up Rina and dropping her off to work first thing in the morning. She used to nag me for the crawl we need to endure in EDSA, for not filling up my gas tank before we meet, for the unreliable air-conditioning in my car. I look at the passenger seat, and there is no trace of Rina now. At all.
I played my Spotify playlist on shuffle, and I hear Sud’s “Make You Say.” I’ve always loved this song for the trumpets. Ah, of course. There is still a trace of Rina in this car. In my phone. In my music preferences. And maybe more than that. I remember going to Makati for the sole purpose of watching them live. Rina insisted. She told me this one, this one you’ll surely love. I’m not a fan of local music, but she was right, and I’ve been a fan since. She was always right.
This is a strange morning. I hear The Ransom Collective, B.P. Valenzuela, Garage Lung, Cheats – in that order, as I pass through the streets we’ve been lost together, finding that restaurant she read somewhere, or that vinyl shop her friends suggested. I hear every conversation threaded between her and I, while we were listening to these songs in this very car. I hear her complaining about traffic, and in between those complaints she will wipe the sweat on my face because the air-conditioning broke down again.
And suddenly I find myself steering towards the innards of Pedro Gil. I turn left, then left again, then right, until I arrive in Annabelle’s.
And there she is. There’s Rina, studying alone and smoking Marlboro Red. There’s Rina and her books on law highlighted front and back. There’s Rina, with her hair tied in a messy bun, with her chipped blue nail polish, her nose to the grindstone, preparing for her future with mettle as she always did.
I leave, hoping, again and again, that this is going to be the last time.