This one’s for Ate Natz.
The sun was searing but a cool breeze blew as I flagged down a bus rumbling through the dusty, potholed road. The girl by the window sitting behind the driver wore a pink summer dress, but she gazed out the window as if contemplating rain. I sat beside her.
“Are you okay?” I asked. She turned to me as a child caught napping would to a teacher who’d asked a question she did not understand.
“I’m Mark,” I said. A second ticked by, then two. I expected her to turn back to the window.
“June,” she said, and smiled.
I talked about the nine circles of commuting hell and my life as a super anti-hero at a hospital in Makati, feared and hated for saving lives, trusty syringe in hand, one vaccine shot at a time. She said little but laughed much, until I asked her about her studies, and she talked about Kundera and Neruda, Baudelaire and Brecht, and Rilke (breathlessly), and other names I hardly knew but came to love with every gesture of her hand. Dust motes danced in the light around her face, then fled before the highway breeze. Her hair smelled of apples.
I pretended we were falling in love.
I vaguely noted the sun setting a little after her stop came. I go down here, she’d said. I’d asked for her number. She’d refused, said somebody would mind. Lucky guy, I remember replying. And then she was gone.
I still ride buses going the same route, still wait at the same terminal every afternoon, and always I search for the girl in a pink summer dress, with cloudy eyes and hair smelling of dewy fruit. When I don’t find her, I look for a window seat instead, and gaze outside, contemplating rain.