We stand on the sidewalk under a drizzle so light I can barely feel it on my skin, barely discern it from the rare mist hanging in the January night air. She holds my hand to her lips, her breath warm, her grasp tight, as I face the road distracted by the varicolored glare of headlights and lampposts, shop signs and the remnants of rain on the asphalt. She puts her arms around my shoulders, around my waist, and hugs me as if I were a pole and the wind were blowing her away. She chatters to me about her day. I stare at the jeepneys wheezing past the loading/unloading sign beside us, and complain about the inadequacy of public transportation, just to have something to say. It is rush hour. I cannot rush home.
She presses my hands and faces me, her eyes limpid, wide. Are you happy? she asks. Okay lang, I answer. You should be happy, she says. Yes. Maybe. But why? I don’t know. She snuggles closer.
A pedicab wheels by, the two scruffy men riding it leering at us and hooting, Dalhin namin kayo sa Cubao! I think of what it is with Cubao. I ignore them.
Do you know that you need six hugs a day to be happy? she says. You’re not getting six, are you? She frowns, brightens. I’m giving you a week’s worth. A month’s worth. A little later, she says, I’m being clingy. Am I weirding you out? I answer no. I vaguely register that passersby must think us lovers. I am neither comfortable nor uncomfortable with the thought. She is smiling. I don’t mind.
What would make you happy? she asks me.
Uhh, grad school scholarship? Losing 20 pounds? I answer.
She sighs, pouts. She’s talked to me about this before. No, something someone could do for you or give to you. And I’m concerned that you’re not eating well.
I like peanuts, I say. They’re yummy.
She frowns. Don’t you have something special in mind? Like, if somebody gave you roses, would that make you happy?
I shrug. Dinner, coffee, conversations. As long as it’s with interesting people, it can be special.
She smiles. She has been smiling the whole time. Hello, hello. I’m happy to see you, she says again. I know, and I don’t understand it. So I don’t say anything.
Why aren’t you happy?
How can you tell I’m not happy?
You don’t look it. She clutches my arm and pulls it to her side, leans her head on my shoulder.
It has stopped drizzling. Maybe it stopped a long while ago and I just didn’t notice.
I’m okay. I squeeze her hand and give her a smile. I’m just cold, I say.