“So what now?”, she asked.
“What about?” He looked at her as if she’s speaking a language he couldn’t understand. They have been sitting side-by-side on a stone bench for quite some time now and while he does enjoy her company, he would also very much like to go to bed and pull up a blanket for some warmth. After all, it’s getting late and he found himself shivering at the blow of a cold midnight wind. He could really use a thick beer blanket.
Hers is a different case. She feels warm all over and she was even thankful when the cold air brushed her tear-stained face. She could hear the fireworks at a distance signaling the end of their college life and could barely make out the bright sparks in the night sky because of the trees blocking the view. She could not believe she is actually missing the finale. She vividly pictures how her friends must be hugging each other now, saying their goodbyes and how they might finally notice that she has gone missing. She tried to brush the thought off before the guilt of not being able to thank her friends properly for the last four years creeps in. There’s a reason why she decided to share this last moment with this person and she meant to tell him that except she’s stumbling — desperately crying — to find the right words. She was never really good with goodbyes.
How does one handle this kind of moment? A kiss on the cheek? A gentle hand squeeze? A pat on the back? Tomorrow will be both different and the same. She will have to put all of her things in a box and bid goodbye to her dormitory while he will stay for another year in the university. She will be off to another city, writing a new chapter in her life, while he will still be living in that little university town, will probably go cafe-hopping with a new set of company, and will certainly be drinking the Friday nights away in that bar they used to frequent. She shuddered at these thoughts and felt a lump form somewhere in her throat.
“What will become of us?” She rephrased the previous question with a clearer one. Although she’s not so sure anymore what she wants to hear. She feels another batch of thick hot tears stream down her already puffy eyes and for the very first time, the thought of leaving saddens her so much. What has become of that person who is always in for an adventure? The wanderer who never wanted to be tied down nor give a single care to what lies ahead? She glanced at him to see if he is feeling the same confusion as well. But just like before, his face never gave anything away. Despite being there for her through thick and thin, she never really quite figured out what this person feels for her — or if this person feels anything at all. She dropped her gaze and acknowledged the only explanation that she could formulate upon his absence of any emotion in what she thinks is a very frustrating situation:
Maybe he isn’t bothered at all. Maybe he’s just there out of pity or obligation and if there was anything that he could feel right now, it must be relief for not having to go through another bothersome year —
“We’ll still be friends.” He said firmly before the little voice inside her head could finish the sentence.
That’s all he managed to say. After all, there isn’t anything more to tell, really. He even wondered why she asked. He values her as a friend and he couldn’t see the point of doubting it just because her graduation is three days away.
Upon realizing that the conversation is over, she takes a deep breath and tries to calm her nerves down. The fireworks display had come to an end and the crickets have started singing again. A cold March wind blew once more and everything is as normal as it can get. Nothing has changed. Two people can either be lovers or friends and they can decide to stay or go on separate ways in a blink of an eye without anyone noticing it. He’s right. It isn’t really much of a big deal. One heartbreak would not keep the world from turning. Nothing will change.
He stood up and motions him to follow her. She grabs his arm for support before letting her hand slide down to his. Interlocking their fingers, she squeezed his hand lightly as a sign of affirmation. Still friends. The words are now stuck in her mind and it is definite that she finally found a reason — although now she’s not sure if it’s a reason to stay or to go.
Cars zoomed past them and the street lights gave the impression that the night is still young. It’s just 12:30am; a bit too early for goodbyes, and yet they have already reached her dormitory. She tiptoed a bit and gave him a goodnight kiss on the cheek. He didn’t seem surprised. He whispered a soft goodnight before they went on separate ways. Tomorrow will be the same. Indeed, nothing can ever change. And with all the normalcy around them, she wonders to herself if it is really possible to just stay friends.