A nice Tuesday found me curled up in bed late morning. I knew that this was going to be a good day, I’m meeting Jase at the mall. And finally I’m going to tell him that I had a huge crush on him when I was 14.
Jase grew up in California but moved to Maine when he turned 19 to work. I haven’t seen him since. He married a Filipina when he was 24 and is now here to visit his in-laws. His wife is suffering from Lupus and would like to spend the remains of her days here. It was heartbreaking for me to hear Jase’s voice on the other end of the line trying to be brave. Nonetheless, this is going to be a good day for both of us to relax.
Jase left his wife in Angeles for a week vacation in the city. He got quite comfortable with me the last we talked saying they’ve been fighting more than often and finally one day before their whole marriage crumbled due to bouts of unexplained fighting, she told him to see his friends that he met back when he was younger. He then phoned people he continued to keep in contact with after leaving California and was surprised that the people he left stayed in contact well with others. This was when he got across my number and phoned me nervously.
When I heard a different accent on the other line, I felt nervous (something must have happened to a family or friend) but I was soon calmed when he asked for me and said that he was Jase Rene. I jumped to my seat and greeted him with a customary “Oh My Gawd, Jase?”
It was a blurry of stories exchanged in less than an hour. Then he said that he is running low (either on minutes or batteries, I’ll find out later) and we arranged for a meeting at the mall. Jase, if I remember it right, is three or four years older than me but we talked like we were still the tweeners that we were (or at least I thought). It was funny because we have not changed much. He still had the same snarky remark followed by “I’m kidding” and I was the same giggly girl too excited – it’s either that or I’ll just sound like I’m about to hyperventilate.
I’ve already prepared my clothes to wear for today last night, so I gave myself another five minutes before finally dragging myself off bed. Our helper Vanessa already prepared breakfast but decided to skip so I’ll be appropriately hungry by lunch. A friend who stayed over for the night drove me to the mall and wished me a good day. I thought there was no need for the wish; this will be a good day.
I stepped in the coffee shop and a tap in my shoulder told me that he was right behind me. With open arms, he took me onto his hug and gave me a kiss. I was so shocked to see that the scrawny little kid down the street looks like he’s been preparing for mixed martial arts. I stared a little but didn’t drool, his smile faded fast and asked if I was Jean and I said “yeah.” I still stood there and didn’t dare move a limb. He said my last name (mispronounced it too) and I again said “yeah,” this was when I realized he got uncomfortable. I asked if he was Jase and he then realized that so much of him has changed and he should not have done what he did in any circumstanc especially with a lady. He got us a chair and he started talking in rapid jabs I was hoping he’d slow down. Fortunately, I was able to catch a few (you look the same, you never changed your hair …) and I answered with some customary ‘ahas’ and ‘hmms’. After taking a gulp of my caffeine, this was when I was able to compose myself and realized I can’t tell him I had a crush on him … well, that’s because I think I still have it.
I tried my darndest best to not look retarded and exchanged some comments (you look so tall … I don’t remember you to be so big ...). After coffee, I told him of what my plans will be for today. He was determined to just catch up so my plan was well placed. He helped me pick up a new top, and in between choosing, he told me stuffs about him that I missed after he left. I learned that he is now working for the city government (laying out streets) and got very busy with his family life. I slowly got comfortable too and told him of my short stint as a writer for a big local film company and a little bit about my inefficiency to keep a relationship. He listened intently and was kind enough to be his real self by questioning some of my decisions. I felt at home with Jase, soon laughter was exchanged too after chipping in some funny stories. It was frightening that we were talking so much about us instead of his reason for vacation. I couldn’t ask him, I was too scared to spoil a rather beautiful day.
I pulled a nice black jacket and his eyes beamed matched with a smile, he said something like “Now I see the corporate girl” and told me to get it before someone else does. So I banged it in the counter and rummaged my red wallet in my disorganized bag. When I looked up the cashier was already giving him his change. I wanted to refuse but he continued jabbing about his life in the construction business. I decided to take it in stride and told myself to be a little faster on the tab next time. I eyed the ice cream parlour from a distance and he caught me fast, he offered that we sit for a little while (the top was not easy to find and three boutiques matched with my new three inched pumps was just difficult) and I said yes, only if we can sample the chocolate sandwich.
The parlour only had me and Jase and it was nice to finally not feel awkward and just continue with the discussion. This was becoming a little better compared to the coffee shop; I was now laughing and smiling – not robotically but naturally. This was when he told me about his wife Lorrie. Although he edited most of the story, I can read that Jase is trying to be brave and was doing a good job. We talked more until we realized we’ve been sitting there well over an hour. This was when the stories started to thin and we felt a little tired. I suggested a movie that I haven’t seen and he answered me with a snarl … something about being too predictable and not out growing the things I like. I retorted by telling him to just give me a ‘no’ if my plans were too lame, this was soon followed by his “I’m kidding.”
There is an irrevocable truth to what I am about to get myself into. It was danger about to hit me smack in the face but the peculiar thing about it is, I was welcoming.
He hasn’t seen Narnia and I haven’t too. So as a reprieve from hours of talking, he got us a ticket, a pop corn and two large bottle of water. Before the commercials rolled, he asked if I was still provoked by chatting while the movie ran. I told him that I needed to write something about it so I would need my attention focused. He said something about me being uptight and followed it with “kidding” after I gave him a stony look. I smiled at the side of my lips and so did he. The movie ran and astonishingly, I remembered every detail of it.
After the movie, I was appropriately hungry. I took Jase to Green Tomato and the exchange of stories continued. While waiting for our food to arrive (I ordered tuna carbonara and he ordered the five cheese pizza), this was when he commented about how much of me is different but so much is also the same. I returned the comment back and was slightly taken aback when he asked about a guy I used to date. I was hesitant at first but became comfortable after he started forking my carbonara to his plate. Time moved ever so gracefully and when we’ve finished our meal and took time to order desert (which we had to pack because none of us touched it), we were able to summarize the many years we had under our belt.
When the tab came, I grabbed it and made an effort for him not to reach it. He tried but after people started looking (it must have been weird watching two grownups fight over a piece of paper), he decided to stop and commented on career girls wanting to make everything so fair. I gave him a mischievous smile and agreed that I did not give into such nonesense.
Nearing the end of our day, Jase arrange for him to meet our other friends he made back when we were kids. He asked if I would be kind enough to set it all up, given that I’m still in contact with a few. He also asked if I had a good time and I gave him an obvious lie of “no.” I thought I had him but he said something like, “Good, I wasn’t about to make your life any better”, I pouted and he followed it up with “kidding.” On our way out of the mall, I glimpsed at a bookstore. They had new acquisitions in their glass display so I squinted my eyes to determine if it has something worthwhile. Then I felt Jase’s hand touch my elbow veering me to the direction of the store.
There’s no need to strain your eyes we still have time, he must have thought. In the bookstore, Jase grabbed a Tribune and sat at a corner. I on the other hand went to hunt. I must have been circling my pray for thirty minutes now when I heard him asking me to just pick it up; we were the only ones left apart from the employees (of course) and they were about to close. When I looked up, he was beside the cashier with money ready. I threatened him to stop and joked of grabbing everything in the shelf. “Let’s see you take all that home,” a sarcastic sheepish comment that made me decide on a book sitting proudly in the middle (Twilight by Stephanie Meyer). Although I would love to give him the upper hand of sarcasm, the night was drawing to an end that I felt too shy to send him away with a criticism. My gawd, this was a good Tuesday.
Walking me to the taxi bay, he said something about my feet. That it might be hurting after a long day. “Lorrie would be complaining by now if she was wearing that.” He was thinking of his wife all along.
*** Events took place June 10, but the article had to wait publication to give way to more pressing reviews