On coffee shops and goodbyes

It's rainy day everyday in Baguio City, despite the scorching heat in Manila.

I began to run. The drops were becoming heavier that it's not just the coldness of the water that prickles my skin, but the weight of it, too. For a moment there, I was distracted. I stopped being anxious about what we would probably be talking about. It doesn't matter that I'm late. In fact, if I can, I would just turn back and walk away and pretend I never read your message. But I can't. My jacket is dripping with water, I have to go in.

I saw your worried look the moment I shrugged my jacket off. You're not surprised that I didn't bring an umbrella. Careless as always, you're probably thinking. I was annoyed that you picked the seat in front of the door. What, so you can easily walk away? Not a very good spot if I turn out to cry at the very end of this.

"Kia," you said. I shuddered at the sound of your voice saying my name. You motioned for me to sit in front of you. "What is it?" I managed to utter. You had asked to meet me personally. We haven't been talking for weeks, and my curiosity has somehow grown to be some kind of mistrust. I wouldn't be surprised if you broke up with me tonight. It would hurt, yes. But I have read too many stories like this -- meeting up at a coffee shop to say goodbye. I swear if I hear you say it tonight, I will walk away without a word. You don't deserve one just as much as you don't deserve to be part of my life. That's for not fighting for me. You get to say goodbye, but you don't get to be forgiven.

"I don't want to let you go," all thoughts shrink to the back of my head when I heard you speak, "but I didn't think you'd still want me."

"What are you talking about?" I was not understanding things.

You pointed at the wheelchair across our table. "I asked to be seated here. I didn't want you to see me seated in that after such a long time."

I was speechless. Still confused.

"I can't walk anymore," you finally said. It doesn't make sense. How? What happened? What the heck has been going on for the past weeks or maybe even months that you haven't talked to me about this?

"I got thrown off a horse during field work. No, seriously." It started as a weak laugh that ended up as tears welling up in your eyes. "I know, it sounds so stupid. When I fell, I thought, you know what, I'm gonna tell Kia about this. She's probably gonna get angry at me and then laugh at how silly I am. I passed out. Can you believe that? It felt like a split second then I just woke up to find my legs were gone. Still there, but I couldn't feel them anymore. Just the stupid work of chance that a vehicle was in a hurry right when I fell. Just… just that."

Silence. I wanted to question you, nag you, even. You were right. I will get angry.

"I'm sorry. I couldn't tell you when I woke up. I just felt like, you don't deserve me, you know? You... you're so perfect. What I mean to say is, you're enough. You're everything I will ever want and need. But look at me. I will forever be a burden to you. You will have to push me around, or even carry me. I don't even think I can protect you, or provide for you. And I can't live my life knowing that. Even if you choose me. Especially if you choose me."

I felt tears on my face, but I couldn't get myself to say anything. How? How do you expect me to walk away from this? The only thing I am scared of is finding out that you can't see yourself with me for a lifetime. And that is exactly what you're doing to me, except that it isn't because you don't want me, but because you doubt me. I'm not sure what to say. I want to be there for you, through all your happiness and all your pain, but you 're trying to take that away from me.

For a moment, I felt betrayed. But I stood up, leaned over you and kissed your forehead. I was deciding to say goodbye now and walk away. Instead I whispered, "I love you." I don't understand, but I'm not leaving you.

\\\Author's Note: Hi! Thank you for taking the time to read this! It's been a long time since I made something without having to consciously think about it. As you can see, the pattern of coffee shops and goodbyes is abused, yet again. But then, I suddenly thought about this novel I read years ago about disability, and I'm still kind of dealing with the idea if I was the disabled or if I was the partner, and how I would respond in a relationship. There's a kind of insecurity that's there, and sometimes the only way to deal with it is to shrug it off and say "screw this, let's just do it."

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