He was sitting at the top of a building, with a mouth full of onion rings (and burger) when he finally saw her.
You might be confused of what I’m saying right now, but of course you do. Unless you’ve heard this love story somewhere else before.
Come to think about it, maybe you should forget about the “love part” for now. Because I’m not sure myself if this is indeed a love story.
Anyway, his name is Dylan.
He is a French student taking up first year course at a well known University here in the Philippines.
Even though he thinks otherwise, the reason he was “made” (to him, “forced” was a better choice of word) to study here is far different from any foreign students you may ask.
You see, his father (believes) that he, himself has a deep Filipino root (great, great, fucking great grandfather, whatever).
With that reason, the old man is planning on investing here on this country. Making Dylan (in his own perception) the test subject.
Though he believes that Philippines is far more beautiful and lively than his own. (Probably the same way Filipinos think that France is far more beautiful. Also, the same reason why Asians color their hair and fair-haired people dyed theirs black.), he really misses his own place.
Speaking of hair, Dylan is pure blond.
With Nick Carter and his Backstreet Boys playing the airwaves every other minute, it shivers him a bit to see some girls staring and glaring at him. One even went as far as to ask for an autograph or something which makes everything a lot awkward. Specially in that Catholic University where he was studying.
He stays at a condo not that far from the school.
Well, to tell you the truth, it was far. It’s far enough that one always prefer to ride a jeepney (a modified jeep common to this country) just to get there. But he prefers walking.
If you can call it walking.
Dylan calls it strolling.. or jumping.
It’s a small building located along España Blvd where his father bought a unit for him. (..or rented. He’s not really sure)
He was there when that fateful night happened.
Ever since he stayed on that place, he always spend at least thirty minutes sitting at the edge of that small radio tower high above that building, staring at the vastness of the entire metro. Sometimes he brings food with him. Mostly not. The tower is not that big. It’s one of those “one-wrong-move-and-you-die” type of tower.
Of course, that particular area is restricted. But going there is easy. To Dylan, it’s easier that counting from one to ten. The harder part is not to be detected by anyone. One time, he was caught off guard when a red spot of light suddenly found him. He felt relief to find three kids playing with their “laser pointer” toy several blocks away. Probably testing how far the light would go.
Being there remind him of Dragontongue. Though the tower’s height dwarfs in comparison with the later (not even close to a very small fraction), because the building appears to look like the tallest building for miles, (well, it is the only tall building), it gives Dylan the same old feeling he had more than a year ago.
By the way, in case you are wondering where Dragontongue is. Don’t bother to look at the map.
It is located somewhere else. We’ll get to that later.
For a couple of months now, Dylan is seeing this girl on each and every dreams he had. Different scenario, different story, same actress. The weirdest would be when they became partners in crime, stealing donuts on each of the store in the metro. Calling themselves “The Donut Bandits”.
But to him, the most memorable would be the shortest one.
He was inside a classroom when this girl called him outside. Just right after he steps outside, this girl suddenly pulled his uniform and kissed him. He woke up.
Dylan was nibbling his onion rings while holding his super-sized burger when he saw her.
‘Is it Makati? Or Guadalupe?’ he is unsure at that point.
Two things are certain.
One, that girl was on top of another building several miles (or kilometers, since he’s in the Philippines) away from his position.
And two, that girl, whoever she is, is planning on doing something.
And he needs to act now. And fast!
More than a week before her father died due to some sickness, Trisha is standing high above a flat stone on a place she never know.
The weight of sudden responsibility left by her father became too much for her to bear.
Now, with a very strong storm approaching her people, she can choose to fight. She knows it. She can fight. Her people will definitely stand ground for her. There will be a series of battles. Thousands will die. Thousands of her people will suffer.
And they will lose.
Yes. She had foreseen it. She saw the same thing before. Not to her people. But to her father’s enemy. Her father who have never lose in battle. But died of illness.
‘We fought alongside your father! We will fight with you my princess.. my Queen!’ Bastil, one of his father’s knight declared with honor during their last royal congregation about three whisp of sands ago.
‘We are ready to die bravely by your side!’ another one added.
She knows he is lying. Her father once told her, ‘Even the most noble and bravest man fears death the moment he meets him..’
That’s when it hit her.
There is another solution to this test.
Something all of his knights are aware of. Something nobody dared to speak. It is probably the same reason her father repeatedly ask for her forgiveness until his very last breath. A solution that will create a stalemate, a truce, a peace for her beloved people who have not even saw her face.
She needs to disappear. For good.
Now on this monument of flat rocks and steel, she stands. Leaving a letter with a promise of hope. A promise that she plans not to fulfill as she opens the gate of no return.
Trisha fears death more than anything and right now, she still cannot believe that any moment now, she will finally meet him. To tell you the truth, it is not just the fear of death that worries her. For fear is easy to swallow. What really hurts her is the sadness.
‘Am I really going to die here?’
This question reminds her of a mutilated corpse of a soldier she saw after a bloody battle. Few questions runs through her as their cavalryperson carried and threw its carcasses on the fire.
‘Does he have a daughter? A wife? Is he a good husband? A good friend?’
Nobody will really know.
And that makes it so sad.
‘What is this realm called again?’ she asked then answered, ‘Gaea!’
‘They say time runs faster here..’ she paused for a while to think.
She smiled as drops of tears fall from her.
‘I.. am.. sixteen!’
Trisha does not need to jump. All she needs to do is to give in. Let the gravity takes her. Let Gaea embrace her.
It has been more than a year since Dylan learned (or discovered) to broaden his vision. A gift (curse) only Watchers of the Realm is capable of doing. He was amazed on how he can do the trick at first. But later on, he realized why God made human see what He only allowed them to see.
‘We can see everything. But we cannot save everyone’, he remembers Ristan back when he was at Dragontongue.
Now, he can save one person. Something he failed to do approximately one year and three months ago.
That’s how he calls it.
At first, he thought of it as flying or better yet, teleporting. But after he learned the technique behind it, he gave it its proper name.
The greater you push yourself off the ground, the higher your jump would be.
On every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction.
These are the the general concepts for this technique. However, it is not that simple. Instead of a solid ground, one is using air as a stepping block. And since air is fragile, as the doer pushes himself forward, same opposite force explodes backward.
How fast can an Airjumper jump? Soundspeed? Lightspeed? Nobody really knows.
Dylan drops his onion ring when he saw what had happened. Without thinking twice, he jumps up high. Far from the tower where he was sitting few minutes ago. He stared directly to where that suicidal girl is. He stepped on the air behind him and jumped as strong as he could.
It took him almost a seconds to reach the girl of his dreams (one or more seconds? he doesn’t really know, or better yet, care)
Trisha’s fear of death forced her to close her eyes the moment she became certain of her demise.
It was a well known tell tale in her father’s kingdom how or what happens to a person a few moments before he dies. They say, time slows down and the person’s life flashes back right before his eyes.
Now, she realized that the the first one is correct, as time suddenly slows down.
The second one? She doubt it. Right now, what she’s thinking is the horror and the pain she will feel once her body touches the ground.
‘Will it be quick? Will it take a few drops of sand?’
She imagined how some few birds of prey approach her remains. How some kind of monster from this realm had devoured each and every part of her. She imagined how Gaeans will treat her corpse.
Will they bury her? Will they burn her? Will they just leave her there to rot and be fed to that God knows what beast that lurks behind this tall monuments.
She can hear them from afar with their high pitched cry.
That fear was replaced by relief when she felt that warm hug her father always gave her.
Gaea already embraces her. All she needs to do is to sleep.
He missed her the first time.
She was a few meters below him when he hits the brick outer wall of that unfinished and abandoned construction site.
The moment he missed her, he expected something to happen. He expected to see something. Something hard to miss especially with his all seeing eye. Something under that long skirt of hers.
‘Oh maaaan! First time I’ll meet my dream girl and now this? Not a good start!’ he thought. But he have no choice. He looked down.
What he saw is far from what he expected.
Boots. Long boots and thick clothed..
‘Is that a..?’
No bare skin.
Much like the women of the old medieval era..
Looking down, his fear of something else was quickly replaced by another dilemma.
This IS a construction site.
He saw it awhile ago and now he was so sure. She didn’t jump. She was too close to the building. With the impending construction going on, he saw at least a dozen of excessive steel rods sticking out of the brick walls.
‘She might not even make it to the ground’
Getting impaled is the easiest thing that could happen. When worse comes worst, these rods might even break her fall. Tore her body apart in the process. And leave her die a slow death.
Will he kill her if that happens?
‘SHIT! I will not let anything happen!’
The building is not that high. Fifteen? Twenty floors? Right now she’s at tenth. And he saw that steel spike waiting to catch her at third.
Dylan steps on the air and jumps down. His speed is definitely faster than the suicidal girl’s fall. At the very exact moment. Perfect tick of time. He grabbed her. He hugged her. Press her face on his chest to protect her.
He finally felt it.
Her soft, shivering skin.
The problem with having a dream is that you can see everything but you could hardly feel anything.
In his dreams, she already punched him in the face. He always tried to mess with her hair. They even became too comfortable and touchy with each other. But he can’t even barely remember how it feels like when she grabbed his head around her arms. When he carried her up and throw her in the dumpster.
Even the kiss.
It’s like placing your hand against a strong wind. You can feel it. It’s there. But when you try to hold it. It passes right through your fingers.
And sometimes, the sense of taste works even better.
‘How I wish I could eat some donuts right now..’ Dylan thought as they both fell down.
The Watchers of the Realm are not that strong. They are faster, quicker. But not as strong as the strongest warrior each of the five realms could ever produce. Furthermore, they are not indestructible. Surely, they learned to control how to minimize and maximize an impact but a single arrow to the heart will still definitely kill them. After all, they are still made up of flesh and bone.
Dylan knows it. And even though to him, time moves slower than usual, he still need to keep everything in normal pace. He nearly died just by learning to control it. Who knows what damage it may cause to the girl if he do the jump now. And at that moment, to him, nothing is more important than this girl’s life.
Not even his own.
That steel rod he saw at the third floor extends about two meters from the wall. Its tips were bent upward with wires pre-made to connect to another steel rod a few feet away. Probably for the purpose of creating an extension design or something else.
Up there, it looks like a claw waiting to rip its prey.
He has no other option (Or maybe he does. He just don’t have enough time to think).
He twist his body sideway. He plans to miss the rod that sticks up to impale them. He moves slower than his usual. His timing is not perfect. He felt a stroke of pain running on his back. He felt his shirt getting ripped off.
A streak of blood follows them down as they fall to the concrete floor.
Disregarding the pain, he punched the air just above the ground. Enough to lift them up slowly, break their fall and land safely on the ground. He didn’t allowed the girls body to touch the ground. Dylan lands on his back instead, followed by a searing pain.
They both stayed like that for another minute.
‘Hey, are you okay?’ the first words that come out of him.
He tried to sit up. He felt bits of small rocks sticking on his bloody back as he move. That’s when he realized that she just fainted.
‘It seems like you’re still.. afraid.. to die..’, Dylan said while gasping for air.
He felt the blood drips from that horizontal red line behind him.
‘What a mess..’
He felt the pain. But it’s bearable. He’d been to worse. What he thinks right now is the identity of the girl resting on his chest. Her clothes look different. Is it part of her plan?
“That’s a stupid idea you got there Dylan’, he told himself. ‘Anyway, that would be impossible to know right now’
‘I need to get back to my place’, even though the logical part of his brain is continuously thinking of plans on how to get back, the crazy part of it with the help of his eyes is full of excitement and disbelief as he repeatedly steal a glimpse to this girl he is holding. Even though everything looks and feels so real right now (specially his back), looking at her feels like a dream.
Her hair is covering most part of her face. He brushed it off the side to see it much better. The crazy part of his brain took over.
Dylan doesn’t exactly remembers when it all started but he has a strange habit of smelling. He remembers back when he was around five. He always place the arm of his mom under his nose and take a deep breath as if his nose would suck all of the aroma of his mother’s arm.
He likes how it feels.
That is why he love his mom so much. When he stepped in to grade school, his weird habit continues. He always conspicuously smell each of his seatmate. He doesn’t like the smell of boys.
He believes that was also the time he realized that he was really a boy.
He likes the smell of girls. Most of the time, he moves his head to a girl’s shoulder and smell it. Sometimes, he becomes more aggressive to pick the girl’s arm, place it on his nose and smell it. Which creeps the girl out.
‘Miss Margaret! Dylan is sniffing my arm again!’
‘Dylan! Why are you doing that?’ his teacher asks.
‘Because she smells so nice..’ Dylan answered honestly while smiling, ‘I like your smell too, Miss Margie!’
His classmates laugh.
He really likes the smell of girls. But not all girls are the same. The essence doesn’t always stays the same. Some of it deteriorates through time. And later on, it became his sign to know if he likes the girl or not.
As he grows, he learns to hate perfumes and other colognes. He believes it creates a wall between him and the thing he wants to know and discover. He believes it covers the real perfume he loves. The natural aroma of a girl’s skin.
Now, the crazy, manly part of him is begging him to do the same thing. Something he want’s to do even during those ridiculous dreams of his.
‘Just one sniff.. that’s all..’ he smiled.
His head moves slowly closer to the girl’s shoulder. Every inch closer, he pauses to check if the girl is still sleeping.
Then, he stopped.
‘I need to get back to my place.. NOW’
Carefully, he lays her back and her head on the floor. The ground is made up of unfurbished concrete and is full of sands and small stones. He brushed the floor first with his hand before he finally lays down her head.
Standing up, he then realized how far from his initial assumption the place is.
‘Definitely not Makati.. nor Guadalupe’, he thought.
If you’re wondering why he kept on saying Makati and Guadalupe as if it’s located on a different location, It’s because for the likes of him who lives here in the Philippines, Makati is the area on the actual City of Makati with tall buildings and skyscrapers located along Ayala and Buendia. No more, no less. Of course, everyone in the Philippines knows that Guadalupe is still a part of Makati. But please don’t blame him or his ignorance. Blame the ads and some tourist guides.
Back to where Dylan is, everything seems a bit darker than usual. There is probably a road behind those gates made from patches of galvanized roofs. He saw it awhile ago. He could hear the beeps but it’s so far away.
That remind him of how drivers in this country love pressing that button on their steering wheel. When they stop, they beep. When they go, they beep. Even when the stoplight is red, those drivers. Especially, jeepney drivers loves to keep on pressing and pressing AND PRESSING that horn as if by doing that, they could make the red lights turn green.
It annoys him so much.
But he’s just a visitor. He believes that a visitor has no rights to complain about the imperfections of the house where he is staying.
High enough to see everything. When he reached the height he thinks is ok, he stopped and looked around. The first thing he notice is the airport. It was on his far left. Next to it, farther away, a cluster of bright buildings.
‘Makati’, he thought.
In front of him, now nearer, he saw a very long highway. It stretched from north going south. Then he saw a neon light. It reads StarMall. He looked down where they are. He saw few houses. some were on construction. He saw the road.
The road is wider than normal. It has a center aisle that separates the southbound and the northbound with series of road lights. But very few cars use it. He just saw one Toyota Corolla. The car is brand new. It doesn’t have a license plate yet.
‘Is that even legal?’ he thought.
It’s not that hard to find what he was looking for. Good thing he has a better vision. You see, flying is very convenient. However, it purely rely on beacon and guides to get to where you’re going. To Dylan, driving is much easier. All you need to do is follow some routes and you’ll get to where you’re going. Without his seeing eye, He’s probably lost.
That’s when he thought about the consequence of what he just did earlier back on that tower. If there is a building or something behind him when he did the Airjump, it would definitely explode. Actually, there is another small tower behind that building. Good thing it’s lower than the building itself.
He went back down.
Now he was thinking, ‘Shall I leave her here? She’s probably staying somewhere near here..’ then he recalled what the entire area looks like.
‘Maybe she wants to die..’ he paused, ‘alone..’
The idea gives him the feeling of sadness, ‘To think that you always looked funny in all of my dreams..’
He think for a while and finally decided, ‘It can’t be helped. I guess I’ll just have to ask you first thing in the morning (unless I woke up and you’re gone)’
He took off his blood soaked t-shirt. He ripped it off in strips. He used some of it to wipe the dirt off his wounds. Then he tied it on his torso covering the entirety of crimson red line on his back.
‘I need to clean it when I get back home’, it was the first time he use the word “home”. It was always my place, my condo or my unit. He didn’t notice it.
Dylan carried the girl up. He placed his right hand at the back of her and pressed her head against him with her forehead on his shoulder. He could smell her now.
He then placed his left hand outside supporting the girl’s thigh. This reminded him how stupid some lead actors looked like when they lift their leading lady with both arms on their side carrying the girl like a pitchfork. Yes, it looks so manly on cam. But in reality, it is very unstable and unsafe.
As he lift him, some small stones and dirt fell off.
He looked up and jumped.
It was the highest he ever did back here. He needs to move slower now. Much much slower than his usual. He needs to be sure that he’s high enough for no one to notice he’s up there jumping on air. A strong gust of cold November wind went past through them. It shivers him a bit. He looked forward and starts jumping.
Trisha felt a cold wind when she opened her eyes. She saw a very familiar face. Someone she knew but haven’t met personally.
‘This was probably just a dream’, she thought as the cold wind makes her entire body numb.
‘But why him?’ she does not really know the answer to that. But she likes it. Everything felt so cold and his warm chest became her sole salvation. She closed her eyes and pressed her cheek on his shoulder.
‘My people are finally safe’, she felt the cold and numbness runs through her entire body.
‘Are we going to see papa and mama?’ then she asked, ‘Why him?’
She remembered all the things that happened before.
What this man did.
Then she agreed, ”he is death..”
She dozed off.
It took him almost half an hour to reach his place. As he falls down, he looked at the top of the tower where his leftover foods are. It’s gone.
‘Probably blown by the wind when I did the airjump.’
He lands on the veranda of his own unit.
He decided to take a bath. When he got out, he took a small glimpse to that girl sleeping on his bed. To him, everything still looks unreal (even though he’s one hundred and one percent sure that it is)
First, his rules. He will not bring any girl on his condo. He may fling a bit. He may flirt a bit. But he will never ever must not bring a girl into his very own sanctuary (though he was so sure he never did ever flirted with anyone else yet since he went here and he has no plan on doing that whatsoever). Second, everything ‘and I mean everything!’ he wore that night all went down the dumpster.
It was part of his silent protest not to spend even a single dime.. ′Peso!′ Dylan corrected, on anything other than school stuffs and food. He even collects receipt. He plans to show all of it to his dad followed by a request to send him back home. Everything he have there. The clothes, his CD Walkman, his bulky laptop and even his Nokia 3210 all went with him from France.
All other appliances including the ref, the cable-ready colored TV and his mini component were bought by his father after they arrived at Manila International Airport.
He doesn’t like the silence. He turned on the mini and set its volume to low. He then walked to check her.
He calls his place, a swiss army knife. It’s fairly small and packed. When you enter the room, you will see the bathroom door. A couple of steps more and and you’re already at the kitchen. When you look back. There’s the dining. Pass the dining and and you will reach the “living room”. Few more steps and there’s the bed. Next to the bed are the windows and the sliding door leading to the balcony.
He sits on the bed next to her. With the lights on, he could clearly see her face. He looked at her hair. It’s light brown.
‘Probably not a Filipino’, he paused then thought, ‘but then, Filipino is a very tricky race’.
He recalls how some of them appears to look like chinese, white caucasian, some even have red dark skin. ‘Mestizos’, he remembered what they are called.
Her skin is fairly white. Her dress looks like she came from some costume party.
(Or maybe that place you came from last year..) he brushed off that idea.
He looked (staaared) at the girl’s face. With the lights now gleaming upon her, Dylan saw how beautiful she is. ‘Not pretty.. I can’t use that word to her..’
Then several facts dropped on his head like a ton of concrete blocks.
That he was there.
Sitting beside that very beautiful girl.
That girl is his dream girl.
On his bed.
In this room.
In this oh sooo cold room.
The crazy man started to talk.
’You may sleep beside her.. Snuggle her.. Keep her warm for the entire night..′
He saw the crazy man move his two fingers above his head giving off an open and close parenthesis sign while saying the word warm.
Then, the crazy man danced like a monkey.
He decided to sleep on the couch. He fell face first on the sofa. He wanted to lay on his back but the pain prevents him from doing that.
He glanced at her one more time.
His eyes never left her sight until some heavy steel weights began to pull his eyelids down.
He gave in.