Something happened on the biking trail

"I'm not so hard to find," Issa texted back a day after Christmas. It was the night when we serendipitously found ourselves going to the same chilly mountains of Baguio for vacation. And, as if it was on cue, I got weirdly excited, probably because something like it never happened before, but also because it turned out to be someone I was, somehow, intent to meet.

So every precaution was put in place. We'll see each other, if ever. Baguio is mountainous, obviously, and being a tourist city, people would end up going to the same places. There are the horses at Wright Park, the swan boats at Burnham Park, or the knitted bags at the stalls at Mine's View Park. And that was the exact point I made: Baguio is big, mountainous, and to make things more complicated, full of zigzag roads. How the heck will I see her, if it is even meant to happen?

"Kulay kalawang buhok ko," she said in the same message, before letting out a laugh.

Two days into the vacation, both of us were out and about in Baguio. She was lunching on pesto and pizza somewhere along Session Road, while I was taking snapshots of mountain tourist living at Mine's View. And in between, obviously, we were texting each other, as if we only had each other to rely on. She was getting full but was only halfway through the meal; I was getting hungry and was silently drooling because pesto is one of my favorite pasta dishes. At one point I even joked at her, pointing out that there are a lot of rust-haired girls at the vantage point. At least, she said, there's still a hint of red in that little streak of hair on her face.

For some particular reason, both of us went to Burnham Park. My cousin and brother wanted to go biking, while I was merely content with walking around the park, taking quirky candids (possibly at the ire of the tourists and the locals) while listening to Baguio radio stations dish out forgotten hits and ballads. Earlier, she told me she was going biking, and when she stopped replying I presumed she was already out and about.

And obviously I was half-itching to see her. With three instances where she was around and I almost could have met her - yes, yes, I'm that itchy about it - it obviously was a prophecy fulfilled on our part. But I sort of forgot about it while I was busy taking photos along the biking trail at Burnham, until I settled on the dusty sidewalk gutter taking a rest from all the walking and watching out. I took more photos, sought to find the perfect instance, and she showed up.

I was dumbfounded. Of course I can't shout her name from my end of the road to hers. That was roughly six meters across, and in between were boy scouts, tourists, parents, and bikes that tend to collide. I think I even texted her that I saw her already, but weirdly she wasn't replying. And I can see she wasn't even picking up her mobile! That lasted for fifteen minutes or so, until I decided to leave and start taking more candids along the tree-lined sidewalk. I presumed I'll just wait for her reaction.

On the sidewalk again, I belatedly realized I sort of jumped in front of her while attempting to overtake a group of people. At one point, we were separated by twelve inches of Baguio chill.

The reply came three hours later, with both of us cuddled at our respective lodges. I was cuddled up on a bedsheet doubling as a blanket, with my dad's laptop playing those tracks I struggled to compile and consequently transfer, when she texted her surprise at the situation. Humiliating, as she initially put it - I told her she was placing her hands in her head in eventually admitted pain - and eventually found herself speechless.

In the six months or so since Sudoy introduced me to her on an online conference in aid of homework, I think I've somehow started to have some sort of "emotional attachment" to her. If Thursday's events were any proof, I realized it was just me who's sort of grown excited over the prospect of meeting someone I've shared so many secrets with despite an obvious lack of personal appearances. And, with the many secrets I was surprisingly willing to tell her, that's something.

And then I felt silence, somehow. In many points throughout those six months I constantly thought that she was, somehow, getting annoyed at me after all the text messages sent in the middle of the night talking about meet-ups and almost-theres. Oh, but maybe her phone went into her misspelled "hybernation", or she ran out of credit, or she just wouldn't reply, or something else, but it was weird my good morning greetings were going nowhere. At that point I realized we exchanged a hundred messages on both sides, or something.

In my pursuit of someone to at least connect to, it's weird to think why one person who I couldn't have met by any other means would be one who I'd constantly rely on to make sure I keep some degree of sanity. There would be people I'd surprisingly trust, or people I'd quickly think is trustworthy when it comes to the things I'm not immediately willing to divulge publicly. And what pains me is, there would always be a time when drifting priorities would mean I am given up for what is long there, for what already works and for what never failed. And, as always, I get passed over. That expectation has always been there for online friends like Issa and Katia, simply because the reality that I'm nothing but a bleep in their systems doesn't need any asserting, considering my already precarious position. But for everybody else, it seems, they're always willing to give me up for somebody else.

And maybe that's why it's suddenly become very risky for me, especially, to have to talk to someone and be surprised that what comes next is a practical cling. I think I've learned to swipe every available opportunity, but the downside is I haven't started looking deeply, and yet here I am telling secrets to half-strangers when technically, ideally, somebody else deserves to know. Even worse, I'm not giving any more trust to the people I talked to before. And such, I get surprised when I tell someone something I've told Issa a long time ago, when they could have been the first to know.

Emotional attachment? Or is it a cover-up?

Turns out Issa ran out of credit again, which meant nobody to talk to on that journey home, probably except for Sarah not being sure about what happens on the thirteenth, and Kim congratulating me for something I've done previously. The next time I heard from her, she told me she did run out of credit, and that was on YM, where we first technically met. Then days later, she sent everyone, me included, a new year's message. "Salamat sa magagandang ala-ala," it said, and I was a bit surprised, simply because there aren't any memories to speak of, in the strictest sense of the word. I took it as a cheesy quote. She corrected me and reiterated everything is sincere.

It's surprising that after all the fuss I've been through, probably from adding her up on YM to asking for her number from out of the blue, technically I still am nothing to her. To anybody, quite literally, and up to now I'm wondering whether everybody is just letting up with my randomness, and are actually even half-happy to see me in my misery because nobody would come and assist me. Or, maybe, I'd be considered for little errands, or photographic coverage just to boost insatiable egos that want to be at par with crushes they couldn't just mention out of fear.

Or, it could all be paranoia. But who am I to you anyway?

And your responses...

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