I'm going to say it happened on the 22nd of November.
Shalla and I weren't dating yet then. Well, not officially. We just went out and hung out far more often than a pair usually would. As in, I would step out of the office and, rather than go straight home, I would go to some mall in Makati, or in some cases, walk from one end of Ayala Avenue to the other to meet her near her office. It's something I wouldn't otherwise do, so, yeah, I guess it's safe to say I really liked her then.
The 22nd was one of those days. It was a Thursday, and we were at Greenbelt, I think to have dinner at Toast Box or something. I think it's Toast Box because we were at the higher floors and there really aren't that many options in the immediate vicinity at the time if you didn't want to eat too fancy. And yes, Toast Box isn't that cheap either, but it felt cheap, in a good way. It's a shame it got replaced by Nanyang, which is the same thing - Singapore kopitiam fare - but somehow both more limited and more premium.
Anyway, I don't remember the exact circumstances - in fact, I'll admit I'm not even sure if I have this whole story right - but we were running towards the restaurant. Was it about to close? It was just around seven. More likely we wanted to get a seat before it gets full, not that it got really full. At some point between deciding to make a run for it and getting to the restaurant, I grabbed her hand. It was the first time we ever held hands, and, almost nine years later, it certainly wasn't the last.
BGC is another place we've spent a lot of time in, mostly considering she works in the area and I've spent many instances waiting for her to get out. (Walking from one end of High Street to the other certainly isn't less daunting than walking almost all of Ayala Avenue.) We found ourselves there again this weekend, getting a quick dinner and some outdoor time, something rare considering recent circumstances. As we headed back to the parking lot, and crossed the road towards the still-closed Mind Museum, I felt the urge to hold her hand, like we almost always have while walking - but not really while crossing the street, considering how tricky that could be.
And then I got sad.
"I wish I could hold your hand again," I said. "While walking."
Sure, we live together now. There's no way we don't hold hands, not while watching Baby Driver on Netflix, or while I say goodbye as she leaves for work, at least in the few days she has to go to the office. But holding hands while walking - yes, I know how cheesy and childish that sounds - is something I miss, especially in the past year and a half, when even we are forced to keep our distance, at least in public, because of a pandemic this government refuses to properly handle. And yes, I know so many people are circumventing these regulations so publicly, because they're stupid as they are and nobody really cares anyway. I mean, we can't be the only couple, who live in the same household, who keep three steps apart whenever we're in escalators. Oftentimes, though, it seems that way. So why am I whining? We can easily get away with it ourselves, right?
I don't know. It seems like something we've lost for good. We'll still be together, but those little moments will be replaced by other small moments, and big ones, too. I don't know if I'm just clinging on to a nostalgic, idealized version of things at this point, or if I'm just sad at how things are definitely not going back to normal even if our leaders say they will. Whatever. There's something about your fingers interlocking with the one you love that I can't, err, put a finger on.