DATE WITH A GHOST

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By:  Judy May Geronimo

Recently, I went out  with my barkada from High school. Unlike  before  when every time we went  out,  we would  go to a bar  where we  could drink  ourselves to death or go dancing  until  our feet could no  longer take it,  this time we chose  a coffee bar somewhere in Tomas Morato.  Maybe it’s  because  we’ve  already matured.  There. we ate  and drank gallons of coffee while swapping  stories  and updating each other on our recent escapades.

We reminisced about our high school  days and caught up on each other’ love lives. Funny, because in the middle of all the talk,  the conversation centered on me.  This is  probably because I was the only remaining one in the  group who hasn’t  gotten married yet.  All of  my friends are married  with kids.  They  teased me all night.  They could  not believe  that  all the years  that we  hadn’t  seen each other,  I remained unattached.

“Ano  ka ba? bakit hindi ka pa nag-aasawa? Ikaw  na nung high school  pa lang  tayo

? e kikay na ( What’s the matter with you? How  come you aren’t married yet? Even  when we were in  highs school, you  were always  the fashionable sort).”  One  of them  asked.

“Basta isang subject natin  e ganun ka din kadalas mag-retouch. Tapos  up  to  now,  single ka pa ( You  retouched your make up as we changed subjects .  And yet  you’re  still single).”  another  friend, Lourdes, joked.

“It’s not easy to find the right man.  All of you are lucky  to find  your true  love.”  I told  them.  Upon hearing  my remark, Shalimar, my  closes friend  in the barkada, shared  her parent’s story.

Her parents had always been a  loving couple. They never failed to celebrate their  wedding anniversary.

We knew this because  we would  always  get invited  to the celebration  in their house when we were still in high school.

But there years ago, her parents decided to celebrate their wedding  anniversary  with just the  two of them. After all, according to my friend, all their children  already  had families of their own. It was going  to be their second honeymoon.  There was  nothing  extraordinary  planned  though.  They would  simply  watch   a movie, dine out , and stay overnight at a hotel to cap the  night.  According to Shalimar, her dad brought a special gift for her mom.  It was a  gold  necklace  with a diamond-studded cross pendant. It has always  been like  that with her  dad.  He  always  has an  anniversary  gift  for her mom, whether it’s  flowers, a cake,  a dress, etc.

The awaited  day finally  came.  It so happened  that one of their children was to give  birth at the same time  as their parents’ anniversary.  Her dad told her mom that after dinner he would  drop her off at their  hotel   and he would  go to the  hospital and check.  At the  hospital, her  dad called her mom and told her  not to worry because  their  grandson was so handsome  and my friend’s Ate was  doing fine. “Huwag ka nang mag-worry at ayos naman  and anak at apo natin. Antayin mo ako dyan dahil me sorpresa ako  sa ‘yo  ( Stop worrying, our daughter and grandson are doing fine. Wait for me, I have a surprise  for you),”  Mang Ramon  told his wife  Shalimar’s mom waited  at the hotel. She fell  asleep for  some time and when she awoke, she realized  that three hours passed since she talked to her husband.  She called  Mang Ramon on his cellphone  but it was out of the  coverage area. “Where could he  be?  She wondered . It wasn’t that far from  the hospital to the hotel. She called the hospital  to confirm what time he left. “Ma, akala ko po magkasama na kayo, kanina pa po umalis si Papa dito. Tatlong oras na nakalipas (Ma, I thought you’d be together by now. He left the hospital  three hours ago),” her daughter informed  her.  She called  Mang  Ramon  again.  This time,  he answered.  “Hello? Ramon, nasaan ka na ba? Nakatulog na ako, e wala ka pa dito (Ramon,  where are you? I’ve fallen asleep waiting for you and you’re still  not here),” Aling  Stella  asked.  “Andito na ako sa balcony ng hotel, bumaba  ka at salubungin  mo ako (I’m already here at the balcony of the hotel, Come down and meet me),” Mang  Ramon told  his wife.” Sus, Kaarte  ng matandang ito, akala mo e mga bata pa tayo (You’re so fussy and finicky, we are not young anymore),” Aling Stella snapped  back. She went down anyway.

Upon  reaching  the lobby,  she glanced around to look for her husband. But the  was nowhere  in sight.

She called  him up again.  “Sa’n ka ba?  Di kita makita (Where are you? I can  find you),”  she said , already getting annoyed. “Andito  ako sa  balcony  sabi,  ulyanin kana ata e (I told you I’m here on the  balcony. You’re getting  senile), “he  teased. She checked the balcony  but there  was no  one There! Ten minutes passed and  she still  couldn’t find her husband.

Her cellphone rang. It was  Mang Ramon  and he told  her:

“Sige, wag nating patayin  ang cellphone natin,  habang  sabay tayong bumabalik sa suite natin (Okay, let’s  not turn off our cellphones while we both head back to our hotel suite),” he  instructed her.

By the time Aling  Stella reached their room she  expected her husband to be waiting  for her.  But still,   Mang  Ramon was nowhere to be  found.

“Ano  ka ba  naman, Ramon,  napapagod na ako sayo. Nasa’n ka na ba talaga ( What’s w rong  with you? I’m getting really tired with your antics. Where are you, really)?”  she  scolded  him on  the phone.

“Tandaan mo  Stella,  mahal na mahal  kita.  Magkikita  rin tayo  ( Remember Stella, I Love you very much. We  will eventually  see each other.) After  he uttered  these words  to Aling  Stella, Mang  Ramon’s  phone went  dead.  When Aling Stella  entered  their room , she  saw a small velvet box on top of  their bed.  She opened  it and fund  the necklace.  The card on it read: Happy Anniversary,  Stella.

My friend doesn’t  remember the details anymore but that same  night,  her dad, upon  leaving the hospital, met an accident  and died on  his way back to his wife.  During the wake  of Mang Ramon, Aling  Stella  kept telling her  children: “Binalikan  nya ako, binalikan ako ng papa niyo, para ibigay  ang sorpresa niya sa akin   ( He  came back . Your father came  back to give me my surprise).” After hearing the story, all  of us  in the group became  teary-eyed, But it was  the one most affected  and touched and wished to myself that I would  be able  to find  someone like  Mang Ramon, someone  whose love  for his wife  transcended  even death.

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