Luigi ceased to dream of that celestial face but never stopped wondering why the smoothly polished wooden chair beside him still has her lingering presence. They say that aromas have a strong association with memory, they insinuate the exact scenario, and reminds how they felt, appear and smell. As much as he wanted to restrain the flow of memory, all he could do is to immediately set into the sipping of his cappuccino and give in. Her white carnation dress flutters like a bird’s wings in front of St. Mary Magdalene’s Church as she ran after him, he clearly saw the bouquet of orange tulips torn apart as if a rough wind destroyed its symmetry. Luigi cannot forgive himself for the red rimmed eyes he had caused her. Nor counting the ten years since the last time he saw her could alter the meaning of what he has done.
Memories are bad companions but he clings to them. He clings to them enough to realize that they are just memories and nothing more.
He reached for another sip, the white smoke from the brown vintage cup faintly visible. It was chillier now, the night outside perhaps appears like a dark blanket covering the sky. Sometimes Josefina was cold. He remembered the elmo designed sweater she used to wear outside their apartment, hanging loose on her tiny frame with her long black hair pulled up in a bun. He used to buy her coffee at times when they decided to walk the streets of Ermita. Belching PUV horns and eye-stinging red lights are in constant uproar. Jeepneys and passenger buses are inches from each other as they are once again caught in another web of traffic situation.
“It never changes, does it?” Josefina asked in between coughs. She had been suffering persistent coughs that time maybe because the smoke and filth surrounding the area.
“What, the traffic situation?”
“No, the one on that side.” She pointed the middle-aged man sitting in the corner of a whitewashed wall. He was holding his dinner in a plastic container that used to be an ice cream case. He doesn’t mind the dark and barren smoke coming from vehicles just inches away from his wooden booth. Beside his small business, no more than two meters from the road is an old Chinese restaurant named Golden Fortune.
“I heard he’s been here for five years.” Josefina said as she hurried towards the strange looking white-haired man.
“Really? Just selling candies?”
Josefina went straight to the man’s stall. The wooded table was somewhat dilapidated; anyone who was a meter away could easily say it was able to withstand changing weathers. She was saying something to the man and then Luigi came closer to decipher her words.
She was buying a cappuccino flavor 3-in-one coffee and as Luigi was beginning to loathe the smell, the stench of urine oozing all over the place, he noticed that Josefina was conversing with the man using a pen and paper. She could’ve bought a coffee at Starbucks located at adjacent their condo but she opted to take a stroll on the streets.
“Are you alone Sir? It was half past eleven already.” Luigi barged in. He just shook his head when Luigi thought he was going to nod. Josefina let out a half-whispered giggle which he always find sexy.
“He can’t hear you Luigi. And he can’t talk.” And they continue to laugh in silence and in the dead night.
He always knew that the quiet and contemplative nature of Josefina has something to do with her deep understanding of humanity. On the way she observe things, the way she looked at the street children dressed in bursting blackish cloth due to the smoke that accompany them as close as their shadows. Josefina would notice every detail of them as if everything she saw captures her wonder.
“Caramel Cocoa Cluster for Mel please”.
The barista on the counter was now standing close the plump customer and Luigi noticed that the drink was medium sized and the wisp of white cream is a stark contrast to its dark brown color. The barista’s voice was small in proportion to her tiny figure as it was easily muffled by the clanking sounds of coffee makers mixing unapologetically with joyous voices of a middle-aged woman and her amigas.
He suddenly felt tiring to drink and move. Those memories are just a fraction away from him the moment he decided to move on.
Luigi reached for his wallet on his vintage bag and found a piece of paper containing Josefina’s handwriting. It was not a letter intended for him not long before her death. It was the conversation between her and the middle-aged man. The piece of paper appeared wrinkled and worn out due to the long time it was kept inside his wallet. The blue strokes of her cursive letters are beginning to form a blotch on the surface. He is afraid he might lose the exact look of her penmanship.
Sitting at the front of the café, he decided to left because of the swarm of students ordering at the counter. He went to his car and brushed everything off. Start all over again.. He said to himself.
And for tonight, he might find hard to sleep.