Catapult Alumni Diane
I turned my head towards the noise and saw two figures in the dark. They were standing behind the gate a few meters away from me. I heard them speaking in an odd mix of Spanish, Italian, and English but I couldn’t make out what they were saying. Maybe they were speaking too fast. I […]
I turned my head towards the noise and saw two figures in the dark. They were standing behind the gate a few meters away from me. I heard them speaking in an odd mix of Spanish, Italian, and English but I couldn’t make out what they were saying. Maybe they were speaking too fast. I should edit my resume and stop claiming I speak beginner Spanish and Italian.
It was two in the morning in a popular hostel in Milan. A few minutes earlier, I was finishing a business proposal in a corner of the lobby. I felt the need to take a short break so I decided to step outside to drink lemon iced tea from the vending machine. I took a sip of my drink and acted like I wasn’t paying attention to the couple. Watching them was better than going back to my nook and finishing my paperwork.
Moments later, a young woman in a floral dress emerged from the dark. She started weeping as she made her way to the hostel’s main door. Her guy friend slammed the gate on his way out. I could have finished my drink and stayed silent. I bit my tongue and decided not to say anything until my nosiness got the better of me.
I asked as she walked past me and reached for the door. She stopped, looked at me, and started speaking in rapid-fire Spanish. I didn’t know how to tell a crying woman that I don’t speak her language. I gave her a confused look until she noticed I wasn’t getting most of what she was saying.
“ Hablas Español?”
“Uh, sorry. No. Un poquito. I’m Filipino. I don’t speak Spanish.”
“Oh… He was my friend. I love him. And I won’t see him again. I love him so much. I’m going home to Argentina and he’s staying here. He has a life here. We spent six months together in Poland.”
“Oh, where in Poland?” was my dumb response. I realized it as soon as the words escaped from my mouth. My brain was accustomed to engaging in small talk when meeting someone new. I had never experienced talking about heartbreak within the first minute of talking to a stranger – except for that one time they ran out of white chocolate macadamia nut cookies at Subway and the guy behind the counter tried to console me because I was evidently heartbroken from not getting my favorite cookie – although this might be a little different.
I didn’t understand her answer. She said it was close to Germany. I didn’t want to ask her to say it again. Instead, I listened to her as she narrated how they met, how he had a girlfriend in the beginning, how they got together and how they were inseparable during their internship… but now it’s all over. Her story was punctuated by her soft sobbing. Her tears ran her mascara down her face onto her dress. She continued by explaining she couldn’t stay because her family expects her to come home. She kept repeating that she loves him more than she loves her family. He decided to end things between the two of them because they are still young. He also claimed long distance relationships don’t work.
“How young are you, if you don’t mind?”
“I’m 21, he’s 22.”
I wanted to tell her that when you look back, you’d think you didn’t even love him that much. Our emotions are heightened when we travel. We all dream of having our own storybook romance involving going to a strange land, meeting someone special, and falling in love. When we spend some time traveling, it’s not unlikely to cross paths with someone who will sweep us off our feet. Regular couples spend a lot of time dealing with the banality of everyday life before taking a trip together. When we date someone we meet on the road, every day is an adventure.
I wanted to tell her that he’s most likely right. For someone like me who’s almost a decade older, they do seem too young. I also know that long distance relationships involve too much work. I thought of telling her that this is probably just a summer fling for him. I wanted to tell her a lot of things. If I were younger, I would have given her a piece of my mind but I am old enough to know that she doesn’t need to know what I think. Sometimes, being there for someone is more important than being right. Instead of lecturing her about my take on love and life, I asked her to sit down while I get her a glass of water.
We continued to talk for a while. Her sobbing eventually stopped after about half an hour of pouring her hearts out. I was so busy trying not to engage in small talk that I forgot to ask for her name. She introduced herself as Diane before saying goodbye because she had to catch a 10 o’clock train in the morning. We shared a long hug before she went back to her room while I went back to my laptop.
The Filipino receptionist I met when I checked in the night before approached me to ask what happened. Trust a Filipino to always find ways to gossip. To be fair, he seemed genuinely worried. I dismissed it as young love and told him he shouldn’t worry about it. I know it’s more complicated than that but I really had to get back to work.
I woke up pretty late the next morning. I checked my phone and saw it’s half past ten in the morning. I was relieved to know I won’t see her again at breakfast. It might be too awkward for her to see me again. However, I was worried that I missed breakfast. There are only a few things I love more than complimentary breakfast.
I hurriedly went down to the dining hall and a familiar Filipino novelty song welcomed me.
“ O, ang galing, galing kong sumayaw, galing kong gumalaw, galing kong sumayaw…” (Oh, I’m a great dancer)
“ Puñeta, Totoy Bibo? Am I still in Italy?”
Three of the hostel staff laughed and one guy jokingly welcomed me back to the Philippines. It turns out, almost everyone who works in the hostel is a Filipino. I told them I missed the window for the free breakfast.
“Don’t worry, kabayan (fellow countryman). I’ll fix you a plate. If you want more pastries, just let me know.”
Yes, we’re known to gossip but we are also known for our hospitality and our love to share food.
Another familiar song started playing as I was enjoying my breakfast of eggs and sausages. This time, it was “ Miss na Miss Kita” (I really miss you), a popular love song from when I was a kid. I started laughing when the girl sitting at the table across from me started to pay attention to the song.
“Another Filipino song, huh?”
“Yes, I don’t think I’ve heard this song since the early nineties. I can’t believe I traveled halfway around the globe to listen to it again.”
“I get what you mean. I feel the same way when they play a Justin Bieber song.”
“Oh, so you’re Canadian.”
“I’m surprised you know that. Most people think he’s American. You must be a fan,” she said teasingly.
“Before you judge me, let me tell you I have a teenage sister who was obsessed with him when she was younger. My name’s Abad, by the way. What’s yours?”
We continued talking and laughing at the poor decisions we made when we were younger. She told me I could join her in checking out the city. I smiled and told her I already promised my mom I would meet her friend from high school who now lives in Milan. I could see myself really getting along well with Amy even only after talking to her for a while. I could almost feel it in my bones. It’s a good thing our schedules didn’t match. After all, my trip ends in a few days. I didn’t want to turn out like Diane. I didn’t want to ruin my mascara.