Eight Minutes, Eight Million People

August 7th, 2013
Someone asked me about what my ideal love story is
I tell them about Paul and Kate

She sat on the same bench every Friday night for the past 2 years. Kate’s always been a fan of sitting and thinking, listening to music, and humming to the songs. Eight minutes ’til the clock hits 8 and she’s going back to her same old life–a life that isn’t so bad at all really but she didn’t ask for it either. She lives in one of the most expensive neighborhoods on one of the most expensive cities in the world, so yeah, her life isn’t so bad. She’s living a dream, med school, Ivy and all.

Eight minutes.

She lets herself think about Paul just like she always does when she looks at the empty spot on the bench she occupies. She thinks someone should be sitting there, holding her hand when it gets cold or telling her she’s breathtaking when the wind blows her hair.

She smiles.

They were young, she thinks. They met in college: Kate being one of, of course, the smartest people Paul’s ever known and Paul being the dorkiest of all the people Kate’s ever met. They somehow clicked. They somehow made sense. They somehow balanced each other because Kate is guarded and Paul is free. Kate is melancholic in the areas Paul is happy and Kate is okay in the places Paul is not. They share a kind of friendship that Kate knew–because the movies told her–would end up elsewhere.

She was right.

Paul, of reasons she will never understand, fell fast for her. And maybe she did, too. But Kate was never ready.

Kate feared anything with punctuation. Kate feared anything with finality. So, she danced around, pretending that not loving him back was okay. Until one day, they had to graduate. They had to move on. They had to let each other go.

Kate cried the night before she was bound for the city. She got into one of the most prestigious medical schools in the country, she graduated top of her class but it didn’t make her happy. Maybe it did but maybe it wasn’t enough. Of course she knows this, she’s smart and she’s really kind of awesome. But even in her own awesomeness, she’s kind of stupid for letting things slide at the chance of it being perfect.

Five minutes.

Kate stares at the empty spot on the bench again and smiles pathetically because apparently, this is where her dreams have taken her–alone, cold, and hungry. She probably needs to get dinner before she goes home. But she sits still because she still has five minutes to sulk in her thoughts.

She remembers Paul and how they had walked away from each other with promises of keeping in touch even though they both knew that once Kate had landed her feet on the city, there’s no turning back. She can’t go back. She can’t regress.

And Kate didn’t. Not even once.

Sure, she thinks about Paul sometimes but she knows, because she’s smart and awesome, that she can never be with someone who didn’t share her dream.

She blames Paul.

She blames Paul and his ability to accept just how cruel life works. It was Paul who talked about feelings first. It was Paul who fell first. And inevitably, it was Paul who first accepted the fact that maybe, Paul and Kate were just different chapters of different books in the opposite sides of the shelf.

He didn’t fight. Kate didn’t have any reasons to.

For the past two years, Kate had tried not to think about him. She succeeded, thanks to the thick books she needed to read. It also helped that Kate never believed in happy endings. It helped her resolve because she was never raised to believe that someday, someone else will be sitting on that empty space on the bench.

Three minutes.

Her self-pity Friday is almost done.

She looks up and there, she sees something familiar. For the first time, she sees something familiar in the city of eight million lost souls.

She feels her heart hammer against her chest. It feels like it would jump right out of its place because even in the dark, she will never mistake his broad shoulders and firm arms wrapped around a jacket that’s so unfairly his. Their eyes meet and he smiles.

Kate smiles back–a kind of smile that she did’t need to force. The one that’s so inexplicably natural.

It’s funny, how you don’t quite realize just how much you miss someone until you see them again.

Two minutes.

He crosses the small distance between the two of them. She’s terrified but the sounds of the city fade in the background for the first time since she’d set foot two years ago. How a city of 8 million people could be so silent all of a sudden? Perhaps, she’ll never know.

“Hey,” is the first thing he says after Kate last heard him say “This sucks” two years ago.

One minute.

Their eyes meet again and it’s baffling, really, how we all try to search the world for things we think we want. We keep on searching the world for our lifelong dreams. We could search our whole life and still come back empty-handed.

“You can’t do that, you know?” Paul tells her.

“Do what?” she asks.

Paul looks away smilingly, “Walk out of my life just like that.”

She glances at her watch and she learns it’s already 8:00. Her eight minutes of reverie is over and yet, she doesn’t make a move to walk away or run–for once, she decides to stay.

Kate never thought Paul was the one. Kate never thought Paul could be one of the eight million people she could bump into on a random Friday night. Yet, even after two years, Paul was still the same old guy who came barging into Kate’s life. And it’s funny, how things work the way they should–how the ones we thought we don’t need end up as the things that keep us together.

“May I sit here?” he asks, eyeing the empty spot beside her.

Kate nods because she’s smart and she knows that there are eight million other people in the city right now and none of them is Paul. He sits beside her and she smiles because it’s silly that even after all this time, that spot on the bench is still Paul’s to take.

That never changed.

Not even once.

Excerpt, A Letter From Manila
By Me for You
Because Paul and Kate are real people and I believe in them

Eight minutes, eight million peopleMaybe, Kelly Clarkson



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