Authors: Marla Miniano
Tags: #Literature & Fiction, #Contemporary, #Romance, #Contemporary Fiction, #Teen & Young Adult
But one night,
seven months and six days ago, you asked me to tell
you the truth, and I did. The truth was this: I couldn’t stop thinking about
you and that kiss we shared once and never spoke of again. Every moment was a
moment further from the one where I leaned towards you and you pulled me in
close. Every thought of you brought back that moment, our moment—the feel
of your lips brushing against mine for the first time, for the last time. The
truth was, at that moment, we were caught in the same place, breathing in the
same air, which was why I couldn’t understand how it meant the world to me
while it meant nothing to you at all.
You looked at me
for a long time before you finally said, “I’m sorry I even asked. I just wanted
to make sure you were okay with this.”
“I don’t know.
your arm from mine and told me, “I’m sorry it meant something to you.” I said,
“I’m sorry it meant something to me, too.”
From “This Closure”
Table for Two
is a work of fiction. Names, characters, some places, and incidents are
products of the author’s imagination and are used fictitiously. Any resemblance
to actual events, places, or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.
Summit Books are published by
floor, Robinsons Cybergate Tower 3
Pioneer Complex, Pioneer St.
City 1550, Philippines
Copyright © 2010 by Marla Miniano
Book design by Studio Dialogo
Cover illustration by Ariel Santillan
All rights reserved.
No part of this book may be reproduced
in any form or by any electronic or
mechanical means including information storage and retrieval systems without permission
in writing from the publisher, except by a reviewer, who may quote brief passages
in a review.
For Chris and
Ley, who make me
real-life love stories.
Thank you for
sharing your happy
TABLE OF CONTENTS
All the Best
Table for Two
My boyfriend Tristan
is late again, and I am not surprised.
I am sitting at our favorite spot,
a table for two by the window, in our favorite coffee shop. Not many people
know about Café Carmelo—it is sandwiched between a Korean grocery and an
appliance service center, along a street fifteen minutes away from a major road
housing three universities and more than a dozen big-name coffee shops. People
drive past it every day, on the way to school or work, but nobody ever really
notices. And with its unassuming exterior and a sign you have to squint to
read, it almost seems like it doesn’t want to be noticed.
It was my idea
to make this our regular meeting place. I figured it would be less embarrassing
to be kept waiting for an hour and a half, or to be completely flaked on, when
your only witnesses are a couple of bored baristas and a law student burning a
hole through a mountain of handouts. Tristan used to say I was being paranoid, that
when he stood me up in Starbucks or Seattle’s Best, nobody could even tell I
had just been stood up. Of
they could tell. There is an unmistakable vibe
independent people give off, an enviable confidence that allows them to eat
alone and sit alone and hang out at a coffee shop alone without looking
pathetic. I am not an independent person. I do not give off that “I’m alone and
I’m okay” vibe. What I give off, clearly, is an “I got stood up by my boyfriend
so now I’m loitering and trying to pretend that I’m okay” vibe.
I open my bag and pull out the
envelope containing my resumés, cover letters, and 1x1
pictures. Today is my first
first day—as official members
of the real world. I now understand why it is more common to say “fresh” graduates
rather than “new” or “recent” graduates. I feel invigorated and energized, free
from the burden of research papers and long exams and thesis proposals, and
ready to dive into the adult world of job-hunting and panel screenings and
salary negotiations. I feel eager and enthusiastic. I feel, well, fresh.
“Are we yuppies now?” my best
friend Diane asked me several days ago.
“Yup,” I replied. “Yuppies.”
“I hate that word,” she said. “It
makes me think of little people running around. Like
I said, “It makes me think of
She shook her head at me.
“Sometimes I wonder why I put up with you, Mandy. I mean, you’re obviously so
much smarter than me. You have all these insights that are like, really
, you know?”
I grinned. “Fine. Let’s call ourselves
something else then. Fresh. Fresh graduates.”
“Fresh,” she repeated, mulling it
over. “I like it.”
“Does it make you think of orange
“No,” she replied. “Okay. Yes.
Yes, it does. But I still like it.”
We both laughed. “Fresh it is,
I arrange my cover letters in
alphabetical order, according to the companies’ names, and line up my
neat rows on the table. Forty minutes pass and I feel my freshness deflating.
My boyfriend Tristan is late. Again. I am always waiting for him to show up,
and even though we’ve been together for three years, I still feel sick to my
stomach every single time, like I am about to go on a blind date with a
complete stranger who may or may not decide at the last minute to back out.
You’d think I’d be able to brush off his punctuality problems by now. I imagine
this is what it would feel like on our wedding day, as I sit inside the bridal
car, a bundle of nerves, and wait for someone to tell me that the groom has
arrived and the ceremony is about to start—that nervous, clammy
uncertainty gnawing away at my high hopes until there is nothing left but fear
Except we’re never getting
married, because today, we are going to break up.
through the door, no doubt with a good excuse for his tardiness: He came home
late from a graduation party with his block mates, or his mom made him run a
million errands. Or he lost his phone, or he couldn’t find his keys. Or his car
wouldn’t start, or his alarm didn’t go off. Or he overslept.
And all I will hear is,
Look, Mandy, I just don’t
care enough about you anymore.
As he approaches,
try to seem as detached and disinterested as possible.
“Hi,” he says, keeping his voice
low and his smile shy. Tristan is always pretending to be more timid than he
actually is—the guy version of a girl trying to be demure, trying to
project that Maria Clara-ness that has become so rare these days. I don’t know
why he does this. Girls don’t like shy guys; they think they do, but they
always end up with the ones who speak up and assert themselves and win people
over with the grandest of gestures. Girls don’t notice shy guys, and it is
ironic that Tristan’s attempt to be a shy guy is secretly a call for attention:
he only does it around his crushes, or in a room full of beautiful strangers
he’d like to charm. Or with me, when I’m mad and trying to ignore him. He only
does it to stand out.
“Hi,” he repeats, and I tell him,
He says, “I know,” and sits beside
me, but not close to me. The space between does not allow our shoulders to
touch, and I do not feel the satin smoothness of his varsity jacket on my bare
arm. There are so many things I cannot touch and feel right now. He tries to
make eye contact, but I concentrate on studying my resumé. There is a speck of
red ink, barely noticeable, on the upper right corner of the page, just above
the photo of a very prim-and-proper me. I want to swipe at it with a correction
pen, but a) I don’t have one with me, and b) doing so would only draw more
attention to the flaw, as most cover-up attempts do. I flip it over so that I
am left with a blank white sheet, which I can no longer pretend to be
“I forgot to give you this,” he
says, and hands me a copy of his yearbook photo. He is bright-eyed and at ease,
wearing a navy blue toga and smiling widely, almost goofily, for the camera. At
the back, he has written in all caps,
Dear Mandy, I’ll make a wish for you and hope it
will come true... If you lose your way, think back on yesterday. Remember me
this way, remember this way. Love, Tristan.
The “o” in “love” is a heart, and I look up to see him grinning
expectantly at me. He thinks the clever cheesiness and the ‘90s
movie reference make up for the fact that this is the
exact same thing he wrote on the copies he gave out to everyone else days ago.
He seems to find it funny. I don’t.
I force a smile.
What else have you forgotten?
“Hey, what’s wrong?” he asks,
moving to tuck a stray strand of my hair behind my ear. I try not to flinch,
consciously arranging my face into something resembling receptiveness, but my
hand involuntarily reaches up to swat his misguided affection away. It is hard
to imagine that, three years ago, this was the very gesture that made me fall
in love with him. It was the end of freshman year, and we were hauling dusty
boxes of old files from our org’s room to the common storage room. He was
trying to convince me to tag along with his block to the beach, but the way he
was trying was just not enough for me—he was being annoyingly coy,
playing it safe, not really saying what he was supposed to be saying.
“I hate the beach,” he told me,
kicking the door of the storage room open with his foot and letting me through.
With my back to him, he continued, “It’s full of sweaty guys who try to show
off their abs—you know, one ab per dude.”
“It’s also full of sweaty girls
who show off their boobs,” I reminded him. “Two boobs per chick, no doubt about
“Yeah, okay. But it’ll be really
“Of course it’ll be hot, you
idiot,” I snapped, getting more irritated by the minute. “I think that’s kind
of the point.”
“And I hate getting sand in my
flip-flops. And in my shorts. And in my underwear.”
don’t think I needed to hear that last one.”
“Sorry,” he mumbled, and I thought
I had been harsh enough to make him stop, but he went on, “The thing is, the
whole block is going. I can’t
“Of course you can. Nobody can
force you to go.” I felt guilty for calling him an idiot and turned around to
smile at him. “Fight for your rights, man.”
He smiled back. “I could use some
I didn’t answer until we had gone
back to the org room and picked up one big box each, letting his unspoken
invitation hang in the air between us, making him tense and insecure. “It’s a
good thing you’ll have your block mates, then,” I told him, but as I watched
his face fall, I was surprised that I didn’t derive any form of satisfaction
from it. We had been playing The Game for months, and maybe it was time to
quit. The question was, what was the definition of quitting in that scenario?
Giving up the game to make way for something genuine? Or giving up on each
other to play the game with someone else?
He walked ahead of me, and I felt
like maybe I should say something—not exactly apologize, but at least
make him feel a bit better about himself and his moves, or lack thereof.
“Wait,” I said. He turned back to see me clutching the heavy box with both
hands, the struggle to come up with something substantial enough to say after
“wait” completely visible on my face. A sudden gust of wind blew across the
corridor, and I blinked as shorter strands of my hair escaped from my ponytail
and poked my eyes. “A thousand yellow daisies,” I blurted out, quoting Lorelai
should be a thousand yellow daisies...it should be more than this.
He reached out to tuck the stray
strands behind my ear and told me, “It’s okay, Mandy. I get it.”
We walked silently to the storage
room and set down our boxes. Outside, the sky was getting dark, and the din of
voices was steadily fading—we should probably move fast if we both wanted
to get home in time for dinner. He stepped towards the door, but I found myself
sitting on the floor, grabbing his hand, and pulling him down. “Get what?” I
“Nothing,” he said.
“Get what?” I repeated, elbowing his ribs.
“That you don’t like me,” he
“Are you serious? Of course I like
“But you treat me like crap.”
I laughed. “Of course I treat you
like crap. Didn’t you ever do this in kindergarten? Didn’t you ever call your
crush names, or steal her crayons, or pull her pigtails?”
“But we’re not in kindergarten.”
He was right. We were in college,
and we were good friends. Or at least
good friend to me. The past few months paraded themselves in front of me: him
waiting for me outside my classroom, offering to spend my long breaks with me,
volunteering to return my books to the library, walking me to the parking lot.
It wasn’t a game; I was never a game to him.
I opened my mouth to speak, but he
stood and said, “We can finish this tomorrow. Come on, I’ll drive you home.”
The next morning, he showed up at
my doorstep with coffee, bacon, and waffles swimming in syrup. And then he
tucked my hair behind my ear and handed me a bouquet of yellow daisies.
“It’s not a thousand,” he said.
“But I hope it’s enough. And I hope it’s not too late.” He said it with
confidence and conviction and undeniable sincerity. He said it like he meant
Now, three years later, he asks me
what’s wrong, and what I want to tell him is that I don’t even know what’s