This creative non-fiction appeared in a compilation published on Subselfie.com
The night had settled onto Siem Reap when they spontaneously found themselves a little far off the central district where there are no city lights. Just darkness, the contours of the Angkor Wat revealing itself whenever the moon shone above it.
It was quiet and she was clueless, thinking that the most interesting story to take home the next day was how Cambodians love their vegetables. Even barbecues sold at street carts have vegetables in them. She knew this because while their friends explored the open grounds of the Artisan d’ Angkor, she stayed outside with him, shedding a few of their last dollars on endless sticks of Cambodian barbecue.
But that night they were set for a completely different story.
He had not completely sobered up when he motioned for her to come closer. She obliged because the next day, he would not remember it and she wanted to take advantage of a few moments where she could stop wondering, what if…
“What if I hold his hand right now?”
When she did, it was like live wires coming together. There is a violent resistance at the first split second and then it eased in all at once.
There was no need for words. They’ve talked enough in their years of friendship. They’ve talked about the mundane, the profound, and just recently, the distant possibility there may be sparks. He said:
“In a parallel universe.”
“I hope we never find that parallel universe,” she said, meaning it all at the time.
Love is something that’s not totally yours; she had become more convinced of this idea. Like Khmer Temples guarded at the gates by ferocious beings against evil spirits and intruders, love is best felt at a safe, but satisfying distance.
He, on the other hand, believes in convergence, a space and time where currents meet. It will be intense and special, but it will also go away as quickly as it came.
It took only two seconds after she held his hand that she realized what was happening: they were having their convergence.
Siem Reap had transformed into their parallel universe.
She let the feeling set into her skin, but quickly it started to sink into her nerves, then blood, like virus wildly spreading. Bewildered, she let go, closed her eyes and hoped that the sunlight would come soon to drown out the terrible secrets of that evening.
They traveled by land for hours along the Cambodian countryside in the morning.
The closer they got to the Thai border, the more that their convergence, so heartbreakingly beautiful and brief, was coming to its inadvertent end.
She couldn’t tell whether she was okay with it, or whether one of them was aware of the possibility that things may never ever be the same again from that point.
Did he feel the electricity that night, too? Or had he completely forgotten, like she knew he would.
When they reached the Suvarnabhumi airport in Bangkok, she sat next to him in silence, tired from the trip and the turbulence of her feelings.
Somewhere between the whirring sound of planes and voices of operators announcing who would be home in time, and who had to wait a little more, he whispered:
“Be informed, I love you.”
It seemed like the most appropriate thing to say. Of course he loves her, and she loves him. But to what extent, that was the question.
The best thing to do was stay quiet, let the words fade into a precious memory. But in retrospect, she stayed quiet because she was coming to terms with the fact that she was prepared for the wretched consequences of overstaying love’s welcome — shoot down the guards at the temple, let the intruders in.
To what extent, that was the question in Siem Reap and in Bangkok.
They tried to answer it in Manila, inside art galleries, during car rides, over cold burger and beer.
She already knew the answer. She had fallen in love with him, wanting something to be totally hers for once.
But that’s the thing about convergence, it will pass, and they have to let it.
“I could let you go.”
It was the bravest thing she’s ever said in her life, but at the same time, she was ready that she may be willing to wait for another chance at convergence if he asked her to.
But instead he said:
The storm was long and harsh after that, leaving in its wake tiny broken pieces of their hearts, but soon enough the sky reappeared, the same sky over Siem Reap that fateful evening.
A sky they can look up to and see clearly, and definitely, that it was never in their stars.