‘Till We Ain’t Strangers Anymore (Final Part)

So it’s done. Thanks to those who read this until the end. This is a boilerplate story but I don’t think it is conventional given the genre.

We stood in front of each other for full three awkward minutes until he was able to comprehend what happened and say. That was a very jarring transition from our usual stuff to uneasy tension. He is just looking at me and I am trying my best to act detached. He does not know that my hands were trembling badly at that moment.

“Why?” He asked as he held my shoulders. “You were the first person who sees me as I am.”

I did not answer back and I continue to avoid his gaze.

“I want you too.” I replied and I saw his eyes lightened when I let go of these words.

I do not want these moments to end. I still want to see him the way I see him right now. Yet I thought what we felt back then were nothing but fleeting. These will be gone sooner or later. He is still young and he might have mistaken yearning for a friend as affection. I’ve been to relationships and my record isn’t exactly a good one. Things like this begin and end like wildfires – and I cannot say yes.

“Then, let’s be lovers. I can keep it as secret. My family will manage this somehow.” He said with his voice full of desperation that I will be swayed by should he spoke further. His grip in my shoulders got firmer signifying he is begging for a yes as my answer.

“It’s just… it isn’t something we should do.” I replied. I know my voice cracked at some point but I didn’t mind anymore. Why my sense of morality came first before my desire? “… and I do not believe this kind of relationship will last. I honestly think it’s not even love.”

I know I am not speaking with him at that point. I was just talking to myself, trying to think of reasons why this future relationship will not work in the first place.

“Trust me. Please?” He begged. He tried to make an eye contact but I just stared away from him.

I did not answer him back. I just bowed my head and shook it.

“Then what the fuck did that kiss mean?!” his voice broke and desperately tried to make me look at him. He was awake that night.

Since I am not responding that time, I guess he realized I won’t answer any of his questions.

“I see. My apologies, Sensei.” Surprisingly, he didn’t shed a tear after my rejection but I cannot forget his expression that time. He wore a painfully forced smile that hurt me more. “Thank you for everything and I am sorry for bothering you.” He bowed his head then walked away.

Then just like that, he’s gone. I knew it was for the best. He will meet a girl along the way and engage in a normal relationship. I am just his guide to ease his pain and nothing more.

“Wait, am I crying?” I said aloud as I felt my eyes are getting misty. I cannot afford his youth being shrouded in playing hide and seek against people. “I am sorry. I am sorry.”

Then those silent weeps turn to wails until I got too tired to cry for the night. I mostly ended up thinking what ifs and what he was doing at the same time. He didn’t come to school the other day and I arrived later than usual in the faculty office. They were pretty much puzzled as to his absence and my melancholic stance that day. I told them he’s sick and I also caught that cold.

As expected, I never saw him standing on the same spot since then. I was worried at first because he might go berserk granted his yakuza status. However, I was welcomed by painful silence and solitude I thought I am used with for the longest time. Ahh, I forgot he filled that part for some time. Now that I am alone again, I never thought this can be really painful.

We still run with each other in campus hallways. I guess it really aches to see someone who used to mean so much and you are now forced to treat him like a stranger. What’s even more painful is his greetings became more and more from a normal student. It was my fault anyway so I cannot complain after all.

I still tried to get some news about him from other faculty members, which I happened to get some surprising responses as his grades were getting good. They know that he sort of become my pet student after I handled his class and they were thanking me for my guidance. To be honest, I am half-happy and half-pained whenever I hear their praises about him.

He is projected to finish on time with his university thesis. We never talked again though except for an email I sent while saying my apologies. He did not reply to my message. They say time heals all wounds. Maybe I need to leave this place and restart my life in some unknown city. That’s when I decided to quit teaching and applied for a job that rings nearer to my degree.

After handing out the key to the utility man, I felt like the last thing that makes me hold on to this place is now gone. I really wanted to bid goodbye to him for the last time. . I walked fast towards the gate as I desperately tried to hold back my tears. I mostly failed though.

Then I saw the same figure that was there three years ago. We are now both wearing glasses. He retains his smile only to shift for a more serious expression later. He is still that smug puppy; I just never thought that a year of separation can be this scary.

Well, I guess he studied hard enough to graduate on time. Or maybe he wants to leave the university fast enough not to see me anymore. Either way, it does not matter as it’s the last day of my stay here. I really wanted to ignore his presence until I saw him waving at me.

“Yo.” He said the same greeting – only more somber this time. “I heard you won’t teach anymore.”

There he goes again with that idiotic smile I forgot he has one year ago. I wanted to run and gave him a final embrace but I didn’t. Instead, I tried to walk casually towards him.

“Uh… yes.” These are the only things I uttered as I struggled to speak. We did not speak with each other since the incident and I felt really awkward with the way we are right now. He, on the other hand, just stared at me.

“Here.” He said as he gave a familiar looking clothe. “It took me a hard time looking for that in my room.”

My eyes turned to slits as I recognize that handkerchief. Turns out, it is the same one I gave a year ago.

“Uhh…” I wished I could punch myself for failing to say anything. “Got a girlfriend?” I picked the most awful question I could ever think of. Great.

He shook his head while smiling. I looked in his eyes. The youthful stance he had back then is now gone. I don’t know if he’s a bit sad or he matured during the last year we are not together.

“How about you? Still fixing your moral compass?”

It seems like what I said a year ago was burned in the back of his mind.

“I am sorry.” That’s the best thing I can say.

“That’s not I want to hear darn it.” He replied as he grabbed the collar of my shirt.

I thought he’s going to give me a punch but he planted a kiss on my lips. He’s kind of inexperienced despite his numerous relationships with girls.

Yet I want it to happen for so long. Ahh… Screw it. I have so many things to say. I still want to stay. I looked at his face and tried to utter a word… My body has its own way to tell him things though.

“Eh… sensei? You are crying? Are you really that disgusted with the thought of me kissing you?”

I didn’t answer back but just hugged him.

“I…” I struggled to find the perfect words to say as my mind is thrusting too many things to tell at the same time.

“I… miss you.” I am sure I sounded like a wounded dog searching for his master that moment. I do not care anymore. I want him.

That’s the best thing I can utter as my emotions overwhelmed any form of my rationality that time. “I… miss you. I-I am sorry.”

He flinched when I spoke.

“I know. It’s okay.” He said while caressing my hair. “See? I will now graduate in April. Thanks to you.”

“I am sorry.” That’s everything I said while hugging him. He just smiled, as if he is already contented with me finally subverting my own thoughts.

For once, I ceased to care about the world. It felt like I was a lost kid who saw his parents after a long day of being separated. I just cried and cried until I was silently sobbing. He was humming the song I sang back then and I was transported to a perfect peace.

 “We need to catch up with the year we didn’t talk to each other.”

I did not answer but just hugged him a bit tighter. I guess he realized that was a sign of my affirmation to his statement. With the snow falling harder, we proceeded to go inside the university building. We sat beside each other, with my head on his shoulders. Thirty minutes passed and none of us spoke. It was as if we don’t need words to communicate.

“We might not see each again after this.” I finally said. “I am going to move to a place far from here.”

“Sensei, I will follow you wherever you are. Wait for me, okay?” he replied. “We will be equals once I finish university. Until then, wait for me.”

I just nodded like a kid with his response. It felt like I was actually reassured with those words. I went with last ditch effort to sway him away and picked words that should make him realize what he’s going to do.

“We will thread grounds which people don’t see as acceptable. Even your family might disown you. I cannot afford to see your life be ruined just because we like each other.”

He looks disinterested with my reasons to be fair. He replied with a groan then held my face and directed it to look at him.

“My father knows what I am into. He’s that perceptive. He told me we looked like an old couple when you still visit home.” He said in a deadpan manner. “It’s just you who said no. Who would have thought you are just getting gung ho over that fact?”

I cannot help but chuckle at his response.

“Sensei, want to stay in my house for the night? I want to brag what I did for the last year. Hah, I bet you heard the miracle of the delinquent that swept the teachers in the university.”

I only smiled at his story and tried to sniff his scent. Yes, I want to be together with this hopeless being.

“So it’s a yes?”

“Take care of me from now own.” I replied and he planted another kiss. This time, it was much longer.

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