“I want to be twenty years old forever,” she said.
I asked her why, and she just continued to stir her cup of black coffee.
“You didn’t even put sugar in that; what’s the point of stirring?” I asked her again.
She answered this time.
“Well, they served my coffee with a spoon so I better make use of it.”
“Chekhov’s gun, huh?”
“Not quite,” and she giggled.
“How can you be twenty years old forever? The only way to do that is to drink some sort of elixir that makes you immortal, or perhaps asking a vampire to bite you.”
“It’s fucking easy. I just need to die when I turn twenty. That way I’ll stay twenty forever.”
“But what’s the point?”
“There is no point! I just think it’s the perfect age to die.”
I wasn’t sure if she was serious, but as soon as we left the coffee shop and parted ways, my hands started to perspire more than usual. Her birthday was just three days away, her 20th birthday, that is. If she really plans to kill herself three days from now, I should at least try to make these remaining days the best she’d ever have, I thought to myself. I pulled my phone out of my breast pocket and called her.
“Hey, miss me already?”
“Yeah, wanna go out again tomorrow?”
“I wish, man. I wish I could but I’m on my way to Baguio.”
“But we have exams tomorrow, right? How can you take a vacation at this time of the semester?”
“Well, it’s my last year as a teenager. I might as well do something reckless.”
“Please come back, okay?”
“Sadness is a choice, man. If they ask you about me, tell them that.”
“Don’t you think that’s a pretty cheesy thing to say?”
“I guess so. Tell them anyway.”
‘Well, have a nice trip! Don’t forget my pasalubong, okay?”
“Haha, of course.”
She hung up.
Three days later, my exam results came. She, however, hadn’t come back. I wanted to greet her on her birthday but I couldn’t even reach her phone. Maybe her phone was stolen, I thought to myself. I decided to go to their house to make sure.
Hands shoved inside my pants’ pockets, I felt the overwhelming dampness on my thighs. My hands perspired even more, and it was even raining outside. The taxi driver kept on wiping his windshield because the wipers weren’t functioning. He managed, and I felt half-relieved when I stepped out of the cab.
I rang the doorbell. The familiar sound tingled in my ears, but no one responded. I rang it again and her mother walked towards the gate. She was smiling at me, which was a good sign. Maybe nothing bad happened to her. Maybe she was still alive.
She opened the gate as silently as she could, and it only made a small creaking sound. She let me in, holding my shoulder as we walked towards their front door.
“She’s in her room, sleeping. She said she lost her phone in Baguio. I already asked manang to wake her up.”
“You can join us for dinner, hijo.”
“Sure, tita. I’ll just tell my mom later.”
And I saw her there, indian-sitting on the couch, rubbing her eyes with her fingers.
“I’ll leave you two here. I have lots of things to do in the kitchen!”
I nodded. I sat on the couch next to hers and said, “Happy birthday, you.”
“Thanks! You’re surprised, aren’t you?”
“Yeah, I thought you were already dead.”
“Well, I still have 364 days left.”