“I looked you up and it said you were…” Maddie paused trying to confine a fit of giggles before finishing her sentence.
“A secret agent?”
I couldn’t contain my laughter. My eyes turned glassy – as if wanting to say “Yes, I like you that day we met.” I struggled to find words to cover up my excitement of finally meeting her a second time.
“That was a joke, obviously. At this day and age, everyone can easily be a secret agent,” I said, assuring her that what’s on my online portfolio she must have found through Google was a college joke I never outgrew.
I wanted to ask her “You googled me?” but I didn’t have the gall – not yet. Maybe I’ll save that for later, I told myself. We have only seen each other face to face for the second time but it felt like we’ve know each other for years.
The first time we met, we were pitted against each other during a quiz night at a bar somewhere in Davao. Unlike me, Maddie felt it necessary to bring out her A game. I spent the night just killing time in a city far from home.
I didn’t notice her at first. Yes, she looked pretty but not the kind that would take total control of your mind. She was a nice-gal kind of pretty – the one you build long-term relationships with and I was not interested in that the moment we first met.
I have just gotten out of a bad breakup with my girlfriend of four years and I wasn’t ready to jump right back in the dating scene. I wanted to take a break, and so I did.
“Don’t be a sore loser,” she said as she approached me. Sitting in a corner by the bar right after the game ended, I stood far away from the crowd.
Maddie, all flushed and with puffy eyes, taunted me. Poor, drunk girl, I thought to myself not giving a budge to her taunts.
“I’m allergic to alcohol,” she explained after seeing the curious look on my face.
“Yeah, I figured,” I shrugged.
“I can’t go home like this,” she said. “I’m Maddie, by the way. By chance, do you want to go for coffee, Dave?” –she asked pointing to my name tag still attached to my shirt.
I chuckled as I took off the sticker and gave her a quizzical look, checking if she just threw me a trick question. I’ve never been asked out by a girl before.
“Come on, I know where to get a good cup at this time,” she insisted. “It’s just a few doors away.”
I barely knew this girl but she looked decent enough, I told myself.
“So Dave, you’re not from here, right? What brought you to Davao?”
Life is funny: you ask for a second of peace and quiet, it throws you a bucketful of noise in a form of a somewhat crazy, drunken lady.
“I’m here for work. I had to do some errands,” I replied.
She’s one heck of a noisy lady – a nosy one at that.
“I leave tomorrow morning.”
“Cool,” she replied on a flat note.
She brought me to a crowded café and insisted I order the durian coffee. I couldn’t say no – she already made the girl at the cash register punch in my order.
“Maddie, right? So you’re from here?”
“No, not really. Work brought me here – love and work, to be precise. I’ve been here for two years already,” she told me.
For the first time that night, I looked at her up close, inspecting the girl I just met: long, messy hair tied carelessly into a ponytail, a nicely fitted collared shirt, a pair of skinny jeans, Chucks, an air of confidence – or maybe, strength. Her thin frame looked strong enough to break me to pieces, thanks to her self-assured, vibrant – not to mention cheeky – personality.
Her eyes lit up with almost every word she said, especially the one about how this particular guy led her to Davao only to break her heart. It always ended like that, she said.
“I’m always falling for the wrong ones, she exclaimed. “I keep falling for the wrong guys!”
That moment, she paused and apologized.
“Enough about me, let’s talk about you! Do you have a girlfriend?”
I shook my head. I didn’t want to talk about my love life – especially not to a stranger.
I don’t know what kept me by her side when I wasn’t really in the mood to talk. Then I realized, I didn’t do much of the talking anyway. I listened, and surprisingly, I held on to her every word.
It was already 2 AM and I told her she doesn’t look as red as before and that it was time to go.
“I should go back to the hotel and pack my stuff. What about you? Will you be alright? Do you need a cab?” I asked her.
“No, I have a car. Where are you staying? I’ll drive you there,” she offered.
When we arrived at the hotel driveway, I stopped myself from inviting her up.
“Thanks for the ride,” I told her.
“Don’t forget to catch up,” she said – short of an order.
I left Davao that morning with her number and with a promise to stay connected. We kept in touch – not regularly but just enough to keep
the other updated.
Today, she arrived from Davao to finally resettle back here to Manila.
“So you Googled me?”
I couldn’t contain my excitement any longer. Seven months after we first met, Maddie was right in front of me again.
“Who doesn’t use Google nowadays,” she shrugged with a laugh.
I welcomed her to Manila with a hug and offered to carry her bags. At first she hesitated but upon realizing the large bulk and weight of her things, she didn’t fight off the idea any longer.
I stopped minding whether my excitement showed, it didn’t matter anymore.
At the parking lot, soon after we filled up the trunk with her bags, she told me she’d be staying at her old apartment studio, the one she left behind.
“You should definitely come up,” Maddie said.