It’s harder to get over someone who was never really yours.
They say rock stars get all the girls. But Miki knows that’s not always true. He, for one, though the guitarist of popular indie band Trainman, just can’t seem to get the girl. It’s kind of his fault, really. No one told him to fall in love with Jill. No one told him to stand still and watch as she moved on from a terrible breakup into the arms of another guy—a Japanese celebrity with the face of an angel and the body of a god.
So when someone else comes along, someone who finds him cute, smart, and funny (sometimes in the haha sort of way), will Miki finally move on? Or will he continue to pine for Jill?
A Good Way to Start
February 6, Monday, night
The thing about Valentine’s Day was that it was difficult to get into the swing of it if you spent all your known life ignoring it, or wishing the calendar would skip it.
It was the mind-breaking traffic, the packed restaurants and sold out movie theaters, the crowded malls and bustling streets, and the bars reserved for ladies’ nights and speed-dating soirees. Miki could drown in the sight of red roses and humongous boxes of candy and public displays of affection if he dared step out of the house on this day. And he didn’t as a rule, not unless he had to show up to play a party or a gig with his band Trainman.
You’re a Valentine’s Day Grinch, his best friend and bandmate Jill had once told him, looking proud of him when she did.
Yes, he had agreed then, without telling her why. That it was because he couldn’t spend the day with her, the girl he wanted to take out in a booked restaurant and douse in flowers and candies.
This year was different though.
This Valentine’s Day was rolling in after he had jumped off that long stagnant ship. After he started looking at Jill as his best friend, and only that, his friend and steady ground, while he allowed his heart to be with someone who decided to be happy with him too, in the same way he did.
Someone who was going to have a crappy first Valentine’s Day with him if he didn’t pull his shit together.
“Ana can’t even go out that night.”
Miki had Jill on speakerphone as he drove home. They had spent the day with their bandmates in rehearsals. Her boyfriend Shinta had joined them for dinner and left with her soon after, and Miki hadn’t had time to corner her with his woes.
“She has class,” he was saying over the muted chorus of an Assembly Generals song pouring out of his speakers. “Then she has to go home right away and cram for something that’s due the next day.”
“She has to stop going to school.”
“I know right.” They laughed. It was extra funny because Miki was on his way back to school soon too, if the stars aligned.
“But that’s fine,” Jill’s voice went on. “You could be the midnight showing. First attraction of the day.”
“Yeah.” He chuckled then because she had read his mind, though her doing so wasn’t at all surprising. “That’s the plan. What I’m actually going to do when I show up is the big mystery.”
“Whatever it is, don’t start with roses are red, violets are blue.”
He paused, hearing the words playing in his head, lining up into verses, the short tail of a fresh rhythm teasing his brain. “Can you share copyright on that line?”
“You can have it.”
February 13, Monday, night
Miki decided he would start with a song. It was a bit of a cheat, since he wrote and played songs for a living, but this was his first proper Valentine’s Day, the first that mattered. And he knew his best bet was to not be too adventurous.
He had come from a gig. Two gigs. One in QC, one in Paranaque. From the corners of the far north to the wide planes down south in a span of four hours. It was the same hectic story the night before. Nights like these it felt like their manager Mars liked seeing the band suffer through the worst of Metro Manila traffic. Miki felt dead to his marrows.
His bandmates weren’t ready to call it a night though, not even after the last of their seven-song set. They wanted to wind down their exhaustion and stay a bit for two bottles of beer or five. Their drummer Nino and bassist Son were in the mood for goto, while their lead guitarist Kim wanted them all there and together, to have a meeting about some pressing matters.
Decisions the band has to make, Kim said. Already long overdue. About them guesting for DJ Diego’s late night radio show again, and the band’s response to that web interview invite, and that summer tour sponsored by an alcohol brand that they were being considered for. So many things they had to settle.
DJ Diego again? Do we really need to go back in there?
Is that web interview the one with the host who was always kind of drunk? The one who makes her guests go on Japanese-game-show type dares? What’s there to discuss?
If we go on that summer tour does that mean we are allowed to drink just the one brand of alcohol while we’re touring?
Miki told Kim no, not tonight. Give me tonight. Work and goto could wait, but there will only ever be one first Valentine’s Day with Ana.
He ran up the stairs, landing on Ana’s floor. Showing up in her apartment unannounced was a gamble, he knew. She was neck-deep in MBA work this past couple of months, and all that on top of her tax deadlines at the office. He was lucky to be able to see her for a few hours once or twice a week. His knock on her door when she could be studying or sleeping in might not be welcome, although she never neglected telling him how she missed him.
Ana opened the door on his first knock. Her face cleared to a smile, one that was surprised but happy at the sight of him.
Okay, good call.
“Hello, you,” she said, reaching for his hand.
“Wait for it.” Miki took her hand but stayed outside her door, eyes on his watch. A few seconds more the minute hand moved, and it was midnight. “Happy Valentine’s Day!” he cheered, palms open and waving. “You’re busy, I know. What are you cramming for tonight?”
“Studying.” Ana’s wide grin changed into a scowl. “Cramming sounds so judgmental. It’s for the stupid presentation tomorrow. And it’s okay. I needed a break.”
“Great.” Miki lifted his burden and eased open the huge sack of a canvas bag for Ana to see inside. “I brought bibingka, tacos, shawarma, crispy pata, hakaw and siomai, a bottle of soju, and a box of condoms.”
“Nothing stereotypically Valentines-y at all.” Ana beamed. “You are wonderful.”
“Well, except for the condoms.”
“Not complaining about that. Come in and give me a proper hello.”
Miki stepped into her arms, closing the door behind him. His mouth found hers, the shape of which he’d been taking his time the past months memorizing. Ana’s hands traced the band of his boxers, peeking from the waist of his jeans.
Mmmm. Maybe we’re not starting with the song after all.
No. Wait. This is about her. All for her.
Miki pulled back but kept one arm around Ana, his other hand returning to its rummaging through his Valentine’s Day gifts. “I brought more things for you. John Lloyd Cruz movies on DVD—”
“Ohmygod. But I don’t have a—”
“A DVD player.” Miki grinned, showing her the portable thing he’d swiped from his house. “But your TV is working now, right? I should have brought my TV but I think it’s drilled to the wall. I haven’t opened it in forever—”
“My TV is fine.” Ana giggled, winding her arms around his waist. “What else you got in there?”
“Well, Nino and Son wouldn’t fit. They were supposed to help with the production number of my Valentine’s Day jingle—”
“A song. Valentine’s day jingle.” Miki repeated the words with the patience of a mother, smoothing down Ana’s hair after a few fond pats on her head. “So you’re left with just me.”
“You will do.”
Miki smirked, turning his attention to the organized mess of books and laptop and loose notes on Ana’s spotless floor. “Tell me how I can help.”
“With whatever it is you’re doing now. Let me help so you can finish it early and have less hours stressing out and more hours watching ‘You Changed My Life’ with me. Or more hours for sleep. We can eat a little and slam down a shot of soju and you can go to sleep. You deserve sleep.”
Ana had been honing this particular look whenever Miki did something new. One that was thrilled, but also knowing. Surprised yet expectant. She fixed him this look now. “I was kidding. You’re more than enough.”
“Good.” Miki’s smile split his face, a long-held breath slipping out of his lungs. “I am relieved.” He laughed with her, his mouth catching hers in a new kiss. “But you still want the John Lloyd movie, don’t you?”
“Hell, yes. But let’s start with the song.”
He knew it. A song was always a good way to start.