The Story of Another Us
prologue: when my fictional character came to life
It is on an average day when the extraordinary happens. Syempre, ganoon naman talaga. Magbabago lang ang takbo ng buhay ko kapag may dumating ng lalake sa buhay ko. (Ewwwwww!!)
But seryoso na, I have encountered extraordinary days but this one is extra-extraordinary.
Before, there were three phases in my life:
1. I was already living an extraordinary life even before I became a published author. My family is well-off. I get everything that I want.
2. Then my book gets published. I suddenly got so popular in the writing world. I was signing books and taking pictures with fans.
3. Then I was a part of the movie production of my book, considered as one of the scriptwriters and cast director (for now), and working and actually earning my own spending money!
Point is, hindi ko kailangan ng lalake para baguhin ang takbo ng buhay ko. Nasaktuhan lang na sa pagkakataong ito, may isang tao na nagbitbit ng malaking bomba sa buhay ko.
And now, here we are in Phase 4: The day when my fictional character came to life.
Kasabay kong maglakad palabas ng simbahan itong kaibigan kong si Mica (pronounced as may-ka). He's gay. And everybody knows it and everybody's happy about it.
Tapos biglaan na lang may lumapit sa'kin na lalaking nakabarong. Mukhang driver kung hindi man ito na-late sa kasal niya kanina. He holds out a hand to stop us from walking. "Excuse me, ma'am. Kayo po ba si Kater Millian?"
"Opo," sagot ko. "Bakit po?"
"Kung pwede po ba kayong makausap ng boss ko?"
Muntikan nang mapaikot ang mga mata ko. Sino na namang artista 'tong manggugulo sa'kin? "Ah sige po. Saan po ba?"
"Doon po sana sa kotse. Kung okay lang."
"Uwi ka na," sabi ko kay Mica. "Balitaan kita mamaya."
"Pupunta muna akong org room." Tapos bigla niya kong hinatak at bumulong. "Kapag pogi yayain mong mag-merienda. Tapos text mo ko."
"Gaga ka talaga," pagtawa ko sabay pasimpleng batok. Isa si Mica sa mga nakakaalam kung sino ako. Okay, sabihin na nating sikat ako sa mundo ng pagsusulat but I'm no regular celebrity here in school. "Sige."
Simula nang ma-option ang libro kong The Story of Us para maging palabas kung sino-sino nang nakikilala kong artista. Mga nanliligaw para sa kanila ko ibigay ang role ni "Nic" o hindi naman kaya ni "Kat". Sabi nila, ang kwento ko daw ang magiging turning point of careers ng mga baguhang artista. Kaya kung ano-ano nang regalo ang natanggap ko at gaya nga nito, may mga biglaang random visit.
"Thank you po," sabi ko kay Kuya Driver at pumasok na sa puting Everest na tinted ang lahat ng bintana. Malamig sa loob at nilapag ko ang bag ko sa sahig bago tumingin sa kasama ko sa loob.
Sinong artista 'to? Hindi ko kilala pero ang gwapo. Ibang klase 'yung mukha. Ibang klase din tumingin.
Mas lalo lang siyang gumwapo.
Hindi ko maiwasang hindi din mapangiti.
Ang pogi niya nga di ba?
"Uh, hello?" sabi ko.
"Hey." I don't know how it's possible but his smile gets wider and he gets even more handsome.
Kakilig naman ngumiti 'to. Enebe. Para siyang nasa commercial ng toothpaste. Mas matamis pa sa asukal.
"Hi, I'm Kat," pagpapakilala ko at inabot ang kamay ko.
"Oh, sorry." Pumisil siya sa kamay ko. Luh, ang laki ng kamay. Maugat-ugat pa. English accent though. "Nicolo. Nicolo Sandivan."
Napakunot ang noo ko bago ako natawa. Asus, ilang beses ko nang nakuha ang ganiyang pakilala sa mga artista. Ano bang pangalan nito? Lalagyan ko na agad ng sticker na star application niya. Charot.
Binitawan ko na ang kamay niya (kahit ayaw ko pa??) Pa-demure tayo. "Seriously, though. What's your name? I don't think I've ever seen you... uhm, I've never seen you. This is the first time I saw you. What's your name?"
Dafaq. Anong pinagsasabi mo, Kat? Nakakahiya!!!!!!!!!!!!!
He chuckles, like, he knows he really have that effect on girls. "I already told you. My name's Nicolo Sandivan."
I smile at him. Cute ka pero kapag inubos mo pasensiya ko bye-bye ka na sa audition days mo. "Tell me. Dancer ka ba? Anong group? Sinong gusto mong ka-love team? Manghihingi ka ba ng script draft?"
Now he laughs.
Ang pogi niya talaga kainis.
Ang sarap pa pakinggan 'yung tawa niya. Ang lalim tapos buo. Ergh. "I'm not a dancer. And neither am I an actor. I'm Nicolo Sandivan."
"Monreal?" My eyebrows shut upwards. "What do you mean?"
"Nicolo Sandivan Monreal. That's my name."
"Oh, okay...?" Honestly, I'm confused. Takas ba ng mental 'to? "So... why do you want to... talk to me?"
"Wow," he says with a laugh. "You really don't know me."
He chuckles and leans back his seat. "Oh, God. I can't believe this."
"No, no. I'm sorry. That's not what I meant. I just can't piece it all together. 'Yung Nicolo Sandivan na sinulat mo... he's all fictional?"
"So everything is just a coincidence?"
"What is a coincidence?"
Seriously? Wala kaming napatutunguhan sa usapang 'to!
"Wait—wait," I say and shift in my seat. "Can we cut to the chase? Ayoko na magpaligoy-ligoy pa."
"Ang gusto ko lang naman sabihin nakuha mo halos lahat ng detalye tungkol sa'kin sa libro mo. My name, my age, my hometown before, my dad and my siblings' names—oh well, except Nikki, I'm still waiting for the little sister though. And yeah, hindi ganoon karami pero... that's a lot of bull's eye for a fictional family you built."
Natahimik ako. "I don't understand."
Huh? Napatingin ako sa kaniya at nakatingin din siya sa'kin. Hindi ko alam kung bakit pero natawa kaming dalawa. It fills the whole car and bounces off the corners and back at us. Ano ba nangyayari?
"Okay, but this is impossible," I say. "Bakit feeling ko joke lang 'to? I did my research! I looked everywhere for Nicolo Sandivan but nothing surfaced."
"But yet here I am. I... surfaced."
"Joke lang 'to, 'di ba? Anong station ka nagt-trabaho?" tanong ko at sumilip sa harap at likod ng kotse kung saan baka may nagtatagong camera at kinapa ang sinasandalan ko para sa mic.
"Prank ba 'to? Kasali ba sa bloopers ng The Story of Us? Pwede take two? Ang g**o ng hair ko," sabi ko at sinimulang ayusin ito.
"Kat," he says. "This is real. There are no cameras or microphones here. It's just us."
Napakunot ang noo ko sabay iling. "Fine, let's say na sasakay ako sa kalokohang 'to. But I just don't get it! Imposibleng maging totoo si Nicolo. I made it impossible for people to find him. He doesn't exist. He is pure fiction!"
"That's the thing, Kat," he blinks slowly, like he doesn't want to scare me away. "Nicolo Sandivan is not real. But Nicolo Sandivan Monreal is."
Napatigil ako saglit. Oh, so that's his point. He has the same name as "Nic". But how...?
"I want to know where my plans had gone wrong. I think you know na hindi naman ako gagawa ng character—ng perfect fictional-too-close-to-reality character kahit hindi naman siya nage-exist to risk that character being seen when he's completely non-existent—wait, am I speaking sense?"
"Cute," he chuckles. "But yeah. I kind of do understand you."
Napaiwas ako ng tingin. Cute ko daw?! Ramdam ko 'yung pag-angat ng dugo sa mga pisngi ko. Parang isang libong paruparo lumilipad sa tiyan ko. It doesn't matter if he's a stranger. Ang pogi niya pwede ba? And I'm along with it he thinks I'm cute. Tse! Haba ng hair ko.
"Can I try again to explain?" tanong ko.
"I get it. "Nic" doesn't exist. You want people to think he does. A real-love story of a young couple in a book. Pretty ideal. And romantic. Kung tingin nila totoo 'yun, then babasahin nila... I mean it is good publicity, right?"
"Publicity, yes," I nod. I sigh. "I'm really sorry that you're getting caught in this. Sorry kung nagulo ka na ng kung sino at kung may mga nagtanong kung ikaw na 'yung boyfriend kong non-existent naman talaga... but why are you here? Sorry ha, medyo slow kasi ako eh. I just got off class. I'm stressed."
He pouts a little and shakes his head. "Monreal. Does it ring any bell?"
"Yeah," I say and scratch the corner of my eyebrow, my brain automatically recalling the news last night. "You don't happen to have anything to do with Nicholas Monr—" kusa nang namatay ang mga salita sa dila ko.
"Are you his nephew? His cousin? His grandchild?" Nope. I don't want to say it... no, don't make me. Please!!!!!
"I'm his son, actually."
Shiz. Napatungo ako sa mga kamay ko. What the hell?! "Figures."
"Yep. At 'yun na din 'yung rason kung bakit wala kang nakitang results sa internet tungkol sa isang Nicolo Sandivan. My dad owns the most exquisite I.T. team in the country. Every result that has my name or face on it gets deleted. Same for my brothers and my mom."
"So bakit nando'n pa 'yung story sa WriteIt website? Bakit hindi siya na-delete? I know it's copyrighted—do you want me to take it down?"
"Anak ka ng senador! Oh my G! It must have been so humiliating! Oh my, God! I'm really sorry—"
"Listen, Kat," he says and grabs my arm and squeezes twice just to calm me down and he lets go. "That's what I'm here to talk to you about. My dad doesn't want it to be put down. He's thinking maybe you could work for him?"
"Work for him? Work for a senator? H—how? What does he need me to do? He's running for president! He's got the top-notch staff or whatever—"
"He wants you to be my girlfriend."
Then he does that stare. That stare that is sure to bring girls on their knees for him. I can actually feel my legs turning jelly even though I'm sitting. I can't take my eyes off him.
"Be my girlfriend, Kat."