We sat on a bumpy bus. Our fingers were intertwined .. but were we even paying attention to the touching of our skin?
I believe we had been riding for at least twenty minutes in silence before one of us spoke up.
"It's fucking beautiful here," she said, still not looking at me. Still gazing out the window. Talking at me but not to me.
"It is," I replied to the back of her head. I conversed with her short silky stark black hair. There were split ends. The cut was old and growing out funny. But, damn, she still looked gorgeous.
"Sometimes I can't understand why I ever go back," she mused. Her eyes soaked in every inch of the outside world. Absorbed each stalk of sugar cane. Drunk in each pebble of the dirt road we traversed.
"You really wouldn't go back ever?" I asked the one strand of shocking white hair that usually nestled hidden amongst the full thick black. It was poking out at this moment and its appearance made me smile.
"There's so much to see," she sighed. Her exhale hinted at the rest of the sentence she meant to add, but never would. Her breath long and slow, she must have been dreaming of adventures she'd never have. People she'd never meet.
"But what about family?" I adjusted my butt. Only one hour into this bus ride and it was already sore. "What about friends?" I began to think that there most likely was never going to be a spot that was comfortable. "Wouldn't you miss them?"
"Family. Yeah..." She trailed off. I watched a bead of sweat form just under the nape of her neck. It had gathered big enough that now gravity was aching to pull it closer. It started to roll. It fell, slowly and solely, down her chocolate kissed skin.
"I feel like it's been ages since I've seen Mali," I reminisced with the clean bright path the sweat bead left through the layer of dust that had formed on her neck during this long, open-aired bus ride through the dry dusty roads of Palawan. "I miss even hearing her voice. Getting to tease her face to face. Rile her up just to watch her get worked into a frenzy. Listen to that kind of awkward, braying laugh she makes when something is just ridiculously funny." Just picturing the way my sister practically hiccuped when she laughed this hard made me almost chuckle aloud.
"But think about all the things you haven't done yet," she ached. "That person you are still destined to meet that will take you somewhere you haven't yet imagined." The bus slowed sharply and we turned. The passengers abruptly gravitated left.
"And I heard Matt and Genevieve are pregnant!" The shift left me sitting in a position where a sharp spring wanted to permanently wedge itself up into my buttbone. "Do you think she'll be showing by the time we get back? When does that even happen? How far along do you have to be for that?"
"They're building a home base." It was like we were trying to conduct two different conversations, but occasionally meet in the middle. Her head shifted but she still didn't turn to face me. "They're setting up camp and settling into the home they'll live in 'til their kids go off to college. Forming a nice beautiful family unit. Something to come back to."
"Somewhere for them to feel at home," I added. Her other hand reached back to wipe the perspiration from her neck. "Somewhere to belong."
We were silent for a while, the bumping of the bus rhythmic and enchanting.
I reached my other hand up to place it on her right shoulder. Her skin was warm to the touch. She turned to face me.
"Somewhere to belong," she echoed my words as she looked deep into my eyes.
I nodded and squeezed her hand.
"That's not really a thing for me," she admitted, her deep brown eyes seeming almost as lost as she did. Her already young face appeared younger at this moment. I wanted to hug her. But there was a distance between us. So I didn't.
She dropped my hand from hers and looked away again.
I wanted to make her a thousand reassurances. Tell her that she always had a home with me. That she would always belong. That I would always be there for her.
The bus veered sharply again. My body slammed hard against hers but she still faced out the window, transfixed.
I opened my mouth to say all the things I wanted to say to her.
Her form was statuesque. Posture posed in perfection. She was a fleeting angel that was mine for a second. But I knew that my time with her would never be permanent.
I closed my lips and found myself just content to again just stare.
I had at least these next three hours to El Nido. The next month in this tropical paradise.
I at least had this.