The day he turned twenty-one, Ralph wore three different beanies—brown stripes in the morning, blue in the afternoon, and maroon in the evening. They did protect his head from the cold Baguio breeze, but not from his own thoughts. For the last few days he had been lost in his own head, overthinking and not thinking at the same time. He was glad to be finally away. His thoughts, however, followed him like a cloud, and at five thousand feet above sea level they hung on him ever lower.
That day he gobbled up four glasses of strawberry taho and opened jar after jar of peanut brittle and choco flakes. He even bought himself a huge bag of barbeque popcorn, which was sweeter than it was salty. But the sugar rush did not come. Instead, with a lack of sleep and the early evening drizzle that dampened everyone’s mood, a brooding washed over him.
He wanted to just cozy up in bed and read, but he didn’t want to let his friends down. Especially since most of them went out of their ways to make the trip. Already he felt he was letting them down—he had spent a few hours before lunch just snoozing, and some of them had to go exploring without him.
That night though, he eventually abandoned them in the raid of the night ukay market, and decided to take a long and aimless walk. The streets were as crowded with hawkers and strewn with litter as they were in Manila, but it didn’t matter. The best thing about Baguio, he thought, was that he could actually traipse around in a sweatshirt and not sweat a single drop.
That night he did a lot of walking, and barely any thinking. There were a lot of things he wanted to think about. He wanted to think about how he had been in the rumor mill at school for quite some time now, and how everybody seemed to have got the wrong details. He wanted to think about why, if a question was burning them so much, nobody really asked you directly for answers. He wanted to think about commitments and endeavors, if maybe he was taking too much and trying too hard. He wanted to think about a certain someone, and how he want that someone to be, well, certain.
With quite some effort he held these thoughts at bay. He didn’t know if it was a good thing or bad, but he knew that his mom would approve—“Walang nagagawa ang pagdadrama!” (Sulking never does you any good), she would always say.
When he got home he buried himself in the sheets. He fell asleep, but not before forgetting to unlock the door. He had the key and his friends were still outside.
They somehow managed to get in, and in the morning they kept telling him to get ready for a grand dressing down. It never came, and instead they just all laughed about it. They had an awful breakfast (too much carbs and slow service) at the supposedly famous 50’s Diner. But by the time they came back to their room to pick their bags, they had gotten over it and finally were on what probably was every old friends’ favorite topic—their high school selves.
Ralph then realized that he couldn’t have been in better company. And he was glad. He was, for a while, at peace with everything. He began cracking jokes (and he had to bawl over them too, because his friends were at best occasional fans of his humor!) He was high, they were high—and the rum they had brought all the way from Manila was never even opened.