The autumn palette of modern furnishing matches the aroma of roasted coffee that hung inside the café. The golden hour’s light from the window beside them softly plays across Mia’s features as she stares at the cars passing by Katipunan Avenue. Her eyebrows are slightly knitted and the corners of her lips are turned down. Even her thumb is sliding across her lips back and forth.
Neo lifts his head from the black book Penguin Edition of Franz Kafka’s Metamorphosis. Mia’s unusual silence catches his attention. A few seconds pass since he took notice. He maintains the silence, hoping that she’d notice his eyes on her. She doesn’t.
She immediately sits up straight and snaps her head to Neo at the sound of her name. Her eyes slightly widen in question. Neo’s own eyebrow rises as he studies his best friend. Their eyes lock.
“You know I’m here for you if something’s bothering you.” Neo gently assures her.
The side of Mia’s lips turn up for a second sending Neo a silent thank you before she snickers and shakes her head while her eyes roll. She tosses Neo’s worry aside.
“Oh it’s nothing,” She says lightly despite the sound of uncertainty by the end of her phrase. She trails off as she stares at the table, but nothing in particular. Her smile fades.
“Sis…” He says with his tone low and concerned.
Mia snaps her head back in the same manner as before. They lock eyes once again and Neo lightly sighs, pouting at her. Mia groans and sighs immediately after.
“I mean… Kasi…” She begins. Her eyes turn down and she watches her fingers fiddling on the table. She looks up again. “Do you think people who you matter to the most, say your name differently?”
She tips her head to the side looking at Neo curiously while he looks completely lost. Neo’s eyebrows knit as he quietly thought to himself. The image of Salle calling out to him and saying his name came to mind. Was there a difference? If there was, he hasn’t really noticed.
“Well… I don’t know.” Neo lightly shrugs his shoulders and resorts to the one answer he is certain of.
Mia purses her lips, not exactly satisfied with Neo’s answer. She too shrugs her shoulders. A deep sigh escapes her as she rearranges herself to plant both her elbows on the table and lean her chin on both her knuckles.
“Because, I heard somewhere that, people tend to say someone’s name differently if they like the person.” She thinks to herself out loud.
As the book is left open between Neo’s fingers on the table, his mind wanders back to the “someone that he more than likes”. He tries again to recall the many times Salle said his name. Neo’s head unconsciously leans to the side as his thoughts lifts him from the present. He isn’t really catching on to what Mia was saying in particular. Then his eyes widen. His mind suddenly produces a definite example of Salle saying his name very differently. It causes Neo to sit up straight and clear his throat as he tried to ignore the heat that barely rose on his stomach.
Mia noticed the sudden wash of pink across Neo’s cheeks. “What?” She inquires innocently.
Neo quietly blinks at her. “Nothing.” He lets out blankly as best as he could.
She answers with a sharp raise of her eyebrow. Neo clears his throat again and turns his eyes down to his book though he wasn’t really able to comprehend the string of words. He shrugs again.
“I don’t know…” He says again, but quietly this time and his voice grew even smaller when he says, “I guess… When you have… sex, maybe.” He mumbles as he stares at the page.
Mia’s face contorts into pure disgust as her head slowly pulls away until she was leaning far back and away from Neo as possible. Neo lifts his head back to her, his cheeks a shade darker.
“It’s true—” He defends.
Mia raises both her hands up to stop him. A second of silence passes between them. “Not in front of my latte you fucking pervert.”
Neo groans and rolls his eyes at her. “Well I’m not lying—”
“Yeah, but I wasn’t really talking about that.” She interjects with a sharp, high-pitched tone.
Her sass shuts Neo up. Then he silently rolls his eyes at her. “Well why are you even asking?” he says as he finally closes the book.
Mia’s shoulders sag again. She pouts at Neo. “Because I think I’ve been saying Iya’s name differently…”
Neo leans in with his eyebrows knitted. “How would you notice that?”
Her eyes search around the ceiling of the café for answers. “Well…” The strands of her hair gracefully fall off her shoulder as she turns her head back down at Neo. “I would sometimes call out her name out of the blue when she’s sitting next to me and she gives me this weird look…”
“Yeah.” Mia nods at Neo with certainty. Neo continues to look lost. “I don’t know how else to describe it.”
Neo still isn’t catching on, but slowly nods anyway to try and satisfy Mia’s emotional need for understanding. “If you say so… I guess.”
He nods at Mia again to assure her then dismisses the topic by re-opening his book and turning his head back down to read.
He heard Mia’s sound of disapproval. His head lifts once again, “What?” he asks even more confused than before. He thought the topic at hand had already passed.
“It’s as if parang, ‘di ka naman in love.” She scoffs at him.
Neo’s eyebrows knitted in confusion as his mouth hung. He didn’t know exactly whether that was an insult, but it definitely sounded like one.
“Oh whatever.” She tosses at Neo’s utter look of confusion as she rolls her eyes. “C’mon, let’s go na. I have to do my homework pa.” She flips her hair as she announces their leave.
As Mia stepped away, Neo took a few more seconds, their odd conversion echoing in his head.
Does he say my name differently?