Episode 1: Right Here Waiting

"So, how was New York?" I puff the last drag of my Marlboro and put the butt in the overflowing ash tray beside me.

Oh God. Why does it have to be this nerve-racking? Isn't it so ironic that I've waited for so long to see Raphael again yet I feel so freaking nervous now that it's finally happening?

I take gulps of Red Horse again. I downed two bottles already, thinking it would help me relax a bit. But if you're going to ask me, I think it would take five bottles more to make me completely at ease.

"So, how was New York?" I ask again. It's been six months since Raph left for New York to go to Columbia University. My heart was totally against it when he told me he was leaving. But it's a dream-come-true for him and I didn't want to get in his way to pursuing it, so I gave in. I knew I was going to miss him terribly, so I told him to keep in touch. But it seemed he had a very busy New Yorker life to even email me. It started to make the distance between us become extremely unbearable. Paranoia sets in me. I started thinking awful things like he's totally forgotten everything about me and he's never coming back.

"So, how was New York?" I rehearse again. I change intonations each time I say the line, trying to come up with the best sounding one.

I can't help but to feel uneasy with excitement from the moment I recieved an international text from Raph the other day, saying he's coming back here. I've been having butterflies in my stomach in three days. Straight. And today, they multiplied to a double.

No, triple.

I head for my bed and lazily lie in an eagle-spread position. "So, how was New York?" I say again, as though talking to the ceiling. I sigh and close my eyes.

I wonder what's taking him so long. Raph never keep me waiting before. He used to come on time.

I check the time, it reads 8:16PM. Man, Raph is an hour and sixteen minutes late. I start to feel panic setting in.

"HOW WAS NEW YORK, GODDAMMIT!" I exclaim in frustration, getting on my feet at once. I pick the box of Marlboro and light up. I blow out a cloud of smoke, I must have puffed too much to blow a freaking lot. I watch it dance over my head to the tune of Lamb of God's Black Label that is playing in my mobile's MP3 player.

I keep my eyes trained to the smoke above. It's so dreamy, or is it just me? I start reminiscing the time I first met Raphael. And like a movie in my head, it flashes back.

It was a cloudy Saturday afternoon in July 2008. I had a little party here at my apartment after school. The boys came, of course (my friends are all guys, you know). It was a hell of a crazy party; overflowing beer, loud metal music, weeds... I mean, that's my idea of heaven

"Hey guys, listen..." a friend told the others, amidst the loud music. "I've got a text from Raphael, he's on his way to here." he continued.

The guys thought it was a good idea. They all cheered and one even told the news to the others who weren't able to hear it.

"Hold on a freaking moment!" I turned the music down to get everybody's attention. Everyone seemed to be taken aback. "Who the hell is Raphael and why didn't I know about him coming over?" I looked around in search for someone to respond. No one did, they just kept silent. I saw some bowed their heads, avoiding my eyes. And I heard someone murmuring something to another behind me. "Man, this is my party in my apartment yet I am the last to know who's coming over?"

"Raki..." someone spoke. It was my best friend, Jamir. "Look man, sorry. OK. We didn't want to spoil this party, we're having fun." He gestured to the others, "Aren't we?"

The crowd started to make some murmurings which sounded like the buzzing of bees. They seemed to agree.

"Raph is our friend, we're in the same class." Jamir continued. "We must have told you he's coming over, our bad. But don't be mad, you're going to like him."

"I'm not mad, Jamir." I exclaim. "Everyone is welcome to my parties, you all know that. It's just that you should at least considered informing me about it in the first place."

"I know, but..." Jamir was lost for words. There was a long pause.

"Tell me about him." I said at last and turned the music back on before heading to the kitchen. Jamir, together with some of our closest friends, followed my track.

We reached the counter and positioned around. Kylle, our friend, took cans of beers from the fridge and gave one to each of us.

"So..." I started. "Who in the world is Raphael?"

"He's a good friend of ours at school." our friend, Noel, answered.

"That's right. We've all been friends since freshmen year." added another friend, Willard.

"I told you, you're going to like him." said Jamir, lighting up a Black Bat.

"How can you be so sure?" I asked.

"You should see for your self, man!" Kylle said. The others agreed.

"Why didn't I know him if he's your friend?" I opened the beer and took gulps. "Or did I just forget you ever introduced him to me?"

"I don't think so." Jamir shook his head. "Raph is one shy dick. He'd probably run away if we tell him we're introducing him to a girl."

I pulled a face.

"That is effin' true." Kylle said. "But the dick is one hell of a superman. He's the Valedictorian-in-the-making of our batch."

"Not to mention, the senior class president..." Noel chimed in, looking up from his beer.

"And the Corps Commander..." interjected Willard.

"What a bore!" I cut in, rolling my eyes. "I bet he is also your batch's dorkiest geek."

"No... no... no..." Jamir was wagging a finger in front of my face. "Do not underestimate Raphael, you have no idea what he's like. We told you man, see for your self. He'll be here in a moment."

At the thought of it, I considered posting a sign at my door saying, "NO DORKS ALLOWED!" But I stopped my self before I actually do so. I thought maybe, just maybe, Raphael can't be that bad because my friends seemed to like him so much. I guess I really should see for my self, I thought.

Minutes after my conversation with the guys, Jamir came up to me to say that Raph is in the elevator already and he practically dragged me out of my apartment to pick Raphael up.

I stared at the led screen above the elevator door as soon as we get there. Two... three..., I read in my mind. Man, I was never that nervous. And to think I was waiting for the dorkiest geek ever known to man. I started picturing him in the least inspiring preppy clothes, ugly braces shining as he smiles, holding a boquet of cheap-looking, odd-smelling flowers like the ones at the funeral parlors maybe. And that's for me to have!

Four..., I thought he probably smells like a strong scent of a hair product or something.

The elevator made a ping before I knew it was already on the fifth floor.

Oh God! I took a deep breath as the doors slide open.

"Fifth floor." the elevator man said.

"Thanks sir." a good-looking guy in a thrasher fashion replied and walked out of the elevator. His slogan shirt says, "CORRUPTION. It's everywhere!" and he was holding a skateboard and the hell, he's damn cute with it.

"No skating at the corridors, alright?" the elevator man winked at him.

"No problem." he showed a thumb.

I waited for someone else to come out, some guy with a boquet of cheap-looking, odd-smelling flowers. But the doors closed in front of me.

"Man, where's the dork?" I asked Jamir, my eyes still on the elevator doors. "I thought he's in the elevator?"

"Raki!" I heard Jamir called out behind me.

I wheeled around and saw him standing with the skater boy. What the fuck?! My mouth fell open, figuring out what was going on.

"It's him." Jamir said, half-laughing.

"Hi. Raki, right?" Raph waved at me and smiled. That is the most beautiful sight I ever saw in my entire life. Apparently, Raphael's got a smile that would stun half — if not all the whole lot — of the female population into a coma on sight.

I was frozen for about a minute. Jamir had to clear his throat to get me back to my normal state. I had to pick my jaws up from the floor.

"Oh..." I said at last. "Right." I felt hot in the cheeks. I took a deep breath.

"Raphael?" I asked.

"That's me." he answered. "The dork."

I could not believe my eyes.

Raph reached into his pocket, took out a chocolate bar. "Care for some Snickers?" he offered.

Suddenly, I was convinced. Love at first sight happens.

The smoke overhead starts to thin-up as my thoughts disappear with it. I grab the bottle of Red Horse but it is already empty. I have to sigh to that.

"How was New York?" I say once more, yawning. It gets tiring to rehearse the line but I have to do it. Any moment now, Raph will be here. I better be prepared so that I won't feel nervous. Or at least it won't be obvious that I am.

It's ridiculous, if you want to know the truth. I have known Raph for more than two years already, yet I am lost for conviction to talk to him, let alone ask how New York was, now that I'm seeing him again. Something tells me it's not going to be the same as ever any more. I just hope, tiny niggle, that it's wrong.

I head back to my bed when suddenly, a knock on my door gives me a jump. I wonder who...

Hold on a moment. There's a knock on my door. There's a freaking knock on my freaking door!

"He's here!" I tell my self. "Oh my freaking Lord, he's here!"

I sprint to the door like some athlete in a marathon, my heart pounding like rabbit in my chest. As I pass by the living room, my knee hits the corner of the table and I stumble off my feet.

"Goddammit!" I whisper in agony, rubbing my knee to relieve the pain. The knocking continues and I struggle to get up. "Coming!" I shout and rush to the door.

Breathing deep, I hold tight on the knob. I can't believe it. He's finally here.

I open the door excitedly. "So how was New York?" Man, did I say it with the best intonation? I'm not so sure.

"Raki!" It's Jamir, to my dismay. "How the hell would I know about New York?" he says. Half-laughing. Teasing.

"Very funny." I roll my eyes. "What are you doing here? Where's Raph?" I check behind him, hoping to see Raphael trying to hide somewhere. No sign.

"He phoned..." Jamir looks me straight in the eyes.

I don't like how this makes me feel. Where in the world is Raphael? He was supposed to be here at 7o'clock, and he did not come. We are supposed to be at the concert together. I won't really mind if we come there late, I just want him to pick me up. That's the whole plan after all. But where in the world is Raphael?

"Fuck, Jamir!" I say, totally impatient. "Tell me what's wrong. Where in the freaking world is Raph?"

"He's not coming." he says after a dramatic silence. "He can't make it tonight."

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