It would be presumptuous of me to say that my pain is far greater than anyone else’s only because it was you who caused me pain and yet I honestly feel this to be true. Because in a world where I have never allowed anyone to hurt me, you have managed the do the impossible. Because in hurting me you did not need my consent in the same way that I never needed your consent in having feelings for you. Because I thought I was ready for anything no matter what form anything takes and here lies my biggest mistake — because I was ready for anything except you.
Maybe the reason why nobody has given me what I want is that they know in their heart of hearts I am not yet ready.
Roughly a week before Ramadan, I ready myself for frailty and strength. The past two years I’ve celebrated Ramadan in solidarity with my Muslim friends, fasting even when it was most inconvenient, fasting because there are far more important battles to fight within the self. When faced with a compromising situation I can recite Bible verses from memory, and in between lapses of memory tell you words from that verse which hangs from the tip of my tongue. The Bible is central to my own life of passion. Passion is more suffering than desire, and the Word offers me comfort. In the middle of one semester long ago, a professor introduced me to Mahayana Buddhism and I’ve been trying to integrate it into my life as much as I can ever since. I meditate for an hour every day, missing out on some days here and there when I’m too tired from a day’s work. Most weekends I sit for hours and focus on breathing or chanting. I cover my hair when I enter a mosque, I genuflect when faced with the blessed sacrament, I offer incense when I visit a temple. When asked about what I believe in, I answer “kindness.”
I haven’t written about you since you decided not to talk to me but after my surprising breakdown last Tuesday, after drinks with the one great love of my life no less, I think it is time for me to write about you no matter what it ends up being.
It began with a kiss. Which is funny, now that I think about it. I may or may not have fallen in love with you that night. You were quiet and disarming and polite when you asked about my ex-boyfriend, when you asked if you could kiss me. Soonafter, you were in my birthday party, a random dinner with my college friends, out for drinks with us somewhere along Katipunan Extension.
We then started going out together, without our friends who have begun to ask “ano ba kayo?” It was a question we always evaded and ignored. I chose not to answer and overthink because we have grown to become friends, and I have once lost a friendship because of becoming someone more than a friend. You chose not to answer for reasons I never heard of.
We went out for four years.
One night we were out with friends (more yours than mine) and at some point I felt cornered. Suddenly all these questions about who we were to each other and why we were together, questions I have learned to brush off and avoid, were being asked over and over again by people whom I haven’t even talked to before. And there you were, sitting while choosing to break your silence every once in a while, coming up with safe answers to simple questions such as “are you happy?”
And then someone asked the question we’ve been so used to hearing: “So are you guys more than friends?”
I looked at you and I told you I wouldn’t answer that question, but you could answer it if you want. Your reply to that question was the last thing I expected to hear that night, because it was far from safe, far from indefinite.
“Yes, we’re more than friends,” you said.
Countless dinners, a trip to Malaysia, and more than a year later, here we are not having seen each other for four months and not having talked properly at around the same amount of time. You fell off the face of the earth like disappearing was no big effort to you, like it should not be a big deal to me.
Maybe this is why I refused to say I love you. Because I knew deep in my heart you would leave me, because we both knew I was nothing to you.
So much for being more than a friend. I’m sorry for trying so hard to be with you. I could have loved you and we could have been better than this but we are not and this is where it ends. It was a relationship, and it wasn’t. It was what it was, and we were together.
I was yours.
Please don’t tell me that I’ve got to open my heart and be vulnerable, that I should allow myself to be hurt. Don’t tell me I should seize the day, or take a risk, or let myself go. Because there is a kind of pain you can never move on from, a kind of love you can never fully close the door on. This is the price I pay for looking into someone’s eyes while I hold my tongue, deciding it is too early to again ask someone to stay — the very same person who once answered with neither a yes or a no. Only not tonight. Only wait. Only I try so hard to forget you but I can’t, so I do what I can. I try not to see you, or hold you, or hear your voice on the phone. And in turn I try, too.
These attempts amount to days living a semblance of life, thankful for everything but without the love that I know so well, one that I have found myself suddenly holding onto. Don’t tell me that I need to take a chance, that I need to allow myself to feel great things for an ordinary other, that I should just let myself fall without a safety net. Because here I am holding out for someone whom I have loved for so long despite his reluctance to be loved, for someone who is at the center of every future I have dreamed of despite his tendency for uncertainty, for someone who has never left my life despite the many goodbyes. Here I am, as I have always been, and I wait here alone. What is this openness and vulnerability that you speak of if it’s not what I submit myself to in waiting? What other risk should I take if it’s not allowing myself to be helpless? What else should I let go of if not myself?
What is surrender if not giving up everything in exchange for the unknown?
As my dad was driving, inching towards the sidewalk along EDSA-Boni so I could take the MRT to Quezon City, a bus suddenly sped up on our right side while another bus tried to cut us off from our left — two buses that would’ve most probably crushed us a few minutes ago if my dad had not stepped on the brakes on time. I didn’t even know what was happening until I looked up from what I was doing, which was looking frantically for my stored value card inside my bag.
We were in the middle of EDSA for about five seconds that felt like forever.
I’m writing this down because I know there are a lot of things I’ve long been wanting to say to a number of people, but never had the courage to say them.
I wish I could tell you I love you or that I wish I had been kinder, but today I live — whatever that means.
Before 2014 came rushing in, I promised myself that I will begin making a conscious effort to take very good care of myself, at least for a full month before my 26th birthday. I have become so used to taking care of other people that by the end of 2013 I was, by all means, spent.
One night I found myself talking to one of my closest friends, in the saddest voice I have ever heard come out of my mouth, talking about how heavy things have become.
And so this. It’s disconcerting, really. I was fine until, well, I got tired.
I got myself a bracelet today — a reminder to give as much as I can, not as much as I have. Here’s to hoping I get to keep more of my head and my heart this year.