That night… was irreplaceable. An illusion, it may be, but it penetrated deepest into my soul that one dose of that memory puts me in an unprecedented trance. Yes, nothing might be true; Not the words, not the actions. But I knew they all were lies the moment I zipped open his mouth and let the words that were like fireflies float and gleam, circling us, casted like magical spells.
And I accepted him still.
This time, I brought him there. I started wars. I shifted tides.
“Somebody might see us.” He whispered, hiding the faint shock as he glanced over me, my face I suddenly, subtly buried on his right shoulder.
We held hands, that night, on our way home.
I was first ice-cold to him, that day I messaged him to ask for his company; that I always do whenever I have errands. Strange thing, simple thing: deep down I just miss him. But that day was different; I finally thought of being aloof again and all, and I wasn’t particularly missing him then. We went to buy things and buy a little time to be together. We’ve been like this since I told him my feelings. We were, like two lost souls who only had each other as company, walking down all alleys and roadsides and overpasses, riding jeepneys, and talking nonsense. I was trying really hard to rebuild the wall that was once standing firm between us. I was… trying to be back to what we used to be, when we were not too intimate without a ‘label’. I hate feeling like a slut, and being with him and being close to him made me feel like one, always.
As we were taking the last few walks, I raised the red flag against all righteousness and convention as I chose to stay with him and break all rules. It was almost sundown and I started taking strides away from my home-road. I waited for the night I so long for, where all bulbs light like dangling stars bewitching my naked eye. We walked and talked for thirty or so more minutes until the night fell heavy on my chest and another longing exceeded the first one: I yearned for him.
“Aren’t we going home?”, He was quite insisting we go home, beckoning me back to my home-road.
“I honestly… don’t feel like going home yet.” I blurted out as I held his wrist tight, pulling him towards my direction.
Reverberations from the bag slung at my right riveted all my attention.
“I’ve got a phone call.” A surge of panic rushed into me as I slid rightwards on my smartphone’s touch, to answer the call.
I was sent into another errand. A lie went flying out of my mouth: that I was still at the supermarket. I really hated lying. But I was more tired of being wretched, honestly. Home’s a warzone right now and I didn’t load my temper and tolerability’s barrels. I always lie about where I was at the moment of the call when I am with him, by the way. I can’t afford them knowing the guy they thought I rejected’s still hanging out with me. They didn’t establish even an inch of rapport with him, that’s why.
We guffawed in sync as we rode another jeepney, for the new errand was where we were just a moment ago: the supermarket. And all stuff happened, I did what I was asked to do and we decided to walk again, not taking another ride, for we’re both out of pennies. We slowly walked as he threw jokes at me again about trivial things, and I crack up, giggle, snicker with every blow of it. But the longing still weighed on me, even getting heavier by the second.
Is this love?
I was constantly asking myself. My feet launched alternately on the ground simultaneous to this silly thought that launched in my mind: Is it love… or just being bitchy?
I run around the desks and drawers and documents keeping all records in my brain but even I can’t find a rationale. Is love this distracting? This confusing? This suffocating?
His presence distracts me. His words, scent, breath, eyes, expressions, they confuse the hell of me. He himself suffocates me. His pull was stronger than that of a black hole, and it sends me a pang, an unbelievable heartache, that can only be cured by his touch.
I gave up. I gave in. I held out my hand, discreetly offering it to him, and as if the wind spoke my desire to him, he grabbed my hand, put the plastic bags he was initially holding onto his other hand.
I flinched a little as his fingers found the spaces between mine.
“I was surprised you didn’t complain.” He was talking about him holding my hand.
“Was it because it’s dark?” He uttered, as if we were two criminals cautiously trying to escape from the cop’s cuffs.
I was triumphant, as his hand lifted up the weight exhausting me, but a bit edgy somehow. So I tightly held on, remained silent, and readied myself to leave him. Only I wasn’t able to, and he didn’t let go of my hand. Does he love me, perhaps? No. Impossible. But as indecisive as his feelings are, we walked home, but we hesitated, obviously not wanting to let go. And so I dragged him into my world. I closed our distance, on one roadside devoid of any light. I pulled him closer to me, closer than ever before, without distance, chest to chest, and felt him. Contrary to our deal which should be taking effect by now, I held him tight, embraced him with my hands clawing each of his shoulders. I jolted inside the moment his hands nestled on my back, I bear-hugged him more, eradicating even the last centimeter of space between us.
The first time we did it was a part of my “experiment”. I still don’t love him that time, I merely tried provoking him for the sake of making sure he was just using me for the pleasure. He kept nagging me about how sincere he was about me, from that first moment he confessed his feelings indirectly by asking me to go out with him; that I never believed. I knew he loved someone else and didn’t have the power to muster all courage to fight for her. She was way above his level, he once told me. So he settled for someone far below her: me. He even told me I do look like her, somehow, and that probably was why he noticed me in the first place. That notion I couldn’t forget and up until now I break down with one click of the memory flash about her and his unrequited feelings. It wasn’t and isn’t jealousy, it was more of a realization that I can become better. The girl and I were both bullied, for her looks, maybe, and me for my everything. But she transformed herself. She worked hard and I didn’t, she busted out of people’s chains while I let them embroil me. We rode the same boat, but I let myself get drowned thinking I’ve somehow jumped out of it and away from it, while she worked hard and struck the waters with her bare hands as oars, propelling her life to wherever she is right now. I realized how much of a coward I was, not risking anything and even feeling complacent about the simplicity and coldness of the river I float in. But we live with fears and sadness and all problems. We do not run away. We befriend them, and I didn’t, so I was really, really, regretful.
I always feel so small when I’m with him. But what I ascertained myself about from that time I let him know how I now feel about him, from hostility to love, was this: I would make him strong, so he could finally chase after her. The thing is, he once cried over the phone and texted me this and that about no one loving him, and being stupid and unappreciated for being a twit and all. I want to erase all that. I want to make him feel loved. I want to guide him towards her, where he belongs. And without a word I can tell that his feelings linger: from the way he does things, to the things he likes, the songs he listens to, the color of his newly bought drumsticks, the things he randomly says, what design he wanted to embroider his backpack with (which was one of the characters the girl cosplayed), his favorite bands, music instrument brands, even his SIM name was and still is her name. He always talked about her, from my first few months of knowing him, he’d always drop her name or a thing about her in the pot of our conversation. Knowing that he does that without him noticing makes me smile, and makes me wonder if someone could actually fall for me like that. Silly me.
I held him so tight I can already feel the slow thumps of his heart. And yes, I closed my eyes, trusting his promise that he wouldn’t kiss me. I nuzzled my head towards his, gently pressing my nose onto his, my chest against his. This wasn’t right, in any way. What the world knows was I rejected him. But no, this they don’t have to know, because the world is full of worlds. Worlds that don’t revolve around mine. People who don’t care too much about planets other than their own. They have their own issues, too. So the complexity of this won’t be known to them. I can love him. I will love him. Despite all fakes and flaws, I’ll make him feel needed. That’s how simple-minded he is. He’s silly and blunt, he praises himself, he easily loses his cool, he’s weak to the core, his personality has loopholes, his behaviors were mostly adapted from her, he isn’t anywhere near my ideal man, he doesn’t really care about me, but despite all those, I chose to be with him and make him feel loved. Isn’t that a bit selfish and kind of self-sabotage? Maybe. Because all he says as reasons why he “fell” for me was my looks which resemble her, my kindness which I cannot see, my aptitude which is probably common among girls, my other cliché and annoying descriptions which I would always despise. And then I’d tell him what he hides from me: that no, he doesn’t actually love me. He just needs to be loved. Of course he’d deny, and we’d go round the absurdity of him proving how much he does love me while I see no proof. And then he almost broke that one promise I trusted he’d keep, and I opened my eyes, let the suppressed shock out, and pulled myself away a little.
She can do everything. Given that she had time on her hands and was pampered when she was a girl, she had all hours and minutes and seconds to build herself. She’s rich, she’s witty. But that isn’t everything that made her what she is now. I can see that she had to do a lot of work. But at least she had the opportunity, that opportunity robbed off of me by the world who judged me, the struggles and hassles of being born poor, and my weakness and my zero-confidence as well.
I did pull away a little, and the world revealed itself again to me: occasional headlights lighting up and burning out the darkest road I’ve ever known, accompanied with beep-beeps and buzzes of cars whizzing through the empty highway. Behind me stood a weary heap of hollow blocks acting like a wall to prevent intrusion to what seemed a backyard but with a barricade of lean trees, only they are invisible without light and just pure darkness floats inside their little kingdom that moment. My eyes caught a glimpse of a bonfire. And I just thought maybe eyes are looking at us. But the moment I swayed my attention back to him, I plunged myself slowly, discarding all the possibilities of people seeing us and me shaming myself like before, when he wasn’t able to control and we get too heated up (was the only way I can describe it though I hated the term) and too intimate without caring about how many people saw us at broad daylight.
When I finally decided to go revolving my world around reality again, I leaned at the wall, which was hollow and cold, but my heart’s still on fury. There were always times like this when that house doesn’t feel like home, when everyone’s mouths are heated up like forged spears or loaded like machine guns, or when they make me feel unloved, like what they did it since I can remember. I tried finding ways to alleviate the melancholy taking roots in my heart. I walk alone the same sights, but recently one escapade I’ve ventured to was to his world. There I found a hidden sanctuary through another kind of pain: pain of being told he loves me when the truth’s carved on the lines of his palms and the veins of his heart. That and the pain of him comparing me to everyone, making me feel small when he’s being insensitive and frank destroys me, but at least he taught me how to rebuild myself, somehow.
I embraced him, as affectionate words cascade out of my mouth like the gush of waterfalls.
“I love you”, because you are the catalyst, which showed me the cruelty of the world, and discreetly told me that I can conquer it.
“I won’t ever love another soul”, because you shattered the last hope I had about genuine love.
“I’m willing to be hurt, if it’s for your happiness”, because I am always hurt, only now I knew how to swallow pain more effectively, to make them my kin, my partner.
“I will make you happy”, for I honestly feel that way, for all the bad things he has done to me, misery would befall me if I am to hear his sad tone, like that one time through the phone.
“I’m defying all my principles for you”, being conservative, inability to be close to any guy since I was born, and all and everything, I got off my high horse. I used to dream about me exalted by someone who’s deeply in love with me and would even be afraid to touch me. Yeah, I used to. But now, I don’t feel the need to be loved. This game would suffice the longing.
“I would never leave you”, didn’t I say he’s so afraid to be left alone? His two exes left him. One for her dreams, and the other for another man. I don’t ever want him feeling lonely. I don’t ever want him feeling unneeded. I don’t ever want him feeling his parents regret him being born, for he wasn’t intelligent and his only sister is, he once said. Even if every single second of this is taking a heavy toll on me, even if all this taught me how to cry without reason, even if it deeply hurts to hell, I will not let myself give up on him: the man who has opened me through excruciating cuts, the man whose existence whispered to me that I can change, I can be better, that this is not the end.
As soon as I felt the need to really resume my life, far away from this secret I’m keeping in my heart, I left him. I headed home though he insisted he’d come with me, that it was dangerous and all that half-assed worrying. To be honest, all clichés seemed to wake up since I met him, even the words, even the actions, and I hated it. I hated him. I hated me. I hated loving him.
With emotions stirred up but still heterogeneous like a bowl of vegetable salad, I reached home, heart still messed up by the whole ordeal, or so my outer self called it. My hands were shaking a bit and as I tried to steady them, I already feel myself longing for his hands, like mine belong there, not to me. It left a bittersweet aftertaste in my mouth, and all these exaggerating done by my heart left me perplexed. Finally, I changed into my casual clothes, hoping something could strip away all these feelings that were once unknown to me: The happiness of being close to him, the sadness of him not actually giving a damn about me, and the frustration of letting my domain get crushed by sadness all these years.
I told him I was jealous, about that pretty cashier who laughed at his joke when we bought goods in the market and he told me, “Can she have this?” as I receive a kiss on both of my cheeks. And I told myself: If she allowed you to, then she’d have that, surely. I know, you only stay with this ugly chick because you once told her no one wants you, no one would love you. And to be honest, she doesn’t mind filling the void until you finally chase after your goddess.
Author Notes: An anecdote of realizing the rationale behind love: In the view of a former hopeless romantic.