To you who finally knotted the cherry stem with your tongue

At last.

We were both lying on that very comfortable mat in that by-the-beach bar where they played lounge music or something (forgive me for my almost non-existent functional music literacy). It was a starless night except for some truly rebellious twinklers that peeked every once in a while when the grayish clouds forgot that it was supposed to be a cloudy night. You held my hand; I held yours. We both tried our best to appear oblivious. I felt I was the most awkwardly acting man in the whole island that time. You were the coolest, the most suave.

And then there was that cherry with its stem still attached tenaciously to the red, succulent globe. You asked me to eat the fruit and took the stem from me. You seriously looked and held it, a bit raised. “The cherry stem,” you said. “Oh, I remember,” I said.

The cherry stem disappeared before my sight. Although it took you several minutes, I felt I did not have any right to be impatient. I prayed to the hidden stars that they help you knot that slender cherry stem. Finally, it was over. You looked at me, smiled a meaningful smile,  and let go of a perfect cherry stem knot.

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How to fall in love (for a working class riding a public transportation)

Love in the time of Cholera

My God, this is longer than sorrow!

I hate reading love stories not so much because they are corny and that they cause my bile to boil and drown me from the inside but so much because they are repetitious and trite. They keep on telling the same rising and falling actions with an air of somebody who thinks as if he has invented the very concept of love.

But alas, none of the great works of literature, not even the lesser ones, are immune from the ravages of a romantic narrative. All of them have their pathetic attempts to tell a story of love, consummated love, unrequited love, star crossed lovers, undying love, happily ever after, till death do us part, and all those b.s. that usually revolve around this recycled theme of love.

But how we enjoy reading them.

How we enjoy deceiving ourselves that they can exist in reality, that they can come as close as lending us their narratives and allowing us to experience the exhilaration of a romantic adventure even for a fleeting moment.

B.s.

I’ve been reading love stories these days not because I’m succumbing to the pitfalls of a romantic liaison or seeking to re-educate myself on the best way to navigate on love’s tumultuous and meandering highways which I haven’t dared to cross for quite a long time. I have been so engrossed with love stories because they give me an idea on the level of madness man can reach if only to experience this emotion that has, not sounding hyperbolic, brought us to where we are now.

You spot somebody from among the crowd, say a creature on his way to work holding his breath while squeezing his/her body inside a jam packed train or bus. Choose somebody whom you think is attractive enough but not too attractive as to pass you as too plain or not so horrible-looking as to cause repulsion in you on your first night. Mark that imaginary “X” on the body of that person whom according to your better judgment is on the same plane of attractiveness as you are.

Coolly approach the direction of that person, and with all the grace and class that you can handle, breathe a warm breathe on his nape, not too much as give the other person thoughts that you are a maniac on a prowl. Just do it as if it was accidental and customary at the same time. Look away and do not betray your motive.

Bus

Then start to feign restlessness and agitation because of the supposed tardiness of the train, or any public transportation you are riding in. Look at your wrist watch from time to time, making sure there is a reasonable interval from the last time you viewed the time. According to a study on pendulum oscillation and its relation to the speed of reaching hypnotic climax conducted by a group of scientists from Cambridge, a three- to 4-and-a-half minute interval is desirable. On your fourth attempt, gather enough courage to ask any question. It can be about the weather (Have your read the weather report today, uulan ba?), the train (What’s the next station, first time ko kasing sumakay ng tren?), or the obviously stupid but still worth trying: What time is it? Sira kasi ang writst watch ko? I need to have this fixed.

The question is not important during this stage. Your only objective is to get the attention of the other person as his impressions of you have already been established the moment you coolly approached his direction. At this point, you are already being subject to an intense scrutiny and he has already asked himself whether you are a pathetic loser, an escapee from a mental asylum, a serial killer/rapist, or a person in need of tenderness and love.

You need to create an image of the last in the list above.

Now if the other party perceived you to be any of the first three, or worse, all the three combined, you may begin to distance yourself a bit to avoid any untoward commotion that can further jeopardize your dream of having to experience the splendour (note: it has to have the letter ‘u’ reminiscent of Harlequin Romances) of love.

After successfully establishing an image of a human in desperate need to be loved, you may now proceed to the more challenging aspect of a hurried love maneuvering inside a public transport. This time, Newton’s first law of motion (although this has already been proved false, including the two other that complete his three laws of motion, by Einstein’s theory of Relativity) will come handy. And of course, a little acting on your part won’t hurt. Throw your body to that object of your affection (and affectation) the moment the train comes to a halt or the driver steps on the break as this is just but natural. You are a vulnerable human, who is falling apart because of love and inertia.

Say your apologies. And again, feign indifference after you’ve said your line. But throw your self on him every time the situation allows. But forget about saying you are sorry after the succeeding train halts and bus breaks, instead utter some gibberish that will distract his attention.

Finally, make a loud reproach on the reckless speed of the train or the riotous manner of the driver of the bus loud enough for your object to distinctly hear. And say something to the effect that you are filing your complaints to the management and that you are doing it for the welfare of other passengers and that something should be done to put an end to these profligate and degenerate actions by people who man public transportations whose lives of thousand of commuters depended on everyday.

Then, without any evidence of diffidence and with all seriousness, ask your object to be a witness to your case and get his number for your lawyer to contact him in the event the hearing of the case you will definitely file commences.

A high school love story

After having weathered several romantic relationships, trying to figure out what went wrong, what happened along the course of the journey, or what has prodded each of the parties to leave, my previous romantic affairs concluded in un-extraordinary fashion. I loved, lost, loved again, just like anyone of us. Their ends were never preempted by the happiness brought by their beginnings. There was nothing spectacular about their endings, no spark, or anything near magical.

I wrote love letters before. Some I sent and was read by the intended recipient; some were sent but were read by other people other than to whom it was supposed to be sent to. And a few were never sent at all either because of fear to be rejected or for the fear that the person who will receive them will laugh at the cheesy lines I carefully concocted or I simply was not confident that my letters were free of any grammatical blunders.

Youthful insecurities kept me from fully expressing love, too young to understand the complications and complexities of baring my emotion for people to trample it, crush it, or simply ignore it. But I knew I tried to love. That for me was enough no matter how the adult world tried to underrate my ability to feel and to express what I feel in a way I deemed appropriate.

I was so young then, barely 14, when I felt so sure that I was starting to fall in love with a very beautiful girl of my age. We were high school classmates. For reasons of privacy, I will not mention her name here. We both have already moved on. Now she is living a happy life with somebody she loves and loves her in return. She is also running after her dreams like what I am doing.

Then, life was simpler. We were too innocent to care about the future. What is to become of us after a year, a month, or even the following week was the least of our concern. For us then the present was the only thing that mattered.

She was from another elementary school in the poblacion; and being first year high school students then, we were too shy to approach anyone we think a stranger. She caught everyone’s attention, including mine, because she’s beautiful. In that public high school where I graduated from, it was rare to see a beautiful girl who dresses so well and modest all at the same time. You either see a pretty girl who looks drab, a well-dressed one but just too provincial, or both good-looking and nicely-dressed but an epitome of egotism and pride.

She was simply the most beautiful girl, the kindest, and the most intelligent in class (second to me, hahaha): everything a thirteen-year-old boy was looking for in the girl of his life. We were competitors in class; she graduated with the highest honor when she was in elementary; I, in the other hand, was the valedictorian of my class. But we were friends. I tried hard to make her laugh at my jokes or impress her with my scientific knowledge and love for literature. I won competitions outside the school because I wanted her to notice me.

I started formally courting her during our third year in high school. I sent her love letters through a close friend of us both. Sometimes I deliberately borrowed books from her, although I never read then, to insert my love letter inside. She never replied any of my letters, but I know she felt something for me because I noticed a difference in the way she smiled at me. I felt it.

I joined the CAT (Citizen Army Training) program to become an officer so that in our fourth year I could ask her to be my sponsor during the induction of officers and presentation of sponsors. I faced pain, fatigue, and hard work while in the program. She taught me to think of the future and make my self better so that my life in the future will be far better from what my current life.

I started walking with her from our school to the town plaza every afternoon during the last months of our third year in high school.  I took those walks as confirmations that she also felt something for me. Although that time they had a new red car, which was her family’s transportation during that time, she chose not to go with her mother who is a teacher in our school, and walk with her friends, and me to the plaza and wait for the tricycle to transport her to their house four kilometers away in the town. I reasoned that any intelligent girl would not choose to walk on dusty roads surrounded by pineapples with a guy if she’s not interested with him.

Even though I was not a practicing Catholic, I would always accompany her every Wednesday to attend mass after class. One time we were both asked to carry the bread and wine; we did that while we were wearing our high school uniforms. Days following that afternoon we were our classmates’ object of teasing; I secretly liked it, though. I just smile every time I remember that ordinary Wednesday afternoon in the Parish of the Good Shepherd.

This continued until our fourth year, and on September 1st 2002 she said to me that she also loved me, the day we were officially romantically attached. It was however odd. That time, cell phones were just starting to be introduced in our place and so we were sending SMS to each other. I was ironing my school uniform while texting her using my mother’s Nokia 5110i phone (in case you forget, it’s a very fat and heavy Nokia model with an equally big antenna; this model was already not fashionable during that time) when she became my girlfriend. It was anticlimactic.

Earlier that day, as the Corps Commander, I lead my high school’s CAT Battalion  in the town parade so she asked me if I was okay because she heard from her mother that I was sick. The conversation went on further until I asked her if she cared for me. She said “a lot”. I asked her if it was because she loved me. And then she replied a very short answer: “yes”.

That was one of my most memorable high school experience. Looking back now that I am 22 and definitely more mature and experienced with life and how it is to love, that day remained too difficult to surpass. My young heart during that time, for the first time, knew how it was to love and to find out that somebody was also loving me back.

We lasted for seven months. On the 8th of April 2003, I remember it was in a park, I broke up with her. I gave her many reasons why our relationship cannot go on. I told her that I would be studying in a far place; we would not be able to maintain communication; and that I don’t believe in long distance relationships. She said nothing at first just cried. That was the first time I saw her cry. It almost made me regret saying those things and take back what I said telling her I was just kidding. But my resolve was final. She tried to negotiate, telling me that she could wait and that she loved me so much. I said I loved her too, but I could not anymore go on. I gave her reasons why I was ending the relationship but it’s only now that I accepted the fact that it was because of my insecurities. Insecurities about the future, about our fragile relationship, and about myself and who I really am.

We seldom communicated after that, and in the second year of my college she told me that she already has a boyfriend. I was devastated, but I had no choice but to accept it. She had moved on. I hadn’t. I tried my best to divert my attention to my academics just to forget about her. A lot of things happened to our individual lives after that. When we both finished college, we met again, and finally put and end to our love story. She told me her story which made me to fully I understand her.

“You hurt me so much,” she said.

“I’m sorry. It’s not only you who was hurt,” I said.

“I’m with somebody now. I know he loves me so much. He makes me happy.”

“Really? That’s good. I also wanted you to be happy.”

“By leaving me? I suffered a lot because of what you did. Two years after we separated, I still couldn’t move on. I compared every man who tried to love me with you. ‘Ah this man is not as good a conversationalist as Fev.’ ‘This man is too stupid, not like Fev.'”

“I’m sorry.”

“Is that all you can say? Yeah, but I’m so happy this man came. He loves me more than anyone did.”

“It was not only you who was hurt. I was only thinking of what was to become of us in the future.”

“I hope it made you happy.”

Silence.

Our story ended in silence.

Her story, however, will remain to be her story. I will not include it here because for me it is sacred and only she can tell it. I know I will never give full justice to the pains she went through because of a love story that began one Monday morning of June 1999.