Can we start over? It's a simple question but the inferred meaning opens up a world of opportunities. It's a barometer of hope- hope that within the ash and debris, an ember still exists.
Six weeks after I last saw L, he decided it was finally time for us to talk. Our friends, perhaps with the purest of intentions, figured we both needed this time to talk. I was acting so brave the whole time. I didn’t even look at him from across the table.
“I was hoping we could be friends,” he offered.
I took my time to respond. I needed to choose my words carefully. Up until that moment, I had acted so coolly. (I even surprised myself!) This despite the fact that emotionally, this evening had sent me back at least a month of recovery.
“I can’t give you that.” I began. “I’m not the same person I was. That person would’ve accepted. I can’t.” You don’t jump the same cliff twice. With pain comes experience and I was not really in the mood for masochism.
For weeks, I hoped for closure and when I realized he was not going to give that to me, I learned to move on alone. I sought answers to questions I couldn’t ask him. I learned how to walk without turning around every few seconds to see if he finally came back. I was breathing again. Living again. Why was he doing this now? Whatever happened to letting sleeping dogs lie?
“I’m not rushing you. I know it’s going to take some time. I just think that it’s time for us to be friends again.”
“You’re so unfair!” I snapped. So much for acting cool. “You decided when we started seeing each other. You decided that we were exclusively dating. You decided that we shouldn’t see each other again. And now, now you’re telling me you finally decided it’s ‘time for us to be friends again’? Sorry but I have no use for your friendship.”
“I’m sorry,” he said. It would’ve made a world of difference six weeks ago but now that the fire’s out, this cup of water seemed more like a cruel joke. We managed to end the night without too much drama. We settled the bill and carpool plans were made. I thought we both understood that we didn’t have anything left to rebuild a friendship. I was wrong.
“Can I hold you?” L asked. We were standing right at the corner of Makati Avenue and Pasay Road waiting for a cab.
“No.” I answered.
“Please? I missed you. Can I hug you?”
“Why are you doing this? Haven’t you hurt me enough?” I looked him straight in the eye just so he could see how angry I was.
“I’m sorry. I’m sorry.” he said over and over again. He threw his arms around me and started to cry. I tensed up. I could feel his warm tears on my shoulder. Suddenly, everything- from the time we met, the time we fell in love, to the time we fell apart came rushing in. It felt like a massive wind suddenly entered and left my body in such a rush that if I did not hold on to something, I would fly away. I hugged him back and he sobbed louder.
“I’m sorry, okay? I missed you. You say you’re not the same person because of what happened to us. I’m not the same person either. I’m sorry I hurt you but you hurt me too.” It was then that I realized this was not the same L I met nor was this the L I was arguing with mere minutes before. This was an honest L, a wounded L and I couldn’t help but feel guilty that I had somehow caused this change.
I once heard of a strange animal (whose name escapes me now) who poisons himself right after he is captured. Funny how I should conjure this memory right at that exact moment. Like poison running its course through my body, I killed myself with four simple words.
“Can we start over?”
I pulled away from our embrace and saw the indecision in his eyes. Despite all my best efforts, he still managed to do the one thing I swore I would never let him do again- deny me. I looked away, hailed a cab and swore I would never look back.
Can we start over? It's a stupid question. It disguises itself as a simple solution- the universal do-over. But once you peel away all the layers of things we keep and things we show, it exposes its ugly head.
Photo Credit: The Hungry Cyclist