I guess you’d think it was silly but I still remember the exact moment I realized I was in love with him. It was in the early days when things weren’t complicated. He was escaping from a destructive relationship. I was picking up broken shards of my heart. We were simply distractions to each other.
“Are you seriously asking me this question?” he asked as he flipped the cap off a fresh bottle of beer. The bar was practically empty. Most of the drinking crowd had already gone home yet there we were, still crawling our way through another bucket.
“Yes, I am.” I answered. “I believe there’s plenty you can learn from someone based on the food he identifies with.”
“Well,” he said, looking up in thought. “I guess you could say I’m a lot like bangus.”
“Yeah. Growing up, I saw a lot of them back home in the province. Did you know they can practically grow anywhere? Like it was completely normal for you to see bangus in little creeks or in the flood when the storms came in.”
“Ooookaaaay,” I said in disbelief. “How does that make you a milkfish?”
“Well, I guess it’s sort of like how… these days, it feels like I’m just swimming in mud.” He stubbed his cigarette into a full ashtray. A few stray butts fell to the table as the speakers chimed in a Jack Johnson record on loop. “It would be nice to think that someday, I don’t know. Maybe someday, someone would think I was beautiful.”
His eyes looked so lonely. I was never sentimental, never truly cared for anyone before but at that moment, I knew I could spend the rest of my life making this boy realize how special he was, how truly beautiful he was in the mud.
I always saw myself as plain tortang talong. It wasn’t that I couldn’t aspire to be anything more than eggplant omelet. It’s just, I always found the way that you cook it to be pretty interesting. You grill it or burn it on a stove then you mash it to bits with a fork. You have to fry it with a scrambled egg because let’s face it, no one sets off to eat just an eggplant. It always has to be prepared with something else. It goes through such a beating and at the end, it tastes exquisite. I guess you could say I’m a lot like that. It would be nice to think that all the shit I’m going through is temporary and when all this is through, maybe someone out there could say that I was deserving of his love.
I knew what we were doing was wrong. I’m not stupid. I didn’t wake up one day and say oh, I think I’m going to steal a husband today. I tried to fight it but it was always too strong for me. Each night, I said to myself this is the last time I’m seeing him. I promised every night would be the last. But there was always something in the way, some little thing he’d do that would remind me of one simple truth: there was no way my heart would let me live without him. I could hold my breath till I turn blue and each heartbeat would still call out his name.
“Hello,” he said, his eyes lighting up from alcohol and optimism. He was playing one of his little games. “I don’t believe we’ve met. I’m the guy who does nothing right. I’m the guy who let you down when you were 16. I’m the one who fucked you up when you were 23. I’m the guy who broke your heart, who breaks your heart. Have a drink with me,” he offers, his drink held high in the air. “Did I mention I do nothing right?” I raised my bottle to meet his and the clink sounded lovely but lonely.
“Hi,” I said, a skewed smile on my face. “I don’t believe we’ve met.”
“And you are?”
Six words and I broke my own heart. “I’m the guy who stayed anyway.”
He said he’d had his suitcases packed and stored in the trunk of his car since Monday and he was just waiting for the right moment to leave. On the day he was to arrive, I barely got anything done at work. I was nervous. My hands were sweaty with anticipation. I didn’t know what to expect.
He said he’d be home by 8. I cooked dinner, something I stopped doing since I was always out at night with him. By midnight, I still hadn’t heard anything from him. I checked my messages a couple of times. I kept trying to call him but he was always out of reach. The dinner sat cold on the kitchen counter, the oil turning white and solid. By 12:30, I sent him a three-word SOS: Where are you?
A gentle knocking wakes me at 4:25. I was still fully dressed, supine on the sofa. My neck and lower back wrestled in pain as I stumbled across the living room to the front door.
“I’m sorry,” he greeted. “I’m here.” He was drunk. It looked like he swam through cases of beer to get to me. He could barely stand, let alone carry his suitcase. He put his hand on my shoulder and collapsed to the floor.
I wanted to berate him. I wanted tell him how cross I was because he didn’t even call, didn’t bother to check in or anything. But when I saw how he looked, I knew to bite my tongue. That night found him leaving the woman he swore he’d be with forever. I’d probably be drinking like a fish too if I ever had to break a vow like that.
I carried him to the bedroom and took off his shoes. I grabbed a washcloth and a basin from the bathroom. I slowly stripped him of his shirt and jeans. My washcloth ran warm water all over his skin, stripping him of the day's dirt, his sweat and regrets. All the while, he kept mumbling about how sorry he was and that he came as soon as he could.
As I sat there giving a sponge bath to a man who’d just left his wife for me, I couldn’t help but think of all the different circumstances that aligned to bring him to my bed. That first cigarette, the many nights at the bar, the stories we shared, the first time we kissed. I recalled the night he told me he was leaving her and how it felt like I was alive for the first time.
You can judge me. You can call me names. Cheater. Liar. Home wrecker. It doesn’t even matter to me anymore. They’re just words. As random as cat, coin or comb. I just loved. I just listened to my heart. How can that ever be wrong? I loved a man and I did all I could to keep him in my life. I fought for my happiness. Doesn’t that sound like someone you know? Doesn’t that sound like you?
Part 1 | 2 | 3
♫: The Civil Wars | To Whom It May Concern (2011)
Photo: The Kiss
The Emo Blogger's Happy Blogging Challenge: A Criminal Mind
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