Monday, June 10, 2013

stella and her waiting (2): running

“There was a guy here who was looking for you,” said Joci while I was getting ready for my set. I looked at her through the mirror. She was putting on way too much eyeliner. “The funny thing is he called you by your real name. It took me a while to figure out who he was looking for.”

And it felt like my legs had gone cold all of a sudden. Someone once told me that when you get really nervous, all the blood flows to your legs so you can run. Part of evolution, he said and for a second, it really did feel like I was going to bolt out the door. Could it be that he was just here?

“What was his name?” I asked, my voice uneasy and shaking.

“I’m not sure. Was it Bruce? Or maybe Ryan.” My heart stopped. “Bryan. Yes, that’s the name. Does it ring any bells?”

My memories from our last night together are quickly fading away. There are times when I get confused about the day of the week or the color of the shirt he was wearing. All I remember with perfect clarity is the sullen look on his face. He couldn’t be with me and it was becoming clearer and clearer that what we had was slowly slipping through the cracks.

“This is hard,” he said. “I don’t want to leave you. You know that, right?”

“Then don’t.” I begged. “If we run now, they won’t ever find us. If you…” I couldn’t finish the thought. In my head, I could see her carrying his child, just as confused as we were. I saw her father, or at least a figure I imagined him to be like. In his hands he held a shotgun, a poor reimagining of a daytime soap opera where all the actors perform stiffly between poorly written dialogue.

“And what? Spend the rest of our lives hiding from them? Escaping the responsibility I know I must face?”

“But what about me? What about us? Bryan, I left my life to be with you. I have nowhere else to go. Aren’t you responsible for me too?”

“Gina,” he said, his hands on my face. “I know you. You are strong. One day, we’ll be together. Just wait.”

One day, we'll be together. Just wait. That’s the promise I’ve held on to all these years. I learned to get by, to live my life as though it were a movie and I was just sitting in the audience waiting for the happy ending. My heart hardened into a cocoon. Though men have often tried to pierce it with their promises of stability and a good future, I have always known that my heart can only beat for one man.

“Ready Stella?” asked Bookie, peeking through the small hole we use to scout the men. I dabbed a bit of concealer on the name tattooed on my hip. I tightened my bikini top as I got up, endeavoring to momentarily forget about the man who held my heart prisoner.

“Oh, he asked me to give you this,” Joci said. “He says you’d know what it is.” She handed me a copper cufflink, a cruel reminder of the love I once had and lost to the wind. I took the present from her and pinned it to my garter.

“I can’t let you go.” My tears had become too strong to hold in. “I just can’t. This,” I said, bringing his cupped hands to my heart. “This… this can only beat for you. I thought you understood that.”

“I do. I really do. But I can’t do this. If we leave, if we run from this mess that I made, I’m gonna put you in danger too. And that’s just not fair. You are the courage I need to get through this. I just need a year, two at the most. Then I’ll come back and we can be together.”

“Let’s run away. Please Bryan, let’s run away.” My voice was dry with desperation. The cool June winds shook the trees as we spoke. With all my heart, I wished it could blow us away.

“We can’t. I can’t. I’m sorry.” Six words that broke my heart.

I wonder what men see when I’m dancing. My hips move to the music, my undergarments snap off to the beat. Do they think of me when they come home to their wives, smelling like Red Horse and stale cigarettes? Do I remind them of the life they once had as horny teenagers, fapping to their father’s Playboys? Or do they see me for how I really am – a bit of road kill stuck to the burning asphalt. By day, I am too little, too unimportant for their affection. But at night when they are with me, they whisper empty promises in my ear and push bills down my underwear. At night, I am who they want me to be and who I was or how I got here is just an unfortunate consequence.

“Let’s run. Just for tonight, let’s run away.” I said. I got up from the pavement, tossed my purse into the nearby bushes and started running for my life. I kicked hard on the road and with it, I wished to stomp at all the things that were keeping me from him. As the cold evening air stabbed through my face, I felt I was shedding the weak skin I once held.

Bryan caught up with me and we held hands in the moonlight. We ran because we had to, because we really couldn’t, and because for once, it felt like we were escaping the hand of cards life dealt us. We ran together, ran ‘till the air burned in our lungs and it felt like they would explode. And when they didn’t, we ran a little more.

I collapsed onto a field of grass, the blades wet with dew. Bryan lay beside me and he kissed me lightly on the cheek. He held me as we quietly watched the stars above us. And when we’d caught our breaths and I’d wiped my tears, he stood up and left me in the grass with my broken heart.

I walked to the center of the stage while the lights were dimmed. As the intro to my song played, my right hand absentmindedly fiddled with the cufflink on my thigh. If he was here still, he would see that I’m doing just what he said. I’m waiting. From far away and deep down the quietest corners of my heart, the singer sings the story of my life.

For you I was a flame
Love is a losing game
Five-storey fire as you came
Love is a losing game

One I wish I never played
Oh what a mess we made
And now the final frame
Love is a losing game

And though many memories from that night have slipped away from me, I will never forget the fevered thoughts I held back as we lay quietly in the grass. Maybe if we ran fast enough, we’d outrun every little thing in our way. Maybe if we pushed hard enough, we would look back one day and see that we'd won.

♫: Amy Winehouse | Love is a Losing Game (2006)
Photo: night race

OOPS. Sorry about that. I know I promised I’d post this a few weeks back but things got kind of crazy at work and between that and having to fly to Davao to see my parents, I lost my train of thought. Aaaanyway, there’s one last part to this series and I hope I can find the time to just sit down and write. Ooh and also, Aris (who I collaborated with here) translated a post from three years ago! Check out his (and by association, my :p) awesomeness here.