Some girls dream of having money. Some girls dream of fame. Other girls dream of finding a husband and bearing children, perfect visions of white picket fences. I only dream of love. And I remember the very first moment I found it. I was sitting at a bar with a couple of friends. He was a nice looking boy who mostly kept to himself. As the night drew on, our friends left one by one until it was just me and him. We were pretty drunk, me with my Tequila Sunrise, him and his San Miguel. As he ordered another round of drinks, we started talking about his girlfriend. It was a surprise to me. He had never mentioned her before.
“What’s it like?” I asked, my heart cracked but not broken.
“Being with Gina?” His eyes lit up as he said her name. It was a fire I had never experienced for myself. “It’s like a river, I guess. She’s calm and then she’s not. Sometimes being with her feels like I’m lost in a raft and the current’s too strong. But we’ve been together for so long, I just don’t know what life is without her.” Using his lighter, he popped the crown off another bottle as I took short sips of my drink.
“How long have you been together?”
“Uh... we ran away together when I was around nineteen? I got her knocked up. We ran away. Though she miscarried when we got to Manila, it just made perfect sense to stay here and keep living our new life.” Suddenly it made sense, how this boy worked so hard, often taking any and all opportunities for overtime work. I wondered what it felt like to have someone working that hard for me and whether I would ever find a lonely raft for my quiet river.
As the waiter announced the last call, we capped off our drinks and settled the bill. He excused himself to go the restroom but couldn’t because he was so drunk. As we walked to his car, it became clear that he was in no position to drive. I offered to take him home. He tossed me his keys and slumped over the passenger seat.
“Hey. Hey... Where do you live?” No answer. “Buddy, how can I bring you home if you don’t tell me where you live?” I attempted to flip him over for his wallet. Maybe it would have some identification on it. He resisted at first but soon lost all consciousness. I turned him on his side and fished out his brown leather wallet.
There was a picture tucked in one of the sleeves. It was one of those cheesy studio portraits. He stood behind her, arms wrapped around her waist. They were both smiling. She was pretty, a little morena but nonetheless, she had one of those faces most people would call beautiful. He had longer hair then and they both looked like they had their best years ahead of them.
My search for his address yielded nothing. Apart from a few loose bills and the picture, his wallet was empty. I couldn’t bring him home. My father would kill me. And so I did what made sense at that time. I took him to a motel.
As we drove in, the attendant looked at me with a peculiar expression. Perhaps he was used to the girl being passed out while the guy drove in to take advantage. He helped me carry my drunken passenger to the room and we set him down on the bed. I sent him away with a small tip and an order for some coffee.
He looked so peaceful, so unaware as he lay there sleeping. Even with the AC on, he was still sweating profusely. I took off his sneakers and his socks. There was a big hole on the right one and his big toe was popping out indignantly. The motel lights were warm and somber as I undressed him. He started moaning as I freed him from his left sock. I froze in panic. I knew how this would look. It was far from my first rodeo and you could spin it any way you want but there was no denying that there I was, in a seedy part of Pasig undressing an inebriated man. His fists clenched up as he grunted. I got up from the bed. With a deep sigh, he started to relax. He continued mumbling and I pressed an ear towards his chest to hear what he was saying.
“Mmm... Don’t stop,” he beckoned. I took it as my cue to keep going. I straddled him between my legs and unbuttoned his shirt. As I stripped him of his clothes and lifted my skirt, I could tell he was awake. Still, he kept his eyes firmly closed that night. When they finally opened in the morning, I could see the disappointment, the regret that lay behind those dark brown pools.
The next few months were a bit of a blur. He and I didn’t speak again after that night. It broke my heart but I knew not to expect. Then I started missing my period. I didn’t need a pregnancy test. I knew what I did but I didn’t expect that I would walk away from that night pregnant. I did not tell my parents and if it weren’t for that bump that refused to hide in any form of clothing, they wouldn’t have suspected anything. It was my mother who first noticed it and when she and my father confronted me, I told them a version of the truth that they would understand. We weren’t in love. It was a mistake. He shouldn’t have to know. That’s when my father slapped me so hard, he knocked me to the floor. My cheeks burned in pain and embarrassment. You will tell him and he will pay for what he did to you. Or I don’t know what I’ll do. That was his way of dealing with the problem. It was no idle threat, mind you and with that, we were forced to get married.
I knew he didn’t love me. I could tell by the way he looked at me. There was no fire, no passion, nothing but absence. As the years went on, he pulled himself farther away from me. He would stay in the office until the wee hours of the morning, often crawling into bed at sunrise. I would lie in bed wide awake, wondering where he was or what he was doing. I knew that our marriage was killing him but despite all that, I also knew that I love him too much to let him go. And so although I know he isn’t really with me, I take comfort in the fact that he lives in my house, takes care of my son, and provides for our future. It may take him a long time to learn to love me or he may never learn at all. What matters is that for a few hours each day, we dream in the same bed.
And so while some girls dream of money, fame, or success, I only dream of love - my husband’s. In my dreams, we are happy. We have picnics on grassy hillsides. He wraps a blanket around me as we dip our feet in the lake. He wipes the cappuccino foam off my nose and we laugh. He holds my hand in dark movie theaters, his buttery fingers clasped in mine. He is raising my son to be a good man like him. He tucks him in at night and kisses him lightly on the forehead. He makes love to me and holds me till the morning.
When I wake from these dreams, I am almost always crying on an empty bed. My hands run through his vacancy and then another day begins.
♫: Emeli Sandé | Next to Me (2012)
Post: three dreams
HOLA! Sorry this took so long. I recently faced a bit of a crisis in my professional life. An offshoot of that crisis is this blog I started. Please don't judge me.