Friday, September 29, 2006
That chance encounter with E. was followed by another. E. always used Nanette as the springboard of our conversation, and I would gladly listen and share my thoughts insofar as their relationship was concerned. I wondered then if it was just E.’s ploy to get closer to me again, hence, I repeatedly told him to take care of Nette, and make things work for both of them. He gave me the assurance that no matter what happens, he would stick it out with his new love. I felt happy and relieved.
Life went on, and one day, I got another call from Nette. She told me it was over between E. and her. It occurred to me that E. never left drugs afterall, and was in fact more deeply engaged in it. Nette was crying on the other line, torn between staying with E. and having a miserable life, or moving on without him to pursue her own dreams. Her relationship with E. has already taken a toll on herself, and her family as well. She said she loved E., but couldn’t handle the pressures any longer. Having been in her shoes, I advised her to listen to her heart, and follow what it says, although I secretly wished she'd stick it out with E. E. might not be able to handle another rejection, not from this woman...and not at that time.
I hadn’t heard about them for almost a decade until that fateful day of July in 2000. It was a Saturday morning when our helper broke the news…..E. was shot dead past Thursday night, outside a friend’s house. The cause of his death was largely speculative; people say he was not the direct target of the assailant, but was a poor victim of circumstance. I felt cold and numb…At that moment, after a very long time, memories came rushing in, and with it came mixed feelings of pity, sadness, loss and wonder (would this have happened had I held on to him?)….But there was neither a feeling of guilt nor regret….
At the wake, I learned (from his closest relative, a cousin) that Nette decided to leave him years before. He never got off his addiction, and had a string of short-lived affairs, with women having the same lifestyle as his. His cousin mused that E. would have lived longer had I not abandoned him. How I wished E. were alive that very minute to tell one and all how he truly felt, and why he did the things he did. He was loved, but failed to see it, because he thought he was not worthy enough to be loved by anybody. In the process, he let himself be dragged into the depths of despair, hurting the people to whom he mattered, the most.
On his coffin, E. was ironically a picture of peace and contentment, devoid of any trace of his violent death. I felt he was happy to 'see me' again, one last time... beside him. I cried a silent tear, and whispered to E. "it's over, pain has no power over you anymore, and to where you are going, you will be truly loved"...
I mustered a prayer, asking God to welcome him, and let him feel the love he must have sought but never found in his short earthly stint.
My first love was finally at rest.
“The echoes of love have fainted now;
Barely heard, only memories do linger somehow;
The love we had for a time in our lives,
Though past and gone, will remain in the heart.”
Tuesday, September 26, 2006
After that fateful day, I realized I had to make a painful choice between helping a soul or hurting my family and potentially risking a bright future. Though already aware of the possible consequences of my decision, I calmly approached E. and explained to him that although I would no longer see him, I would continue to watch him from a distance, and pray for his well-being. Misty-eyed and painfully broken, E. promised me he would work hard to “deserve” my love, and would one day make me proud of him. I vividly remember my parting words to him….”Reform not for me, or anybody else, but because you owe it to yourself. Loving you will come easy when you have learned to love yourself.” I turned away from him with silent tears, fearful of what he might become, and deeply disturbed for having to leave him when he needed me most. I consoled myself with the thought that I had given up being his crutch so he would learn how to walk.
Busy with my review, I lost track of E., although occasionally, I would receive (bad) news about him. At this point, I was convinced I made the right decision in letting him go. There were times when he would call and request that we meet, but I consciously declined each invitation, not wanting to give him false hopes. My last encounter with him was when he begged that we meet for the “last” time, just to hand me a token (which turned out to be a letter and a red rose). I obliged for friendship and old time’s sake, more than anything else.
Years went by, I had passed the board, and landed a job. I was busy building a career and had my own world. Five years after our last encounter, one morning on my way to the office, E. saw me and instinctively approached where I stood (waiting for a jeepney ride). Seemingly excited, he asked how I was and how I have been the past years. Feeling awkward and fidgety, I answered him sparingly, afraid that he would bring up the past, and subsequently, our “relationship”. Sensing I was uncomfortable, he told me he was already a working student, taking up an engineering course, and working as a clerk in a popular store chain. He was in fact on his way to his work, when he saw me and decided to accompany me to the office, and just report late. I was hesitant to let him, and only changed my mind when he told me he already had a girlfriend, an auditor in the store where he worked.
I loosened up, and in the forty-minute trip to the office, we caught up with the goings on in our respective lives. He showed me the picture of his new girl, Nanette, and told me how she helped him move on with his life. I felt a slight twitch in my heart, but was genuinely happy for E., knowing he was in good hands. He told me he would ask his girlfriend to get in touch with me, just so I would know the kind of lady he has “fallen in love” with. I just smiled.
I had forgotten about that chance encounter when I received a call from Nanette. She seemed a well-bred lady, soft spoken and amiable. She called to tell me how glad E. was to see me again, and that E. still thinks and talks about me, even when they were already a couple. She even said E. decided to go back to school and find work to be “worthy of me”. Being a woman myself, I could just imagine how painful it could be for this lady to accept E.’s musings. Reassuringly, I told Nanette she has nothing to worry about because that chapter of my life has been closed, and that I was truly happy that E. had finally found his true love. Or so I thought…….
(To be continued….)
Sunday, September 24, 2006
That fateful summer when E. discovered his true and uncertain origin was one of the most painful and confusing episodes not only in his, but in my life as well. He wanted to find his identity, but sought in the wrong places and company. I wanted to help him, but didn't know how to. I tried to be the friend who would cushion his pains, but with my own limiting circumstances, I could not possibly be with him to support him one hundred percent. The news that E. was on alcohol and drugs was enough for my parents to disallow any contact with him. I no longer recall how that summer ended, perhaps out of willful desire to forget that hurtful chapter in our lives.
We didn't get in touch after four long years (college years), not even during summers. The only updates I got was from a girl-cousin who had friends in E.'s circle. Afraid that he was no longer the same E. I knew in my younger years, I would find myself whispering a prayer for him, that he be in the best of health, and far from the dangers associated with his vices. I wondered how different things would have been, had he embraced the truth with optimism and complete acceptance, rather than wallow in destructive self-pity and helplessness.
I met him again the summer after I graduated from college, and the old mushy feeling of young love had been replaced with a calculated and discerning kind of affection. The feeling was still there, but such was tempered with constant rationalization on the possible outcomes - if I intend to pursue our relationship. What kind of married life will I have? How will I raise my children with a father like him? Is love enough to change a person? Although we were far from settlling down, I was already open to the possibility that I might end up with him if I continued to see him.
Afraid that rejection would further push him to the edge, I continued to be a friend to him, although I must admit the “unconditional” love I thought I once had for him has evolved into a different level, past the romantic plane. At this point, all I wanted was to help him become the best person he can be, and to make him understand life is what we make it. Being an adopted child is not the most unfortunate thing that can happen to a person. In fact, it has been a blessing in his case, with the love and support his adoptive family has showered him, among others. At that time I felt I was the only person who somehow gave him inspiration and encouragement to go on with his life, and leaving him at that point could have been a fatal, life-wrecking move.
I continued to see E., and occasionally he would fetch me from my board review classes. This I did in defiance to my parents’ (specifically my father) stern reprimand that I cut all ties with him. How could I let someone I loved, a friend, waste away, when I knew I could somehow make a difference in how he would live the rest of his life?
Then the inevitable happened. Fearful that my secret meetings with E. would somehow be found, I decided to let him come to the house. So one day, after one Wednesday novena at Baclaran Church, E. brought me home. My father was home, waiting for me. He saw E. standing by the door. As I took my father’s hand for his blessing (traditional “mano po” or taking of an elder’s hand to touch one’s forehead, as a request for blessing), my father forcefully set aside my hand it almost hurt, and turned his back on me. No words were said, but his action was enough to let me know he wouldn’t, and couldn’t accept E. in whatever capacity. I did not reason out with my father because I understood his fear. But pray tell, how could I turn away a lost soul, who was once a part of my life, and who desperately needed a crutch at the most critical point in his life?
(To be continued…..)
Sunday, September 17, 2006
My friendship with E. grew deeper with each passing day. Although our togetherness would peak every summer and lie low during the long rainy (school) season, the bond remained constant and the anticipation of summer kept us going.
I had my first “date” in one of our summers together. It was a concert by the then famous “Air Supply”. I vividly remember the way he held my hand when the song “Every Woman in the World” was being sung. My heart beat so wildly I almost thought it would jump out of my chest!
E. was the only boy in a brood of three, and the youngest. He lives in the same neighborhood where I live, a typical close community where everybody knows everybody. He is closest to his Ate Zeny, a pretty mestiza who got married to a wealthy businessman. It was his Ate who supported his studies, and who gave him generous allowance (including the money for the concert tickets which he bought from a scalper roaming around Folk Arts Theatre). I remember tagging along E. to visit his Ate in her video cum gift shop somewhere in Malate. I was awestruck seeing her Ate (who looked like a beauty queen), and wondered why she looked strikingly different from E.
One summer afternoon when I was thirteen, E. went to our house (just the front gate) and requested that we talk. I thought it was just one of those petty tete-a-tetes, until he started to break down. That day, he confirmed that he was an adopted child. Actually, there have been unceasing talks in our neighborhood about his person and origin, but everything was just plain speculation. On this particular day, he confronted his father, and bluntly demanded the truth. Truth he got, but was unable to confront.
The following days became unbearable for him. The thought of him suddenly losing his identity was just too much. He would confide his heartaches and angst to me, and all I could do was to empathize. However, no amount of encouragement and inspiring words could soothe his scarred spirits. Perhaps the way I consoled him was not the kind of comfort he needed at that time.
E. turned to his peers for support. The company he kept helped him forget his troubles momentarily, but unwittingly led him to his destruction. He turned to alcohol, smoking, and worst, drugs, to numb his spirits. There was a time he went to our house (just the front gate) when he was high on drugs. I remember seeing his bloodshot eyes begging for understanding and acceptance, and all I could do was silently weep….. How can a young girl of thirteen handle such a situation?
(To be continued…)
Saturday, September 16, 2006
“The call of love has grown stronger now,
Each word, each glimpse had deeper meaning somehow;
The hot summer morn becomes a welcome respite,
To souls wallowing in love’s warm retreat.”
I continued to be a good friend to E., despite the inner turmoil I had. However, there came a point when seeing them just talking and seemingly enjoying themselves, I would feel the pangs of inadequacy and unworthiness bite deeply into my young psyche. Wanting to let go of these negative emotions, I decided to keep my distance and just live in my own small world.
E. might have missed my company, so one day, he bluntly asked me if I had any problem. I need not say anything because the way I looked at him must have said it all. He understood and respected my feelings, and we went our separate ways. That summer ended with deep sadness, but hopes stood high for a cleansing rainy season.
The rains came with the opening of the schoolyear. The only glimpses I had of E. was when he would come home from school a little past 5 PM. I was not consciously waiting for him, but the accidental sight of him would be enough to complete my day. Ah…young love. I couldn’t wait for the next summer.
I was not privy to the goings on with E.’s life, or D.’s, or whether they had pursued what seemed to be a blooming bond between them. I just made sure I did well in school to compensate for the imagined inadequacies I had then.
The next summer came, and with it a renewed friendship. I decided I would be a good friend to E. without any expectations, knowing fully well it was D. he longed for. But just like the cirrus clouds which sped across the deep blue sky on a summer noon, a young boy’s feelings can be as fleeting. E. seemed to enjoy my company more than any other, and what used to be a partnership in rough games now turned into an understanding between two young hearts, eager to share hopes and dreams, and to unravel the soul behind each person.
(To be continued…..)
Monday, September 04, 2006
FIRST LOVE (First of a Series)
“The whisper of first love was faint and pale,
Undefined, undefiled, raw feelings unearthed;
The boy whose eyes were fixed on another girl’s gait,
Was a friend, my hero, my constant mate.
Friendship kindled in the summer sun,
Secret hopes and wishes shared in glorious fun;
My best friend, my joy, silently he would pine,
For somebody else’s embrace, painfully, not mine….”
E. was my closest male friend in my childhood days. A typical boy-next-door, with an athletic built (at eleven, he gave boys older than him a hard time on the court) and a captivating smile, E. could effortlessly win any girl’s attention. Unlike boys his age, E. was quite neat (how he hated having stains on his white shirt!) and knew how to talk to girls with charm and aplomb.
Every summer morning, after having completed my assigned household chores, I would go out to play piko, patintero, and the improvised version of “football” (where one, after kicking a plastic ball rolled by the pitcher of the opposite team, had to run three bases before going back to the homebase) with kids my age. In most instances, E. will be there playing too, if not happily cheering from the sidelines. Our playtime usually extended to noon, to be interrupted only by mother’s call for lunch, and would resume late afternoon, after having taken our routine siesta.
Once fatigue and exhaustion set in, we would stop and contentedly settle ourselves in the most comfortable nook in the street at that particular time of day. This could be a friend’s patio, or the vacant lot adjacent to our house, or the pavement near the road’s dead-end. Time was killed by stories, and sharing of thoughts and dreams. These moments were usually broken only by the presence of my girl friend D.
Even at a tender age, D. already exuded charm which complemented her flawless fair skin and bedimpled smile. Her comely presence was a perfect contrast to my chubby and boyish mien. No wonder every boy on the street, E. included, would sigh as she smiled at them.
E. was my constant companion in rough games, in which D. never participated. Already lady-like then, D. never smelled of sweat, and never went out of their house while the sun was up. No hair strand was out of place and her shirt always matched the color of her shorts. She would only huddle with us for one hour at most, and would always be home before Angelus.
Without E. telling me, I could sense that he liked D. He enjoyed my company, but he looked forward to D.’s calming presence at the day’s end. At a very young age, I felt – but didn’t understand - the first throes of insecurity and confusion…..
(To be continued….)