I wrote this last year, but never got around to telling the story behind it. I figured a year is long enough a time to procrastinate.
That may have resolved several years of sexual tension. Or it may have not.
I had a crush on this guy from the first time I met him.
That first time was more than ten years ago: A girl friend from work tagged me along to his house for some drinks. It was a crazy night, from the things I half-remember. Said girl friend, having had too much to drink, threw up in his living room. To this day, this guy and I still laugh at that memory.
He was living with his boyfriend at that time, and I had a boyfriend of my own. I never even tried to flirt with him, in any conscious manner. We added each other in social media, but kept minimal contact for several years.
It was a surprise then when, after seven or so years, I saw him in a bar in Malate. I can’t even remember why I went there; it might be that I was with friends. I think he was alone, drinking. Or maybe I misremember that part.
The amazing thing was he recognized me at the same time I recognized him. It’s been years and I rarely post my photos online, or use my face in my user pictures. It was as if we last saw each other about a week ago. It was one of the things I liked about him: we can talk easily to each other, even during the first time we were introduced to each other.
We were both single and I was living on my own. He was drunk and wanted to sleep but didn’t want to go home. I invite him to my place. He agreed. At some point while we slept, we were spooned to each other.
But that was it. We slept next to each other and that was all. And yet it never felt frustrating, back then or remembering it now. At the back of my mind, I wanted to have sex with him and yet I was never disappointed that we never tried.
Years later, he admitted to me that he was thinking of similar things.
“We were, what, hugging?” he told me. “Maybe I was too happy with the Chairless Apartment. Or maybe I was too brokenhearted that time that I didn’t want to spoil you.”
But it was a nice moment, I told him. I can appreciate nice moments. Would it have changed things if we did? We did not pursue each other again after that night.
Eventually, I entered another long-term relationship. This guy also was in a few relationships for the next few years. Occasionally, we would come across each other; I even introduced him to my then-boyfriend. It seems that despite that one time of palpable sexual tension, we remained good friends.
It’s been more than a year now since I broke up with that boyfriend.
Early February last year, I went to Ilocos for a few days to put a bit of distance from my recently-ended relationship. And all of a sudden, this guy texted me while I was on my way back to Manila. He was drunk and still sorting himself after his last relationship. At length, we talked about our history and the unresolved sexual tension we’ve had for years.
We agreed to each other a few days later, on Valentines, for a few drinks. We wanted to catch up with each other, and it looked like we will be spending the night bitching about our recent exes. Except we didn’t. Because of his ex.
His first boyfriend, actually, the one he was still with when I first met him. It was a curious bit of serendipity, for his ex to appear while we were talking of that time I was in their house. And it was a good thing, too. I liked his ex; he was a strange yet lovable guy, always spreading love for the universe. We forgot about the exes we were supposed to bitch about and talked of other things. And it turned out to be a good night because of it.
Inside a tricycle, while we were heading to another bar for more beer, this guy held my hand and placed his head on my shoulder. And we kissed. It was the first time we kissed each other.
Would it have been different if I decided to jump into this new chance for another relationship? It was only a month since my last boyfriend and I parted ways. While this guy still has not moved on from his last relationship. It felt like it was too soon.
We started seeing each other, not really dating, with whatever was happening to us a nebulous idea that lingered around our interactions but was rarely explicitly acknowledged.
It started going downhill weeks later. I, not aware of what he thought, was wondering about taking things more seriously with him while he, not knowing what I was thinking, began losing interest.
He met another guy and eventually they begun a new relationship. Ah well. I was heartbroken.
But this guy is, ultimately, my friend. One of the friends I’ve cherished for several years and that affection trumped over any kind of sexual attraction we might have for each other.
I knew I was over my heartbreak and no longer held any ill will when I saw him again several weeks later. He joined me and my friend while we were hanging out in a museum cafe (the same museum where this guy worked, and it was intentional); he and my friend took off really well. We were still there when his boyfriend arrived and I finally saw the person he kept mentioning in his tweets. He was a really sweet guy, yet gave off a impression of peaceful strength; I can tell why he chose him.
So we’ve defaulted to what we were before: friends. I’m searching in my mind for that sexual attraction I’ve kept for him for several years. It’s still there, boxed and kept away.
After all, the affection I have for my friend trumps over any kind of sexual attraction I might have on him.
Anj, a friend of mine, frequently tweets about the often amusing experiences she has with Metro Manila cab drivers. A recent set of tweets was about a driver who kept on speaking in English for the first few minutes of the cab ride because the driver thought she does not speak Tagalog.
I don’t mind not having heartwarming cab stories of my own, despite being a frequent cab passenger myself. I’ll be content with a quiet driver taking me from point A to point B with no to minimal fuss. I will even tolerate listening to Love Radio and Papa Jack’s radio show. But a peaceful cab ride doesn’t always gravitate towards me.
Last week, I was already running late for work so hailed a cab at the intersection where I usually take an FX shuttle for Ortigas. That intersection usually has a bum who hails cabs for passengers; the “taga-para” then asks for some money from the cab driver for “giving” them a passenger. It’s an informal arrangement in many places in Manila, and a way from many otherwise-jobless people earn some money. Do I sound condescending? Because I am.
I normally dislike this arrangement because I am perfectly capable of hailing a cab myself. It doesn’t really add much efficiency in how passengers board a cab. Sometimes, the presence of multiple “taga-para” in an area even adds more chaos to the already chaotic Manila commuting experience. And most of them do not even hail cabs; they will just approach the driver to collect their “fees”. Still, I tolerate them, most of the time.
The “taga-para” and I saw the cab at the same time. I already hailed the cab when the “taga-para” also started hailing the cab for me. When the cab driver stopped; the “taga-para” tried to open the cab’s door like a valet to let me in. I didn’t let him and climbed into the cab myself.
The “taga-para” approached the driver to collect money, but the driver refused. The “taga-para” then hit his fist against the cab’s body, causing the cab driver to go out in a temper and shouted at the other man. It quickly devolved into a pissing contest, the driver threatening the other guy with bodily harm if only he didn’t have a passenger. Oh great, so I was robbing him of the satisfaction of hitting someone.
While the two men were puffing their skinny chests at each other, the traffic light changed color and I tried to call the driver back and drive. Still stoke, he didn’t hear me and got back in just after the light changed to red again.
Now it was my turn to get angry.
“Bakit mo kasi inaway?” I shouted at him. “Tinatawag kita, hindi ka nakikinig. Late na ko dahil sa’yo.”
The driver went back in, shrugged, and said I didn’t tell him I was in a hurry. It infuriated me further but I did not speak much during the rest of the ride to Ortigas.
The night before that was worse.
It started benignly enough: The ride was uneventful until we reached the Kalayaan-JP Rizal Extension intersection where we should have made a left to C5. As soon as the light changed, the cab suddenly surged forward instead of turning.
“Saan ka pupunta?” I asked the driver incredulously. “Dapat sa C5 tayo dumaan.” But we couldn’t make a u-turn anymore because of the build-up in the opposite lanes stretches several streets and will delay us further.
The driver explained that traffic was heavy in C5 and he planned to go through EDSA. In my experience, there is absolutely no reason why EDSA would be preferrable to C5 when going to Ortigas. The route is much longer and the traffic is almost always heavier. I was pissed and I made sure the driver knew it.
I shouldn’t have trusted a cab named “Saddam”.
When we approached Shaw Boulevard, the driver attempted another delaying maneouver: he tried to swing to the Shaw underpass, but I caught him in time.
“Bakit mo idadaan d’yan?” I shouted. “Ikanan mo!”
I watched him closely as we entered Greenfield and went for San Miguel Avenue. The sneaky bastard is tried to get me through a longer route.
When we finally reached Emerald Avenue, he messed our route yet a final time by missing the u-turn slot so we can switch to the opposite lanes. This, despite my instructions.
I immediately told him to stop, paid my fare, got out, and started walking to my building. A pair of Koreans hailed the cab and wanted to get in. I half-thought of warning them not to take that cab, but decided not to. I was already several minutes late, and counting.
While we were having brunch, my mother recounted to me a dream she had last night.
It was my sister’s wedding. (IRL, my sister got married two years ago.) She woke up late and everybody in the house has already left for the church. From the distance, she can hear the wedding march playing.
Panicking, she quickly got dressed but couldn’t find her bra. So she wore her dress without it. Already crying in panic, she also grabbed what she thought was a handkerchief. It was only after she left the house when she realized that it was one of my black tank tops.
Although she can hear the wedding march playing, the church itself was pretty far. Worse, there were no public vehicles passing. She had to walk all the way to the church while conscious of how her breast showed through her gown.
The first church she went into was empty; there was no wedding. The next church she arrived in was crowded with a wedding entourage. But it turned out to be because of a movie shoot and Tito Sotto was one of the actors.
Back on the road while looking for the right church, a man saw her and offered to drive her to the church. She was crying the entire time they were driving. The next church they saw was still not the right church. Finally, in her fourth attempt, she found the right church where my sister and the rest of the family was.
But the wedding was over. She did not even make it to the picture-taking. Still weeping, she finally woke up, with her chest heavy.
Although she was laughing it off, it was a little painful to hear her tell me how she was panicking and weeping when she realized she might not make it to her daughter’s wedding. Because I can just picture it happening in real life. My mother often cannot deal with emergencies very well, and she will be running around while flustered. Or she will weep.
“Didn’t you remember that Maia (my sister) is already married?” I asked her, after she recounted her dream. It was a dream and she did not remember. And maybe the crushing despair took hold of her while she was helplessly walking, looking for the right church where her family was.
If she did not notice me eating supper before I left for work, my mother would ask on my way out, “Kumain ka na ba? (Have you already eaten?)”
Often, I would grunt that I’ll be eating in the office instead. Or not answer at all. More often than not, I am already in a hurry when I go out of the house and do not welcome the last minute question which causes me to momentarily pause and consider if I should answer or not.
She means well, of course. A caring parent would want to make sure that her child gets to eat properly, nevermind if that child is already an adult in his thirties. However, a lot of the things that we do well-meaningly are also a little misplaced and do not contribute to anything beneficial.
I can already feed myself. That’s why I work in a job, actually, so I can feed myself. Wondering about my well-being based on whether I have eaten or not at that given moment seem a little superficial. So what if I have not yet eaten? Should I go back inside and tuck in some supper so she would be relieved that her son isn’t starving?
And not commenting on the obvious (I think) fact that I am, at that moment, in a hurry. That an interruption can cause considerable delay to my travel time. But then, my mother had been self-employed all her life. She did not have to worry about coming to work on time, only in ensuring a dress gets finished on a particular day. My mother is a product of a background and a generation whose values are considerably different from mine.
I wish she’d call out “Ingat!” when I go out of the house, instead. Wishing someone “Ingat” shows understanding of a situation as well as appropriate concern for a person’s safety. I think of these things now and get a guilty feeling for not appreciating parental concern. The moral dilemmas from being raised in an Asian family while adopting a mostly-Western worldview sucks.
I tell myself that these selfish, petty aggravations will go away once I move out again. Except that I will not be moving out of my parents’ house anytime soon. So better keep your mouth shut, Jade. Next time my mom asks “Kumain ka na ba?” I will try to smile, keep quite, and close the gate carefully behind me.
And we were singing along.
These songs we grew up with, songs we thought were written about us, songs we either have not heard for years or have constantly keep in our music players.
And they were playing again, one after the other, and all of a sudden we’re teenagers. Graduating from high school, stepping into college, angry at the world yet each one of us so sure that we are some special, tortured, misunderstood soul.
Except for our music heroes.
Our younger friends looked at us, bemused and wondering what the fuck were we singing while we didn’t pay any attention. Most kids these days never heard of Nirvana, the Smashing Pumkins, Radiohead. Never experienced the first time they heard Alanis and knew all they really want is put a hand in one pocket.
It was silly. It was sad. It was wonderful.