Monday, July 23, 2007

With A Sigh...

A post of somewhat personal nature :( . I tried to make it as short and sweet as possible, as well as edited out some parts which are too personal to mention.

I had my first girlfriend when I was fourteen. Anika and I were the cutest couple you ever did see-- she was a year older than me, had rosy cheeks that flushed every time she smiled, dark brown hair and a pair of puppy dog eyes that could melt even the hardest of hearts. We had known each other prior as friends, but it was only when we would up in the same tennis class that we really became close. She was my doubles partner who made sure to make up for my stupid backhand, a fact which she never forgot to tease me about. After the lesson, we would always go to a Starbucks near the place to grab something to drink, which is ironic, since she isn't really a coffee drinker. There, we would swap stories of every stripe and color imaginable; in fact, we even had our own unofficial corner in the back portion, where the baristas would sometimes ask us to tone down our laughter a notch.

The difference between the two of us weren't really remarkable-- she was a vegetarian, I was a carnivore; she liked ice cream and sweets, I liked them only after dinner. She was a naturally outgoing person to my shy and introverted self. Of course, we never really did anything 'serious' together (you know what I mean!), since Manila society is simply too conservative and frowns upon pre-marital affairs (the joke is that men here are so innocent before marriage but wind up having more than one mistress in the course of the marriage). Besides, all the girls I like come from conservative families, and she was no exception. Most of the time, we would just hold hands, snuggle every now and then, and just look cute: PDAs were a faux pas, as were groping and any of that sort. She always managed to make me smile in the most goofy way possible.

She was also a very talented ballerina. One time, she executed such a flawless pas de deux that drew tremendous applause and standing ovations from the audience; she later named it the
'Candy Corner Gumdrop Kadoodle',which was one of her nicknames for me. I still don't know where that came from. I on the other hand named one of my experiments after her (how positively... nerdy!). For two years, we were 'besties' and shared all our secrets together, some of which only my confessor knew (and in the privacy of the divine tribunal, no doubt!). In fact, there even came a point when I would make two confessions: one sacramental, and the other to her, which she kept with absolute silence and fidelity. Every two weeks, I would also give her a stuffed bear, and she must have amassed a massive collection by now.

One fateful night, a few months after I entered senior year in high school, she called me at the dead hour of 12 midnight to tell me it just couldn't work out between us anymore. I was devastated by the news, moreso because just two nights before, we went to see a movie, and there was absolutely no trace, no hint, of any trouble at all in her face. She still spoke to me with the same candor as when we first became official. She still gripped my arm when she was sleepy, and still jolted me back to reality when her grip tightened at every suspenseful moment. The day before she called me, she was as happy as ever, smiling and giggling in her usual way.

I eventually found out that there was another guy involved, but I was too defeated to even make a fuss out of it anymore. I silently wished that the other person would die the most horrible death-- I fancied myself shooting him execution style, setting him on fire, and other such diabolical schemes that a love-scorned mind could only concoct. I began to see her less and less; though we had broken up, we still talked to each other, however painful it was for me. All of that, those times spent chatting at Starbucks, seven hour long phone conversations, those heaps and heaps of bears, everything, seemed to have just dissolved out of the blue. That's two years down the drain.

In late 2006, after what seemed like eternity, I received an email from her. I was shocked to read it. It turned out that she had gotten pregnant since that time we broke up, and was about to give birth in a few months' time. Reading those words sent shockwaves of anger clamoring up my spine: how could she do this to me? But I was also filled with awe, and a certain sense of wonder and amazement, that the girl I used to guffaw and hold hands with was now about to give birth. I remember thinking that I should have just knocked her up all those years ago; that way, the child would have been mine, and we would not have come to this situation. Needless to say, my emotions, bottled up as they were, began to take hues and colors that I had never seen before, from the coldest and most distant colors to the flaming red of passion. I felt exhausted every step of the way.

Finally, the day itself came. On July 19, 2007, Anika gave birth to a beautiful baby boy, bouncing and crying his way to the world on his mother's arms. He had some of her features: her rosy cheeks, beautiful eyes, and even her hair. From his father's side, he inherited his bulky build (the guy wasn't fat, but neither was he skinny) and whitish complexion. In a way, I was also filled with happiness at seeing her, baby cradled in arms, becoming what she always wanted to be. In my heart of hearts, I knew she would become an excellent mother; else, how could she have made me feel all those years ago? I also reconciled with her boyfriend; it wasn't an easy decision, and my pride is still wounded, but it was for the best. It was simply time to let it go.

Today, I received something in the mail. It was a small box, wrapped in red, and tied with a pretty pink bow at the top. I opened it and discovered a small stuffed animal, a bear, holding its heart in its hands. I immediately recognized the bear as the same one I had given her on our last major date. Our names were still etched on the bear's heart: 'Candy Corner Gumdrop Kadoodle heart Kissycheek Bubblegum Dandylicious forever' (people in love come up with the weirdest names!). With the bear came a brief note, written in the same hand, by the same hand, in her trademark pink:

'It's time to give back the love. Love ya always, M. Never forget that. Thanks for everything, I knew it was difficult for you to accept what happened. I know I can never equal what you have done for me, and there is simply no excuse for that. Just know that you will always have a special place in my heart. Forever and a day, with the same hugs and kisses. -A'

As I read those words, I knew I found peace. I've not stopped tearing up since then.

On August 15, 2007, the feast of the Assumption, I will meet Anika, perhaps for the last time. I will see her child christened and initiated into the life of the Church, indeed a cause for massive joy. She and her boyfriend, I am told, will be married hopefully within the next four months, but that is something, sadly, I would not be able to witness, as they will be migrating to Canada in a few weeks' time. Thus, on that day, I will not only be a spectator, but I will also feel like a father, giving up her daughter to another man; only in this case, I will be giving it up to a rival. But those days are gone now. As she herself said, it's time to give back the love. I think to myself now what I would say to her soon-to-be-husband: would I be like a doting father and tell him to take care of her always? Would I be like the best friend and tell her how great a girl she is? Or would I be the frustrated-but-now-contented former boyfriend? Only time will tell. But this I know to be true: I can now honestly tell her that I love her, and that is the greatest gift I've come to realize in this affair.

Congratulations, Anika! Ad multos annos.

1 comment:

Archistrategos said...

Such a doleful sap, I am! LOL