October 21, 1989 - Life after college was filled with a sigh of relief and contentment. Having finished wrestling with school pressures gave a soothing feeling—and freedom to do whatever I want to do with my life. But of course, cavorting from the daily responsibilities has not reached my mind. I had to move on, and earn for a living, and be free from my parents. I realized, life is really trying and grappling with everything.
My present job really jades me—most of the time physically. My training in college was extensive though, which prepared me to do things on my own. Besides, wearing a joyful and zestful feeling creates a light mood on my part, no matter how depressing life can be. Imagine being away from your friends of 5 years, which, is something you cannot control.
I could say, after all, that I am contented with my present job. I am hopeful for a promotion after passing the board exam I took last summer. My life is okay. For sure, not having a girlfriend for now will not make me a lesser person. Besides, it is not even in my list of priorities now. I am an ambitious person—and surely zealous when it comes to reaching my dreams.
This seemingly “peaceful” life seemed to end when a phone call bothered me so much. I did not know what to say. I was groping for appropriate words, which I “have” to say. I was completely dumbfounded. When asked for an answer, “yes, of course” was simply the safest remark that moment. Saying “no” for a date mean an end of a friendship between Anton and me.
When I walked towards my drawing table, I tinkered about giving in to Anton’s invitation for a cocktail and early dinner. I was not regretful though, because I have not seen him for months, even while I was in Manila to review and take my exam. Even though the anxiety crept in me, I went back to work. However, concentration is slipping throughout morning, realizing that my work was still half-done. Lyn who was busy working on the perspective of a new restaurant was also bothered by my silence that made her ask what was bothering me. I just shrugged it off…
My boss who came to inspect Lyn’s work also noticed me. I was not my usual self. He mentioned many things but what caught my attention was when he said I was supposed to submit the perspective of my project by 9 AM the next day. That was enough reason for me to gather my wits and get back to work which I completed by 3 pm. I had a good reason to go home early to prepare for my date with Anton.
While on my way home, that phone call kept on bothering and teasing my thoughts. It kept on stealing the peaceful moment of my life. Because no matter how I willfully dismiss it out of my consciousness, it remained on recurring like a dreaded disease, creating agony and numbness all over me. I don’t know why, but it surely paralyzed me for quite a time. I am puzzled with what I feel. Mixed emotions fall just like rain engulfing my entirety, leaving me facing a blank wall—incapable of initiating logical thoughts and action. I gathered my thoughts only after the annoyed taxi driver asked where I was supposed to go. I realized I passed by our home. It was drizzling along Gibraltar and walking back would be just fine. Anyway, I still had plenty of time.
I revived myself with a warm bath in the tub. While lying down, I played with the bubbles and the soothing warm water, while my thoughts toyed with the memories and the idea of a supposedly amorous relationship, which could never happen. I kept on pondering about my feelings, which continued to lurk at the dark side of my life.
Surge of resentment and questions filled my mind. Why did I give in when I could say no? Why do I still feel this way? What is Anton doing here? All I thought was that he is Manila living his own life. I never fancied that we would ever see each other again. Dad may have given him my number at the office. Dad is fond of Anton. He treats him like his own son. Sometimes I even get jealous the way he treats Anton. Whenever Anton encounters problems with his past girlfriends, I get the ire of my dad because “I did not take care of Anton or protect Anton.”
After dressing up for our date, I went straight to the restaurant where we would meet. Only a few people were dining. I chose the table where one could hardly notice me. There was no big change, as I observed the whole place again. Except for the ornamental plants, a big aquarium and the tablecloth, nothing else have changed. It was still cozy and inviting. This is the kind of place where Anton loves to dine. I have also learned to like it. I prefer fastfood and music lounges. I love jazz, which he learned to like too, that made us frequent Songs along Session Road.
I was facing the entrance door, which still shone with the glare of the setting sun, when I saw a familiar figure dashing out from a bright light. He still had those pinkish and thin lips. He knew where to go, like a natural instinct. This was our table. This same table heard our laughter, triumphs, defeats, pains of growing up, our bad moods, our crankiness whenever one gets late for a cocktail or dinner. He dashed with grace and masculinity. He gained weight, but he still looks great with how he carried those chic clothes. He is still fond of wearing trendy wardrobe. He even had a walk-in closet for his clothes! Still vain, I thought.
I felt the nervousness getting more intense, and my heartbeat faster as he walked closer. I stood up to meet him, and hugged just the way olds friends do. Of course, we felt happy and excited seeing each other after six months. Nevertheless, I tried to hide my real feelings and became casual in dealing with him—the usual way, with that laughter over corny jokes.
We talked about each other—about our lives, about the wacky past, the more responsible present, and our hopes and aspirations. We both found how we missed each other’s company, and how we longed to be with each other again as best of friends. However, our destiny has come between us. We must move on…even without each other. Anyway,we told each other there would always be times like this when we would meet each other again.
I learned that he is in the advertising department of one of the top corporations in Manila. He got the job easily. He is intelligent and aggressive that is why he did not have to exert so much effort in landing a job. Who would not hire a magna, anyway?
When we roamed into our past, I felt a prick inside. I was not sure about it. Nevertheless, it hurt, especially when we had to talk about the girl he had in college. Going back to these memories made me feel, once more, the widening gap between what I think and what I feel, with between what I want to do and ought to be done, with what I feel and think, and with what I should feel and think and lastly with how others, and even the person I am talking to, would expect me to behave. Social pressures! Despite of it all, however, I am thankful I did not have the nerve to tell him about how I felt for him. It was not just the right moment.
As friends, we had good and bad days. Like normal people, we also quarrelledl. We met through sheer coincidence. I was enrolling for an advanced computer programming class. He was a cross-enrollee from the college of commerce. He was then by that time a senior in Marketing and I was in my 4th year in Archi. Like any ordinary students, we introduced ourselves to each other. From then on, our friendship has blossomed. We helped each other with the projects and borrowed notes and lectures. Our friendship lasted even if he no longer had classes in the college of engineering and architecture. I could say that I am happy because we remained glued despite the great difference in our personalities. I am not sociable. He was Mr. Friendship. He is intelligent and I am more emotional. Perfect for advertising! Maybe it was one of the reasons why Dad liked him. My dad was just as boisterous as he is. At least my Dad would have a company when watching NBA. I was not really into sports. I got my Mom’s artistic genes.
Like a beam of light tearing the dusk, it just dawned on me I was feeling differently for him. I was falling in love with him. But at the same time, I did not want to plunge into a seemingly big trap—that is my emotions, which I fear may end to this friendship. Slowly, I found myself keeping my distance from Anton especially when I learned that he was wooing a popular girl. To shun our friendship was formidable. Yet I had to put on a face and accept everything because it was just a normal part of one’s life. I just realized, things were no longer the same the way they were. Anton was gone with the bitch.
I suppose it was a very different life for both of us. Accepting things as they were was the best solution to it all. I learned to leave everything in the past, just like the way I did things before. I made my choice because I could not just live in the world of fantasies.
Our paths never crossed for almost a month. However, I could not blame either the two of us, or Christine. I was helpless with this could-have-been sordid affair, which kept on dancing in my thoughts. At least I felt relieved and thought I was destined to defeat this feeling, after all.
Ill feelings, which devoured me, slowly melted when one day I found myself meeting him again. That no matter how I wanted to elude just to avert an unfit feeling, my desire to help my friend prevailed.
His eyes were gloomy. He even looked shabby in those chic clothes. He ended his relationship with Christine for reasons he did not elaborate. So there I was, like an old faithful friend, I shared his misery. Now I remember how we made ourselves stupid by lying along Session Road at 2 am after a drinking spree. That was fun! In between gulps of beer I told him life is not a rose garden. On the other hand, if there would be a rose garden, one should not forget that there are thorns in it. Life has so much in store for us. And there are many people who still cares for him…and not just that bitch…just like me.
How I hated myself afterwards. I felt that I was not just a piece of cork to stop the wine from dripping. But I am a friend. For me, he is still a friend, no matter how hard it is for me to keep that special feeling waiting to explode.
IT SEEMS that clearing myself of the memories and cobwebs is not quite possible. Here is this man again who touched my being and who created chaos in my mind, and most especially, the one who taught me how to feel a throb differently from others.
I was willing to put this dreadful dream to an end. It should not reach its climax anymore. If I let it slip, no one knows what would happen next. This dream, no matter how dreadful has always been feeding my whims and desires. I could not help but look at him again. He is such an easy thing to the eyes. He has not changed much. He is still boyish with those giggles and guffaws.
My thoughts kept rambling while he was driving me home. I felt so helpless and vulnerable. The silence between was also deafening and almost unbearable. Perhaps, we both felt this way maybe because he would soon leave for the US to study. This was tormenting, exhausting, and most specially—lethal.
I was wondering if Anton would believe me when I said there is nothing wrong with my silence. I also wonder if he knows how I felt for him.
The silence was broken only when I got out of his car, but this was not long enough. The sight of his car leaving created agony. I remained standing in this cold October night until I saw his car gone into the oblivion. How I wish my feelings would also go to the darkness with him so I can feel better.
I may nurture this feeling but this may only be temporary. I am also glad it happened to me. At least I knew how to feel this way. Perhaps, I am not the only one…perhaps.
Despite the pain and futile struggle to find the answer to the questions queuing up in my mind, my life was also tinted with scant happiness. However, this happiness did not make me any stronger. I was happy to see him again…with that, I feel peace….that at least, if it were my last day, I did not feel any guilt that I have done something wrong. Now I am more assured that to be human is to be able to love (even differently), hate, live and die.
But despite all my efforts, I feel my life is shattered, and I am unnerved to defeat the opposing forces. My mind has become feeble…
ANTON WAS quite astonished with what he has just read. He could hardly believe what has been neatly written in this diary, which belonged to his best buddy. He felt a cold air engulfing and shrilled him. The mystery behind Abel Gomez was inconceivable. He seemed okay when he met him last night.
He sat on the right side of Abel’s bed, still smeared with dried blood. IT was a gory sight, and he could not believe how things have happened. He found out Abel’s Dad was at the door. They hugged and cried. Both felt the angst that came with this tragic moment in their lives.
“Abel and this room will just remain in our memories,” the old man broke the silence. The way he spoke, Abel’s father has begun to accept what has happened. Abel was his only child and losing him would mean so much.
Anton was speechless. He was still holding his friend’s diary. Mr. Gomez gazed around the room, inching every corner, as if memorizing the details of the memories of his son. The pictures of his childhood, the pictures of Abel and Anton during their wacky days at the Scout Hill, the collage of photos at their Sto. Tomas hike, the neat bookshelf that Abel cleaned and arranged every weekend, the pen on the table. He drew near the study table and held the pen, which he gave as his graduation gift. It was a gold plated pen with Abel’s name neatly engraved on it.
“Have you read the diary?” he asked Anton.
“Y…yes…Dad” Anton answered hesitantly. He was thinking that Mr. Gomez would not have liked what he did. He tried to explain but Mr. Gomez interrupted him.
“Actually, Abel told me before he took his last breath that you take and read it.”
Anton now knew that all these years, Abel wanted to tell him something. And now, it became clear to him, how Abel has prized him as a special person in his life.
“The reason why Abel took away his life is in this diary. Would you like…” Abel paused reacting to Mr. Gomez’ gesture to stop.
“Abel’s life has ended, and there is no reason to look back anymore. We have to move on, Anton. You have to move on. You had good memories with your friend. If you like to treasure those memories, you can keep the diary. It is now yours.”
They bade their goodbyes with warm and tight hugs. Anton kissed Abel’s mom, as if he would never meet her again.
WHILE HE was driving on his way home to Loakan, memories of all the times they shared seemed like a movie running through his mind. They were good buddies…best of buddies that everyone talked about, and envied. From all these memories, he did not even have a single hunch that Abel loved him differently.
Somehow, guilt feelings have been budding inside him. If only he tried to dig deeper into their relationship, he would have known it. If only he had the guts himself, things would not have happened this way. However, he was just like Abel…afraid to let go…afraid of what other people would think…because it was not just how it should be.
How many times did he also conceal of his real feelings for Abel? Why did he not tell him the real reason why he broke up with Christine? Why did he not muster enough courage to tell Abel he also felt the same for him? When was the last time he wanted to tell how he feels for Abel? The last time was last night…
It is possible but not quite. Yet, it was not the point. Love is supposedly understanding and accepting a person as he is. It could have been different for both of them now, if they only dared to be different.
Tears flowed…tears of heartaches and sense of loss. He did not know how to stop it, which now makes him unable to see clearly and go beyond. This made his senses unperceiving, eclipsing his world, making him grope in the dark, unable to see the stark light beyond the horizon.
He was just as numb…as numb as he kept on thinking of those words he could have uttered, which are now like rusty and dull daggers piercing his heart. However, it was too late as he opened his eyes to the road ahead.
All he remembered was a loud crash. He felt pain, adding to the already excruciating and deeper pain he felt upon knowing that Abel’s life has ended. Nevertheless, all this pain will not last…he will not last…