Almost 15, Happy Anniversary! (Part 1)

This is a semi-fiction and a semi-autobiographical narrative. The past few months have been very difficult for all of us due to the global health crisis brought about by COVID-19. But these months were even more difficult for me. I lost the love of my life, Alonzo. He was battling cancer (lymphoma) for almost six months and finally succumbed on 31 March 2020, 1:15 am. I also lost my father on 26 April. My father was also battling cancer (prostate cancer) for almost three years.

THIS POST CONTAINS STRONG LANGUAGE THAT MAY BE OFFENSIVE TO SOME.

Fifteen years na tayo!  Ang bilis naman ng panahon. I wanted to ask you if you were happy that we were to celebrate our fifteenth year as a couple. I was so sure tatawanan mo lang ako kung itinuloy ko ngang itanong ito sa ‘yo. Or sasabunin mo lang ako ng isa pang tanong: “nagdududa ka pa rin ba?” Alam mo naman ako, mahilig sa drama-rama special. And you always gave that to me naman. Sinabayan mo rin naman ako – sinabayan mo rin naman ang (mga) drama ko. 

I was also wondering kung papaano mo ako babatiin ngayong 15 years na tayo. Inaabangan din kasi ng ating mga kaibigan ang mga paandar at kaeklatan natin tuwing anniversary natin. Ang memorable na paandar mo ay yung 8th year natin. At least for me, bhe – hindi ko makakalimutan yun. Remember, you posted on Instagram the infinity symbol because it looked like a “sleeping number 8.” My youngest sister interpreted it that way. Ilan taon ba siya noon? Oh, she was 12 years old then. Nagdadalaga na ang baby natin. From then on, ang tawag mo na sa infinity sign ay “sleeping number 8.” Pero ang pinaka mahalaga sa lahat ay caption: “from eight to infinity!” Kinilig naman ako no’n. Then, my post was a collage of eight photos natin together since our first year as you know, mag-jowa. Siyempre ang kapatid kong bakilta – ang baklitang yun ay super daot sa aking post. Sabi niya walang ka-creativity. Ika nga niya, ako panaman daw ang nasa arts, samantalang ikaw naman ay nasa sciences. Sabi nga ng maldita, “kuya, mas may imagination pa si Kuya Al kesa sa ‘yo!” Baklang ‘yon!

            But you know, our last three years were very memorable. The reason – very simple albeit superficial (pero nakakakilig naman kasi ang idea mo ng celebration), you wanted us to be together far, far away from the hassle of Diliman Republic. Not to mention, ikaw ang gumastos sa pamasahe natin – which was okay for me kasi hindi ka sumasakay sa mga budget airlines. Alam mo kasi na kapag ako ang nagbook, titipiran ko ang ating airfare. Heller, pero hindi ako kuripot no. Alam mo yan! Talagang maarte ka lang! 

            Last year, you booked us tickets to Yogyakarta. Naaalala ko pa paguwi ko from work, June 2019, sinabi mo na lang, “booked na airfare natin going to Yogyakarta for our 14th.” Pero may pahabol ka: “Ikaw na ang magbook ng hotel natin. Huwag yung cheap!” 

            Two years ago, we were in Ho Chi Minh City. But when we arrived there, sabi ko andito na rin tayo, bakit hindi pa natin lubusin at magtravel na tayo sa Hue. “Ano yun?” tanong mo pa nga. Eh alam mo naman ang aking obsession sa mga World Heritage Sites. I showed some photographs. Impressed ka naman! So, we booked a flight going to Hue from Ho Chi Minh and stayed there for a day. 

            Three years ago, we went to Osaka. Japan was your favorite country. Probably, because you did your PhD there. But I find Japan a bit strange or somewhat overrated. However, that did not mean I did not want to visit Japan. Prior to our anniversary trip, Kyoto, Hiroshima and Osaka mga napuntahan ko na. Nasa wish list ko rin ang Sapporo – yung snow superhighway. Usapan nga natin on our 20th we would go there, di ba? Pero sobrang tagal naman nung 20th, sobrang inip na inip na nga ako! Sayang naman ang Japanese visa ko hanggang 2021 nga lang ito no?            

I suddenlty remember Singapore. I was doing my PhD there and you visited me. That was my final year. Pakiusap ko noon sana, buong Christmas Break sa Singapore ka na lang and then sabay na tayo uuwi pabalik ng Pilipinas. But that did not materialize. Hindi ko na maalala kung ano bang nangyari at bakit hindi siya natuloy. Pero mabuti na rin lang at hindi natuloy kasi I do not think I will be able to celebrate Christmas time with you the way we wanted it: celebratory and romantic. My Christmas date was my laptop – iniiyakan ko kaya ang pagsulat ng dissertation. Sabi mo nga, “you wanted tough love from your supervisor and when your wish was granted umaalma ka.” 

            Sabi ko sa ‘yo: “wow, p’wede bang support na lang.”    

            Anyway, yun na nga, noong anniversary natin, binisita mo ako. Weird pa nga ang naganap noon. Instead of a celebration, we ended up almost breaking up. Oh my god, that was when you sent the infinity symbol pala. Naalala ko bigla, sa galit mo nawala nga ang symbol na yun sa mga post mo at ibinalik mo lang siya after nating magusap ng mahinahon. Imagine, we started fighting on the eve of our anniversary. Kasama mo pa nga mga colleague mo. Ang naalala ko ay si Weng na super dooper tahimik lang. That was the last day of a conference you attended. So on 14 November, our anniversary date, we decided to celebrate it at the Universal Studios. I am sure Weng and the other girl felt how awkward it was – you and me not talking at each other. Sabi ko nga baka sobrang seloso lang talaga ako. That night, you left your phone. You were in the shower. I took it and tried to click 1 – 0 – 2 – 9 – 6 – 1 – birthday ni nanay! Boom – just like that and then there was a notification. It was from Deejay. And his message ended with “Love you!” Of course, yun na ang nabasa ko. Hindi ko na pinakialaman yung mismong message niya. 

            I immediately went out of our hotel room.  Sa sobrang galit at inis, I wanted to leave you and wanted to go to my place na lang. But since malapit lang naman ang hotel sa Lucky Plaza, I decided to go there para makapag-yosi na rin. Meron kasing yosihan din dun somewhere and makakabili din ako ng Ben and Ben. I thought I needed sugar and cigarette. Sobrang hindi ko lang matanggap kasi noon na someone has been messaging you “Love you!” – mga kataga na sagrado para sa akin lalo pa kung sinasabihan mo ako nun. Of course, alam ko naman na hahanapin mo ako – dahil obvious naman na nabuksan ko ang phone mo. In short, nagpapahabol talaga ako – pabebe kumbaga. 

            So nahanap mo nga ako: “So anong nabasa mo?”

            “Ikaw pa ang galit?”

            “Ano nga nabasa mo? I will explain.”

            “There is no need for an explanation! Malinaw na malinaw naman.”

            “Si Deejay ba?”

            “So nagchuchupaan ba kayo sa Pilipinas in my absence? So sorry naman, nahiya naman ako sa ‘yo!”

            “Bibig mo!”

            “Bakit ba?”

            “Makikinig ka ba?”

            “Bumalik ka na sa hotel. Uuwi na lang muna ako. Magkita na lang tayo bukas sa Universal!”

            “Ay putang ina naman!”

            “Wag kang mageeskandalo dito!”

            “Magusap nga tayo ng maayos!”

            “Para?”

            “Can you be mature for once?”

            “Ah so ako pa pala – “

            “Paki-usap, balik tayo sa hotel. Magusap tayo!” mahinahon mong tugon.

            Maluha-luha na ako pero pinilit kong hindi tumulo – nakakahiya kasi nasa kalasada tayo. Bumalik tayo sa hotel. 

            “May narinig ka ba sa akin, kapag nag i-ilove you ka kina Carlo? Kay Oscar? Kay Ryan?” bungad mo sa akin noong nasa hotel tayo.

            Teka lang, teka lang! Bakit ba napunta sa kanila ang usapan?

            “You comparing your I love you kay Deejay sa barkada ko na nakainvest ako ng friendship for a long time? Carlo was a colleague and a friend sine 2007. Batchmate ko sa department and we developed a strong friendship since then. Si Oscar, pumasok sa department noong 2009 and we jived along. Pareho kami ng wave length and angst sa buhay. 2009 to 2013 – ilang years din yun. Now, Ryan – college ako siya lang ang nagstay at hindi nagjudge sa akin noong pumutok ang balita na bekla nga ako. Besides, straight si Ryan. Now how can you compare my friendship sa relasyon niyo ni Deejay?”

            Had I not known from Wendell and Neil about Deejay  – hindi naman talaga ako magre-react na malaki. Nakilala mo si Deejay while you were at this juice station sa mall. Madalas ka doon kamo, lalo na after gym – yun na ang dinner mo. Siya ang unang lumapit sa iyo ayon na rin sa kwento mo sa akin. Of course, I really appreciate that you were honest with me about the people you meet while I was away. Minsan nga nauumay na ako but I really appreciate that you were telling me about them. Lalo pa alam naman natin na sa ating dalawa, ako talaga ang super seloso. 

            Ayun na nga, you ordered and then while waiting for your juice – nakiupo na rin siya sa table mo. Sabi mo, punuan kasi noon. Then he introduced himself. 

            “Deejay pala bro.”

            “Al!”

            “Weird, but I think we met before?”

            “Talaga?”

            “Yeah”

            “Sorry, I don’t remember when or how – “

            “UP ka di ba?”

            “Yes.”

            “Engineering?”

            “First year, then transferred to Food Science!”

            “Sabi na eh! Magkaklase tayo sa Math 11, I think.”

            “Oh! Sorry, wala na akong maalala sa mga dati kong kaklase sa Engineering.”

            “Di rin naman ako natapos bilang Engineer. Nag-transfer din sa BA after two years.”

            Then parati na nga daw kayong nakikita nila Wendell and Neil sa mall, sa Tomas Morato area, at thrice nga raw nagkasalubong kayo nila Wendell sa Bonifacio Global City – hindi mo nga naipakilala si Deejay the first time na magkasalubong kayo. The second time, magkasama sina Wendell and Neil, galing sila sa isang meeting sa may Shangri-la BGC. They decided to have coffee and konting lakad. Nagkasalubong ulit kayo. Natameme ka – si Neil ipinakilala niya sarili niya kay Deejay. Kuwento nga ni Wendell, parang nagulat pa nga si Deejay when Neil mentioned “we’re friends of his partner who is in Singapore right now.” Tiningnan ka nga raw na para bang confused nitong Deejay.  Did you at that time tell him that you and me are a couple? 

            One time, Neil confronted you, remember? “Kung hindi mo na mahal si Dei, you should have the ball to tell him. Hindi p’wede yung andun siya at umaasa na ang babalikan niya ay ikaw na walang Deejay on the side.”

            “Neil, grabe ka naman!”

            “Sa akin lang naman – kesa sa pinipilit mo rin ang sarili mo na mahalin pa siya kung hindi mo na pala din mahal! Eh kesa niloloko mo pa sarili mo at niloloko mo pang pareho sila!”

            “Neil, grabe kang maka-judge sa akin! Maniwala naman kayo na kaibigan lang si Deejay? Kaibigan, talaga?”

            Hindi ka naman daw nakasagot after noon. And that was also the last time na lumabas ka kasama silang dalawa. Kaya nga si Neil, bilang si Neil ang tingin niya sa iyo noon ay super guilty.  

            And yun na nga nabasa ko na nga ang exchanges ninyo. 

            “What do you want me to do to prove to you na wala talagang namamagitan sa amin ni Deejay? Ano ba ang kailangan kong gawin para maniwala ka na ikaw lang?”

            Tahimik noong gabing iyon.

            “Matulog ka na!”

            “Bhe, matulog na tayo, please?”

            “I have a chapter to submit – “

            “Eh di sana pala umuwi na lang kami nila Weng. May chapter to submit ka pala –“

            “Right, and meet him?!”

            “Oh my God! You are unbelievable!”

            “I am unbelievable?”

            Extended hanggang kinabukasan. Nakakatawa tayo. Nauna ako sa breakfast. Hindi kita ginising then pagbaba mo, ako naman ang umakyat. Naligo ako habang kumakain ka. Pag-akyat mo, ako naman ang bumaba – “hintayin kita sa lobby. Hintayin ko na rin sina Weng.”

            Paano na nga tayo nagbati noon?

            Ah, I remember.

            While we were at Universal Studios, naramdaman na ni Weng na hindi tayo okay. Nagpasaring siya sa ‘yo “magsorry ka na kasi!” 

            Napatingin lang ako kay Weng at natawa, sabay: “Bakit?”

            “Eh ang tahimik niyo kaya, ang obvious niyo no!”

            “Naku, ganito ako pag struggle to finish ang isang chapter.”

            “Echos ka!”

            Then you showed me a screen cap of a message you sent to Deejay: “I never meant to hurt you, Deejay. You were a good friend, a very good friend. I cannot love you the way you want me to love you. I am sorry if I showed the wrong signals. Dei will always be the love of my life!”. 

            Somehow I was relieved. 

            Somehow I knew it. 

            Then, binati na kita ng Happy 8th year sa Instagram. 

            Ibinalik mo na ang infinity symbol.

To be continued . . . .

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