[it’s where you could find me when you couldn’t find me anywhere else]

of love, lies, and emoticons?

To pretend all was right with the world, i first had to know what was wrong.

– The Hundred Secret Senses, Amy Tan

so there was something wrong. i knew it the very moment i saw his car at the parking lot. i just got out of my last class and was ready to go home. i went to my battered car and saw him sitting on the hood.

“we need to talk,” he said.

“yeah,” i simply agreed. i pretended to rummage through my bag so i wouldn’t see his face. i didn’t want to know what he was thinking even before he said it. i hate myself for seeing his thoughts without needing him to tell me. i wanted to have time to think for myself. what would he want to talk about?

“i think we needed a cool off. think things through. make sure we make the right decisions,” he was saying.

so there was really something wrong. first, he brought his oh-so-awesome car which means he wouldn’t hitch a ride with me, like what he used to do everyday. it has been our arrangement since god knows when. second, he was telling me we need a cool off, though he didn’t say a break-up. third, i was silently and calmly agreeing to it even though i didn’t know why the hell we needed it.

Who knows where inspiration comes from. Perhaps it arises from desperation. Perhaps it comes from the flukes of the universe, the kindness of the muses.

– Amy Tan

this time i don’t know where my inspiration came from. it was not from desperation. my feelings were not that strong for a cool off. it surely was not from the flukes of the universe or the kindness of the muses. or was it? perhaps one day i’d look back to this time in my life and consider myself lucky. i really don’t know right now.

oh, that inspiration i was talking about? i don’t even know if it was really an inspiration. i was just doodling on my diary and i suddenly thought of breaking up with my boyfriend.

it has already been a week since we decided the cool off. at first i thought the problem was with me. maybe i was too busy with studies. but we still had time to hang out with each other. maybe i didn’t make him feel that i love him. but i did, always. maybe i just wasn’t good enough for him. hell, maybe he just didn’t like my old car!

but i found out he was going out with a girl from his school. he told me so last night. we were talking on the phone helping each other with our assignments. i was reciting a long equation with exponents, square roots, and imaginary numbers when he suddenly blurted out, “i’m confused.” then, silence. i was beginning to get pissed off because it meant rereading those long equations. but he spoke and i realized he wasn’t confused about his math problem.

“i don’t know what i feel anymore. i love you. but there’s this other girl i’m going out with. i’m sure i’m not in love with her. but i am fond of her and i think it’s like cheating on you. although i don’t really have feelings for her, my conscience got into me and now i’m thinking about us… you know i’m in love with you. i really am.”

you see how honest he is? i didn’t get mad. i just felt sorry that he got fond of that girl and now he was confused. but most of the time, fondness turns to love. and most of the time, confusion is a symptom of falling out of love.

but i didn’t jump to conclusions right away. i didn’t break up with my boyfriend. i was more inspired to give him a second chance. it was not because i have lots of reasons to. it was because i couldn’t think of a fair reason not to.

sometimes, you do good not because you’d get a reward. sometimes, you just don’t want to be punished if you do otherwise.

Miss Angel

when the cool off was over, i never enjoyed the rewards of being good to my boyfriend. being good means treating him like nothing happened.  it means trusting him again, or pretending to. it means going back to our old ways — getting personal, getting involved, holding hands, him riding on my car. in return, he would often tell me he loves me, so often that he would become confused in the end while hearing himself say those words — words that were overly repeated, ringing in his mind, losing their meaning. he would often take me to his favorite restaurants, ones where we liked to hang out before the cool off. but as soon as the guards opened the doors, he would sigh a sad sigh. because of that, i knew he was remembering not our previous hang outs. rather, he was trying to forget the times when he was with the other girl.

the rewards of having a better relationship faded into the background of misery. i knew he was aching and getting tormented because of what he did. he was now really careful not to upset me. he treated me like a princess. he made me feel that he would die if he lost me. but deep inside him, i know he wanted to slap me for being too forgiving. ’cause until now, he still hasn’t forgiven himself.

We all clung to little things like that — a make-believe story, a faraway star that became something closer to our hearts. along our journey, we looked for signs of contentment in the world, a peace that would never change.

The Kitchen God’s Wife, Amy Tan

he said he would always be grateful for the second chance. we would take pictures of everything we love to do. we liked chasing moments, not wanting for them to end because we’re afraid there might not be another chance.

i know the seed of doubt has been planted. our peace has been disturbed. we’d never be contented again, no matter what we said about it. all we have now were memories. we were struggling for them to happen again, knowing they never would. we were just holding on to our love story that once was a fairy tale. it was too good to be true. we should have known that from the start.

yeah, it was like nothing has changed. and yet, everything has changed. i was afraid that one time he’d become fond of some girl again. i was afraid he’d choose to give me up. but his fears were worse than mine. he was afraid that he wouldn’t be able to control his weakness, that he would mistake fondness for love. he was already doubting himself. he couldn’t take that out of his mind. i knew he was suffering because of that.

Relationships are like glass. sometimes, it’s better to leave it broken than hurt yourself trying to put the pieces back together.

– Anonymous

a month passed by. i decided to give up. there’s no use trying hard to fix something beyond repair. there’s no point in keeping our hopes up when we know they’re just false hopes. with a week of cool off, we created an invisible barrier that couldn’t be broken down by being together. that’s when i feel the cliché, “too close and yet too far apart.”

i’ve been reading it in his mind. he wanted this to end. he just didn’t know how. i felt his pain. he thought he was not good enough for me. the thought became the truth. until he really became an anguished little boy, trying not to eat his little candy because he wanted to keep it for later.

and so that candy melted away.

i didn’t want to break up with him and blame him for it. i didn’t want to break up with him and then he’d blame himself. he had too much regrets already.

so i made up a story. for me, it was the final act of love i could do for him. so that he would be free of me. he would be free of every pain our relationship was causing him.

i fed him lies. i made him angry. i said it was my fault. i don’t know how many false memories i put into his mind. they were just so convincing i even started to believe them myself.

finally, he let go. i know i hurt him. it’s the only way to make him realize that it wouldn’t work, no matter how much we try to forget, no matter how long we stick together. it’s the only way for him to see that everyone has that moment of disloyalty, even me. he didn’t have to make it a very big deal and destroy himself in the process. it’s not the lesson i wanted to teach him, but it was what he wanted to learn.

maybe it was not the right thing to do. maybe i just wanted to escape. but i knew that as long as we keep holding on, the memory of the other girl would be clinging onto us too. he should start anew. so that chapter of his life with me had to end.

Love lost is still love. It takes a different form, that’s all. You can’t see their smile or bring them food or tousle their hair or move them around a dance floor. But when those senses weaken, another heightens. Memory. Memory becomes your partner. You nurture it. You hold it. You dance with it. Life has to end. Love doesn’t.

– The Five People You Meet in Heaven, Mitch Albom

nobody died. just our relationship.

a year after our break up, i saw his car at the parking lot. i just got out of my last class and was ready to go home. i went to my battered car and saw him sitting on the hood.

déja vu. but i was certain it happened before.

“hi,” he greeted.

“hello.” i smiled.

again, i pretended to look for something in my bag so i wouldn’t see his face. i wondered if our break up did him good. i wondered if he has a new girlfriend. i wondered if his love for me was still there, just like my love for him wasn’t lost in time. i wondered a lot of things, really.

and as i look at his face, really look at his face for the first time since our break up, i knew the answers.

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