Oh, love eh? It’s pretty hard to define so most people get really confused about it. There’s lust, infatuation, attraction, attachment – you can go on and on and still think these words are synonymous to love. There’s pain, betrayal, abandonment, grief, heartbreak, and a lot of other negative feelings that you experience when you fall in love. That’s probably why it’s pretty hard to believe in it anymore.
But I believe in love, I really do. Just seeing my grandparents still walk along the street together and holding hands is enough proof that love exists.
Love is actually everywhere, if you only know where to look and your eyes are not too jaded to see it. Love is pretty common. It’s the happy ending that’s rare.
You held my hand as you were leaving. You told me you had to find yourself. To know who you really are and what you want to be. I stood there on our doorstep and said nothing. I was afraid that if I opened my mouth, I would be begging you to stay. I didn’t want to be that selfish. I wanted you to do whatever you wanted. Even if it meant farewell.
You told me you would come back for me. You promised. I just nodded to tell you I understood, even if I couldn’t. When you ran out of things to say, you freed my hand. You turned to leave. I closed my eyes and cried silently. I didn’t see if you looked back. I didn’t see your last expression. I wasn’t brave enough to take one final glance. All I heard were your footsteps, getting more inaudible with distance. Until they were gone.
I never thought that one day we would get separated. We grew up together, went to the same school, attended the same church. My first memory was your face laughing at me when I fell down a swing. We were next door neighbors and you practically lived in our home because your parents were always away for some business conference. You were the first person I would see every morning because you liked drawing on my face while I was asleep. You were always there – constant and unfailing.
We were five years old and you punched some boy for telling me I was ugly. When we were eight, I was the one who punched our classmate because he said you were gay. You had always been told you were gay, just because you have a girl’s name – Arian. I would always tell you not to get affected because I, on the other hand, was named after a boy – Alexis. You’d cheer up after that.
We were twelve and I got a flu. You didn’t go to school the whole time I was sick. You were there in my room, bringing me milk or hot chocolate, a sandwich, or anything I requested. One time, you showed up with santan flowers that you picked on our garden. I got better after that.
We were fifteen and we just graduated from high school. Your graduation gift was a scooter. Mine was a digital camera. All summer, we strolled through town – having picnics, fishing on the lake, visiting our friends. I captured every moment with my camera. It was the best summer of my life.
We were eighteen and one day, a car stopped in front of your house. That night, you didn’t go to see me. The next day, I went to your house and saw that your room was closed. It was never closed before. It was always open because I told you I hate knocking and waiting for you to come out. But that time, I knocked and waited. When you didn’t answer, I slumped by your room. For three hours. When you finally opened the door, I saw that you were puffy-eyed. You were crying. You didn’t sleep either. I asked you where your parents were. You answered, “Which pair?”
You told me you were adopted. The one who came the previous day was an estate attorney. Your biological parents died in a car crash and you were left with a fortune. I couldn’t really see what the big deal about it was but you said it would change everything. For eighteen years, you had been kept in the dark. Your identity was a lie. The life you had been living was a lie. I tried to reason out with you but you already made up your mind. That was a week before you left.
I waited for you. Because you promised. You told me you would come back for me. But you never did.
I waited because I wanted answers. I wanted to ask you if you really thought everything was a lie. What about us? Were we just some kind of made-up characters? What about our friendship? Did we just act it out? Did you?
We are twenty-one now, and I haven’t heard from you. You didn’t give me any contact information when you left. I wonder if you already found what you were looking for. Or did you lose yourself even more? What if your life was supposed to be spent in this neighborhood, with me? What if you never really had to search for your true identity because you never really lost it? What if it was me who could show you who you really are?
That you are Arian and I am Alexis. And I am in love with you. It is impossible not to fall in love with you. Aren’t you aware that you are in love with me, too? Or are you just afraid to admit it? Do you think being in love with your best friend is not that significant compared to your grand scheme of things? Would you rather not waste your precious time with a simple “I love you” before you went away?
But, I wouldn’t know the answers because you’re not coming back. That much I’m certain of. Funny, the first time you held my hand was when you said goodbye.
So, you fell in love with your friend but you are afraid to tell him because it might ruin your friendship.
I think, this is a situation most of us already found ourselves in, and many of us are still struggling to get out of. This is a frustrating dilemma in which the choices are both risky. You want more than friendship but you are not sure if he wants the same thing. You are standing on a shaky ground, at night, in a fog. With zero visibility. It is hopeless to try to move. More hopeless to stay where you are.
But, admit it. It is very difficult when you know that one step closer could change everything, and one step back would change everything anyway.
What if you scare him away? You will lose your love. And your friend. But good riddance, guys like that aren’t worth your precious love.
What if he just laughs at you and thinks it is ridiculous? You can laugh with him like it is just one big joke. But, believe me, a joke aimed at you is never funny. Besides, you can never pretend and hide your feelings forever.
What if he acknowledges your feelings but he isn’t ready to answer yet? You will spend sleepless nights waiting in agony, always wondering what his answer would be.
What if he loves someone else? Oh, the great unrequited love. I can’t stress that enough.
But, what if the whole world conspires with you and the heavens bring forth your best luck, and this friend tells you he also loves you? I know, you’ll be dumbfounded at first. Then, a sigh of relief a moment after. And after that, I can hear your mind buzzing with questions and doubts and fears.
Uh-oh, you are on shaky ground again. The aftershock.
How exactly do you take your friendship to the next level? It’s just as simple as stepping up. But it doesn’t mean that when you leave the lower step, it would be gone. See, the problem with the friends-to-lovers thing is that couples tend to think that an exclusive relationship is an entirely different thing. They don’t know the fact that it is basically friendship, only with additional benefits. They think that they have to change their ways, their attitude towards each other, and their whole relationship just because they now have the title of boyfriend-girlfriend. That’s where many couples fail – in thinking that love is something grander than friendship.
You should know that love is only as strong as its foundation. The most successful love stories are built on friendship. Therefore, love never ruins friendship. Rather, one enhances the other. They come hand in hand. They nurture each other. When you are in a relationship, you don’t have to force yourself to make love more special. It all comes naturally.
Also, being exclusive doesn’t mean you have to stop doing the things you were doing when you were just friends. It doesn’t mean you have to stop teasing each other and start getting mushy all the time. Yes, you have to put extra effort and spend extra time, but you also have to keep the crazy things. Like old times. Romantic relationships are not always serious, you know.
Lastly, never think about the end. Don’t be scared that when you break up, you’d never be friends anymore. That you’d never talk to each other, ever. Thinking about the end is actualizing it. You are making it happen just by putting it on your mind. Don’t be scared of what you don’t know. If you believe in your friendship, then you can endure anything.
Now, don’t be afraid if you fell in love with a friend. Love isn’t something to fear. Tell him. Do something. Remember, most regrets come from the things we didn’t do. The words we left unsaid.
And next time you think “What if it doesn’t work?”… Just remember this: Oh, but what if it does?
I suddenly remembered him, you know, from nowhere in particular. His tall athletic build. His dancing eyes under those long eyelashes. I remember how gentlemanly and thoughtful and caring he was to me. He was like that to all girls, you know, but I had this make believe story that I was special to him. I noticed every single kindness he did to me. He tied my shoelaces once, you know. See, I still remember. Every. Single. Thing. Back then, I thought I loved him. Now, I’m not so sure about what I felt before. I was so young then, a teenager dreaming of a fairy tale and conflicted about real emotions and feelings.
Well, it started during our field trip. My barkada divided into smaller groups and couples and I was kind of left alone. So, Cathy, my best friend then, asked him to accompany me throughout the day. She was going with my uncle and Angeline, my other best friend, was with John. Oh, the couples that time. So he, being so infatuated with Cathy, couldn’t say no and stayed with me until the bus ride home. Looking back, I wonder if he really enjoyed my company or got bored but just kept his feelings. Anyway, it was a very memorable day for me. We even had a picture together, with him ever so handsome and tall, and me ever so smiling and slightly leaning on his shoulders. We were wearing our PE uniforms. Ugh, see, I remember everything. He was the ultimate gentleman. He held my hand every time we were getting out of the rides. He held my hand when we were getting out of the bus. He tolerated my fear of haunted houses and let me cling to him when we were inside that awfully wretched place. And on the bus ride home, we sat together. He lent me his jacket and let me sleep on his shoulder.
That was the day I fell in love with him. Or so I thought. I started writing diaries about him. I blankly stared at him during class. I was sitting at the back, left side of the room, and he was sitting at the right side, near the window. Then it got awkward. We seldom talked to each other. I think it was me who ran away. I think I was afraid of getting hurt. I was new to this thing, you know, back then. So, I didn’t know what to do. I was stupid.
It was Bulprisa week and we seldom had classes. One dismissal time, we talked. I forgot the details but that was the first time we talked seriously, since the field trip. Everything that happened next was a blur. He was still kind to me, but I was kind of wishing for more. More than friendship, I mean. More than polite smiles. At a young age, I hoped for romance. And got disappointed.
Well, anyway, I remember avoiding him for the rest of the school year. It was difficult because I was really drawn to him, you know. I managed to ignore my little infatuation when I heard he was going to change school next school year. I convinced myself that it was gonna be more painful if he already left and I still had a big crush on him.
But, he didn’t change school the following year. And I still remember our first conversation in a long time. It was our general cleaning and our chairs were all outside the classroom. I was sitting there, my head on the armchair, expression kind of glum. He passed by and asked, “Ui, okay ka lang?” He was smiling. I smiled too.
And for the record, I miss him. This is nostalgia, you know. Deep inside, I was hoping that he, or anyone else, would ask if I’m okay and wouldn’t believe me if I said yes.
(Ugh, the rain really gets into my mood right now.)
I still talk about you in present tense, like you’re just around the corner ready to surprise me with a bunch of flowers again. Not a lot of people know what happened. It’s not that I don’t want them to know. I just don’t want their fake sympathies and stiff hugs and cold pats on the back. I mean, even my closest friends with whom I shared this story didn’t know what to do or say. I know, it’s a difficult situation, one I couldn’t get out of in just a short time. I still hug Kero-chan to sleep. I still text your phone number. I feed myself with our bittersweet memories. I just can’t get over you.
Remember when we were so in love? You with me, I with someone else. I was a pathetic loser for loving him so blindly even though I could see you very well. You understood me completely, that it takes time to move on, that I need you to get my mind off him, that I was stupid for being so romantically attached to someone else when I know in my mind and heart that I’m better off with you. You were patient and kind and gentlemanly and sweet. Why did you have to go before I could say I love you too?
I wish it was that easy to know your whereabouts. I wish I could still see you from time to time. I wish you wouldn’t go to where I couldn’t follow. I wish you were still here, with me, on Earth, in my reality. Here, now.
Here I am again, writing the same old story, not getting tired of hearing my own thoughts, not exactly knowing where to start. I feel like I’ve been going around in circles. I tell myself that I shouldn’t keep my hopes up, that every hope just piles up like a tower with a weak foundation, and eventually it will fall down and I’ll be buried in rubbles again. I couldn’t trust you completely, knowing that I had been in this situation before and it didn’t end that well. I was in pieces, ones which couldn’t be brought back to their original state when already broken. But, I still love you with all my little ragged edges, even though they all hurt me when I give too much of that love.
I couldn’t count on your words anymore. Although they’re the ones I’ve been dying to hear, they seem dangerous and destructive. I’ve seen myself holding on to those words before and I realized that they were just words that could be played with, thrown away, and forgotten. Once you said them, I had no guarantee and assurance that they were true. Much so when you were drunk. I wanted to believe in them. I wanted to believe that you mean them with all your heart. But, I know I am standing on a shaky ground and your words aren’t enough to keep me upright.
I complain this much. You could hear me joking about this in between conversations, but I’d make it look like it’s not a big deal. Whenever I’m alone, I repeat scenes over and over again like a broken record, trying to get meaning out of everything you said, telling myself I’m utterly desperate because I’m the only one trying to figure things out.
I still love you, even though all you’ve been giving me are emotional scraps and leftovers. I still love you, even after you cheated and lied and left. I still love you, although you always disappoint me, although I couldn’t count on you, although you have this whole shelf of faults I could point out to you. I still love you, that most of the times I don’t even know why I still do.