few months back. written while nursing a hangover, just to make it to my ‘client’ ‘s 6AM deadline. lol, for a friend’s composition class, rather, for the price of two hundred pesos and free cigarettes.
His eyes were starting to tear up, but he kept his head held high, as if to give me the impression that he was taking this as casually as possible – like this was nothing to him, and that he would inevitably arise unscathed, ready to tell of this episode to his friends as dismissively as possible.
”Are you sure?” he says, barely even audible. I knew him too well. Karl was the most vivacious man I know, always pumped up with energy, even if it is to go mountain-hiking with a two-hour notice, or a conversation about astrophysics at two in the morning while nursing iced coffees, long after the ice has thawed.
I nodded, unsure but knowing this could not drag on any further. You have to let go of things you aren’t completely sure you are willing to keep, right? Dragging this on will be even more of a torment than it already was for the past year or so.
”I..I don’t think this is right anymore.” I mumbled, albeit stupidly.
”Ha!” he said, mockingly, then turned to face me. ”What happened to your sense of right? You’re all about norms and tradition and what’s acceptable now.”
He was, even if I don’t want to admit it just yet, right. He has always been, since the day I met him. It was back in sophomore year, in a Film Criticism class I took because I still had this idealistic, perhaps way too hopeful, dream that I was to produce my great indie film that year and it will take the Philippine scene by surprise, making me a hit, a legend. I had it all figured out – the storyline, the script, the shoot locations, even what I wanted for characters to guide me during casting. Turns out, that plot was overused already, by French digital filmmakers, and he was the one who pointed it out.
”So, you wanna grab coffee after this?” He says, shyly. Back then, I didn’t know how gregarious he can be. Years after, we still laughed at his awkward attempts in asking me out.
We talked about film, poetry, painting and John Mayer for the next few hours, as night crept up and pretty soon the coffee shop near the university was closing up. We were forced to evacuate, smoking one after the other, clutching 7-11 coffee cups, walking aimlessly along Ayala avenue. Night turned into day, and by then I knew that Karl was a Psych major with a minor in Art Studies, in his junior year, living alone because the rest of the family migrated to the US and he opted for the independent bachelor lifestyle. He painted, traveled out of whim with only a change of clothes and a camera, sings for a band obsessed with Stone Temple Pilots. He quoted Neruda, Dickinson, Cummings. He was perfect. What more could I ask for.
Since then, we spent every day with each other, oblivious to what other people thought and felt. Be it a trip to Cabanatuan when we both have never been there and did not know what to expect (nothing, apparently), or cutting a whole day of classes to stay home and watch old American gangster films over beer and potato chips. Five years later, we were still together. Turns out, one could only keep the fire burning for so long. Countless petty arguments and threats later, I grew tired of it. That’s how all relationships go, right? When it doesn’t work, you give up, get out, move on.
We both know it’s something else though, and I may be sugar-coating this. For the real reason, one I wouldn’t admit to him because I couldn’t, not even to myself. I tried to arrange the words in my head, masking the real turmoil.
”I know you..” He says, chuckling. ”I know you’re about to give me that ”Our time has come, let’s go our separate ways” speech. It’s not that. Give me credit. I’m not a five-year old, I’m smart and I will always be. I know what’s happening.”
I was just dumbfounded. I knew he will understand, but I did not really expect him to tackle the elephant in the room. He was sharply honest, brutally frank even. ”I’m sorry, Karl.” I began, unsure of what’s to come. ”Really, I don’t think I could continue on like this anymore, this is wrong.”
”Because the Church says it is not sacred? It is not holy? It is not blessed, or moral?” He blurted out. ”Because society views this on a negative light? Because up to now, your parents don’t know about us, and if they find out, hell hath no fury?”
”I’m not strong enough. Don’t you think we’re going against nature or something?” I grumbled. ”This is wrong. Come to think of it, same-sex marriages is a pipe dream for this country, Karl.”
He exhaled smoke, looking out, as if to avoid this reality, he must affix his line of vision somewhere else.
”You know, for an activist, you’re very conservative.” He says, inhaling from his cigarette after.
He continued. ”Going against nature huh. You wanna play it that way? Okay. Death and sickness are natural occurrences. We don’t see people calling medicine a moral evil because it aims to halt, or at least impede, those natural things, right?”
He was right, as usual. ”And we don’t have to get married here. There’s Vegas. New York. Nebraska, as of yesterday.”
”Don’t you understand?” I said. ”It’s not you..”
”What, it’s me?” He cut off, now laughing. ”Don’t give me that! Please. For someone who’s gay, you don’t have any creativity.”
”I don’t want to be like.. this. Not anymore.” I started. ”I want kids, a house, that white picket fence, a stable job.”
”What are you, Mother Mary? Immaculate conception? I think you’re forgetting key concepts in developmental biology.”
”A sperm cell has to meet with an egg cell and fertilize that.” He rattles off, like reading aloud from a textbook. ”Meaning, a woman is not only needed, but it is an imperative for life to perpetuate.”
”If that’s what it takes.”
”So. You’re breaking up with me because you want to get a girlfriend? I don’t understand.”
”I want to be..normal. I’m not happy, Karl.”
”Correction, you want to be perceived as normal.” He sneers, getting up, gathering his pack of Red’s and an umbrella. ”You’re throwing five years away to pretend for the rest of your life that you’re happy being normal.”
”Karl, I’m sorry.”
He gets up and leaves. A few steps, then he turns back, the orange light emanating from lamp posts serving as a spotlight of sorts. ”You know, I’m sorry. For you. But I regret nothing.”
Then he was gone. I did not hear from him ever again. I deemed it best not to reach out, maybe it would be better if he licked his wounds alone. It’s for the best, really.
The next week, he was all over the headlines – the latest victim of LGBT hate crimes, stabbed twenty-seven times with a gunshot to his head.