I take long walks under the rain, to think of things that come to mind. A contamination, just as puddles on the streets.
Tonight is no different.
What is, however, is the disturbing thought no thought comes to mind. Crystalline black, not the light from sidewalk street lamps or the recurring blink of neon signs redeem this sense of termination.
Memories at Ongpin
The first time I went to Chinatown and actually strolled around was that time you asked me out for lunch. We got down at Ongpin and lead me to this almost dilapidated but nevertheless crowded restaurant I’d assume was famous for your Chinese dish of choice, Peking duck.
Now, I never had Peking duck my whole life. To be honest, thinking about eating duck makes me puke, but then again I wonder why Balut’s an all-time personal favorite. I think I’ve mentioned that to you once or twice in one of our coffee dates previously, and sooner or later you’ve managed to spot that loophole and accused me of hypocrisy, shallow this hypocrisy of mine might be. You say, “What’s the difference between duck eggs and duck meat, Christ.”
“Obviously, my favorite happens to be the egg, and yours happens to be the meat.”
“But they’re both ducks! There’s just the slightest difference of presentation,” you defended, a bit too excitedly for that matter that by the time you finished your sentence, we noticed all the Chinese people eating around us, in a clamor of Chinese chitchat, had stopped for a moment to see who was shouting in Tagalog.
I found myself laughing out loud, while you turn red like boiled ham. I didn’t mind; I wasn’t self-conscious as you are.
“Just order our Peking duck,” he told me in a whisper, still embarrassed.
“Ours? It’s all yours. I’m still having my broccoli.”
I called out our waiter, of matured age, and as he walks toward our direction, he looks at my hand holding yours, since that moment we’ve gone inside their door. I paid no heed to the way he stares at our entwined fingers. I didn’t mind anyway; I wasn’t self-conscious as you are.
I was in transit to Ayala when the rain poured down. An appreciation for wet weather is a very conditional thing. If one isn’t home, chances are, one wouldn’t be very happy to see his clothes getting soaked. If one’s caught on the streets, he might as well be cursing every fat rain droplet that splatters on the asphalt, every puddle his shoes (and perhaps even his unsocked feet) might land on.
Meanwhile, under the rain, I am neither at the cloisters of my room, nor am I on muddled streets. I am on a cabin full of personally insignificant strangers. Sheltered and protected, I remain dry as prepackaged paper by something so transient.
This is my refuge. A train ride.
Sometimes, I think I was just for free time.
Now that you’ve passed your Nursing Licensure Exams, I catch you often at my newsfeed with your pictures and your cheery statuses with, I don’t know, +50 comments, and as much as I want to share your victories, I cannot.
I remember those days I’d meet you at a coffee shop and help you out with your review. I steal away your notebook from you, with a challenging grimace stapled on my face, and throw a few rounds of Q&A’s I’ve taken from your notes. And then we’ll grow tired of such academic interrogations that you end up sighing and telling me I’ve had enough, let’s just talk about stuff we’ll do after I pass the boards — that was what I liked about you; you knew what you wanted
and for a while you wanted me.
I suggested going to Tagaytay and having that garden buffet I had extreme doting for, but you declined. Pizza’s good, you says, the largest size just for two of us, but I declined. I’m on a diet for God’s sake, are you crazy?
You laugh, I laugh. We just had too many differences.
Perhaps the only thing we’ll ever agree on is a trip to the motel, one of the classier kinds.
But how would I ever know what you’d like? Power sex? A bouquet of red roses? New underwear? Three cases of beer for you and your friends? I don’t know. How will I ever know…
…we don’t even talk anymore.
That first time we made love, you were wearing your blind mother’s nightgown. Tweety Bird was on it, and he — not she, as we’ve always argued before from the start the first time I slept with you on the same bed — seemed to be in a great deal of panic because Sylvester was so apt to chase him. But of course they never moved. They were, after all, on your shirt in an endless goose chase.
But we did. I mean, at least you did.
“Did what? That’s what I don’t like about you, Adrian. You’re always so…. ambiguous,” I force myself to force-imagine you saying that, forcefully, as if I was trying to extract every ounce of honesty from you. But I close my eyes anyway, trying to remember what your voice sounds like. It seems like I’ve lost it in deep chasm of memories all cramped up in my brain.
The last time I’ve heard from you, it was from a phone call. Your voice sounded as exciting as a garden pebble, and you didn’t seem too enthusiastic to see me beeping you on your Blackberry. But it didn’t matter if you were irritated by my persistence or not. I mean, if I could see you right now, I’m telling you I needed to call you not because I needed answers. No. It was your voice I direly needed to hear, not your claims, and most especially not your lies.
So I tried touching you by the face, rubbing your porous cheek. I laugh before I even answered your question. You always cheated your pictures through make-up. But I didn’t mind. You without make-up, and you with make-up is still you. I loved you with or without your Ever Bilena.
“You moved, remember?”
“Oh,” and you grinned the especially impish grin of yours, “wasn’t I good?”
“Yes!” I didn’t leave a gap, not even a second after your question. I’ve known for a fact you don’t like the sound of silence, and consequently, I didn’t either. If it leaves you ample time and space for your doubting me — this silence — why, I’ll gladly hate that word to the core, for good. For good. ”Absolutely,” I chuckled, “My penis was rejoicing, pretty much.”
And then you gaze at me, in that wonderfully sincere gaze of yours I’ve almost forgotten about your trespasses, “But I wonder if you’re telling the truth.”
The sound of breaking glass, and a sudden seize of breath. I couldn’t distinguish my being startled, if it was because of shock or because of guilt. It was almost as if I broke a friend’s mother’s flower vase while getting a midnight snack at the kitchen during a sleepover.
The mirth ceases. In my dream, it was still seven a.m. but the sun hasn’t risen.
“I wonder if you’re telling the truth too.”
One time, at the gym, I was about to do my triceps pushdown for four sets and ten reps — with around seven or eight blocks of weight attached to the handle — when this woman smiles at me and delays my routine. Usually, I wouldn’t let anyone, particularly a girl, particularly because I’m gay, to stop me from a work-out, but she did. It wasn’t a matter of choice. It was a matter of respect because about that quick moment I’d be able to pass up the chance to talk to her, and do my darned pushdown, she was all ready in front of me and said, You dance?
I asked her what made her prompt that question.
And she pointed at my feet and said she saw me doing some turns and a pirouette, a failed pirouette. But that doesn’t matter! Really. She says quickly, as if not to make me feel bad that I failed in pirouetting. It’s only seldom she sees someone do ballet when it’s not on a proper ballet rehearsal room.
Oh, you saw that, even though I was at the corner?
I was at the corner too! Doing my stretching.
Do you dance too?
Well, she pauses to think hard, as if she couldn’t quite tell if she did know how to dance or didn’t. I can’t exactly point my toes the way you point yours. She tells me I have strong toes.
Personally, I’d rather have strong arms, I’d kid around, but I also told her it’s not especially the toes that are important. A person’s gastrocnemiuses would be the one to hold your legs in that pointing position. I let go of the handle bar, and point my toes, and flex my legs. See?
If that’s the case, why are you doing pushdowns and not calf-raises?
Why shouldn’t I be doing pushdowns for calf-raises? I wasn’t a ballerina.
Because you’re a boy?
No. You have ballet-dancing male dancers, but I’m far too short. Ever seen how tall and slender people are in Swan Lake?
You mean Tchaicovsky’s Swan Lake? she mentions the name of the composer, my dead friend. Anyone who makes music elegant was a friend of mine, sure he did. Ah! You could be the duckling! She suggests.
Why does it feel so strange waking up on my own bed on a Sunday morning?
He was out of town this weekend, that’s why.
What was he doing the whole time?
Drinking with his brother and his brother’s friends, that’s what.
Didn’t he have a choice?
What do you mean?
If he wanted to, he could have picked me over his brother.
But that’s selfish.
Yeah. I think I’m being selfish of his time.
What’re you going to do about it?
Nothing… Believe in him, I guess.
Believe in what?
That he chose them over me not because he likes their company more than mine.
I start the day with Chilly Gonzales on my stereo, quite glad mother hadn’t gone down to fix us breakfast (she usually asks me for help around the kitchen when she does, by God, I’m far from a great cooking assistant). I could hear her though talking to a friend on the phone at the other side of the house. My dad must have left earlier to do morning errands; my sister’s unnoticeable, as always because her door’s never open. If it was, mom starts to get suspicious something must be up with her.
I searched for a cigarette in my drawer, only to find a box of Malboro Menthols with none.
My phone remains silent. You still haven’t greeted me good morning. I suppose two bottles of Bacardi won over your Herculean tolerance to anything alcoholic.
I creep back to bed, hoping you’ll hear mass with me later tonight.
Your extra bedclothes smelling strongly of naphthalene balls made me suggest they were kept too long inside your closet. I smiled though. Sniffing on your perhaps four-month old linens of disuse, it must have been days beyond recall that you have brought a visitor in your room.
After you’ve replaced your underwear with a new pair and slipped on an over-sized shirt for sleeping, you ask me if I’d want to borrow loose clothes for the night. “Your jeans are tight,” you say, “care for some boxers and a shirt?”
“That would be great,” I tell him, “though if I had it my way, I’d be sleeping with nothing but my briefs on.”
You grin and chuckle for a bit, “Not tonight,” you say apologetically, “My dad has this habit of barging in my room when I have visitors at home and I don’t think he’ll appreciate it if he sees there’s a half-naked guy beside me on bed.”
I was already on bed undressing when you lie down, and seeing you do so becomes a big obstacle for me to put up a response. “Really, put my clothes on.”
“Okay, fine,” A sigh escapes from my lips, and you kiss me on the cheek.
“Soon, you’ll know how our skins meet together, and you’ll tell me how it feels like in the most profound way you’ll ever recount it.” I was done putting on your clothes. They were very soft, like your eyes. When I gaze at them, in the darkness of your room and the scanty light from your study lamp, they were still a distinguished shade of black — as black as my preferred prep for coffee, with half a teaspoon of sugar, No cream — only, if perchance your eyes ever had a taste, it would be far from the stinging bitterness of my makeshift, household espresso.
There was something frail in your eyes, so frail I’d want to protect them from your detractors. But when I think about it, they were too beautiful and too disarming that I’d doubt it there would be anyone detracting them. Such was a beauty that should I let my hands crawl on your bare flesh, I might destroy the serenity in your gaze.
There was a silence, but it was not an unnerving one. Once, I remember an old friend telling me this was an ideal element in a perfectly romantic moment: silence that was a comforting silence. It means not a single word was needed to show you are into each other’s being.
“Good night,” I hear someone’s voice breaking the quiet, quite uncertain if it was yours or mine.