When I was sixteen, I had a very significant and memorable non-relationship with a 26-year old. The relationship was non-existent. Or it existed, but only in my head. It was the first time I admired someone so much, and the first time someone I liked actually paid attention to me.
I immediately liked him the first time I saw him. Their theater group performed at school, and he played Jesus. He looked the part too, with his long, curly hair, lanky built and the goatee. He looked more like a rockstar Jesus. I didn’t meet him until after a year though, because I didn’t think I would see him again after their play. Turned out their theater group performed another play at school, and that time he played a cigarette vendor—but again, more like a rockstar cigarette vendor. After the second time I saw him, I started seeing a lot of him on campus after school hours, just loitering anywhere like he owned the place.
From the first to the second time I saw him, he remained just a name and a random face. He was someone I would think of when I daydreamed during one of my classes. Whenever I tried to write a poem, I willed myself to think of him to get some sort of inspiration. We haven’t met then, but because I saw a lot of him on campus I’ve already memorized how he cocked his head to one side when he was thinking about something, the way he walked, how he usually dressed, how he greeted people he knew, how he never forgot to smile when someone greeted him, and how he talked. And those were enough for me to write lovely things about him through poems.
Finally, we met because of The Catcher in the Rye. My friend, who knew someone who knew him, got his number for me and insisted that I get over myself and just text him (which I did, three weeks later). We started texting regularly after I sent my first text. I thought he was still in college because he didn’t look older than 20, but when I found out he was already 26 I was surprised that I didn’t mind. We started “talking” about a lot of stuff and we would text every day. I just finished the book for the second time that year and he was the biggest Beatles fan I know. We talked about how much I loved the book and he told me how curious he is that David Chapman (John Lennon’s assassin) re-enacted some of the scenes from the book a few days before he killed John Lennon. So I told him I’d let him borrow my copy of the book so he could finally read it, and we decided to formally meet and have a chat. We met one chilly Sunday night in November at school, after the 6PM mass. I almost didn’t go through with it because I was too nervous, but he was waiting by the gate, making sure he wouldn’t miss me, so I had no choice. And to borrow words from Rick Blaine, it was the “beginning of a beautiful friendship.”
It was weird, even when I think about it now and look back at all the things we did. We were like hipsters. We would go to church every Sunday for the 6PM mass, then eat BBQ afterwards. Always, every week. He would play Incubus songs for me in his guitar. He would wait for me after my varsity training in volleyball, let me go ahead and ride the jeep then ride his own bike and follow close behind. I would smile at him from where I was sitting at the jeep because, let’s face it, we looked silly.
He would take me to Baywalk to watch sunsets and we would sit quietly not talking to each other until the sun has officially set and everything was dark. Although, there was one time when he was so amazed at the sunset that he screamed, “Skies of ember!” out of the blue. I thought it was amusing and I just smiled and didn’t care about the people who turned to look at us, looking a bit disturbed.
We would thumb wrestle a lot, which also meant he held my hand a lot. It felt awkward at first because I didn’t want to move my hand too much or even twitch my fingers because it might “disturb” his or something. So my hand felt numb—basically dead most of the time we held hands. I’ve never held hands with a boy before him, so I didn’t really know if I was doing it right—if there was even a right way to hold a boy’s hand. All I knew was I couldn’t believe that it was happening. And that I was happy.
He introduced me to the band Superdrag and he used to sing Sucked Out with such an amazing rasp in his voice that I couldn’t help liking him more. I am naturally introverted and he is the exact opposite, which I loved. He was full of life and he loved adventures. I enjoyed every minute I spent with him, but I still remained very timid most of the time. I was just so star-struck—a kid like me spending so much time with such a cool grown-up. I admit, I felt a little grown-up too just being with him, in spite of my young naïve self.
There were times when I would hang out at a friend’s house because she lives a short walking distance away from the school. He would fetch me there, then we’d have dinner at a small Carinderia a few houses away from my friend’s house because they had the best BBQ.
He would encourage me with my writing. When he was at work, he would send me e-mails asking if he could read something I wrote, and I would send him something I did. He would always tell me I should join a national writing contest, but I knew better. The fact that he read my works already felt like a grand prize for me. How he believed in me—it was all I needed to feel like I was doing something right.
It became our thing—everything we did and shared—the 6PM Sunday mass, the Manila Bay sunsets, the dinners, the music, the stories and the poems.
And then it ended. It’s hard to believe that everything lasted only six months. But it was the most fulfilling six months of my life, ever. We weren’t really together, so we didn’t really break up. Whatever it was that we always did just stopped happening. No more texting, no more dinner dates, no more sunset trips, no more BBQ dinners. It all stopped. And I was heartbroken for a while. I cried over a guy who was never really mine in the first place. I wrote even more poems and stories for and about him. But unlike before, I just kept those to myself.
He was my first love. It was a great experience. He encouraged me to embrace life. Just by being himself, he taught me how refreshing it is to do something fun and spontaneous once in a while. He inspired me to write, believed in me and encouraged me to continue writing, whatever happens. He was a great guy—he still is—and for what it’s worth, I believe he did me a favor by breaking my heart. Because he broke it so bad that I was forced to reevaluate my life and sort out my priorities (we “broke up” right before I started college). But most importantly, the entire experience helped me realized that even when he was gone and I thought I lost my inspiration, I still found myself writing a lot of poems and stories. It dawned on me that it was something I really loved doing, whether or not he was in my life. And for that, I will forever be thankful.