Friday, April 30, 2010

May Day's Eve

You must take a candle," she instructed, "and go into a room that is dark and that has a mirror in it and you must be alone in the room. Go up to the mirror and close your eyes and say: Mirror, mirror, show to me him whose woman I will be. If all goes right, just above your left shoulder will appear the face of the man you will marry."
---Nick Joaquin, "May Day's Eve"
It is May again. In ancient times, summer began on Beltane (May 1st) and ended on Lughnasadh (August 1st).
They say the first night of May is a night of divination, of romance and lovers, and those who are curious may peek into a mirror at midnight and see the face of whoever it was they were fated to marry.

What is left of the boy I saw on a warm night so many summers ago?

Hello NC, my 30-year old friend.
I hope the years have been kind to you. Some birthdays are happier, some sadder, but I hope each one will be meaningful.

Remember this day, for you will never get it back. Like many things in life, youth, alas, is so fleeting.

Love, as always,

"I heard you cry for a distant love who will never come back
I saw your face in a flood of tears, your eyes so empty
But now hear me, I know you never want to hurt me
I know you can't resist it, in your dreams you taste my lips

And somewhere in the deepest part of your dream
At the edge of this mountain
We just close our eyes and breathe

'cause somewhere in the deepest part of my dream
At the edge of this mountain
We just close our eyes and breathe"
NC wrote back.
You say the most beautiful things Kane. And I love you for that.

NC celebrated his birthday by filing for divorce from his husband. They were married for three years.

Monday, April 26, 2010

B and the Eyeliner

"Beauty is about perception, not about make-up. I think the beginning of all beauty is knowing and liking oneself. You can`t put on make-up, or dress yourself, or do you hair with any sort of fun or joy if you`re doing it from a position of correction."
---Kevyn Aucoin

B and I were going to watch a movie with some friends. It was our fourth date. We were talking about artistas and films when he suddenly said, "Did you put something in your eyes?"

My whole body went rigid and I thought to myself, "Oh no! What do I say? Is he ready?"

"Well, yeah. I put on eyeliner," I said.

He studied me closely and said "You're so cute."

You see, every little girl, at some point in time, learns to hide her flaws and accentuate her beauty using rouge, mascara, and eyeliner. But I wasn't that little girl.

In fact, I wasn't a little girl at all. I was a little boy who dreamt of marrying a girl, have children, and live happily ever after. But one day, I realized and accepted I was gay and promptly chucked that dream away.

It was 2003 and I was going out with Nico. I noticed Nico's cheeks were always flushed.

"You know, you always have rosy cheeks," I mentioned to him once.

"Errr. Hahaha. Kane, come on. It's not natural. I use cheek stain of Body Shop," Nico explained.

"Cheek what???," I asked him.

"Here. Let me show you," Nico said and took out this long, slender tube that would forever change my life.

"There. Look at yourself," Nico said. "Here, let me put some eyeliner."

I slowly turned to face the mirror and that's when it happened. Gasp! Was that me? I felt like a prince(ss). My eyes were full, my cheeks glowed softly, my face looked like those faces splashed in magazines.

I wanted that moment to last forever. That was the effect of trying on make-up. You suddenly, shockingly, become that girl.

So as the years passed, I learned the tricks of using the eyeliner. How to make your eyes pop, how to get that rockstar look. And it is in those moments of transformation that I can pretend to be someone else, even if just for a night.

A hooker, a rockstar. An artist, a freak. It's a wonder how a little make-up goes a long way.

But at the end of the day, after you've showered and removed everything; the eyeliner, the perfume, the clothes, it feels good to have someone look at you and still think you're that prince(ss). Flaws and all.

"People say sometimes that beauty is only superficial. That may be so, but at least it is not so superficial as thought is. To me, beauty is the wonder of wonders. It is only shallow people who do not judge by appearances. The true mystery of the world is the visible, not the invisible."
---Oscar Wilde, "The Picture of Dorian Gray"

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

De Vita Beata

"Pleasure is the only thing to live for. Nothing ages like happiness."
---Oscar Wilde

People are strange creatures, I've learned. Most of our existence is characterized by routine but still, we persist in measuring our lives by "significant" events; those huge, dramatic, episodes where people demonstrate their ability to navigate through pain and suffering.
But some would argue that it is the ordinary day-to-day living that actually defines who we are, all that makes a life feel meaningful or feel meaningless.

What defines a marriage, for example? Is it the anniversaries and the Christmases or is it about the affection, care, and love we give our partners everyday?

I read an article written by Joseph Epstein, formerly the editor of The American Scholar titled "The Symphony of a Lifetime". He cited Gary Saul Morson, a teacher of Russian literature at Northwestern University, who showed how Tolstoy believed in the prosaic life and Dostoyevsky in the dramatic.

In his article he said:
Things happen to Tolstoy’s characters — they go to war, have vastly disruptive love affairs, suffer unexpected deaths — but they are most interesting in their ordinariness: a strong case in point is Natasha’s family, the Rostovs, in War and Peace. Her brother and father and mother, with their rich but normal passions, appetites and family loves, are people who gain moral stature through an endless series of small acts.

In Dostoyevsky, on the other hand, nothing is ordinary: passions turn into obsessions; gambling addicts and epileptics are at the center of things; men are beating horses to death on the Nevsky Prospect; poverty has wrenched people’s lives into little hells on earth. The question isn’t really who — Tolstoy or Dostoyevsky — is the greater novelist, for both are great, but which shows life as it is more truly is.

As Professor Morson puts it: “Dostoyevsky believed that lives are decided at critical moments, and he therefore described the world as driven by sudden eruptions from the unconscious. By contrast, Tolstoy insisted that although we may imagine our lives are decided at important and intense moments of choice, in fact our choices are shaped by the whole climate of our minds, which themselves result from countless small decisions at ordinary moments.” At some point in life, I think, one has to decide if one is, in one’s belief in the shape of his or her life, a Dostoyevskian or a Tolstoyian.
So what then constitutes a happy life? Tolstoy would say what makes a life good or bad is how the ordinary moments are lived.

In my university, we were taught the concept of the fundamental option in theology; the idea that people do not become good or evil overnight. Fundamental option refers to the basic human choice we make as to how to live our life. It is not the freedom of choice to do a particular thing or not. Rather, it is the freedom to create oneself with regard to the totality of existence and its direction.

Let's say I lied today. That doesn't make me a liar. But if I lie every day, at some point in the future, I not only lied, but I have become a liar. We become what we do.

And in the end, all those little choices we make; to wake up early for work no matter tired and sleepy we are, to be kind to those who may not deserve it, they may be the ones that matter, after all.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

All About The Future, All About The Past

"Hear the voice of the Bard!
Who Present, Past, & Future sees"
---William Blake, "Songs Of Experience: Introduction "

Kiko and I were chatting one Friday afternoon talking about plans for the weekend.

"So, are you going out tonight," Kiko asked.

"Well, I'm in the mood… for dancing… romancing…," I replied, laughing.

"Perky??? So, how will tonight be?" he said.

"Tonight? Tonight is all about possibilities," I declared. "How a certain glance can lead to a dance. Or how a simple kiss can turn into bliss."

"Romantique," Kiko dryly commented.

"But on a serious note, being single is all about possibilities," I said. "Puedeng super perky ka with your friends, you turn around and you suddenly meet some cute guy. Or, an old friend you haven't seen in years. Or, some boy you slept with. Or, an ex-boyfriend."

"Do you expect all these possibilities? Or do you make them happen?," Kiko replied teasingly.

"At least one of them will happen on any given night," I said.

"Ex-boyfriend… That leaves something in the lips… or tongue… or mouth… or throat…," Kiko said, laughing aloud.

"Well, depende sinong ex," I said. "Ano baaaaaaaaaaaaaa Kikooooo."


My talk with Kiko got me thinking: Do single people focus more on the future, hoping one day Lady Luck smiles at them and gives them the best lover they never had? Is it about who you might meet at that party, at that club, at the bookshop... the sheer randomness of life we strive to contain?
David Sarasohn, an associate editor of The Oregonian in Portland, wrote in an essay published in The New York Times this:
Being single is all about the future, about the person you’re going to meet at Starbucks or after answering the next scientific compatibility questionnaire.
Being married, after a certain point, is about the past, about a steadily growing history of moments that provide a confidence of comfort, an asset that compounds over time. What you share is what you’ve shared, and measuring your communal property in decades puts you in a freakishly high bracket.
After ending a relationship, my conversations with my friends revolved all about what we had, what I lost, what we had gone through, the memories we had, how beautiful it was.

I tried to relive the past all over again, stubbornly refusing to let go, step into the present and welcome the future. But after a while, the future does begin to shine more brightly than the past, the life-not-yet-lived calls you more urgently than the life-already-lived.

Because the future is really, all about possibilities. Who knows when Cupid will strike again? Who knows where it all begins? Or, where it all ends?

Tuesday, April 06, 2010

Long, Long Ago and Oh So Far Away

"Let's not talk of love or chains and things we can't untie,
Your eyes are soft with sorrow,
Hey, that's no way to say goodbye."
---Leonard Cohen, "Hey, That's No Way To Say Goodbye"

"OMG! Edsel!" I exclaimed. "You're here. Kamusta ka? (How are you?)"

"Kane! Mabuti naman. Grabe ang daming tao sa Puerto."

"Oo nga eh. (Yeah.) I wasn't expecting you would be here."

"Kasama ko boyfriend ko! Halika, papakila kita," he said.

Edsel called his boyfriend, J, and introduced us. J was tall, chinito and goodlooking. They had gotten together around three months ago and they both looked happy together.

"Si Kane yung crying shoulder ko when I was depressed about my ex. Ex niya yung best friend ko si Manuel," Edsel explained to his boyfriend.

Then suddenly, Edsel turned to me and said, "Kinasal na si Manuel. Alam mo ba?"

"Ahh. Talaga," I replied.

"May pictures pa nga eh. Maganda yung girl."

Ito talagang si Edsel, hindi napigilan ang sarili na bigyan ako ng update about Manuel, I told myself.

So Manuel's plans did push through. It has been five months since he left for the U.S. Five months… has it been that long? When he left, we agreed to not communicate and I have not heard from him since. I don't expect to.

It's strange how I felt hearing the news. I wasn't exactly sad… it just seemed he's now more distant than ever.

M and I broke up for many reasons. He was leaving for the U.S., he was planning to marry for the citizenship, we were having troubles and kept fighting about our differences.

But now I know he really didn't tell me the whole truth.

M admitted he cheated on me four times before we broke up. I was hurt but I forgave him because my goal then was for us to work on the relationship. But it is only after he left for the U.S. that I learned he had been sleeping around with other people.

Slowly by slowly, I learned the details of his other indiscretions: where, who, what, how many, when. It was the why that I didn't have the answer to.

"Honey, kami pa noon eh. Akala ko masaya pa kami noon," I said to Vackie in a small voice.

"Hindi mo talaga naisip na he was cheating?"

"Hindi talaga. I trusted him."

I was devastated. I was astounded at the extent of his infidelity. I couldn't reconcile these two people in my head: the M who loved me and the M who lied to me. How could I not have known?

I wanted to know why he did it. Was it because of me? The insecurities surfaced. Maybe I wasn't attractive enough. Maybe I wasn't good looking enough. Maybe he preferred more muscular men, or leaner, taller, or shorter.

As I struggled to understand what happened, I discovered more things about him. I learned M had a history of infidelity. He cheated on his partners before, and was cheating on his partner after me.

I was discovering a totally different person. Now I understand why he rarely wants to talk about his past. I still find it hard to accept it completely. It doesn't fit into the picture of how I remember our story. M seemed so beautiful, so guileless.

That is the curse of secrets, I think. It gives new meaning to old memories. I wasn't even sure if he really did love me.

Edsel: I know it might be hard to believe pero minahal ka niya Kane. He was as faithful to you as he could have been to anyone, I'd say more than he had ever been to anyone before. But he was always struggling with his unfaithfulness. There are really people like that, my ex for one. It was just something he could not control.

Times does heal all wounds… but only if you want to be healed. Now that the pain and anger are gone, compassion sets in and I look at Manuel with tenderness and a little bit of sadness.

I understood what Edsel was saying. I knew Manuel loved me, I have to be fair, and I'd like to think he loved me in the best way he knew how. I couldn't deny him that, no matter how much he hurt me. There were just too many beautiful things he did for me for me to not recognize it.

It must not have been easy for him, too. I realized now what a relief our break-up must have been for him. Finally, he didn't have to lie, to pretend to be this person that I wanted him to be.

During one of our post-breakup conversations, Manuel told me this.

"Hindi mo talaga ako nakilala Kane. (You never really got to know me Kane.) You only know my good side. But not my bad because I wanted to show you my best Kane."

He knew all along he couldn't give me what I wanted, what he knew I deserved. He was crying when he told me before "Kane, I tried. I really, really tried." It was all part of a larger hopelessness.

My friend told me this.

"I think M hid the worst from you because he had set you up as some kind of ideal. You brought out the best in him and he wanted that version of himself. I know it may not make sense but I think he hid the worst from you as a testament to what he did feel for you. I think to be close to you he needed for you to not really know him. I think the person he liked the best was the Manuel you thought he was."

The Manuel I knew, the one I loved, wasn't real, after all. It didn't exist, or perhaps it only existed in the space and time when we were together. I see now that Manuel's disappearance began before he left. Even when we were still together, he was already beginning to vaporize.

Sometimes I wish M and I had met later. Things probably would have turned out differently. Or not. We will never know, now. It is a struggle to be good, I know that myself. You are what you love, not what loves you.

In November I wrote this:
"Wherever you are M, I wish you well. I forgive you. I don't want this anger, this pain. This is not how I want to remember you.  Maybe we will meet again in another life, when we're both cats. Or, maybe not."

I loved Manuel with everything that I was and I gave it freely. The people we love are not obliged to love us back. We had a good run. Perhaps, just because it didn't last doesn't mean it wasn't meaningful. I will always treasure the love we had.

I wish you well, M. To new beginnings. I hope you find what you are looking for.

As for me, I found mine. I found myself.

"Long ago, and oh so far away
I fell in love with you."
---The Carpenters, "Superstar"