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"