It was the sight of a pitcher held up that woke my senses. The plummet shattered all of the plastic, and when silence broke lose, panic spoke, “Ano’ng problema? Pag-usapan natin.”
The question was thrown back to me as if it were a mistake to wake up. I answered, “Wala,” until he referred to you and I. It was a question I wanted to ask myself, too. Did we have a problem? He questioned my silence; our silence when he would come home. He said he knew everything.
“Wala kaming problema,” you said.
“Are you sure you want to talk about it? I know you’re drunk and I don’t want you to regret anything you want to say right now.”
“Yes, I’m sure,” he boldly said.
“Okay. If you want to talk to me, I would expect you to wear something.” He was in his underwear, drunk and late when he got home from work.
I was preparing to go out to cool my head; hopeful that when I get back, home would be as quiet as it was when I was sleeping. But he grabbed my arm the moment I placed my hand on the door knob. He threw the basketful of vegetables in front of me. I told him to let me go out, but he would put weight on the door so it would remain closed. He shouted at me, saying we have something to talk about, but I declined any conversation. His grip was so tight I could feel his fingerprints. He then threw the pot we cooked sinigang on, and when I turned around, I was shocked to see you push the container that caused water to spill all over. The next thing I saw was a knife, and the only thing I could think of was the story of how you got wounds before.
“You have to go home!” I shouted.
I was afraid of what could possibly happen, but at that time, one thing was for sure – Anything can happen, especially when emotions are high and uncontrollable.
The next thing I could remember was I got out and I was just in tears telling a friend who lived right across what happened. The door banged, and I heard a slap. “Magsama kayong dalawa!” How I wish I could have taken that blow and never left, but it was the right thing to do.
I am a Mindanawon in Manila in search of a job, but found love and lost it. There are people who think we are violent because of how media presented Mindanao, but there are also some who are as vicious as the portrayal.
You were a beautiful person when I met you – smart, hardworking, and kind. You became close to me soon enough after all the troubles we’ve been through and the victories we’ve had. Too good to be true, really; but it was happening right before my eyes so I was convinced it was real, until close became too close.
We would eat on the same plate, sip on the same straw, and sleep on the same bed. You asked me if I wanted it, and I gave in. At the heat of everything, you uttered, “I can’t do this. I could not take advantage of your kindness.” I remember this clearly because it was also that same night in March when I said I would do anything for you. Although I didn’t quite understand why you said it hurts to feel like this, I just wanted to show I cared in every way I know. Surprisingly, the closeness became comfortable; at least, that’s what I thought it was.
I was there to make everything easy, especially when you needed company, a place to stay, something to wear, and even money to get you through the week. I wanted to make things light so I helped. I never really asked for anything in return, except to feel at least the slightest bit of care. But what did I get?
One time I helped you pay off a school loan, but only to find out there was a credit card debt that needed to be settled. Recall the times you said you were going home, but you were in Laguna with him. I remember trying to learn house chores, like washing clothes, so I could help; only to be told “You’re stupid. Napakatanga talaga.”
I say thank you for the hurtful words because they never had to come out of my mouth. At most times, I would choose to be kind than to be right. I understood that when your cousin moved in, he didn’t have money to pay the rent. I agreed to just make him pay the difference, and when you moved in, you only shared paying that meager amount of 25%. I was hoping we could divide it equally after his training, but you disagreed because both of you go to Laguna every weekend and you do not have a bunker for your bed. I do not know of any place for rent with this kind of setup, but I said okay because I wanted to help. This would sometimes extend to groceries where I would pay half of the purchase even when both of you got and consumed more. In Mindanao, some would think this was ethical. Naningkamot ni.
I tried to convince myself that this is not about ethics. I would always recall that night in July when you pressed your lips onto mine, not because you were drunk but because you wanted to prove something. You were sick and I wanted to stay and take care of you. You asked if I could put my arms around you so you could feel warm. And I believed you. This is far from being unethical.
It was mind-boggling because a few nights before that, I found out about the real score between you and your cousin. You were never what you presented yourselves to be! He was your boyfriend. I wanted to talk to you about it so I took photos of the evidences. That night in July, you said you wanted to talk because you were the saddest person. You cried because you saw the pictures I took. You said you didn’t know if you wanted to cut or fix whatever we have. I said I was determined to fix and accept it. And then you kissed me. You even told me to return that kiss. What was I supposed to feel?
But I eventually snapped out of it eight months later when I made you leave the house.
“You don’t even clean your house! Just because you say so doesn’t mean we’re doing that. We pay for some spaces here. You have no right to do this,” you reasoned.
“You have to understand that I lived here on my own for more than a year and I didn’t have to call you to clean my house. How much are you paying here? May utang ka pa sakin diba? Let’s look at whose name is signed on that contract and then we can talk about rights.”
My apology a few minutes later did not stop both of you from leaving. There was a time when I could not help but offer you to move back in. “Right now, you need a place to stay. I believe this can be fixed eventually and this will be awkward, but awkwardness should have no place right now. You both need a place to stay… I can even go as far as forgiving him for what happened.” But you declined.
I felt bad when you invited speculation by telling others a version of the story. Some were true, but some were twisted. I only had three questions to ask – Why didn’t you talk to just your close friends? What was your intention? What did you need from them?
One day, I asked you to return the money you borrowed from me because I’m leaving. I documented the conversation the next day thru a letter and had you sign it. I was shocked to find out a few months later that you said I forced to make you pay because I was leaving the country. Truth be told, I recorded that 11-minute conversation, and never did I say that. I do not understand what good profusely lying does to you, but I understand the letter was a hard blow; however one letter is nothing compared to deceit from the very start.
I just hoped you saw me through a lot of things. When this happened, I chose to pay for your meal and to let someone else say they’re paying for you when you didn’t have money, to hand 500 pesos to someone to give you when you had nothing, and to tell people you were one of the best to approach at work. And you returned these by thinking ill of me?
I am a Mindanawon in Manila in search of a job, but found love and lost it. There are people who think we are violent because of how media presented Mindanao, and there are some who are as vicious as the portrayal by taking advantage of our naivety. We mean well, even to those who never belonged to us.
“I will be alright,” I thought. Time flies. It heals all wounds. All of us want more time – to recover, to grow up, and eventually, to let go.
Sergei Reyes is from General Santos City currently based in Manila.
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