Was it all just a dream?
I stared at the row of cars in front of me as I blew hazy white rings into the night sky during my lunch hour. My mind was in a blank state. I didn’t want my traitorous thoughts to fall prey to the foolishness of my heart. Just for an hour.
But it seems a futile task because my thoughts force me to face the bitter reality that there is no chance in hell that we could evolve into something more than what we are now – friends. I felt the sting of tears as I chastised myself on my utter stupidity. I fell hard. I didn’t leave anything for myself. I didn’t even bother looking back to see if my shadow could catch up with me. I was arrested and now I’m trapped.
He was leaving for home the next morning. He said he couldn’t take the job anymore. We were call center agents a.k.a. phone monkeys so I understood him perfectly. Everything sucked except the money. I wanted to stop him from quitting but I didn’t say a single word. I didn’t have the right. Like Fiona Apple said, he just used my skin to bury secrets in. I was stupid to think that because he shared his dreams with me, he would someday give me his love.
The sudden tap on my shoulder brought me swiftly to reality. I rapidly blinked away the tears. At the corner of my eye, I saw him hunkering down beside me on the pavement.
“Hey,” I turned to look at him as he lit his cigarette. I don’t know how he does it but with him it’s an art form, “What’s up?”
I went back to staring at the row of cars and replied quietly, “Nothing”.
“You on break?”
“Nope I’m on lunch”. I took a puff of my cigarette and leaned my head on my knees. I was so tired. I knew he was going to talk about her again. Always her. The unattainable. His elusive butterfly. Lana.
“What’s wrong?” I heard the concern in his voice. He touched my shoulder and I felt each fingertip as if they burned imprints. I didn’t want to remember his touch. Good God grant me the bliss of amnesia.
“Nothing’s wrong. I just have a slight headache that’s all. Don’t worry about it.” The lie sounded lame even to my ears.
“Not worry? You’ve used that excuse for the past few days. Weeks even. C’mon I’m not dumb. What’s going on?”
But inside me, my mind was bursting.
If I told him how I really feel, he’d scram for the nearest exit. He would at first claim that he was different and promise that nothing would change but he’d still scram anyway. Slowly. Too slow for me to notice. Otherwise if I don’t tell him, I would again add the experience to my growing list of things I should have done but was too afraid to do. I don’t want to be a coward this time.
I breathed in a lungful of air and gathered my wits. “Do you think love is a choice or by chance?” His intense brown eyes peered at me. He didn’t respond for a long moment.
“It’s by chance. If you fall in love, you don’t exactly have a choice do you?” He had that far-away look in his eyes again. He was thinking about Lana. I had to look away.
“For me it’s a bit of both. A chance meeting with someone is still a choice. For example you met that person in the street; both of you chose to take the same route and when you bumped into each other, it became a chance encounter. You don’t fall in love by chance. It’s still up to you if you really want to love this person, murder charges and all or not. Our minds like to play tricks on us that’s why we think we couldn’t help falling in love. Contrary to what books and movies had us believe, love is a decision and not just a mere feeling.”
“I’m not going to argue with you on that. At some level, I agree with you. But what brought on this sudden insight?”
“It’s not sudden. I said that almost a year ago when a friend asked me the same question. I realized I wasn’t completely right. You can’t decide not to fall in love.”
“Is it so bad to let go and give in?”
I stared at him. I saw why falling for him was inevitable. He had a mystery about him, but it was always right there in front of me. I couldn’t probe deeper and I’m not sure I want to anymore. It was only with him that I learned of my capacity to give. It scares the hell out of me that I don’t think it’s enough. Talk about martyrdom. I know him well enough to know that he will never understand why he shocked me still.
“To fall in love is to create a religion with a fallible god. I don’t remember who spoke these words. It doesn’t really matter. What matters is that it is true. I did fall in love. But you are not fallible yet.” I saw the myriad of emotions that played on his face. Shock. Disbelief. Skepticism. Uncertainty. Amusement. He was too transparent. He wanted to laugh but one look at my grave face stopped him.
“But why?” The agitation in his voice was unmistakable. So was the pity in his eyes. I turned away and forced myself to go on.
“If I answer that then it would mean I quantified my feelings for you. I can’t explain it. It just happened. I couldn’t stop it.”
“I had no idea. If I knew, I wouldn’t have…that wouldn’t have happened.” Images and words flashed in my mind’s eye. Kisses. Embraces. Torrid hot nights. Illusions of love. I was in torment because I felt neither guilt nor regret and he felt both.
“I gave myself to you because I love you.” I whispered. I didn’t realize I was crying until I felt a strong arm pull me close and a hand wiping my tears away.
“I’m sorry,” he said after a few minutes of strained silence.
“Sorry for what? That you don’t love me? You don’t have to apologize for something that you don’t feel. I wish I could say it doesn’t hurt that you love her. But I can’t pretend anymore.” My breath clogged my throat. Swallowing my pride took more effort than running five miles.
He tipped my chin up and looked into my eyes, his face a tortured mask. “You’re special to me. You’re a very good friend. I love you as a friend. You’re one of the greatest people I’ve ever met! Nothing can take that away. But I’m sorry. I’m still in love with her.”
I felt each word stab inside me like a knife. Special. Love. Friend. Sorry. I closed my eyes in the hope that I would not feel the agony. Pain. It was already inside me.
“It’s okay. I understand. Like I said, you don’t have to apologize for something that you don’t feel and…for something that you do.” I looked down and saw my phone, seeing that my hour was almost up. My tears blinded me. It blew my mind that I relayed the devastating news to him in less than 30 minutes.
“I’ll try to get over you. For my sake. Don’t worry about me. Reach for the stars,” I said softly and got up.
I trudged my way inside the air-conditioned building. I looked behind me before I got in. His head was in between his hands. I felt bad for causing him distress. But I had to tell him. I knew I wasn’t going to see him again.
In the road of life, you may encounter a huge boulder that you think you can’t get past at. You hem and haw as to how you can solve the problem. If you succeed in rolling it away, you’ll have to deal with it again because it’s still on the road. If you break it down, the debris might kill you. So you cry and sit on top of the boulder, thinking of how you can destroy it and then forget you ever chanced upon it. But you can’t. The rocks in your life are there to remind you that nothing is perfect and you are only human. A journey isn’t a journey without conflicts along the way. All you can do is brush away the dirt and continue walking. Let go and move on.
Let go and move on.
I have to say that line a thousand times more for me to believe that I have the power to let him go.
Credits from Cerulean of Peyups