Sunday, 23 February 2014

Postcript to a London Love Story

Why would anyone start a love affair that´s doomed to fail? Because of love, hormones, and yes stupidity.  But mostly, because of faith.  Hope. That maybe, just maybe the  kind of love we had was the type that could conquer all else.


I.
Dear F, 

Today, I woke up to somber skies, freezing air and a promise of rain. And I thought, this is so like London in winter. And my mind swooped into images of us on cold weekend mornings:  Us lazily eating  breakfast.  You washing the dishes.  Us cuddling at the couch watching  CSI marathons.

It´s been seven years.  I am certain you have moved on.  On most days, I too think I have  gone past that time.  Except on days like this.  Waking up alone, with the air smelling  slightly of  grease,  of something familiar.  My thoughts carelessly flitting through scenes from someplace similar,  from not so long ago.

It is irritating even for me to find myself  still melancholic about us.  Even if it seldom happens now. Truth: I don´t feel this way every day.  In fact, I seldom have time for this feeling of  desolation.  I have learned to fill my days with work, with business, with family,  with friends with my own self reliance.  No, I don’t get  affected seeing couples laughing hand in hand while I walk alone.  I  don´t even feel a twitch when I hear Mariah singing  “You´ll Always Be My Baby”.


So let´s pick up the pen and kick some ass.  Write down who you were, who you are, and what you remember.
__ Natalie Goldberg

The crazy truth is I wanted to write about London this weekend.  I thought, it´s been years, I could do it.  I wanted to be brave.  To use the memories and  create something more palpable than a sad sigh of remembrance.  I told myself, after all these years, it´s about time to write about London.  So today I  reread your mails and I  thumbed through my  past blog entries about us so I can anchor the piece I was about to write.   But then it came, a heaviness in the chest.  The need for air.   So I opened the windows and let the freezing wind in to comfort me.   I was on the verge of running away and escaping this blank  screen. But where would I go, where can I run to at 9 AM on a  cold Sunday morning in Madrid?


 II.
Our doomed love story took all of six months to run its course.  Six months. It´s so short  compared to the rest of our experiences.  And yet it was the one thing that changed my life’s path.  If not for London I would most probably be a mom now, married and living the life  I had planned for myself before coming to London.  Before London, I was the girl who seemed to have it all — a good education and a career,  a sunny personality,  and a loyal boyfriend with long range plans.  A life was laid out for me:  marriage in three years’ time, migration to another country, and quitting work (goodbye engineering!) in favor of my own hours and family time.  But the gods, they saw you and decided to play a bet,  let´s throw him her way!  You were  the curveball who skewed the balance of my dreams.


Our  common friends, when it was over, when we have gone back to the Philippines,  they learned about us eventually.  They knew the facts:  These two, who were both committed to other people, these two did something unimaginable in London, they became an item. She (me) broke up with her bf, but He (you) chose to stick with his gf.  That´s the story they knew.  And for the most part, that was it, but that wasn´t  all of it.

They didn´t know how hard we tried to  do the right thing.   But we lived in the same flat.  Even with separate bedrooms and  separate toilets we had to interact. I know I should have protested when the company laid out their plan of putting us in the same flat.  But I was naïve, headstrong and full of belief that it was a non-issue.  I loved the BF.  My life was planned.  And  having lived in Malaysia  before with a male flatmate,  I thought I knew how to draw the line and I was confident I could handle our living situation smoothly.

But you were different.   Let´s be clear,  it was not the body warmth that drew me in.  It was how I could talk to you about books, about literature about the  movies I like, about my pseudo-bourgeois pettiness and you´d get it.  You understood my wanderlust, because you were like me too, itchy feet and all.  Above all, you understood and appreciated my love for literature, for writing.  I suppose it was what I was looking for all along.  Someone to whom I could share that part of me.

Our friends, even the bad one who who turned on us after we´ve ended it, the one who oh so smugly spread the news to people who had no inkling about us, these people merely knew the facts.  They knew the gist but not the curve of the story, not the crests nor the abyss of our doomed love affair.

What they will never have and what I wish I could forget too  is a lifetime of  memories.

Of mornings, of us cooking together a breakfast of poached eggs, bacon and rice.   Or that  particular morning when you  woke up early and surprised me with a breakfast in bed.


How on week nights after dinner we´d go for walks around the block, and you´d do those stupid hopping  rabbit moves and convince me to do the same.  And we´d be the crazy couple alternately hopping and laughing with not a care in the world.  Then you´d take my hand, and I in return would take yours  in my heaviest grip and crush it with all my might. And you´d laugh and remark, “ Yan na yun? Di naman masakit  hahaha.”  We´d walk home holding hands, breathing out the day´s stress before going to bed.

Remember one time on one of our  Saturday morning walks to the park, when a middle aged Londoner stopped us and said, “Do me a favor will you? Why don´t you two get married and stay happy?”  And it stopped us a bit, wondering what he saw,  how he knew that despite the complications of what we had,  we were happy at that exact moment.   How at the back of our minds we also knew that all too soon we would have to end this.

What I learned from being with you was this.  It wasn´t the flashy things that struck a cord.  It was  the most common of tasks.  How you´d automatically  massage my hair as we sit at the couch after dinner,  watching the telly.  How fun it was to cook together, choosing recipes to experiment on.  How we mastered the art of cooking Pad Thai in London.  We didn´t do anything grand at all.  We watched movies, went to the free museums in Central London, watched musicals but nothing extravagant and heart stopping.  It was what made it all the more  heartbreaking for me, how even the most banal of things --- doing grocery shopping together,  our  weekend visits to the park, even cleaning the flat, how they turned into something meaningful,  more fun.

I remember your laughter, tinkling, like a man-child.  I remember you telling me to stop dieting, that I am fine as I was.  And as the end neared, after we got notice from the company that they have failed to get the new project they were expecting,  and that in less than eight weeks´  we shall be demobilized back to Asia,  how everything turned more intense.  By then,  you have told me that you loved me.  And I had to say what I thought was right, I said we had to go back to our partners.  At that time, I was unwilling to be honest even to myself  how much I  loved you .  Will it have made a difference if I were more forthcoming with my need for you?  Perhaps not.  We were dealt a hand of separate paths.  You were deadset on going to Oz and I thought I could still go back to my life in Korea with the BF.  That our original pact was still on.  That what happened in London was  something fleeting, temporary, something we could keep  just between  the two of us.

But emotions are silent knives.  They cut deep and kill all rationality.   Let´s be honest now.  We both didn´t expect that what we shared was so hard to let go of.  I found  a love that was so unlike any other thing in my life.   And I wanted nothing less than that.


This was my entry as I was on my final layover in  Singapore on my flight home to the Philippines:

I love you though it has no weight
in the map of our journeys home.

We are the absence we choose
to keep things whole.


I thought so stupidly that I could, that we could switch off London all too easily.  But then a few days later, you too arrived in the Philippines and I went crazy knowing you were with her (the GF) and still, you were calling me, as if nothing has changed.  It was then that the grief came:  all that we have left behind in London, and our inability to choose each other above them.


I  admit,  I cried while re-reading your last letter today.  Seven years have passed and it still hurts.  This was the finale, and after getting this letter, there was nothing more for me to do but let go.

J,
For the record, I do love you.

I'm sorry that I cannot act on it like you want me to. I wanted to but I'd like to do the right thing this time. I've not been really good to her despite her trust, kindness, loyalty and her love - eversince I moved in to our flat.  She did not do anything wrong. A guilty conscience is thus my excuse...

I told her about you. I had to kasi nag-iba ako, e. Di ko na kayang itago sa kanya. We're not really in good terms right now. I'm not telling you this to get your hopes up. We are working things out and hopefully it will work out fine. She still wants me despite everything. She's hurt though. I'm not so sure what will happen...

When I said I can't move on, I was telling you the truth. I love you and was still unwilling to let you go... Nga lang, isa lang dapat. I won't also be happy kung dalawa kayo. I'll be living a lie and I know you don't deserve to be simply second. I chose her cause like I said I want to do the right thing. Besides, I was also thinking na baka nagugustuhan mo lang ako dahil malayo si BF. What if magkita na kayo? San ako lalagay? It will also be unfair for you to break up with him... At kung maging tayo man, hindi kita masusundan sa K. I tried twice already and was turned down twice. It will also be another LDR for you and your ex is with you in K - that will not give me peace of mind...

I did cry my heart out when I woke up the morning after you left London. I knew that it will be the start of the end. My last days in London were all about my loss. S, our friend, can tell. It was simply the wrong time.

You want closure, I am giving you that. You deserve a better love than what I can offer. Let's stop all communications for now. But please remember that in London, I fell for you. Those are happy moments in my life. 

I might regret this decision. Time will tell...


Epilogue

Seven years.  Seven years, so many things have changed. I told the BF the truth.  Like F, I could not hide the pain.  We broke up, then tried to patch things up, but in the end, my transgression was just too much.  It hurt, sure, but eventually we forgave each other and I am happy that he is married now, not to me, but to someone who makes him happy, who fits better with his dreams.    I suppose what London taught me was this,  I wanted more than  what the BF could offer, I wanted the happiness I felt with F doing small things, I wanted someone who understood my obsession with writing.

And so, if I were to be honest,  even if I was  only with F for six months, despite the ghosts of his GF and my BF all throughout those months, it was F that I loved.  It is him that I remember on the few times I allow myself to dawdle and look back.  He eventually got back with GF, and as far as I know, they are married now and living in Oz.  I wish him well, though a part of me will always long for what we had.  I remember during our last days together, how hard it was to watch the days go shorter, how he´d hug me tight and we´ll tell each other in earnest, trying to be brave,  trying to be adult about things, " At least, we will always have London."


Sometimes, I have to tell that to myself, alone, when I feel myself going through a path of sadness.  How I should be lucky, thankful, that even if it ended,  how we will always have London.

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