I Want a Boring Life
There were three text messages from M. The first one was, ‘how was the run?’. I texted back, ‘was great. a bit sore now. great sunrise’. Sure. I threw in a photo to go with the text, a sunrise, taken four months ago. I sort of prayed that she hadn’t seen that photo. I swung my legs off the bed, got up a bit too quickly than I would have wanted and the room spun.
The second message had a photo of a bowl of oatmeal with the missive, ‘recover with a good breakfast.’ Milk. Congealed oats. I felt like gagging. Grease. I needed grease. I tottered over to the small kitchen and opened a refrigerator that predictably had what I really needed; eggs, a slab of bacon, Purefoods frankfurters. I heated a pan and dumped everything in. There was some leftover rice in the rice-cooker from God knows when (I sniffed it, it smelled fine). Meats done, I took out a bit of Pampanga taba-ng-talanka, garlic bits and made fried rice.
Wolfing everything down, I started to feel a bit better and slightly sleepy. I thought that a long nap was due and then maybe catching up with a few episodes of ‘House of Cards’ when I woke up at around 6pm. I actually was about to smile at the thought of a nice, quiet and relaxing afternoon (by myself!) when I realised that I hadn’t read the third message.
I knew instinctively that it wasn’t good news. ‘See you at 2 @ the planners, you will love the flowers.’
I actually rolled my eyes and groaned at the same time and felt it, a stab of guilt so strong, I was worried the feeling of nausea would come over me again, pushing my lunch up.
What was wrong with me?? I loved M absolutely and unequivocally. I had no doubts about that- none at all. In a life peppered with quite a few of them, with M, there was only clarity and understanding. Here was someone who actually meshed with me where it mattered most. She understood my fears and never mocked them. She knew my faults and not only accepted them, but pitched in to help me out when I got myself caught in a corner. She didn’t judge me and neither did I. We had great sex- heck, amazing sex on top of everything.
In a generation obsessed with relationship concepts that at best were hypothetical, we actually put the work into our relationship. And everything was going fine until for some reason, we thought of marriage and tellingly, we actually came upon the idea together outside of a bar in Bonifacio City, on a night we thought we had it good and that maybe the next step was formalizing what we had.
‘I’m sick of this actually’ M says as we pushed our way through the crowd and out the club into the cold dawn air.’ Why we even bothered to come for someone we barely knew…’ M didn’t even finish the sentence knowing fully well that it was at her insistence that we came, that she wanted to see what the fuss was about with the club and that she wanted to wear this Herve Leger dress she wanted to show off while she was at the weight she worked hard to get.
I hated her work-friends and I would have wanted a more casual, laid-back drinking crowd over a hyped-up bar. I could have rebuked her as I would normally do when we were on the cusp of her admitting that she f_cked up. But she looked so distressed and so beautiful that I felt a tug in my throat. I simply held her face in my hands and kissed her forehead, ‘we don’t need to do these things anymore you know..we can move on from this..’I said, my voice trembling.
And we looked at each other, smiled at the same time and knew what the moment was saying to us. Or did we?
I don’t exactly remember now what we talked about afterwards. Did I even say will you marry me?? Did I drop down on one knee in a moment of drunken epiphany and offered a make-believe ring? Did she even say yes? But I do remember the morning of it, at the McDonalds down her apartment where we laid down the basics in a haze of half-sleeplessness and adrenaline; the date, the venue, the budget.
Then she called her parents who lived in Boston. It was 8pm there when she rang and they were having dinner. On the speaker phone, the chorus of happy, surprised congratulatory voices seemed strangely un-parental, like she was just talking with friends her own age. There was only uncomplicated joy and the promise of getting together soon. We love you D! See you soon D! they holler out to me and I could only marvel at these strangers whom I only heard and read about on Facebook. Soon, I would be meeting these strangers under closer scrutiny, away from the cozy shield of Facebook’s pseudo-familiarity.
‘Now it’s your turn’ she tells me and I sort of blink, half-dazed. ‘Aren’t you going to call your parents to tell them the good news?’ Call it job experience (I’m in advertising) or survival (M would’ve killed me if she knew) but I wasn’t about to get caught out. There was no backing out now. I pretended to call my parents and I must admit that while I’ve made some pretty convincing lies in the past, I’ve never, ever seriously lied to M. But she was too caught up in the moment to notice that I was just going through the motions and that once someone picked up on the other end (I did call my parent’s landline), I hung up and told her that no one was home.
And that’s how it started- the ‘lies’ that weren’t exactly lies.
It wasn’t that my parents would have been horrified but that they were vastly different from M’s self-assured, social-media savvy, touchy-feely parents. They would’ve been embarrassed to have been put on speaker-phone nor would they the type who would holler effusive endearments to a person they weren’t even close to (they have met M a couple of times). I did tell them eventually about two weeks later and it was a quiet, no-nonsense talk that involved frank common-sense. They only asked me two questions: did I love M and how much money did I want them to contribute for the wedding?
When M asked me about it, the ‘lies’ somehow were necessary in the sense that I’ve never seen her so happy. And it wasn’t the happiness that she normally exhibited with a new dress, a fancy dinner or the surprise overseas trips we normally have. It was happiness from the belief that what we were embarking on was momentous. That it was truly special. That it was meant to be.
‘She cried a bit- with happiness’ (my mother never even cries watching dramatic movies) I tell her, describing how I broke the news to my parents. ‘And my dad thinks that its great what your dad does for immigration’ (in truth, my dad felt that Filipinos with Ivy League educations never really cared for fellow Filipinos who weren’t in the same social league as them). But I strongly felt that M didn’t need to know these things. What was important was that she believed we were going to be better after this- that marriage was going to make us better people. And that I was going to do whatever it took- all these ‘lies’ included- to make this happen.
My belief was that all I needed to do was to catch up with her. This was natural, I told myself, to doubt, to ‘lie’. After all, my heart was in the right place. I truly loved her. All I needed to do was try harder, to believe it a bit more. And maybe it will happen, like waking up one morning to discover that all the lying was nothing but an unpleasant dream.
But it hasn’t and it was becoming more and more apparent that it was splitting me into two- the person I truly was and the person I thought she wanted me to be.
(This is where it ends).