I could see Nate was doing his best not to cry. The memory must be too painful for him.
"I was three days into my trip when I received a call. I can
still remember it clearly; I was shopping for dried mangoes, for Brix
'cause that's his favorite, when my phone started ringing. The name of Brix's best friend, Ella, was flashing on the screen. When I answered it, the first thing I heard was her sobbing, which made me ask if there's anything wrong. 'Nate, where are you? Come home, please. Brix
is...' she mumbled. 'What? Why? What happened to him?!' I asked, worried. And then she said, in a cracked voice, the words I'm dreading,
'He's, he's gone... Your neighbor found him... Earlier this morning... Please Nate... Please come home...' " he recounted.
"Huh? But how?" I asked, confused.
"Self-inflicted gunshot wound to the head," he revealed.
I was taken aback; I was able to deduce Brix's problem, but I didn't expect his gruesome end.
"Yes," he said, "I was rooted on the spot, Sep, hyperventilating. I didn't know what to do. Or better yet, I felt like I was the one who died. I can't really recall much of what happened afterwards. All I remember is that my Mom brought me to a nearby clinic, telling me that I had some sort of a panic attack. Once I calmed down, I immediately booked a plane ticket. I flew back later that day and went straight to where they're holding Brix's wake."
"I'm sorry to hear that, Nate," I said.
"It was a closed casket, Sep... His parents didn't want him to be seen with an obvious wound on his forehead. They didn't let me look even though I told them I don't mind, so I just cried silently beside his coffin, my hands caressing its cold surface. I did my best to be subtle, but I noticed a handful of people staring at me. Their gazes were kind of like accusatory. Somehow, through their eyes, I could feel they're blaming me for what happened. I tried asking his family regarding the reason behind his death, but no one provided the answers I need. All of them were cold towards me, including his sister whom I was closest with. When they told me that I should surrender to them Brix's possessions that were left in our apartment, I had a hunch that that's why they even let me come. It was all too much for me, so I decided to go home," he said.
Tears were forming in his eyes now. It seemed like Nate seldom shares this story.
"I went straight to bed and just lay there, mourning for Brix. He promised me he'll be alright, but then with a gunshot, he left me behind. With just one bullet, he killed two lives: his and mine. I was so confused, Sep. I had a handful of questions running in my mind, such as 'Why did he kill himself?', 'Why did he abandon me so selfishly?', 'Where the hell did he get that gun?', and so on... I also asked myself several times what the fuck went wrong; how come we ended up that way? All night, I ignored the calls and texts of my family and friends. I wanted to be left alone in my despair. I stopped thinking and just cried my eyes out until they're sore," he lamented, "The next morning, I was crying again as I cleaned the bloodstains in our bathroom."
"My God, that's awful..." I said.
"All I wished that time was for everything to be only a very, very bad dream. It was so surreal, scrubbing his blood off from the walls and the floor... Never in my life did I imagine that I would need to do something like that. Until now, I'm not entirely sure where in the world did I get the courage," he continued
"I don't think I have the guts to do the same," I said, slightly amazed.
"Well, I hope you'd never have to," he said, smiling a little, "After that, I remembered the burning questions I had the previous night, so I decided to look for answers. I was hoping that maybe he left me a suicide note somewhere, at the least. I searched through his things: his wardrobe, his study table, his bag, his files... I opened every drawer, every pocket, every box, and every envelope I could find, but my search was unfruitful... Until I found the result of his recent medical test. I almost fainted when I saw what kind of test it is."
"He's HIV positive and his CD4 levels are already low; he's in the late stage," I finished for him.
He nodded and said, "Imagine my immense shock upon discovering that. Finally, I was able to connect the dots, but it also gave me more questions. How come Brix was HIV positive? Where did he get it? I never slept with someone else; I'm certain I remained faithful to him, so I know it didn't come from me. Did he acquire it before our relationship? Or did the bastard cheat on me? Am I infected as well? Looking at that piece of paper, I started to fear for myself, Sep. I was indeed frightened to the core."
"And that's why you can't be in a relationship..." I realized.
"Yes, especially with someone still young, like you," he confirmed.
I let out a long sigh.
"Okay... What did you do next?" I asked.
"Fortunately, it wasn't long before the additional questions were answered. You see, I never snooped into Brix's things, especially his gadgets. I had 100% trust in him, so I avoided being a nosy partner; it's not in my nature anyway. But when I saw his wallet, his laptop, and his mobile phone, I felt a tinge of suspicion. It was like my mind is bugging me to sift through them," he answered.
"And what did you find out?" I probed.
"His wallet contained several loyalty cards from various motels and spas. He also had 2 membership cards for a bathhouse and a well-known gym, which I learned later on are places teeming with cruising activities. In his laptop, I discovered that he still have an active G4M account, as well as a hidden folder containing numerous pictures and videos of naked men he had sex with—perhaps he kept them as a souvenir of his sinful encounters. Most of it were too much for me to see. His phone's inbox showed all these texts from different men. Some were thanking him for a good time, while others were asking him for a quickie or another tryst. I read in one message that he used to bring fubus in our apartment whenever I'm out-of-town. I didn't know what will I react to that, Sep. I couldn't bear the idea of him fucking another man in our own bed. The very same bed that I, his clueless and stupid partner, had also slept on for years. It was like pouring acid on an already open wound... I felt so betrayed that it led me to doubt the authenticity of everything we had, thinking our relationship was all but fake. Did he really love me? If yes, then how could he do that to me? What did I ever do to him to deserve all this shit?" he recalled.
"Questions that will never be answered..." I said.
"I'm not sure which was more painful, Sep: the love of my life abandoning me all of a sudden by committing suicide or him infecting me with an incurable disease by habitual cheating. With these in my mind, my overwhelming sorrow and anguish had turned into extreme anger and disgust. The bastard took the easy way out 'cause he's afraid of facing me and his problem, thus leaving me to deal with it on my own. In just one day, I lost two precious things: the man I deeply loved and my bright future. I badly wanted that coward back so that I could murder him myself. I wanted to storm into his wake, so that I could scream, curse, and spit at his face. I thought I would go insane from the misery, Sep. I was a mess, as well as the apartment. I tried to destroy everything I could get my hands on: our bed, his clothes, the tables, chairs, mirrors, lamps... I caused such a huge racket that I only ceased when my landlord threatened to call the police if I continue. He said that he won't leave until I call someone else to accompany me, so I asked my brother to come over. They all thought I'm close to taking my own life," he narrated.
Not being able to vent spite on someone who did you wrong and having no closure to things which matter greatly to you are just the most frustrating feelings one could ever have.
"How did you bounce back?" I wondered.
He shook his head and said, "It took me a long time to accomplish that, actually. Before that, I turned my rage towards the world. I boycotted the rest of Brix's wake, and I didn't show up at his burial. I became self-destructive. My life spiraled from wretched down further to pitiful."
To be continued...