The end of my relationship with Ace definitely cost me a lot of things, but I never expected that I would also lose the people I consider as my closest friends. It only added insult to the already grim injury that I tried to endure for a long time.
Ace is inarguably a great guy, not just as a lover, but also as a friend. He is very friendly and he knows how to hold decent and interesting conversations. I am glad that in the course of our relationship, Lanie, Rey, and Theo have easily come to love him, treating him like an older brother. Without much effort, the three of them became pretty fond of him sooner than I predicted. So when I decided to break his heart, theirs were broken as well. They even tried to help us repair the damage I had done, but their efforts were in vain. They just made themselves constantly available to him as per my request. Consequently, I believe that they had been an immense help to Ace. If not for them, it would've taken him a hell of a lot worse to deal with the break up.
Well, I actually didn't mind it. At first.
I was grateful that they continued to offer support to Ace, but when news reached me that they were also trying to assist Ace when he decided to start dating again, I began to see the disadvantages of the situation. Spending more time with Ace than they do with me is one thing, but insisting to meet his dating choices too (as well as almost befriending them) is another. I felt betrayed. I considered their actions foul. To me, I was their friend first; they only became friends with Ace through me, so technically, they are mine originally. I needed them to know that I'm uncomfortable with it. They had to be stopped.
I tried to talk to Ace first, but it ended up badly (as I recounted in an earlier story), so I approached Rey a few days later instead, giving him a piece of my mind.
"Tol, please naman. 'Wag naman kayong ganon," I told Rey over the phone.
"Bakit ka ba ganyan, Sep? Bakit hindi namin pwedeng gawin 'yun? Ayan ka na naman sa pagiging possessive mo. Pati kami inaangkin mo. Naging malapit na kaibigan na rin namin si Ace, at gusto namin siyang maging masaya. Gusto lang namin kilatisin yung mga ka-date niya, para hindi na siya masaktan ulit gaya nung ginawa mo," he explained.
"Ouch... Ok, given na 'yun, sige. Pinipilit ko namang intindihin eh. Hindi ko kayo pag-aari para ipagdamot, oo, pero sana naman isipin niyo rin yung nararamdaman ko ngayon. Walang problema kung maging kaibigan niyo pa rin si Ace, pero sana naman 'wag niyo nang kaibiganin pati yung bago niyang boyfriend. Respeto naman sa'kin, tol. Please lang," I begged.
"Alam mo Sep, ang labo mo talaga. Iniwan mo na siya di ba? Bakit ka pa rin masyadong affected?" he taunted.
That caught me by surprise. Arguing with Rey can be very difficult; his stubbornness often stresses me out. I stumbled for a reply, trying to avoid his loaded questions, "Rey, please listen to me. Hear me out, tol. Alam mo kung sakaling iwan mo man si Theo—knock on wood—sa'yo pa rin ako kakampi, ikaw ang iko-comfort ko, unless sabihin mo din sa akin na i-comfort ko rin siya. Bakit? Kasi nakilala ko lang naman si Theo thru you eh. Ikaw talaga ang kaibigan ko, kaya sa'yo ako kakampi kahit ikaw pa ang may kasalanan ng break up niyo. Nage-gets mo ba? Kung sakaling mag-break kayo ni Theo, hindi ko gagawin sa'yo yung ginagawa niyo sa akin ngayon..."
Rey became quiet for several seconds. I took it as a sign that he's beginning to grasp what I was saying.
"So ano, tol?" I probed.
"Geosef, can we just drop this? You just have to deal with it, tol. Ito ang epekto ng ginawa mo, so please be brave enough and accept it. Akala ko ba nag-usap na kayo ni Ace tungkol dito? Akala ko naintindihan mo na? Be consistent, Sepsep. Kung affected ka pa rin, eh di balikan mo si Ace. Para wala nang ganitong issue," he said, irritated.
"Tol, alam mo namang nakapagdesisyon na ako, 'di ba?" I reminded him.
"Then move on as well! Ace is doing his best to move on, and you're hindering him by trying to control us. Wala na kong maririnig about this again, okay?" Rey snapped.
The point I'm trying to make had been thwarted. Again. It was extremely frustrating, having this lone voice. And I'm just wasting it by crying out in the wilderness, to no avail. Starting then, however, I kept myself mum about it, pushing the matter no further. I love these three, and I am prepared to endure the suffering in silence. I never brought it up again.
But my patience also has its limits.
The five of us had this scheduled trip to Guimaras in June. All were already set since late last year: the plane tickets, the tour, the accommodation, and the itinerary. Unfortunately, a week before our flight, Ace had been given an emergency assignment by his company. He had to fly to California and stay there for 2 weeks due to an important conference. There was nothing he could do to avoid it, so it was just me, Lanie, Rey, and Theo who continued with the trip.
Things were okay at first. We explored the recommended sights, made frequent swims in their white-sand beach, did island hopping, enjoyed the mangoes, and maximized our relaxation to the fullest. We exchanged stories, jokes, and insults, like what we usually do. I expected that it would stay like that until we go home, but things suddenly turned sour, much to my confusion. I began to notice that they get irritated at me easily even though I'm barely doing anything. They talk to me less and less. They get quiet every time I enter the room. They immediately snap at me whenever I try to open my mouth. I only receive sarcasm whenever I voice out my opinion regarding with whatever they're talking about. There were several times when they seem revolted upon seeing me. Theo was the first one to turn hostile, followed by Lanie, and then Rey. I was burning to ask them, but I feared they will only say something hurtful. I sincerely wished for Ace to be there with us, since he could protect me from all the hostility they were throwing at me, but alas he was miles away. I had absolutely no idea about what was going on, but I remained quiet. That persisted until we returned home.
I went home in pain. That dreadful trip left me confused and wondering, Why did they treat me like that? Did I do anything wrong? If yes, why didn't they just tell it to me? It made me realize that they don't actually respect me, they insult whenever they can, and they ignore the things I say. They made me feel like some trash: disgusting, dispensable, and worthless. For the first time in many years, I felt alone. Friendless. Abandoned.
I decided that I have to do one thing: as much as I regret it, I must now burn our bridges. The connection must be completely severed. I had to do it to shield myself from further pain, from enduring more suffering from all of them.
I started with Facebook. I unfriended the three of them, no longer wanting to receive any updates about their lives. I untagged all of my tagged pictures from them, and I deleted photos as well as entire albums featuring them. I did the same with the photo gallery in my phone, also erasing their numbers in my contacts. I wanted to forget every memory I have of each of them. I wanted to remove every trace that could make me remember that I had them in my life. I was in anguish while doing all of it. Losing a lover can break you into two, but losing a true friend is worse: it can shatter you into unmanageable pieces. But I did my best to convince myself that I ended what must be finished. It was the death of something I regret losing, but I must begin to accept the fate of our friendship. It's quite funny
that a friendship of 12 years could go down the drain as easy as that. I forced myself to believe that I don't need them
anymore, that I can survive without friends, and that the only path now is forward, alone.
However, it was really not a very easy thing to accomplish.
Several days passed by without hearing anything from them. The reason was quick to appear in front of me, in bold letters: they simply don't care, Geosef. It inflicted me more pain than I refuse to admit. They did blocked me on Facebook as a form of retaliation, but a single word from them, I heard nothing. More questions burned in my mind, but I knew that they'll just go unanswered. Not until one day, when I received a call. It was from Ace.
"Sep, what is happening?" he started. I heard a hint of worry in his voice.
"Huh? What do you mean?" I asked.
"Naiintindihan ko kung bakit mo ko in-unfriend sa Facebook, and that's okay, pero bakit naman pati yung tatlo? What's the problem this time?"
"Ayaw ko na, Ace. Gusto ko ng manahimik. Sa iyo na silang tatlo."
"Is this about the 'who's the friend of who' thing again? Sepsep naman, akala ko napag-usapan na natin 'yan? 'Wag mo naman silang ganyanin, mga matagal mo nang kaibigan ang mga 'yan."
"I didn't. They decided it for themselves. They chose your side, so I'm setting them free."
"C'mon, Sep. You know that's not true."
"Wala ka kasi nung Guimaras, Ace. Kung nakita mo lang kung paano nila ako trinato, kung paano nila ako kausapin, tignan..." I said, recounting to him the rest of what happened in that trip, including the conversation I had with Rey several days after my birthday celebration in his house.
He was silent for a moment, contemplating my story.
"You got it all wrong..." he said.
"Bakit ako lang? Ako na naman? Lahat na lang kasalanan ko. Palagi naman eh," I protested, slightly annoyed.
"No, I mean kayong apat. You guys got it all wrong. This is all just a big misunderstanding."
"How come? Ang linaw-linaw kaya. Ayaw na nila sa akin."
"Makinig ka muna, okay? I will explain."
I decided not to answer, so Ace continued, "Alam mo bang ikinuwento ni Rey kay Theo yung napag-usapan niyo? Yung tungkol doon sa sinabi mo na kapag naghiwalay sila, kay Rey ka kakampi. Alam mo bang nagtampo si Theo dahil doon?"
"Bakit naman niya kailangang magtampo? Totoo naman yung sinabi ko ah. Hindi ba ganoon naman talaga dapat? Si Rey ang original kong kaibigan. Naging kaibigan ko si Theo dahil boyfriend siya ni Rey, so malamang kapag naghiwalay sila, mapuputol na ang friendship ko kay Theo, unless na manatili silang maging magkaibigan na lang after ng break up. Matalino si Theo, expect ko na maiintindihan niya 'yun," I said.
"Naririnig mo ba ang sarili mo, Sepsep? Ganyan talaga ang takbo ng isip mo?"
"I don't see kung ano man ang mali sa mga sinabi ko. Atsaka hypothetical lang 'yun, Ace. Sinabi ko kaya specificially na 'if ever lang naman na maghiwalaya sila'. Di ba nila gets? If ever lang naman. Alam ko namang malayong mangyari na mag-split sila."
"Nasaktan sila sa sinabi mo, Sep. Iniisip ni Theo eh hindi talaga kaibigan ang tingin mo sa kanya. Matapos ang lahat ng concern at advices na binigay niya sa'yo, itinuring ka na rin niyang best friend, pero hanggang 'boyfriend ng best friend mo' lang pala ang tingin mo sa kanya. Ang inisip niya, napipilitan ka lang naman pala na pakisamahan siya all this time."
"What? 'Yun ang nakuha niya sa mga sinabi ko? Pero hindi 'yun ang ibig kong sabihin, Ace!"
"Kaya nga sabi ko ay isang malaking misunderstanding ang nangyari di ba? Pero aminin mo Sep, tama yung mga sinabi ni Theo. Nung narinig ko 'yun, ganun din ang unang inisip ko eh. Ikaw lang ang hindi nakapansin doon sa bad points ng pananaw mo."
"Eh bakit pati sila Rey and Lanie galit sa akin?"
"Duh. Disappointed si Rey when he heard that from you. Napagtanto niya na kapag naghiwalay sila, imbes na subukan mong tulungan sila na magkaayos, kakampi ka lang sa kanya para mag-comfort. Ni hindi mo man lang susubukang gawin sa kanila 'yung mga ginawa nilang effort noon para magkabalikan tayong dalawa. Feel niya wala kang kahit anong affection kay Theo. Boyfriend kaya niya 'yun. He expects na you will care about Theo too dahil mahal niya 'yun, even as much as loving him as well. Kasi sa totoo lang, ganoon din naman siya sa akin. Si Lanie naman, ewan ko lang. Baka nahawa na lang sa negative thoughts nila..." Ace explained. "So ano Sep, naintindihan mo na ba?"
It was all beginning to dawn on me. The blanks in the story had finally been filled with answers, answers which I had been waiting for so long. Ace was right, I was actually a jerk for everything I have said. Guilt and shame suddenly swirled within me, overtaking my defensive thoughts. Without me knowing, I was actually the first one to cast the stone; they just threw it back after they got hit.
"Yes, I do now. Pero Ace, it's not right that they ganged up on me. It would have been better if kinausap na lang
sana nila ako."
"Pinilit nilang maging okay nung nasa Guimaras kayo. Pero hindi talaga maitago ni Theo yung sama ng loob niya sa'yo. Pati si Lanie, hindi rin napigilan ang inis. Sinubukan actually ni Rey na i-pacify sila, kaso pati siya nahawa na rin eventually," he recalled. "Tapos, 'yun nga, you made it worse with what you did on Facebook.
They were really pissed off, Sepsep. Rey won't admit it, pero he's
really hurt. Kilala mo naman 'yun, kunwari hindi affected pero kapag
nabanggit ang name mo ay biglang nagiging masungit. Si Lanie tahimik
lang, pero alam kong nasaktan din siya. Sabi niya gusto ka lang naman
daw nila matuto at magbago, kaya naging ganoon ang parusa nila sa'yo.
They are just concerned about you, kahit na inis rin sila sa'yo."
What he said saddened me so much. My eyes began to moist and my voice was starting to get croaky.
"Sep, I think kailangan niyo lang talaga mag-usap. Parehas kayong may fault sa nangyari," Ace suggested.
"Hindi na kailangan 'yun, Ace. Ayaw ko na talaga," I declared.
"Why? Antagal mo na silang kaibigan, Sep. More than a decade na. Please don't just throw it all away. They only care about you."
"Alam mo Ace, tulad ko, hindi rin naman sila perpekto eh. Meron din silang mga ugali na hindi ko gusto, pero kahit kailan, sa tinagal-tagal na kaibigan ko sila, I never punished them for their flaws. Hindi ba dapat ang tunay na kaibigan ay tanggapin ka ng buo? Bakit nila ako kailangang baguhin sa pamamagitan ng mga parusa? Tanggap ko ang mga kakulangan nila, and I love them for what they are, as a whole. So bakit nila ginagawa sa akin 'yun? Palagi na lang ganyan , noon pa, pero ngayon lang ako nagsalita."
Ace fell silent. He knew I was right.
"If they won't accept me, and instead, continue to change me for what they think is ideal to them, then I think our friendship should no longer continue. I see no reason to prolong it. What's done is done, including the damages," I said.
"Well, I hope you'll still change your mind, Sep. Maybe you just need some time off from each other. I believe na maayos niyo pa rin yan, lalo na kapag na-miss niyo ang isa't-isa. Kailangan niyo lang talaga mag-usap," he said, sounding hopeful.
"I dunno. Basta, I already made my decision. Thanks for the call, Ace. I appreciate it," I said, ending the conversation.
I was deep in thought after that call. It's astonishing that a simple misunderstanding could destroy 12 years worth of
friendship. I am not sure who is really at fault, but I
won't deny if I share a big part of it. Well, when hurtful words were already said and bridges were done being burnt, as if pointing fingers still matter anyway.