I stared at Ace with such appreciation while he was busy in his kitchen. That night, for the advanced celebration of my birthday, he was preparing a few of my favorites. My stomach grumbled with anticipation as I smelled the aroma. To divert myself, I let my gaze wandered around his place, which, by the looks of it, was unusually tidy. I know how lazy he is when it comes to cleaning, so I can't help but be overwhelmed.
Sitting next to me were Rey and Theo. They were talking about something important with regards to their new printing business. I still couldn't believe that they had just celebrated their fourth anniversary. For people like us, I already consider that an amazing feat, something I doubt I can easily achieve. Therefore, I have much respect for them. I greatly admire their relationship, which had already enjoyed many highs and endured countless lows. Surely, they will face more, but I'm positive that they can outlast them, for their bond is already as strong as steel.
On another couch, perpendicular to the lovebirds, was another pair: Lanie and her new boyfriend, CJ. She's known for her bad choices when it comes to choosing a boyfriend—either she was too much for them or they were so undeserving of her—and my first impression of CJ was that he's far from being a perfect one. However, Lanie has been single for so long that, this time, I'm just trusting her decision. If she says it is pure, genuine love, then who am I to contradict? Besides, I could see that she is clearly happy. Whatever happens, fairy tale ending or not, I'll always be there for her.
Mary Jane, who was busy having another girly conversation with Lanie, caught my attention next. It has been more than 3 long years since I last saw her, when my relationship with Ace was still only a month old. I realized that she has not changed one bit; she's still bubbly, boyish, and juvenile—her qualities I really like. MJ is the only woman I have ever loved. I consider her as the only weakness to my homosexuality, similar to what Kryptonite is to Superman. Whenever I see her, I always feel a tinge of regret for being gay. Maybe the reason why I haven't seen her for a long time is because, unconsciously, I was doing my best to avoid her. That moment, as I continue to eye her, the feeling struck again, as well as a wishful thought. If only I'm straight, maybe MJ and I we're still together. Heck, maybe we're even engaged already, that she's already my fiancee... I stopped, shook my head, and just sighed at the idea.
My train of thought was broken when someone talked to me saying, "Alam mo nakita na kita dati."
It was Giro, Ace's new friend, gleefully sitting across from me. It was my first time meeting him, and I had this desire to make it the last as well. His features fit perfectly into Ace's preference: tall, lean, young, and innocent-looking; he's an average or a downgraded version of Atom Araullo. That night, whenever someone needed something, since Ace was too busy making dinner, Giro was the one to assist, a thing which I used to do before. For a stranger, they might looked exactly like a couple. I asked Ace why it seemed like Giro already knows everything in his house, to which he replied, "Halos araw-araw na kasi 'yan nandito, tumatambay after school." "Ha! Alam na..." I pointed out. "Tange, magkaibigan lang kami. Pramis," Ace said, giving me a sharp look. From then on, I began to dislike Giro, even though he's warm, friendly, and has no fault whatsoever. I could not pinpoint the exact reason, but I find him too much of a sore to look at. Was I intimidated? Was I jealous? Maybe. I don't know. But since it would be inappropriate—as if I still have the right to, right?—I did my best to be civil.
"Ha?" I asked, faking a smile.
"Sabi ko nakita na kita before. Sa bayan, naghihintay ka ng bus that time," he repeated.
"Kailan 'yon?" I said.
"Siguro mga 6 months ago..." he said, unsure.
"Di nga? Sa dinami-rami ng taong nakatira dito, naalala mo ko from almost half a year ago? Tsaka for the past 6 months, wala akong natatandaang any instances na pumunta ako sa bayan. Nasa QC ako halos lately eh," I quizzed.
He smiled and said while waving one hand, "Ah basta, nakita na kita dati."
The conversation totally creeped me out, so I tried to avoid Giro for the rest of the night. Fortunately, since he has a curfew at home, he went home immediately after dinner. Good riddance.
Anyway, the food was topnotch and the conversations were interesting and funny. However, MJ has no knowledge about my relationship with Ace, as well as Rey's relationship with Theo, so we had to filter out everything we say. We had to keep ourselves as straight as possible. Nonetheless, it was generally an enjoyable party, except for what came after.
I was alone on a couch when Ace sat beside me. This was when dessert was being served, so the others were busy at the table. I surveyed him. He's apparently exhausted from all the chores, but a bright smile was still etched across his face; he's nevertheless happy and contented.
I had thought of something, leaned towards him, and said, "I think may idea ako kung bakit hindi naging kayo ni Giro."
Awkwardly, he asked,"Ano 'yun?"
"Hindi kayo compatible sa kama no? What's wrong with him? Maliit ba? Was he lame?" I maliciously told him.
In an instant, his face fell.
"May problema ba?" he whispered.
"Nakaka-disappoint lang. When we talked before, you told me you'll look for guys your age if ever kaya mo nang makipag-date ulit. And yet here you are, mga bata pa rin ang binibingwit mo. Matapos sa'kin, akala ko natuto ka na..." I accused.
He was obviously dumbfounded. It was something he didn't expect.
"Tapos pati sila Rey ay dinadamay mo pa. Sa totoo lang, dapat hindi mo na sila nakaka-hang out eh, since wala na tayo, pero I'm trying to understand na you need them in helping you to move on. That's why pinapahiram ko muna sila sayo. But I think it's already inappropriate na ipakilala pa sa kanila yung mga lalaki mo. Remember, they are my friends. Walang kaso kung kila Will and Adam mo ipapakilala si Giro o kung sino man, since originally ay mga kaibigan mo sila, pero please naman sana, 'wag na kila Rey," I ranted on.
After a minute of silence, he disapprovingly shook his head and said, "Nakakabilib ka talaga, Sep. Ibang klase, grabe," before walking out into the balcony.
After fully digesting what just stupidly came out of my mouth, I followed him outside. I tried to be subtle, so that the others, especially MJ, won't notice something wrong was happening between Ace and I. Fortunately, he was not being to obvious about it as well. I saw him leaning against a wall, looking extremely disappointed. I did my best to look apologetic and stood beside him. However, the damage was already done.
"Sobrang tanga ko, Sep... After all the things I did for you tonight, ito pa ang igaganti mo sa'kin. Nagpagod lang ako. I thought maa-appreciate mo yung efforts ko ngayon. Instead, mas napansin at hinanapan mo pa ng malisya yung friendship namin ni Giro. Imbes na magpasalamat, ininsulto mo pa ako. Sobra ka na, Sep. Wala kang awa..." he disclosed.
I remained quiet, my gaze was set on the floor, too guilty to talk.
"Hindi pa ba enough yung pain na binigay mo? Of all people, I can't believe na maririnig ko mula sa'yo ang mga 'yun... All this time, despite of what you did to me, kaligayahan mo pa rin ang priority ko. Iniisip ko pa rin kung paano ka mapapasaya. Pero ikaw, ayaw mo 'kong maging masaya. You are so unfair. Ang damot-damot mo, Sep..." he continued, "Wag ka mag-alala. After this, hindi ko na hihingin ang oras ng mga kaibigan mo. Utang na loob ko pa pala 'yun, nakakahiya naman sa'yo. Sa iyo na ulit sila. Hindi ko na ulit isisiksik ang sarili ko sa mundo mo. This would be the last; I'm done."
"I'm very sorry, Ace," I said meekly.
"There's no need for that, Sep. Nasabi mo na eh. Actually, this will serve as a wake-up call para sa'kin. You don't deserve someone like me. You don't deserve my love. Simply put, you are a jerk. Because of this, mas madali na kita makakalimutan. Thanks for making it easier for me," he finished, before walking back inside.
I was too stunned to immediately follow suit. With what I showed that night, I knew Ace was clearly right with everything he said. I was hurt, but surely, he was more in pain. I spent several minutes more outside, gathering my thoughts and making a decent apology.
When I went back inside, Ace was nowhere in sight. I asked Theo, and he told me Ace went upstairs, probably in his room. Lanie gave me a look that says, "Ano na naman ang ginawa mo, Sep? Hay nako..." but I pretended to not see it. I wasn't sure if everyone had already noticed, but I didn't care anymore. My focus was to fix what remains to be repaired.
I knocked in Ace's room. There was no answer. The door wasn't locked, so I let myself in. I found him lying spread-eagle in bed, staring blankly at the ceiling. I sat beside him.
"Wala na tayong dapat pag-usapan pa."
"Ace, please naman. Hear me out. I don't want to end the night like this."
"There's no use anymore..."
"I beg you, Ace... Please... I want to apologize for my behavior tonight. I admit naging selfish at extremely immature ako... Yes, I'm a jerk, an asshole. I messed up. I'm so sorry, Ace. I really do. Nagsisisi ako sa mga nasabi ko sa'yo kanina... Natauhan ako bigla nung ikaw na ang nagsalita. Nagising ako sa mga salitang isinampal mo. Mas naiintindihan ko na ngayon; ako ang mali..."
I could no longer held back the tears, so I just let them fell. Ace sat up and faced me; his expression had softened. We hugged as I continued to speak in between sobs. He was already crying too.
"Forgive me, Ace. Patawad sa pain na idinulot ko sa'yo... Of course I want you to be happy. And I should not judge you because of your methods. Gawin mo kung ano sa tingin mo ang makakapagpasaya sa'yo... Hindi ko rin dapat inaangkin sila Rey, kasi naging malapit na kaibigan mo na rin sila... They have been very supportive to both of us."
"Sabi ko naman sa'yo di ba, masaya ako kapag alam ko na masaya ka."
"No, Ace... Hindi mo na ko dapat intindihin. Starting now, you have to think of your own happiness. Alam ko naman na you won't bring harm to yourself. Kilala kita, so I need not worry. Ikaw rin, don't worry about me anymore, I'll be fine. Do everything that will make you happy, and I'll do the same."
"I understand... I think it's already time to free myself from you. Masyado ko nang nakakalimutan ang sarili ko. Thanks, Sep... This is the closure I need."
We let go, smiling at each other as we dry up our faces. We might have failed to fully salvage our relationship, be we were able to put to good use whatever was left of it. I'm hoping for the best; that in the end, we are both happy indeed.