Summer Haze: III

It was hard working with our different schedules. You're awake when I'm asleep and you're asleep when I'm awake. But we tried to make it work. Although we've never really talked about it, about us. Or if there was an us. I didn't want to broach the subject, because it's only been a month. And even after 30 days of talking with you and being with you, I still didn't know where you stood or how you felt about things. I couldn't tell if you were one of those who needed to be asked or if you simply let things waddle. It was unclear whether a month was still too short or too long a time for you, but I had to ask you. I couldn't bear to stand on uncertain grounds. And because for the longest time I wanted to say I love you. But I was scared that you would only thank me for it.

We had dinner at Greenbelt on the eve of the first of May. You were on a long holiday, while I took a two-day leave to be with you. You didn't ask, but I did it anyway. It wasn't the setting I had imagined. The crowd was on a weekend mode, noisy, rowdy and everyone wanted to be heard. The waiter came by and asked if he could take our drinks, while we mulled over the menu. I thought about ordering beer, to calm my nerves and for a bit of confidence, but I realized this was one of the things I want to remember however it turns out. I ordered sago't gulaman and you did, too.

I didn't ask you about work. We've been sending text messages the whole day, as we've been for the past month. Instead you told me about the DVDs you brought from your place, the ones we could watch at my place during the weekend. That was as far as we went with our weekend plans, the rest was implied.

We talked with an easy banter, shifting from politics to the books you've read, even though I've never picked up a book to read for leisure. After a group of three girls and one guy left the adjacent table, I remarked how loud and unruly they were and you said they were indeed. Everyone at the restaurant heard them talk about the clothes, bags and shoes they plan to buy, dropping named brands from LV to Chanel with the alacrity common to third-world denizens trying to fit in to a first-world kind of life.

Three guys replaced them at the table and I saw all three of them check us out. Their roving eyes looked at each other and they nodded with an understanding that we're a couple dating before they rolled their eyes and laughed as they opened the menu. You noticed them too and I noticed how you had grown uncomfortable with them around, especially when they started talking and they spoke in gayspeak, a language I had taught you in one of the many times we were in bed, but still sounded Greek to you.

You grew quiet, quieter than usual, as if you've retreated into an inner world that I was not allowed to enter. I looked for the waiter and signaled for the check. I could sense how the world can make you uncomfortable, the way they seemed imposing and large to you.

"Do you want to get a gelato?" I asked you.

"Sure," you said, smiling.

Only one other couple was inside and I could sense you loosening up, becoming more comfortable. You started talking again, commenting about the show you saw on Animal Planet. It was there that I realized that taking you to a grill restaurant was a bad idea. I realized why you prefer eating at restaurants that I, sometimes, find expensive. It's not because you're an elitist or a snob, but because you don't mind paying premium for a little bit of privacy in a city that has become impossibly crowded. I remember you telling me that you had gone to Bed that time we met as a dare to yourself to get out and explore. How uncomfortable it made you feel being there, but nevertheless you wanted to just for the sake of it, to be able to say to your older self that you had ventured out of your comfort zone even for just a night. And I thanked you and I thanked the gods for that.

It was a short drive from Greenbelt to my place, made longer only by the weekend traffic. My heart was racing as I drove; my hands were cold and not because of the aircon inside the car. We were getting closer to my place and I felt like I was heading for a heartbreak.

We stood, for a moment, face to face in the small living room that had become familiar to both of us. The car keys were at the glass table and I asked you if you wanted a glass of water, but you said you're fine. You pulled me closer to you and you thanked me for the night. I pulled myself away from you so that I could see your face, so that I could look straight into your eyes.

"I love you," I said.

"I love you, too." you replied.

I pulled you back closer to me, hugging you tight, never wanting to let you go. A cold feeling of relief washed over me. I sobbed, because I've never felt so happy, because I never thought it would happen. For me to love and be loved.


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