Summer Haze: IV

We had settled into a domestic life between two houses. On weekdays we stayed at my place, on weekends and holidays we stayed at yours. You cooked, I washed the dishes and we did our grocery and laundry together. There was a rhythm to it, like the regular beating of the heart, that felt familiar and safe. In another life, it would have been tedious and boring. But the gay world was psychedelic that the change of pace was a welcome change.

I wasn't at all religious, having given up on God when I became estranged from my family and it was friends, not God, who saved me. But I joined you to church on Sunday mornings and we would have brunch afterwards in Eastwood and spend a lazy afternoon walking around or back to your place for an afternoon coital delight. The unsurprising way our life moved, the patterns it had assumed, were things I appreciated and looked forward to. It was something we could fall back into when the outside world was too noisy for comfort.

We arrived from Singapore where we stayed for a week going into our first anniversary. It was our first trip together outside the Philippines, although we've been there on separate occasions and with different people. Still, it was different seeing everything with you. Much can be said of how love adds color to the way we see things and I guess it was one of those. I didn't have an appreciation of the city before, having been there a few times enough to know how to get around without asking anyone for directions. It was unlike my previous visits to Singapore. We didn't go out and meet friends and acquaintances who've settled down in the country for work. We were on our own, just the two of us, wandering through the orderly chaos and eating at restaurants that piqued our interest. We discovered the city without the help of maps and trip advisors.

I loved how calm you were at travelling, how you seemed to be in your element when it's just the two of us. You have an adventurous streak that I hadn't known, a kind of wildness I didn't know you were capable of. You dared me to go bungee jumping. I hesitated, but you didn't even think twice about it. You shouted at the top of your lungs, but you took the plunge. To you, that's what mattered--taking the plunge.

The hotel we stayed at had an indoor pool and we took a dip there once, although I had stayed mostly in the shallow parts because swimming was a skill I didn't learn growing up. I watched you swim, your shoulders wide and your back muscular as it cut through the water at regular intervals. You were at ease, moving with the gracefulness of a dolphin or some sea animal who had lived all his life underwater.

It was one of those things I loved about you, how you never told me about these things, things that you were good at until I discover them for myself. It made you mysterious and exciting, as if our entire life together would be spent peeling the layers of you, where every layer was wonderful than the one before it. You weren't one of those who laid everything out on the table. You unravelled in a way that was beautiful and alluring.

We were in the living room, watching a DVD on a Saturday night when my cellphone rang. The ID said it was my younger sister and I was surprised because I haven't heard anything from her for years. You muted and paused the movie without me asking you to and I pressed the answer button.

"Okay, I'll be there," I said as I ended the call. "My mother is dead." I told you in a matter-of-fact tone that was cold and distant.

"How did she die?" You asked me as you moved closer to where I was sitting.

"In her sleep."

"At this time?"

"No, earlier this morning."

"And they only called you now?"

I shrugged. I didn't have the energy to process the ten million thoughts rushing through my head.

"Are you going there tonight?"

"No, tomorrow." I wanted to have you with me, but I also thought how it would get people to start talking and I knew how it would make you uncomfortable.

"I'll go with you," you said.

"Are you sure? You know I'm out to my sister."

"We can ask one of your girl friends to come with us," you said, as if you've thought of it already.

Alicia barged into the door with clothes that had survived a night of booze and partying. I had introduced you to her a week after we became official and she was one of the very few company I have that you're comfortable with. She was, also, more gay than I was, who had figured in linguistic history as one of the major influences in the evolution of gayspeak. She was my Samantha, who hasn't seen a guy she didn't want to have a tryst with. She was sinuous and tall, almost waif-like, with a body that anorexic models would kill for. We were of the same age, although her face didn't show it, no matter what poison she was snorting or drinking.

At first, you were wary of her, thinking that she was a bad influence to me, but you came to love her when you realized it was all veneer. That despite all her dirty talk about guys she wanted to sleep with, she had never gone home with one for a night of no-strings-attached romp in the bed. It was a way of deflecting her loneliness to the world; the Charlotte in her who has been disappointed so many times that she had stopped believing in fairy tales.

I received a text message from my sister as we were going out. She told me not to go to Novaliches, but instead to go to St. Peter's in Quezon Ave, since the body was already there for the viewing.

"Weren't you just here last night?" I asked Alicia as we passed by Pegasus.

"Yeah, I had a t-shirt made that says 'This is where your taxes go' with an arrow pointing to my vagina."

"Slut machine," I replied.

My sister greeted us by the entrance of the viewing room. I introduced both of you to her before the three of us walked at the center aisle to where the coffin was. It was an odd feeling to be there. I didn't know that our reunion would be like this or maybe I never thought we would see each other again. There was hurt and bitterness buried deep in the past, but they felt antiquated.

It was hard to stay mad to life that gave me you.

I looked for my sister and gave her a hug, but she quickly withdrew it, as if I was something dirty that she couldn't tolerate. She told me the details of the burial and that I was free to attend, but the way she said it made clear that she preferred I skip it. She asked me about Alicia and you, but more of you than Alicia.

"Is he, you know, like you?" She said in a hushed, conspiratorial tone, as if someone might hear us talk.

"No," I said. "He's straight."

"Good," she said.

It would be much later before I realized how that simple lie would change my life. I thought it was a harmless thing to say, a way to protect you and protect us from the world that's so keen to judge us. Looking back at that moment, I wished I had said the truth about you. For in protecting you, I destroyed us.


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