I didn’t explain this before I posted the first story. I am writing these stories as a literary exercise but also in response to a discussion I am having with some good friends on facebook. I will post separately, how this discussion and how the tree metaphor, briefly alluded to, came about. I hope it all makes sense in the end.
The setting of this story: Los Angeles, CA – the ’80s.
I met him on the day I graduated from high school. I was 18. A friend brought him to my graduation party. He had just arrived from the Philippines, probably a mere month or so. He didn’t immediately capture my attention (they never do) but he started hanging out with me and my friends going dancing, partying and whatever else young people do at that time. After a few months of going out with the group, we started doing things on our own. We started out as friends and love crept in slowly, none of the earth shattering love at first sight event happened. We almost didn’t know it was happening because we were busy being friends.
We talked about everything. Have you ever been with someone who knows you so thoroughly that you can finish each other’s sentences? Anticipate each others needs before either of you even think about it? He made me laugh and most of all he introduced me to being ‘Pinoy’ again. As you probably know, we who grew up in the U.S. have all probably experienced an identity crisis at one time or another. I was not proud to be Pinoy, I wanted to belong with the cool American kids, and with my Filipino friends, I was ashamed to admit I was ‘Bago’ (indigenous tribe in the Philippines). Most of them were Manilenos and looked down on locanos and even more so on Igorots. I tried to hide who I was. I tried to be someone else that I could never be. HE changed that for me. My tagalog sharpened, I discovered OPM music, I learned more of Philippines history, I ate more Filipino food. All this, I did being away from the Philippines, I learned by being around him, his family and his friends. I learned to be proud of who I am, a Filipina, through and through. I learned to love my brown skin because he did. I learned to love my flat nose because he did. All this, he brought out in me, so how can I cut off that branch that brought out these wonderful things about me?
Together, we discovered the world we moved in. We both loved to drive and we traveled every chance we got. We loved to eat, and eat life, we did. We stretched our boundaries and relished at what we found. We both loved sunsets and spent many days sitting on the sand watching the sun burst in color before slipping down into the horizon. One of the last things we did as a couple was to watch the sun set one last time.
Everyone, our family and friends, assumed that we will marry one day. So did we, but it was not to be.
The girl he married was someone he met on vacation in the Philippines (this is really ironic as you will soon find out) so they got married there. When he returned here in the U.S., he did not go home to his parents’ house, he turned up at my doorstep. Literally. From the airport to my door. I should have slammed the door but I was so devastated that I let him in. We cried in each other’s arms, lamenting what we had lost. He said that his soul is still married to me and only to me. He said he had done his obligation and wanted to return to me.
As much as I loved him, I knew it was wrong and I knew that I would never be able to respect him (or any man) knowing that he would abandon a new bride and child. I WOULD NEVER BE ABLE TO LIVE WITH MYSELF. I knew that. So I drove him back home to his parents’ house and one of the hardest things I have ever done was to drive away knowing that he was still standing there watching. I did not look back.
And ever has it been known that love knows not its own depth until the hour of separation.