With all I amBy Vincent Joseph Cesista
Philippine Daily Inquirer
I remember you telling me that you’ll say yes in a heartbeat if I were to ask you to marry me.
I remember meeting you at a debate competition in Bacolod. You had the prettiest smile. I approached you and offered you debate cross-training just to get your phone number. Sans my silly excuse, it was one of the best decisions I made in my whole life. We called each other every night after that event, and a year later, you agreed to transfer to Cebu.
I remember the days I had to hitch a ride on random trucks and some fishermen’s boat to travel from Cebu to Bacolod, for I do not have much. I would look at the stars in the clear midnight sky and I would, through the light of the heavens, imagine you looking at me and saying that all is worth it.
I remember working in a call center while I was writing my thesis during my final year at the University of the Philippines Cebu. I had to interrupt my studies for a semester because my father had a stroke. I would usually contemplate my life under a cold evening shower after sleeping for just three hours and before going to work. I would ask the Lord why I had to suffer as much, and you would tell me I was bound for great things. I would close my eyes and thank Him for you and the strength that your existence inspired. You were always there to remind me that despite all the difficulties, life is worth living. Those were difficult times but I never asked for easier days, for the ones I shared with you were the best a man could ever ask for.
I remember walking with you in malls and in the streets of Cebu, Bacolod, Iloilo, Tacloban, Butuan, and a lot of other places, laughing at the silliest things around us. We never cared if people would think we’re crazy, we felt safe in our excuse that in those places, no one knew who we were. But the safest assurance we had was that you were there and I was with you; there was really not much else that we needed.
I remember hearing Mass with your family for the first time back in 2010. From time to time I would look at your eyes and thank God for blessing me with a woman I could call my person. When it was time to pray the Lord’s Prayer, I held your hand tighter than needed and I asked you if you would marry me. And while your eyes were still closed, you smiled and said, “Always.”
I remember sleeping with you in my apartment, which was as hot as an oven toaster but we really did not mind. We were enveloped in a bubble of love sharing dreams of a better future, believing that one day, we would move out of that apartment and live in a cute little house with a couple of kids and a fat dog. I bought a pit bull and named her Luna; you said she was too pudgy.
I remember making a scrapbook of our favorite things. You listed 10 books, I wrote down 10 restaurants. As a writer, you have always been poetic and sincere. As for me, apart from debating and loving you, there was really not much I knew.
I remember when I had a nightmare while we were sleeping beside each other. I was conscious but I could neither move nor open my eyes. I thought of you and the things we could not anymore do if I were to die at that moment. Dying beside you had always been my dream, but I never asked for it to come so fast, so suddenly. You woke me up and embraced me so tight. I could only thank the Lord for not taking me away. You would later tell me you had the same nightmare.
I remember we promised each other that no distance could separate us and that the four years in law school would only be a hiatus to what would otherwise be an eternal love spent together. I felt secure going home to Palawan, but I never thought that as we got more learned in law, your mind would ponder on what was unimaginable—putting an end to our relationship like it never was and bringing us back to those days when our hearts were strangers to the love we once professed to forever cherish. And as if that were not enough, I would call you every night, only to find out that you had blocked my number.
I remember crying like I never did before and asking the same Entity whom I earlier thanked for you what I had done to deserve this. I was never a perfect partner, I guess no one is. I asked you many times if you still remember the four years we had been together, and you would say yes. But while you remember the days, you certainly do not remember the feelings.
From here on, I would have to watch the movie “Bolt” alone. The lyrics “that home belongs to you” would play over and over in my head, but instead of holding your hand while we drift in a meaningful silence in front of the TV screen, I would have to hold my phone, look at your picture and sigh in resignation.
From here on, I would have to relearn living without you. You have always been my guiding star, a mark in the sand when I am about to drown, and as I described you in my thesis, my true north. From here on, I can fairly expect that no one would draw random things on my face while I sleep in buses and on airplanes.
From here on, I would have to dream of a cute little house with a fat dog myself. I would have to accept that you were probably God’s way of helping me survive the most difficult days of my life. And from here on, I would have to hold other people’s hands during the Lord’s Prayer a little lightly. If you would ask me, I am more than willing to abandon whatever I have here and run away with you.
I remember loving you with all my heart, with all my life, and with all I am.
Vincent Joseph Cesista, 22, is a college instructor.
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