Love? What’s that?
Ours was a whirlwind romance that sprouted and flourished in the most unexpected turn of events. It wasn’t as tragic as Romeo and Juliet’s tale, nor was it as tear-jerking as that of Hazel Grace and Augustus Waters. There were no ships launched, no wars won. There were only two strangers who became friends and lovers at the same time. I would tell you now that it didn’t end well, but it was my first real shot at a romantic relationship, and it was one hell of an eye-opener.
I have always made it a private joke to describe myself as perpetually single. Partly because of the fact that I never really had a boyfriend before, but also because I never really wanted one. True, I have had a lot of crushes, but that was it for me. Relationships, for me, are too messy, too restricting. Why would I want one when I enjoyed the freedom that I have—owning my time, doing things that I want without thinking of someone else? Besides, what is love anyway?
It was during a drinking event when I met him. He was not exactly a stranger because I was a friend of his sister, but we never really formally met. I was already drunk when we started talking and I was pretty sure that he was already flirting with me. I made no fuss about it, thinking that it would last only for a night. A little flirting never hurt anybody, right? We called it a night after making plans about going to Tagaytay the next week. I agreed, again, because I thought things between us would never pan out after that night.
I was surprised when we actually made it to Tagaytay the following week. I had always wanted to go there for no reason at all, and he was a willing companion, so I said yes when he asked me. But I just never really thought it would happen. We ended up eating in a fast-food joint and later decided to move to a Starbucks, for all the places to go had closed for the day. We spent most of the night talking under the stars, sitting in the parking lot. We talked about the simplest of things, our likes, dislikes. We talked about things that nobody else knew. We talked about math and how good he was at it. We talked about all the good and bad things in this world. We talked until the sun rose.
We went out countless times after that. I started liking him more than I expected to. I met his friends, and he met mine. I got used to his smoking, although I was against it. He got used to my addiction to crossword puzzles. I learned that, like me, he also preferred melted ice cream. I learned how to find the square root of a number that isn’t a perfect square without using a calculator. He learned about indie OPM bands.
Being with him started to become a routine, but it was never boring. Our conversations remained interesting, and the silence that sometimes hung over us was always comforting.
Two months later, he told me that he loved me. He was drunk when he told me, so I didn’t believe it at first. But when he said it again the next day, and the days after that, I started to accept it, even though I didn’t know what love was, even though I didn’t feel it, and most especially, even though I knew that I could never reciprocate it. I told him my reasons, and instead of hating me, he only told me that he didn’t care and that he loved me.
It baffled me how sure he was of his feelings. There I was, confused, unaware, and uncertain of my feelings for him, and yet he was adamant on instilling in me that he loved me. I kept asking myself if I truly had no idea about love. I thought of commitments and responsibilities and other ugly things, and I realized that if love meant clipping my wings and putting my freedom in a jar, if it meant sleepless nights filled with tears, I wanted nothing of it.
Two months later, I ended the thing between us. I told him that I wanted out, that I saw no future for us because I could never love him. I told him I was tired of having boundaries, that I wanted my old freedom back. I told him that there was no way we could ever be a couple. He told me he didn’t care about labels, that he only wanted me, even if our relationship remained undefined. But I had made up my mind. I knew I didn’t want a relationship. Perhaps I wasn’t ready, perhaps I was still too young, perhaps I was still afraid. I didn’t know for sure; I only knew that I wanted out.
I found myself thinking about us and how I could never find it in me to love him—or anyone, really. I’ve always had a complicated and abstract idea of love that I never bothered to see through it, until I realized that I was only overthinking everything. I looked at love as if it were a complicated math equation when it was really just a blank canvas, waiting for me to create my own piece of art.
Later I asked myself if I regretted letting him go, and I know in my heart that I don’t. He opened my eyes to the possibility of love. He taught me to accept the simplicity of it: that love is the constant forehead kisses, the awkward smiles, the laughter. Love was the warmth that I felt in his every embrace. It was the feeling of safety every time he held my hand when we crossed the street. It was finding fun during the most mundane moments. It was me laughing at his silly mistakes, and he laughing at mine. It was the drunken nights with heartfelt conversations. It was dancing in the middle of nowhere at 3 a.m. It was enduring three hours of “Star Wars” even though I hated it.
Love was finding it in me to say sorry, to compromise, to sacrifice.
I know now not to fear love, to open my heart to the possibility of it despite the chance of getting hurt. I know now that love is to be enjoyed, and that it will come, maybe five minutes from now or five years later, so I will wait for it to return, maybe with the same face or a different one. So until then, I will smile, knowing that when it comes for me, I will be ready.
Bea Jerika J. Amador, 20, is a student at the University of the Philippines Diliman.
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