Not mine to keep | Inquirer Opinion
Love.Life.

Not mine to keep

/ 10:11 PM July 29, 2015

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“Letting him go and knowing he is still out there living his life, even if it is with someone new, is so much better.”

Have you ever spoken about your past relationships during a night out with friends, especially after a couple of bottles of beer or a few shots of tequila? If your answer is no, then you’re a way better person than I am. Because when alcohol has done its job of loosening my tongue, I always talk about “the one who got away.”

I was in my second year in college when I began to live near the university where I was studying. A few days after the semester started, I decided to do some surfing online. The coolness inside the Internet café was a welcome respite from the sweltering heat outside.

It was his throaty laughter I heard first. I turned around and saw him. I don’t know how long I was staring at him but I remember hoping that it was not obvious enough for him to notice. I guess even then I already knew that he would mean a lot to me.

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To my great surprise and happiness, we got to know each other. Although I feared that after meeting and being with him, there would be no going back for me.

You see, he is the first guy I’ve been really close to. When I think about the feelings I had for him back then, I can finally admit to myself that he is my first love.

But I was young, stupid and not ready. I was haunted by my own demons and I got scared. It was my fault that what we had going between us didn’t work out. I did not want to let him go but I knew I had to. Unfortunately, letting him go was easier said than done.

I have spent years after that berating myself on how I made a mess of something so precious to me. All those years, even when I’m in a relationship with someone else, I continued to safeguard him in the secret recesses of my heart.

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After more than half a decade of not seeing each other, I got him to agree to meet up with me again. When I saw him, he did that throaty laugh of his and smiled at me just like the old times. The sound of his laughter was the promise of spring after a cold, hard winter. I was coming home.

I had been given a second chance. I was not going to mess it up. If that were my last moment here on earth, I would have died a happy man. I was ready more than ever to love him properly that time, with my whole heart. I still had my demons but I was not afraid anymore.

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I guess that second time it was him who was not ready. We grew up. As much as it saddens me to admit this, he grew apart from me. A lot of things happened during those times we were not together. He met a lot of people and sojourned on adventures I was not a part of, which I had no idea about. I had become someone he used to know and did not want to know better.

I was a reminder of what he had in the past and that was where I would always be. His future would not include me. I was a fool to believe that I was almost there. He was just too nice to tell me that he didn’t love me like he used to.

I told him and myself that it was okay, that I could handle it. I am a big boy now, you know. I did not tell him how much it broke my heart. It was unlike any other pain I had ever felt before. For the second time in my life, I decided to let him go.

I told myself that I would completely flush him out of my system and I think I did just that. I deleted all his photographs in my mobile phone, erased his contact number and unfriended him on Facebook. I knew it was a petty thing to do but at the time I didn’t care. I didn’t relish the idea of being constantly reminded of what I couldn’t have. I didn’t want to be privy to matters I would have no say on. With a heavy but determined heart I started the baby steps of moving on.

Almost two years have passed since I had contact with him so it came as a surprise when our common friend informed me that he was sick, saying he had bacterial meningitis. I didn’t have an idea what it was about. But it sounded scary, like it was too big a word to be innocuous. I did a search online and read through voluminous information about his sickness. I got worried, petrified even.

I saw photographs of him lying on a hospital bed and did not recognize him. He looked like the shell of the person I once knew. The smile I remembered so well looks different, forced, tired. I wanted so much to go there and see him in person. I wanted to hear his laughter again and tell him that even if we went our separate ways, he was and always would be special to me.

But before I could do any of that, I learned he was already gone. He did not wake up anymore. I did not even get to say goodbye.

Death is never easy and I do not think it will ever be. No matter how many times you go through it it does not make it any easier. Death is the thief in the night. It robs you of tomorrows, of blowing birthday candles, of smelling brewed coffee early in the morning or that first sip of ice cold beer after a long day at work. It snatches from you the opportunity to grow silver hair and have wrinkles or have that life you’ve always wanted. Sometimes death does not even give you the chance to say goodbye.

Letting him go and knowing he is still out there living his life, even if it is with someone new, someone not me, is so much better than knowing he will not get to do that anymore because he is already gone. Gone too soon.

I will treasure all the times we shared together: All the dinners we ate, especially when he had his tongue pierced and had to eat noodles and porridge for a week; how the ice cream we had every Sunday tasted better because we were eating it together; the silly texts we sent each other at night before going to sleep; that time we ate out and the server asked us if we were brothers because we looked alike; when he offered to write my report’s visual aid because he knew how bad my handwriting was, and all the times we held each other’s hand and everything felt all right. It feels like it all happened a lifetime ago.

I have loved him when we were young college boys and I continued loving him all the years after. He has gone so far away from me now, but it is okay because he is not mine to keep.

Miggy is a bibliophile. He is also into written and spoken poetry.

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