Airfare promos and grownup decisions
Airfare promos are a godsend. They give young millennials like myself (literal) tickets to the world. But a combination of strength, willpower, luck and fast fingers is required, and when everything collides, one ends up waiting for months for a flight booked way in advance.
I found myself in this predicament: I waited for a flight to Seoul, South Korea, that was booked nine months in advance. The round-trip ticket was dirt-cheap at P4,500, and was booked on a whim. At that moment, it felt like I was meant to go on the trip because the reservation was made possible despite the slow Internet connection of the restaurant I was in, and the fact that I had the money to pay for it. Paying for an international trip with my own money was a very grownup decision to make, I thought, and at that moment, I was proud to make it.
It’s very hard for me to admit this, but I think the main driver of my decision to make the trip was the person with whom I was at that moment. He wanted to go so badly because in college, he went to South Korea for a student exchange program. The place meant so much to him and, in effect, it meant so much to me, too.
I wanted to see South Korea through his eyes because the year he stayed there was the longest time we spent apart since we met. I wanted to know how it felt for him to be there—where he hung out, where he ate his meals, where he went when he became homesick. To be perfectly honest, I would have gone anywhere with him because—again, this is hard for me to admit—a trip with him is never just a trip.
I should have known that nine months is too long a time to wait for a trip together. What we have has always been volatile. We never really knew where to place it. It was something with which we were never comfortable. It felt like a burden and sometimes a nuisance to feel something for someone with whom I have been friends for six years, someone with whom I have spent much of my formative adult years, someone who is an echo of myself. I never fully understood what I felt for him. I knew it was love, probably the greatest love of my life, but there has always been something else, a hovering feeling of despair.
I vividly remember the day I decided to love him. I was walking past the university gate, probably to buy something off campus. It was 2011. I asked myself: Would you die for someone? My answer was no. There was no one in my life whom I would die for, but there was someone who came close, and that was him. It was a matter of fact, something that grew from years of exposure, because we studied the same course, liked the same things, and had similar dreams. It felt then that it was most logical for me to love him. Besides, I had already loved him for years; a change of context wouldn’t hurt. I was wrong.
The end came slowly, like repeatedly hitting myself on the chest with a blunt object. There would be moments of relief when the beating stopped and everything seemed right and peaceful, but then after a while, it would start again. Each time would be more painful than the last, each fight would be worse than the last. In the end, we found ourselves walking on eggshells, afraid that every single thing each would do or say would offend the other. And there were also those times when each would knowingly push the other to the edge to see who would break first.
It was a miserable place to be in but I wanted, more than anything else, to be there because I loved him. Because in the back of my mind, I hoped that there would come a day when everything would be better, and that on hindsight we would see that those moments were just our awkward stages. Some people have a honeymoon stage, and because we were ever so different, we endured the hard things first, hoping that the rest would be a honeymoon. Only a person in love could have such delusions.
The trip to South Korea was my beacon of hope. I wanted it to be our turning point. I now realize that a turning point was not what I needed.
The trip was always a topic of debate among our friends. Some advised that we shouldn’t go through with it, that it would be too awkward. Some said it would be a waste of perfectly good airline tickets. I heard stories of couples that would book trips a year in advance and break up before the date of departure. It sounded silly. I felt silly.
The decision to cancel the flight came to me quickly, and in full. It came one night; we were having another fight even though four months ago we had agreed that whatever we had was already over.
I cannot pinpoint exactly what drove me to do it. Maybe it was the time of the trip. We were supposed to leave in April, in the middle of the first semester. Or maybe it was my passport, which was to expire in the next month. Or maybe it was the visa process, or the yellow paper I had to secure to get permission to fly outside the Philippines. But I think what it was the admission that I finally had to cut ties with him, and that one week in South Korea, my personal Promised Land, would not help me.
Canceling a trip that was not just a trip meant letting go of him, along with all hopes that we would still be together and that there would be a turnaround somewhere along the way. It was finally admitting to myself that I am not beyond the emotions attendant to a broken heart, as evidenced by my inability to get up in the morning or my 2 a.m. kitchen-cleaning session conducted while crying silently. I thought those things happened only in the movies. I thought people exaggerated when they talked about the pain. Again, I was wrong.
It still hurts when I see the four pieces of outerwear that I was supposed to wear during that trip hanging in my closet. (A wise friend suggested that it would be a good idea to put those away in a box for now.) I still mourn for all the makeup and skin-care products that I could have bought in Myeong-dong, as well as the kimbap and soju that I could have imbibed and enjoyed.
But South Korea will always be there. I can visit it another time. I can buy another ticket in the next promo airfare.
I think this is a very grownup decision to make, and I hope that this time, I am right.
Faith Buenacosa, 24, teaches English at the University of the Philippines Los Baños and is working on a master’s degree in communication arts.
Subscribe to INQUIRER PLUS to get access to The Philippine Daily Inquirer & other 70+ titles, share up to 5 gadgets, listen to the news, download as early as 4am & share articles on social media. Call 896 6000.