Back in college, there was this one moment I particularly remember when Joseph and I was killing time in our tambayan in UP. I remember how happy we were that time, for reasons that escape me now. What made that day memorable was, as we were talking, exchanging stories, somebody called our attention.
“Huy, Migs! Joseph! Ang sweet ninyo naman, magka-holding hands pa kayo.”
And there we were, both surprised, holding our breath and wondering how it all happened unconsciously– my right hand in his left, spaces between my fingers filled by his, interlocked.
Yes, all along, without even knowing it, there was intimacy between Joseph and me. The light touches here and there, on the arms, knees, and thighs, while catching up on each other, enjoying red wine at Cav. His hands over my shoulders, tapping, and his warm breath on my ears, whispering, as we watched the last Eraserheads concert in MOA. His gentlemanly gesture of walking me to my car as we ended one evening of dinner and drinks in Serendra. And most recently, when he picked me up at the JFK airport, on our way to his apartment, while catching up, I felt him so close, so connected, his face merely an inch away from mine, as the whole world dissolved in oblivion, as if nothing in the universe existed but Joseph and me.
Dave, a close friend, was able to observe Joseph and me in New York. He was one of those I mingled and toured with while in the Big Apple, so naturally he saw how Joseph and I interacted. I had a chance to talk to him about my situation with Joseph.
“Dave, what do you think of Joseph and I?”
“Migs, I can sense your deep connection with him, and him to you.”
And I wasn’t able to keep my thoughts from becoming spoken words:
“Dave, do you think Joseph is gay too?”
“Importante pa ba yun, Migs? Kung ano man iyang mayroon kayo, kung ano man yan — hindi ba ang sarap ng may ganyan?”
I was silent. But inside, I was feeling victorious. Dave was echoing what my heart was feeling, and couldn’t turn into words. I love Joseph, and I’m happy with what we now have — no more, no less.
Joseph shared with me that in a relationship he needed physical intimacy. I did not tell him but I know I need that too. In my mind then, I know we cannot be together. He’s in NYC, and I shuttle between Manila and California. If only the world were smaller. Yet I wished it was bigger too, so it has space for what Joseph and I have.
On the day I was leaving NYC, Joseph logged out earlier at his hospital. “Migs, ihahatid kita sa airport ha. Wait for me, I’ll be home by 4pm.”
Almost on the dot, he was there, as I was finishing up packing my bag.
“Sana, nag-extend ka dito,” said Joseph, which I answered with a smile. “Kuwentuhan pa tayo, kahit gabi-gabi. Kasi Migs, after all these years, andun pa rin. Hindi pa rin tayo nagbago. Ramdam ko pa rin.” To which I replied with a pathetic, “oo nga eh.” Bags packed, coats worn, we then walked out into the cold, busy NYC streets.
At the JFK airport, a christmas song was playing.
“O paano, next year ulit?” Joseph asked.
“Definitely!” I answered.
“Maybe. Maybe even earlier.”
“Or I visit you in California.”
Then, the abrazos. It was tight, bittersweet, and strong. I love Joseph, and I know he loved me too. This thing that we have is beautiful, and I appreciate it as it is.
I left NYC happy, with a resolve to just continue to appreciate what Joseph and I have. And for me to do so, I compartmentalize. I leave that chapter behind and continue my life, either in California or in Manila, without Joseph. I was feeling good about the resolve. It’s working for me.
Until I opened my inbox the day after I arrived back in California.
An email from Joseph. This will be harder than I thought.