Thursday, March 31, 2011
“Hey Anthony, c’mon! The wedding’s about to start!”
“I’m coming.” I shouted as I took a last look at myself on the mirror. I fixed my collar and followed Richard to the car.
“How time flies…” Richard murmured. I acted as if I hadn’t heard him.
“One day, we were just about to graduate from high school, and the next thing we know, one of us is already getting married.” I continued to look at the window as Richard became a little emotional.
He was correct. How quickly things had unfolded. Gerry, my best friend, is finally tying the knot. As I look back, I still remember how the three of us met. It was so long ago but it was as if they just happened yesterday.
Richard and I had been childhood friends for as long as I could remember. And we became friends out of misery. I would’ve liked to use a lighter term for it but during that time, we were really both experiencing a dreadful situation for a grade school student: we were about to flunk math. When we found out that math is our waterloo, we became close since then, trying to console each other whenever one of us got a failing grade. And as a sign of our friendship, I bought the two of us a friendship band which we could wear on our wrists.
Then came Gerry. Gerry was a transfer student from the province. But unlike any other person who came from the province, he doesn’t look like a typical rural dweller. He was fair-skinned and for a kid his age, his body was quite developed than most of us. We just started high school back then so most of us were still trapped in a boy’s body, although I must admit that our constant playing of basketball had developed my muscles and Richard’s.
Gerry was admitted a few weeks after the class had started so he was a little behind the lessons. Being top of the class, believe it or not, Richard was assigned to be the study partner of Gerry, and since we were already study partners, the three of us became a trio, and fortunately, our teacher agreed with the setup.
Courtesy aside, I was not far from being a top-lister myself. Our partnership must’ve been effective and our drive made the two of us the first and second placers in class.
We would often joke about it and Gerry still couldn’t believe that the two people who had always been failing math during grade school had become the top students of the batch. Well, it is not really easy to believe because up until now, I and Richard would still wonder how we were able to do it.
So, that was how our friendship had started. Richard, Gerry and Me. The unbeatable trio, most of our classmates would call us.
Gerry had also been quite an intelligent student as well. He was able to catch up quickly and the next thing we know, he was able to place third on the list of top students of our class. Most of our classmates envy us for being the top students in our school, and this popularity cannot be denied specially among the ladies.
Being a guy trio, I must admit that we had been sort of popular among the girls. Gerry, being the star varsity player of swimming and Richard being the MVP of our basketball team, they had been eyed by a lot of the girls, either from the lower or upper batches. I, on the other hand, was not that athletic. I focused more on the academic side, being the representative of our school in quiz bees, and the like.
But even though I drown myself in reading in studying, I was never the geeky or the nerdy type. I wore my glasses in a fashionable way which still grabbed the attention of some girls. I wore my clothes like a fashion model and I go to the gym to keep myself fit. I secretly enjoyed being the silent and myterious type among the three of us.
Those were the glory days. We never actually planned everything. Things just took its course during high school and I’m pretty sure that we will never forget those days.
But as I looked back, I still remember the things that had been my deepest and darkest secrets. Memories that I’d rather keep hidden.
Well, as we were growing up, I felt different. I felt a little peculiar among my peers, most specially among us three.
Unlike Gerry and Richard, I felt a little awkward being surrounded by girls and all. I felt a little distant. It was as if I’d rather be in the company of my two best friends rather than be mobbed by female admirers.
Whenever we three were talking, most of the time, it would shift towards girls. Anthony would tell us how some of the girls from the lower batch would give him gifts and how he particularly liked the one is glasses. Then, Gerry would butt in and tell his own affairs with the opposite sex.
During those times, I would just keep silent and act as if I’m not listening, or I would open a book and pretend to read.
They would often nudge me and ask me to spill my own experiences with girls but I would just play deaf. Sometimes, they would even call me a killjoy and just continue sharing their own escapades.
I actually felt a little scared with the thought of me not being interested with girls. Sometimes, I would try to flirt with some admirers but that was all there is to it. I never became intimate with the opposite sex, nor have I been acting on my attraction towards them. I just felt weird and awkward being with girls.
Then, there was this one time, after swimming practice, I waited for Gerry in the bleachers alone since Richard left early for he was going to have a date with some random girl from school.
While I was waiting, I can’t help but stare at the guys in swimming trunks. I was actually enjoying the view, most specially when I look at Gerry’s.
He really has a well-built body as compared to some of them who have baby fats and all. His body was lightly muscular and fit and you can really see the curves of his upper torso. And the line on his shoulder girdle was so prominent which made him manlier and more mascular. I was even mesmerized by the line on his pelvic area going to the crotch. God, I swear something stirred inside my pants.
I was in that state of admiration when I didn’t notice that Gerry was already looking at me and waving his hand. I immediately was brought back to earth and I waved back as quickly as I could. I shook my head and tried to erase the thoughts from my mind.
That night, I was lying on my bed and the images of the guys and of Gerry kept playing on my head like an unending flick. And all of a sudden, I didn’t notice that something between my legs started to pound. And I did the unthinkable that evening. I satisfied myself with the images of my almost nude best friend.
After that, I had been secretly eyeing on Gerry every chance that I got. And during these times, Richard would bid us good bye for he would meet probably another random girl. For me, Richard was the most chickboy among the three of us. He would often date a different girl everytime and he would tell us stories about how their date had gone.
But this was actually good enough for me because I could have an alone time with Gerry.
He was really such a nice guy. Sometimes, he would buy food for me whenever we study together. Or he would check whether my back had been wet from the heat as I enter the classroom.
He did little things that really made my heart flutter in the most unexplainable way. And whenever Gerry is with another girl, I also felt this anger inside me that I would just want to snatch him away from the arms of this casual bitch who probably had a crush on him.
Then it suddently dawned on me, the questions that I had always been evading ever since I felt this strange feeling.
Am I gay? Am I falling for my best friend?
The thought scared the hell out of me. But still, everytime I’m with Gerry, I would sense the feeling of longing for the person I am falling in love with. It was like he was just very near yet he was so unreachable. I felt like an ordinary person who wants to have a piece of heaven by trying to reach for the stars but no matter how near they look, I can never ever touch them.
Then, came graduation. All of us had been set to going to a particular college or university. Most of us were able to land on our favorite school campus, but some were not that fortunate. Lucky for the three of us, we were able to go to our chosen school. Probably being the top of the class has had its perks. Richard who graduated Valedictorian will go to the same state university as I am, who graduated Salutatorian. Gerry, on the other hand, coming in as 1st Honorable Mention was able to enter a prominent private school in Manila.
All of us were kind of jovial during the ceremony, but I felt a little sadness due to the fact that our trio would need to part ways. But most specially, I felt sad because I won’t probably see Gerry anymore; the only person who taught me how to love.
Gerry apparently noticed my silence while everyone was taking pictures of themselves along with their peers and their cliques.
“Hey Anthony! What seems to be the problem. Why are you alone here?” Gerry asked me.
“Hey. I was just a little tired and all. And I just felt lonely, that we need to go our own separate ways.”
“Aww, Anthony, don’t be sad. At least you were with Richard. And now that I think about it, I’m going to be alone in the university, it made me sad too…” I sensed the loneliness in Gerry’s voice as the realization eventually hit him.
“Gerry, I need to tell you something. I know this might ruin our relationship as best friends but I need to tell you this, at least even before we separate. You know, there’s a big chance that we might not see each other anymore, but I just want to…”
“Hey guys! What’s up? Isn’t it great? We are now about to enter another stage in our lives! College!!!”
I wasn’t able to continue what I need to say. Richard apparently appeared in the picture when I was about to tell Gerry how I truly feel for him.
“Wait, Anthony has something to say.” Gerry cut Richard’s drama as they both looked at me intently, trying to wait for what I have to say.
Damn, this wasn’t how I planned it. This wasn’t how I imagined it. I was about to confess only to Gerry and now, my two best friends are right in front of me waiting for my confession.
“I… Uhm… I… I love you both guys, I really do. I hope our college lives would be as colorful as our high school!” I said trying to hold back the tears. I don’t have the courage to tell it. I’m a coward.
Richard and Gerry smiled and the former place both his hand on our shoulders and tapped us to go towards the others.
As the two of them joined our other batchmates, that was the only time that tears started to flow from my eyes. Gerry, all of a sudden, looked back at me, smiling and I mouthed the words, I love you, but he can’t seem to understand. I just smiled at him with tears flowing down my cheeks. He gestured for me to join them and I gave in. That was one of the most unforgettable moments of my life.
“Hey man, are you alright?” I was awoken from my daydream as Richard tapped my elbow with his.
“Yeah, I’m fine.” I said, giving him a weak smile.
As the car came to a halt, I saw how beautiful the church was. It was like a scene from a television show. And there I saw him, standing by the entrance of the church, wearing a nice suit. He looked older than when I remembered him. But still, his gaze and smile still gave me that certain feeling of nervousness. He still looked very handsome.
My heart started to beat faster as I alighted the car. And he came running towards me. Then, the unexpected happened. He hugged me. From the moment, I felt like fainting. I know I’m the Best Man, but felt more like the bride. I would’ve wished I had been the one going to marry this guy.
He broke the embrace and thanked us for coming. I tried to maintain my composure and tapped his shoulder as I smiled back at him.
The wedding ceremony was such a very serene and romantic event. As the bride walked along the red carpet, I felt a little envious yet I am happy for the both of them.
She was a very beautiful woman. Her smile was captivating. The two of them were a match made in heaven.
The ceremony went well and we all headed towards the reception area. Richard was with me the whole time. His arm over my shoulder.
We sat next to each other and the whole after-wedding rituals started.
We were all laughing at the same time as the women tried to catch the bouquet of flowers. I told Richard that I’ll just go to the comfort room.
As I was heading to the rest room, someone called my name. It was a familiar voice. It was Gerry.
“Hey Gerry. Such a lovely bride! You really have such good taste. Unlike our best friend there.” I looked at Richard who was eating. To be honest, Richard really never had a good taste in terms of girls. Although he dated a lot of them, they don’t look as good looking as someone whom he should really be dating, given his caliber.
We both laughed at my comment, just to ease the tension. But I never expected the next things that would unfold.
“Well, it had been such a long time. We were still young back then. Playful, very much popular with the girls and all.”
“Yeah, I remember. You two were the crowd-pleasers. Whenever there’s a bunch of women and, well, men too, I know that one of you is in the middle. Haha”
“That was then. When we entered college, I wanted to be serious with my life. Playing around was really not my thing. That’s when I met her.”
I looked at the bride chatting with her girl friends. “Yeah, she seemed to be the nice fit for you.”
I turned to look at him and smiled. But he gave me a serious expression. Something that I did not expect.
“You see, ever since we graduated from high school, I’ve been haunted by the memory of you telling me something.”
There were goosebumps all over my body as I heard him bring back that memory.
“I…” But Gerry stopped me from speaking.
“You see, I felt like you still have something to say that night. Something that you’ve been keeping from me all those time. And I knew that you were a little hesitant when Richard came.”
“Gerry… I… I never thought that this day would come… Never in my wildest dreams that I can finally confess to you how I truly felt. All those times you’ve been treating me nicely. The little things that you do for me. Gerry, I cherished and treasured all those times… Those times when I;m alone with you. You taught me one thing. You taught me how to… How to love… Yes, I’m in love with you Gerry. Ever since that day in the bleachers. I know I had been weird ever since, but I never thought that of all people, I would fall in love with you… My best friend…”
Tears were starting well up in my eyes. Then I heard the most impossible thing.
“I do, too. Yes, I felt the same towards you Anthony. But I was afraid that you don’t feel the same way towards me. I know Richard had been your first ever best friend and I know I cannot live up to him. But everytime I’m with you, I just can’t help but take care of you. I felt like I need to protect you from harm. You seemed so fragile, yet so precious. Never did I imagine that I’m already falling for you in the process. That night, I was hoping that you would tell me that you love me. I was hoping you would reciprocate what I felt for you. But when Richard came…”
“Gerry… I…” Tears are now cascading nonstop. I can’t believe what I was hearing.
“I lost all hope Anthony. I did… If only you told me that night. It would’ve been this way. I would’ve fought for you. But Sophie came into my life and accepted me for who I am…”
I didn’t know what to say. I just stood there in front of him, as stiff as a rock. I felt like freezing cold water had been thrown upon me.
“I’m sorry Anthony… I’m sorry… I love her very much. But I love you too…” Gerry hugged me tight but I can’t seem to hug him back.
I left him standing there, crying, as I walked towards the rest room. I can’t feel anything and I don’t see where I’m going. The things I just heard were so heavy for me. And as I entered the comfort room, and stared at myself on the mirror, that’s when I really cried.
Days passed since Gerry’s wedding. Everything went back to normal. I tried to erase everything that happened from my head but I’m still not ready to face Gerry nor talk to him yet. I knew only time can tell.
Then, one day, I received a bouquet of flowers from a stranger. There was just a small note saying “Hey there! I hope you’re doing fine. - Mr. Past”
The moment I read Mr. Past from the note, I knew it was from Gerry. I felt a little angry so I threw the flowers in the trash.
The next morning, I received a box of chocolates. The note that came with it said “Please smile! –Mr. Past” I tried looking around, wondering if he was there, but there was no Gerry. I just gave it away to my staff. Never will I get something from him. Not at this moment.
Then the day after that, there was nothing on my table aside from a small note saying “Meet me at the park later at 6pm. You know where it is. I’ll be waiting. –Mr. Past”
I pondered at the thought of meeting Gerry again. Am I ready? But I should be mature enough. And he’s married for God’s sake. This should stop now. And if it meant that I need to meet him to tell him to stop, I must do it.
The least of the things that I would do is to ruin a marriage so I decided to come. I don’t know what will happen, or how nasty it would be, but I should do it. I am the only one who could do it.
The rest of the day was a blur. I was just thinking about our meeting at the park. I tried making up a my monologue in my head, trying to ask him to stop doing what he was doing. Never would I want to be a mistress. Just by thinking about it made me vommit.
The time went by quickly. It was already half past 5. I need to prepare myself. When I was about to leave the office, I looked at the note on the table and observed it. The handwriting was familiar, although I’m not sure if it was Gerry’s. I’m not sure if a person’s handwriting could change over time.
I tried to breathe deeply and just go do what I got to do. As I arrived at the park which was quite near my workplace, I scanned the place for Gerry. Most of the benches were already occupied but I saw one near a tree so I went there to sit.
I looked at my watch and it was already 5 minutes past 6. He’s probably late, I thought to myself.
Then, a hand was placed on my right shoulder. I almost jumped in shock. And when I looked at the person, I blinked my eyes in disbelief.
A familiar man, about my height and built was standing in front of me. It was Richard.
“Jesus man! You scared the hell out of me!” I shook my head.
“Sorry Anthony, I didn’t mean to.”
“What are you dong here anyway?” I eyed him intently.
“Uhm, I… I was about to meet a special friend here.” Richard said, trying to avoid my stare.
“Really now, special friend huh? One of you flavor of the month? Or week?” I giggled as I looked at him.
“No! Nothing like that! I’m really going to meet the person whom made my heart flutter everytime.”
“Hmm, wait, was it Shirley, the girl with curly hair? Or was it Tina, the freckled receptionist? Or…”
I kept on mentioning names of girls which Richard had dated before until he placed his finger on my mouth to shut me up.
“No. None of them. I’m meeting someone more special than them. The person whom I felt something more real, something more genuine than all of those I’ve tried dating.”
Tried dating? What did he mean by that? I felt a little anxious at what he was about to say, but it came sooner than I expected.
“I’ll be meeting the person who gave me this…” Richard pulled something out of his pocket. It was the friendship band I gave him ever since grade school. He kept it. He kept it for the longest time.
“Richard…? The flowers? The chocolates? The notes? It was you all along? Mr. Past…”
Richard looked at me and nodded silently.
“You kept it… The friendship band… I thought you lost it or you threw it away… I never saw you wore it since the day I gave it to you.”
“Yes. The day you gave it to me. I kept it inside a box. I don’t want it to get dirty or to get damaged. And every night, I would open the box and tell this band all the things I wanted and should’ve said to you since the day we met. I liked you Anthony, ever since. I tried to hold back my feelings for you because I don’t want to ruin our friendship. I knew that the right time will come for me to confess my true feelings for you. But then, Gerry came into the picture, and all my plans went to waste. I tried dating other girls, just to forget. Just to erase you from my head. But everytime I try to remove you from my head, the more you lingered. I did everything for you to notice me. For you to see me in a different light. I joined the basketball team and made sure I get MVP because I know you admired Gerry for being a good swimmer. But still, it wasn’t enough.”
Richard kept on saying things which I never imagined I would hear from him. Tears are starting to well from my eyes as things become clearer.
“I dated any girl I see, no matter how ugly as long as they liked me, hoping that I could change what I felt for you. But everything failed. I tried to avoid you guys everytime you were together. I tried making excuses that I have a date because I can’t stand the fact that it was Gerry you like and not me. You thought I didn’t know, but you were wrong. The way you look at him in class, the way you stare at him during their training. Those actions gave you away. For you, I only existed as a friend, and nothing more. And it really hurt me. When we graduated from high school, I was really happy because Gerry would soon be out of the picture. And we would be together in the same school. I thought it would work out, but no. You kept on talking about him even if he was not around. I was really devastated. I almost gave up on you… I thought to myself that it was already too much of a heartache. When we graduated from college, I decided to just let you go. I can always be your best friend, and I accepted the fact that I can never be more than that. Even if it killed me inside. Just to make you happy, I’m willing to step aside. But when I found out that Gerry is getting married, that little glimmer of hope started to glow brighter again. And I saw what happened during the wedding. I stood up to go to the CR and I saw the two of you and overheard everything.”
“Richard… I can’t believe this…” I was too shocked to continue.
“You don’t need to say anything. I knew what happened was too much for you to take. I knew this is not the right time for me to do all these, but I got afraid that if I let this chance pass again, I might not be able to tell you how I really feel for you. But you don’t need to respond. I’m more than contented telling you how I feel. I’m not expecting anything. I just want to free myself from the thing that had been bugging me for the longest time. I need to release these emotions that I kept all these years. I just want you to know Anthony that no matter what happens, I’ll always be here for you. I’ll never leave you…”
And with Richard’s words, he hugged me tightly as I felt those warm tears against my skin. For the first time in years, I felt like I’m not alone. And for the first time, I let go. The park disappeared right in front of me. I closed my eyes and hugged him back. I hugged him tightly not wanting to let go. And for the first time, I’ve felt the love I’ve been yearning for, all these years.