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What Am I To You: Episode 21

BY KATH C. EUSTAQUIO-DERLA
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As it turns out, the first thing I do is go online, log on to YouTube and listen to all the Norah Jones songs I could find. In the safe darkness of my condo unit, I finish a bottle of cheap red wine and go through all of Matthew’s photos on Instagram.

The thing is, I couldn’t find a single proof that he and Bridgette are back together. Then again, I’ve never seen any photo of me on his online profiles either. I tell myself that what we had—have, is different. In all these chapters, I have always been the “other girl,” the secret love and perhaps, one of the girls in his long list of publicized relationships that remain hidden. Maybe Denver really is telling the truth. Maybe there are others like me.

I am tired. For as long as I could remember, I’ve been following all of Matthew’s relationships from a distance, as far as my online searches could go. I’ve read blog posts. I’ve seen photos. I’ve watched videos of him and other girls since college but I’ve never, ever come across a single sliver of proof that he ever acknowledged what we had—or have. I don’t know.

But, whenever we’re together, I know there’s something real there. Somewhere. Somehow. After all these years, it’s just fair that something must be real. I have trapped myself in an endless cycle of longing. I have longed for him for so long that I don’t know how to turn it off. And what I’m doing now is a clear indication of how much he has screwed me. I just flew on a fucking helicopter from Bellarocca back to Manila. I just had sex with the one guy friend who sees me as the girl from high school with these big dreams. I just survived a huge confrontation that could possibly end the longest friendship I’ve known and here I am, drinking wine, stalking Matthew online and all I can think about is how to get out of the game I didn’t know I was part of.

When you’re inexplicably in love with someone, not even the harshest truth can change your mind.

And in my intoxicated state, I allow my feelings to run away with me. I write letters, long ones, to Matthew telling him everything I have been keeping to myself since college. I am so scared to tell anyone about us, I tell him in the letters, because I know that I would be judged harshly. I am so terrified that telling him I love him would push him away. I knew what I was getting into even then. From the very start, I know I am the “other girl.” I know that he had someone else then. But, even if it turns out that I am really just a chess game, even if it is true that all of these is just a pasttime he tries to play when he has the time, I want it to be real. I want my turn in the spotlight. I want to be a photo on his Instagram, a proof that I am not a faceless girl he keeps on the side. I want to be seen. I want to be his. And above all, I hope it is not too late.

I write everything down then I send it to him through email. I would probably regret it all when I’ve recovered from my drunken state. But in the darkness of my condo and after years of these feelings slowly poisoning me, it feels like the most logical thing I could do.

What I just did is clear indication of how much Matthew has screwed me. How can I have slept with someone just hours ago and long for someone else who has continuously played with my feelings?

***

I wake up this morning with one thing on my mind: check my email and see if Matthew has responded. It is only after checking my inbox and finding nothing that I feel my head pounding from last night’s alcohol and crying fit. I spend a good ten minutes puking out last night’s dinner of red wine and nothing else. And then I got my period.

I spend the whole mid-afternoon in dire attempts to straighten my life, starting with cleaning the condo. If I can’t fix the mess I’m currently in, at least I can clean up last night’s mess. I check my phone and see so many missed calls and text messages from Tristan. I honestly do not know how to go from here. I feel sick thinking how I allowed myself to start another when I am currently neck-deep in whatever it is that I have with Matthew.

I hear a knock on my door. It is a little past 4 p.m. I look through the peephole and see a tired-looking Tristan, bags in hand, standing outside my door. Instinctively, I move away from the door, surprising myself at the sudden move.

“Kit, please,” he says beyond the door. “I know you’re in there. I can see your shadow under the door.”

I move away even farther.

“Please, Kit…,” says Tristan. “I’m really, terribly sorry. I didn’t mean to say it that way. It’s just that…it’s just that, I thought we were moving on, you know?

“How could you be so happy with me when you’re still in love with him?”

I don’t know! There I told him. He just didn’t hear it. Maybe he’s right. I am so broken that I can’t even move way from Matthew. I am so broken that I am stuck. I am so broken that I don’t even know how to be happy with someone else.

I want to tell Tristan all these things. I want him to understand. I want him not to hate me because I can’t move on. I feel like I need to see this through. I’ve been loving Matthew for so long that I don’t know how to stop it. And it sucks that nobody understands. It’s sad that all people see is how unhappy I must be. All they think about is fixing me. What if I don’t want to be fixed? What if I tell them that I am both happy and miserable right now? Happy because I know that what I feel for Matthew is horribly true. Miserable because I feel too much.

If I open the door now and let Tristan in, it would just add another layer of complication that I am not prepared to face. I know that he would do everything in his power to help me. I know that he would fix me. But I am not ready. Not yet. I need to deal with this on my own. I don’t want anyone’s help.

So I decide to keep the door closed and for an entire hour, Tristan just sit there, outside my door, waiting for me to open it. It is only when a security guard from the lobby asks him to leave that he knocks on my door again and says, “I am not giving up on you, Kit. Not yet.”

Days pass and I hear nothing from Matthew. I see many photos, though. But none of them shows Bridgette, or any other girl, for that matter.

I hear a lot from Tristan. He has been calling me nonstop since that unfortunate accident in Bellarocca and sending me emails and Facebook messages, all of them remain unanswered on my end. Just like what Matthew is doing with me.

In the days that followed the incident on the island, Denver has somehow gotten used to checking up on me and I have been asking him about Matthew and why he has not responded to my letter.

“Honestly, I haven’t seen or talked to him,” Denver says. “I mean, it’s not like we’re drinking buddies. We just run in the same circles.

“Anyway, maybe he was shocked and needed time to go through your email. I mean, for me, it’s not every day a girl would write a 1,000 word essay about her feelings for me, you know. Then again…”

“What?”

“Well, you’ve come this far, might as well milk it,” Denver says. “I mean, you’ve already bared your soul and all. I mean, if I were you, I’d say everything I can now. You know, so I won’t have to go through this road again.”

Despite his tabloid exploits, Denver has always been one of the wisest persons I know. He’s right. I’ve already exposed myself this much, how much more can I incriminate myself? So one night after work, in the stillness of my condo, I call that familiar number again. His voicemail picks up.

I swallow whatever bit of dignity I have left and ask him the one thing I’ve always been afraid to say out loud. I beg him to tell me if there is a chance for us to be together. I beg him to tell me now and not years later because if there isn’t even a sliver of hope that we can be who we can be, I would be the first one to walk away, for good and I will never look back.

In the darkness of my condo, I sit on the floor facing the wall I’ve filled with pages of magazine layouts that I like. As I stare at the pages, trying to find solace in art and words. I ask myself, Kit, how many times can you give up?

To be continued…

This serialized fiction follows Kit Castille and her chase for love before Before I Do. Read more here.

***

Edits: Jacquie Bamba S. Zamora
What Am I To You is the prequel to Before I Do by Kath C. Eustaquio-Derla. Before I Do is available at National Bookstore, Powerbooks and Uniqube.
What Am I To You
Philippine Copyright © 2016 by Katherine C. Eustaquio-Derla
Disclaimer: This book is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places and incidents are products of the author’s imagination and are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual events, places or persons, living or dead is entirely coincidental.
All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced in any written, electronic, recording, or photocopying without written permission of the publisher or author. The exception would be in the case of brief quotations embodied in articles or reviews and pages where permission is specifically granted by the publisher or author.
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