by Kath C. Eustaquio-Derla
I sense change, like how you can smell a thunderstorm before it hits. Matthew’s calls became less frequent. And then the calls became text messages. And SMS became chat messages. The blanket of bliss I’ve long carried with me started to lose its purpose—as if the worries inside of me are too big for the blanket to cover.
And speaking of work, it became the only thing that kept me sane in the days that followed the magazine launch. Tristan’s short trip to Bellarocca was extended to nearly two weeks. Every now and then, he would send me pictures of the place and share quick stories about what he learned in the cooking fellowship that day. In his haste, I couldn’t even ask when he was planning to open his restaurant in Katipunan.
The following Friday, my boss Joey gives me two media tickets for the opening night of the play “Avenue Q” in RCBC Plaza. I want to ask Matthew but given the short notice, I don’t feel like our status merits an emergency date on a Friday night. Besides, it has been five days since I last heard from him. I do a quick Facebook stalk and find that he’s been busy interviewing celebrities for the magazine’s new issue.
I call Hazel who answers on the fourth ring. Music blares in the background and it takes us a short call to conclude that she’s already at a smartphone launch at a club called Prive. I quickly realize how small my group of friends had gotten so I end up calling Denver who answers his phone on the first ring. I am sure he’s already in a bar somewhere in Bonifacio Global City but I call him nonetheless.
“Okay, I’ll see you at the venue,” he says. And he sounds sober this time. I look at my phone, not really sure what just happened. I realize that I only have an hour before the show opens. I quickly pack up and walk the short distance to the RCBC building from my office in Makati.
I see Denver leaning against the building’s entrance, having a quick cigarette. He looks like he just stepped out from a fashion spread. Today, he’s wearing a button-down Navy blue polo shirt, a pair of very dark jeans and a leather boots. Unlike last Saturday, he looks clean-shaven, freshly bathed and sober.
“You look nice,” I say as we enter the building. He holds the door for me.
“Family dinner,” he says.
“Oh no. You should have told me…”
“I’m actually glad you called,” he pushes an elevator button. “My parents are torturing me, telling me to go back to law school.”
“But weren’t you…”
“Yeah.” We step inside the elevator and I push the button for the right floor. “My father talked to some friends and it’s all fixed. I can enroll anytime.”
We ride in silence. I see Denver fidgeting with his collar and trying to smooth out the invisible creases on his immaculate polo shirt. Next to him are all the other pretty people like Tristan, I probably look like a personal assistant. He leans closer to the reflective elevator doors to check his teeth. Like him, they were flawless.
In another life, I would have probably dated Denver. He is smart and witty. He knows his manners, maybe up until his fifth shot of whiskey or whatever substance he chooses that night. Somewhere in the course of the fast lane he has been living following the departure from law school, he’s been on a downward spiral, causing several blind items in tabloids that quickly resolve themselves when his family’s money starts to do the talking.
I don’t have the energy to ask him about the incident last week in 71 Gramercy. There were several blind items on online tabloid websites a few days ago but soon, I lost track and soon they talked about someone else. Either he’s just really lucky or his family is really wealthy that they can buy the lives of several people who work in the publishing industry.
We arrive at the press screening just in time to sample some of the wine they served. I was on my second glass of red when I saw a familiar face I hadn’t seen since college, my former journalism professor, Collin aka Sir Magic Pants.
“Collin, long time no see!” Denver shakes hands with my professor when we join him at his table. They exchange a few banters before Denver introduces me.
“This is Kit,” Denver motions for a new glass of wine. “I believe she took one of your courses in college.”
“Yeah, I remember,” Collin extends a hand to me. “Of course, you joined The Literati, right?”
“Speaking of The Literati, here comes the devil now,” Collin nudges his head towards the opening doors.
And just like that, Matthew enters the venue and the first thing I see are his eyes, even though they’re really not looking at me. Like Denver, he’s wearing a dark, button-down polo shirt, dark gray pants and a pair of dark loafers. He looks well-rested, clean-shaven and wired on what could only be the strongest cup of espresso. He stands a little bit taller. He carries himself a little bit prouder. His strides mean business.
In just a quick few steps, he’s at our table. Introductions and hi’s and hello’s are exchanged. Soon, the topic leads to Denver’s recent blind-item and my friend gives them a play-by-play of how the blonde bimbo thrashed his condo before flying back home to the colder parts of the world.
“Nice!” Collin pats Denver on the back. “You didn’t tell me you hooked up with Kit, here.”
“I wish,” Denver grabs another glass of wine. “She’s with Matthew here.”
From that moment, everything seems to move in slow motion. I can see the word bomb land in the middle of our small cocktail table and none of us know what to do with it. Collin, bless his soul, makes the first move.
“Really?” Collin asks. “I always thought there was something between you two, even in college.”
“What? No,” Matthew laughs and at that very moment, I can feel something inside of me crack. “What Denver means is that I’m trying to get Kit here to write for me in the magazine.”
And when no one took the bait, Matthew adds, “Kit and I are just good friends.”
“Yep, that’s right,” Denver places his glass of wine down with a definite thud. “Kit here is seeing someone else.”
Collin’s eyes go from me to Denver and to Matthew, the guy who had me pinned down against his bed just last week, fucking me as if he needed confirmation that he’s a man.
“Yeah, just good friends,” I manage to reply. I raise my wine glass to my lips and down the rest of my drink in one solid gulp, as if trying to end the conversation. Thankfully, we were being called inside as the play would start in just a few minutes. I excuse myself. I walk to the ladies room and lock myself in one of the stalls for a good minute, trying to compose myself and not ruin my eye makeup.
In the darkness of the theater and right next to a very apologetic Denver, I feel the first teardrop fall. Denver and I are seated far away from Matthew and Collin, whose VIP seats were right in front. The coldness of the theater helped hide the anger building inside of me.
During one of the scenes where the female lead was singing about the “fine, fine love between love and waste of time,” I feel Denver touch my hand. He gives it a light squeeze – a sympathetic gesture that translates to “I’m really sorry.” In times of need, my friend goes from drunk to valiant. And then I let the tears just fall.
“There’s a fine, fine line between a lover and a friend;
There’s a fine, fine line between reality and pretend;
And you never know ’til you reach the top if it was worth the uphill climb.
There’s a fine, fine line between love,
And a waste of time.”
To be continued…
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