by Kath C. Eustaquio-Derla
During my senior prom, Tristan walked to our table, ignored my giggling girlfriends, took my hand and led me to the dance floor. He didn’t ask. He just took my perfectly manicured hands, as though asking a girl for a dance was the easiest thing in the world to do in high school.
That night, we danced to all the songs—from the slow ones to the fast ones. We only stopped when the cleaning crew started clearing the tables and the DJ had to go pack up. I didn’t dance with any other boy. I figured nobody wanted to. Looking back, I realize now, Tristan never gave them the chance.
Perhaps, even then, there could have been others—other boys who wanted to spin me around on the dance floor, others who wanted to take their chances with me. But even then, it had only been Tristan and it was only when he left for the U.S. that made me an open target. Then Matthew came into my life and, on my own, I blocked everyone else. I gave Matthew my heart. I never got it back.
That was probably what I was trying to do—get my heart back—because after that thing with Matthew in college, I’ve never felt really whole. Often, I would feel I incapable of truly being happy and giving it my all to someone new because, well, I already did that and I’ve never fully recovered since.
Tristan and I would have been perfect. His return should have been the Happily Ever After, the ray of sunshine in all my years of grey. Instead, I feel even more conflicted. A girl needs closure, even ones like me who are morally challenged.
I went to Bellaroca to create distance and perhaps to see who cares enough to pull me back. I end up getting pulled in all directions that I feel even more broken than when I left.
“Are you really that broken that you’re happy being just a fuck buddy?” Tristan’s words continue to scream inside my head, all throughout the chopper ride from Bellarocca back to Manila.
In the deafening silence of the villa, I pick up whatever pieces of me I could salvage. In a different light, everything feels nauseating. I need to leave; I don’t think I could survive another night in this piece of paradise. I’ve had all the confrontation I could stand.
I don’t know who else I could call so I cash in on favor and call Denver, who picks me up on his parent’s helicopter and flies me away from the island and back to dreary Manila. I didn’t bother to call Tristan that I already left, which results in dozens of unanswered calls and hundreds of text messages all of which says the same thing, that he is “truly, very sorry” and that he didn’t mean what he just said.
During the car ride back to my condo, I tell Denver everything—from seeing Matthew at church in college, to our hiding place at the library, to that poem I found in a copy of Shakespeare’s sonnets and to the unfortunate accident earlier that day. It is too much to ask of Denver to keep all of these secrets. I don’t mean to drag him in my drama. I had placed him in a difficult position, knowing he knew Matthew’s ex-girlfriend. But he just listened. And he listened well. When I finish my sad and complicated narrative, all he said was he needed a drink.
I sit across Denver at this Irish pub near my condo and watch him go through two glasses of whiskey. My second glass of red wine remains untouched. I am afraid I would end up crying if I drink more and Denver will walk out on me.
I’ve seen Denver in all stages of drunkenness and several bouts of public humiliation. I’ve seen him on TV, in magazines and tabloids. By now, I am immune to the charming face linked to numerous models and celebrities. But I also know the face he shows when he’s on showbiz mode. I’ve seen it so many times I can easily win a drinking game if there’s ever one based on his beautiful face.
“What is it?” I ask him.
“You’re hiding something,” I say. He avoids my stare and signals the bartender for another drink. “Spill it.”
He looks at me with the face of someone who’s contemplating whether to shoot someone and save himself or try to save both lives. We are quiet for a while. The bartender arrives with another glass of whiskey. I pull it away before Denver had the chance to grab it. He looks both amused and pissed. He signals for another.
“I can do this all night or you can save yourself the bad karma and just fucking tell me,” I say.
The bartender gives him another drink and he nurses it, swirling the golden liquid in the short glass until it is just a blur and then gone. I wait. And it seems to me I have been waiting all my life. I want out but then Denver starts to speak.
“You know that thing he told you about the labels?”
“He’s not lying.”
“Gee. Bitchy much?”
I stare him down.
“Okay, okay,” he takes a long sip, as if trying to reload a gun. “Matthew dates around. I don’t know if he’s the same now, but in college, there were many girls. And yes, we labeled those girls.
“Like when we see him walking a girl along the catwalk in UST, we’re like, ‘Dude, Matthew’s banging that one.’ So, either that girl’s value goes up or down, whatever. But for all intents and purposes, she’s like off limits to everyone else in our circle.”
“You guys are horrible,” I say.
“Come on, we were like what, 18? To be fair, we never saw him with you.”
“He had a girlfriend that time we hooked up.”
“Doesn’t matter. That didn’t stop him with the others. So maybe he really did love you.”
I take a sip of my wine, not really sure how to feel about that last line. In my sober state, I watch Denver drink one glass after the other, still avoiding my gaze.
“There’s something else, is there?” I ask him and his face breaks the showbiz mold.
“Gee, Kit,” he says. “You’re scary.”
“Tell me,” I tell him. “I can take it.”
Denver sighs. He turns to the bartender, nods and in a heartbeat, he has another drink in his hands. In the darkness of the pub, his face contorts in what could possibly be pain, the kind that friends show when they’re about to break someone’s rose-colored glasses. My glasses have long been foggy. Again, I figure, what other secrets can I not take?
“He and Bridgette got back to together recently. At least that’s what Collin said. Then I saw them last week at this media thing and yeah, legit. So…
“Look, the thing with Matthew is that he knows he looks good, okay? And he knows how to play it. I know you’re probably thinking like, ‘Hey, you’re a model and isn’t that what you’re doing, playing with your features and getting paid for it?’ Heck, Kit, that’s modeling.
“So anyway, he said he loves you? I don’t know, it sounds fishy to me. Have you ever wondered if, for him, this is all just a game?”
At this point, I really don’t know what to feel. After all these years, and even during college when I was the other girl, I thought I have somehow touched on all the possible emotions I could ever feel when it comes to Matthew. Anger, frustration, love, longing, sadness… but it never occurred to me that this could all be, simply, entertainment for him, like a chess game he never finished playing. And in this game, I’ve always been the sacrificial pawn.
“Are you okay?” asks Denver.
“I feel nothing,” I tell him. “I don’t know if that’s good or bad. I think a part of me wants to lash out, but I feel frozen. Is that dangerous?”
“I don’t know,” he says. “So, what are you going to do?”
To be continued…
Anything to share? :)