Thursday, October 31, 2013

Out Of The Hermitage (The Highlands Last Pt)

Previously on L'Heure Bleue

Twice, the kid had invited me for a roadtrip - back to the highlands. 

The first was when I sat beside him as he drove home from our drinking binge. It was already past 6 in the morning and out of the blue, he thought of having breakfast in Tagaytay. The second was when he casually invited me on the day itself he wanted to go there. I had work. Both invitations I declined for reasons of convenience. So when he asked me the third time, I decided to abandon my post to become his chance passenger.

Time was ripe for a reunion.

While the fog-covered ridge was our destination, we were there for work. He was doing his rounds of convenience stores and wanted some company. As for me, I can't turn down a joy ride. Not when you have strong affinity with the person behind the wheel. 

And not when your heart races away from the metropolis. 

We met outside SM Bacoor at past 4 in the afternoon. He parked his car near the overpass, and when I slid inside the passenger seat, it felt as if the corner was already reserved for me. Gone was the strange awkwardness of the first time, when he had to pick me at the gym before heading to the same mountains after running out of places to hang out. 

The drive was uneventful, with silence punctured only when my music playlist caught his attention. Unlike the first climb where we had to wind through the hinterlands of Amadeo, we took the straight route this time albeit having to endure the rush-hour gridlock of Aguinaldo Highway.

Sunset was upon us, and we were still far from our first stop. To pass the time, I would skip tracks on my iPod and change the playlist to songs that would make him talk. I'd learn that he has a soft spot for acoustic covers and knows how to play the piano. I'd also see with my own eyes how his control over the steering wheel had improved, and with such skill comes a short fuse that would make him raise a finger, every time he was cut by another driver.  

It was already dark when we left the second and last pitstop. It was a gas station at the city proper. The rounds were not as productive as expected, but neither did he go home empty handed. It was time for dinner, and after driving around to find a modest place to eat, we ended having our grub at the Pancake House overlooking the lake. 

Over Roast Beef platter and Grilled Cheese sandwich, the kid and I talked not about his past, neither did we drop hints of the future. There were never any mention of the fling, or the boys he fancies lately. So light was our conversation that I actually have no memory of it. All I remember - musing - as he gobbled the lemon pancake he personally picked for our dessert was that had it been a date, it would go down in my history as one of those awesome ones.

The ones I'd wish had lasted until daybreak.

Over the course of two months, communication lines between the kid and I never got broken. It experienced some pauses, especially when my eyes trailed towards the direction of sunrise. But as I wrapped another episode in my long and arduous search for the Other, my ties with the kid grew stronger. So visible was his presence that friends thought he was my date.

"So bakit nga hindi puwedeng maging kayo?" Panda confronted me one Shoturday, in front of friends.

"Kasi sobrang bata niya." Nobody bought my excuse. 

"Alam mo naman na kaya mo maghandle ng bata pero bakit hindi mo magawang subukan sa kanya?" Everyone waited for my response. I was evading the question.

There were many reasons I could lay down aside from the 10-year gap. There is the honorable excuse of not flirting with the one you have just freed from a one-sided affair. The kid is not a conquest to begin with. There is also the unresolved past with the Weatherman. His story I would confess in another blog entry. And as I continue to court trouble every time I become a tease, the only path to atonement is to leave the kid in peace.

Any attachment I have for him must be quelled before it gets out of hand. 

However, despite mounting a defense, the truth is, I am more vulnerable than what my tough exterior reveals. I am prone to giving too much - attention, care, protection when I let my guard down. And judging from the last time I let strong affections take control, the outcome was getting a serious beating - a resounding defeat I'm still learning to accept as part of the great romantic enterprise. 

"Natatakot ako..." I said softly to the people around me.

Fear. Yes. I've grown fearful of attachments. After I had to give up someone because I felt it was going nowhere. Fear, thinking JC has become my benchmark and that it would be difficult to find someone who can hold me together the way he did. Fear, that if the kid and I were to switch places, the 23 year old me will never let a 32-year old guy get too close. 

I would never open up to him 

The way the kid does to me.

There were times I wish I was younger, or that, he was older. So I could pursue him without having to consider the age restrictions I have boxed myself in. Sometimes, when he drives and I happen to be in the passenger seat, there is this temptation to hold his hand and tell him the reasons why I'd like to stick around. And as I begin to open my eyes to the things that fascinate us - whether it be a song, performance art, or cats - I could no longer ignore that part of me growing a little more fond of him.

It shows every time he sends a Viber message, or when I refuse to part ways until he is mere blocks away from home. 

"You know," Panda said in a serious but motherly tone. "He might actually be your future." I merely brushed off his prognostication, to avoid harboring such thoughts.


When I summon that memory of that second road trip to the highlands, on our journey back to the plains as we listened to Nerina Pallot's Sophia,

and realizing for the first time how one of a kind the kid was.

Passion and silence, every word, every rhyme a measure
It's the science of the soul
And his books they breathe a reason
And now I wanna know

Deep down, I secretly wish our cruise would still lead us to one destination.