Saturday, October 19, 2013

Out Of The Hermitage (The Highlands Pt I)

Tagaytay has always been a place of refuge.

With its nippy air filtering my lungs, a vista of the lake surrounding a volcano taking my breath away, and the sporadic fog shrouding the city in a blanket of clouds, the ridge often stands for my habit of running away from my troubles and disappearing. It's no wonder I have so much adoration for the place, and those I've been with in the highlands become part of the cherished memories I reserve for that cold haunt.

Nobody knows this secret. Not even the kid, who learned to love the city because of me. 

The kid and I's beginnings date back last June, when I used to be his confidant every time he and his fling had those little fights. I knew his fling way back, when he confessed last summer of his attraction to me. I didn't believe him, of course. Who am I to get his attention when better looking guys thought he was hot, and could win him over without putting up a fight.

What I didn't know at that time, is that he was going steady with someone. The hints I figured after paying close attention to his Twitter timeline and the one he often tagged when he wanted to talk to someone.

So I began my quiet retreat, and allowed them some space to know each other. I turned my attention elsewhere, while tuning in from time to time to take a peek at the progress of their relationship. I was content to remain an observer, but the alarm bells started ringing, when news from common friends called for intervention.

It turned out, the guy who had a crush on me, also admitted being attracted to some of my friends. He even went out with some of them. He was a smooth talker through and through and loved the challenge of becoming someone's fancy. It was easy to unmask him - especially after he didn't reply to my invitation that we should go jog together. And when I felt that his steady date was being left in the dark, I pressed forward to side with the losing party.

Even when we barely knew each other.

And that he was 10 years my junior.

The occasional Viber messages exchanges became an almost nightly communion. The nastier the tussle with his fling, the more I became his object of distraction. The glaring age gap didn't put a ceiling to the subjects we could talk about. Having so many things in common - like electronic dance music and  Japanese animation films, it was easy to start a conversation. In the gustiness of his stormy romance, I was there to offer some shelter. And when it came to a point his fling decided to stop talking, I thought of seeing the kid in person. I just had to tell the missing pages of his sad love story, in hopes he could let go.

It was in Tagaytay when the revelation took place. We went to Sonya's Garden to have dinner. The entree was a vegetable salad picked from the restaurant's farm, while the main course was pasta and chicken. In the peak of our conversation, I told him that some dreams are not meant to be, and that truth should not be believed without scrutiny, for facts can be twisted to protect one's interest. I told him what I knew: The cheating episodes that reached my ears, and the reason he had to be given up because his fling had his eyes everywhere. In the game of love, the first to sing is the loser. I told the kid that he was in for a resounding defeat.

Much as I dislike the idea of trashing the character of the person he loved, I felt the kid deserve someone better. Someone who would not deceive him, and promise him a tomorrow his fling could not deliver in the end.

I vividly remember our post dinner hang out. It was his time to speak - the moment the truth was sinking in. He had realized that he was taken for a ride, and in his confused state, between the sadness and longing, he had nowhere to go. 

His car was parked next to the cliff, and as he looked at the vast expanse of Cavite in the distance, his eyes gleamed because of the welling tears.

I would have liked to console him the way an elder brother does to a little brother; a nurturing teacher to his stubborn student; a father to a child. But at that moment I was powerless to make a move. Maybe because I was half certain that my revelations will be in vain, and that he would open his arms and accept the fling once more when he begs for forgiveness.

Maybe not.

I took the risk with unclear goals. Did I say the truth to get back at his fling for toying the idea of attraction to me? Did the kid's story really appeal to my sense of morality? Did I trash the fling's reputation knowing very well that my recent history was not far from his? The answer still escapes me to this day. What I remember telling the kid was that I used to be in his shoes; that I was played upon by my first bf, and that a friend of his took pity of me and became my sounding board every time the ex and I had our crazy fights. 

I revealed that my presence was my way of pay it forward, and that I don't want him to have a twisted notion of relationships because someone spoiled the fun in loving and took away the joy of real companionship.

It was a long drive returning to the plains.

The night ended with me overwhelmed by the experience. And as the days go by, I could not help but feel the growing fondness for the kid I had just liberated.

"The tables have been turned," I wrote in my blog after arriving home. 

With no resolution in sight, and to steer clear of trouble that was right in front of me, I thought of seeking solace with the great neutralizer who was kind enough to accommodate my request.

For old times' sake.

These events unfurled sometime in July, exactly a week before the coming of the game changer.

Only after the chapter with the game changer did the kid and I reunite in the highlands. Two months after our first drive to that city.


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