September 17 Prompt: Together
“Dude. Are you home?” is our code red. It’s a vital sign of probable danger and insinuates a need of a hideaway. Like maybe if there’s an outbreak somewhere and she’s caught in a very bad zombie situation and needed a safe haven, that would be my place, my room. [Apology. Last movie syndrome. Train to Busan. Sam hates it.]
I received this text message in between my DVD marathon and salted caramel chunky chips ahoy midnight snacking on a Wednesday night. This was years ago. Mid twenties and just starting the best years of our lives. I appreciate my younger years now.
“Home.” I replied.
A few minutes later I already heard her too familiar footsteps [with her very predictable canvas wedge clacking on my hardwood staircase]. Door opened. She asked if I was busy or if I have an early shift. With all the scattered pirated DVDs I bought from the black market and the tray of junk food on my bed, I don’t think I have to explain myself and neither does she. Swollen eyes and swollen nose. I can only guess what had happened. I just don’t know how grave it is.
Earl dumped her. The sweetest guy who chased her back from college. Got rejected. Courted her back again in the engineering firm. Rejected again. Persistently pursued her. Won her heart finally after three attempts.
December before that code red year, I started third-wheeling with her and Earl. We were swayed to sign up for a 2 year gym plan at Fitness First by a common friend. Young and shamelessly stupid. It cost almost half of my salary but I went for it. Just because I want to make my monochromatic, half-baked, decaying social life a little more interesting. I was always single. She was always in a relationship. Miss Popular and the Wicked Witch of Oz in tandem. It was one of my most pathetic move. [I had a lot.] I was thinking I could benefit from going out with them most often than hanging out with myself. I grew bored of myself that being a third wheel has become a better option.
I also thought that maybe [who knows?] I might meet someone in the gym. Perhaps while sliding my ass and paddling my boredom away on a rowing machine, someone might notice. Perhaps while catching my breathe on a treadmill pretending to enjoy the sticky sweaty feeling and the uncomfortable pain in my joints, someone might approached me.
Dumb. Dumb. Dumb.
All I got at the end of it is a humongous bill in my credit card.
I saw how Earl took care of her. Sliced apples and watermelon on a lunchbox. Fresh towels. Lotion. Shampoo. Water jug. Slippers. Bath robe. [He’s sort of a rich kid so he pretty much has everything that a five star hotel offers to guests.] He prepares everything for her before hitting the gym. Never mind the best friend at the backseat. She’s used to it. At least she gets to have a free ride in his BMW. Free Movie. Free Coffee. Free snacks. I played chaperone without complaint. At the backside of my brain, I have accepted the terms of being the second best in everything. Pretty girls get the guys. I get the free snacks and a drive home. That’s enough. I settled for that for so long. I thought that daydreaming by the window of the car is all I can do. So I did my best to surpass whatever heroic and romantic gestures I see in reality. I created a series of romantic scenarios in my head, refined and polished the man in my imagination, gave him several names and built his character, equated him with my life and associated him with mine. I created “someone” way way better than Earl.
I spoke good words to quick fix her. It was heartbreaking watching her bawl. You’ll get over him and You will find someone better were the only forms of first aid I know that time. I haven’t had any real relationships back then, so I basically don’t know how else to comfort her. I didn’t have stories to relate to her. I didn’t even know what “together” really means and how it can shatter you in pieces once it falls apart. My experiences with my imaginary guy doesn’t count in situations like these. The relationship I engineered in my head was too perfect for me to empathize.
Code red happened several times again. Same protocol. I got better in delivering words of wisdom I got from rom-coms. As soon as she left my place from her last heartbreak, I got myself thinking. There she was ending another chapter of her life, another relationship and ready to start fresh again. While there I was with my new DVDs and a new pack of cookies for me to gorge in, and I still haven’t started any chapter. None at all. No chapters to fill. No stories to write. Not that I want my heart broken. But I want it alive. Drumming. Racing. Waltzing. I want to feel something. And I want to be felt.
Backseat. Chaperone. Third-wheel. Second Best. Supporting Actress. I never get to play the lead role. But then again, there will always be upcoming movies to watch out for and a plenty of new items on the grocery stand to try. Light, sponge like cookies to be excited about. Who cares if I’m alone? Who cares if I don’t belong to someone? I have managed for the last twenty something years. I can manage with the remaining years. Right? I shove past my insecurities and disbelief in romance.
Days pass – whether you like your circumstances or not.
Yesterday she attended Earl’s wedding. It’s amazing how things can eventually shape up into something you never imagined it to be. That day he broke the words to her. Did she ever thought that one day she will be genuinely happy for him? Or that she will be at the back row of the church after his wedding, waiting for her turn to give her best wishes?
Life’s magnifying lens. The past blurs and time clears your vision. She’s engaged now and I’m practically married. Remembering that night, it would be so odd to believe that this day will come. But it did.
[My brain’s pretty scattered right now so I hope I gave justice to this. To Amber congratulations my love. We all deserve a happy ever after.]
Photo Credit: wallpaperside.com