Romantic Fugue

 (Photo by Julliaf)

(Photo by Julliaf)

When I wrote the initial version of this piece in 2001, I had just heard of these two people who found each other again after decades of being apart. Their story fascinated me because it was truly romantic and unique. Since then, with the proliferation of class reunions and social networks, recycled relationships have become more common. Nonetheless, the thrill of romance is still there.

This is for the couples out there who have embraced love the second (or third or fourth) time around.

They found each other when they were still trying to find themselves. Their friends had been eager to manufacture a romance to gossip about, and they were the chosen ones. Unlike the tales of first loves in literature, there was no lightning and thunder that accompanied their introduction, no clanging of bells or orchestral fugue to mark the moment. He was, in fact, initially turned off by her reserve; it seemed like she was lost in her own world and he was an intruder.

It didn't take much to wipe out that initial impression. The more time they spent together, the more they discovered they had so much in common. Had they known then what soulmates were, they would have defined themselves as such. Their conversations were unending, starting when they meet each morning and stretching way into the night over the phone. He knew everything there was to know about her, he thought. He could anticipate what delighted her, her moods, the things that made her laugh. She knew him just as thoroughly, except that what they told each other was just what they knew of themselves. At their age, that wasn’t much.

He did not see the break coming. One night, as they were watching the stars come out he asked her if she had imagined how their children would look like.  He felt her tense slightly but didn’t think much of it because she merrily evaded the question by bringing up another topic. He did not push the issue; it was, after all, idle talk  and he was afraid that were she to throw the same question at him, he wouldn’t know what to say.

After graduation, each of them became busy trying to carve out their niches in different fields. They were still a couple and they still had long phone conversations but their new jobs did not allow them to be with each other as much. The diminished time together did not bother him. He was, in fact, enjoying being on his own, as an individual rather than the other half of a couple. He had no doubt that they would marry someday. When she told him she was leaving, he considered it a temporary separation and did not grieve.  But she knew better.

Each morning when the phone rang, she knew exactly what time it was and who was calling. There was something quite endearing in his insistence on this routine. It was almost as if he needed the predictability to assuage his fear of her unpredictability. Poor guy, he never really understood what it was that drove her away at that time when their world was wrapped around each other. She herself couldn’t define it then. She felt the intensity of the restlessness and the need to be free but didn’t yet have the words that could make him understand. And so she left him with weak reasons and empty promises, knowing deep inside her that she was not going back.

She never tried to find out how he felt then, or at what point he realized the finality of her leaving.  That was almost three decades ago so she saw no point in dredging up dormant emotions.

They found each other again when he bumped into an old friend who had her current phone number. When he called, she realized she didn’t know much about him other than that he had married and had been successful. She thought their first meeting would be awkward but no, it turned out to be very pleasant. Like the old friends that they were, they picked up where they left off so smoothly, it was almost like their wrinkles and gray hair were just affectations they had put on to amuse each other. But those were just the externals.

They learned soon enough how different each had become. He had acquired the trappings of a traditional successful life but there was an emptiness in his soul that he never quite understood, so he kept it buried until he met their mutual friend and, without his planning to, asked about her.

As for her, she consciously lived her life in phases; each phase as different from the previous ones as she could make it.  She told him her story as plainly as she could but she could see that he was alternately perplexed and fascinated by the tangled web she had created for herself and how unapologetic she is for her choices and her follies. This is me, she stressed, I am no longer 18 and I have my scars to show for it.

It is never easy to rekindle a romance from the ashes of years, but they managed. Scratch that. A better way of putting it is that it is quite a feat to start a romance when the two individuals involved have a past to get over and the baggage of years to shed before they can truly be together. But they did it. They are in love once again although this time without that cloying togetherness that suffocated them then. They see each other when they want to but they also give each other the space that they need to continue growing.

Will they live happily ever after? They don’t know, nobody knows. In love and life there are no guarantees. But in the game of chance, this couple has so much going for them. They have, after all, paid their dues and came out winning. 

Gemma Nemenzo

Editor, Positively Filipino