We never forgot how it all began, in 1978. We never tire of talking about how we met, what we said, how we felt.
It must have been in June of that year. I was up in Baguio, and it was evening. It was raining, the wind screeching and howling.
How I hated his guts! “What cheek you have! ” I spat back.
He now says, “I have kept my promise. You fell in love with me. ”
“You were insufferable, odious! ” I shoot back.
“Charming! ” he insists.
I ran away. Took a bus for Manila at the god-forsaken hour of five a. m. But I was entranced. Bewitched, bewildered…bothered.
As I sorted out my feelings, stumbling my way through the fog of love, desire, want, I had to face up to some reality checks: N was married but separated and living with another woman. He was very much a father too, eventually of nine in all. My head was telling me – I deserved someone better.
I was madly in love, but pragmatism won out. I had to come down hard on myself. So, I held back.
Women loved him, sought him out, pursued him. On a date once, two women showed up and literally fought over him, one girl holding his arm, the other, pulling his belt. There were other instances of N’s commissions of sins. “You love women. Too much! ” I tease him frequently.
“Let me put it this way, ” he laughs, “Pinagbigyan ko lang sila (I was just doing them a favor)!”
Irreverent wit. Smartass. I had had boyfriends, just as smart and eligible to boot. But no one was ever like him–so light and easy!
He came into my life on a chariot of fairy dust. And every time I saw him, I would lose myself in the magic of the moment. And the moments were off and on, stretching into years, more off than on, but each time was sweet, lovely. Each time -- a happy moment.
“Why do you love me? ” N would ask.
“Because of how you were with me, ” I tell him. I always felt he loved me, loves me. Whether we were on or off--even if we didn’t see each other for years and years.
Over time, I managed to shake off the fairy dust–or so I thought. I really felt he loved me, for he treated me as if I were dainty china. He was gentle, patient, sophisticated, witty–just what I wanted in a man. But would he ever be mine? Some other woman had legal claim to this wonderful but very wrong, man.
And so, he got married again. And I left for Canada, looking forward to a new life, new adventures. He was just a lovely memory; but whenever N came to mind, I thought of him being light, easy, fun--and I just found myself smiling.
“When was the last time we saw each other? ” he asks.
“In 1993, before I left for Canada, ” I say. Our last incredible moment together--seared in the mind, embedded in the heart. But, then, we never said goodbye.
“Seventeen years! ” he gasps. Such a long, long time of no see, no hear, not a word of each other!
Facebook got us together, on December 28, 2010, Holy Innocents’ Day. Soon, we picked up where we left off without missing a beat, emailing and chatting, utilizing Skype, Yahoo Messenger and Magic Jack. Laughing and fighting. Breaking up and making up.
How was he through the absent years? He suffered two brain strokes and an aneurism attack, and as he told me of those sad, sad years of being left for dead, being reduced to penury, surviving through sheer guts, I held my breath. N was bedridden for 11 years. “And my wife left me. ”
I never thought it would be possible. But here I am back home–with N. Before I left Canada to join him, he warned me, “I look old—and I am bald. And I am now poor. ”
No matter. My mother and my sisters have come to love him. His children are just wonderful.
And he pays my bills. “If ever you get rich again, will you buy me a Birkin bag? ” I ask.
His quick riposte: “Paper bag! ”
The Benz he drove during our first date is now a thing of the past. But he’d help me into a tricycle as if he were ushering me into a limousine. He has flair, my man.
I am happy. We may be surviving just on love. But that’s what matters. Really.
Corito Fiel started her journalism career when she wrote a "Letter to the ConCon Delegates" in 1971, which was published in the front page of The Manila Times. Through the years, she has worked as feature writer and columnist for various Manila newspapers and magazines. She was a Philippine Daily Inquirer columnist and, during long home visits, worked as copy editor for BusinessWorld Magazine (now defunct) and for ABS-CBN Publishing. Corito is now back in Manila to, as she puts it, "test the waters".