June 23, 2008

A love story

I FIRST saw Carlos out of the corner of my eye, meekly following his boss who had come to bring some goodies for me and my staff at the office. I don’t remember now if his boss brought any press releases with her for my consideration, but nevertheless she took the opportunity to introduce her new assistant. Carlos turned out to be a quiet sort, very reserved and respectful. But right off the bat, we knew he was gay, even if he himself didn’t know it, or didn’t want to acknowledge it. As most people nowadays say it crudely, “Naamoy namin ang matris n’ya,” which really has no direct translation to English other than “we sniffed him out.”

More than a decade after that first meeting, Carlos tells me that during those days he really wasn’t yet that forthcoming to other people about his homosexuality. In fact, I distinctly remember that it was I who behaved “gay-ly” around him. Known as a fag hag and a babaeng bakla, I sometimes spoke to Carlos in the colorful language gays often use, and kidded around with him about so and so guy being yummy and all… until he would laugh and agree with me.

Perhaps that is what made our working relationship turn into a friendship. There didn’t have to be any long explanations. I just knew it, and he accepted that I knew it. So gradually, Carlos started confiding in me and talking to me about his relationships with other men.

Then, in the course of one rather lengthy conversation a few years ago, Carlos floored me by saying that he had just had dinner with his ex-girlfriend. I was like, WTF! A girlfriend?!?! He couldn’t help but giggle at my outrage but admitted that, yes, for about eight years he was in a relationship with a woman. RX was his first girlfriend, whom he had met in college, and he, in turn, was her first boyfriend.

Until Carlos, all my gay friends had already come out of the closet earlier on in their lives. But here was little Miss Reserved, in a long-term relationship with a woman lasting more than probably most marriages these days. I was totally stunned. “If I just had the money then, I would have probably married her,” he said.

The relationship began, he recalled, quite by accident. RX invited him to a dance that the association at her parents’ condo was holding. After that, they became a couple. There were no “I love yous” or any lengthy courtship. Carlos and RX just became an item right after that dance.

And they had sex. My stomach turned as Carlos opened up. When I try to joke around with my other gay friends about being with a woman, they all scrunch up their faces and say: Ewww! or Kadiri! But for Carlos: “Truly, sis, I actually got excited when I was with her. I really enjoyed kissing her, too.” He added that they would secretly do the nasty whenever they got the chance, especially when her parents weren’t at home. Which made me hysterical enough to retort that, probably, he was still a man and could still do “it” with another woman. Or that he probably swings both ways? The idea now revolts Carlos, though. “Tama na ’yan, sis. Tapos na ’yan.”

Despite being in that relationship with RX, Carlos confided that he did see other men on the side. Sometimes he would be approached while waiting for a ride, or in some theater watching a play. “But I never gave out my real name or my contact number to any of them. To me, it was just lust. I had to release my passion, and then I would feel guilty after being with a man. Kasi nga, I had a girlfriend,” he said.

Unlike my other gay friends who knew they were “different” than other boys as early as six to 10 years old, Carlos was pretty much a late bloomer. He started feeling attracted toward other boys when he was already in high school. “Even then, I still had crushes on girls.” He was confused, and I couldn’t blame him. There was Carlos, a Boy Scout, in a tent with another boy giving the latter head or getting one. But in school, he would be in a “love team” with a female classmate. This behavior went on even as he and RX dated.

But then one day, RX and Carlos went out to dinner. By then they were already working and well into their careers. At dinner, “she just told me that it was over,” Carlos recalled. He didn’t quite remember her exact words, except that they were eating vegetarian spaghetti and they were both crying. (Funny how we remember the food we ate at crucial moments in our lives, but never the exact details of the event itself.)

Just like that, they broke up. RX told him there was someone else—though they were not yet an item, the guy was pursuing her. Carlos mused that perhaps she also had gotten tired of waiting for him as he kept putting off their wedding plans. On hindsight, he said that while his financial situation was what kept him from marrying RX, it also could have been on account of his not being “ready to commit to such a relationship” given his attraction to other men.

In a way, that breakup turned out to be a blessing in disguise for both Carlos and RX. She eventually married the same guy who was courting her. And Carlos, after a year mourning his loss of RX, finally turned that corner into official gay-dom. “Talagang sunud-sunod na ang lalaki ko after that,” he joked.

Three years after their breakup, RX and Carlos finally had that dinner that had so taken me by surprise. By then RX was already married, and Carlos was already in a real relationship with his first boyfriend. Carlos said he finally came clean that night and told RX what had happened to him.

“She was surprised,” Carlos confided. She had no idea that he was playing for her team, although some of her friends would tease her mercilessly about her beau being probably gay, this largely on account of his apparent lack of interest to get married and start a family. “Of course, they had no proof because no one ever saw me with another man,” Carlos told me.

Last Christmas, he invited RX and her husband to the house for a get-together with old college friends. The couple now have a son who was born, coincidentally, on his birthday. “That’s why she will never forget me, sis!” he now says with apparent glee.

Carlos only has warm feelings for RX. “We’re both happy, sis,” he says. She with her family, and he with his latest love. “I am home,” referring to his relationship with his current love. “I am settled. And so is she.”

No comments: