It’s been a while. I thought my fingers have forgotten its love for blogging, but here I go again and blogging my heart out.
Today is the first Wednesday of the year. It is Mary’s day. I have a duty to fulfill so I went to church to hear the mass and say my novena to Our Lady of Perpetual Help. After the mass, I walked my way home. I bumped to two of my students. It’s ordinary. But to my surprise, at our living room waits a long lost friend. Well that is EXTRA-ordinary on a Wednesday like this.
We talked for long. We haven’t talked for 4 years and we have a lot of catching up to do. He said he is already happily married to a girl named Savannah and blessed with 2 wonderful kids: Joshua and Mikee. He said a picture shot when we were in a high school leadership seminar that he unearthed from his wallet reminded him of me so he decided to drive all the way from Quezon City to surprise me and to personally wish me a happy new year. He is now a full time professor in University of Makati. He teaches English. Blah blah blah.
He might have felt that he is the only one maneuvering the conversation so he finally stopped to ask how do I do and what do I do for a living. I told him that I am enjoying my life to the fullest and I teach for a living. He was surprised to know that I am teaching for he knew I finished Broadcast Communication in P.U.P. while he, on the other hand, was fortunate to get into UP Diliman and finished a course related to English language. I told him that I took up Certificate in Teaching in P.N.U., passed the LET and now serves as registrar/faculty/school manager/blah/blah/blah in a small private school near our house. He asked me to walk him to the school where I am teaching. I refused, but he insisted. In short, we walked to the school. We did not go inside of course for it is already late and the gates were closed. We don’t want to bother anybody.
As we walked ourselves back to my house, both of us were silent until he finally found voice to ask, “Bert, how are you really? Are you okay?”
I grappled for a reply. You know that moment when you run out of words? He didn’t hear a word from me.
At the corner of our street is a carinderia famous for its delicious tapsi. We decided to eat our dinner there since I weren’t able to prepare food at home for him. Had he informed me he will be visiting, I should have prepared dinner. I know it is just the 2nd of January and it is typical that there are tons of leftovers in our refrigerator. Unfortunately, we had consumed all the food Mama prepared for Media Noche and this I see as a blessing in disguise: I have a reason to keep him out of the house for us to really have a “heart-to-heart” talk.
He haven’t changed. He still likes talking while his mouth is full. For a while we forgot to talk about our chosen career paths. We ventured on reminiscing our “leadership” days but the reminiscing did not take too long. He wanted me to answer his pending question, and, like a child, he did not stop until he had gotten what he wants.
“I am okay. You might think and assume that I am not okay but honestly I am.”
“What? Are you insinuating that I made a wrong career move?”
“It is you who said that, not me.”
Again, he maneuvered the conversation. “Listen, I can help you get into University of Makati for a teaching position. Instructor. While you are taking your masters if you like. I can recommend you. You are my friend. Your caliber in literature is beyond compare, except you are not good at remembering authors’ names. Bert, I can help you be what you should be.” (Of course this is not the exact words he said, just the gist).
I failed to respond. The idea overwhelmed me. Suddenly, I felt so incapable of responding to a good news.
He further explained, “OMG. You are a crazy man! The problem with you is your softness. You are so compassionate, dude. I know. You got so attached to your clients. I know, you are treating them as your family. I know this story. I know this side of you. And I know how this kind of your stories end: you are left desperate and alone. You have given your heart away so many times to people who will just come and go and leave you miserable. You just grew old, you never grew up! Bert c’mon…”
First time in my life, I weren’t able to fight for myself, for what I really believe in.
Yet, I was able to get even, after a long, deep silence by saying, “I have read somewhere that ‘in business people negotiate to win. They negotiate to get what they want.’ I know you are used to this. You always get what you wanted and I am very happy for you. We are friends but that doesn’t mean you and I are alike. You love yourself that is why you have chosen such career path you are in now. I also love myself, don’t get me wrong. But my definition of love is different from yours and I demand your understanding and respect to it. You see, love is sacrifice. Love is being concerned about someone else’s situation as you are about your own. I don’t only have students, but children who looks up to me for their needs. I can’t just leave them. Leaving them at this point is betrayal. I have promised that I will have them graduate high school first before I will finally leave.”
“… and loving them much more than you love yourself is like killing yourself softly… gently…”
The night ended with him giving his mobile number and I looking at him as he drives his car away.
I taped his phone number on the wall of my room. I am looking at it, now and then, as I type this entry.
I will not save his number on my phone. I will just have it posted on my wall, for me to have something to look up to, to look forward to after I have fulfilled my promise. I just hope that in the end, I will not phone him just to admit that this chapter of my life in the school where I am teaching now ended the way he had predicted it to end.