On a round table, things got square. On both ends we were talking as if Plato had never lived.
It was a very deep conversation, one of the intelligent talks I’ve had in my life. A friend I saw accidentally while crossing the 32nd street of Makati had extremely grown. From highschool baggy jeans to a slimfit jogger which plain white button down shirt was tucked in just fine, paired with leather boots and Vietnamese hat, he looked so dashing. My friend, Louie, was once a highschool underdog, a thin poor kid who was never given a chance by those bully varsity jocks. I thought at first glance something was wrong, but loh, something was right I should know by that moment.
My eyes couldn’t believe it. And before I could say something, he noticed me too. It was great seeing each other again after about 10 years almost. It was like looking back, enjoying the perks of being highschool, and all of the sudden, College has just ended. That’s how quick life snaps before us. And there we were, crossing the busy commercial streets, tracking our independent road to the success we vowed during the highschool commencement exercise. He was never even in the list of honor student by then, but I knew he has that potential somewhere in the outside world. He is a guy driven by perseverance and not by homework marks.
After some long-time-no-see hugs and cheesy smiles, we sat down on this teashop just across the 32nd Street and thought of maybe catch up of our whereabouts. We both ordered tea latte under his favor then he got some magazines from the counter stand.
“So Louie, it’s been a long time. What do you do in here? You look so much different now.” I started.
‘Well, Uhm, I work as a fashion director and stylist in a Publishing Company. It’s a quite tough job..”
“Wait what… Fashion what..?” I interrupted as I couldn’t exactly process in what he had just said.
“Did you just say fashion director? Oh my Lord that’s a great job. I mean look at you. See how bankable you look like. This isn’t you. Ha ha” I attempted a punchline. I’ve known him as a silent type of guy who never buy jokes but I still tried.
He just grinned and went on.
“Yeah yeah, ha ha. Well apparently. I got in. I got the job and it was fine, been a little busy these past few days booking clients, arranging photoshoots, meetings here and there, learning everyday. It’s tough, but it’s fun I must say.”
Who would have thought that someone like him would land in a fashion industry. I mean it’s just amazing to see a person all grown up and buckled with such principle. This guy didn’t finish college. He got kicked out of college because he never go to class, after which he became part of a dance crew, swaggin his life out to some contests and pioneered a subgroup for contemporary dancers. He was persistent at his own risk. Very brave.
“Well yeah, so how did you land the fashion world? Are you still dancing?” I curiously continued.
“Yeah yeah, you remember the UPLB Lights still huh. I still supervise the group. So I never went back to College when I got kicked out. I have this principle, great things are learned when you are willing, not when you are forced.” He answered.
UPLB Lights is the name of the contemporary dance crew he’s pioneered and still going. And he was sent to College with a degree he never have wanted.
“So I found a way out and look for a place where I can be happy. I worked as choreographer while I wasn’t doing anything. But money isn’t a tree that bears fruits. I also auditioned to some big crews you see on TV, I failed twice. And then I realized, no, you don’t really look for happiness,.. you make one instead. You don’t fit yourself into something you don’t belong. And you don’t stop till you find it. On that point, I was caught in the midlife crisis, do I go back to study and get that diploma of something I am not, or enroll myself and waste money to get a diploma of a degree I really wanted, or maybe totally get out of either and look at the world differently.” He continued.
I was getting on my nerve that time. It was a such an inspiring line.
“So I risked an OJT in Mega Publishing. Luckily I got in. Maybe they picked me because of my style. And then I went on, focused myself on work, got good feedback from the management after 3 months, and they absorbed me. So to cut my story short, I started as a staff, transferred to editorial, team, learned the art of writing, still dance on a weekend, got some opportunity to travel, interviewed people of all walks. In 2009, social media started to boom, and I thought I wouldn’t want the social media to just boom alone by itself, I had the thinking, why can’t I boom along with the social media. So I used it. I then started blogging about my life, my walks, my life as a writer, my life as a fashionista, my life as a dancer, and even my sad life of not graduating College. And you know what, that made me be featured in one of the Magazine Programs on Lifestyle network, and my followers slowly soared from hundreds to thousands. And I never stopped. I gathered connections, I built partnership with my followers and before you know it, yes, money is a tree that bears fruits, but it only bears when you take care of the roots, when you pour water on it. The point is, you don’t need papers to succeed.” He continued.
“And I landed a position in a creative team, started as a production staff, then moved to client relations, attended shoots for commercial, hunted models, got involved in the modelling world and became a director after few months, pretty much all around. And I realized, God this has been perfect. I am earning in three ways and I am happy. And that’s what’s important.., you know, just being happy.”
I saw the real passion in his eyes. The once shy voice I knew was there right in front of me lecturing about life, a perfect life.
“It’s been a perfect ride, and all the imperfections made it perfect.” He concluded.
We were talking a lot about life and those golden highschool days before we realized that 2 hours had passed. And then we bid goodbye.
In my mind, I came to a simple point, when money and passion become an issue, you consider passion instead. Because money can’t make passion, but passion can make money in the long run. It was a very healthy conversation I would never forget.
I sticked a note on his bed while he was sound asleep. I couldn’t say personally how sorry I was about our argument last night. My lower body wanted to stay and please him all day, but my upper ones were so much decided to grasp some air. The sun was up giving our naked body a sweet gleam through small spaces of the dark drapes. I knew it was time. As the clock ticked to seven o’clock, the gravity pulled down the tears I couldn’t contain. It dropped down to my red cheeks to my crumpled fist while I looked at his innocence. There were no words, and for a few minute of analyzing his face, my feet walked away of solitude then I shut the door without hesitation.
I stood with the throng waiting for the lights to turn green. It was a bit crowded. I hummed through Sam Smith’s “Stay with me” and felt the mixed emotions deep within. I isolated my mind despite the street noise. It had never been such a lonely morning.
I counted down with the red lights. 35 seconds to go before I could cross.
Everyday of my life, I would cross the same street with him. I would never get afraid of the world’s judgement as I hold his hand on the same pedestrian. We would laugh at random thoughts and sightseeings. We would step and count the lines as we cross on the pedestrian lane. There were 62 white lines to be exact, 62 steps to reach the other side.
Memories flashed back. It was a sweet affair. But like all relationships. There were misunderstandings. There were pesonality tests, and like academic tests, there were cheating and sneeking. There were honesties, forgiveness and forgetting. It was a rollercoaster ride. It wasn’t easy but wasn’t difficult too when you understand and learn each other’s heart.
Like all the types of rides, we sometimes need space… like boundaries, and limits and walls and isolation and getting lost. It wouldn’t mean bad. Space defines existence. It is the same space that gleamed our naked body on the realm of dark curtains, the same space that measures the distance of everyone on the throng waiting for the lights to turn green… the same space that makes pedestrian stripes countable… that for every 62 white lines, there were 61 blank spaces in between.
I hugged my sling bag and waited for the lane to be vacated so could reach the other side. Cars went on chasing each other side by side, swiftly passing by against our still being.
“I just need space. We both need space”, the note I left on his bed read.
I knew for sure we needed space, like every car needs so they wouldn’t bump against each other, like for every red lights there’s green so every wheels could give way to a lost feet. And that’s one thing I learned from traffic lights. You need to learn how to give way, how to wait for your time or risk crossing to find out you’d be hit and stumble broken.
I finally stepped on the flat pavement and crossed the pedestrian lane…It was time to cross. My heart beat fast as the distance from the shut door to where I was grew longer. It was different. I wasn’t holding someone. I wasn’t laughing at random thoughts. And unlike the old ways, I didn’t count the white lines, instead I counted the blank spaces in between, and there were 61 of them as I reached the other side.
2 days ago, I was phoning to my friend Jackson. We were happy catching up. But just six hours ago, the wheel of fate paused spinning and he was caught downside lying physically broken, filled with blood on K9th Street. He had just flown down from the 28th floor to escape life, at least that’s what I thought. And all that’s left is a suicide note that moved me and kept me staring at my laptop for quite a while.
On the 23rd of August, just 2 days ago. I was talking to a dear friend Jackson whom I hadn’t spoken to for a while then. We were catching up about life and what’s going on with everything. There was so much difference in his voice, like he seemed disturbed. I had known him as a guy who wears the sweetest smile and who had embraced a positive life. He had a good life, a great career in advertising field, surrounded by beautiful friends, and had grown an independent life since we graduated from college. He was the proudest gay who had a fruitful perspective on living normally as the others. I had not spoken to him until that time and learned that he was engaged to his partner situated somewhere Canada. He was telling me about his partner named Josh, who’s working in a bank specializing in figures and how everything started and end up on an engagement. It was true love I knew and I was happy for him the whole time we were talking. It was a surprise call I didn’t know would lead to a premonition.
On the 24th of August, yesterday, he sent me a text message if he could meet me at the church by around 9am. I was worried. I asked if something was wrong and he just replied with a sad face. It just so happened I had an appointment meeting that time booked prior to his message so I texted him I wouldn’t be able to drop by but promised to free my sched on the afternoon. I never heard from him.
Six hours ago, I woke up feeling dizzy. I checked my phone and got a message from Jackson. “I sent you an email last night. If one of these days I’m gone, let Josh know I love him so much.” I hurriedly checked my inbox feeling nervous and tensed and I got a suicide note which he allowed me to publish. August 25, 2:00 AM he wrote:
Don’t consider this a suicide note. It is not. I call it a escape note. The only difference is that, I’m not coming back. This is a message I sent to special people whom I know would understand me. I don’t know what awaits me after doing this but I know it would totally break me free from thoughts. I have been depressed these past few weeks. I often heard people saying suicide is not the answer to your question, and that it’s never gonna help you mend, but I know it’s the end. No one knows what’s out there but maybe I’m just too pissed yet excited to know what’s really out there. Like what is the point of being good when you are surrounded by bad.
I have always thought that love is the greatest feeling and should rule the world. I had four of it, and it all ended the same way- painful, tragic, abusive. People say we need to be hurt to realize the real meaning of love and for us to be careful next time. Well I say I have invested enough and have understood so much to find out in the end that people just make promise by word and not by action. That all the words that have said are just to benefit the present time. In reality, when it comes to love, some people are just really selfish, some don’t care too much or at all, some pour it all up and some just give it all in. I had it all managed at times. I balanced everything.
He says I’m a great person, but guess what, he just turned me down. When he says I’m a great person, he means I deserve someone else. What feelings in the world could have been more painful than breaking an -already-broken heart? Why do people think selfishly. Doesn’t he realize that he is needed and that someone out there is busy supporting and taking the time to love him.
He’d say I deserve someone better, but the truth is, my heart never looks for any better when it’s contented with him. I have loved him in his lowest and highest points and I guess it’s just fit to say I have loved him as both by fate and by choice.
Love begins at attraction. Love begins at butterflies and colorful flowers we know that. That attraction grows. You see the good and the bad ones, the rest is all a choice. We all live by choice and I hate it when people make promise, build bridges and ruin afterwards just because they just don’t wanna walk on that bridge anymore. The crash is unbearable. When it’s grown bigger and hopes and plans are built, and it crashes, the casualty becomes bigger, and you were left mending alone and fixing those casualties, and then u see yourself back to square one. It’s a cycle and it’s tiring.
The hardest part of loving my friend is when you are talking to silence; that you’ve exhausted all the possible words you could say and you hear nothing; that you keep asking for a thought from him and you’d hear nothing. That you are left with scattered clues and ended up fuzzy. People say don’t overthink too much, but I say don’t underthink too less. It’s not overthinking, it’s expressing concern, that you are always there. People say give it some time and don’t judge. I never did judge, and my worry in giving it some time is that love might fade. People keep insisting the idea of trust, I have always trusted. In fact, I overtrust, but talking to silence isn’t working anymore.
He’d say, it’s never gonna work out because we were oceans apart, but I say, why have we started it in the first place? The answer: It’s because we once believed in the premise of love, that no matter how hard it is, there is always power of sacrifice, of suffering. It has always been a choice to believe. I don’t know what have gone wrong. It’s like he lit a flame, we enjoyed the fire, it conflagrated bigger and I was left killing the tragedy and fixing the casualty. I don’t know, he must have died with the ashes.
Friends like you would always be friends, but you will never feel what I feel ever. They’d say friends are meant to be there but I say, there’s always a digital divide. The truth is, we all have our own lives, and that we make sure it’s all fine before someone else’s lives are. That’s my mistake, I cared more for him rather than my own life because that’s what he taught me before. It’s selfless love.
I’ll be dead in a few.
Find me and my cold body somewhere along the pavements of K9th Street and I’ll see you sometime when your wheel stopped spinning. By the time you’re reading this, I might have flown and escaped.
Tell Josh I have flown, crossed the oceans and watching him.
I could barely breathe after reading his note. I was hoping it’s all a bad dream. But that’s the truth. That’s the truth. Depression can kill.
2 hours ago, I rushed my way to K9th Street to see Jackson. I drove my way to the end of the street as I don’t know his exact address. I saw nothing but a peaceful village filled with children playing on the street. I double checked the signs to make sure I’m on the right street, and yes I was on the right street. I didn’t wanna think it was a joke or something. Until I got another text message from an unknown number.
“Coco, this is Jackson’s mom. See me at the Capitol hospital room 855. Jackson tried to commit suicide on his room, luckily, the maintenance personnel had saved his life. I’ll explain when you get here.”
From then I knew he was safe. I drove my way to the hospital.
I am writing this letter while looking at his fainted face beside his bed.
God still wins even on darkest hours.
Dont wait for love, make it.
JACKSON 25, ONCE MENTIONED THAT HE IS COMPLETE HAVING JOSH IN HIS LIFE. HE IS NOW MENDING PHYSICALLY AND EMOTIONALLY IN AN INSTITUTION FOR DEPRESSED PEOPLE.