(How I Found) The Ultimate Love Connection

20 Sep

September 20, 2008

This is for A, love of my life, who has given me 17 great years of The Ultimate Love Connection. Thank you for loving me even when I am mental, for bearing with me even when I am exasperating, and for sharing with me the best 27 years of my life. We made this happen, you and I.

Happy Anniversary, love.

 

Sometimes, I wish that I had fallen in love with A much earlier. I think of our five years of friendship before we became a couple, and I regret that we were too blind to see each other as anything else other than friends. A likes to tell me, however, that it is the sum of our experiences that makes us who we are, and  we were led to each other only at the particular moment when we were ready.  Perhaps, changing the past will change the future, and if that is so, I can live with the follies of my youth.

Surviving Mr. Wrong*

Over a gallon of ice cream, my friend and I once pondered about ever meeting the perfect man. We were both embroiled in serious relationships then, two young women in our early twenties, prime examples of independent, strong-willed, tenacious creatures of the nineties. We wanted to be sure that we had what a swank yuppies’ magazine dubbed as “the ultimate love connection.”

It was late December, and we were on night duty at the intensive care ward of a government hospital. We were still too low in the totem pole of hospital hierarchy to warrant our own lounge, and so we made do in a cramped little corner of the nurses’ station, wearily scooping spoonful after spoonful of ice cream.

“What do you think, P?” she suddenly blurted in between mouthfuls of cookies and cream.

“You and he-who-must-not-be-named?” I swallowed the last bit of Oreo cookie stuck between my front teeth. “What of him?”

“You think we’ll last? I mean, we’ve gone through the answers at the back of this magazine and it says we’re doing just well. Not perfect, but it says we’re okay.” She looked at me doubtfully.
 
“Not perfect, huh? Then again, who has one? A perfect love connection, I mean?”

“Well, looks like you got it all right …” she replied unhappily.

“Uhm … I’m fessing up … I looked at the answers right after I bought that magazine.”

“You did not! Did you? Hey, be serious, okay?”

“Okay, I think you and he-who-must-not be-named are perfect for each other. How long have you been together, five years? Don’t sweat it, girl. You’ll stay together for a long time. You’ve finally met Mr. Right.” And with that, I scraped the last spoon clean.

I was wrong. Dead wrong. Sometime in the “long time” that I predicted, they broke up.

I think of this episode in my life and wonder how I ever thought of myself as an expert in “love connections.” Throughout my adult life, I have spent a considerable amount of time listening to stories of broken hearts, as I have also spent an equal amount of time dishing out well-worn advice for the lovelorn. All these, coming from a woman tutored in the art of romantic love by a guru whose claim to fame is having had the most number of boyfriends by age 25 (I lost count after 49).

My friend and I spent hours on the phone after this most unfortunate breakup. We were each other’s therapists as she poured her heartbreak to me. One day, after months of the most grueling and intensive phone therapy, she asked me how I could be so resilient in the face of adversity.

“Simple, friend. Meet the only woman dumped by the same man twice and lived to tell the tale.”

She gasped.

My husband hates talking about them. The morons – ah, I mean the men – who came before him. The ones who got away. Not that there were many. Surely, not even I can break my guru’s long-standing record of sorts. But there was one who still stands out in my memory till today. The man who dumped me twice.

He was a friend from way back, part of a group of my closest friends. He was a gangly fellow, always with a shy smile and a hanky to cover it up. Quiet and oftentimes serious in thought, we drifted together and found solace in each other’s company. And so, in the midst of a rowdy group of friends, he and I found each other. We had a lot in common, it seemed at first. I felt that he respected my abilities and believed that I could make a difference in people’s lives. I was entranced by his quiet ways, by the twinkle in his eyes when he laughed shyly, by the smile etched on his lips as he looked at me silently from afar. There I was, in love, rapturous as he held my hand in his. Little did I know …

The break-up came one muggy day in March, when I least expected it. He had stopped calling two days earlier, but I was unconcerned. I knew he had a lot on his mind, with final exams coming so soon in a few days. I passed some notes to him during the day but he did not reply. I was blissfully ignorant as I hurried home to dream about him. I even blew him a kiss before I left.

Late that evening, he called up. I was euphoric. I gushed about missing him so much. Then he cut me short.

“It’s over.”

“What do you mean, it’s over?  What’s this all about?”

“I’ll explain everything in my letter tomorrow. I’m sorry, P. But I really did love you …” his voice trailing off.

I dropped the phone, dismay washing over me. Did?  What did it mean, that he did love me?

The next day, he handed me a handwritten letter, the last I ever received from him. In it was a litany of our differences, none of which mattered, I thought disdainfully. I grew angrier as I read and reread the letter. There was a line about wishing to have more time with his friends, and another about the difference in our social status. There were a few more lines about his having loved me and about not wanting to hurt me anymore than he already has. All hogwash, I thought. I folded the note back in my pocket and drew on a deep breath, willing for more composure. The tears came much later for me.

And so, he left it at that. He refused to talk to me anymore and avoided me like the plague. In that moment, I wished I could take back all the love I had so foolishly wasted on him. And yet, in the same breath, I longed for him to return to me.

The days that came over were my second most foolish set of days. I cut my hair short in a fit of rage, where I had always worn it past my waistline. Even more idiotic, I used my mother’s pinking shears. I starved myself to death, eating nothing but lettuce for five weeks. I went into a shopping frenzy. I started to use a lot of makeup whereas I once abhorred the stuff. I had pictures taken by professional photographers of the “new svelte me” and posted them all over the house. I whispered a silent “I love you” to myself each time I passed one of my pictures.

And then there were the moments of despair. I studied the anatomy of the wrist to its minutest details (which served me well in medical school, at least). I read up on deaths and suicides and proclaimed myself an authority on morbidity. I relished fictional accounts of revenge and murder.

The irrationality and self-destructive tendencies soon passed. But the longing didn’t. I was left to think about him for long hours. I waited, waited, waited for him to call again. I started a journal to help me climb out of the tunnel of self-pity and anger, of wanting and hating. I went out with some friends but soon gave up on the idea; most of the time, I was just too depressed to be around them. To save my sanity (or whatever was left of it), I memorized a poem (“When I Am Dead”) I found in an old issue of a women’s magazine, penned by Sara Teasdale.  This became my life-saving mantra during those dark, turbulent days.

When I am dead and over me
 Bright April shakes out her rain-drenched hair
 Though you should lean above me broken hearted
I shall not care.
 I shall have peace, as leafy trees are peaceful
 When rain bends down the bough
 And I shall be more silent and coldhearted
 Than you are now.

I found my equilibrium after a long uphill climb. Finally, I thought I was over him enough to tolerate being in the same places we had once been to. And then, just as suddenly as he had left, he was back. Late one afternoon, the phone rang. It was him, asking me if I was well. I got caught in the circle of loving and loathing again.

The funny thing was, despite all my rhetoric on how he didn’t deserve me, I never really thought I deserved him at all. I was always under the impression that I should be thankful he loved me, a belief I willingly perpetuated in an effort to keep him. It didn’t take him long to worm his way into my heart again. I welcomed him back into my life as I tried to impress to him the new me. Surely he will be loathed to give me up now, I prayed fervently. I thought that I had changed myself enough to make him want to stay.

If I had bet my life savings on this notion, I’d be in the poorhouse today. Somehow, after a time, I knew he was itching to leave again. He always had a prefabricated excuse not to see me – his schoolwork, his fraternity, and his family – anything and everything over me. He preferred the phone to dates, and would remain silent as I babbled about the day’s activities to him. Pretty soon, we were left with nothing more to say.

I mustered the courage to ask him if he wanted to leave the relationship. Stunned, he managed to blurt out an audible yes. For the second time in my life, I was dumped all over again.

It didn’t hurt any less this time. Wait, these were my most foolish days yet. For almost a year, I wore nothing but black, to show my grief and mourning. I cut my hair really short this time, almost shearing my head off. I traipsed around the university, wrapped in black in the middle of summer, hoping to catch a glimpse of him. I engineered ways to bump into him unexpectedly. All my hopes died when I saw him with another girl a few months later.

To say that I stopped hoping for a third crack at his love would be lie. Truth to tell, if he had called again, I think I would have given up everything to be with him (yes, I was that stupid, no need to rub it in). Still, mercifully, God always has a way of making you realize life’s truths.

That I was. That I am. That I will be.

Even without him.

In my case, God sent me my best friend to shake off the inertia that had settled around my heart. My best friend nursed me back to mental health. And then, when I was well enough to love myself honestly, he showed me what true love was. IS.

So, you see, coming from a woman who’s been dumped twice, there is real love out there. The Ultimate Love Connection. I bet my life on this one.

~~0~~

* This article originally appeared in Outpost, BusinessWorld’s first e-zine.

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6 Responses to “(How I Found) The Ultimate Love Connection”

  1. manggy September 20, 2008 at 1:28 pm #

    Omigosh, medyo natakot ako somewhere in the middle of the essay, ha ha ha 🙂
    Thanks for sharing this story of the one who (THANKFULLY!) got away. I am going to rub it in (against advice, haha), but he sounds like a real tool. And those darn handwritten letters! It must be great to have a freaking SOUVENIR of this awful, awful moment! And though I’ve never had a connection with anyone, I do know of the desire to inspire guilt in others, for them to see you and pity (I’m not sure it’s the right word– but somehow, honestly it is) you! Realize how wrong they were. Yes, I sound like Auntie An-Mei in The Joy Luck Club. But not only have you realized your worth, but also in a lasting and truly loving relationship– you are really lucky 🙂

  2. odette September 23, 2008 at 3:28 am #

    congratulations on 17 years of marital bliss, kittymama and A! 17, i kept repeating that to myself in awe. what a blessing to be married that long, to a man you really love, and who truly loves you back in return. i wish you more years to come, more happiness, more loving and peace.

    i can only wish we will have mannnny years to come also. i found my ultimate love connection with my husband, and i’m having the grandest time of my life. 🙂

  3. leira September 23, 2008 at 6:54 am #

    wow.. its a beautiful story and what can i say?? we all have our moments na when we look back we can say what was i thinking??? i know i had a lot of that when it came to relationships

  4. mari September 23, 2008 at 7:33 am #

    there were relationships which we thought fit our lives. we try to make it work and if it doesn’t, we blame ourselves. we rebel against ourselves. but soon enough, we realize what’s been missing… we deny ourselves the truth. the truth that the relationship or whatever’s left of it, will not work. unrequited love sucks but who cares? important thing is, we learned from it.
    i love reading stories from you.
    17 years is a feat! congratulations to you both! 🙂

  5. Charelle October 1, 2008 at 6:08 pm #

    OMG! That’s such a beautiful story! :O And I’m glad you got rid of that jerk who dumped you twice. 😐 It was his loss, because he’ll never meet another woman who will love him as much as you did. 😐 But he didn’t deserve you anyway. XD And your husband now must be the luckiest man on earth, because he’s got you! 😀 I’m really happy for you, Tita P! And best guy friends rock! =))

  6. julie October 2, 2008 at 9:21 pm #

    17 years, wow, plus those years spent together in HS…that is just wonderful, more than wonderful even.

    Congratulations!

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