One night in August 2012
“Z, you didn’t tell me we ( I mean me and Liz) have the same size. Look, it fits!”
“I didn’t know too. Lemme see. It suits you. It’s a perfect fit.”
“I know, right.”
“Do you wanna have it?”
“So you don’t want it. Get rid of it.”
“Can I pawn it?” I teased.
“Do what you want. Suit yourself.”
“Know what, I think it should go to its rightful owner.”
If you’re wondering, we’re talking about the engagement ring
1. Arrange a time alone with Liz* (Z’s ex).
2. Find out what really happened.
Use force if you must. Reminder : This part of the plan requires tons of patience. Can I punch her again? NO. Slap her? Forget it.
3. Tell the ‘gossip’ to Z and let him decide what happens next.
Here’s what happened after that conversation:
*No real names.
I sat across Z at our friend Alex’s birthday party. I didn’t plan to be here. Yesterday, I got a call from Alex* inviting me to his party. I was still thinking about it when I received his message this morning “stating” he’s expecting to see me there.
Me: Don’t expect much. I’m still thinking about it.
A: Why? It’s gonna be fun. It’s MY birthday, please.
Me: hmmm.. who’s coming?
A: Mostly my friends in college. Relatives, family.
Me: Good. I’d feel out of place.
A: You’ll be fine. There’s someone I want you to meet. He’ll keep you company.
Me: Good Lord, a HE? You’re not match making, or shall I say TRAFFICKING, are you?
A: Haha, very funny Shing. You don’t really have to be with him the entire party. Just meet him, ok?
Me: What’s this all about?
A: I promised him.
Me: You promised him. Great! I’m bound by “somebody else’s” promise.
A: So, are we cool?
Me: No we’re not. Ah, don’t you know Liz?
A: Yeah. She’ll be there too. What about her?
Me: Nothing. Ok, we’re cool.
Uh-oh, I have a major problem. Am I allowed to bring someone along with me? Well, Z and Alex are good friends but, he didn’t mention Z, did he? Hmmm. I don’t have a plan B. Truth is, I don’t have any other plan at all! This is ‘the chance of a lifetime’ to execute my ONLY plan. I’ll be going home to our province (Leyte) next week, Z will be trav’ling back to Manila in 3 days, and Liz, the star of the “current affairs”, will FINALLY grace us with her presence. I’ve been trying to track her down for several days now and I’m not gonna let this rare opportunity leave my door just because I’m too shy to ask Alex a very essential favor.
I was trying so hard to construct a text message, asking a favor when I received this:
A: Lastly, Shing, are you still in touch with Z? He’s elusive nowadays. I haven’t heard from him for ages. Pull him out of his base, will you? I’ll understand if you won’t bother with a present as long as you bring him. Is it ok?
Me: Lex, you’re a star! Ikaw na! (You already?) Btw, it’s cocktail, right?
A: Yeah, party starts at 2pm and ends when it ends. Come anytime.
Me: Ok, see ya! Happy birthday Lex )
That was quite a history! It’s exactly how my mind wanders , so bear with me Back at present, it’s 3:32pm. Still at the table, I’m getting rid (i mean putting aside by using a fork) of the vegetables in my club sandwich. And still sitting across me is Z, laughing and making fun of me while eating the unwanted vegetables (sagbot). He loves veggies. I don’t. Looking at him, merrily laughing like that, I couldn’t help but notice how he looks so HIM ( his usual
vain self) again. He looks so handsome that some of the ladies in the room keep stealing glances at him. Or is it because he’s laughing out loud? No, I think not. He IS quite a sight. Alex came to our table with a gorgeous guy, who he introduced as John*. He then stole ( more like DRAGGED) Z away from the table, leaving me with John. oh GREAT, the promise. I totally forgot about it.
“Hi. Sheila, right?”
“Hello.. John, right?”
“Hahaha, I love you! No, that didn’t sound right. I mean I love your sense of humor. But that doesn’t mean I don’t love you. Not again. Can I go back and start over?”
Well, that was odd. I mean, really, what’s so funny? I just copied your tone, duh. I didn’t expect something like that. ”Alright but, take a seat first. My neck’s starting to kill me. I might develop a stiff neck, you know.”
And then again, he laughed. This time, LOUDER. I thought he’s charming ( pero nakahuna-huna pud ko, na’man siguro ni dyes sa ilok tawhana..lol)
We shook hands then started to get to know each other. We talked for quite sometime. It was awkward for me at first but he managed to make me feel comfortable. His laughter was contagious. He has this
wonderful deep, baritone voice which seems like music to my ears. Yep, totally ‘eargasmic’. The kind I could just listen to all day and ask for nothing more. I couldn’t recall our conversation in full details since I was too busy listening to his voice that I didn’t pay much attention to what he was actually saying. I’ve gone mad. I know. Hmmm. Enough about him, let’s talk about my real purpose for being here.
I was distracted for an hour, I guess. Time flew so fast. It’s ten past five. John excused himself from the table to play with his band. He’s the lead guitar and the vocals ( which isn’t really a surprise). I searched the room with my eyes for Z. He’s still with Alex. Then I saw Liz, bless her, mentally throwing daggers at Z. Oops, she hates him. Something’s not right. To be honest, NOTHING’s right. There has been no progress on my ‘brilliant plan’ yet.
Ok, here we go. It’s now or never. As I walked towards her, I realized I am shaking. No, I ain’t turning cold feet. I was so angry I feel like I’m gonna explode. I don’t know what is with that woman that just makes my blood boil..grrr. I think I’ve never really moved on from that SLAP. pft. I need a detour to contain my anger first. I was on my way to the restroom when I heard my name being called up on stage. Oh for the love of God, John, what are you doing!? Dear God, I asked for a detour, not a U-turn. I wildly shook my head NO, mentally begging him to let me get off the hook but, he’s persistent as hell. Damn him. Everyone at the party “chanted” my name, urging me to go sing with John, the mean devil’s advocate X(. That walk towards the stage was nerve-racking. My knees were trembling. I had to stop to prevent myself from falling ( that would be too embarrassing eh?..epic). All eyes were on me. God, I need a hand, please. John took a step towards me and Z (thank God) appeared on my side out of nowhere. I downed the drink he had with him. White wine? I’d kill for a glass of water ‘ora mismo’!
“Hey love, you’re better than this, just so you know,” Z told me.
“No, I don’t think so,” I retorted.
“C’mon, think of D, maybe, while singing with John. They sound the same, right?”
“A little, yeah but, he’s not D (my deceased first love).”
“We both know that, as well as the fact that we’re on the spotlight right now and we only have two choices. Either you go sing with John or we’ll run out of this party, never looking back.”
“Thank you for pointing that out. That’s so clever. I feel REALLY BETTER now. All thanks to you, HA!
“Shei, Just one song, please?” John said.
“I don’t sing, John.” And I hate you.
“Lying is a sin, love. Take his hand and go sing with him. You both have my blessing,” Z said, winking at me while putting my hand in John’s.
Oh Z, I am so ending our friendship. Brilliant plan be damned.
As me and John walked ‘hand in hand’ towards his band, I thought of why I’m here — doing these things when I could be home and happily watch a movie with my 3 siblings. I shouldn’t have come. Really? What about the plan? What about Z? Stop bitching about it! A song won’t hurt. My inner self scolded me.
“You’re trembling, are you ok?” John asked.
Halerr, I am obviously far from ok! “I’m err.. actually nervous, you should’ve warned me earlier about this.” So that I can plan my exit
“I’m sorry. It’s just that I wanna sing with you.”
Well, I don’t. “Uhm..why?”
“You probably know I like you. A lot. Singing a song with someone I like so much, that would mean the world. I got a feeling we’re meant to be. I’m sorry for putting you through this but, please?”
Ok, that was some revelation. I’m totally freaking out right now. What did he just say? We just met! This is the second time of the same day that this guy took me by surprise, made my insides stir, and rendered me speechless. I have to stay away from this guy. Hmmm.. I don’t really have to meet him after this party, do I? “Uhm.. You’re fogiven. Ok, let’s get it over with.”
And so we sang “High” by Lighthouse Family and Ben E. King’s “Stand by Me”. Yeah, the ‘just one song, please’ became ‘one more, please.’ Plus the two I sang as requested by the birthday celebrant with Z playing the guitar ( my idea, HAHA). Z is a ‘marvel’ with the guitar. I wanna show Liz what she’s missing In turn, I gave him the liberty to choose the songs. He picked “Cryin’” by Aerosmith and “Smooth” by Matchbox 20 ft. Santana for the encore.
FINALLY, I got what I really came here for — a time alone with Liz. She is stunning and charming, if only she’d stop stabbing Z with her eyes. I shouldn’t blame her. I don’t know her side of the story yet. That’s what I’ve been dying to find out.
“I wanna talk to you about something, if it’s ok.”
“About Z, right?”
“Look, if you’re trying to patch things up between us, stop. I don’t want him back. We’re over. I was blinded. I see things clearly now.”
What? Patch things up? Where did that come from? This ‘girl’ is deluded. ”Huh, what do you mean?”
“Oh don’t play me, I’m aware he was two timing me with my “slutty”(pardon me for the term, she really said this) cousin. You knew about that, don’t you?”
“He was what? Hell no. Who told you that? I don’t think that’s plausible.”
“Hannah* (her cousin) herself.”
“Oh Hannah. Is she the one who hates you?” I’m starting to LIKE this cousin..grrr.
“Yeah. The very one who keeps fabricating stories about ‘everything’?”
“And you believed her this time?”
“There’s no smoke without fire.”
“Your cousin is fire, herself. She can create any smoke she wants. What she can’t control is how people react to ‘her’ smoke.”
“I’m with you on that but, Z failed to mention the truth about why he missed our 15th monthsary. I know it’s seven months ago and I’m supposed to let go of it. I forgave him for it but, my cousin’s seven months pregnant. I had a row with Hannah a few weeks ago and so she told me about the week she spent with Z in Bohol. She enjoyed telling me what they were doing while I was all dressed up for the night, eagerly waiting for Z to appear at my doorstep. Only to receive a single text message from him saying he’s sorry, something came up, he’ll make it up to me some other day.”
NO..no, no, no. God, no.
September 2011: What Really Happened
I woke up with a headache. It was almost eleven in the morning. I didn’t plan to wake up ’til the next day. Yeah, I planned to sleep through that day — the day the love of my life left me for good. A notorious disease claimed his life so his death wasn’t really a shock to me. Still, knowing it beforehand hurts no less. “Nothing can prepare us for the death of a loved one and the pain it comes with as a keepsake.”( I think I read it somewhere or maybe someone told me. I’m not certain.) His cousin told me the bad news the night before (I should say midnight, really) and I couldn’t sleep ’til six that morning. I was so busy crying, weeping, wailing. I was so thirsty when I woke up. I felt like a withered crop. I’m a total mess. I listlessly dragged myself downstairs for a glass of water. I then checked my phone. I got 11 missed calls and 3 long messages from Z. He called again asking me to come spend the day with him. I was not really in the mood to go out but, he kept harassing me.
“Hey love, you’re not the only person grieving over his death, you know. For the record, he’s the only guy who made me shed my precious tears. We should use each other’s company. As the saying goes, misery loves company. So go pick yourself up and let’s go cry a river of tears somewhere.”
He finally talked some sense to me so we spent the day reminiscing our moments with D. That was a very long day. We laughed. We wept. We grieved.. together.
I was teary-eyed when I told Liz about that day and the next few days we spent together after that.
“I can see you came prepared. I gotta give you credit for that marvelous drama. Z already told me about it. It was a good story though. You’re quite convincing, even more than Z. I almost believed you if I didn’t know my cousin’s pregnant with a baby boy and Z is the father,” Liz, the cold b**** said.
I froze in fury. I clenched my fists so hard. I need to keep my calm. Gosh, this witch is so unnerving I wanna tear her down. Think straight. You’re at a party with no less than a hundred peoples around. Now, you don’t really wanna make a scene, do you? Believe me, she’s not worth it.
“Am I interrupting something?” John reluctantly said.
Perfect timing, John. I leaned closer to Liz and said “Keep thinking that. After all, it’s your loss, not mine.” I handed her the ring and said, “Keep it as a token. Oh and when your nephew comes out and you finally realize he’s not Z’s, remember me saying this, I told you so.”
I hurried to where John stood waiting and left her speechless.
“You were too serious back there, what were you talking about?” John asked.
“Nothing really. Just girl stuffs. Have you seen Z?”
“Yeah. He’s at our table, waiting. Dinner’s served.”
“Oh dinner.” I don’t really have the appetite for food. I wanna go home. “It’s about time. I’m starving.”
Late after dinner, I told Z about my conversation with Liz.
“Who, Hannah? I’ve never even been to Bohol, let alone spend the week there with her. I barely know her.”
“I know. I told her about what happened and she didn’t believe me. I’m so sorry Z. Go talk to Liz. I think she’ll believe you.”
“No, let her be. I’ve had enough of it. She doesn’t trust me. With my past reputation, I need someone who believes I can change. Someone who will never doubt me. Two years. I’ve been loyal. Know what, I was wrong. She’s not really the one for me.”
“Are you sure about that? She’s still in love with you. I see that in her.”
“I’ve been thinking about it for weeks. I loved her but something’s missing. Something like the connection I have with you.”
“Well Z, one can’t have it all. Nobody’s perfect. There is always a “but” in anybody. That’s part of being human. I think what you had with her is worth another try.”
“Wanna know what I think? What I have with you is worth everything.”
“Whatever you say, Z.”
“I think maybe we’re destined. We just don’t know it yet. No, you just can’t accept the probability yet.”
“Shut up Z. Btw, are you interested in listening to our actual conversation (I meant me and Liz’s)?”
“As a matter of fact, I did.” I pulled out my phone from my purse and gave it to him.
“It’s recording even as we speak? HA. We’ll listen to it on our way home. I’m interested in your conversation with John. You were an item. It seemed like you two had your own world. Is it possible for you to love someone again?”
“Hmmm. I don’t know. Not this time. Err.. I’m not sure I recorded that. I pretended to check my phone when Alex dragged you away and I never got the chance to record our conversation.”
“Much to my dismay. I think you intended not to.”
“Moving on, I gave Liz the ring.”
“You gave her what!?”
“You heard me.”
“Why’d you do that?”
“You told me to do whatever I want with it. I just gave it to whom it really belongs.”
“It’s not really hers.”
“No. I was wrong. It’s not hers.”
“How do you know she doesn’t want it?”
“I don’t think I really wanted her to have it. The one I actually wanted to have it doesn’t want it.”
“You’re not making sense. Z, Earth speaking please.”
“Did you really give it to her?”
“Well, good riddance,” he muttered.
“HA. It’s ok to cry you know. You don’t have to act tough in front of me, specially when you’re falling apart.”
He suddenly hugged me. I don’t know if he cried. If he did, he was so discreet about it. So I gave him a few pats.
“Hey you, come over and let me embrace you.
I know that I’m causing you pain too
But, remember if you need to cry…
I’m here to wipe your eyes.”
—Wipe Your Eyes, Maroon 5
After a long moment, he finally released me and said,
“Shall we head back to the party?”
“No, I think we should hit the road, considering the state you’re in.”
“What about Alex?”
“I’ll go tell him, wait here.”
“Wait, what will you tell him?’
“Everything. Joke. He knows I don’t usually stay ’til the wee hours. Apparently, you’re my ride home so you’re gonna have to leave with me.”
“Perfect excuse. Are you still recording this?”
“John. What about him?”
“He won’t let you go, not yet.”
“I don’t really have to tell him, do I?”
“Let him know anyway. Ok?”
“Of course, I will. Silly.”
I never fully understood why he made that decision. After everything, he just let go like that — without a fight. I couldn’t quite fathom how Z thinks sometimes. I don’t trust some of his decisions but, I trust him. I can only hope he won’t regret it someday. Knowing him, there’s a good chance he won’t. Either way, I’m here for the long run. I ain’t going anywhere just like what he did for me. I owe him. BIG TIME.
I went to tell Alex. It was easy. John, on the other hand, made things difficult.
“I wanna see you home. I’ll go with you.” John argued.
“No, you don’t have to. I’m going with Z. Besides, are you gonna leave your band?”
“I insist. I’ll just come back here after I make sure you’re home.”
“Let’s go find out if Z won’t mind.”
As we walked together to where Z is, I saw Liz talking to Z at the hallway.
“Why are we hiding?” John asked.
“Sorry Z. I don’t know what to believe anymore but, I wanna believe you. Sheila, she’s in deep pain when she talked about D. I think the two of you are telling the truth. Can I have you back?” We heard Liz say.
Z, say YES! Why aren’t you saying anything? Say yes!
“I’m sorry too, Liz.”
“So, are we “us” again? This ring, what’s this for? It doesn’t fit any of my fingers. It’s a bit tight.”
“No. We can never be together again. That engagement ring is supposedly yours. I thought. It turns out it’s not.”
“What? Z don’t do this.”
“I’m sorry. I was wrong. So wrong. All this time, it was not really you I intended to marry. Listen Liz, you deserve better.”
“I love you Z.”
Z turned away to leave her there.
“Then at least tell me who’s this for,” I heard Liz say.
“It doesn’t matter. She doesn’t want that either.”
“Then, have me. Love me back.”
“I can’t. It’s not that simple. I fell HARD.”
“Does she know?”
“She doesn’t. I’m not sure she wanted to. She has someone else. Someone who’s no longer of this world. Someone I am no match with.”
“Who is she?”
“The same one who gave that to you,” Z said and walked away, leaving Liz dumbstruck.
I was dumbfounded too. What just happened?
“What now? Do you have any idea who they’re talking about?,” John said.
“I don’t know John. We better get out of here. Z needs some privacy. Some time to think.” Actually, I was the one who so needed to gather my thoughts. Now you finally have it. NEVER eavesdrop on others again.
After thirty minutes of fresh air with John. I heard myself say,
“John, I don’t think Z will mind if you ride with us.”
YES. I chose the coward’s way out. It’s the only way I can assure my friendship with Z will stay AS IS.