A love letter crammed across space, time and circumstance, we wade neck deep in the dreaded gray area of relationships (it isn’t just romance, you know) and pull through, realizing what or most importantly, who matters the most.
Everything appeared typical from the façade—the familiar wash of amber that has long blanketed many a secret rendezvous, flick of longing gaze and accidental brush of skin that sends shivers down the spine; the careful dispersing of bar regulars and curious onlookers erupting in shrills of cheer, cacophony of personal laments and exhales of weighted sighs; and of course, the music erupting from inside the hallowed space they call Today x Future.
This is a safe space I’ve longed wanted in on and have been fortunate enough to now call it a home. Crammed in between pawnshops on both ends and once-upon-a-time lorded by a larger-than-life tarpaulin of Saint Sarah Geronimo watching over on our harrowed souls, there stood the comforting red door that led to the dance floor where cares, tears, and feelings are danced out to the heart’s content—or discontent for some. Right by the corner of the mirrored DJ’s booth was where you’d usually find me, clutching tight for dear life or support, whatever the night called for.
That night, to my surprise, I didn’t want to hold on to anything. With a roof-ripping, tree-uprooting storm of turmoil swirling deep in my heart and thoughts, the personal resolve was clear: knock out the should have, would have, and could have with truth that is as clear as day—even if it hurts. I was ready, sort of.
There he stood, in his usual spot by the corner of the entrance taken over by shadows, save for the occasional flash of neon green light. This time however, the door was flung open, inviting the light to spill in. His nonchalance was attractive, which was only furthered by the lived in white shirt that looked like second skin to his toned physique and his hair that tumbled as he swayed slightly left to right. It would have been a night of our typical neither here nor there dance, circling each other but never actually really meeting at a point of convergence. Were we friends? Yes. Did I like him more than as such? From the moment my eyes caught sight of his backside some years back and he had toppled over the bottle of beer I was nursing then? Very, very much so.
It should have been clear back then, but well, I can be stubborn and persistent. So, I soldiered on with nothing but good intent in my arsenal, as well as of the enduring but earnest dash of hope I once whispered on the calling card I slipped in his wallet the first time we met.
This only muddled the gray area even more, because since then, we have charted several countries alone, clocked in more than enough god-awful hours of discourse inside his parked car in front of my house to rival any drawl of late night TV shows and mile-long conversations over various messenger platforms. It seemed like the semblance of relationship, no matter how gingerly cradled in a platonic precedent was going swimmingly, right? Well, only if one decides to make sense of the uncertain status quo. And I just about had it.
So, there he was, detached and dense from my line of sight. I had wanted to say so much more to him, you know, in real life. (That is apart from about numerous letters professing how I felt at different points of this are-they-or-aren’t-they friendship.) There was no prose or poetry this time, no prepared speech. If at all, there was an insufferable amount of truth I had wanted to let go of, for my sake. You see, I could go on and on about the many theories I have drawn and hypothesized in my spare time on this gaping gray area, but that wouldn’t be fair to him and it might just make me appear more psychotic and crazed than I already seem. But I couldn’t get through to him then and even until now. Every purposeful action was met with a deliberate deflection, unsettling silence, and nervous laughter.
And then the worse thing happened. From the periphery of my sober gaze I see another man cozy up to him, whispering things barely an inch from his ear and before I could turn away, they kiss. At that point, I had temporarily lost the ability to breathe. Suddenly, the walls felt like they were closing in on me and the only thing my body could do was to make a run for it. And I did.
I am wont to recall the metaphor of a plaster being ripped from the skin, but as I tend to be very dramatic; it felt like my heart was violently ripped out of my chest. But as Taylor Swift garbled once about relationships, of course, “Band aids don’t fix bullet holes.” I was heartbroken. There, I said it. Just like that, the gray area cleared up and the ends of the color spectrum filed out into separate stark contrasts and it was painfully and debilitatingly clear—he just didn’t see me the same way I did him.
Therein lies the trouble of wallowing in the safety of limbo for longer than the recommended time period. We are so afraid of stepping out of the comfort zone because at that point, whether it is fully reciprocated in the way it should be and the way you deserve it, you find solace in the company of another human being. You surrender yourself to the ill-advised fact (thank you, voices in my head) that this is it, this is what the universe has accorded you with—now make it work. Here, you grasp for straws to extend the lifeline past its maturation. “You never really know,” I would tirelessly argue to my friends who were by then already exhausted by my constant trips down the lane of love, or whatever the hell the kids call it these days. I found myself defending someone who was never really there at the expense of wearing out my heart and soul. I was bone-tired, too. But in the hopes of finding that elusive true love, I wanted to hold on just a little longer, even if it was in the real estate of a gray area. My nails, dug deep on the concrete, were slowly chipping off and I was losing my grip. Scratch that—I lost it. Until I pulled myself out and slapped some sense back. “No one is going to do this process but you. You are only responsible for yourself,” I reminded myself.
So, here I am, still trying to make sense from the dystopic rubble I had unintentionally created for myself. There is no one to blame but myself and I’ll take that with a grain of salt and gratingly scratch another line on the wall of my constant learning experience. It is a daily process of threshing out deep-seated emotions, neglected feelings, and navigating through the pains of moving forward. Because really, what else is there to do?
“Are you okay?” I am constantly asked by well-meaning friends. “Not really,” I reply, as I heave a sigh and muster a smile. “But I’ll pull through.” True enough, as each transitory dusk relents to the promise of a new day, I constantly tell myself, there is so much color out there. Why do I have to ever settle for the dull and drab of a gray area? Call this the point where I step out of the waters, the point of becoming lucid amidst the tripped up noise. This time I am waking up to the reality that I do not be content with a maybe at best, someone who is just there because yes, I matter. I deserve better. And so do you.