Friday, March 12, 2010

Closing Time

As my friends and I got to talking about birthday celebrations, a distinct memory from not so long ago suddenly hit. Although several years have already passed, some people and certain experiences you've had with them just won't go away. Try as I might, I could not bury it from my consciousness. And as the images came flooding back like a torrent of murky flashflood water gushing down, the mixed feelings of sadness, longing, and hilarity came pouring in as well.

It was approximately five or six years ago. A time when I could still pass off as medium in size given that the chest size of the clothes I buy were big enough to accomodate my buxomness. Back then, I used to hang out with my then best friend Beanie.

A guy of distinctive, if not unusual, character, Beanie was no looker--never has been and I guess, never would be. But he's got brains and a similar though differentiated artistic skill like mine. Although we had similar interests and shared a lot of traits in common, we still remained the distinguished individuals we were, differentiated from each other in every which way. Having been together since our mid-college days, we grew so close to the point that we became best buddies.

I didn't realize it then, and it took more than five years of togetherness until I found out that I had fallen for Beannie. However, though I had confirmed my feelings to myself, I was reluctant to divulge it for fear of severing our friendship. So I just left it alone and kept my mouth shut, watching the years slip by which brought us even closer to each other.

But waking up one day, it dawned to me that I could no longer hold my feelings back.

Though I tried to stay strong, my efforts to contain my romantic feelings for Beannie was so thinned out already. I saw no point in holding it in any longer. So, after much deliberation, I finally decided that it was high time I let him know.

Since my birthday was nearing, I planned to stage my revelation by asking Beannie out to dinner to celebrate the occasion with me. My paying for dinner was nothing new between us. As best buddies, each of us took turns in occasionally treating each other whenever we chose to. And doing it during our birthdays was nothing short of typical. He immediately accepted when I invited him. He didn't have the slightest idea that there was more to that particular birthday dinner than it ordinarily was.

A few days passed, my birthday finally came.

Dressed in a beautiful pink dress, I proceeded to meet Beannie at the expensive restaurant where I had made our reservations. Coming in early, I waited for nearly half an hour. When he arrived, his eyes beamed when they  fell upon me. He acknowledged my radiance, "Wow, you have never looked so beautiful." Flattered, I just bowed my head and smiled shyly, thinking, "This is gonna be the most beautiful night of my life."

The dinner proceeded as it should be: we placed our orders, waited a short while, and feasted merrily. As we gorged on expensive steaks and salads, we talked about our jobs and our art and reminisced about the good old college days. After finishing dinner, the waiter came and brought two flutes filled with sparkling red wine. There was no idle minute between us. We revelled in each other's company, laughing and chatting between sips as we indulged in a banter over matters mundane and ridiculous alike.

Although very nervous, I did my best to look naturally calm. I bided my time and waited until the red wine had sunk into my system. I knew how  badly I needed that kick so as to muster the courage to tell him about my long-kept secret. Actually, he did most of the talking that night. Though I tried my best to make it appear as if  there was nothing unusual or special about the occasion, aside from the fact that it was my birthday, I was always bothered by the thought of whether or not he had sensed my nervousness through my idiotic smiles and frequent nodding.

Another half hour later and a couple of flutes of wine each, both of us were already in high spirits. He was talking a little more loudly than usual while I was laughing heartily about anything that he said though I hardly understood the words that came out garbled and slurred from his already reddened mouth. A few minutes more passed. Taking advantage of my new found bravado, I had finally decided that it was the perfect time to execute the last part of my plan to complete that beautiful night.

Because neither of us were alcohol drinkers, two flutes of red wine were enough to make us both feel giddy and braver than we usually were. Grinning widely, I snuggled closer to him. As I had expected, he didn't do so much as to even flinch in his seat. He remained still while holding his empty flute in one hand, fixating his gaze upon me with that queer, intoxicated smile plastered on his shiny face.

I thought, "There could be no better time than this."

My heart felt like it would burst. I was giddy and happy and overflowing with love for him that if I had been more intoxicated, it would be unsurprising if I just jumped at him and planted a big, passionate kiss on his lips. Unfortunately, though I felt totally emboldened, there was still a wee bit of soberness and apprehension left in me to keep my actions in check.

I opened my mouth to speak. But before I could say a word, he raised his finger to my lips and said, "Can I tell you a secret?"

Something at the back of my head suddenly went off. It sounded like a million sirens wailing soundlessly like crazy. I was too surprised with the turn of events that all I could do was gawk at him in anticipation. My mind was floating in the air. I was too overwhelmed with what was going on. While the rest of the restaurant swam in my peripheral vision, I was toying with the fantasy that he had also felt the same way for me all along. 
And as I was about to open up, he had made the first move for me. I couldn't have had a more pleasant birthday gift. No wonder he had brought me none! To think that I had felt a bit frustrated when all he said was a grumpy-sounding, "Happy birthday!" It was the stuff romantic novels are made of, and it was happening to me right then and there.

Fighting hard to contain my excitement, I blinked away the tears of joy that almost slipped out. He averted his eyes and stared at his fumbling hands while he silently struggled to grasp the right words. It took him a few seconds before he turned his attention to me again. When he opened his mouth to talk, I noticed the tears streaming down the sides of his face. I held my breath.

"I...I...I'm gay." Then he turned away and started sobbing.

The blasted sirens that had been wailing out of excitement earlier were suddenly kicked down my throat and got caught in my breath. The air about us went suddenly still as if it had been sucked out of the restaurant. I tried to say something, but no words came. My heart ached. My head ached. Areas in my body were wracked with so much pain, yet I couldn't tell exactly which parts it had been or why they were hurting to begin with. Even if I had painkillers in my purse, I doubted that they would be any good at all. My shoulders slumped and felt so heavy that it hurt too much to even lift my hands off the table. I was glued to my position. Stupefied. Hurt. Lost. Unable to say anything, let alone think of what to do next.

When he turned to me again, his eyes were so red and puffy. Between sniffles, he managed to regain a bit of his composure before speaking in a quivering voice, "I know I should've told you about this a long time ago, but I wasn't so sure of myself. In fact, I don't want to be like this, and my parents would be extremely disappointed should they find out. I know how dispapointed and surprised you are right now. But I know that you understand. You're the only one to whom I could confide. You're the only one whom I could turn to. I know you understand me."

And I did. Damned, if I didn't.

His last words hung in the air, weighing it down with an unspoken agreement that required neither response nor acknowledgment. Through the pain, confusion, and surprise, I knew he demanded my understanding and confidence. And for the man I loved, there was nothing I wouldn't do.

Nothing, even if it killed me.

During the remainder of that beautiful night, as the minutes ticked away leaving off my birthday to proceed to the next day, we just sat in total silence at our dinner table. Neither of us could afford to look at each other. With his head bowed, there was no telling if he was still crying or just fidgeting with his hands like he always did whenever he felt uncomfortable emotionally. As for me, distraction was the only recourse to keep myself from losing my mind.

Blocking out everything else that had previously happened, I watched the waiters bus the tables while the lonely old lady, who accounted for one of the last three customers which included Beannie and I, was being escorted by a handsome, young waiter to the door. With only a few minutes left before midnight, the restaurant was already cleaning up for closing time.

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