Love is best the “nth” time around

Every time I hear the song “This Time I’ll be Sweeter,” my heart would seem to beat faster than usual.  Naaalala ko kasi ang isa sa masasabi kong pinakamalungkot na bahagi ng buhay ko, which later on taught me what I now consider as one of the most important lessons in love — that is, true love overpowers any kind of pain.

It all started when I met a girl in college named Joanna. Unang tingin ko pa lang sa kanya during an orientation for freshmen students, I knew something in her already caught my attention.   Hindi ako sigurado kung what in particular, pero she had one of the loveliest smiles in the world.  Pero I have to admit, one reason why she caught my attention was that she resembled my ex-girlfriend. The more I knew about her, I became more and more attracted to her; this time, no longer because she resembled my ex, but because of who she is.

To cut the story short, niligawan ko siya and after some time and many prayers, sinagot niya ako.  I still could remember kung gaano ako kasaya nung mga panahong ‘yon.  It was not my first time to be in a relationship, pero that time, it seemed like it was my first. The feeling felt new and it seemed like I had never felt that kind of joy before.

For some reason, she asked me if we could keep the relationship to just the two of us.  I agreed.  I thought that it would make our relationship less complicated.  Pero nagkamali ako.  Nagkaroon kaagad ng maraming problema sa relationship namin.  At first I thought it was just the usual “lover’s quarrel”.  Unfortunately, the problem was, in fact, much more complicated than I thought.  She broke up with me because she was IN LOVE with someone else.

I saw my world crumble and I just didn’t have enough strength to pick up the pieces.  At least, not yet.

Akala ko katapusan na ng mundo.  I asked myself kung meron ba akong mali na nagawa to deserve such pain.  As if nananadya ang langit, the next day, ang pinakauna kong nakita pag pasok ko sa school were the two of them — my now “ex-“girlfriend and her new “boyfriend.” They seemed so in love with each other, while there I was, standing in front of them feeling such as loser.  Nablanko ang isip ko that very moment.  Ni hindi ko alam kung saan ko nalang ibabaling ang tingin ko.  I was so shocked.  I was not ready to accept the fact that she’s no longer mine, much more to accept that she now belongs to someone else.

Mula noon, wala na akong narinig mula sa kanya.  Although I felt that I deserved an explanation or a simple “sorry” from Joanna, I didn’t ask for it.  I was so hurt that I didn’t even want to hear her name.  But that was impossible.  We were taking the same course in the same school.

Mas naging masakit pa nung malaman kong she denied our relationship to her friends.  Hindi ko maintindihan kung bakit kailangang dalawang beses pa akong masaktan samantalang ang gusto ko lang naman ay magmahal nang totoo.

Anyway, hinayaan ko nalang na mawala ang naramdaman kong galit para sa kanya.  Hindi rin naging madali para sa akin yun.  It took me almost a year to accept my fate and the fate of our short-lived relationship.

I thought I will never deal with her until one day (after over a year), naging classmate ko siya in one subject.  At that time, I have already forgiven her for what she has done and forgotten all the pain that I once associated with her name.

Pero siguro masyado ko siyang napatawad at unti unti na namang nahulog ang loob ko sa kanya.  I remember back then, she was sitting on the same row where I was.  A common friend, by accident, became the bridge this time.  Dumating sa point that we (Joanna and I) started to exchange text messages and short notes written on small sheets of paper (which were torn from our notebooks).  The exchange of notes and text messages quickly shifted to exchanges of glances and secret smiles.

Dala na rin siguro ng mga “unsettled” issues in the past, dumating ang usapan sa kung anong nangyari in the past.  Doon lang ako nagkaroon ng lakas ng loob na tanungin siya kung bakit niya ginawa sa akin yun.  Pero, honestly, I was not really interested in knowing the answers.  All I needed to hear from her is the word “sorry.”

I was not disappointed, this time.  She said the word I longed to hear.  The moment she apologized for everything that had happened, my heart sank.  All the more I loved her and the feeling was stronger than the first time.

One night, in the middle of one of our “serious” conversations, she sent me a message which was lifted from a song:

“Darling can’t you see, what losing you has done to me… I’m not the same girl I used to be… Have a change of heart, don’t leave me standing in the dark; don’t let confusion keep us apart… Come back to me, and I’ll guarantee all the tenderness and love, you’ll ever need… This time, I’ll be sweeter… Our love will run deeper…. I won’t mess around… I won’t let you down… Have faith in me… Have faith… in me…”

I took her word for it.  After all, sabi nga ng iba, “love is sweeter the second time around.”  Hindi nagtagal at nagkabalikan kami.  But there was a problem — she was not “technically” free; kahit matagal na niyang gustong hiwalayan ang boyfriend niya, hindi niya magawa.  It took one month before we became officially “free” to be together.  Looking back, I realized, totoo pala ang karma. Noon, ako yung inagawan; this time ako naman ang lumabas na nang-agaw.  I felt both avenged and guilty.  Napaghiganti ko ang sarili ko, pero nalungkot din ako kasi alam kung mali ang ginawa ko.  I was afraid I was stepping into a vicious cycle.  Indeed, my gut feeling was right.

While I was spending a long break one summer in my hometown, I thought that everything in our relationship was fine.  Until I received a text message from one of my friends asking me if I had already known that my girlfriend and her ex-boyfriend had reunited.  It took me just a few clicks in the internet to verify the news.  I was dumbfounded.  I thought I had learned my lesson.  I thought “this time [she’ll] be sweeter?”  I thought she had made a promise not to “let me down?”

Kung nasaktan ako nung una, this time around, mas nasaktan ako.  Hindi ko maisip kung bakit kailangang mangyari ULIT ang nangyari noong una.  Ang mas mahirap pang tanggapin, ako ang gumawa ng paraan para mangyari ulit ‘yon.  Para akong dumampot ng bato na ibabato ko rin naman pala sa sarili ko.

Just as before, I did not bother to ask for an explanation.  I simply moved on with my life.  It wasn’t easy. But since I did it before, there is no reason why I could not do it this time.  Months turned into years and since we broke up (the second time), we never had any communication with each other.  I didn’t want to talk to her, anyway.

But as I said earlier, it seems like a vicious cycle.  On my birthday, I received a text greeting from her.  I was surprised to receive a text message from her.  I tried to cut her off from my world but here is this text message from her bridging the gap (not deliberately, though).

Since I had a girlfriend at that time, I did not entertain the thought of THAT single text message progressing into something else (like what happened before).  Nevertheless, I began to consider treating Joanna as a friend like the very few I had.  I thought, afterall I once loved her and she was already a part of my past. For two occasions, we met just to chitchat and sip coffee.  During our first meeting, I thought that we would have some awkward moments.  Pero hindi yun ang nangyari. In fact, it sounded like walang masamang nangyari in the past.  We simply talked about the happy memories and about our present lives.

After those two occasions, we never saw each other again (in person, until now).  She began to cancel my calls, and refused to reply to my messages.  I didn’t know what caused the sudden change in her treatment towards me.  I only understood why when, after ten months, she informed me that she had given birth to a baby girl.  I didn’t know how to react.  I was shocked.  At one hand, I was happy for her.  I always thought a baby is a wonderful blessing.  On the other hand, I was sad when I was informed that the baby’s dad wasn’t too happy about the news.  It seems that the child’s father was not ready to take on the responsibility. I felt sorry for Joanna.  I know how she loved her boyfriend; she left me twice to go back to him. And yet, in the end this is how she would be treated by the man she had given up almost everything for.

Now that her baby, Baby B, is almost a year old, Joanna has finally accepted her fate.  And this, she did happily.  At least now, she doesn’t have to look for happiness elsewhere; she already has it wrapped around her arms.

For my part, I still keep Joanna in one of the special chambers in my heart.  The possibility of the two of us being together is slim if not totally” zero”, but I still look forward to the day when she finally meets her Mr. Right.  Although we had a lot of rough times, bitter memories, and hurt feelings, I have no other wish for her but happiness.  I know that it’s not going to be easy for her, but I promise that while I am still alive, I would still be here for her.

I have, long ago, given up my chances to have her as my wife; I have learned to accept that that day will never come.  But I still keep a piece of the love I once (or twice.hahaha) shared with her.  From what I’ve learned, true love never dies, nor does it fade away.  It simply lies low when someone else comes around.

Thanks, Joanna.  Thanks for everything.

– Neil

This Time I’ll be Sweeter (Angela Bofill)

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