Monday, January 27, 2014

The Love (Dis)connection - Chapter 1

“Does he know?” A soft voice jolted me out of my reverie, and I realized I’ve been sitting on the floor at the basketball court staring at my best friend Jack Tolentino, for the past five minutes.

I’ve staved off the same question, with different variations, several times over the past two years that I immediately fell into pattern.

First: Play dumb when asked. This step does not, by any means, work.

“Know what?” I turned to find one of my good guy friends, Dante Constantino, looking at me solemnly from under his bushy eyebrows while he squatted down behind me.

He gestured impatiently to Jack. “That you’re in love with him!”

Second: Deny, deny, deny, with the “He’s my best friend, for God’s sake!” thrown in for good measure. I used to snort in disbelief but one of my previous ‘interrogators’ told me he didn’t believe me because of that snort. I was too emphatic in my denial, leading him to, correctly, conclude that I was, in fact, in love with tall, guitar-playing, poetry-enthusiast yet sporty, Jack.

I tilted my head back just a bit and laughed, not too loud, not too soft—everything in moderation. “Hahaha! I’m not in love with him. He’s my best friend, for God’s sake! You know that, Dante.”

“Anyone who sees you looking at him can see it, Aurelia Tiengco.”

Third: Well up in tears, which usually got people to back off, especially when I explained that I was still grieving over my ex, Ken de la Cruz, who dumped me two years ago for a popular cheerleader. I didn’t believe he was going out with her until the ‘fact’ spread throughout the university that Mr. Ex was quite good with his tongue in various places. A squirming Jack, already a good friend of mine at that time, had to explain that to me, as Ken has never even tried to get past first base with me. I felt like a cow afterwards. So Jack, being the kind of guy you take home to meet your parents, made me feel like a very beautiful girl—inside and out—and I promptly fell in love with him.

Call it cliché, or transference of feelings, or whatever you want to call it. I simply called it torture, and sometimes, utter stupidity.

Right on cue, I welled up in a few tears, making my lips tremble. “I’m still not over Ken, Dante. How can I be in love with Jack?”

I expected Dante to give up, to back off like the others did. But oh no, he didn’t. He rolled his eyes and threw a piece of clean tissue on my lap, which he produced from God knows where.

“Dramatic as always. You’ve been over Ken in ages. You’re not fooling me, Aurelia. So? Does he know?”

Immediately, my tears dried up and I glared at him. “No, Jack doesn’t know, and you will not tell him!” I clutched at the front of his shirt when he made as if to stand up.

Usually, I wouldn’t admit so easily to anyone; but this was Dante, and over the past few months, we have talked—mostly about academics—but enough to know he’s kind and trustworthy, and not the type to start gossiping about me and my pathetic feelings for Jack.

He gingerly removed his shirt from my grasp. “I’m won’t,” he said, sounding annoyed. “I’m going to sit more comfortably beside you.” He put his backpack on the ground and sat down, Indian-style, beside me.

I turned away from Jack for the moment. “What are you doing here anyway? Shouldn’t you be cooped up in the library, working your way through your paper about Shakespeare?”

Dante was our resident genius, and he was almost always at the library working on whatever has been assigned for the day. He hated procrastination and being late on any of his papers. I don’t know how he did it, with our twenty-six unit per semester workload, but he got the job done.

But he’s not your typical dorky-looking genius either. He’s tall, maybe about 5’8, a bit on the too thin side, with hair messed up all over the place. He was not a heartthrob, but I’ve heard one or two girls around campus call him cute at least once. Personally, Jack, with his slightly bulge of muscles, a lock of hair frequently falling over his eyes, and easy smile, was more my type.

Dante nodded slowly. “I was. I was on my way there but I saw you sitting here all alone, thought you could use some company.”

I gestured to Jack. “I’m waiting for him to finish playing, he’s driving me home.”

“Like you couldn’t commute on your own,” Dante scoffed.

I punched him lightly on the arm. “Hey! You’re one of the few people I have admitted to liking Jack, so quit teasing me already.”

“Liking, I suspect, is too mild a word for what you truly feel for him,” he whispered.

Yeah, well. “Ehhh.”

He brushed his hand against the stubble on his chin, as if thinking about some grave matter. “You’ve been in love with him for about, what, one year? Why haven’t you told him? He’s single, anyway.”

I pulled up my legs close to my chest and watched as Jack successfully made a three-point shot. “We’re best friends. What if he doesn’t like me that way, and he turns me down, or he dates me out of politeness, then our relationship turns sour, and we’ll never be best friends again?”

“How could anyone not love you back?”

I felt my temper rise at such a teasing question, and turned to face Dante to tell him to lay off. But his serious expression caught me off-guard. He wasn’t serious, was he?

I mumbled something incoherent.

“Seriously, Aurelia. You’re easy on the eyes, you’re smart, and God knows you can hold intelligent conversations about things other than boys, makeup, and nail polish.”

If I didn’t know any better, I would say he was flirting with me. But everyone knew Dante was very concentrated on his studies to even think about dating. I’ve even wondered a time or two whether anyone could make his heart beat faster than normal, or be smart enough for his taste.

I cleared my throat. “Well, thank you, Dante. But I just…I just can’t.”

He got his bag, slinging one strap over his shoulder as he stood up. “Think about it. You’re too good of a girl to pine over someone this way. A year is a long time, Aurelia.” With a light tap on my shoulder, he was gone.

I had a lot of reasons why I never told Jack about my feelings. We being best friends was the only excuse I could say that will not make me sound like a pathetic loser. There’s also the thought that I wasn’t good enough for him. Or that I will find out that my looks were not to his type. Or that I wasn’t sure I could handle the emotional pain of being rejected by him. And that I’ll miss our easy friendship, most of all.

I’ve always wanted to have a male best friend. Through the years, I have come to realize that the perspective provided by males can be quite different—more logical, less emotional, and they shed an entirely different view on certain matters.

Also, none of my female friends shared my love for gadgets. It was very refreshing to be able to ask someone’s opinion of a certain laptop or other gadget, and get an answer other than, “oh, you should buy that one, it’s so pretty!” With Jack, and other male friends, I’ll find out if this tablet will lag, or whether this one can handle all the things I’ll store in it without it slowing down, or whether this one has more bang for the buck.

And not a lot of women shared my love for old rap and rock songs either. But males? Man, they have albums upon albums of music. And when you ask for a copy of even just one song, they burn the whole album of the musician or band for you.

And with Jack, I had moral support, emotional support, and all kinds of support. I’m sure I can call him at two in the morning to ask him to fetch me from God-knows-where, and without complaining about my whereabouts or that I’ve awoken him from some needed sleep, or have ruined his concentration on his late-night gaming, he’ll be there pronto. Much like the time my car broke down in C5 at three in the morning, and I didn’t want to call my parents because I shouldn’t have been driving there at such a late hour.

Not that I’m dissing females, because my girlfriends were great! With my girl pals, we danced in various clubs around the metro until the wee hours. They are sensitive, they understood my mood swings, and they can empathize. I can talk to them about the latest hairstyles, without getting the male-standard responses of: yes, you look good. No, you don’t look fat in that dress. With girls, you get that, “Oh you look so pretty in that black dress but it looks kind of tight in your waist area.” Or “Well, pink is usually your color, but your fat is showing on the side. Try a different style?” And I could shop with them for five or more hours with not one of us complaining.

And they were really great when Ken dumped me. “That bitch? She’s so ditsy! She’s nothing compared to you. You’re better off without such a perv!”

So my girlfriends are great, and my guy friends are great, too. But the friendship I have found with Jack…it’s just something awesome.

But the primary reason why I never told him how I felt was because whenever someone teased him about me, he always said, “She’s my best friend. I will never date her and ruin our friendship.”

   Sucks, doesn’t it?

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