The sky was on fire in Antipolo the night I realized what I wanted in life.
It had just turned six when you caught me staring blankly at the sunset covering the Metro Manila skyline. Still too early to be already in deep with emotion.
“Enjoying your fifteen minutes of nothing?” you asked. Your face mask covered most of your face but your eyes were smiling.
I met you about two years ago in a small, family-owned restaurant where you learned I don’t like sinigang and confirmed your hunch that I was not as straight as I sounded over Skype during my job interview. We met during a time when we wouldn’t end up in jail if I stood too close to you. You were my boss and I was then the wide-eyed new blood who wanted to learn. I knew it was your job to see to it that I deliver and succeed.
You were patient with me. And generous. You taught me new things I could possibly learn online but simplified ideas so complex even I, as a novice, could understand. You debunked industry beliefs I held and introduced new religions to worship. It was your job to be available anytime I needed help. It was your job to simplify processes so I could understand them better. It was your job to teach me how to do things in a better way.
But six or seven months in, you stopped doing your job. It’s probably during one of those sleepless reporting nights in the office when you had closed your laptop and listened intently as I ranted about my family. That night I was using our crimson office curtain as a blanket while you wore your favorite scarf, the one Bry bought you in Baguio. You always seem happier when you wear that scarf.
You remember the names of my best friends and the entire members of the family as if they were your own. And during one of our lighter podcast sessions when silences were not punctuated by sighs and Mama came on to the camera, you said hi and your smile was ear to ear.
You were there for me when I had to end an almost two-year relationship. “Choose yourself this time,” I remember you saying as I try not to break down. I know it was your job to fix faulty Data Studio connections, but listening to a broken heart isn’t definitely one of them.
I value my boundaries too much, especially professional ones. When did the lines blur, J? When did we agree to ignore the huge solid line that separates our shared work frustrations and our more personal nightmares?
It doesn’t matter now I guess but I am thankful to have crossed that line with you.
“You know,” I replied, looking at your white shirt now painted with the sky’s orange. “We could have been smoking now had it not been for these masks.”
You nodded in agreement and rolled your eyes. And except for the short, rapid breaths under our masks, we spent the next ten minutes fixing our gaze at the night sky in hopeful silence.
See you on the other side and happy birthday, J. 🎂