It shouldn’t be this way.

I drove on 650 with my windows down for an hour after the movie was done. It’s a cold summer night after a quick rain. I’m chasing lightnings, but I’m not fast enough.

Where are you? Not here. That’s all I care about.

I don’t ask for much. Actually, I have a pretty low standard of happiness. I’m very easily pleased. But why is it that you, or I, or we are still not meeting that minimum? Are you happy? Because I’m not.

And maybe that’s the problem here. Maybe I do too much and in return I expect a little more. And I get nothing. Where’s the effort? Where’s the gratitude? Maybe I’m being shallow or materialistic or a drama queen or needy. I don’t know what other word there is except for unhappy.

I had a crappy day and you were nowhere to be found. No, you weren’t busy. You were watching Jurassic Park with friends, all day. I am begging for attention, driving by to pick up my jacket, bringing you Slurpees because I feel like that’s the only way I deserve your attention – when I’m giving you something or doing something for you. It shouldn’t be that way.

And I understand that you’re tired and couldn’t drive me home. I wish you had said something earlier. I wish you had told me so I could have driven myself, or taken your car. I had to get a ride from someone else and everything was ok. Except that I felt abandoned.

It gets incredibly lonely being your girlfriend sometimes. I think you forget that you have a girlfriend whenever you’re in that house. And I love hanging out with them. They are really fun to be with. But you only remember me when you’re lonely in your Baltimore apartment, when you have an empty clump of time to fill. Then you ask me to show up.

I don’t really know what to expect, and I don’t know what change I want to happen. But I don’t want to read your messages that include “I love you,” and think to myself, “Do you, though?” Because I think you just like having a girlfriend when it’s convenient.

I don’t miss you. And that’s a troubling thought. I used to look at you and talk to you and miss you so much even though we just saw each other. Or be so busy but still see each other but not have alone time, and I’d look at you and I’d hold your hand, and I would miss you so much. If you had looked in my eyes, you’d see me longing and begging for you.

Now, I look at you, and I feel nothing. I feel resentment, I guess. Maybe some frustration. But there is no affection. I rather not even look at your eyes. I used to hold on to your hand and lace my fingers with yours, and it felt like your fingers melted with mine. Now your fingers feel forced, and a burden. My hands are not interested.

I’m not jealous, although I get jealous often. But I know when to shut up and turn that off when it’s ridiculous. I’m not jealous. I’m lonely, and I feel used, and I feel like a place holder. And quite frankly, I’m running out of things to do for you and give you to get your affection. I don’t really know what else to do.

So I’m telling you this. Because we’re in trouble here.

You are my Christmas.

For so long, I’d forgotten how it felt like to look forward to Christmas Day. I always had to work, or had to go to a gathering I wasn’t excited about, or we just kind of sleep the day away. Those things are still part my Christmas equation, but it’s not so bad now. You have made things better exponentially. I love Christmas, and I love you, and spending Christmas Eve Eve and waking up on Christmas Eve next to you was absolutely perfect.

Like you said, we don’t know what’s going to happen, and we don’t know how our story will end. But we don’t read books to find out the ending, right?

But for now, let me just enjoy having you in my life. Let me watch you sleep on my couch at 3:30 am as I wrap last minute presents. Let me drag you to places I’ve always wanted to visit. Let me wake up in the middle of the night and watch you sleepily put covers on me when you think I’m cold. Let me spend time with your family and get to know how loving they really are. Let me get in a car and drive away with you. Let me take care of you when you’re sick. Let me love you the only way I know how – completely and unconditionally.

This season is my favorite time of the year, and sometimes it doesn’t live up to my excitement. But having you, waking up to you, being greeted with your smile – it’s like Christmas every morning. And lying down with you, whether under the light of our silver stars and the Christmas tree, or basking in the hectic glow of my TV screen, is the only way I would have wanted to spend the night before Christmas Eve.

There are moments when people just feel like the universe… likes them, and this year I feel like the universe is lining up stars and planets in my favor. God has been so good to me this year for giving me so much more than what I wanted, more than what I hoped for. And you are at the top of that list. This is gonna sound like a cliche (but let’s face it, everything I write is a cliche), but you make all the heartbreak and the mistakes I’ve made worth it, because they all led me to you. This year has been magical, and you, my love, were the center of all the magic. Christmas is about love and joy and believing in all good things. It’s about giving and peace and being with family. I’m glad that I have you to celebrate it with. You are my family. You are my Christmas.

I love you so much.

I just miss you.

Remember when I said you were my escape? How you take away the pain and stress and and burden of my work, of my family, of life? When I’m with you, life doesn’t exist beyond the comfort of your arms around me, beyond the ferocity of your hazel eyes. There is no restlessness. There is no hurt.

So what happens when I don’t get that break from reality? When for weeks all that I get to feel is mental stress, physical exhaustion, and the heartbreaking cases of very, very sick kids fighting for their lives? I get jaded. I get scared. I start to lose hope. I go to a dark place that I am sometimes not proud to admit even exists.

But you are the light in that darkness. Sometimes a few words from you is enough to keep me going, like a candle that lights up a house in a middle of a storm. And being with you feels like that bizarre 70 degree weather in November – warm and bright. You are a breath of fresh air, just what I need when my entire world is a raging sea and I’m struggling to tread water.

Not seeing you is ordinary. It’s inevitable. And the hours turn to days, and the days turn to weeks, and my need for you grows stronger. You have turned from someone that helps me get through a day into something that I cannot live without. You were caffeine, something I thought I needed to get through the day; something that helps me survive. But now you’re my drug, and I have to take a hit to get that high. Nothing is ever enough. And when it’s been too long, I shake, I tremble. I can’t think, I can’t function. It didn’t use to be like this. And this withdrawal – this intense need of a dose of you –  is scary, especially when I feel like I need it more than you do. Like you craving a specific flavor of ice cream. And me, I’m the junkie who sells her kidney to be able to afford my next hit.

I’m sorry if I’m being difficult or confusing. I was never good at explaining myself. So when you kept asking me what was wrong, I wanted to say all of this. I really, really did. But all I could think of was, “Nothing. I just miss you,” and I couldn’t even spit that out. Because all this comes from that, me missing you – when my bones ache to feel you again, and my hands search for that softness I can only find when your hair is between my fingers. All this comes from me craving your warmth, your fingers tracing lines on my skin. It comes from the look on your eyes when you look at me when you say things like, “You’re special to me.”  It comes from the sound of your breathing when you sleep, the one I vaguely remember. And how you slowly open your eyes and your lips mumble a slurred greeting.

I don’t need you to do anything, and I’m sorry if I scared you or had you worried, or if you felt guilty for some reason. Tears just come when they want to come, I guess. It’s nothing. I just miss you.

Mahal kita

When I left the Philippines, I had to leave some pieces of my culture behind – some pieces of myself behind. Everything changed, my family, my home, my plans, my dreams. And until recently, I didn’t realize that it also changed some of my expectations of love.

Like most girls growing up, I wondered what it would be like to be in love. From what I saw, it was sweet, slow, innocent. Culturally, that’s what it commonly was. I had in my head some images of traditional Filipino courtship, of how I imagined my future relationships would be. And then I left. And I had to leave those expectations behind. It wasn’t exactly easy to get used to a different view on relationships, but it wasn’t terribly hard. I didn’t mind it too much. There were a few things that I missed here and there, but none of it really mattered to me. 

Until you said, “Mahal kita.”

Words have always meant a lot to me. Not necessarily more than actions, but sometimes they get pretty damn close. And my culture is a huge part of who I am and why I do the things that I do. So it shouldn’t have surprised me how much power those two words had on me, how much weight they had when they rolled off your lips. I’m not sure you understood because I’m not sure I understood either. But I know that during those seconds, I felt like I got a glimpse of the kind of love I’ve always imagined, the kind of romantic love I grew up watching other people have. I didn’t think I would ever get that, and that would have been fine. But you have managed to tell me how you loved me in a way that meant a lot to me in so many different ways. No one has ever said that to me before, and you said it with urgency, with utmost sincerity, in a language that my entire being aches to hear.

That’s just so you, isn’t it?  Giving me a piece of you, sprinkled with tiny pieces of things that resemble me, too. And every time I think of that moment, I start to shake. That’s how powerful that moment was for me.

I hope this is making sense. And I wish I could have said this in person, but I don’t do well with expressing how I feel. I’ve been trying to find the words to tell you how much that meant to me, but it’s been weeks and I’m still struggling. So this will have to do.

And of course, mahal din kita.

 

This is my life. With you.

I now count my days according to when I will see you next. I go through hours looking forward to when I can talk to you again. And seconds, seconds feel longer when I’m waiting for you to wake up in the morning, wondering what your dreaming of behind your hazel eyes.

I know I just saw you, but it’s hard not to miss you when you’ve left marks in my room, when my bed reminds me of what we did, of how my sheets got tangled.

Making love never just meant you and me in a bed together. You made love to me while holding my hands, while looking into my eyes. And  breathed it in. I breathed it all in.

I love you.

How many ways can I say, “I miss you”?

It was hot and humid when I walked you to your car. The sky seemed to be mocking us, the sun shining in the exact opposite way I felt. You got in you car and left. I slowly walked back to my room.

The bed remained unmade, the sheets tangled. Our bodies still on the bed minutes – hours – after we’ve left. The pillows thrown on the floor with the same carefree abandon I felt when we woke up, not knowing, not caring, what the world outside my room was doing. I stayed on my side, and for days I wouldn’t be able to lie on your side. Because it was your side. Nothing but a pillow taking your place for now.

I laid my head down and felt cold. Is this what it felt like not to have your body on top of mine? Your finger prints on my skin have not washed off. The traces of your lips have not washed off. And I am reminded of your hazel eyes looking at me, searching, drinking it all in. When you kissed me with the ferocity of a thousand lions – passionate, urgent – all my breaths staggered, gasping, as you took my breath away. And you, holding me, pulling me in, far from the reality we’re putting off, as I discovered life in the nook of of your neck. My fingers lost in your hair as i remind myself to breathe.

And then you were gone. 

In Portugese, there is no way to say “I miss you.” There is only a way to say, “I feel your absence.” You are like the last song I hear before turning off the radio. The last few notes of a melody hanging in the air. You were playing in my head over and over again. It was the last form of you I had, and it lingered. You lingered.

Hell is holding you in my sleep and waking up alone. 

 

You Were My High, Then You Were My Low

And through everything, despite everything, I cannot forget the fact that you are a guy. That you have certain needs, needs that I’ve been depriving you of, I guess. That’s why the physical stuff is easy for you, tempting even. But I need this to be clear.

How much I care about someone and how much they care about me are directly related to how physical I want to be. It’s about how much I’m willing to give to a person. This is the one thing that I alone can give and no one (ideally) should have the power to take it away from me. In a world where people can have anything they want (instantly) and buy themselves anything they need, giving myself is the only thing I can give someone fully and completely. This is when I am most naked (literally and metaphorically) and most vulnerable. This is not something I just share with anyone.

So once I realized I wanted to be with you, that I wanted to make this work, the physical stuff came naturally. And yes, maybe it’s what most of our conversations gravitate towards, but that’s because we’ve only just begun and now you’re gone. We barely started being completely intimate, and then you had to leave for work. Kind of like how the last song you’ve heard keeps playing again and again in your head. This was the last form of you I had, and it lingered. You lingered.

Is that so bad?

What I Know

I don’t know much about politics,  or American history, or history in general. But I know that when your face changes from a chuckle and a smile to complete terror when we’re driving, you’re about to slam on your breaks and I should brace myself. I don’t know half of the American presidents, or even a third of them (let’s be real), but I know the veins that run through your arms so well that I’m confident they’re more familiar to me than my own. I can’t tell you where Israel is on a map, or really even Nebraska, but I know your smile feels like summer – warm, easy, comforting. And when that smile evolves into a laughter, it sounds carefree, full of abandon.

I don’t know beers like you do. I have no idea what IPA stands for, or what it is exactly. But I do know the color of the sky, that specific pink and orange, that night we sat on the porch of our new house as we ate pizza and said hi to everyone walking their dogs. I remember that perfect shade of blue on my birthday when we went to the lake near your parents’ house. I may not always remember which type of beer you like, but I always remember the orange glow of the streetlamp at night outside my room as it peeks through my curtains, during those nights I would lie so close to you I couldn’t tell your heartbeat apart from mine.

I will l never master Chemistry, Biology, Medicine, or Nursing. But I know that your presence helps me breathe. I will never forget the way your hair feels between my fingers, the way your tongue dances with mine, the way you gently but firmly grab the back of my neck. I will never let myself forget that.

There are so many things I don’t know. And there are so many things I don’t know I don’t know.  But I know how happy it made me when you whispered in between REM cycles,  “You mean a lot to me.” I remember the fear that followed, the nervous, tongue-tied chuckle I gave you in return. I wanted to say it back but I couldn’t, not without crying and I didn’t want to worry you.

Science is about finding answers. Medicine is trying to put those answers into practice. I don’t have all the answers to all medical questions, but I have a lot of answers about you. I don’t even think I know one-hundredth of what happens in the human body, but I know what happens in yours and what happens in mine. I know all too well what happens when my fingertips too lightly brush against your arm. I know the rhythm of your breathing when you’re sleeping, like a lulling hum for me when I can’t sleep.

I also know that I have a very limited time with you. And that somewhere in Virginia, someone will be lucky to get to see you drink coffee in the morning and watch you leave work to go home at the end of the day. Someone will watch you write brilliant things with those hands that I know so well. I know that someone will talk to you every day and not know the colors of your eyes. I don’t either. I know thay they’re blue, or maybe green, sometimes gray… I could never really figure that out. And that’s something I’m willing to continue to figure out.

I know that waking up every morning will feel even more foreign in my new room because you won’t be there. What I don’t know is how much I’m going to miss you. I can’t even pretend to imagine how much I’m going to miss you lying next to me, doing nothing, doing everything. What I don’t know is how much I’m going to hurt – to physically hurt – to feel the burning in my skin, the aching in my bones from the simple desire of just wanting to hold you.

I can’t count the number of months or years I spent wanting to be and actually being alone. But it’s also impossible to count the days I have spent being happy with you. There is something satisfying about asking you about you, about your day, about your family, like quenching a thirst to know things about you. And these days of adventures and finding answers may be cut short, but the way you made me feel is unquantifiable. The happiness I have felt these past few months cannot be contained in days, not confined in 24 hours, in a sunrise and a sunset. It’s counted in the little moments when I felt like the room can catch fire and I wouldn’t notice. In those moments when the hours felt like minutes, and the end of the day seems merely seconds away. It’s reflected in the way I feel about you, and how I slowly and then all of a sudden wanted you in my life every day. After you leave, I know it’s going to be hard. I know it’s going to hurt. But it’s going to hurt because it matters. Because it’s important.  Because you are important.

I don’t know a lot of things, but I know these. I hope you know them, too.

And in emails.

Me:
I don’t think I’m going to see you any time soon, so I guess we better talk now.

I try to be patient and understanding as much as I can, even when people are hurtful. But when I asked you what all the physical stuff we do meant to you, you quickly and with certainty said “Nothing.” Now I don’t remember the last time I was slapped in the face, but I vaguely remember it feeling that way. 

You managed to make me feel like I meant something to you, to making me feel cheap and used and disposable. For the first time since we started this, I’m thinking we’re not on the same page. Not just because being intimate means different things to us – that I can work with. But because I honestly don’t know what you think about us if the physical stuff has meant nothing to you. (And if that’s true, what’s going to happen when you’re 4 hours away and you really need to be with someone?)

I’m sorry I left abruptly. I waited until you fell asleep, but I had to get out of there.

Him:
I’m so sorry. That was a horrible thing to say, and not what I really meant. What I should have said was that the physical intimacy is special but that it isn’t what’s important to me. To me, physical acts can be performed by anyone and therefore overall/in general physicality isn’t an important or defining part of my relationships. What defines relationships to me is the bonds you share, the sacrifice you make for each other, how well you understand each other.

Physical intimacy can help convey or build those bonds, and I know that since you think about intimacy in a different way than me I’ve appreciated our intimacy. I haven’t always appreciated it enough, and last night was a stunning example of my incompetence to truly respect you like I should.

And I should have finished by saying I really wanted intimacy but that I was tired and in a bad mood. And when you asked me for a reason I was afraid of not having one so I made one up. I honestly am having trouble remembering the last things we said last night before falling asleep. Which means I should have listened to you (as usual) and gone to sleep.

The fact that the physical stuff isn’t as important to me is exactly why I think we could be ok. Because while i’d miss it, the most of important parts would still be in tact. Cuddling and spending time together would be sorely missed but we’d still have each other’s emotional support and shoulders to lean on

Me:
(After 15 minutes of silence)

Not really sure what to I can say anymore except that I just want to drive back to your house and fix this.

Maybe we were both just very tired last night and didn’t communicate very well. But I understand now. I’m sorry, too, that you’re dating a basket case.

Him:
I’d like that too, but I don’t think now is good time with your working tonight and my ading coming for career pep talk in an hour. But just being on that mindset is a big help from when I woke up and realized you were really gone Maybe we will be better off taking a break/calling it off until November. But we certainly can’t go out like this. Nah, I think you’re pretty sane.

Me:
Thank you for talking this out with me.

Him:
thanks for listening to me. And responding to make it a conversation. I think when something like this happens and someone wants to leave me, not talk, ect. What hurts even more is when I don’t get a chance to say i’m sorry

Me:
I’m sorry I bailed so quickly when I thought something was wrong. I don’t usually do that because I usually believe people (especially you) never mean to hurt me. But that just hurt so suddenly and quickly. And I guess I was tired too, because I was so quick to believe it despite the fact that I have reason to believe otherwise.

I don’t know, that feeling (cheap and disposable – that I now know was not at all what you meant) was so foreign to me that I didn’t really recognize it right away. And my first instinct was to get away from the cause of pain.

 Sorry.
 
Him:
That’s ok. But being THAT hurt I would have trouble sharing a bed too. I would have preferred you jarred me awake and asked me to explain myself or even “I hope you didn’t mean that, let’s talk in the morning we’re both tired”…but how many people in the world, in the heat of the moment, actually do that?
 
Me:

Ok, noted. Hopefully there won’t be a next time, but lesson learned. I will use my words. (And vice versa?)

Like I said, I was sure you didn’t mean to be hurtful so I tried to be understanding and even appreciative that you were honest. But after a few minutes, I just found myself crying when I couldn’t come up with an explanation for what you said.

It’s very hard for me to talk about stuff, especially on the spot. I’m learning a lot from you, but it’s still always a struggle. Every time we talk, all I want to do is.. not talk. I always have to force the words out and talk myself into saying how I feel and what I’m thinking. It’s a slow learning process. So I’m really sorry if that’s frustrating on your part. I’m trying, I swear.

Him:
We’re human, we’re learning.

The thing about pain, is that it demands to be felt.

12 hours ago, I didn’t think you could ever hurt me, not on purpose at least. Well, to be fair, I guess this isn’t on purpose.

You were hesitant to pick things back up as we usually do before falling asleep, and I asked why. You said you didn’t feel right doing things with me when you had… ‘unanswered questions’. You were afraid that what we’re doing may incline certain expectations that you will not be able to meet. You were worried that because we view physical stuff to mean different things, it would mislead me. So I asked what all this meant for you. And too quickly you responded, “Nothing.”

I don’t recall the last time I was slapped in the face, but I vaguely remembering it feeling this way. 

A pain that’s sudden, forceful, lingering. The kind that knocks the breath out of you. I slowly retracted my hand from across your chest. I was silent. Or at least I think I was silent. I can’t remember what you said or what I said next. All I could think of was the tingling in my fingers, the sudden weight in the pit of my stomach. You swiftly but sincerely apologized for ruining the moment. (Although at that moment I was afraid it was more than the moment that was ruined.) And after a few minutes, you fell asleep.

I tossed and turned beside you, not only because I was restless, but also because I did not want a part of me touching you. Not even an inch. I had an unsettling feeling of urgency. All I wanted to do was to get out of there, to be so far away from you. I had no idea what time it was, but it was obviously dark. I left your house after gathering my things. I think you were awake. I was wondering if I woke you up with my shuffling in the dark. But worse, I didn’t even care if you were watching me pack up my stuff.

After a near magical weekend of talking to each other, being lost in each other, it had to end with this. 

I don’t think I have ever been that honest with anyone I’ve ever dated. It took me a while to be as good as you when it comes to communicating. Or I guess as willing as you are to communicate. I meant every word I said last night. They were hard to spit out, and it was a constant struggle every time I said something, but I knew you appreciated it. I knew that you had a right to know what I was thinking, how I was feeling. So I shared them, all of them. And maybe that’s what pushed you away? Or made you realize how much I wanted to make this work? Because for the first time ever, or at least in a really long time, we were not on the same page.

I don’t just do these things with anyone. I do them with you, for you, to you, because I care about you and because you matter to me. It didn’t seem like that was reciprocated. “Nothing,” you said. This all meant nothing to you. It definitely meant something more than ‘nothing’ to me. And you saying it meant nothing made me feel cheap and used. And I didn’t want to touch you or even look at you. 

How did all this change in less than 12 hours?