June 20, 1966
It has been a year today, since I last saw her beautiful face – the face that still haunts my dreams, occupies my thoughts, and inhabits my soul. My one and only love, and I had to let her go! I had nothing to offer her. I already belong to someone else when we met. My head tells me that we did the right thing, but it didn’t lessen the pain in my heart, parting with her after our beautiful time together.
I felt like my heart was wrenched from my body when I saw her getting into the car to be as far away from me as possible, as the two of us cannot be. I felt like I have died a thousand times as I watched her walked away from me forever. I thought I will not survive. I got physically sick after I have returned to Manila two days after she left me. My family thought I caught something in Ilocos. My wife Alexandra called the family doctor, but he, too, was puzzled at what ailed me. They never knew, they never realized that what ailed me cannot be cured by medicine, by science. I was heartsick! I stayed like that for a week, too weak to move, wanting to die, unaware of what was happening around me, except this intense pain in my heart. Then I picked myself up after my five-year old son, hugged me as I laid in my bed, whispering to me to please get well soon. She wouldn’t want to see me like that also. I do have responsibilities and duties to my family. They never knew. One week after we parted, I forced myself to put up a brave front, a facade, hiding to people around me the hell I was living without her. But the loneliness comes in when I am alone or when I am about to close my eyes for the night, wondering how is she. Does she thinks about me too? Does she remembers our time together? I hope she is faring much better. I don’t want her to be heartsick too.
Days, weeks, months passed with me going through the motion, alive but not living! And now a year it is since parted, but I missed her with all my being, especially so today, the missing is so acute, wondering if she is okay, my love for her as strong as when the first time I realized that I love her with all of me. Is she happy with her husband? Yes, I have heard that the one and only woman I love, Maria Eulalia Dela Rosa, my beautiful and talented Maya, has gotten married to her fiance, Jaime Ventura early this month. Seeing the pictures of the society wedding in the copies of the Philippine newspapers that Papa insisted on having even if we are living here in America, was like putting a serrated knife to my still bleeding heart.
This morning, when I woke, knowing what the date is, the first thing I thought was her and our parting. I felt like I wanted to die. I felt like my head will explode. I needed to do something to let out all that I feel or else, I would just probably fell and have a heart attack at a very young age! If that happens, it would mean leaving my wife Alexandra a young widow and my son Richard, ‘Richie’, a fatherless boy, at his very young age. They were innocent in this. Sandra does not know, does not have an inkling that someone else owns my heart. Whilst ours was not a love match, she had been a good wife to me. If I can’t love her the way she wanted or needed to be love, the least I could do is to be faithful to her and be with her as I have promised to do so when we entered into this marriage instigated by our parents. There is also Richie to think of. The boy is growing up fast and he looks like my miniature.
I got out of bed with a heavy heart. I went straight to my office at home. I can’t go to work today, knowing my mind and heart will not be there. I saw this blank journal, a gift from Rafaela. She is not only the cousin I am closest to, she is also a very dear friend to me. I think, she has an inkling that something ails me, seriously. She told me softly and cryptically, that maybe, one day, it will help me deal with everything, when she gave me that journal last Christmas. She caught me staring into space several times. Rafaela also knew that I secretly wanted to be a writer. That had I not been saddled with running the family business, I would have preferred to be a writer! Running the business, which Papa was grooming me since I was young, was not really what I wanted, but he vehemently objected the one and only time I have brought up to him that I wanted to be like Nick Joaquin, F. Sionil Jose, Francisco Arcellena, N.V.M Gonzales or Jose Garcia Villa! He told me, it was not for me as my duty is with my family, being his only son!
So, here I am, hoping to ease my pain by writing about her, and remembering our wonderful time together instead of the sorrow of our parting. Would it really be cathartic if I do so? Would I will be able to handle the onslaught of emotions once I started putting into paper, making it tangible, that wonderful time with her? I hope so. I want to try to keep me sane. Maybe, I should just think that I can look again at this journal when I’m old and gray, and the memory is fading, and remember that once in my life, I have loved with all of my being, starting that beautiful June afternoon.
I went to Ilocos to check on the house my father had built at the beach property he bought several years ago. Papa said that the workers have finished the house and I should check if everything is okay. He insisted on it and if something gets into his head, he will not stop asking me about it until I have done what he wanted. But truth be told, I jumped at the chance as I have been feeling restless before that. I had what everyone will call the perfect life – a thriving business, a beautiful and wonderful wife whom while I don’t love, but respects very much, an intelligent and sweet son, and yet there is an empty space inside me that yearns to be filled with what, I didn’t know! Forgive me for sounding ungrateful with all the blessings I have, but I was bored with everything, with the sameness of things, and how perfect my life seemed to be. I was living, but I don’t feel much! Even so, I never thought, I never had an inkling, that my life would change drastically by taking that plane to a place I never thought of going. That by doing another of the things Papa told me to do, I would find my one true love, and that the empty space would be filled to the brim, and will be so much emptier afterwards, when everything came to an end.
I first caught a glimpse of Maya when I took a walk the day after I arrived at the beach house. She was wearing a hat, an artist’s smock over her blouse, and leggings, an easel before her. I only caught a partial view of her, but my heart jumped for no reason at all when I caught that glimpse of her. Seeing that she was too concentrated on what she was doing and I might disturb her concentration, I walked away after staring at her beautiful and graceful profile for several minutes. I needed to make sense, too, of my instant reaction to her. I also wondered if seeing her face to face, would I still feel the same lurch? Will my heart skipped a beat again.
Yes I did! My heart did. I managed to confirm that the following day. I was out walking again, when suddenly, it started to rain. I saw Maya at the same spot she was in the day before, which was near our beach house than the one before us, which I had correctly assumed, was where she was staying. When I got home the day before I asked our property’s caretakers if someone is living in the beach house before us, and they told me that the daughter of the owner was there, alone, been staying there for over a week since before I arrived. I saw that Maya, as I would come to know her, also realized that it had started to rain. Whatever was on the canvas was done and was just drying I guessed at that time. She was calculating on how best to save her work, when I approached her. Our eyes met and connected. Time stood still and we were elevated into a plane that only the two of us existed for several long seconds. The big droplets coming from the skies startled us. I grabbed her canvas carefully, then told her to run with me to the beach house as it was nearer than her place.
The deluge came several minutes after we have reached the veranda. We were both out of breath, but laughing, triumphant that we beat the rain and saved her work. She had a smile that lit up her beautiful face. I stared at her and caught my breath. She was very lovely, with her heart-shaped face, doe eyes fringed with long lashes and pouty lips curved into an uninhibited smile. She noticed me looking at her. I flushed. She blushed. I introduced myself. She told me that her name is Maya, followed by a teasing smile, then said to me, that no, she was not named after the bird, the Maya! I smiled at her. I asked her to come inside the house and have a cup of coffee with me until the rains stop, and she can tell me all about her name. She graciously agreed even if I was a complete stranger to her. The truth was I wanted to prolong my time with her. I wanted to get to know her better. I was drawn to her from the beginning. My heart felt so light and happy, just being with her. Strange isn’t it, to feel that you know someone a lot, when you just met! That you experienced a certain pull towards this person, who in reality is a stranger to you. That there was just something in that person, that calls to you. Soulmates? Reincarnation? Knowing each other in a past life? I don’t know! I never believed in those, but how do I explain the instant connection I felt with Maya?
We sat in the arm chairs, by the big floor-to-ceiling window that overlooks the beach, and over a cup of steaming coffee, we got to know each other. Maya told me that the beach house where she was staying belonged to her mother’s family, the Dela Pazes, and that she is there because she wanted to grieve alone. Her beloved mother Conchita, passed away a month before that. As the days passed by, Maya told me, the grief intensified. It started to sink in that her mother was really gone. Her father suggested that maybe a change of scene would be good for her and suggested that she visits the house in Ilocos with Fe, their loyal kasambahay, the daughter of her Yaya Nitang. She asked me to what my reason for being there. I told her I was just checking the property for my father.
So lost in getting to know each other, we didn’t realize that the rains had stopped, and that the day had turned into night as we continued chatting, getting to know each other, as if we needed to know everything about each other, unable to stop ourselves, even if we knew that we were not free to explore what we were feeling for each other, then. The fact that I’m married and has a little boy, and her engagement to a scion of one of the most prominent families in the country came into our conversation also. I didn’t realize before then that she was the fiancée of Jaime Ventura, whom I met in a party before, but never really know. We moved in the same circles, but we were not friends, and I have only met him once. Even then, I had this thought that he is very lucky to be having Maya for a wife, and learning that she was engaged to be married, I felt like a giant hand squeezed my heart,
I asked Maya about her painting. She stood up, got it, and showed it to me. I don’t know art, but even to my untutored eyes, I can see that she is very good. She had captured our house, the beach and the mountain beyond it, vividly, vibrantly! When I told her that she is very talented, she told me that it was just a hobby! She was not sure if she will offer her work to a gallery like a friend has been asking her to do. I told her that I will be the first one to buy her work should she decide to exhibit it. She laughed and told me, that maybe, she can just do a painting for me if I am staying long in the beach house. I told her that I was originally planning on being there for five days, but I can extend, since I haven’t had a vacation in a long time.
Maya stayed for dinner at my insistence since it was already a bit late. I just sent Manong Berting to tell Fe that Maya was staying for dinner. It was one of the best dinners of my life! Seeing her so happy, so animated while telling me one anecdote after the other, sharing me her hopes and dreams, made me felt very happy too. She caught me staring at her several times. Each time, she would blushed and get flustered. After dinner and dessert, I walked Maya back to her house through the beach. We opted to leave her painting and her painting materials in my house as it was already dark and it might rain again. For my part, I was glad as it would mean I will see her again. We chatted like two people who have known each other for a long time as we walked. I took her until the gate and declined her invitation to come in. I waited until she was inside before returning to the beach house.
That night I was unable to sleep. I tossed and turned, with thoughts of Maya filling my head. I knew I was not free to feel what I knew I was feeling for her even then, but I can’t help myself. That feeling was so strong, so overwhelming and I was unable to fight it. How could I fight something that made me feel so alive for the first time? Something that made my heart sing? I went to bed, with the thought that I will see her again the following day…..
Note: The revision I’m doing started here. I moved the ‘Present’ part of this chapter to the new Chapter 3. Please see the Richard and Maya index under Library for the revised chapters! Thanks.