My First Love (Valentine’s Day Special Part 4 + Final)
This is Part 4 of My First Love Story. Happy Valentine’s Day everyone!
(Names were changed for practical reasons)
Cristine asked me earlier to wait for her in the middle of the dance floor so I could be her first dance. As soon as the first slow song played, I made my way through the crowd of partnered up students sadly I saw Cristine with Jojo. I felt like I was in a daze after seeing that. Before I could do anything, Kristel suddenly took me by the arm and she started swaying along with the music. It was the first time I heard her speak so clearly and honestly. I will take care of you, she said. She was trying her best to avert my gaze to Cristine and Jojo’s direction. At the time, I know I was really insensitive towards Kristel but it felt like my body has a mind of its own.
The DJ played another slow song. Kristel turned me around so my back would be facing Cristine and Jojo. It was only then that I felt like reality was present again. I didn’t realize my hands were at the sides while Kristel’s were on my shoulders.
“I’m sorry,” I said softly leaning a bit closer to her. I held her left hand and rested it on my chest. Her hand was cold so I exhaled into it in hopes to make it warm. Failing to realize the inappropriateness of my actions, I apologized once more but she doesn’t seem to mind.
“I thought you had a stroke or something,” she said jokingly with a slight hint of nervousness. I felt her hand grip mine. “Why are you smiling?”
I didn’t realize I had a weak smile on my face. “I honestly don’t know,” I replied. Kristel was about to lean closer to me when I felt something tapping my right shoulder from the back.
I turned my head and saw it was Mr. Santos with an awkward smile smelling like 3 liters of cologne and conditioner. His aura brought a whole salon with him. He laughed anxiously and said, “Guys, Boss Principal is not happy with the both of you that close. Keep it wholesome, ya?”
Kristel and I both stopped and looked at Mr. Santos. He made a gesture in his hand by moving his right thumb and index finger close together like he was holding an ice cube. His face seemed discomforted. He was more afraid of reprimanding us instead of following our principal. He laughed once more and left.
The song ended. It was quickly transitioned to a dance mix once more. Students swarmed the dance floor again while we moved slightly to the sides close to where the waiters are stationed.
“If I haven’t been clear about it,” Kristel said. “I have feelings for you.”
I just stood there like an idiot totally oblivious of what she just said. Kristel look around for a bit and hinted the waiters nearby to give us some privacy. It took awhile for the three guys lounging in their chairs but they stood up and brought an empty tray with them as they left.
“I’m not trying to compete against Cristine,” she continued. “But, I hope someday you could look at me the way you see her.”
“Do I need to answer right now?” I replied nervously.
“Not really. But if you can, that’d be great,” she said while avoiding to make eye contact. She was starting to feel awkward now that the music is an upbeat dance mix one. Her friends approached us while dancing. I think to myself how ridiculously stupid they look. Kristel hugged me taking advantage of her friends blocking the teacher’s view of us, “Please think about it,” and then she walked away towards the tables…
The night was nothing like I expected it to be. The organizers officially closed the program and students started making their way out of the hall and into the lobby; some students stayed behind to take some final pictures. I was searching for Kristel thinking to myself I can properly answer her feelings back when I saw Cristine seated alone at her table. She saw me approaching and leered at me. I sensed something is wrong.
I kept walking towards her. I felt angry and betrayed—I wasn’t quite sure to what extent but perhaps the following words that I spoke can define it. I put both my hands on the table as I looked at Cristine.
“You lied,” I said. I didn’t mean that, I thought. Did I? “Why are you doing this to me?”
“Who are you dancing with?” she replied coldly, ignoring what I just said. “I think she got carried away. She even turned you away from my view. She clearly wants you for herself.”
“Stop leading me on, it’s hard enough it is” I shot back. “So, you and Jojo again? Marvin’s [Juicy Fruit] is now out of the picture too?” I raised my voice a little forcing a couple of students who were passing by to look at our direction briefly, and hurriedly took their steps.
Cristine responded by staring at me—a look I’ve never been on the receiving side.
“Who is she?” she asked once more, her voice slightly louder now.
I saw a couple of teachers approaching us but kept hesitating, whispering and pushing each other to do something about us. My frustrations kept and buried deep inside are urging to get out through this needless confrontation.
“Wait for me at the dance floor, okay?” I replied by mocking her.
No one spoke for a couple of seconds. The sudden dead air felt at that moment was the longest and most painful that I’ve become a part of. To a point, it was being uncomfortable and embarrassing.
“Who is she!” she demanded, her voice almost to a shriek and it even broke on the last word. She moved the chair behind her and walked around the table, we were right in front of each other. Her eyes widened but not the way I cherished it. She’s not about to smile, I was thinking I can’t possibly hold my ground if ever tears show. She wouldn’t cry over this! I told myself.
“Who is s—“
“Her name’s Kristel,” I finally said. Sensing Cristine is a bit calmer, I continued. “She’s my friend. Well, best friend as of late.”
“Why didn’t you dance with me?” she replied.
One of our teachers Ms. San Diego had the courage to check in on us. “Are we okay here?” she cut in nicely.
“We’re good, ma’am,” we both said.
“How about let’s call it a night and go to the lobby?” Ms. San Diego insisted.
“We’ll be right there, ma’am,” Cristine replied. “Kim and I are just going to take a picture up front.” Cristine held my arm and dragged me away from Ms. San Diego. We were standing somewhere on dance floor with some of the students asking us to move so they can get their desired scripted memories captured on film.
“I saw you awhile ago with him right there,” I said while pointing to a spot on the floor where I thought I saw them earlier. “Kristel was just gracious enough to turn me the other way.”
“You should’ve kept looking.” She made a somewhat frustrated mumble and continued. “I mean, before you made any assumptions, you have should’ve actually made sense of what’s really happening.”
We moved a few steps more away from the dance floor due to some student implying it to us.
“Jojo was asking me to dance. I was telling him ‘no’ and I also mentioned that I was waiting for you and I wanted you to be my first dance.” Cristine narrated. “Did you see us dancing?”
Thinking about it now, I realized they weren’t even that particularly close to each other. It was just at that moment, my brain went into some sort of overdrive. Jealousy had the better of me.
“Well, no,” I confessed. I felt very embarrassed after that moment.
“It never crossed my mind to ever hurt,” Cristine said. “If only you kno—,“ She didn’t finish her sentence and quickly covered it by saying sorry. I also apologized. She never realized she was still holding my arm—I gently pulled back while she hesitatingly loosened her grasp.
We went together outside and saw her parents’ SUV parked near the entrance. Cristine’s parents explained that they told my mother they were also picking me up.
After getting inside the car, the exhaustion started kicking in. I felt tired and I fell asleep. Just like how fast I dropped, the morning came and my prom was officially over…
Months passed and it was already April, Kristel’s graduation. She won a couple of academic awards but not a single one for extracurricular. We already made fun and talked about it before the ceremony started. However, Mr. Santos gave her a certificate of recognition and a bag of peanuts. He said it symbolizes how easy she’ll take on her college education.
The school was completely against the throwing of the hats after the whole program finished. The graduates threw anyway. Kristel pride herself for starting it, she claimed. After she introduced me to her family, we went around the school grounds to talk. We sat down on one of the benches.
“Don’t miss me that much okay?” she said while pressing my arm with her index finger. “I’m just two jeepney ride away. I can come visit you everyday”
“I’ll try my best,” I said softly.
Noticing I was a bit upset of her leaving she said, “Give me your phone.” Confused, I handed it to her anyway. She unlocked it and twisted it. I saw on the screen that she activated the camera and took one shot of herself.
“You’re welcome,” she said handing me back my phone.
“What did you do?”
“So, you’ll have proof that you’re with me!”
“I don’t need that,” I replied teasingly. “But still, nice gesture on your part.”
She smiled and gave me a kiss on the cheek.
“What’s going on here?” To my surprise, it was Mr. Santos catching us. He was wearing a Barong Tagalog as he approached all the while grinning.
“You don’t have any authority left, sir I already graduated.” Kristel humored Mr. Santos. She shook his hands, thanked him for congratulating her.
Kristel whispered to my ear that she has to go and celebrate with her family. I told her to call me afterwards. She nodded, gave me a thumbs up and left the gates of our school.
Mr. Santos paused for awhile slightly nodding to himself while looking at me, “Well, Mr. Kim,” he finally spoke. “Don’t you feel a bit strange about everything?”
“What do you mean, sir?”
“To be honest,” he hesitated. “Off the record, we never thought you’d end up with Kristel.”
“We?” I replied.
“’We’, as in myself and some of the teachers in the faculty room. We’re not that big of a school, you’ll hear and learn things in a heartbeat.” He crossed his arms after finishing his sentence.
I smiled to myself hearing what Mr. Santos has to say. I’m not offended. In fact, I find it hilarious that they have nothing else better to do than bet on students’ relationships, I assume.
“We didn’t end up with each other,” I explained. Mr. Santos’s expression was more intrigue than ever. “We just conveniently found each other during a certain point in our lives. Plus, I think the teachers should let their concern on us students strictly within the four corners of the classroom.”
“That’s a little disrespectful thing to say, don’t you think?” Mr. Santos said derisively.
“Yes, because it’s also an inappropriate question, sir.”
Although it took a couple of seconds, Mr. Santos spoke back. “It’s always meaningful when talking to you, Kimannie.” He placed his hand on my right shoulder tapping it twice and walked away.
I know that was some sort of a sign of respect but at the time, I was just thinking, Did I just get molested? Should I buy a doll and gather myself a jury and tell them where the bad man touched me?
As much as I want to tell you how fruitful my senior year was it’s nothing but a bunch of students eagerly and impatiently rushing time for them to finally graduate. That being said, the whole year was filled of unending deadlines, prolonged final exams and nonstop submission of projects completely unrelated to the subjects taught.
The only thing breaking that monotonous streak is when Kristel decides to wait for me after school and spend time with each other. During this time in my life, it should really be a dopamine fiesta all year round. I mean, my grades were above average, I’m receiving recognition for my work, I have the two most awesome women in my life—Kristel and my mom. Plus, Jojo and I are on speaking terms again! Sometimes we’ll see each other at the grounds and I’ll greet him with, “Bro!!!” while doing two guns on my hands repeatedly shooting at Jojo. He’ll reply with, “Bro!!!” also with the pretend guns. Excluding my constant murmurs of, Horny BITCH! after passing him, the air between us is clean.
I’m still not contented though. And chasing after Cristine is something I’ve already come in to terms with. It’ll never happen I often tell myself when thoughts rush to my brain. Despite all these, my mother would tell me, “Why be in a relationship if your heart is truly for someone else?” I paraphrased of course since the actual advice was, “I don’t like Kristel. I like Cristine better. I hate Kristel’s curly hair—it reminds me of your father.” I guess not so much of an advice but more of a hidden message…
The school year went by so fast almost like a blur. Our principal was delivering her final words with us. She opened by saying:
“I know some of you are scared of leaving this place. For four wonderful years, this institution was your home—the place which holds your very fist accomplishments that will partially define who you really are. This institute, its educators and the friends you shared memories with are family—perhaps too familiar? I say this because after you stepped out of those gates, you will be in a new institution. No memories, no friends to feel comfortable with and to say it bluntly, you have nothing. But what you have is something new. Whenever I feel scared of changes, I always remember these words from St. Francis’s prayer, ‘God, grant me the strength to accept things that I cannot understand.’”
Her speech went on for a couple more minutes but her opening is the one that really stuck to me.
After the whole ceremony was done, I shared meaningful conversations and embraces with my fellow graduates, friends and family. There’s only one thing left to do: that is to find Cristine and hug her. It was a promise she asked me to keep.
I was waiting anxiously at the center of the basketball court surrounded by a lot of people crying and promising each they will still keep in touch in college, nothing will change they say. I smiled to myself after remembering such parting words because something like that barely came true. Much like everyone they will complain how irrelevant and uncompromising people are in their respective colleges or universities. This will go on for about a month or two then much to their surprise, they suddenly had the best friend they never thought they’ll have. However, at the time, I never knew that. I was hopeful like them. I still have to learn that lesson the hard way.
I was waiting at the grounds because Cristine called me the night before. I would say I remember it like yesterday, but technically, it really was so here you go:
I was tucking in my mother after she fell asleep on the couch while watching an episode of 30 Rock. She said she like that show even though most of the time, she doesn’t get any of the jokes. “Then why are you watching it?” I asked. She said, because all the actors look happy with their jobs that it translates through their acting on screen. I let it go because I know the true reason behind it. Even though our house is happy with just the two of us, I know that my mother gets lonely sometimes and hearing people from the TV helps her feel livelier by the day… Our phone suddenly rang.
“Hello?” I answered. My mother let out a noise indicating she’s a bit disturbed by my voice.
“He-llo?” a voice spoke at the other end.
“Kristel?” I assumed.
Cristine and I don’t talk that much anymore. The only time we probably exchange actual words is when teachers or friends or fans will try to relay her message through me expecting I was still her best friend. The only problem is her friends and mine belong to the same circle so, ever so often we will have the awkward pleasure of seeing and being with each other. I love Cristine to bits but she’ll never feel the same, she’ll never tell me words I dreamt of hearing from her the day we first met and we’re not just meant to be.
“Hello? It’s me, Cristine,” she reiterated.
“Hello. What’s up?” I asked.
“Uhm, not much. I’m just checking how you are? Since, we haven’t really talked that much—since we secretly decided we’re not supposed to.” I sense she was being sarcastic.
“Everything’s fine,” I replied. “I’m just fixing my mom’s bed. She fell asleep again in the living room.”
“Oh auntie,” she offered. Her chuckle at the end barely made any sound. It feels like she was nervous. The line was so quiet that I can hear her breathing over the phone. Realizing how honest the gesture of Cristine for calling me, a sudden familiarity came rushing into me.
Suddenly, I felt lively and asked, “Who is the 16th century French writer who coined the word “essay” which translates to “attempt” or “a project of trial and error”?
I repeated the question to her but this time with more enthusiasm closely resembling a game show host.
“Uhh, uhhm, I don’t know!” There was panic and amusement in her voice.
“It’s Montaigne!” I revealed. I heard her laughing after hearing the answer.
“That’s how you want to play it, round 2!” she said.
“Good things come to those who wait, true or false?”
“Hala! You can’t do that!” She laughed once more. “How can airplane remain aloft?”
It took me a couple of seconds to properly answer but I managed to keep it extremely concise by saying, “You have Bernouill’s Theorem to thank.”
“Explain!” she suggested.
“That’s cheating!” She paused, clearly she was thinking of another question. “Why do they call a crazy person throwing a fit, ‘berserk’?”
I felt very confident about this one. “Actually, the original Berserkers are Norse Soldiers during the middle ages. They were know because they go into the battle naked. Hence, ‘going berserk’ haha!”
Her questions went on for a couple of more hours. After both of us recovered from constant laughing, Cristine spoke.
“We should hug.”
“Huh? Over the phone? Why?” I asked.
“No!” she replied. “Because I think we may never get a chance to after tomorrow.”
Clearly I wasn’t ready for the sudden change of tone in our conversation. I got nothing for her.
“Can I count on it?” she broke the silence.
Getting back at the present day, I was still waiting for Cristine to come meet me. I hope this isn’t JS Prom Part 2, I thought to myself. A number of batch mates approached me to have pictures taken, offer a congratulatory half hugs and more pictures. Someone even went to me and said that he will vandalize the bathroom stalls for the last time. I told him to go ahead and do it. I also reminded him that the school hasn’t technically released our final grades and overall good moral character; so they can still hold you if you do something brainless like that. He growled at me and drew a penis on my palm. I exasperated but I let him do it. It’s the least I can do for killing his joy.
It’s starting to feel awhile and before I even get to turn around and look for Cristine, I felt someone pressed against my back. I looked over my shoulders and saw Cristine’s head leaning on me. She extended her arms and embraced me. I completely turned and hugged her as well. I tried to look at her but her eyes were closed and her head is buried in my uniform.
“I told you we should hug,” she said kindly. “Oh and congratulations.”
“Thanks,” I replied.
She now looks up, letting go for a bit and embraced me once more. Cristine pulled back and touched me by the arm. Her eyes widened as it usually did then she smiled. She seemed held back like she was trying to say something. Cristine’s smile turned into a closed half one, suddenly tears fell.
“Hey? Is something the matter?” I said caringly.
She motioned her head no, but still looking like she was holding something within her.
“Do you need to go number two or something?” I said trying to ease the tension.
She threw a playful left jab on my chest signaling me to stop kidding around.
“I’ll miss you,” I said.
She nods and embraced me one last time before she left with her parents.
Did you ever have a moment in your life where after an event perhaps an argument or a perfect situation that after going home or as soon as it was over you had a whole new scenario playing in your head? And everything you imagined is better than what actually transpired?
It’s been four years but occasionally, I still think about that time Cristine and I embraced for the last time. We haven’t talked ever since—excluding birthday emails and holiday greetings that was it. If ever you’re wondering, I broke up with Kristel somewhere along the way. Her best friend told me she was seeing someone else on the side and when I confronted her about it, she didn’t deny it. She told me she was sorry saying, “I was just caught up in the moment. It will never happen again.” What irritated me the most is how relaxed I felt after hearing her admit to it; I guess I was just so tired of it all and expect something like that to happen sooner or later.
Kristel went on how much I mean to her. My answers were very short and honestly, I just want to get away from her as much as possible. She finally folded after I told her neither one of us was really that invested in our relationship. We lasted for awhile because probably both of us were filled with too much pride no one wants to admit that they want out.
She accepted it was over but went on somewhat defending herself that no one was at fault. “It’s the situation that separated us. Everything they say about absence makes the heart grow fonder? They’re not slightly true. At the end of the day, love can only last if it’s close. When you can hear it, when you can feel it and when someone is actually physically there to make you realize that.” She paused a couple of times maybe she realized how a little ridiculous she sounds suddenly going all out like that.
A week before my mother’s birthday, she asked me if I can help her throw a party. “It’s only once you get to celebrate being alive for half a century,” she said. I called a bunch of her friends and neighbors and invited them for the big party. I cooked most of the food while my mother got the cake. She bought numbered candles. “15,” it read. She told me it looks ridiculous if she imitated other old people by exchanging the order of the numbers.
On the night of her birthday, our house was livelier than ever. There were a lot of people having fun. My mother thanked me and said, sorry for making me stay for her party. I told her it was okay. Besides, it’s fun to be in a party where the average age in the room is 47!
It was the later that night when my mom was singing Aerosmith’s Don’t Want to Miss A Thing on the karaoke when an unexpected visitor came in. It was Cristine holding a box covered with a glossy green and red wrapping paper. She nodded reluctantly but she continued walking towards my mother, greeted her and handed her the gift. Cristine went inside the house while I closely followed. I saw Cristine by the table getting her a drink. My mind was just blank so I quickly climb our stairs and went to our extremely tight excuse for a terrace. It had a perfect view of the compound and from there you can see the community plaza just three houses away. I saw my mom outside still hogging the karaoke machine. I ever heard her repeatedly blurt out, “Can you search for, Like A Virgin?” I cringe a bit but let it go since it’s her birthday.
I endured three performances of Like A Virgin from my mother until I heard knocking behind me.
“Care for some company?” someone said as he or she entered the terrace. It was Cristine eating the last piece of my mom’s cake. I leaned against the railing—she also did the same.
“Long time no see?” Cristine ventured.
Without looking, I nodded politely. “I can’t even remember the last time we saw each other.”
“Whose fault is that?” she playfully replied.
I gave her a weak smile. If this was a text message, I’ll reply with something pathetic like, “How are ya?” then follow it up with even more feebleness, “Watcha’ doin’?” Regardless, my mother started singing a love song which I don’t know the title of.
“How are things between you and Kristel?” The question was genuine honesty.
“We broke up ages ago,” I replied. “How are you and—?”
“I’ve been single ever since we graduated.” Cristine’s gaze was very distant. She seems to be eyeing something in the view. “Ha!” she exclaimed while pointing. “There’s the playground!” Realizing some sort of mistake, she bit her index finger.
“Do you still go there?” I asked.
Cristine frowned. She was rubbing her hands together trying to keep warm. “Not so much,” she said. “The swings there are filled with rust now.”
To be honest, the thought of being with Cristine has never entered my mind the entire time we were at the terrace until she said that. I don’t know why but somehow all my feelings deep down got dug up. My hands were cold, my heart rate is up and oddly enough I’m getting goose bumps. Without hesitation, I held Cristine’s left hand. I swallowed nervously. My breathing was nonexistent for a couple of seconds. I looked up and saw Cristine with a shocked expression on her face. Despite this, I felt her hand gripping mine firmly and softly running her thumb on mine.
At that moment I was thinking to myself, This is it. This is how I’m going to die. I died because of hand holding. I guess that’s better. At least my mother won’t deal with the stress of autopsies. It feels like forever because I even started writing my will on my mind. But considering I had only lived a short life so far, my thoughts broke and it brought me back to reality.
I was looking at the girl I’m deeply in love with for the past 11 years. She has hurt me hundreds of times but every time I try to resent her, my mind always refused it. I have given her up countless of times. I let immeasurable opportunities of finally saying what I truly feel go by ‘cause I always fear her rejection—I would rather be her friend who keeps his feelings to himself rather than a courageous one who lost her. I never wished once that she breaks up with her past loves. The thought of her being happy is the most important thing to me that it’s so much of a priority that I’m willing to give that to her even if she’s not with me.
“I love you,” I finally said. The momentary silence that followed was the longest one I’ve ever been a part of. I felt scared, anxious and frankly, I want to jump from that terrace already. In my mind I was literally aiming at my fat uncle in hopes that he would break my fall.
Cristine let go of my hand and turned her head away. It felt like a thousand nail cutters we’re piercing my heart at that moment; either that or because I munched on an entire bag of pork rind earlier this afternoon and that was me getting a heart attack. My knees were getting a bit unstable. I sit out 11 years just to hear a resounding ‘no’?
“I thought it was just me all this time,” Cristine finally spoke. She pulled her handkerchief from her pocket and gently dabbed under her eyes. “Better late than never, right?” she continued with a slight stutter.
Cristine inched closely before she leaned against me. In return, I wrapped my arm around her. She grabbed my hand with both hands and lightly pressed her cheek on it. Everything seems to be in place. Although the sensation is beyond indescribable, the whole thing feels so right.
Suddenly, Kristel’s words entered my brain. At the end of the day, love can only last if it’s close. When you can hear it, when you can feel it and when someone is actually physically there to make you realize all that. I finally had an answer for her.
Love can never be about the distance. You can always hear, feel and realize it whether that person is physically present or not. Never did nor will it ever rely on convenience or detachment. As long as you hold that person near and dear to you, that person will always have a place in your heart…
I’m in love with Cristine. I knew it since the first time we met. Yes, it took 11 years but the only thing I have to say is: it was all worth it.
“Oh!” Cristine exclaimed. “I love you too, Kimannie.”
#End of Part 4
#End of Series.
Kimani S. Franco copyright 2014-02-21
Featured image is from imgfave.com