Vic was an ex-seminarian with nice manners and a classmate in one of my sociology classes. I had just broken up with my college boyfriend, and as a result, I went to noon mass everyday hoping for a little miracle of the heart. Vic attended mass regularly, too, and sometimes we ate lunch together afterwards.
In my state of mind – or heart – it wasn’t surprising that I developed a bit of a crush on Vic. My ex was an s.o.b and here was a religious guy who was both an academic and an intellectual, qualities that have always been attractive to me. Never mind if he still wanted to become a priest. Who knows, he might still change his mind.
After some time, he invited me to go to Mass with his family.
Wow, is this progress?
The first semester of my senior year in college came and went. Nothing more significant happened. The rigors of a graduating student’s life took over and church was no longer a priority. Vic and I lost touch.
I became interested in another guy whom I shall call Rah. We were both graduating history majors. He was a funny guy, and he was oh so tall and cute. The gift of a heartache, courtesy of my ex, was long in vanishing but I thought maybe, just maybe, friendship with Rah was worth cultivating.
Ah, but nothing more than friendship happened either.
Fast forward to year 2004. I was at an office building in Manila’s business district when somebody approached me. It was Rah. There were hi’s and hello’s and an invitation from him to eat lunch together.
So there we were out on the building’s patio, eating lunch, exchanging stories. I told him I had a boyfriend and he said he had broken up with his girlfriend the year before.
He sat across from me, and I couldn’t help myself from admiring his sense of style. He looked awfully neat, a designer’s scent wafting from him, teasing my senses – although my nose told me it was an absolutely different brand now. And there was that sexy way of his when flipping ashes from his cigarette (though I don’t really admire smokers nor do I like smoking). Some things never change. Good old Rah.
“Hey, Annamaria,” Rah said, leaning over. “I need to tell you something.”
I blinked out of my reverie and mumbled a soft, “A-huh?”
His eyes looked into mine, long and searching.
“I don’t know how to say this—” He took a long pull from his cigarette before expelling it in a huff. “Surely you already know?” Another pull.
“Do I know what? And please, Rah, not in my face.” I coughed as I indicated the smoke that was threatening to suffocate me.
“Oh, sorry, sorry… ” He inhaled deeply, looking away. Then his eyes found mine again, looking anxious.
“We’ve always been friends, right? What I am about to tell you might come as a shock. We haven’t been in touch for some years, after all. I would totally understand your reaction if.. if..” His voice drifted away.
“What are you talking about? Just say it.” My heart started pounding with curiosity and anticipation. Gosh, if he tells me he likes me after all this time… What am I gonna say? I do have a boyfriend, Rah… That would be a very appropriate line, wouldn’t it? Oh gosh, why is it always so hard, this business of letting someone down and—
I thought I didn’t hear that right. “What did you say?”
“I said I’m gay.”
I knew I cleaned my ears that morning. Last night, too! I stared at him. Hard. His pretty eyes were definitely serious.
My jaw dropped. Rah was gay?!
“Oh my god, you’re really gay!” People glanced at our table, and I realized I had shouted it out loud.
“Helloo-oo, girl! Wasn’t it obvious even back then?”
And he was right. There had indeed been signs. That perfume, the way he dressed, that sexy way of flipping a cigarette. Above all, I remembered, he had always been a fan of Madonna. That, by itself, should have been a dead giveaway.
Rah had come out of the closet a year before. According to him he was now in a relationship with a wonderful guy. Very happy, too.
It’s been years, however. We’ve lost touch again but I hope that wherever he is, Rah’s just fine.
Year 2007. I bumped into Vic, the priest wannabe. He was now an instructor at the University of the Philippines. We got together for lunch with a female professor friend of his.
Guess what? He still hasn’t gone back to the seminary.
At lunch, we discussed the movie Babel showing at that time. His friend thought there were too few nude scenes in the film.
“Are there naked guys in the movie?” Vic asked.
“Unfortunately, there isn’t.” his friend replied.
“Seriously?” said Vic. “Well, that’s too bad. Won’t be watching it then. No naked guys, no fun. Simple as that!”
I did a double take and stared at Vic. Did he just say what I thought he said?
The conversation went on to other things, however, and I decided I had imagined it.
Not long after that, while I was lost enjoying my dessert, I heard the two friends laugh. And then, as if from a dream, Vic said, “Well, unfortunately for my family, they can’t make me. I’m gay. Sorry, not sorry!”
I almost choked on a piece of chocolate cake. What in the world—??
My mind worked furiously. Vic was religious. He has always wanted to become a priest. Therefore, Vic couldn’t be— No, he said he was going to be a priest, didn’t he? Hasn’t he said he wanted to become a— No! No one who was…gay could want to become a priest. Or could anyone? Gahd, Vic…gay? Hell, no! They must be tripping on me! Or… are they??
I spent the remainder of that fateful lunch trying to decide whether I imagined what I heard or whether Vic really could be gay. I thought it just wasn’t possible. He had said he was going to be a pr—
And so the argument flowed in my head.
Fortunately, it wasn’t long before his friend left for her class and I went with Vic to his faculty room where he resumed discussing his masteral thesis with me. I listened as long as I could until I thought I couldn’t hold my curiosity in any longer. I had to know.
“Vic, I noticed in your conversation earlier that… I mean… Uhm… Please don’t get mad at me? Uhm.. because, uh… ” I couldn’t bring myself to say it. I desperately racked my brain for the least offensive and the most tactful line possible but nothing came. Fumbling for words was something I’ve never liked. I looked at Vic. He was waiting. What if he wasn’t…gay? He might kill me and—
“Are you gay?” The words just flew out of my mouth. I stared at Vic, horrified.
The book he was holding stopped in midair. His eyes grew thoughtful. Silence enveloped the office and all I could hear was the gentle whirring of the air conditioner. Or was that my heart beating ever so loudly?
Then in one swift motion, Vic threw the book on the table. And laughed. He laughed! “Oh yes, I am! I came out a long time ago, honey!”
And that’s how I discovered two of my former “crushes on the rebound” were gay.
Moral lesson of the story?
It doesn’t pay to go on the rebound.
If your heart has just been broken, grieve. Mourn. Tear your hair out. Delete his emails. Trash all those photos you have of him. Rage if you must. Throw away his things. Cry copious tears. Unfriend him on Facebook. After all that, heal yourself. Bounce back when you’re ready and not when healing is half-baked.
If you’re unable to let go, don’t despair. It will happen soon enough. There are things you can’t have, people you can’t force, and situations you can’t control. Most of the time, it truly isn’t about you no matter how tasteless that breakup line sounds on your ex’s lips. If it was indeed about you, then it wasn’t meant to be. The other person simply wanted something or someone else. Not you. So let go.
If your love is of the unrequited sort, then hope and pray. And pray some more. But you must move on with your life. As great as the idea of love and falling in love is, it is never worth stagnating for.
Now, if you’re lucky enough to love someone who loves you back, then treasure that love with all that you’ve got. You are given one chance only to do things right. One mistake, and you could lose what some people would kill to have.
But never ever go on the rebound. Among other things, you wouldn’t want to make the fatal mistake of falling for the wrong gay… uh, guy. Would you?
I wrote this piece a few years back but was reminded of this when I learned from a friend just recently that Vic really did go back to the seminary. I asked our friend if Vic (not his real name) felt any conflict between his religious beliefs and his orientation. Our friend said he didn’t ask. Apparently, Vic felt that strongly about serving the church in spite of being gay. The Roman Catholic Church is not exactly the most liberal place on earth but perhaps serving God and serving the people is not something that should be determined by a particular gender, civil status, or orientation. I wish Vic all the best.