I have come to crave the calm of being in the same room as you.

It used to be unsettling: the sudden quieting of thoughts and release from restlessness. I was bothered by the psychological and physical ease your mere presence offered. How could you have such an effect on me when you actually give so little?

On my own I tried to suppress the constant meandering of my mind to conversations with you, but the tide is too strong so on and on I flow into my imaginary you.

For the second time this month, as has become our ritual, we, just the two of us, rode side by side in a small pedicab for twenty minutes to pick up my car. I have come to memorize the slope of your back, the abominable length of your sideburns, the clean freshness of your soap. In total silence I resist every urge to touch you, stand still at the threshold of intimacy. I languish in a chaste and silent distance, weak with yearning. Yet, it is the best twenty minutes of my week.

By the way, I love it when you wear pink.

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photopinI wonder if these feelings are worth dissecting at all. Around you, I am unsettled at best, flummoxed at worst. In your absence, there is the perpetual echo of your memory floating in my mind.

I think it is something milder than attraction. It is an attentiveness of sorts. The way you draw everyone into your tragedy, the way everyone feels the need to look after you and see to your well-being, I don’t think that I am immune to it. Perhaps it is this that I am mistaking for some species of … desire?

Unfortunately, my mind has latched on to this improper emotional assignment and beyond my control, fed it to the hollow recesses of my being that craves that unknowable heretowith unreachable thing called love. Now I am stuck with these indeterminate feelings of annoyance that occasionally swing to desperate longing.

As I have done with others who have thrown me into this madness, I map you on the trajectory of hopeless affairs. In that context, my current affliction is mild, primarily because for the most part, the sickness is in my head, with no real world correlates.

True, I think of you constantly, literally of nothing else. But when I am actually with you, all guards are up and I cannot reach you. Curiously, as the number of days we spend apart increases, so does my agitation; yet, in the same room I am suddenly calmed, even if we do not talk. (Although perhaps this is another misrepresentation of my emotions. When I am away from you my mind is free to run wild with romantic notions, magnifying my longing exponentially. When I am with you I see the empty reality, quashing the longing at once.)

I imagine these words passing between us and I see clearly the wall of baffled concern on your face, because of all things, it is the vulnerable that one is sorriest to reject. At the same time it is that fragility that makes drawing the line as early as possible necessary. And I think that you would do the necessary thing.

There is nothing to do now, except be a friend. Fact is, I cannot escape that I care about you. My selfish desire merely gets in the way of truly listening to what you want to say, of letting you do what you need to do. These days, above all, you need a friend.

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It started slow, with instinctive wariness whenever you looked back into my eyes while asking a question, making a statement, offering apologies. A part of me knew from those first few days that I was in danger of feelings uninvited.

Then in one smooth stroke you blew the gates open, telling me your secret: she’s left you. As off limits as before now I could no longer help the bubble that grew inside my chest whenever you’re near. Everyday I struggled with bottling the feeling of absolute effervescence. All my efforts would be so consumed that to hold on to mere threads of consciousness I’d resort to counting my own hitched breaths.

I don’t know where it comes from, this tight and maddening infatuation. I have no rational interest in you. I have an endless list of reasons we make a poor match. Still your nearness drives me mad.

In a couple of weeks most of my thoughts consisted of you. With you, heart pounding in chest, I held back the dizzying urge to touch you. Away from you, I rehearsed the will to keep reasonable distance away from you.

How can I help it as you continue to pour yourself into me, so that in my universe I can imagine, only I could know you so well, only I could bring you up from the place you fell?

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How do we share a space, a moment, a slice of life together and see the nature of that shared experience so differently? Words pass between two people, a look, a touch, a gesture of kindness, an act of sympathy. Time passes and they call themselves a couple, begin and end each other’s day, fill the time in between together. In subtle ways, in big ways, in ways knowable and unknowable, the balance is overturn and in a blink of an eye all love is lost. In one person, all those shared things planted the seeds of commitment to hold on to, to replenish the love, in the other, nothing had grown.

In the midst of all-encompassing intimacy, how can there still be fundamental disconnectedness?

How does one then let go of a love while maintaining one’s dignity? For it isn’t as simple as accepting that something is lost forever. It feels as if it also requires accepting that one’s faith was misplaced, that for a time, one believed in a lie. Or perhaps, the whole of it is about putting your best foot forward, that there are no lies only dead-ends.


Looking back at what I have written, I have apparently put an end to this madness several times over. Obviously without much success. But after today it must end.

This weekend we went hiking, you and her and other friends. At the point of my own motivational death, aggravated by and aggravating physical nausea, in my head, I cursed my weakness, my past, my future, my life. My knees buckled beneath me as strength slipped away with every labored breath. A migraine crouched threateningly at the back of my right eye. You hung back with me and urged me on: my lack of fitness more than an annoyance, your concern touching. I managed to reach the camp site, exhausted, but glad for the company, specially you.

Days earlier, despite the you-and-me scenarios that ran wild in my mind, I had told myself that this was your weekend with her, as a budding couple, or to become one, or whatever stage it was you two were trying to be towards becoming a couple. All reports confirmed your general trajectory. But as usual, my heart slipped out of sync with my head and I reverted back to imagining us and what we would do. I dared to skirt the dangerous (not that you were ever in any danger), cruel and selfish line, we flirted like we used to, and laughed easily. She was being awkward and aloof.

Overcome by my love for her (I love her more than you) at some point in the evening I lapsed back into doing the dutiful thing, pushing you to her, until you finally left me, to spend the rest of the night under the stars in sleeping bags side by side. Under the same stars, I was left alone, wrapped in a blanket of frigid wind in gusts, until I told myself to turn in and call it a night.

Unfortunately for me, the universe deemed necessary that I stand witness to what I have always claimed to know but never fully took to heart. Throughout the night, floating just beyond the thin polyester wall of my tent was your baritone whisper. You talked for hours and she listened, laughed at appropriate times and sounded sympathetic. The stories flowed out of you like rain and I was caught in the storm. Insufferable restlessness grew into a powerful gnawing need to escape, but I could not get out and walk away without being seen. Inside, I could not drown out your voice, no more than a murmur, with the cacophony of loud noises from other campers. Try as I might, I could not completely put the two of you out of focus.

I could not deny at that point how fit you were for each other, how already you two have taken to your respective molds. I felt the nausea from earlier that afternoon build up again, this time as I was climbing a mountain of heartbreak.

The night seemed endless, one of the longest I had ever experienced, sleeping and waking in fits, conscious for far greater time than unconscious. Before the trip I pictured us together, as you were with her, perhaps with less chaste, and this desire burned into the space inside my tent. Slowly and excruciatingly this illusion was stripped down by the sound of your voice mixed in with her laughter and sympathy. Resigned, I lay down with my head down the slope, away from your conversation, to look at the stars and complain about this cruelty. Exhausted once more, I felt calmer and managed a couple of hours of sleep, but only after you two tired of talking much much later.

I woke up just before sunrise and walked to sit at the side of the mountain. As the sun slowly crept up over the peak, it spilled grey dusty light over the plains below and it turned the rocky face of the cliff into varying shades between gold and red. I was suddenly reminded of that time by the river one morning after another catastrophe with A. I could not remember which chapter of my self-destruction it was but I could remember the freshness of the morning, the cold end-of-winter air and looking out at the crew team rowing in synchrony as their boat sliced through the black surface of the Charles. Just like back then I searched the purity of what was before me for something to wash away the ugly brokenness inside. Unlike back then, this time I could say, at least in the crucial moment, I did the right thing in staying away and urging you forward. In the face of the world’s raging beauty, I also searched for the resolve to end this.

From here on I cannot just feign indifference, I have to actually be indifferent. I do not think I can make myself happy for you, but I think I can keep at doing the dutiful thing for your happiness.

So this is my last letter to you. Maybe the day will come when I may have to explain myself, maybe the day will come when I will let you read this and it will help you understand what the past two years has been like. Maybe I will never have to.


Days, weeks and months passed so that the ever growing distance between us settled into a palpable, yet comfortable detachment. While perhaps out of habit, on occasion, we eased into our routine flirtation, it felt more genuinely wholesome. Even as I started to see you more regularly, the casualness between us finally began to resemble friendship, and it was pleasing. In turn, I thought of the two of you more supportively, with slight amusement, with much hope, like an old person watching a young couple fall in love. It felt right, even moral.

I assumed this role and owned it until one day, I walked across your view and as you looked up and I caught your eyes, time and space unravelled beneath my feet, catching me off guard. You smiled slowly, and maybe it was my imagination, but it glowed like sunrise in the middle of December, over a black lake, under a purple sky. I had to look away as I felt this brightness grow in me. Without summoning them, the metaphors came again.

In the ensuing days the old feeling of injustice plagued my inner life: how could my seemingly limitless capacity to ache for you not be met by a resolute design in the universe to bring us together?

Now they tell me, you’ve told someone somewhere that you’re finally pursuing her. I find out a week late the decisive show of interest; meager but based on your character, a gesture that spoke volumes. Amidst all this I feel oddly euphoric. Is this the new form of brokenness? Maybe it would be easier to let you go now, now that the metaphors have lost even their illusory anchor, I am unburdened at last.

How much longer is this to drag on?


It’s possible that I may always be a little bit in love with you. I will continue to be afflicted by this madness because despite full comprehension of the evidence, I cannot seem to learn how to see us in context. Instead of the parallel lives we now lead, my thoughts of you are encased in a conglomerate of perfect points of intersection: that time you played with my hair, puzzles, when you talked me through a mini-crisis. Finally separated, I thought that the catalog was closed, but last night, with complete lack of grace and grasp of gravity, in another one of your plays at simulated love, you pulled me close and swept me off my feet (or attempted to). Mere seconds that nobody took note of, to be burned in my memory in further defiance of utter and glaring hopelessness.

For as long as this has taken its course, we have gone nowhere near the path of couple-hood. You have committed no injustice by dropping misleading hints of interest. I am the hard-headed one that holds on to these isolated moments of no real meaning, because of the accidental chemical reaction mimicking bliss.

But as long as I am gripped by this madness, I will keep the distant sight of you as the measure of my self-control. Reason may not win the war over my feelings and motivations, but so long as I have control over my actions, you will always be across the room, out of reach. Wisdom from lessons I did learn from long ago.