Six women entrusted me with their stories of loving, hurting, coping, and healing (for an aborted book project).
Their narratives are saying that the downside to love is heartbreak but that mending is possible.
This is one of them.
NENA'S STORY (AS TOLD TO ANNAMANILA)
The woman ran across busy Ramon Magsaysay Boulevard and midway flung herself face down. Motor lights blinded her even as she shut tight tear-drenched eyes. She braced herself on the hard pavement as tires screeched, horns blared, and drivers cursed. After what seemed like forever, she felt herself being picked up. "I'll take you home now," a voice whispered in her ear.
The anger in the man's voice cut through her fog-filled mind. It made her flinch in spite of her confusion.
Did the woman really want to kill herself?Twenty years later, I am still asking myself that question. Did I want to kill myself then? You see, I am that woman. Or more accurately, I was that woman. If you ask me now, there's very little in that wretched, frightened 35-year-old woman that I -- now 55 going on 70 -- want to identify with.
My world was placid after marrying a man who I used to think was "to good to be true." Those were the incredible days I held up three fingers when asked about problems: getting and keeping household help, keeping away from a fourth pregnancy after 12 years and three children, and getting to sleep whenever my husband had late nights out with his barkada. In that order. I thought myself one heck of a lucky girl.
It was a Friday in June, the eve of a three-day weekend, when my placid world collapsed.A group of friends was seeing a seer-psychic-healer after work. It sounded like fun to me. Luchie was embroiled in searing office politics and needed advice on how to get out of it. Betty lost cash and checks in her desk drawer, called it an inside job, and wanted to confirm her hunch. Ces wished to know if she could travel again after a study visit to Japan. "It wouldn't hurt to ask if a marriage proposal is in the offing," Betty teased the still-single Ces. While I, the coolest of them all, declared I'd tag along "only to observe, to be the cheering squad." At the back of my mind, I told myself that if the psychic was half as good as he was vaunted to be, I'd ask him about relief for my acutely asthmatic baby.
During the visit, the psychic obliged each of us with a palm-reading session. When my turn came, he told me: "Hija, your friends think they have a problem. They don't -- not really. You do."
I laughed nervously and asked him to tell me more.He faltered just so and then went on. "There's a possibility it would pass. A fling, I hope. Except that you and your husband have the same zodiac signs, the same temperament. You are likely to clash head on." The seer didn't meet my eyes as he spoke.
"You're telling me my husband is having an affair?" -- I shot back.
"Well, hija, it might not be serious yet. But if you're not careful, if you don't keep your cool, your marriage might break up."
When I arrived home, I was still laughing and shaking my head. Psychics were carnival stuff to me. Still, I couldn't wait to tell my husband about it and perhaps have a good laugh together over it.
As it turned out, I was in for a long wait. He was out again with the boys. With the boys? -- my mind started to paint lewd boy-girl pictures. As the night progressed, the pictures turned lewder by the minute.
By the time he turned in at 3:00 in the morning, I was fit to be tied.
I blurted out the four sentences I had rehearsed for hours: "Papa, I know you are having an affair. I have air-tight evidence. So don't try to deny it. If you do, I'll leave you anyway."
He didn't try to deny it. He spilled it out. Every sordid and excruciating detail of it.
It wasn't a fling. It was serious. Leny was 18 and a student. They met at work -- she was employed part time in his business as promo girl. They dated, at first as a foursome. Then she told him on the phone that she felt something was happening and wondered if he felt it too. He said he did. Then they made it happen. She wasn't a virgin. (An ex-boyfriend forced himself on her, the beast!) After a few more dates -- no longer in a foursome -- she left home. He found her an apartment.
Yes, she is attractive and young and has great boobs. No, it isn't just lust. But no, it isn't love either. Yes, yes, I love you more. No, I'll never leave you and our children. But no, no, I can't leave her either -- just like that. You have to give me time. I don't want to break her heart. Soon, soon, but not now.
Why -- I asked. Why did it happen. How did I go wrong?
He hemmed and hawed and rambled. As best as I could make it, he blamed his business -- the economy was bad; the market was shrinking. When he was with me, the problems scared him. When he was with her, these problems receded: she was an outsider, thus a haven. So you see, it was not you, he said, it was the circumstances.
More ramblings. He didn't plan it to happen. He was just out to have fun.
Eventually, he turned on me just the same. I had transformed from sweet, giving girlfriend to brusque, grasping wife. I took, demanded, pressured, nagged. It was me after all.
Neither of us got any sleep that day. He was supposed to go to the office that Saturday. But I prevailed on him to stay home. He continued to stay home Sunday -- bah, Sunday was family day. Monday was a holiday -- hallelujah! -- and he didn't have to go out either; not that I would let him. I could see in my mind's eye the other one anxious, fuming, and best of all, beginning to be afraid. Oh God, I wanted her to be afraid -- as afraid as I was.
After that long weekend, I made him wear a bowling shirt with my name plus an apostrophe and an "S" -- NENA's -- emblazoned on the back. It was a shirt I ordered a year before but never got him to wear. That day I took it out of the closet, he put it on without fuss. And that was my first cheap shot at that faceless third party out there who took away something that was mine.
When he came home that night -- no longer as late as in previous nights -- he said that Leny immediately guessed what happened. One look at the possessive label on his shirt told her that the lid was off. She wasn't dumb after all.
Read the conclusion by clicking on the label/category "love and marriage" (left bar, please)