I had a solid alibi: Having just graduated, my best friend Audrey would be hosting a celebratory lunch party for her closest friends, myself, included. While everyone is supposed to sleep over at my grandparents’ place after, Audrey’s mom would suggest that the girls sleepover at her house and the boys at my grandparents’, so it wouldn’t look like we were planning a weird after-party orgy. The next day, Audrey would drive the girls to the seaport, and Nate and I (being the only boys in the group, and Nate being Walt) would meet them there in my car. Unfortunately, the girls would oversleep; of course, Nate and I would still head to the abandoned island because we would already be there when we find out that they’re not coming. When we get back in my hometown, Nate would just pick up some stuff he left at my place before I drive him back to his grandparents’, which is conveniently in the same city. Exhausted from our day out, he would fall asleep while packing up, so he’ll have to leave the next day, instead.
Sneaking the guy you’re dating into your grandparents’ house for an entire weekend is nerve-racking, to say the least. During our last date, I was lamenting to Walt at how seldom we saw each other. He told me that he’d reserve the upcoming long weekend for me, that he would visit my hometown and sleepover, on the condition that I take him to a beach. I wasn’t one to object because I had become obsessed with this boy. Although I didn’t feel love for him yet, I was definitely feeling something, so I said yes to every opportunity to see him.
Lying had become a fundamental element of being with him. I knew that everyone who supported me in the way of providing food, shelter, or money would object to me dating a boy. I couldn’t risk losing those things for a boy whom I wasn’t sure liked me back, so I became creative. Dinners with him were reported as dinners with my fake girlfriend Astrid, and meet-ups with him on a weekday were excused as me needing to do something for my application to law school. As exciting as it was to have this forbidden romance, it constantly made me question its worth. Am I going to have a boyfriend at the end of this? Am I willing to trade my grandma’s fried chicken for unlimited access to Walt’s penis? Am I still going to meet my personal goals if I were with him?
It was hard to tell because he never texts and we barely go out, but I’ve already invested four months and a few weeks’ allowance into this “relationship.” I wasn’t getting out of it without having at least a taste of a return, so I became determined to define the relationship once and for all.
My determination had a twofold reverberation: for one, it made me nervous to initiate the conversation with him. At the end of it, I would either get locked into something with him or be set free, and I so wanted to get locked in. For another, it infuriated me. I hated how seriously I was taking our relationship, and how casually he did because I clearly wasn’t on his list of priorities. And I know because sometime between our last date and the long weekend, I texted him, “I haven’t really seen anyone since I met you, but it feels comforting to declare things. I’m not asking you to be my boyfriend yet, but can we start dating exclusively?” He replied, “Why not hehe,” no punctuation marks, no follow-up messages. OK.
Two days before our weekend, I tried to get into his headspace and stopped replying to any of his messages, whether they came from iMessage, Facebook, or Snapchat, and I loved the attention he was giving me. I only replied when I sensed the threat of him cancelling our get-away, and I wasn’t about to let that happen after going through the trouble of setting up my elaborate alibi. I came out to Nate for fuck’s sake, just so we could avoid any run-ins with him, because in my story, I would be introducing Walt as Nate, since my grandfather knew Nate’s grandfather, and always thought we were best friends.
Walt and I weren’t meeting until 6pm, but he had asked if I could pick him up in Manila, which was a two-hour drive from my hometown. I wasn’t pissed at him yet when he asked, so, still true to my word, I went on the drive eight hours early to avoid making plot holes in my alibi and to avoid traffic and be on time for him. Come 6pm, he texts me that he is running late and for me to chill. I completely lose it at that point, but I put my phone away because I also didn’t want to start a fight that would stop him from coming over to our rendez-vous, my condo. One hour and 43 minutes later, I pick him up from the lobby and give him the silent treatment on the elevator ride up. When he asks what was wrong, I give him a blank, cold stare, and shrug my shoulders. If I could stop my mouth from talking, maybe I could kill all urges to slap him, too.
I continued to treat him like that until we climb into my car. When we’re both settled in, he grabbed my hand, kissed me, and told me, “I missed you so much.” How could I resist? That’s what I’ve been waiting for, what I counted down for. Make the most of what’s happening now, and forget that I hate him. That’s never done anyone harm, right?
Having kissed and made up, our conversation picks up from where it left off. He’s late because he grabbed a beer with his classmates after a tough exam. I didn’t want to pick at him on it because I killed my time by texting my ex-boyfriend Diego until Walt arrived, so I let it pass. Besides, there was something else on my mind. While I wanted to start the conversation that would define the relationship, I could not find the right words to do so. Being the coward that I was, I said nothing and chose to hold his hand when he asked me what I was thinking about.
Eventually, I found the words to start the process of defining our relationship, but they weren’t necessarily the right ones. They poured out of my mouth like vomit while Walt and I were entangled in an embrace on a mattress on the floor of my grandparents’ entertainment room. I performed my practiced speech, which borrowed words from the journal entry that heard all of my doubts about him. What are we doing, Walt? We’ve been seeing each other for four months. It’s way past my expiration date for us to be a fling. It’s at the point where if we don’t move forward, I have to break up with you because I can’t continue wasting my time.
“We’re dating, right? I’m surprised you think that four months is a long time. We’re not quite there yet, but we’re on our way. I want a serious relationship.”
It wasn’t what I wanted to hear exactly. We weren’t on the same page when it came to relationship timeframes. I guess I was so used to being with Americans, who’d stick the boyfriend label one month in, that I forgot to consider that he was the first local I was dating seriously. When I think of his response now, I figure he’s right. Four months isn’t a long time compared to being single for 20 years. I wasn’t even single for 20 years—I was in a relationship with myself, and that relationship wasn’t afraid to ask the tough question: Are you really ready to commit to someone else?