Before everything went to shit, I was the ultimate single boy. Unlike most of the people in my university, I had never wanted to be in a relationship, and for good reason. I had Latin honors to chase, and virtually no time for any social life beyond what I could have with classmates that I had projects with. I was willing to sacrifice everything to get good grades, my health, even, but a relationship wasn’t one of them. For the most part, it felt a lot like I didn’t need one. I found it to be such a waste of time and money, and I learned early on that I was almost always happier when I did things with myself. A lot of it also came from the awareness of my physical attributes. I’m not handsome. I’m morbidly obese because of my conscious decision to neglect a healthy diet and daily exercise in favor of doing schoolwork. I accepted that I was a specific type, that it would take an extremely special boy to see past my size, or at least one with a weird fetish for big bellies.
It didn’t follow that I wouldn’t want to start dating after college. I had a month-long trip to Canada planned for a week after my last day of school, and I felt hopeful about dating someone because I knew that my current body image wasn’t considered extreme in that part of the world. For what other reason would they produce bear porn if nobody found it sexy?
Less than a year later, still single but open to the possibility of being with someone, I I found myself basking in promiscuity in New York and in Toronto… until I met Diego on Tinder. As I’ve mentioned before, one of his first questions to me was, “What are you looking for,” which I answered with a blunt hook-ups. My response was honest at the time because of the mess I found myself in with Connor less than a year before. It just wasn’t realistic to look for a relationship in a city I’ll only be in for another week. But Diego read me and insisted that he would take me out on a serious date because I didn’t seem like the type who did hook-ups. In a way, he was right. The only reason I was having so much sex was for revenge, and my scheme had already proven itself to be successful. Besides, I’ve outed myself as a romantic. After being in a relationship with myself for 20 years, I began opening myself to accept love from other boys. I wanted someone who would kiss me in the pouring rain after looking for a cat in a dumpster. I wanted someone who would fly to Paris just to get me a box of my favorite macarons to make his first “I love you” that much sweeter. After my date with Diego, particularly after our kiss, the kiss that launched fireworks in my head and filled my heart with champagne, I didn’t just think that he could be that someone, I believed it.
I obviously did not expect our date to be that good. On my way to the airport, I fluctuated from the enigmatic bliss from knowing that it happened to the soul-crushing weight of disappointment from realizing that it would take a while for us to have a second date. One thing was certain: it would make my 18-hour flight back to Manila feel longer than it already was. I was dying to pick up where our conversation left off. I didn’t think I’ve met anyone whom I wanted to talk to more, or to see, or to hug, or just to be with, and to think about that on the long flight home made me dread leaving New York so soon. Everything about me and Diego up to that point felt like fate brought us together. In the first place, I wasn’t even supposed to be in New York. I had my money saved up for somewhere else, but my mom insisted that I come with them instead. I also would have never come back on Tinder if it weren’t for Connor standing me up in Canada, and when he’s in the equation, I should thank him because I wouldn’t have met Diego if Connor wasn’t such an asshole.
Diego and I started working on our new normal as soon as I got home. There was now a 12-hour time difference between us, and I quickly resumed my life as most of my family members’ personal assistant. It was a good thing that he was nocturnal; he didn’t go to bed until 3AM and would wake up at noon, his time. Meanwhile, I would be up at 4AM, adjusted to 6 after beating jet lag, and we would start talking from the time I wake up until he falls asleep. At the start of it, I would wake up with a good morning message from him, and my day would be made. We talked about everything, as if we were still on a date but over the phone and with a ridiculously large time difference. We learned more about each other, the kind of music we liked, how our families were, the little quirks that come from being raised in two different countries each with its own distinct culture. And that felt normal. That was how our relationship was designed, and I was okay with it. I failed to consider how Diego felt about it.
The good morning messages were the first to go. Then the selfies stopped coming, as did the prompt replies. Out of nowhere, our conversations became structured with me saying, “hey,” then him replying, “sorry, I was [whatever he was doing]” three hours later. He started rejecting my FaceTime calls and seemed to stop being interested in me in general. He stopped viewing my Snap story and stopped liking my photos on Instagram. He just shut me out without an explanation, which I would have appreciated because when we defined our relationship, I thought that there was something worth holding on to.
I tried to explain to myself why Diego suddenly became cold without asking him because not talking became our new normal. I considered the logistics of our relationship. We matched on Tinder, and we talked for a week before going out on a date in New York City. When that great first date ended, I flew back to the Philippines because I lived there. While we continued to “date” online, Diego was, in fact, still living in the other side of the world, and I had no definite return date for the States. We both had lives to live in our respective homes, and the futures we were headed into were not designed to cross paths. To cut the long story short, we weren’t headed towards a realistic relationship, and the sooner we ended it, the less it would hurt for the both of us.
Surprisingly, I was the first one to cave in. I got back on the dating apps without telling him, just in case I wouldn’t meet anyone worth dating. I started talking to a few guys in the same manner as I would when trying to set up a first date. I even had a one-night stand while on vacation abroad, and I didn’t count it as cheating because Diego wasn’t my boyfriend. He never was, anyway. He’s just a guy I dated once and eventually fell in love with all because I’m a romantic who believed in our fairytale.
I did tell him, eventually. I started by asking him if he’s begun seeing other people, but I also made it clear that I wouldn’t mind. He said no, and explained that he hasn’t settled into New Jersey yet, having just moved there a few months ago from Miami. Then I asked how he felt if I started dating other people, a question he was positive about. He made it apparent that he would be happy for me, and that he would still like to be friends with me because (according to him, at least), I’m a great person.