The Summer My Universe Came Crashing Down: A Work of Fiction

My sister Gilda and I have a two-year difference, which was a blessing, because it worked in accordance with an unspoken law that governs sisters, an eleventh commandment if you will, that states “Thou shall not mess with each other’s boyfriends.” My sister was the sun to which all her worshippers revolved around. I had my share of admirers, and our two-year difference acted like a magnetic shield that ensured that everyone stay within their orbit. Until that summer my universe came crashing down…

To understand the dynamics of this more fully, let me give you a little background. In my Mom’s idyllic hometown that is Davao del Sur lived two best friends as different from each other as night and day. Let’s call them Daniel and Gio. Daniel was the town mayor’s son while Gio was the school principal’s. Daniel was fair-skinned and tall with thick, wavy hair, rosy cheeks and sensual lips. Gio was of medium build, had short, straight hair, a killer smile and a beautiful tan. Daniel was of a more practical nature with a head for business while Gio was more idealistic and leaned towards the ideological and philosophical. Both of them were my older sister Gilda’s contemporaries. One of them, Daniel, was her boyfriend. Nothing unusual about this. Her friends and admirers clustered around her and did not stray from their predetermined paths. No intergalactic invasions loomed in the past, the present or the future. Or so I thought. That is, until that summer my universe came crashing down…

To be honest about it, these two barely made a blip in my radar. Daniel I knew somewhat, by virtue of his being my sister’s boyfriend, but Gio did not exist for me. It came as a surprise to me then one memorable summer, when my sister and I arrived in Davao, my cousin Amanda was jumping up and down, excitedly telling me that Gio had a huge crush on me and was planning to tell me that night. I found this piece of information more perplexing than flattering. This guy and I had never had a cosmic connection of any kind. Not by look, word or deed had he ever expressed any interest in me. Besides, since when in the history of sibling relations did a big sister’s friend acknowledge a little sister’s existence? I also found it strange that he would tell my cousin about it first. I mean, if I liked someone, I would check out my chances with the person firsthand before blabbing about it to the whole world. Rejection is a mighty bitter pill to swallow, but public rejection is double the humiliation. The guy was either brave or foolish. This I had to check out and see. How was I to know that this guy would send my universe crashing down?

My first sight of this intruder who came hurtling through my personal space was not unpleasant. As I had said before, Gio had a beautiful bronzed complexion that contrasted nicely with his pearly whites. His eyes smiled with mischief and his grin complemented the look. He had an incisor that jutted out like a vampire’s fang, but on him, the effect was so adorable I felt like offering my neck up for his culinary pleasure. I did not have any overwhelming feelings towards him—heck, I hardly knew the guy— but it was a possibility worth considering. Little did I know that this was the guy who would send my universe crashing down.

In the days that followed, life took on a predictable pattern. Daniel and my sister would huddle together in a corner not too far from the crowd where Gio and I hang out. Although we went to the beach, explored the island or just hang out by the pier, we were hardly alone by ourselves. We usually had a sizeable retinue of cousins and friends to keep us company. Gio did seem interested in me, but he kept a very respectful distance. What was rather strange about it, he often spoke passionately to my cousins about his feelings towards me, but when we were together, he was mum about the subject. It felt like reading this great romance novel whose hero was fired with fervor for the heroine, but every time they met, the two merely exchanged pleasantries. Gio had explained to my cousin Amanda that he did not want to rush things because I was still very young. After all, I was still in high school while he was already in college. Fair enough. Since I was not ready for a hot-and-heavy affair anyway, this harmless flirtation suited me just fine. Although nothing formal was ever said between us, we had a mutual understanding. Or so I thought. I had no idea this was the summer my universe would come crashing down.

My time with Gio was short-lived. For some reason that I have forgotten now, I had to leave Davao but was coming back in a week. By a strange twist of fate, Daniel had to leave, too. The boat that left Davao that day carried two lonely souls and left behind two even lonelier souls. At least Gio and my sister had each other’s shoulders to cry on, right? Who would have foreseen that this was recipe for disaster? Who could have foretold that this was the summer my universe would come crashing down?

When I came back a week later, the atmosphere was vastly different. For starters, the seemingly heartbroken and inconsolable Romeo that I had left behind at the pier a week ago was nowhere to be found. The evasive reply to my queries as to his whereabouts was that he was “busy.” He had never been too busy for me. He was a no-show the entire afternoon, too. What was even stranger was the palpable feeling of unease that my cousins had very time I was around. Everyone it seemed was giving me looks of pity and tried their best to avoid me. It gave me a feeling of foreboding, like something cataclysmic was about to happen. In the evening, I made my way to the “Rotonda”, what would have been the town square if only it had been a square and not some round shape. The Rotonda was the place where the young folks usually gathered to play games, listen to music or just hang out. It was a favorite rendezvous for lovers who under the auspices of the moon exchanged impassioned vows or pledged undying love to each other. Out of the corner of my eye, I espied one such couple, holding hands and exchanging kisses. A familiar scene, true, but in a startling moment of recognition, I realized why it was even more familiar. It was Gio and my sister! It was precisely at this point that my universe came crashing down.

Came crashing down with all the might and fury of a love gone bad… Came crashing down dashing all my romantic notions and dreams with it… Came crashing down taking my ego and pride down with it… Came crashing down threatening to destroy sisterly bonds along with it…

Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned, and was I was such a woman, double-crossed in double directions! I was seething with rage and boiling with anger. I demanded redress for the two-fold wrong done to me: first, from a guy who made a mockery of my infatuation and worst, from my own flesh-and-blood who made a charade of sisterhood by infringing into my territory. I was deciding on giving them the cold shoulder treatment or the painful, long-drawn churn of a guilt fest. As thoughts of revenge and ways of retribution raged through my head, I fixed a baleful stare at the two of them, first, at the traitor who could not even look me straight in the eye, then at his accomplice. Looking at my sister’s face, I was amazed at how unbelievably free of guilt or remorse it was. It made me wonder. Did she care so little for my feelings that my loss did not bother her? Did she know how much she was hurting me by stealing this guy away from me? Did the word “sister” mean anything to her at all? As I continued to gaze at that angelic face, I started to remember how she hated having me around when we were younger. I took a step forward towards her. Then I remembered how we got closer when we grew older. I took a step backwards. I remembered how I found a friend and comrade in her. I remembered all the good times we had, the whispered secrets, the unbridled laughter… I retreated altogether. Was I really going to throw this away because of one man? Slowly, reason crept in, and took over. Reluctantly, I accepted what I had suspected all along.

I finally understood why, despite his fervent declarations of love for me to my cousins, Gio never really told me himself or displayed his affections towards me. It was because he was never in love with me! He was holding a torch for my sister all these years. He must have loved her way back in high school or even further, but could never muster the courage to tell her because her boyfriend happened to be his best friend. Now that they were in college, he figured he could never have her so he settled for the next best thing on the menu: her prepubescent younger sister, awkward but undemanding, but a good enough excuse to continue to be around her. He must have tried to work himself up into a frenzy over me, but there was not much to get excited over a shy, scrawny kid battling her first batch of pimples. When Lady Luck gave them an opportunity to be alone at last without the usual hindrance, their romance finally blossomed. I could rant and rave and play the aggrieved party, accusing them of deceit, treason and all other crimes committed in the name of Love, but what would I have accomplished? Absolutely nothing, zip, zilch, nada. Besides, guys come and go, but a sister is forever, right? Isn’t that what they meant when they said blood is thicker than water? I set aside any feelings of resentment. I bowed my head in defeat. After all, who was I to stand in the way of true love?

I escaped as far away from Davao as soon as I could, and left behind shattered fragments of a summer romance that probably never was. Davao, the pearl of my childhood, had somehow lost its luster. My visits became more infrequent as the years passed by. My sister and Gio eventually broke up, and my sister and I eventually made up. I never really had the heart to confront her, and I guess some things are better left unsaid. In an ironic turn of events, it seemed that Gio did have a change of heart. He sought me out after the break-up, explaining that he was the one who got seduced, that it was me he had wanted all along, but I didn’t fall for it. No way was I going to double-cross my sister with this smooth talker. I would hear from friends and families through the years that Gio would always ask about me. I heard that he would walk past our old house hoping to catch a glimpse of me and that he would make my cousins swear to tell him if I was ever in town. See what a guilty conscience can make you do?

The bittersweet thing about this was that I found out much later that my heartbreaker was a confirmed playboy who had a steady girlfriend at the time he was toying with the affections of me and my sister. (He ended up marrying this girl who they say has the temperament of a tiger.) I also found out that the song he used to play for me was I song he had dedicated to almost every girl he had been with, practically half the town, I imagine. What a laugh! Still, I harbor no ill feelings towards the guy. I have closed that chapter in my youth. My memories and emotions of that episode I have buried way deep in the past where they belong, back to that summer, that summer when my universe had come crashing down…

POSTSCRIPT: I had written the above piece as a way of dealing with the events of that summer. To my unanswered questions, I have formulated my own explanation of the whys and wherefores of that big heartache. I have properly labeled the victim, the traitor and the accomplice in my mind. I have tied the loose ends neatly, to my satisfaction. I thought that was all there was to it. Closed chapter. Closed book. Until I sent my sister a copy of the story…

There was a deafening silence on her part. No indignant protestations, no self-serving explanations. Just silence. It took me several days of reassurance to finally get a response from her. It was a short note. It said that she was sorry it ever happened, that even now she is still embarrassed over it, and would be so ashamed if any of her friends and family ever found out about it. I was stunned. My sister whom I thought had no feelings of guilt over that incident had borne this heavy burden in silence all these years. Unbeknownst to me, she was tormented with remorse for her moment of indiscretion. I never brought up this matter before because I thought that some things were better left unsaid. I realized now that sometimes for wounds to heal properly they have to be ripped open for new scabs to form. I wanted to tell my sister that the mistakes of the past belong where they should be, the past. If I did not harbor ill feelings towards the guy, how much more for a sister whom I loved and cherished? By portraying myself as a victim in this love triangle, I was doing my sister a great injustice. We were all victims here. Victims of youth’s folly. Who’s to say if I wouldn’t have done the same thing under the same circumstance?

Now my thoughts turned to the other character in my story, Gio, who in my anger I portrayed as an opportunistic cradle-snatching playboy who got the best of both worlds. I knew from my cousins that he had been trying to get in touch with me for the longest but I only made half-hearted attempts to reconnect. You can understand why. With my newfound maturity, I finally reached out to him. My “rediscovery” of him was a revelation. Can you believe that after all these years he too was hurting? What was even more incomprehensible was that he considered himself a victim! A victim, the guy who betrayed my trust by cheating on me with my sister… Outrageous, right? Yet, after hearing him out, things weren’t plain black and white anymore. I realized the right to feel pain cannot be awarded just to people deemed worthy. The man was obviously hurting after all these years, from guilt or genuine affection I cannot say for sure. He remembered exact dates and times when he had gone to my workplace to catch a glimpse of me. He revealed to me that he got drunk on the day he found out I was getting married and had gotten himself drunk every anniversary thereafter. It was only this year when we had been reacquainted that he stopped drinking. That’s several years of private grief commemorating my wedding anniversary. Pretty heavy stuff, huh? I am still not quite convinced that I was his original choice but I cannot get him to confess otherwise. Besides, any discussion of such nature would have been moot and academic anyway. The paths we have taken in our lives have diverged so much that any attempt to merge them would have proved too disruptive. Even more reason to bury the past where it belongs: the past.

In my preoccupation with our hapless love triangle, I just recently realized that I had overlooked a very important, if not the most important angle, Daniel. He had the most to lose. He not only lost his childhood sweetheart to his best friend, he also had to continue living in the small town where it all happened and where everybody knew him and knew about the incident. Were his and Gio’s friendship strong enough to survive this test? How did he cope with all this? I guess I will never know the answer, but one thing is painfully obvious: There are different sides to every story. A protagonist can be an antagonist in the other’s story. A moment of pleasure can spell a lifetime of pain for another. Every action brings its own consequence to somebody. I did not for a minute think my doomed romance affected anyone but me. Is it poetic justice perhaps that the universe also came crashing down on those that had sent mine to crash in the first place?

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2 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. al espanol
    Dec 15, 2013 @ 17:02:34

    Wow! That Gio is a dawg, a coward and more. Sorry you had to go through that.

    Reply

    • emmblu
      Dec 15, 2013 @ 17:09:29

      I think we were just all victims of youth’s folly. I harbor no ill will towards the guy. As they say, we have to kiss a lot of toads before we find our prince.

      Reply

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