The support group.

They say that to fully recover from a breakup, you either need to replace your boyfriend, hang out with your friends, or get wasted on alcohol. Because I have a busy career and only a few pals, I chose to get sloshed on alcohol. Lots of alcohol. I would usually drink a bottle of scotch each night in my room, where I would either cry, puke, or pass out. Last night was a combination of the three.

I woke up this morning with a massive hangover. I was tempted to skip work but I had deadlines so I managed to get up, take a shower and put something on. I was so out of it that I didn’t even bother checking what I was wearing. And to think I work at a fashion magazine.

It’s been a week since Alvin left me but I am still wounded. I’m not sure if it’s something I would recover from – ever. I always thought this was The One. I’m ashamed to admit it, but we already planned for our future, including living together and raising a child.  I know this is something I would laugh about when I move on, but until then, I spent my waking time drinking and trying to forget.

I entered the office and quickly made my way towards my desk, hoping no one would notice that I was wearing mismatched clothes. I sat down and I think I zoned out because the next thing I knew, Andy was staring at me over my monitor.

“What’s the story, morning glory?” he said cheerfully. Andy is the art director and I must say, my closest friend in the office. I smiled weakly but did not say anything.

“I heard about you and Alvin,” he whispered.

I’m not sure how he knew since I didn’t tell anyone, but it was probably because I was showing erratic behavior at work: I came in late, looked like a wreck, and zoned out frequently. A few days ago, a photographer found me spaced out on the restroom floor.

“Yeah, well, shit happens,” I muttered.

“Have dinner with me tonight,” he said and smiled. He gave me a small pat on my head and left.

I started writing a review on a play I watched that was supposed to be the next big thing. I wasn’t convinced because I spent half the time passed out and the other time wondering where the hell I was. I strung a few sentences together and I’m not sure where time went because Andy was back at my desk, looking at me expectantly. It was already 7PM.

“Hey, I’m sorry but I don’t think I can join you,” I said sheepishly. “I have to finish all these articles tonight.”

“Don’t be ridiculous. Since when have you cared what Kirsten thought?” he said as he dragged me to the elevator. Kirsten was my editor and was known as satan-in-heels. But everybody still loved her because she got things done.

To my surprise, Andy brought me to a Jollibee near the office. I was expecting him to bring me to one of the hip, new restaurants, but he just said “Hey, you need comfort. And nothing brings more comfort than a Chickenjoy.”

Over dinner,  I told him everything. Because I was a loner, I had a lot of baggage to unload. We didn’t say much after. Andy knew everything. He knew how Alvin and I fought over our differences in taste, preferences, and careers. Alvin didn’t seem to understand that I loved working in publishing. He didn’t know the thrill of rushing deadlines, meeting celebrities, and writing compelling pieces that moved millions of readers. Our magazine is the result of hours of blood, sweat, and tears, and is just as fulfilling as being a banker. Alvin didn’t seem to grasp that not everyone had to lead convential 9-5 jobs. But Andy did.

Andy is one of the most charming and understanding people in the world. He only had to look at my miserable face to know that something was up, and he would take me out to dinner, to an exhibit, or a movie. He’s the kind of guy you’d easily feel comfortable with, and he managed to win me over despite my trust issues. I think he’s the type of guy I’d want to date if I weren’t with Alvin. Too bad he’s Kirsten’s boyfriend.

After dinner, Andy offered to drive me home. When we reached my apartment, we spent a few moments just looking at each other, in silence, appreciating the intimacy and the bond we shared. I felt a small tingle and I think he saw that because he smiled. I gave him a brief hug and got down.

That night, I thought about how strange my relationship was with Andy. I tried not to think about it but I remembered that tingle when he drove me home. Was I falling for him? I brushed the idea off, telling myself that Andy is straight and is happy with Kirsten.

Later, I realized what that tingle was. It was the happiness of having a friend when I needed one. It was the exhilarating experience of unloading my baggage to someone who cares, listens, and whose presence is comforting. And I’m glad it was Andy, who made me feel that I’m not alone, that everything will be better. I suddenly missed my family in Cebu.

It may sound corny, but friends are support groups who can listen and be there for you at your most trying of times. We all need those people we can fall back and tell us that what we’re wearing looks like shit, but that it doesn’t make you any less fabulous. And while I still feel lonely in a city of half a million, it’s still reassuring to know that I have Andy. And sometimes, one is all you really need.

After I showered, I was holding my half-finished bottle of Scotch. I was hanging out with it so much that I gave it a name, Scotty XII (I had already consumed the last 11 Scottys), and called it my best friend. I thought about what happened tonight, about how Andy showed me friendship.

“Looks like I’m not going to need you any more,” I said to Scotty as I threw him in the trash can.

The beginning.

I was walking along Ayala Avenue and I was lost. Not lost in the sense that I didn’t know where I was, but lost in a general sense, lost in the way many people are in life. Minutes before, my boyfriend of three years broke up with me out of nowhere.

We had planned to have dinner at Ukkokei along Pasong Tamo. I had been busy with a set of articles I needed to write for the magazine I worked for, so I hadn’t seen him in a while.  I was feeling really good because I closed the issue today and just wanted to kick back with my man.

He texted me saying he was running late, so I fished out a copy of Sartre’s Nausea and read a few pages when I sat down. I picked this out a few days ago in between assignments after my sister Ramona recommended the book. So far I was enjoying it, though I didn’t get most of the parts. After all, the protagonist was miserable while I’m satisfied with my life.

Alvin soon came and I stood up to kiss him but he rebuffed me by sitting down and opening the menu.

“I missed you,” I said, putting Nausea down. He nodded and called our waitress. After we placed our orders, he looked out the window as I tried to search him, wondering what he was thinking. He was often impenetrable and you could rarely understand what he was thinking or feeling. That’s what you get when you date the strong, silent type, I guess.

“We need to break up,” he said.

I was thinking he had been mad at me because I’ve been busy. I have to admit, I screened a few of his calls and didn’t reply to his messages because I was either working on my articles or hanging out with my editors and co-writers. I worked in the creative field so I spent a lot of time in parties and socials.

“You should be more serious with your life,” he continued. He then launched into a tirade of how I was “wasting my life” writing “fluff for a magazine” and how he couldn’t “be with someone who had an unstable future.” He then said that he was being considered for a promotion and that he couldn’t be with someone who had “no real career.”

I don’t know how long I sat there without saying anything. I didn’t know what to say so I stood up and excused myself. He called out but I didn’t look back because I was afraid I would cry if I did. I always thought he loved my job as a writer because I was pursuing what I dreamed of since I was a little boy.

I left Ukkokei and felt the cold October wind bite my cheeks. I didn’t know where I was going but I needed to get away. The air hung with the smell of the city – a mix of gasoline and asphalt. The sound of car horns, footsteps, and the noises of the city made me dizzy. I suddenly felt like Antoine Roquentin in Nausea. I kept walking, not knowing where I was headed.

I was confused, humiliated, but mostly angry. How could he think my career was fluff? Shouldn’t he be happy for me and support me the same way I supported him? Just because I didn’t follow a conventional career path doesn’t mean it shouldn’t be taken seriously.

Somewhere along Salcedo, I wondered. What if he was right? What if I was wasting my life chasing something insubstantial? What if this was just supposed to be a detour, until I found a “serious” job that will provide the stability Alvin was mentioning?

By now I couldn’t stop myself from crying. I was a mess. I felt like I was getting another serious case of the blues – something I experienced often. Miguel, one of my best friends, is a shrink and he says I suffer from depressive episodes. These episodes would take the form of drinking, partying, taking the occasional chemical substance, and sleeping around. In other words, work.

I wondered if my partying was just something I did to hide the gnawing emptiness in me. And now the one person I could lean on, rely on, is gone. Suddenly, the wind became colder.

As I continued walking, I remembered a line from Nausea I read this morning. I didn’t really put much thought into it, but now it seemed significant: There is a universe behind and before him. And the day is approaching when closing the last book on the last shelf on the far left; he will say to himself, “now what?” Now that Alvin is gone, what else is left of me?

As I unconsciously turned right, I was faced with a dead end, and a small teahouse I frequented with Alvin. This teahouse was significant because this was where I first met him, where I frequently met my editor, where I was hired, and where I spent the best moments of my life with my friends. I expected more tears, but I smiled. I realized that Alvin may be gone, but a sea of opportunities has opened up for me. This may be my chance to find my self, which I felt I lost because I spent most of my life as a ‘we’ instead of an ‘I.’

I wiped my face and left the outside world – a world that smelled of gasoline, asphalt, and a hint of nostalgia over the days Alvin and I spent together. I entered another world, this time bright, warm, and promising. I could smell my favorite tea – Earl Grey. I am about to start another journey, and I was terrified. But I’ve been through worse. I knew I was going to make it.

The barista was Hannah, a girl who always took my order. She gave me a bright smile and asked, “all alone?”

With all my remaining strength, I returned her smile and said “yes.”