Lockdown Litanies

Metro Manila was in strict lockdown when I met Mateo. At the height of a deadly pandemic none of us could’ve imagined happening in our lifetime, you drove from the south, evaded half a dozen military checkpoints, and, perhaps to some exaggeration, in a way, risked your own life, just to see me.

On a normal day, I would meet the guy in the parking lot at eleven in the evening, invite him upstairs, and make out from there to the 20th floor, but again, these are unique times we’re living in right now.

Instead, we met at my building’s designated smoking area while we kept a comfortable distance apart. It was only after a few pleasantries muffled by the face masks we were wearing when we had decided to just take them off.

You gave me a smile that would keep me awake all night, thinking of the possibilities, perhaps, that the future holds for you — the bad boy who ignored the health restrictions set by the WHO about physical contact when you leaned in for a kiss just before I got off the car — and me — the fragile, perpetually sad guy who walks around the city with a death wish when I leaned in closer and gave in. The kiss, I remember, was brief and left me wanting more.

Of course, you went for a visit the next day. And then the day after that. Still, in the smoking area with your growing discontent not being able to touch me, and the distance between us that got shorter and shorter.

You told me that I met you at a very strange time in your life. The silence that came after it was comfortable yet charged with sexual tension. I took a drag from my cigarette and replied without thinking, “Fight Club.”

“Huh?” You look puzzled and then, later on, admitted you didn’t know the line was from a movie. When I met you at a very strange time in your life, you still haven’t seen Fight Club.

The night you saw Fight Club for the first time, we were already seeing each other for three months. The same night you held me close as you whispered how much you liked it and kissed me on my neck. I told you we would see other Fincher movies. I’ve seen the movie three times, each time with a different guy, but all ended the same way – me, panting; guy, panting.

Yet unlike the guys that came before you (sometimes almost too literally), no one had better relationship with Dylan than you.

I remember that day you wanted to take Dylan to Tanay so he could run free. You said there was a small pond where he could dip in, and we’d know if he could really swim. Dylan was catching his breath on the drive back home, happy. To top it all off, we stopped by at a bakery shop and got him pandesals. Dylan couldn’t be happier. When we got home, the three of us, tired from our little out-of-town trip, you and Dylan slept for eight hours straight in my bed.

Over time we got comfortable, maybe a little too much, when I started showing you some of the stuff I wrote. I let my guard down and became vulnerable as you read about lovers past.

“Will you write about me, too?” you asked, closing my laptop shut, trying to keep a straight face for fear you’d show pity of how the other had treated me in the past.

“Only if you hurt me,” I answered with a silent wish.

No, no, no, no, no, please.

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