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I wish you knew. I wish you knew me.

I wish you knew that as a twelve-year old boy I was bullied for being effeminate. Imagine six boys physically harassing you; verbally taunting you; calling you names and labels you weren’t even sure you were. They made my lunch miserable. They made going to school miserable. I wish you knew but I wish even more that I had told you about it. Maybe you would have done something and maybe I would be a different person now. Had I been brave enough to tell you, maybe I wouldn’t be demonized by my childhood as badly as I am today.

I wish you knew when I had my first crush. His name was Carmelo and he was young and beautiful, crowned with perfectly gelled jet-black hair, irises a thousand fathoms deep. I wish you knew how much he made me happy and how struck I was by his pensive stare. Maybe if I told you about him you would have advised me to take it easy and knocked some sense over my infatuation. That way, it would have been easier for me to let go of the envy I felt when my best friend managed to befriend him while all I ever mustered were stuttered-laced hellos and incoherent pleasantries.

I wish you knew about that time I fell for a married neighbour. It was the first time I struggled to discipline my feelings. And while the poetry spoke of sentiments that were shared, I can tell you proudly that I managed to let reason prevail and that fate, chance, perhaps even God spared me from a reckless infidelity.

I wish you knew the countless heart breaks I endured during my days in the university: Romeo, Marvin, Emmanuel, and Mark. I never understood why I kept chasing men who would never reciprocate my affections. Struggling with the approval I lacked from male peers as a young boy, I purposely sought them from people who were most likely going to push me further down the abyss of self-pity. I often wonder what you would have advised me had I summoned the courage to tell everything to you. You would have listened, I am certain. But how would you have reprimanded me for the fool I made myself out to be?

I wish you knew about my first real love. He was a Muslim from Klang; a fastidious, uptight, young ISO specialist who liked calling me his goldfish and who I never had the chance to meet. I know what you’re thinking. How can anyone fall in love with someone he has never met in person? Maybe it wasn’t love. Maybe it was nostalgia. Maybe it’s the same way I tend to miss places I’ve never been to before. Dreamers like me are too imaginative for their own good. Our hearts aren’t exactly disposed to what can be measured or what is tangible. What I did not see, I felt.

I wish you knew how hard it was for me when that love turned to hate. Not my words but his. Would you have defended me? Would have bravely called him out? Would you have scolded me? Would have been disappointed: a clever young man like me yielding his reason for the dreamy, digital companion of a man who could not even restore his faith on my soul? You would’ve been furious I am sure. But perhaps also sad. Maybe you would have consoled me with the words I wanted to hear: that a man like me deserved someone better, someone who had the capacity to forgive, someone who could be as selfless as I was.

But then I wish you knew how I gave him up for the sake of your happiness.

I knew you would have been disappointed. I knew it wasn’t what you wanted for me. So I stopped. That guilt kept me from demanding him back. That fear of losing you for someone else frightened me, restored my senses.

I wish you knew how every time I am on the edge of doing something foolish, I think of you. I remember your face. I recall the scent of your protecting skin. I stare into the image of your loving eyes. I keep myself from falling thanks to the rope of your soul. There’s a brightness emanating from your body which swallows the darkness. No amount of happiness in the world could replace the thought I have pleased you, made you proud of myself, made you proud of yourself. No amount of money or affection can complete me the way your happiness stirs my soul.

I wish you knew how ever since I’ve valued your happiness more than mine. So much so that even though I want you to know and need you to find out, I am willing to pay the price of you not knowing and never finding out, even at the cost of my heart’s strength. In the end, it’s the same kind of love you’ve given: unconditional.

I know I am more than willing to pay that debt.

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