Guest Tickler | Dec 18, 2009
I was in Dumaguete, a city in the South of Manila, when I celebrated my 44th birthday last November 2008. I was not alone. I was with a group from the office, managing a multi-million peso event that was to crown all our achievements for the year. I was the team leader and I owned the project.
That should have been the pinnacle of my success as an ads and promo manager in the multinational company where I worked. But even then, I was hiding a secret, a loneliness and depression so debilitating that I almost crumbled under its weight.
A few days before the event started, I had said goodbye to my sister who flew to Michigan to visit a friend. It was the last time I was to see her for quite a while. The reality of her absence never really hit me until I arrived in Dumaguete. I found myself alternating between tears and dread, sadness and depression. I felt like I did when my mother died death and it was left to my sister and I to hold the family together. With my sister gone, I felt bereft, abandoned and lonelier than I could ever explain.
It was an implosion of the heart, mind and body that followed. The glamorous job that used to bring me so much pleasure was losing its attraction for me. My mind began to wander. I began to lose the edge that made me so effective in my job. I started missing deadlines. I found myself beginning to distance myself from my colleagues mentally and physically because of this sudden and inexplicable feeling of insecurity and loneliness. Added to this, was the growing paranoia that my boss, who was planning to move to Australia, was looking at me with professional jealousy because I was in line for a promotion when she left.
Months passed and I found myself sinking deeper and deeper into the emotional and professional limbo. I was deeply unhappy.
I turned to the internet for solace. There I met a guy in one of the popular online social networks. He introduced himself to me as Vince. He was 27 years old and lived in Davao. Vince told me that he had a son with a woman whom he hasn’t gotten around to marrying just yet. He was unemployed but waiting for his visa so he could go to the Middle East to work at one of the US military bases there.
I met Vince during a holiday break in June 2009. He was a decent enough guy; kind of shy and well-educated but otherwise nothing spectacular about him stood out. We had lunch and saw a movie. Afterwards, we headed off to my hotel room where we had sex.
At age 44, I had managed to remain a virgin for God knows what reason. Don’t get me wrong. I’ve had numerous boyfriends in the past but never slept with any of them. Many have tried to seduce me but I’ve always been rather shy and frightened of intimacy. I still believed in the purity of love and marriage, bless my silly little heart. But why was it different with Vince this time? I was not in love with him but I saw in him my one last chance to re-engineer and overhaul my old frightened self.
I’ve learnt that when you’re unhappy, the only way to fight it, is to immerse yourself completely in emotions that are unfamiliar and new.
Raw emotions challenge you to think out of the box and making love to a man for the first time was a life-changing choice I made without a tinge of reservation or regret.
That one-night stand, I shared with Vince was a milestone experience that left an indelible mark on me as a woman on the cusp of changing her life. Intimacy was nothing to be feared. A man’s kiss was meant to be enjoyed.
When I went back to Manila and resumed my life, I felt more alive than ever since my sister left. I left Davao without a parting farewell from him. No text messages, no calls. My cell phone was silent. Three or four days later, a text message arrived. It was from him. I read it with gratitude. I knew now that I had met one of life’s mysterious challenges head on when it presented itself to me. I was strong enough to embrace life and its surprises. I made a choice that will change the regular pattern of inhibition that used to define my relationships. But most of all, I made a choice knowing that something in me was going to change forever.
Casual sex or not, I will always think of Vince with gratitude. Because he held me in his arms in tenderness and understanding. Because he laughed at my feeble jokes. Because he shared something deep of himself in the short time we were together.
It was not love. We were simply two lonely people meeting at the right time to share some warmth and a connection. The world can be a lonely place and from time to time, we need a harbor where we can safely shelter with a kindred soul — at least until the rain stops and we go home once again to a life of quiet desperation.
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