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The Price of Being Afraid To Love

Dear Joe,

I never thought that one day I would be writing you. I have always seen myself as the “unaffected third party”, listening to stories on your show and reflecting on them. Being an observer has made me a good adviser to my friends. The irony lies in the fact that I seem to offer sensible advice to others, yet I feel like a failure in my own personal life.

I am a 27-year-old professional. To date, I have had two failed relationships. I was 15 when I had my first romance. It ended with my girlfriend saying we couldn’t see each other anymore given our differences in social status. I was so crushed since I did not see any real reason for our breakup.

It took me six years before my next relationship. This time, it ended abruptly with me being two-timed. People philosophically branded me as the “transitional boyfriend” for my second girl. According to them, my biggest mistake was pursuing a “girl on the rebound”. After this second failure, I felt so exhausted and cynical. Joe, I have spent longer times heartbroken than being in a relationship.

The people around me have different perceptions of my being alone. For people who know me well, they say I brood too much on the past. For people who don’t know me well, they think I am afraid of commitment given my lack of interest to run after girls. My parents and sisters think I am too choosy. On my own, I still believe that one day I will fall in love. Though I sometimes wonder if this is the cross God has given me to bear.

I am popular, I have a wonderful career, I have a great family, I am never in financial distress, but I never seem to find true love.

One day, Joe, the dark curtain of cynicism lifted up. In the strangest of circumstances, I was walking out of this bank in Makati one day and bumped into an old acquaintance. For a while we just stood there, not really sure if we really knew each other.

She’s three years my junior and I never really talked to her before. There was rumor that she liked me before and to avoid embarrassment, we tried not to cross each other’s paths. I’ve always thought of her as “Ralph’s kid sister”. It’s been eons since I last saw Ralph and that day at the bank, Marivic did not look like a kid sister anymore. She was in a suit lugging a laptop. I didn’t know how long I was standing there, looking stupid. Until she came up to me and did the introductions.

Even though I was in a trance, I managed to squeak a conversation. She was on a summer program with the bank, apparently she’s taking her post-graduate degree in California. I somehow managed to get her pager number.

I was able to invite her for coffee. We were able to hit it off and I found myself asking her out again. I was quite surprised with myself since I never thought I’d be this spontaneous. I think it surprised her too but she agreed to see me again.

Second time around, we drove to Tagaytay. We spent a whole afternoon laughing, talking about foolish anecdotes about me and her brother. She wondered why I was still single and I just shrugged my shoulders. I started to think if I should tell her about my failed relationships. I chose not to, my insecurities set in. Aside from that, it was a wonderful afternoon. I said, “We should do this again” and promised to call. She said okay.

Joe, being the stupid person that I am, I did not call her. I felt I was going too fast, that I was losing control of myself again. I was afraid I would end up getting hurt. She flew back to California. I let her go without a battle. I still feel like a jerk. After all, I made a promise to go out again, but I guess that would be a bygone now.

I was wrong, Joe. Nearly a year after she left, I still think of her. Part of me believes that I will wake up one day and get over this crazy infatuation. Unfortunately, that morning has not come about yet. I get the urge to trace her number in the US and give her a call. But always, my insecurities stop my impulses.

A couple of months ago, I was sent by my company to train at our US offices for six months. I thought this must be fate, and I decided to grab it. I got her address from her family. I flew from the East Coast to California. I did not know what reason I will give her for my stupid silence but it did not matter since I was prepared to grovel at her feet.

Marivic did seem very surprised at my call, speechless too. With a dozen roses in hand, I waited for her at a cafe near her dorm. I thought, this was it. When she did come, I saw the shock registered on her face. The roses, I thought. Before I could say anything, she said, “I can’t”. At first I thought it was the natural thing to say to the jerk who never called back. She put her hand on my arm. Like the first time I saw her at the bank, the world fell still again. And it was also when my world fell apart.

She had an engagement ring, Joe. At first I thought, “No, it’s a ring but not an engagement ring… she just can’t be engaged”. Until the words of confirmation came from her. Apparently, another guy swept her off her feet. The guy had proposed marriage two weeks before, during Valentine’s eve.

So here I am, Joe. Waiting to go home again, wondering about the could’ve beens if I hadn’t been such a coward. I wonder why I get myself into these situations.

At this point, I really doubt if there is light at the end of the tunnel. And if I do find that light, will it blink out on me again. If possible, Joe, I’d ask for you to share this in your newspaper column… for other people out there to learn from my story

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