He calls me Beanie.
You may think it’s awfully cute, but it’s actually short for beanstalk, the only word he could think of containing the word ‘stalk’. Which, according to him and my friends, I do to him all the time.
That’s the part I don’t get.
We work together. We hang out and do stuff together. We have the same friends, sort of. Oftentimes I lavish him with gifts and attention, and I tend to get real inquisitive on him every now and then, but that’s me. I like knowing where he is. I like spoiling him. That’s just the way I am.
That doesn’t mean that I stalk him.
I know he only means it in jest, still it’s not exactly the world’s greatest term of endearment. And when you say stalk, it’s usually something scary and unwelcome and psychotic, right? Well, scary, unwelcome and psychotic I definitely am not!
But to be perfectly honest, I don’t think it’s really such a bad thing. Stalking him, that is. After all, out of all the guys I know from work, he’s the only guy I wouldn’t mind doing that to.
In case you still haven’t noticed, I have this thing for Marco.
A pretty huge thing, too.
I’ve had this thing for him since the very first day I met him, which is exactly a year, four months, and three weeks ago.
As much as it was unforgettable, it was also one of the worst days of my life. I had to make a mad dash for work that day because my phone alarm didn’t sound off because I forgot to plug it in and charge it before going to sleep. It was raining in sheets and I couldn’t find a cab that would take me to Makati without bribing the driver with an additional hundred bucks. And because my phone had been turned off the whole time, I wasn’t able to receive text messages from my boss that our whole team was supposed to come in dressed up as super heroes, because it was super heroes theme day. Suffice it to say, I was the only one on our floor dressed in white tees and ripped jeans, drenched in rainwater, surrounded by The Incredibles and the X-Men.
While trying to keep warm and ranting to my good friend Patty via office email, my boss Steph approached my desk with Marco in tow. She informed me he was to seatride with me for his entire shift (seatride was what you did as a newbie during your first day on the call centre floor), and that I was supposed to teach him call handling skills and professionalism on calls at all times yada yada yada…
When I glanced over at Marco, he threw me a little smile and a cursory wave.
At that time, all my mind (and my eyes) could focus on was how terrific he looked in his Superman garb.
Even in normal clothes, Marco looks terrific. He’s not as drop dead gorgeous as David Beckham or Jason Statham, but he’s definitely good-looking by most standards. By my standards. He’s also a natural born comedian with a wicked sense of humor. He loves Quentin Tarantino, The Killers and Radiohead with a passion. Half of his paycheck goes to maintaining his “baby”, a pimped up VW Beetle which he bought from his Ninong Ted when he and his family migrated to Australia. He also has a pug called Gwyneth whom he spoils like crazy, and a little sister named Jeannie whom he still babies even if she’s already ten.
I did not exactly find this out all from Marco. Let’s just say that I can probably work as a private investigator or as an online researcher after my stint in the call centre and earn thousands for every successful hit.
But I’m not kidding when I said that I lavish him with gifts and attention.
Everytime I go to Starbucks, I always buy Marco his favorite Caramel Macchiato and leave it on top of his desk. Taped on it would be a Post-it with cute little messages like “Let them hear the smile in your voice” or “No sleeping means no drooling”. Stuff like that.
I bake him batches of fudge brownies which I’d labor over for hours in the small and cramped kitchen at home. They’re my extra special brownies, generously sprinkled with almonds, with just the right gooeyness inside. And usually when I deliver the goodies to him, I also bring along a tumbler full of warm milk. He’s just absolutely crazy about them brownies, oh yes.
I buy cute little chew toys for Gwyneth, or bumper stickers with an attitude for his Beetle, or pretty shirts for Jeannie and just drop them off at their house on my way home from the mall. I even buy potted plants and plant seeds for his mom who is just absolutely wild about gardening.
And just so he won’t be late for work, I give him daily wake-up calls at exactly 6pm. Marco’s a very heavy sleeper. The guy can sleep through an earthquake and not stir even once. So far he’s got a squeaky clean attendance record in the office, thanks to his fabulous speaking clock (ahem!). Me.
So here’s the thing. Marco knows that I like him. He knows that I like him very much. I mean, I haven’t exactly been very secretive about it. All my good friends know. Manong Guard in the office knows. Heck, even Gwyneth the pug knows. That’s just how I am. When I love someone, I want the whole world to know and I don’t care if you think it’s the cheesiest or the corniest thing in the world.
I know exactly what’s going through your head, because it’s the exact same question that’s been plaguing me since day one.
Why am I still here?
Why the hell are we still not together?
Oh sure we’ve had talks, Marco and I. Plenty of them, actually. But each time we did, it only left me even more confused than the last time we didn’t.
Marco is not hung up on some ex-girlfriend. He isn’t seeing or planning on seeing other girls. He has no problems with commitments nor is he a closet gay. From our countless muddled, cryptic, sober and drunken conversations, I was able to deduce, however painfully, that he likes hanging out with me, that he likes being with me, and that he finds me sweet and pretty, but that’s basically it.
That’s pretty effing it.
My boss and good friend Steph told me in her most matter-of-fact and no-nonsense way to just stop following Marco around like a lovesick puppy and move on with my life. “The guy is a turd. You shouldn’t be strung along by a turd, otherwise, you’re an even bigger turd.”
If only it were easier said than done.
My hopeless romantic friend Patty who always gave everybody the benefit of the doubt took the other less harsh route. “You’ll hook up when the time is right. What’s the rush? At least you have something with him.”
Good point, too.
But by being with Marco this way, isn’t it that I’m also settling? And we girls know that one should never settle, especially when it comes to love, right? Right?
One year, four months and three weeks. Hmmm. That sounds like an awfully long time to be settling.
It’s funny, but I actually sort of had an epiphany a few days ago about what I had to do with this whole Marco situation, while watching “He’s Just Not That Into You”. Uh-huh. How profound could I get?
I’m not nearly as pathetic as Ginnifer Goodwin, thank God, however, I just had to agree with Justin Long. He was right. Clear as day. If a guy really liked you, he would ask you out. Period.
All this time, Marco’s just not that into me. Period. Simple as that. And it took me this long to figure it out.
I let the painful realization sink in and cried for a good two hours inside the safe confines of my bedroom. The tears alternated with staring blankly at the ceiling and looking at our pictures in my laptop. When I changed his name in my phone from “Love Ko” to just plain Marco Gatmaitan, I knew it would be another two hours before the tears stopped again.
I woke up the next day with a huge headache and really puffy eyes, but with a clearer head and a much lighter heart. While forcing myself to eat brunch, all I could think about was how I’d start getting him out of my system, but just the thought of it brought tears to my eyes.
In mid-sniffle while washing the dishes, my sixteen-year-old sister Meg couldn’t resist asking, “What’s wrong with you? Did you just break up with someone?”, and I wished so bad I could answer her yes. At least that didn’t seem as pathetic as crying over someone who had never been mine to begin with.
Steph was so happy I finally decided to wake up from this Marco daze that she went to see me ASAP, armed with my favorite comfort food, cream puffs from Beard Papa. Patty followed a few hours later, but she was not at all convinced that I was really ready to let Marco go. She knew how deeply rooted I was to that guy and untangling myself would be as difficult as sneezing with your eyes open.
But I swore on Beard Papa. This time it was going to be different. No more dillydallying. No more beating around the bush. No more praying the novena in Baclaran every Wednesday morning for that one sign he would ever love me back. No more late night phone calls. No more texting ’til the wee hours of the morning. No more pseudo girlfriend/ quasi-stalker stuff for me.
And most of all, no more falling in love everyday with Mr. Marco Gatmaitan.
That was a few days ago. Here I am now on a sunny Saturday afternoon, a huge bundle of nerves, trying not to bolt from where I am rooted for the last half hour or so.
Three houses down the street, a family is celebrating a child’s seventh birthday with a magic show courtesy of a really nervous teenage clown who keeps calling the birthday celebrant Peter instead of Patrick. On the opposite side of the street, three guys in basketball jerseys are sipping Cokes in plastic while fanning themselves with rolled-up newspapers. A couple of metres away, a bored-looking housemaid in her pink-and-whites is letting a cute Labrador poop on the sidewalk.
Here right in front me is Marco’s house, his mom’s colorful garden beckoning me to come ring the doorbell so I can experience its beauty up close. The second thing I notice is Marco’s Beetle parked in the garage. My heart picks up speed and I clear my throat a little too loudly than necessary. The housemaid with the pooping Labrador watches me curiously as I put the Tupperware of freshly baked brownies on the ground and fish for my phone in my bag. I finally speed dial Marco’s number before I totally lose all courage.
He picks up on the second ring. “Yo, Beanie!”
I sigh and resist the urge to make a snappish remark. Never did like that name. “Can you come out please? There’s just something I need to tell you.”
“What, you mean now —” But before he can finish, I hang up and put my phone back in the bag. I pick up the Tupperware, take a deep breath, and wait.
This is it. The moment of truth. It’s now or never.
He comes out a few seconds later, putting a shirt on. I bite my lip as I realize it’s the shirt I gave him a few months back. The one with the big red Beetle outline on the front. He doesn’t look surprised that I’m there outside his house. Instead, he gives me a little smile and opens the gate. It makes a really loud rusty screech that makes me cringe. Then his eyes land on the Tupperware in my hands. “That for me?” he asks.
I nod and wordlessly thrust it in his hands while I rack my brain for the perfect opening statement. Shit. To think I even stayed up all night rehearsing for this.
He starts eating the brownies and lets out a soft, satisfied moan. ” Thanks, Beanie, these are really delicious…”
There! That’s my cue!
“Thanks, Marco. But I’m not gonna be making them anymore. That’s the last one.” And then I pause and take another deep breath. “I’m not gonna be making them for you anymore.”
He looks at me curiously, like I just told him I’m moving to Hawaii to become a professional hula dancer. And then he laughs loudly like it’s the funniest thing he’s ever heard. “Yeahrright!”
I can’t really blame him if he thinks it’s ridiculous. We’ve had these sorts of conversations plenty of times before and I’ve always ended up eating my words. Oh well. “It’s alright. Just make sure to give Jeannie some, ok? And tell Tita Gigi I said hello.”
“Beanie. Come on. Not again. Why don’t you come in? I think it’s the heat.” He winks at me and I mentally order my heart and my mind not to give in. They must not!
He makes a move to grab my hand, but I quickly step back. For a second he looks surprised, but then he rolls his eyes and his expression goes back to teasing. “Beanie, arte mo! Let’s go inside.”
“I have a name, and it’s not Beanie.”
My voice is quiet and firm, and this is all I can say before the tears well up in my eyes. The more I try to blink them back, the faster they fall down my cheeks. Oh how I hate my tear ducts. They always do this! They never cooperate.
“Beanie…” His voice sounds slightly alarmed and he starts to fidget uncomfortably in front of me, like he’s torn between trying to make me stop crying and trying to get me to come into the house.
“I said my name is not Beanie.”
He stares at me, unable to say anything. I think this is the first time he hears me use that tone of voice on him, the tone that says I really mean business.
“That’s the last time you’ll ever call me by that stupid name. From now on, I’ll be out of your hair. I’m sorry it took this long. Goodbye, Marco.”
I give him a soft kiss on the lips and leave. The maid with the pooping Labrador is still there, watching our little drama unfolding. The three guys are back to playing their little game of ball, and the party down the street is still in full swing, minus the forgetful clown. I hear Marco call me Issa, my real name, but I don’t stop walking, nor do I glance back at him. I feel my confidence growing with every step I take away from him and it’s the most delicious feeling in the world.
I wipe away the tears and crack a smile at the thought of what I just accomplished here. It bolsters me even to a soft little giggle. I can’t wait to tell Patty and Steph, my two best girls who are already waiting for me at the coffee shop outside the village.
It really is a sunny Saturday afternoon.