Three Reasons

You stand five feet away from me, and I try not to look. I've been trying so hard not to look all night. I glance at my watch. Ten minutes pass one, a little late for me, but it doesn't matter. Nothing matters.

I stare harder into my half-empty Corona. Half-empty, yes, so much for trying to emphasize my optimism. I take it in my hand, swirl the lime a few times, round and round, in circles, my beer.

So much for running away, getting somewhere, or so I had believed, but not if I were running around in circles, right?

Right, I don't even bother to look around, as I catch myself laughing bitterly. I find myself wanting to just walk right out, head to the door, get the freaking hell out of this place, away from this club, away from this smoky room, away from this noise, this confusion, away from you.

But I don't budge as my limbs refuse cooperation. I stand there, glued, staring helplessly into my bottle, my fainting cigarette threatening to leave me. I dropped it on the floor and stepped on it, as I fumble inside my pocket for another one. Cigarette number what, I'd already lost track. I'd stopped counting since I figured you weren't worthy quitting the habit for.

I steal a glance, and with my luck, you catch me with a smirk. I would have come up to you, but my mind's too blurry to even figure out what to say, even as you stand there five feet away from me, holding a glass of Martini and all, seeming to shift nervously about, or so I want to believe. In my helplessness, I nod in recognition.

We couldn't go on, not this way, you know? This hurts too damn much. And you don't care. Not that you should, you know. Or, should that be, you don't. You don't know any goddamned thing, and you don't care.

I know. I shift my eyes back to my cigarette, and I am tempted to take another drag. But really, I wasn't much of the smoking type; I was more of a drinking type. I finished the rest of my Corona unconsciously and had a slight drag.

From the corner of my eye, I see you are frowning. And you know what, I don't care. I don't care, not even about all those times you'd actually tried to talk me into quitting, you and your sweet nothings, you and your empty promises. But hey, my promises were empty too.

The difference between us, I admit to my emptiness, I admit to my hollowness whereas you, you come on like you're the best, like you don't need anybody else, like. Like, you don't need me.

And I know, need isn't something you can force on a person. I know, I can't make you need me, because you don't.

That took awhile though, if only to admit. It took awhile for me to accept that, no matter how hard I try, it's always somebody else who isn't me. We're too alike, you and I. And maybe, just maybe, that's why any of this wouldn't quite make it, wouldn't quite work.

But yeah, believe me; I am getting around to accepting that, too. I tentatively take another drag, and with half-shut eyes I take another sip. The smoke gives me headaches, but I'd actually fooled myself into believing it could get better as I get used to it, eventually. Why, isn't that how most things work?

The beer leave a bitter taste, they leave bad memories, they leave permanent scars but something, just something in my cerebral cortex or whatever part of my brain miraculously still functioning, just seems to trigger something, my masochistic tendencies perhaps, as if telling me, continuously urging me to hang on to whatever I could. And so I did, in my stupidity.

Good thing I realized it wouldn't work, not at all, not if only one of us is trying. I shift my eyes to my side, and I am no longer surprised to find you there--you're always that sneaky anyway. Or maybe it was the music in the room. Doesn't matter, I remember that nothing does.

You break in. Are you having fun? I stare at your hand holding your glass, fingertips brushing droplets aside, gently, in a slow agonizingly hypnotizing rhythm. I shiver unconsciously. Can't a decent guy have a decent smoke and drink sometimes? I just ask back, deadpan. The things you say. If they don't even mean anything, why should you say them at all? Oh, of course, I thought to myself. Fucking friendship. Bullshit.

You're drinking too much, you break in again. I could sense your tension, your anxiety, it's all over you, your distress. It makes me wonder, why you're so worried when you shouldn't be, really. I know, I just say. I know.

You're drinking.

I shift my eyes back to my Corona, now only a fourth full, and smirk lightly. So I am.

Why? You ask.

I stare back blankly, trying my goddamned hardest not to give away my thoughts. My eyes were such traitors.

What do you mean, why? You're drinking too, I dodge the question, and then I remember my almost forgotten cigarette, bringing them to my lips one more time for the usual drag. Only it doesn't reach my lips, that cigarette, as I feel it slip away from between my fingers.

You never smoke. You just mutter, taking the half-done cigarette and crushing it on the floor. You're killing yourself.

Wrong!

Know what's killing me? It's you. You're killing me.

I know, I say instead, raising a brow as I give you another cold stare. I don't care.

I do, you reply, confidently even.

Oh, fuck you, liar!

Why are you doing this? And unexpectedly, my thought slips out my lips, but this time, unlike the other times I'd made the same mistake, this time I don't regret it.

What do you mean, why am I doing this? You ask back, a confused look washing over your face. You don't understand. You could get into trouble for the things.

So what? I interrupt, voice soft but stern. So fucking what?

Your brows unknit, and your face slowly transforms into a frown. You don't understand. You could be so much more than

Than what? Than you? Whoever said whoever said I wanted to be?

Leave me alone. You don't budge.

I said...

No. And then a warm hand over mine, right over the table.

I know it sounds stupid or even delusional but really, I feel like you're slipping.

I don't want to be saved, I spit out, slipping my hand from underneath yours, quite harshly.

I don't need this.

Hope you hear that, loud and clear. I don't need this. I don't need you. I don't need your pity, your concern.

I wasn't saying anything like...

Just just forget it, I drop my voice to a whisper, interrupting. Doesn't matter what you meant. Leave me alone

Your hand on my shoulder and I try my best to hide a wince.

Three good reasons, you mutter.

And oh, I could give you a thousand.

Stop playing these games, I'm tired, I just reply, flatly. I slide out another cigarette, lighting it as I stare coldly into your eyes, taking a drag on purpose, as if mocking you.

Please. I blow the smoke out, carefully over your head, my tone dripping with sarcasm.

Three good reasons, you repeat. Then I leave you in peace...

Three reasons. Why the fuck do I owe you three reasons anyway?

Oh, damn you I finally hiss.

Damn you, why the fuck are you doing this anyway?

Why the fuck am I doing what? You blink innocently.

But I'm not about to fall for that. I've learned.

The pretending, I spit.

What pretending?

This pretending, I reply, matter-of-fact, trying so hard to keep my cool. You're so good at this game of lies, I almost find myself wishing I could play along as well as you do.

But as I've said I'm tired.

What pretending?

I take a drag, hoping my intentional move could spark the least realization on you. You stare at me, silently, as if waiting for an answer.

Rhetoric question, I say, coldly.

You think we're pretending?

I blow the smoke gently over you, and you cough slightly. Hypocrite.

That's all we've ever done.

All, we've ever, done. True, and fucking painful.

What are you saying?

I'm going to say it one more time, I interrupt, sharply.

For my sanity, leave me alone. Please.

People say I've got acid on my tongue. Maybe it's true, after all.

How can you say that?

Why can't I have peace?

No, this time, it's your turn to cut me off. If there's one thing I dislike the most, its people interrupting me, but this, it's you, and that changes everything. I hate the way you change everything

I meant this. Everything

Oh don't you bring everything in this

But isn't this about everything?

And if there's a mistake I couldn't afford making at this point, it's staring right into your eyes. I know, I'd drown every time, but it's as if I just never learn I never do. I stay silent as a direct consequence.

I care about you, you continue. In your eyes, I could see a certain degree of certainty, of honesty that I didn't want to recognize. Something about my pride, I guess. I promised myself, never to fall again for those words, your words, your lies. I crush my fainting cigarette against my shoes again, after a final drag.

I'm leaving, I whisper. I'd meant to say it louder, like, straight into your face and all, if only to make a point, but I fail. As always, I'd always wanted to make it a point to be a little harsher on you

But something, just something, about you, about us, about me that just seems to make all my resolve falter. Every goddamned time, and I hate myself for it.

I move away, no matter how weak and unreliable my legs felt, but you try pulling me back.

You can't, your voice breaks, but I choose not to notice. Filter, edit, distort and delete--always proved useful

I was asking for three reasons

There are thousands, or perhaps even more I stare harder at the table now, your hand still firm around my arm, and there I stand, trying to avoid your eyes. Always, always your eyes And in my mind, the thousand and one reasons explode into a million incomprehensible bits and pieces, and I come up with not a thing to say...

Even if I start now, I would never finish, I just say. True, but then, also a lie. Oh the little ironies of life. Sometimes, things are just a little too messy to ever begin sorting out

Then give me one, you demand, gripping my arm tighter, but all too careful not to be too hard. As if I was something fragile.

Too late, you already have, and you don't even know it.

Too late, I mutter, absently, not really knowing what to say. To tell you honestly, I've already worked this out, I knew beforehand sooner or later, it would have to come to this. I try not to think about all those nights I'd practiced this same scene--when I'd finally have the guts, the strength to tell you what this is all about, what this is all about to me, when I'd tell you just how everything you do, everything you say, just comes onto me wrong, hurting me.

Don't get me wrong, baby, you're amazing and you're hurting me.

That doesn't count as a reason I hear you say.

And I explode. Oh fuck, you have no idea what this is all about, do you? I hiss, frustrated.

I don't! You snap back.

I don't and it's all fucking confusing me!

You tug at my arm, as if trying to make me look at you.

Come on! Look me in the eye and try to tell me.

And I'd never heard you speak to me angrily, not like this, at least, if this counts as angry in your crazy system of fucked-up emotions. Yes, that's what you are--fucked-up. Your emotions, your thoughts, the mixed signals and messages you've been sending my way. If only I could tell you, confirm to you, what you've been dreading all along.

You and me, we're so alike. Like it or not, you're just as fucked-up as I am. It's something you didn't want, be just like me. But, oh, if only you knew--you are. You just are

You wouldn't understand, I reply, coldly, icy stare trying to pierce a hole through your forehead.

Then make me.

How dare you challenge me.

Make you understand? I repeat, a little hysterical. It seems to me like such an impossible task. How could I ever EVER, make you understand, just how all these foolish games tear me apart!

How could I ever make you understand that all the while, whereas your gaze was somewhere else, as it always is, always has been all the while, I'm just right here, waiting, perhaps in vain, for a little attention, a little affection, a little a little of everything that's too much to ask, especially from you.

That was all I ever asked for--a little. And maybe that was my mistake. I'm regretting it now, but here we are, your grip tight, secure, around my arm, what's the use of regret at this point?

Why couldn't you just let me go, and let me have my peace. This--you and me, and this crazy, smoky, too crowded club--it all makes me want to punch someone, but I know I couldn't.

I know I couldn't do a lot of things, and that, that makes me want to punch someone, too.

Make me understand, you repeat, a little more forcefully this time.

I pause, try to think. Why? And everything else, all my questions, all that pain, all summarized in a single word, in a single question

Maybe I would.

I feel your grip loosen, and it's like, something in me snaps. A nerve in my brain, an artery in my heart, I don't know which, but

But I grab you, nevertheless, right by your neck, and pull you harshly closer, up to your feet, your face, a few centimeters away

You want to try? I hiss, staring into your eyes. Those eyes, I etch them to memory now, I know I would never get this close, ever again. I know, I would never never see them again.

And I close mine, and as darkness overcomes me, I pull you closer, closing the gap between us

And I kiss you.

My fingers holding your neck, lips capturing yours, harsh, and sweet, and torturous. Ten, fifteen seconds, who was counting? I wasn't.

And then I push you away, and just before you could say anything, I let go of you, and walked away. Walking away has always been something I'd wanted to do since I realized I'd fallen in love with you. Since I realized no matter how hard I try, I would never be him, and that was that, and

And that was everything.

That's what it's about, I manage to mutter, despite my ragged breathing.

And it's something you would never NEVER understand.

You stare at me silently, touching the side of your face I hit, and I stare right back, one last time. It surprises me not to see any questions in your eyes, but then, what good would surprises do now, eh? Not many. Not much.

No, nothing. I should try to stop being kinder to myself now. It's all fucking over.

Such a pity, I find myself mutter, taking advantage of your silence. I loved you.

Love. That's where trouble starts, and sadly, that's where everything else ends.

I brush passed you without another word, and there were tears in your eyes that begged forgiveness, only I didn't let them get to me.

I step out of the club and slide out a cigarette, fingers fumbling through my pockets for my lighter, and when I find it, I hastily move to light the cigarette up. 

 Fuck, I mutter as I exhale, smoke dancing right before my eyes, hurting them. A tear slips, and I congratulate myself for trying.

And behind me, a faint call of my name. I turn my head and find you there, leaning against the outside wall, a few feet away.

I shift my eyes back to the road ahead. Fuck, I curse one last time.

It's going to be a long walk home, I know.

Inside Joko Jun

Joko Jun features Filipinos from around the world... musicians, writers, photographers, and other creative people.