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Stories posted in this category are works of fiction. Names, places, characters, events, and incidents are created by the authors' imaginations or are used fictitiously. Any resemblances to actual persons (living or dead), organizations, companies, events, or locales are entirely coincidental. Note: While authors are asked to place warnings on their stories for some moderated content, everyone has different thresholds, and it is your responsibility as a reader to avoid stories or stop reading if something bothers you. 

Please be advised that this story deals heavily with the subject of depression, suicide, and the mention of drugs. If any part/parts of the story are triggering, please reach out to your nearest suicide/health crisis hotline. Thank you.

Desafinado: Slightly Out of Tune - 10. I Found


Three days in, the air inside the room was brewing with sterile chemicals, sickness, and promises, adding to the artificial presence that surrounded us. As I sat there by Albert’s bedside, holding his hand, any news from the medical practitioners was a scarcity I’d relish if it were given.

I stared at the slow rise and fall of his chest for days. Nothing could be said to pull me from his side. I knew it was my fault that this person lay unconscious. I exhaled my frustration and ran a hand through my thick hair, as there was nothing left to do but wait.

The doctors said that he suffered from acute pulmonary edoema from drowning in water that went through his lungs. They left him on life support as they waited for his lungs to heal. A voice in the back of my mind protested like a selfish child. When will he wake up? When will he open his eyes? When will he smile and say my name again? I wanted it to shut up and let it be, but it nagged me, and I allowed it. Seeing him lifeless with just his breathing was torture.

I peered at his empty ring finger and thought, will Daniel possibly be out of his mind? I would like to think that yes, it could happen. But as someone like him who had suffered the same problem of wilfully forgetting someone, I hoped in my heart that we were not held back by the memories shoved deep in the trenches of the yesteryears and that we’re not the sum of any old scar that we accrued. That Albert and I were better than this. Even if, most of the time, I know that I’m not.

I let go of his hand and sat in my chair. Sighing long, hard, and tenuously, there was a prickle in my chest.

"Wake up," I mumbled. "Open your eyes, sweety. We still have things to do. I haven’t shown you the rest of my resort. You still haven’t fulfilled your contract. You’re still not 100% satisfied, remember? Please. Come back."

Early the next day, the door opened, and an older doctor entered the room. His black hair had touches of grey, and his eyes smiled even when the lines around his mouth drooped proudly with age. Having slept on the couch, I stood up, wiped the drool off my mouth, and prepared myself for the worst. He looked at his chart and said, "Hi, I’m Dr. Melendez. And you are Damien Ellison, correct?"


"It’s a pleasure for us to have you, sir."

He shook my hand as I eagerly asked, "Any news about my friend?"

The doctor glanced at the patient and smiled. "Yes. We successfully drained all the fluid from Mr. Mathersen’s lungs. Right now, we’re still waiting."

Letting out a sigh of relief, I said, "So he’s going to be alright?"

"We’ll see. But... he’s going to require a more sedentary lifestyle for now. For two weeks, no activity that makes him tired. Not a thing that will stress him. Everything must be in moderation. And we’ll see from there."

"Can he travel? Two days ago was the last day of his trip."

"It depends, but yes, he can," said the doctor. Upon hearing the bad news, my heart sank. I thought he’d say he'd be bedridden for a week or a month. "It’ll depend if he has the energy to stand or to even walk. Patients like him need all the ample rest they can get. But if he has the energy to travel, then it’s up to him. We’ll be taking him off the sedatives now."

"So he’s guaranteed to wake up, right?"

"We would have to see if he does." When the nurse took out the sedative drip, it was a waiting game for him to wake up. Then his eyes started flickering. Seconds later, his eyes kept shut.

"What the hell’s happening?" My face grimaced as my outrage nearly blew my fuse. "You promised he was going to wake up!"

"Patience, Mr. Ellison." The doctor squeezed my shoulders and said with a calming voice, "He’s not on sedatives anymore. All we have to do is wait." Before he left the room, he said, "That cast on your arm looks worn off. Do you want that replaced?" I looked down and saw my plaster cast had gone through something rough—dents, scratches, and a huge chip from the base. "We can get you another one and probably get you a CT scan to check if the bones are healing properly."

"I think I’d like this taken off."

"Are you sure?"

"Yes. There are no broken bones on this. Just a dislocated shoulder that seems fine now."

"As you wish, we’ll have it removed."

I went to the nurse’s station and asked them about having my cast removed. It was a quick procedure. A bladed machine cut my cast in half, and it was gone. Although, the smell from my arm was vomit-inducing, I went to the toilet to wash it off, only to get some horrific flashes of the night when he’d drowned. It’s still fresh. It's still new. I splashed some water on my face, and then a nurse hurriedly opened the door to the men’s toilet and said with a smile, "He’s awake."

I dashed to get back to the room. One eye was half-closed as it adjusted to the light; he was finally awake. The rush of happiness to see him more than breathing made me crawl to his side. "Hi," I said, with a smile beaming on my face, as I was more than happy to see him fully alive. "How are you feeling?"

"It feels like someone left me on a train track," he said, coughing. I gave him a glass of water to take a sip from. It took him a couple of minutes to regain himself, and I sat there waiting till he got his bearings. He said, "Where am I?"

"You’re in a hospital."

Swallowing the dried-up mucous on his throat, he tried to speak again as he tested his vocal cords. This time, he sounded more natural. "How did I get here?"

"There’s no need to worry yourself about these things. The doctor said that you shouldn’t stress yourself," I said, trying to avoid the topic.

"How many days have I been asleep?"

"Five. Five days."

"Ok," he said. His eyes glossed over the room. "This room’s a bit much. Too extravagant."

"Just keep it easy, ok?"

"I’d like to sleep some more, if that’s okay."

"Sure," I answered, tucking him in, and closing the lights as I exited the room.

There were words whispered under the waver of light only the walls could hear. Flashbacks of memories I tried forgetting spilled onto the wind as I clung to the air and writhed in agony from the shadows of the past, too difficult to denounce their cruel nature. My eyes shook violently, triggered by some bad dreams. But the curse of their sins was etched in the hidden scars that never left me. I then opened my eyes, panting heavily from dreaming of that night, and found him in the arms of another man.

I sat on the couch, now awake from slumber, and wiped the sweat from my forehead. The room was dim, and only shadows lurked. The blackout curtains were doing their job. My hands tried feeling in the dark, searching for the table lamp. As soon as I pressed the device, our eyes met.

"Who’s Jake?"

Still, on the crutches of sleep, I whimpered and said, "Er—what?"

Albert straightened his back and sat upright, voicing his curiosity. "You’ve been saying the name Jake in your sleep. I assumed you were having a nightmare."

"Oh. I did?"

"Who’s he?"

"He was a friend."

"What kind of friend?"

"My bestfriend."

"What happened to your bestfriend?"

"He died."

"He died?"



Feeling annoyed at the sudden interrogation, I said, "Can you please stop asking questions?"

"You realise that I know very little of you. If my curiosity is bothersome, then I bid you goodbye, for I’ll be going to sleep." He rolled to the side and turned off the lamp in a discontented fashion.

I turned it on and explained it in the best way my addled mind could think of. "I was in love with my best friend. Then the guy I was dating slept with him out of jealousy because he knew I was in love with him. Then my bestfriend killed himself." Giving him vague details was enough for now. I didn’t want to elucidate a complicated story about three people intertwined in a fucked-up love triangle. Who has the time? "I’m sorry, ok. I’ll tell you the details when you’re all better."

Shifting his body, he turned to me and said, "Bloody hell, you what! That’s a bit too much to spring on someone who just woke up from five days of resting. This is too much drama mate."

I chortled and said, "Yeah. It does sound like that, doesn’t it?"

"Why did you dream of him?"

"He sometimes appears from time to time when I’m stressed out."

"Is it because I've been more than a headache?" I was quiet. There was nothing to say that would prove otherwise. "I’m sorry."

I stood up, turned the lights on, and said, "You should be sorry. You’ve been a pain in the ass lately—doing shit like that and passing out."

"I’ll make it up to you; you’ll see, starting now," he said, smiling. "Want to sit?"


"Beside me."

My brows knitted together at the proposition as I gazed at him. Having little patience nor energy to deal with the situation if it were a joke, I asked again to make certain, "Are you sure?"

"Certainly. Come. My bed is warm and it’ll warm you up. Sit with me." Not wanting to waste an opportunity, I squeezed myself onto the small hospital bed. I tucked my legs under the sheets as the heat from his feet warmed my knees. He said while grinning, "You’re so big. I thought we wouldn’t fit." Then he reached for my hand as our hands were clasped together like lovers strewn together by chance or by luck.

"Why are you doing this?" I said, refusing to glance to my side. He was staring at me, and I’m not having it in case I stare back and ardently kiss him. I was tired, weak, and sleep-fatigued, and I didn’t have the self-control to muster the distinction that separates Albert as a friend from Albert as more than a friend.

"Your hands are cold," he said, squeezing my hand gently.

"You’re being too comfortable. Please don’t torture me like this."

"You’re the one who needs to rest. So rest."

"But how?"

"If you need to hug me or I need to do something else for you to sleep, just tell me. I know you’re a hugger." I remember the first time we’d slept on a bed. He was in my arms. And it was an accident, I swear.

He reached over, held my shoulders, and motioned for me to go down to his level. My head was just below his chest as I turned on my side and wrapped my arm around his torso. He was so warm; he was like a small, cosy bear exuding bodily warmth for my consumption. I wanted to devour all of his warmth for myself. There was no shame left in my bones when I tried smelling him. I wanted that smell to linger in my head for as long as I lived, for I may never get another opportunity like this again. I glanced up and saw the end of his mouth turned up, as though he was giving me the signal to embrace him tightly, while the red and dark circles in my eyes, and the number of days I’d been deprived of sleep from my constant worry if he’d wake up were forcing my eyes shut.

Before my eyes closed, I pulled his hand over my arm and said, "Rub my arms, please. It helps."

He began rubbing my arm wrapped around his stomach. He brushed the hair on my forearms—blonde hairs that looked like bending wheat whenever his fingers swerved the surface. "Your arms are huge." Two fingers began rubbing from the base to the tip of my hands. His fingers were electrifying; I was being lulled to sleep. My eyes flickered. It was bound to close. "Everything about you seems overgrown. Even your heart. It’s too big. So big—I don’t deserve it."

My eyes were shut when I asked, "What do you mean?"

He sighed and patted my arms. "You’re too kind and generous. For I get to live another day," he said. "Thank you."

As I felt his fingers gently rub my arms, the clutches of the sandman had sunken deep into my eyelids. I was nearly there, fast asleep, but not yet. "I saved you so I could hug you like this. Don’t do that again, ok," I said with a groggy voice.

"I won’t."

"Promise me," I said, sounding more like a groan.

"I promise."

He kissed my cheek, and I don’t remember anything past that. With Albert’s blessing, I slept in his warm embrace. And I would like to have more of it… every single day if I could, and if I wished hard enough that he’d stay with me forever, maybe I’d have this in my life every day.

I was woken up by movement around me, with the blackout curtains partially swiped open and the city lights outside entering as flickering lights inside the room. Albert’s chest suffocated me as I breathed him in. I was smiling as I inhaled and exhaled every part of him. I glanced up, and he was snoring lightly, his mouth barely opening, sounding as if he were gurgling water. He looked cute. I nuzzled my nose into his chest and hugged him harder.

The nurse who was replacing his IV with another batch chuckled and said, "Ser, do you want a bigger bed?"

"Why?" I whispered.

"You’re too tall for the bed," she said. My feet had extended beyond the bed’s frame.

"I’m ok," I muttered, "As long as he’s comfortable."

Hours after the nurse exited the room, Albert yawned and stretched his arms. He brushed my hair and said, "Hello there," with traces of sleep in his voice. He then went on and rubbed my shoulders and said, "How did you sleep?"

"It was perfect." Nuzzling my nose to his chest, I savoured his smell one last time. "I could stay like this forever if you want to."

"But we can’t. I’m hungry."

I got out of bed, stretched my arms, and saw the tray placed on the table. "Alright, you need some grub." His appetite’s back, and I’m glad it did, for he was on his way to recovery. He swept an unsatisfactory gaze at his inability to move. He looked at both of his arms, and they were slightly limp—still limp from all the resting he did as he was unable to lift or carry anything heavy, more so his own weight. The patient was hungry and angry, it seemed. I brought him the tray that the nurse had left for him. He stared at the food tray of a single banana, a bowl of porridge, and a carton of milk and sarcastically said, "This is it? Did I get my teeth taken out?"

"But that’s what the hospital gave you."

"I don’t want this," he groaned, pushing the tray in front of him and glancing to the side as he crossed his arms to show he was having a temper tantrum. It felt like I was taking care of a child. I wondered if this was a part of his mood swings or just a reaction to starving for days.

Patiently, I said, "Ok. What do you want?" with the calm demeanour of a preschool teacher. "We’ll get whatever it is you feel like eating," I added.

His eyes sparkled and he said, "I want to eat at the cafeteria."

"Sure. We’ll ask the nurse to help you—"

"—I can do this," he said as his brows knotted.

"But Albert."

"I can do this!"

If there’s one thing that answers the question, what do all men have in common, regardless of their sexual orientation? It’s in this moment, right here, where the proof lies in the pudding. That we’re all the same across the board. That we’re all moulded from the same baking sheet, and popped in the oven at 350 degrees for 90 minutes. Such a fascinating ingredient is called pride. Pride is essentially the glue that binds us together. And as I waited for Albert to lift himself, or maybe magically fling himself into the wheelchair by himself, the power of pride was basically a misnomer. It should’ve been pathetic.

"Ok! That’s enough! We’re getting the nurse," I said, bellowing across the room as I looked at Albert, nudging his feet and wobbling his lower body out of the bed for nearly an hour—yes, for an hour.

"But I can do this."

"Nope. You can’t," I said, reasoning with him. "You can use your arms, but your legs are still weak. We’re getting the nurse."

"But I told you, I can do this."

"Albert, I swear to god. I’m still tired. I’m stressed. And I need more sleep. If I see you struggling again, I swear, I’m gonna have a stroke. So please, just please, let the nurses help you so we can both get out of here and you can eat at the goddamn cafeteria."

He fell quiet. I may have overdone it, though. But the way he said, "Ok," like he had just been schooled by the principal, made my heart thump at how adorable he was.

Damn. I’m losing my touch. I’m easily swayed by these moments. But then again, I was a wreck for five days, so it’s only appropriate that I feel this way. I'm just happy.

After the ward nurses assisted him in getting into the wheelchair, we were inside the elevator heading to the 2nd-floor cafeteria. Along the ride, several nurses clumped into a group. They seemed to be first-year nurses with the way they were emanating from the light of life, or the enthusiasm was relatively unseen among veteran nurses. When the door dinged at the 10th floor, a female doctor entered the elevator, and one nurse said something. "Tignan mo oh, ang gwapo ni kuya. Mukhang artista sa US. Matinee idol lang, teh." (Look at him, he’s so handsome. Just like an actor from the US. Like a matinee idol, sis.)

"Sino diyan teh? Yung naka wheelchair? Ay oo nga, parang action star lang ang peg."

(Which one sis? The one in the wheelchair? Oh yeah, he looks just like an action star.)

I smiled at them, pretending I didn’t understand a thing they were saying. I glanced to my left, and the female doctor browsing Instagram was also smirking. I don’t think photos of food would leave anyone smirking. I smiled again at the nurse as she said to her co-workers, not minding that we were there, "Toroy, pumunta sa Palawan para mg shoot nang film. Baka naaksidente sila." (Wow, they went to Palawan to shoot a film. They might have been in an accident.)

"Mukhang Fil-Am. Baka magaartista yan dito sa Pilipinas. Putangina teh, ang gwapo nung tumutulak kay kuya action star. Hello sir. Pwedeng pa kiss?"

(He looks Fil-Am ‘Filipino-American’. He might be here in the Philippines to be an actor. Fuck it sis, the one pushing the action star is hot. Hello sir. Could I get a kiss?)

"Gaga, wag ka mag-english, maintindihan ka niyan. Pero in fairness ah, pareho silang gwapo. Putcha kuya, anakan mo ako!"

(You idiot, don’t speak English. He might understand you. In fairness though, they’re both hot. Damn it, give me a child!)

I choked, then coughed, when I heard the last sentence. I wasn’t expecting it to come from such a petite-looking woman. But with how Filipino humour works, it sure was expected to have that conversation with kindred colleagues. When the elevator dinged and we were on our floor, just as we were hopping off, I turned around and said, "If magdecide isa amin magka-anak. Hahanapin namin kayo. Deal?" (If one of us decided to have a child. We’ll find you. Deal?)

The moment the elevator door was about to close, they were shouting and hollering inside.

"Nakakahiya! Marunong pala siya magsalita nang Tagalog." (This is embarrassing! He knows how to speak Tagalog."

"HAHAHA! Mga pokpok kase kayo. Ayan napala natin." (HAHAHA! You were all sluts. This is what we got.)

As I was pushing Albert into the hallway, he asked, "What’s that all about?"

I was positively grinning when I answered, "The nurses thought you were some kind of celebrity and an actor," thinking he’d laugh and make light of the situation.

"Nice try, though. I’m too ugly for people to think I’m a celebrity."

He didn’t say it like he was joking or messing around. He said it as a matter of fact. A fact that no one seems to agree with, apart from himself. He saw himself as less attractive than he truly was, or something of lesser value.

I’m sure it’s part and parcel of suffering from it; you find fault when there is none. There’s this margin of truth that when you’re self-aware of who you really are, you see the world from a different angle. You’re more suspicious, cautious, and untrusting of those you meet. But when depression creeps in, you’re more candid, trusting, and forgiving. Because you’ve already assumed that the worst they can do is laugh at you, if you’ve already buried a part of yourself six feet underground and that you’re on your way.

We arrived at the cafeteria, and it surprised me that this part of the hospital was bustling. 1:48 AM, and there was a crowd of doctors sitting in rows of tables having some sort of breakfast or dinner. Nurses occupied most of the space as they lined up in a straight line at the counter. The lighting was brighter than usual to make sure that everyone was awake and energised even in the wee hours of the morning.

"There are so many people at this time of the night. I wonder why."

"Endless bar fights. Boating accidents. Fighting in general. You get a surplus of broken bottles and injuries whenever there’s nightlife around. Puerto Princesa’s filled with clubs and restobars, yeah?"

"Yeah, I never thought about it that way," I said.

"I worked as a night cleaner at an A&E Clinic in Westminster for six months. The clinic never slept. It had more patients at night than in the morning."

"A&E?" I asked, as I pushed him to the counter for us to line up. "You never said you worked at a hospital."

"Accident and Emergency. It’s a British thing. And I only worked there for a couple of months."

"What other jobs have you had that you haven’t told me, Mr. Mathersen?

"A lot," he said. "I went from job to job to make ends meet. My insurance was only covering part of my medication. Therapy’s free, but not the meds. So I had to take what I could get. Beggars can’t be choosers."

He was drooling at the bain-marie counter, which had an assortment of food on display. When our turn came, he’d picked several dishes and a boatload of rice. I pushed him off to a vacant table in the corner and had someone assist us with how plenty he’d ordered, as he licked his lips and gazed at a plate of adobong kangong (sautéed water spinach in soy sauce and vinegar), a bowl of sinigang na hipon (tamarind-based soup boiled with vegetables and shrimp), chop suey (Chinese vegetable stir-fry with chicken, pork, and prawns), a literal half a chicken of a chicken inasal (chicken marinated in a mixture of calamansi, pepper, coconut vinegar and annatto), a bowl of sisig (made from pork jowl and ears, pork belly, and chicken liver which is usually seasoned with calamansi, onions, and chilli peppers), and a plate of pinakbet (mixed vegetables sautéed in fish or shrimp sauce), with a slice of watermelon and pineapple, together with five cups of rice.

I had to ask, "How the hell are you going to stuff all of that in your gut?"

"You’ll see."

He was using a fork and knife, and I had to correct him. "You’ll finish your meal tomorrow if you don’t use a spoon and fork. The spoon is used for scooping the rice, and a fork is for poking shit." I grabbed a spoon at the counter and showed him how it’s done in this country. "Did you get that?"

As soon as he got a handle on it, he started digging into his meal like they had locked him in a basement for days. I've never seen anyone slurp a prawn’s head like that. He was making me hungry, so I grabbed a spoon to try the sisig. He was grinning when he saw me grab a plate and a cup of rice.

"Someone’s hungry."

"Yeah, watching you made me hungry," I said. "The sisig’s alright. It tasted better. Up north, they serve better sisig there."

"I thought you'd only been around Palawan?"

"I’ve been around the Philippines. I did 6 months of touring across the country with Ryan, you know him—the resident chef. We were tasting the local cuisine and seeing how we could pair it with certain wines. We were trying to make it more upscale without losing the integrity of the dish."

He was hounding that chicken leg when he asked, "You and that Ryan chef are close?"

"Yeah. We sleep in the same room…" He stopped chewing and looked at me. I immediately raised my hand and shook my palm. "No. Not like that. We’re close, but not that close. Not that kind anyway."

"Ah," he said, then proceeded to munch on his meal when I noticed he didn’t touch the pinakbet.

"You’re not eating that?"

"I bit on this slimy vegetable, and it grossed me out."

"You don’t like okra?"

"What’s that?"

"A slimy vegetable. But that’s really good for you." I forked the okra and swallowed it whole. I grabbed another one and tried to feed him. "Come on, this is good for you."

His mouth tried dodging my fork. "I can’t. It’s too slimy, and I have a horrible gag reflex."

"Come on. Just try it," I said, convincing him to open his mouth. "This will not hurt you."

"But it’s gross."

"Come on."

"I told you I didn’t want it."

"Just try it."

"Stop. I told you I don’t like it."

I then forced his mouth to open when my fingers grabbed his lips and shot the vegetable inside his mouth. Chewing the okra, he was gagging at the taste.

"See, what’d I tell you?" I said.

"Bloody hell. It’s gross."

"Just swallow it."

Confident and proud of himself, he quickly drank a glass of water, and then he said, "I’m not eating that again."

"What’d I tell you? Easy, right?"

"Easy for you to—" Then he closed his mouth and started retching and vomiting all over the place. It began with me, the neighbouring doctor seated on his left, and the nurse on his right. We’ve all had a taste of what he ate that night. I'm not sure how many gallons of chewed-out bits and pieces were in my face. It was disgusting.

He didn’t talk to me for the rest of the night. I deserved that. I looked pathetic sleeping on that couch with his back turned against me while I was forced to face the wall. Then I realised, Who’s the one looking pathetic now?

The next morning, I woke up with this uneasy feeling. Lack of sleep, a pinch of worry, and a dash of guilt were all I needed for this cauldron to bubble. Surprised that he was already awake, he turned his head to my side and said, "We have to talk." He tried drawing his lips to say something, but nothing came out. I lifted my torso off the couch with an arm supporting me and waited for him to say it. To say that he’s leaving, and he's outta here. That he’s going, and he doesn’t want to see my face. To say thanks, I’ve had a great time, but you’re too much for me.

My own insecurities were messing with my head. What happened to being so sure about myself? What happened to the sprightly, piquant flair of being overconfident? What happened to knowing what happens next?

I started the conversation. "Still upset about last night?"

"No. I woke up from five days of just ingesting IV drip and eating like I was in a buffet. I had it coming. I would’ve vomited, regardless."

"I thought…"

"I didn’t want to worry you. You already looked stressed out last night," he said coldly. Something was different. I sensed it the moment he opened his mouth. He was rummaging through his backpack, which I had brought in from the island, in case he needed some spare clothes. A folded piece of paper was sticking out of the bag. He took it out, along with his passport. It should be his e-ticket. "Today’s the 16th, right?" I nodded. "So how do I rebook my flight? Maybe there’s an available flight for today."

"But who’s going to pay the hospital bill?" I said, asking without thinking. Saying such a thing to stop him; who the fuck cares about the hospital bill—I’m the one taking care of it.

"I’m guessing it’s about £10,000, right?" It’s probably more than that, I figured. Air medical transport alone costs $3,000. "Do they accept staggered payments, or would a check do?" he asked. Gazing at him intently, my brows had stuck together, and they were the ones doing the talking. "Don’t look at me like that. I may not look like it now, but I have a checking account I’ve saved up when I still had a decent job and a commendable life."

"That’s not why I was looking at you," I said, as calm as I could be.

There was an upsurge of irritation coming from his voice when he emphasised, "You didn’t have to say anything. I saw it."

"You saw what?"

"Nothing," he said, backing down. "Just help me settle my account here and have me discharged by today so I can call the airline and have my flight rebooked ASAP."

I stood up and leaned on the wall. I could’ve said what I really wanted to say. Please don’t go. My life would be empty without you here—blah blah blah. But my mouth had something more honest to say. "And why would I do that?"

"So you’re not helping?"


"Ok. I’ll deal with it myself." He grabbed his phone and dialled the airline. We looked at each other, and we were having a Mexican standoff. "Yes. Good day. I’m calling to have my flight ANZ244—"

"—you’re not doing that," I said, as I swiped his phone and held it hostage. "You’re not calling them."

"Give me the phone back."

"I won’t."

"Damien, give me my phone back." Nodding sideways, I was adamant. "Ok. This is ridiculous, and you know that."

The gratuitous feeling, according to those who’ve experienced it, is liberating and freeing. To be pissed off was like dancing with a 500-pound person bouncing off your shoulder. Knowing when it was time to throw off the excess weight and just dance, my turn to dance was now. "No. We’re not calling the airline unless you tell me the exact reason you’re leaving."

"I’m saying it now. I should’ve left days ago. But I can’t—you know, with me being unawake and all. I need to have my flight rescheduled to be able to leave today."

"Nu-uh. You’re lying."

"What’s that supposed to mean?"

"You’re not telling the truth."

"I am."

"No you’re not."

"I bloody am."

"Just say it."

"Say what?"

"Just tell me the reason you want to leave me behind," I said, as I began pacing the room.

"I’m not leaving you behind Damien."

"Yes, you are."

"I’m not."

"Just say it!"

He chuckled out of frustration. "What do you want me to say?"

"The truth."

"About what?"

"About this."

"What about this?"

"About us," I said, stamping out the obvious truth.

"There’s an us?"

"You know there’s an us."

"There’s no us Damien."

"Yes. There is."

"I’m telling you there isn’t."

"There is."

"There isn’t Damien."

"There is, Albert."

"How many times do I have to tell you? There is no us!" He said, looking frustrated. But I know when I’ve seen a dog trapped in a corner cry louder and bark harder. It was so obvious that I had to pin it in a gallery for him to notice his work of art.

"There it is! There it is!" I cried as I began pointing at his hand. "How come you’re grabbing onto the sheets like the very idea of us annoys you?" He let go of his hold of the bedding. "You’re not fooling anyone. Whatever this may be, more than friends, less than lovers, and us... is an us."

"Congratulations. You deserved an A+ with all this psychobabble. But I’m not telling you how you’ve slighted me, irked me, or pissed me off last night."

I plastered a confident smile on my face and said, "Aha! I pissed you off last night. Tell me then."

"You’re doing it now."

"What am I doing now?" Indeed. What was he talking about?

"You’re doing it, and you barely know it. Figures."

This bastard had me up going all Dora Dora The Explorer trying to solve the riddle of why I pissed him off. This won’t do. "I have no idea what you’re talking about." I returned to the couch and crossed my arms, waiting for him to explain himself.

"You don’t see it, but it’s so obvious. You’d like to control me and every situation," he said, throwing his arms in the air. "You’re controlling. You’re manipulative. You’d like me on a leash and you have attachment issues. You’re so insecure that you’re paranoid about everything else. Even right now, you’re so paranoid about me leaving you. You forget that I’m a trained psychologist. I could read you even when I’m asleep. Did I get it right?"

My face sank. He had me see him. He fucking saw through me and read me. My arms loosened, and I forced them to close by crossing my arms. I swallowed hard and said, "Go on."

"Last night, I didn’t like that you forced something on me. That I was forced to do something you wanted. And that I had no choice in it. It made me feel small—like I couldn’t do anything other than rely on you. There are many things that I am, but a person unable to hold his own is something I won’t willingly become."

There’s more to this than what he’s telling me. I stood up and sat beside him. He moved a few inches to the side of the bed. I tried sitting closer, and he moved again, as I inched closer to him while his buttocks neared the edge of the bed. "You’re going to fall," I said.

"I don’t care."

"Albert. Please. Will you let me?"

"What?" he said, arms crossed and looking pissed at everything.

"Just let me, ok?" I reared his head to nestle on my chest as I curled an arm around him. There was less opposition to this, so I continued. Holding him close to my chest, smelling the soap in his hair, and feeling all of his warmth, something triggered inside me, and I couldn’t explain what it was. It’s like it filled me with happiness I didn’t want or ask for. I just was. And so, I gathered up the courage to ask him, "Why won’t you lean on me, like I’m a shoulder? Why won’t you trust me, little man?"

"Because what if you died? What if you left me?" he said, looking straight through my eyes. "I’d be all alone, left by myself, tending to this person whom you’ve made believe that I can trust other people again." I sighed and held him closer. "I’ve had that once. Never again." He wiggled out of my arms to say, "So please, just hand me the phone so we can depart as friends and I can leave."

Such a stubborn mule. I pulled him back for an embrace, and with the indefatigable patience of a monk, I decided not to kiss him on the lips but to kiss him on the forehead like an old person would.

"Albert, stop it. Calm down, will you?" I said as I peeled the phone from his fingers. "You’re not going anywhere."


"Yes Albert?"

"But my ticket... I paid 700 quid for that. How about my visa? I need to have that sorted."

I wrapped my arms around him. The only thing that was running through my mind was that I really liked the feeling of hugging him while my eyes were closed to add to the mood. I said, "Don’t worry. I’ll deal with it later. We’ll deal with it later. You have nothing to worry about. Let’s just enjoy this moment."

"I didn’t sign up for this."

"Just shut up and let me bask in the moment, ok?" Seconds later, I opened my eyes and said, "I’m not dying. I promise. If ever I go, it will be after you. I swear that I'll be healthy before you die."

"You smoke, so you’ll probably die before you turn 40. I’ve seen it happen."

"Fine then. I’ll live till 40. We’re going back to embracing now, 'cause I kind of like this."

"This is sexual abuse, by the way. I never agreed to this."

"And I’m sorry if you felt that way. I love to control the things around me. It’s part of my DNA. And I also know you’re the only person in the world I have no control over—and I like that. You drive me crazy, do you know that?"

He nodded. He gazed up and said, "Ok. You can kiss me on the cheek if you like." I looked at him tenderly, and he said, "Scratch that. Your face is too horny. Let’s just hug."

Filipino Terms of Reference:

  • Calamansi - also known as kalamansi, calamondin, Philippine lime, or Philippine lemon, is an economically important citrus hybrid predominantly cultivated in the Philippines. It is native to the Philippines, Borneo, Sumatra, and Sulawesi in Southeast Asia; as well as southern China and Taiwan in East Asia. It is small, round, green, and tart, and is a kumquat hybrid.
Copyright © 2023 LJCC; All Rights Reserved.
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Stories posted in this category are works of fiction. Names, places, characters, events, and incidents are created by the authors' imaginations or are used fictitiously. Any resemblances to actual persons (living or dead), organizations, companies, events, or locales are entirely coincidental. Note: While authors are asked to place warnings on their stories for some moderated content, everyone has different thresholds, and it is your responsibility as a reader to avoid stories or stop reading if something bothers you. 
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Chapter Comments

3 hours ago, Dan South said:

The truth about Jake is enlightening.


It's something that will open up in the second book--which I've yet to start and write. Haha.

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i can't help but feel giddy that at last something is happening to their relationship. this isthe first time they slept on the bed...i'm really excited for things to come.

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Just now, stefan7891 said:

i can't help but feel giddy that at last something is happening to their relationship. this isthe first time they slept on the bed...i'm really excited for things to come.


The next episode is fun. Like I had so much fun writing it, especially the end part.

And then I get to break your hearts again, not once, but twice. 

I'm a sadist. HAHAHA!


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im happy to have my heart broken with your quality of writing. keep itup. keep breaking our hearts

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I hoped in my heart that we were not held back by the memories shoved deep in the trenches of the yesteryears, and that we’re not the sum of any old scar that we accrued. 

i forgot to quote this. this was really beautiful.




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