4: Spring Cleaning

It’s a beautiful April morning, when one will notice that the trees are either transitioning to Fall or Spring. The leaves are blooming with all sorts of colors, reminiscent of Autumn, but the cool Spring showers are nurturing them to bloom. The morning sky at 6:00 am is a cross between night and morning. It’s still dark in some parts, but the morning light is coming through the darkness. It almost looks as if it’s the afternoon transitioning into the night, but in reality, the morning sun will soon bring in its splendor. The beginning and end is always hard, but really,  life is a big continuum of pauses, replay, forward and go. There’s no stopping, only going.

There’s something new, something big and something unknown that’s about to come into Cece’s life. She doesn’t know what it is exactly, but she thinks it’s because she’s ending a chapter of her life: she’s finally going to be a Registered Nurse. Is it really the ending? Or is it only a moment to recount what she accomplished?  It looks like she’s finally starting a new slate, as if she’s had the chance to fix her mistakes from her past, but in reality, she’s going through changes that are going to have a big impact in her future. Her past has always been with Dante, always striking and always spontaneous. It always finds a way to remind her of what could have been. It was all too beautiful to let go, so she kept him close by, within reach when she’s feeling unappreciated. Then there’s her future with Richard, the perfect best friend- turned-husband, who has been her moral support ever since they were 12-years-old. She knows that in Richard’s arms, she’s safe, she’s stable and she trusts him with her heart that he will never hurt her the way Dante did. Richard is too nice, a quality she almost feels guilty of abusing, whenever Dante lingers in her mind.

One night, Cece and Richard had a petty fight in postponing their long-awaited trip to Europe. They have been planning it for three years, but since both of them are still in medical school, they didn’t have enough money. Cece was mostly the one who demanded to open another credit account to achieve what she thinks was “a once-in-a-lifetime- trip” that they will never have once they commit to their jobs.” Richard hesitated and decided to go to bed early, but Cece was in front of her computer, looking through her friends’ pictures in Facebook. She felt alone, unappreciated and jealous of her friends’ journey to different places. She felt trapped. She wishes she could travel.  “Travel where?” She asked herself. Travel to Italy. Then it struck her: she might see Dante. However, a part of her mind wants to forget Dante so she can be happy. He’s the reason why she keeps expecting a lot from Richard. It’s been nearly five years since she has seen Dante. She thought, it’s about time she let him go, the same way he let her go so easily on that dreary, cloudy October afternoon.

While she was busy looking through her friend, Evalyn’s pictures, Cece wondered, how the hell did she afford to go to Madrid, San Paulo, Bangkok and Sydney? As she was going through Evalyn’s pictures, stalking pages and pages of photos like a vulture, a message from Dante popped up at 12:20 am EST, a delayed response after she sent him a New Year’s message, four months ago:

“Ciao Cecilia, 

Come stai? I’m doing good, thank you for asking. I’m in holiday right now and I would like to share to you that I’m between New Zealand and Queensland. I don’t think we should forget the past, I think it is part of our lives and I will always be happy to remember you and the time we shared. How are things going with Richard? How is everything else? How’s your nursing courses? Aren’t you almost done?”

Cece re-read the message for the 20th time and was finally satisfied with what his letter meant. Actually, she felt offended, downright angry at him:

Is he mocking me? So, he’s in New Zealand and Australia now? Awesome. Guess where I am? I’m in Virginia, the same place where he eft me, stuck with books and school obligations. Past? Does he know how much I long to forget him? Why am I friends with him anyways? I am sooo sick of sounding like an obsessed b*tch while he’s out there enjoying his sweet time with Stella. Why should I keep him as my priority? He wants to be friends? I am DONE.

Cece’s emotions were mixed with anger, despair, neediness and hatred towards Dante. She knew she wants everything to end. She was ready to put her past with Dante away for good. She finally began typing what seemed to be a long, honest letter that she hopes Dante will read, not in the next months, but the next day:

Dear Dante, 

I think I need to enlighten you about a secret that I’ve been keeping for so many years. Don’t take this offensively, but I believe it’s time I pour every truth about you and I. No sugar coating this time. I need to go straight to the point. I have an issue for quite some time now, actually it has been happening for years and I tried telling it to you before, but I have been stopping myself for 5 whole years.

Honestly, I struggled to move on ever since you left that October afternoon for New York, then eventually to Italy. I have never forgotten that moment. To this day, I carry that close to my heart. You might have thought I moved on so quickly from you: I went straight into dating other guys, a month after you left. I tried every effort to erase you in my memory and in my heart because ending things with you was too painful to bear. I dated guys just to forget you but I couldn’t. It’s hard to forget you.

That night you came back to the States, to meet me at the Lebanese Tavern, I was excited to see you. I was on the way actually, I was a street away, but I turned my car around when I found out you were with Stella, your new girlfriend that I didn’t know about. I loved you still that I decided to let you go because I know you were already happy with her. I was hurt that you’ve found her, but I had to let you go. Since then, to this day I have been regretting that moment that I didn’t see you. It might actually be the last moment I finally get to see you. But I shouldn’t regret it. I like that part when you left for New York and I was your girl. I’d rather remember that as the last time I ever saw you.

Listen, I know it’s easier for you to say that we shouldn’t forget things between us, that everything in the past happened for a reason because it has brought us here- today at this moment. It’s been hard for me to remember you and to try and have that same summer again. I still miss you. I still love you. It’s been 5 years and I feel that I’m the only one still holding on to us. You see, we never had a closure for us. I wish we did so that I can move on too. I don’t ask that you leave Stella, no, that’s not my intention. I think that the best thing we can both do, so that you can help me move on, is to cut all communication between us. I love you so much that I want you to be happy with Stella. I don’t want to destroy what you two have and I want to let you go. I think it’s time for me to move on and grow up from that past. I want to stop hoping that you and I will have another chance. That summer was beautiful when you came into my life, I was just moving on from a break up and you saved me. 

Now that there’s a new summer that’s about to start and that I’m about to begin a new chapter in my life, I want things differently, which does not include anything between us anymore. I know I sound rude and that you might hate me, but I think this is the best option for you and I.

Let’s end it all here. Please understand…

Thank you for the past, for that summer that made me grow up and become a stronger person that I am today.

Thank you.

Arrivederci, 

Cece. 

Her spring cleaning has begun.

Cece Dominguez unfriended Dante de Bella.

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3: “He”

He, Dante, the so-called, Italian heartthrob was the pompous new boy in the block. He was desirable, down-to-earth and the most admired, cool guy in class. He had a charm that was so effortless, so macho, it seemed like he was born with it. Everyone enjoyed his company, including guys who wanted to be his friend because he was so cool, funny and loyal. Every girl in class competed eagerly for his attention and to get a glimpse of his suave smile. He knew how to talk to girls. He was a proud Italian-born, risk-taker who ventured into the United States to experience how it was like to be in college with people who are in his age. At least that’s how he saw it.

The real story was, his father, Mariano de Bella, sent him to the States to pursue a medical degree. Mariano wanted his son, Dante, to follow his footsteps in becoming a doctor. He believed that Dante will one day inherit his practice and he won’t worry about another outsider ruling over the family business. He believed that Dante was capable of becoming a doctor and will one day make him proud. Mariano didn’t know that Dante was eager to come to the United States, not to fulfill his father’s wishes, but to have the freedom of finally take full control of his life. What Dante didn’t know is that the choices he’ll make in his life, from the day he boarded that plane to Washington D.C., will someday not only affect him, but those people he has yet to meet.

On a Saturday night in the last days of December, Mariano accompanied Dante in Bologna Guglielmo Marconi [International] Airport, to bid him goodbye.

Mariano: I hope that you become the man I expect you to be. My son, you’ll realize that I am pushing you to become successful because I want the best for you. You may not realize it now, but someday you will. You are my only son, the fruit of all my joy and hard work. Ti amo mio figlio.

Dante: Papà, I understand. Thank you for giving me this opportunity and for trusting me. I will not disappoint you.

Mariano: If your mamma was here with us, I’m sure she’s very proud to see you become a man who takes responsibility of his future.

Clara de Bella, Dante’s mother, disappeared in a plane crash on the way to London when he was only 7- years- old. Clara was a famous Italian violinist, who was going to perform with the London Philharmonic Orchestra in the Royal Festival Hall for a Spring performance.  On the day when Clara was about to board the plane for London, Dante remembered her emerald silk scarf, that hung so beautifully on her slim, long neck. She stood out among the crowd in the airport because of her radiant smile that reflected on her scarf. Dante vividly remembered his mother lending him the silk scarf that she was wearing. She said, “I’ll lend you this scarf and I hope it’ll keep you warm and happy while I’m gone.” Little did they know, that was the last day that they ever saw each other again.

The 12- hour trip from Bologna, Italy to Washington D.C. was very uneasy to Dante. He didn’t know if he was going to have the same fate as his mother: dying from a plane crash. He couldn’t sleep because he was afraid that the plane was going to crash any moment. A slight turbulence disrupted him and almost always, brought him to the edge of his seat. In the last 4 hours of his flight, his body grew tired and he finally let his inhibitions go. He fell asleep so peacefully as if he was floating among the clouds, far far away from Mariano’s reach and far away from the comfort of his home.

When the pilot’s voice broke the slumbering silence of the passengers in the plane, the sun was slowly peaking through the wintery dark sky and shining light to the welcoming sight of the Washington Monument. The pilot announced joyfully, “Our arrival to Washington D.C. is on time. The time is now 6:00 am Eastern Standard Time. The temperature is 40 degrees fahrenheit, high 47 today. In behalf of Lufthansa Airlines, welcome to the United States of America and welcome back to those who are finally home.” Dante arose from his sleep, feeling refreshed, and ready to brave his unknown journey to a whole new world.

Day 7: Come over

Come over

Come over and tell me that you’re mine.

Leave your worries and shoes out the door

Because we will dance the night just fine-

Barefoot and naked stumbling on the floor.

Come over but do not distract me

Bring your rolling bag and let me be

We’ll be chatting in our breaks to laugh

Hours passed, resisting you is tough.

Come over and take me away love

Drive me where the trees sway with the wind

We’ll paint our dreams in the skies above

And splatter them with glittering tinge.

Come over and we’ll walk a long mile

Run, laugh and push our past far behind

We’ll dwell in my lies to make you blind

I’ll say “gatcha” just to make you smile.

Come over and we’ll discuss jargon

Tell me what is cardiology?

We’ll find each other a heart organ

Have it seen with laparoscopy.

Come over and sleep with me tonight

Imagine ourselves getting married:

Can’t wait for our kids to say goodnight

They’ll ask us to have them be carried-

To dreamland to see us in delight

To where I found you with full excite.

Come over and help me with dinner

Gather our grandkids to remember:

How we both were fun, young and thinner

Tell them stories of our November.

Come over, oh come over my love

It’s about time to leave this life now

I’ll wait for you in heaven to bow:

We’ll share our story and our dear vow.

So come on, come over, come now… my love.

This shall be our love story.

I love you Ricky.

Love,

Peach

Our Love Story

True love stories never have endings.

~ Richard Bach

Vivere senza rimpianti: "Living life with no regrets."

 

“What did you like about me?” Beppe looked at me with his curious hazel eyes.

“You.” I let out a grin as I brushed his hair with my hands.

“Really… I want to know” He was becoming more anxious.

I looked away into the space and searched for words that can describe my feelings for him. But I didn’t know which words…

“I don’t know…”

“Okay… Is it because I’m Italian?” Beppe looked a bit more curious.

“No… of course not. It’s hard to explain. Now I want to ask you a question, what made you ask for my number in the first place?”

“Your smile.”

It all started with my smile.

 

 

“I don’t know what we are. You said you won’t talk to me anymore if I start having sex with some of my other applicants.” I playfully told him as I looked for a hint of jealousy in his eyes.

“Well… of course.” He shyly looks away but remained to be in posture.

“But we are not in a relationship. I thought we agreed that we are friends-with benefits since we can’t be in a relationship.” I looked down on my plate of bagel and cream cheese as I waited for his response.

“I don’t know, I can’t promise anything to you after September.” He looks at his bottle of water and chugs it down while he looked away out through the window- into the traffic.

“I know that. See the thing is, I don’t want to regret anything in my life. I don’t want to face the shoulda, woulda, coulda. I had that before and it haunted me for two years. I’ll never do that again.” I stare in marvel through his chocolate, hazel eyes as I took a bite from my bagel, which was covered with cream cheese.

“I agree with what you said, but Khristine, I don’t want to hurt you.”

“Hurt me? So how about this, we don’t think and talk about September and we simply … start living life to the fullest. No regrets.” I smiled widely to him.

“Mhmm.” He smiled back looking a bit uncertain.

And that’s how our story began.

 

I've always admired Beppe for his reserved elegance.

“Ma va… you didn’t? I was going to ask you that question first.” He stood with his maroon button down shirt looking at me with disbelief as he held a small note in his hands.

“Like I said a month ago, I never want to regret anything so I went ahead and took that shot. So… are you?” I searched his face for a hint of rejection or an affirmation for my proposal.

“No… Khristine I’m supposed to ask that question.” He waved the note and looked at me with disbelief. I guess he was indeed at the point of asking me that question, but hey, at least I was straightforward.

“Okay… then ask.” I crossed my arms and darted my eyes on him.

He folded the note. He stood with his firm posture and asked,

“Do you want to be my girlfriend?”

I smiled widely and felt my cheeks flushed with heat,

“YES of course I do! Let’s give it a try, shall we?” I suddenly gave him a hug and smelled his scent bewitching me to smile.

We ignored the risk of  the inevitable September and challenged ourselves because we knew that it was all going to be worth it.

 

 

“Are you happy?” I felt the wind blow heavily through my hair and I felt myself apprehensive of his leaving.

“Of course. When I’m with you, I feel happy and comfortable.” He stood on one foot by the pole right next to the restaurant, relaxed, while his eyes were fixed on mine.

“Well… I hope you take care of yourself when you’re in Canada and please be safe! I want you back here breathing Virginian air.” I felt more apprehensive and tried my best to feel more relaxed and in control as I gave him my note.

He pulled me close and gave me a kiss. He held my neck softly as he whispered to my ear,

Ti voglio bene.

“Umm…okay?”  I stood there in confusion of what he meant.

And so… that was the first separation; the first test.

 

Now, he has my picture frame and I have his. Our little gift worked out great and I am contented to know that he loved it.

“So can you tell me what’s in that bag?”

“Okay… close your eyes first… now open it”

“Wow. What’s that?”

“Okay… remember those little notes I gave you? Well… I made this box so that you can put anything that reminds you of us. It’s small so it’s easier to store it anywhere. I didn’t know what to give you for our first month-sary so I decided to do this. Okay…well open it.”

“See… I’m sorry, it’s been a busy day at work and I didn’t even get you anything. I’m really disappointed right now.”

“No need. It’s our gift for the two of us.  We both each have the same small picture frame. What we need to do is we each put a picture of us in those picture frames. A picture that you believe was the happiest moment that we have shared together. We both need to take pictures, so no stealing pictures from each other! And then once we both put pictures in our own frames, we swap. You take mine and I take yours. Deal?”

“Wow… I’m impressed. This is really a great idea Khristine. Thank you very much and I’m sorry that …”

“Well hold on, you have another note inside”

He reads the letter as an airplane came past us.

“I want you to look back to this moment wherever or whenever you are when you come back to Italy. I want you to remember that the simplest things in life are best remembered when you are caught in a pandemonium. So now… make a wish!”

Though childish as it seemed, it was the best present I could think of for the two of us- capturing every memory, every note and every small souvenir into a small, blue box.

 

This picture was taken on the last Sunday that we've spent together.

We were lying on a green grass on one beautiful,  cool Sunday .

“It’s such a beautiful day. It’s Sunday and it’s not that much hot either. And I like that we’re just relaxing here and laying here on the grass while wishing that summer never ends…” I looked over to him because he was half-sleeping as he sheepishly said,

“…And September never comes.”

He dreaded to leave. He wasn’t straightforward in sharing his emotions, but I felt it.

 

I wish I could see shooting stars like I see airplanes all the time. I could really use a wish right now...

When September came, the intensity of the idea that we will separate soon, heightened

“So are we breaking up right now?” I searched his face, hoping that it was all a dream.

As he looked down on the tiled floor of the airport, he said to me, “We have to. But we don’t talk about it, we don’t mail each other about it, we simply just let it be.”

“Okay…” I looked away and held his hand tightly.

He faced me and told me:

“Alright Khristine, we don’t say ‘addio.’ We only say goodbye for now… okay?”

“Yes, of course.” I said as a flicker of hope sparked inside me.

Who knew it boiled down to arrivederci and a presto.

 

 

Through skype, the sense of “being together” was still alive.

“So just tell me if you have found someone okay? I won’t mind.”  I lied. I will definitely mind.

“Same goes to you…It would be hard to be that someone who will hear it.”

As the agreement goes, if one of us decided to move on with some other person, one of us has to back off. And that’s what we’re both scared of… losing each other completely.

“Can we talk in skype maybe later tonight?”

“I can’t. I’m working tonight.”

“Well maybe tomorrow then?”

“No. I have to work all weekend.”

“Okay… is that an excuse?”   He sounded a bit irritated.

“No….. I told you I am working in the weekends till Sunday” (I don’t come home all weekend because I either babysit or take care of an old lady).

“When did you start working all weekend?”

“I told you about this before. It’s my new source of income. I guess you weren’t paying attention?”

“When did you tell me this…?”

“In facebook, in skype…. anyways, Beppe,  you know what, we still talk like we’re in a relationship. Like… it’s frustrating because I don’t know what we are… where we are as of right now.”

“I know…boh, I’m confused too.”

Then there was a pause.

“I don’t want to lose you.”

“But you lost me when you went back to Italy. I mean… I’m not your girlfriend anymore. People say I should move on.”

“Okay then go ahead.”

“Look, you said you didn’t want to be in a long distance relationship.”

“I thought we both agreed that we shouldn’t be in one?”

“I know… but maybe I wanted to? I don’t know…” I truly did. After hearing from other couples wanting to be in a long-distance relationship, I believed that Beppe and I can make it.

Another pause.

“Tell me, why are you really mad?  What disappointed you yesterday? You didn’t sound happy when I was talking to you in Facebook.”

“Well… it just seems so frustrating. Have you read any of my e-mails?” I already knew that he did, but he never manages to reply.

“Yes I have, but as I told you before, it takes awhile for me to reply.”

“Right. Well, I guess that option of e-mailing you should stop.”

“Then go ahead.”

“Are you mad? Come on… can we talk about this later? I hope I’m not bothering you.” I felt stupid for asking this question.

“Listen, I was the one who called you, of course you’re not bothering me.”

“Right. Well I’m in the middle of shopping.”

“Can you send me a Facebook message and tell me when you are available- in American time?”

 

 

It didn’t stop there. Three days later…

“Beppe… I think it might be better if we don’t talk for now. I don’t know… I think we need space.”

“Is that what you want?”

“I honestly don’t know. It’s just hard… it’s really hard for me because I see you everywhere.”

We both paused and he looked a tad disappointed.

“Do you think I don’t suffer too Khristine? Of course I do but yours is harder… Maybe… maybe what you said is right.”

I didn’t say anything… I wanted him to elaborate more because it seemed like he wanted to say more.

“I’m just scared that if we stopped talking, you will delete me from facebook, you will not send me any e-mails and you will never talk to me again. I don’t want to lose you.” That was his ultimate fear and I saw it in his eyes.

I pictured myself doing that and it’s not far from happening- except the Facebook deletion.

“So what’s the decision?”

“As I told you before, I’m going to Switzerland for a month and I will come back here in Italy around November 20th and then go down to Geneva and Calabria to visit my nonna and my other relatives. So that leaves us a month to not talk to each other. I will be back in December and we will see how it is between us…”

“Oh okay.”  That was all I can say.

“So are we going to stop talking to each other then?”

“No… let’s just… let it be. If we see each other online then we talk to each other. If we don’t talk, then let’s not make a big deal out of it. Let’s just see what happens. For now, I have to go.”

“Okay.”

Beppe is known for simple, yet unforgettable surprises. I would get off from work and find a rose from him hanging on my windshield. I've never had that from a guy before and I guess from that point, I revered Beppe as someone different from the rest.

 

That night, I found out recently that he didn’t fall asleep. He typed a letter, which he has sent to me a week later.

A week later with no contact, I thought it was the discreet “okay” that we will stop talking. However, on a Tuesday morning at 6:13 am, I received a text message from him apologizing for his absence for a week because he had to visit some of his friends and internet was not accessible.

“I thought we stopped talking to each other.” I said quite annoyed because I was kind of getting used to it.

“No, no, never. Even if you never want to talk to me, I will still talk to you.”

“Oh okay.”

“Did you get my e-mail?”

“What e-mail? You sent one?” I was really surprised that he sent me an e-mail. Finally!

“I was going to send it to you a week earlier, but I couldn’t use the Internet so I sent it to you yesterday.”

“Alrighty, let me read it.”

Here’s the gist of what he said:

He didn’t want to purse a long distance relationship because he experienced it before and he didn’t want to end things between us on a bad note. He never wanted to lose me completely because of a break-up that will hit us with the final blow. According to his friends and based on his experience, he believes that it is better for us to separate, because he believes that two couples need to mature and maybe when their paths cross again, they will be more confident to raise their love story to another level without “ghosts and shadows from the past.”

I read his letter more than 5x and I couldn’t agree more. He is right. After all, we are still both young. I know that even if he may or may not be in my future someday, I still need to grow. I need to grow into a strong and confident woman who will need to face far bigger and far challenging problems in the future.

Even if time changes people, there will always be a space for Beppe in my heart. For now, I need to heal.