21 September 2007
I woke up to an sms from my ex, which read: "I sent you USD*** thru Western Union. MCTN is 947 *** ****. Text me when u get it. God bless! Mwah!"
It wasn’t that big. But it was more than enough to ensure me a decent lunch, a birthday dinner, a few rounds of drinks (for myself and a for few friends), cab rides, some goodies and 3 packs of cigarettes for my birthday; I didn’t have to be scrupulously frugal on my “Big Day”. And it was more than enough for me to feel loved and cared for.
So I left home 30 minutes earlier than I should to claim the money. I sent my ex a thank you sms. His response was quick. It said, “No problem. Wag ka na iiyak ha? Enjoy your day, birthday boy! (No problem. No more crying, ok? Enjoy your day, birthday boy!)”
When I got to work, the first person I saw was Belle. (Rewind to: Sept 20, when I asked her for a cigarette. Without any hesitation, she gave one of her last few sticks to me. I apologized for being such a parasite. I told her I just didn’t have the money to buy ciggies anymore. She just laughed and said it was so not like me to be acting forlorn, self-sorry and affected by the lack of money. But I was. I really was.) She saw me approaching the theater. She waved and yelled “Happy birthday!” as if we wouldn’t be seeing each other in a matter of seconds. When I got to where she was sitting, she gave me a hug and handed a pack of Marlboro Reds. Then she said, “Bibilan dapat kita ng isang boteng red wine para may iinumin ka mamaya. Sobrang nakalimutan ko. (I was gonna buy you a bottle of red wine so that you could have something to drink tonight. It totally slipped my mind.)”
I got inside the theater and Verna saw me. In her high-pitched voice, she delivered her greetings with a smile, and a peculiar broadening of the eyes. She looked as though she did something clever. She came up to me and said, “Sorry I couldn’t afford a pricey gift. Here’s one for someone broke, from someone broke.” She handed a Pie & Tart bag then we both craked up.
To be honest, Belle’s red wine wasn’t necessary. Nor was anything “pricey” from Verna. The pack of ciggies and the little cakes were more than enough to let me know that they cared. And listened.
One more heart-warming birthday greeting from a friend:
“Haburday, kuya! Isa kang inspirasyon sa kin, hindi lang bilang isang bading kundi bilang isang self-actualized na tao. (Happy birthday! You are an inspiration to me, not just as a gay man but as one self-actualized individual as well.)” – Miro Crame, via sms
The day felt different. I was too emotional and I struggled all day from keeping that from other people’s view. Not the I’m-feel-so-sorry-for-myself kind that I wallowed in days prior to my birthday. But the life-is-so-beautiful-and I’m-just-thankful-for being-alive kind. In show, I couldn’t help but get misty hearing the words to the song “Circle of Life”:
Funny, I’ve been hearing this song at least 3 times every day over the past 27 months. It was never so meaningful until this very moment.
Early evening that same day, I was at the train station going home from work. I got a call from Belle, the same girl who I thought brushed me off the previous day but made me feel special on my birthday by giving me a simple but very thoughtful gift. She suggested --- no, insisted --- that I meet up with her and her boyfriend Jojo for dinner. Nervously --- dinner with them wasn’t in my budget --- I asked what they wanted to eat. Very quickly, Jojo decided Thai. Belle must’ve felt my hesitation to go for dinner, she immediately said “It’s on us.”
Birthday Weekend City Getaway
I headed home right after dinner and checked my email and other online accounts for birthday messages. There were too many, that I didn’t get to reply to all of them. (Right now, I’m still working on an e-thank you card that I should’ve sent out days ago. I just couldn’t find a fitting image to go with it. Sigh.) By 9pm, I decided to log off and start getting ready for my birthday night-out. I was gonna meet up with friends at Volume by 11.
On the train to Central, I called Julius. It was embarrassing that I wasn’t able to give him the time and attention he deserved when he called me at work earlier that day. The show was starting and the overture was already rising to a crescendo. I was not supposed to be on the phone. So I dialled his London number to make it up to him, and to show my appreciation for his call.
I got to Volume a quarter past 11. The place was already busy. The first familiar person that I saw was Tony, my foster father #1. We were together at the same place just 2 days back. And he remembered that it was my birthday. He greeted me and everybody else he was with, even those I was never introduced to, followed suit. I excused myself soon after that to be with a good friend, Andy, who was on the other side of the bar.
Andy is an English cabin crew working for Qantas. He wasn’t supposed to be in town but he managed to swap his flights so that he could be here on my birthday weekend. A little later, Tom, another English guy whom I’ve met in Volume a few weeks back joined us with his friend, Cecilia. Then Rabbi arrived. Then Val. Our party was complete already. It was time to leave and go to Lawrence’s place in CWB for a more intimate gathering. Tom and Cecilia decided not to come.
Few minutes before 1am, Lawrence put on his party cd, got his cam ready and instructed Val, Rabbi, Andy and me to grab the Japanes shooters he got from Wellcome. We made a toast and Lawrence took the first pic for the night.