I’ll be honest. When I first heard that my former college sweetheart and ex-fiancé had gotten married, 10 years after we had broken up, I felt a tinge of sadness—not because I miss him, but that he found his Mr. Right, and I haven’t.
You see, my ex-boyfriend turned out to be gay. Allen* and I had known each other since we were college freshmen, when we first fell in love and dreamt of moving abroad and writing for prestigious international publications like Rolling Stone or Time.
He had always been, well, more “refined” than other guys; he played the piano, had a keen interest in art, and claimed that playing basketball bored him. He could recite poetry, talk philosophy, and was a genuinely good person.
Also, he had had girlfriends; I actually met a couple of them, and if they knew something I didn’t at that point, they didn’t say.
Also, the sex was pretty good. Allen was a gentle and considerate lover, and while he wasn’t my first, he made me very happy. I guess he had been bisexual at one point.
I had a perfectly good reason to let my mother know I was no longer a virgin then; I was 32 when I told her things were over between me and Allen. When she demanded to know why I never suspected he was gay, I answered: “Because we’ve slept together. And it was pretty good.”
Allen and I were together for five years before he finally had the courage to make a choice and tell me. He had found a good job with a publishing house in Singapore while I began working for a trade magazine in Manila, and for the last two years of our relationship, we were managing a long-distance affair (thank God for the Internet).
We saw each other about eight times a year; I visited him thrice, even spending one Christmas with him, and it almost takes my breath away remembering how happy those days were. I was in love with my best friend, and we were planning to get married. How could you not be happy?
Yes, we talked a lot about marriage; he loved children, and wanted kids of his own, and although I was ambivalent, I thought he would make a great father. I knew he truly loved me, in his own way; he cried more than I did when he told me, and I can actually appreciate now how hard that must have been for him.
He had told me that he had been very close to a classmate in high school, but never considered the possibility of being gay. I think it was because he wanted very badly to have a “normal” life, with a wife and children, and the sleek condominium in a posh part of town.
We talked about traveling to Florence and going to all the museums, or visiting New York and watching Broadway shows every night.
It was on my last trip to Singapore to visit him that he told me. Whatever feelings he had suppressed as a young man had somehow resurfaced, alone and lonely as he was in a foreign country.
In retrospect, I could have sworn I sensed some desperation in his voice when we talked on the phone; maybe he tried to fight it, but lost the battle.
On that visit, he took me to dinner, and I wondered why he seemed more quiet than usual. Over dinner, he told me: “I have to accept it. I’m attracted to a man, and I think I’m gay.”
Then he sobbed, babbling on about how sorry he was, how hard he tried to fight it, how the urge was too strong. He asked if I would consider still marrying him, but allowing him to live a double life; I said no.
He talked about how happy he was when he’s with this man, happier than he had ever been with me. And he sobbed.
I would be hit by the impact of that last statement only months later, after we had lost contact. For five years he had been the center of my life; we had created an entire world and plotted out a future for two. At least, I had.
Yet, at that moment, I found myself numb and telling him that if that was who he was, then he should be true to himself. There was no screaming or cursing. I found myself sympathetic, telling him that we should get on with our lives.
When he took me to the airport, I gave him a chaste hug like an old friend. I thought I would faint from the pain, but somehow I made it to the plane and home where I collapsed in bed for five days.
We had no contact for the next six years. In the interim, I heard he had come out of the closet to his close friends—some of whom had also turned out to be gay!—and later, to his sister and two brothers, before telling his devoutly religious mother.
(That’s the main reason I am still withholding our real names; I really don’t know if she, now a retired teacher, has completely come to terms with the idea.)
Don’t get me wrong; it wasn’t easy for me to get over him. The idea, that I wasn’t able to make Allen as happy as a man could, made me feel ugly and undesirable, and I alternated between sadness and promiscuity.
My family and friends, a challenging career, and lots of prayer eventually pulled me out of the unhealthy cycle. I did fall in love again, and although it didn’t work out, it was a healthy enough relationship to help me heal and piece together my shattered self-esteem.
Four years ago, I heard Allen had been in a bad car accident, and actually spent some time in hospital in Singapore, where he had permanently based himself. I also heard he had a partner who was taking care of him.
I thought it was the perfect opportunity for closure; I hunted down his e-mail address, and wrote him a note asking how he was, assuring him of my good wishes, saying I had forgiven him—and asking for his forgiveness, in turn.
I received a warm reply, thanking me for my concern and for the forgiveness. He ended: “Next time you’re in town, Jim and I would love to take you to dinner.”
I was initially taken aback by how casually he had thrown in his partner’s name, so I responded in the same way, saying I would bring my then boyfriend along, too.
I didn’t hear from Allen anymore after that. I sent him a birthday greeting a few months later, and he never replied. I guess he, too, was looking for permanent closure.
I still hear about him once in a while from mutual friends although he seems to have cut most ties to Manila. I would run into one of our college classmates, or see a book he liked or a restaurant we visited. But time really does heal most wounds—or teaches us how to graciously live with the pain—and I realize now, in many ways, that it really wasn’t meant to be.
So much has happened to me that would not have been possible if I had moved away from the Philippines, or gotten married and had children. Life has a way of working out the way it should.
That’s what I was thinking when I recently heard that, last October, Allen and Jim had gotten married in California, where Jim’s family is based; and they now divide their time between Singapore and the US West Coast. I was no longer curious about the details of the wedding, which, friends had heard, was a beautiful autumn affair.
I’m not the first woman this has happened to, and I won’t be the last. If there’s anything I can say to others like me, it’s this: It’s not your fault, and never was. Love is never really wasted; you were simply never meant to be together.
Imagine that, though. I thought I had found the one, and that could have been my autumn wedding. Then again, maybe domestic bliss is really not for me. The fact is a gay man may have a bigger chance at finding a partner in this day and age than a single woman, but I honestly don’t think that’s a bad thing.
At 42, I’ve turned what used to be loneliness into solitude, and it’s something I actually relish nowadays. I haven’t closed my heart to love, but I’ve made enough of a life to be okay on my own, even if I never do find my Mr. Right.
At least one of us did, though. I wish you only happiness, Allen.
*Real names have been withheld upon the author’s request.