(Dear M, I am publishing your letter in its entirety here on Perge Modo because it is so entertaining, and because I will have to shorten it severely for Bilerico. Also, you will have to go to Bilerico on Thursday after 2PM to see my response.)
Dear Father Tony,
I am writing to you from Manila. That's in the Philippines. I am taking a break from the work I'm supposed to be doing (I write music programming for karaoke machines, barely a week into this new, home-based job) because I thought it would be wise to introduce myself to you.
Wise! As though you were a silver-bearded sage and not a Roman Catholic priest. (There is a rather big difference.) Will you pardon my choice of adjective? It is still as unclear to me as it might be to you why I am making this discombobulated introduction, this breathlessly written letter from Manila to America.
I used to have poise, you know. And tact. I used to be snobbish and Catholic. I used to dream of New York and of watching Rufus Wainwright concerts and shopping at The Strand and I used to smell the pages of a Granta
before reading it. I used to be happy -well, not happy, but at peace- writing essays, and letters, in the frail light of my bedroom study, writing away, writing the days into nights and on notebook after notebook. The intense solitude of the craft.
Until I settled for love. I met this British man, an expatriate living in Cebu City, a southern island hundreds of kilometres away from the city; let us call him Evelyn. He's forty-nine, turning golden; I turn twenty-three this September. We met here in Manila last January. He was on vacation, and he was staying at the downtown Cherry Blossoms Hotel. It was like a fairy tale: dinners at Indian restaurants; karaoke; looking for Advil in 7-Eleven; sex; contemptuous stares from scapular-wearing pedestrians; watching the sun set on Manila Bay. On his second night Evelyn asked me to go to Chiang Mai with him. We hit it off right away. Or we so
hit off so
right away, to be swaggeringly Yankee about it.
Falling in love with a soon-to-be-quinquagenarian with an English accent does not come without serious consequences. I think that holds true for everyone, and particularly for a Filipino man who only used to crush on his spiritual director and clinical psychologist and go on one-night stands with backpacking American daddies. Yes, the relationship between me and Evelyn has grown; I have flown to Cebu City five times this year for extended periods of stay, and my sixth is scheduled this September; there were times when he had paid for my fare; the two of us have talked about my possibly moving in; that was such a big deal; things are moving so fast and, in general, going so well.
But I pine away. Whenever we are away from each other, usually two to three weeks, sometimes four, I pine away, as though I wouldn't be a complete person without Evelyn, as though literature was no longer enough consolation, as though the twenty-three years which I have lived more or less unattached did nothing to prepare me for surviving a relatively short period of time by myself, temporarily separated from a man I had not even known until this year.
And my pining, I confess to you, Father Tony, has something to do with the one remaining kink which Evelyn and I haven't yet ironed out. (Isn't "kink" such a beautiful word?)
Anyway, it's four in the morning here in Manila, and it's raining softly, and I can hear the pitter-pat of raindrops. Uncanny, isn't it, how the weather can make one feel so unhappy - and yet it's very rarely responsible for even our littlest joys.
Here is why I am so unsettled whenever I am in Manila, and away from Evelyn. He often engages in group sex with other men. Just sex. Nothing that involves love and feelings and emotions; only a seemingly unquenchable thirst for variety. He knows that I know, although of course he does not throw it to my face; while he's monogamous when I am around, our relationship is still best described as open, in a one-sided sort of way; and quite frankly this issue has been the thumb on a fist that does not fit. If not for that thumb, well - everything would be wee and happy and perfect.
Father Tony, his "extramarital" affairs hurt me. The knowledge is so painful. It is destroying me. Miles and miles away, I feel red hot jealous and insecure, desperate to hold on to a piece of him, to a tangible expression of his love for me. Although I have reason to be confident that he sees me as different from the rest, my ego is being told by visions of these orgies that I may not be good enough. That one me may not be good enough.
I know that this Open Relationship thing is not uncommon, Father Tony, and I am certainly not one of those who find it highly objectionable. (Besides, I can't go around trying to change fifty-year old men with habits, no matter how many times I have confronted Evelyn about it. Just because I can abstain here in Manila doesn't mean I should expect the same from him in Cebu City.) I am also aware that -if I move in with him- he won't be able to go cold turkey (though he says he'll try).
But god, I am still a kid, primitively romantic; I studied in a Catholic school that stood beside a church where I witnessed many couples get married, to the soundtrack of an organ played by a virginal old maid; the kind of love that I grew up believing in is so not the kind of love that I have now, because the kind of love that I have now can be horribly disenchanting. Not that I would want to walk away; as I've said, everything except the kink, the thumb, has gone well - is beautiful. I'm an avid fan of beauty. We're growing. We're even planning for the holidays.
Father Tony, am I simply being a damned fool? Should I walk away before I hate myself beyond forgiveness? Or am I just being too orthodox and puritanical? (Don't judge me by New York standards.) And if I am being too orthodox and puritanical, will I ever outgrow that?
I love you just for reading my letter.
P.S.: When I wrote to you last Friday, he was in the act. Ew. I have access to his E-mail and curiosity killed the cat.