Tuesday, October 04, 2005


Even at a young age, Maximo had mastered a lesson that both friends and rivals in school seemed unable to absorb: that the three most important features in a young man’s appearance are style, style and style.

And so with an allowance far more substantial than most kids his age, he frequented SM Manila and Robinson’s Malate to hunt for the latest pair of K-Swiss or Lee Pipe jeans. As for the other trendy outfits, electronic gadgets, or PC games, all he had to do was log on to amazon.com or paragonsports.com, place his orders, enter the number of his supplemental credit card, and have the items shipped to his father’s address in Seattle, Washington. His father would then bring those items home with him when he comes back for a brief visit every six months.

His father is a structural engineer for an aeronautic consulting firm in Seattle. He took this job in America hoping a change of scenery might assuage his mounting grief over the loss of his beautiful wife; she died in a tragic plane crash in Spain when Maximo was only six. She was a flight attendant. Maximo, an only child, was left under the care of his grandmother. To compensate for his absence, he showered the little boy with overseas phone calls and gifts galore. When Maximo began high school, he was given a hefty allowance plus a supplemental credit card. He could practically buy whatever and whenever he wanted. He lived in a world where lack did not exist, only abundance.

At 16, Maximo’s brooding good looks and stylish clothing continually received adoring glances from the girls in school, as well as from the young women at the malls. He didn't bother getting to know any of them; he already had a girlfriend and enjoyed an active sexual relationship with her. She was older by three years; a junior at a nursing college in Manila.

This relationship between 16-year old Maximo and 19-year old Sarah may be frowned upon in western cultures; however, in Manila, their relationship was seen by their contemporaries as evidence of a liberating new trend in which older women are dating younger men. For Maximo, having an older girlfriend further enhanced his image of cool. That was the only social statement he cared about.

Indeed, Maximo thrived in what seemed to be a perfect teenage life. That was, until his bubble burst one Sunday afternoon, two weeks after he graduated from high school. Sarah broke up with him. She had decided to live with another guy she was seeing sporadically during the past two months. Not that much older than Sarah, he worked as a futures analyst for an American investment bank in Makati. He was willing to financially support Sarah provided she moved-in to live with him.

At that very moment, Maximo’s internal defense mechanism kicked-in; appearing unperturbed by Sarah’s revelation. He sustained his image of cool by assuring Sarah everything would be all right with him; even suggesting he might seek a new relationship with someone his age. He kissed her cheek as she left with tears in her eyes. She loved Maximo dearly in spite of his juvenile antics at times. But at 19, she had got to be more cognizant of the future she wanted for herself. Maximo's mind was oftentimes too fickle as to dabble in issues about building a future with someone. As Sarah faded into Glorietta’s Sunday crowd, Maximo suddenly felt totally alone in the world.

He deflected friends’ inquisitions with his usual flair and style; often spicing them up with spurious claims of having lost interest for Sarah or longing for a new girlfriend or two. His friends always took his answers at face value. Being good-looking, they predicted he would have a new girlfriend anytime soon. They were also unfazed by Maximo's nightly invitations to go out drinking. Being summertime with nothing else better to do, his friends were more than happy to oblige.

Towards the end of summer, as his friends busily prepared for college for the upcoming school year, Maximo slipped deeper into depression. Unable to deal with the abysmal sense of loneliness that haunted him, he resorted to bingeing on alcohol.

The pain of his loneliness was unlike those from the bruises and lumps received from teenage brawls of the past. This one's definitely more painful; searing the fabric of his psyche. He terribly missed Sarah and wanted to see her badly, but still too angry at her to make any attempt. Despite repeatedly cursing her with the vilest of words, the pain remained.

He could not eat, sleep or think of anything else but Sarah; he was an emotional wreck. Oftentimes, he would spend the whole day in bed in a zombie-like state, staring mindlessly on the TV monitor. His bedroom was in a shambles; his once neatly organized clothes were left unlaundered and strewn all over the floor. He even stopped responding to his friends’ phone calls and text messages. His cell phone’s battery would go uncharged for days.

With his grandmother and the household help, he was becoming unbearably boorish. He was also becoming smelly and grungy. There would be days without him taking a bath or brushing his teeth. He had lost his sense of style and his penchant for personal hygiene and grooming. He had become oblivious both to himself and to the world around him; even forgetting the date his father would be coming home from the States.

Agitation was etched on the man’s face when he asked the driver where Maximo was; upset that his son wasn't around to meet him at the airport like he used to. He wondered if Maximo was getting too old to be excited by the balik-bayan box filled with presents.

As they headed home, the father remained silent as the driver told him about the disturbing changes in Maximo. It suddenly dawned upon him that perhaps, after all these years, Maximo remained a little boy to him; not as a young man with changing values and needs. He felt guilty for not having been there for him when his son needed him most. When they got home, Maximo’s father rushed into the house, gave his mother a quick hug, and then went upstairs to his son’s bedroom.

Maximo was seated on the edge of his bed, tying his shoe lace when his father walked in; obviously startled by his sudden appearance. The father froze momentarily, appalled by the sight of his son. Maximo had lost a significant amount of weight. His body looked emaciated, his face gaunt, and his sunken eyes conveyed deep sorrow.

He slowly walked towards Maximo as the young man apprehensively got up. Not a single word was spoken. As they tightly embraced each other both father and son cried. His father saw in Maximo his own image of when he was overwhelmed with grief over the loss of his first and only love, Maximo’s mother. Instinctively, he knew Maximo was coping with an inner turmoil just as devastating. He whispered to Maximo that it was okay for him to cry. Maximo needed no further urging as he let out more tears.

Moments later, as he regained composure, Maximo began to feel that things were about to get better from that moment on.

Two weeks later, the night before his father flew back to the States, father and son went out to have dinner at a fine restaurant in Greenbelt. It was then that Maximo mustered up the courage to ask his father why he never delved any deeper into the cause of his malady after knowing it was brought about by the break up with his girlfriend.

The father, at first, sounded vague, but he continued to articulate his thoughts ever so carefully, as if walking on thin ice. It was a sort of rite of passage, he claimed, for a man to fall in love for the first time and then suddenly lose it. While Maximo experienced it at a young age, his father lived through it when he was already in his thirties. Nonetheless, regardless of anyone's age, no one was ever prepared for such traumatizing experience.

He admitted there was nothing anyone could do or say to soothe Maximo's pains from this emotional roller coaster; the turbulence of which could deafen one’s soul into oblivion. And whatever healing words of wisdom he had to offer, Maximo would remain unable to hear them. Maximo was, in fact, manifesting an extended lapse of reason; sort of temporary madness. The only thing his father could do was to be there for him to help cushion his pain from any leftover shock, so to speak; to make sure that his son did not attempt anything foolish.

He added that the joys and sorrows one experiences in love is a soul thing; an intensely subjective phenomenon because no two people go through it in exactly the same way. And Maximo’s object of desire, Sarah, shall forever be carved in his heart; therefore, it would be futile to try forgetting about her. Neither would Maximo ever lose his love for her; the only thing that would wane with time is the craving for her intimate company. In essence, he would no longer be in love with her; rather, he would just love her. Such is the mystery of love.

What Maximo would be left with at the end was the inchoate ability to handle life’s constant challenges, whether they may be matters of the heart, career or just about anything else. As he moved on, going though various stages of his llife, he will further polish his inner sense of style of dealing appropriately with things as they presented themselves.

Trying to absorb everything his father said, Maximo looked pensive but relaxed as they finished the rest of their dinner. He surprised his father when he grabbed the check from the waiter and offered to pay for their dinner with his supplemental credit card; proudly proclaiming it was his treat. His father could only smile in amusement; he knew he would end up receiving the bill and paying for it himself anyway.

About six months later, on a Christmas afternoon, Maximo knocked on the door of Sarah’s parents’ house in Tondo. As luck would have it, Sarah opened the door and was pleasantly surprised to see him. She gave him the warmest and tightest hug she could. It felt good to have Sarah in his arms once again, he thought.

She then stepped back but remained holding on to his arms. She studied Maximo from his head down to his feet; admiring his ensemble of distressed denim jeans and an elegant navy blue jacket over a knitted off-white cotton T-shirt. As Sarah brushed her fingers against the fine fabric of his jacket, Maximo sheepishly whispered, Prada. A Christmas gift from his father. And when she gave an extended look at his shoes, he uttered, Camper, which he bought for himself at Robinson’s. Sarah then gave him a classic runway model pose and screamed SM; referring to the popular mall where she bought her clothes. They both broke up in hysterical fits of laughter. He then gave her his Christmas gift, a silver friendship ring with matching bracelet.

Sarah’s parents begged him to stay and join them for dinner. He needed no further prodding, for Sarah’s mother’s delectable dishes were too much to resist. An invitation to one of their festive gatherings was like a ticket to indulgence; their buffet table overflowing with scrumptious dishes and sweets of all sorts.

Later on, as they both sat on the steps by the front door while the little kids noisily played on the sidewalk, Maximo and Sarah talked just about anything and everything that came into their minds. Sarah confided that her relationship with the investment banker was short-lived, but she was able to continue on with her studies through the generosity of an aunt. Maximo then told her that he would be flying to Seattle next month. He planned on spending a couple of months with his father and then start his studies in illustration and design at the Fashion Institute of Technology in New York City. Sarah was delighted to hear such good news, but saddened by the daunting distance between Manila and New York. Maximo hastily wrote his new email address on a piece of paper and handed it to Sarah.

It was already late at night when he kissed her goodbye on the cheek. Sarah kept her gaze on Maximo as he headed toward Tayuman with his usual cool, confident gait. She felt they were bound to meet again someday, not in Manila, but in the States somewhere.

And as Sarah closed the door, she acknowledged something different about Maximo. It was his newly-developed style emanating from the inside, she thought. He was no longer an aloof, brooding young teen. He had developed a charming demeanor that exuded warmth and candor. In only a few months, Maximo had managed to transform himself into a fine young man. Unbeknownst to Sarah, she was the inspiration and catalyst of Maximo's newly-developed inner style.

Soundtrack: The Day You Said Goodnight by Hale

Self-Help Feature: How To Mend A Broken Heart

Tips For Teens: The Truth About Alcohol

Teens and Substance Abuse


posted by Señor Enrique at 8:00 AM


Blogger mitch said...

i really liked reading your stories. keeps me from being bored here :)

September 03, 2007 4:16 AM  

Blogger Senor Enrique said...

Many thanks, Mitch. This story was one of my early attempts in fiction writing :)

September 03, 2007 7:16 AM  

Anonymous shin said...

beautifully made..I really like your writing style..

September 26, 2007 8:51 PM  

Blogger Senor Enrique said...

Wow! Another discovering my old writing -- almost two year-old na pala ito :)

Many thanks, Shin! I appreciate your kind words :)

September 27, 2007 7:03 AM  

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Life in Manila as observed by a former New Yorker who with a laptop and camera has reinvented himself as a storyteller. Winner of the PHILIPPINE BLOG AWARDS: Best Photo Blog in 2007 and three Best Single Post awards in 2008.


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