Essay: Twenty-Five

"They're having a three-way relationship," I told my girlfriend, glancing at three foreigners lying side by side on the sand. I noticed how the girl in a dotted bikini sulked when the boy swam out to sea with the other girl, her legs around his waist. After an hour of kissing amidst drifting debris, the lovers returned to the sand and sweet-talked the sulking girl out of her jealousy—or so it appeared to me.

"Do you want to be in a three-way relationship?" my girlfriend asked. We were sitting on the sand, watching the sun as it descended over the mountains of Negros Island.

"No. Why would you ask that?" I replied, amused. Just because I think three people are having a polyamorous affair doesn't mean I'm suggesting we find another person to join our relationship, I thought.

She shrugged. She was perhaps annoyed by my penchant for making up stories about random people. I often tell her how it amazes me to think that there are billions of human beings living on the planet, each with his own set of worries and dreams; how it astounds me to think of the sheer number of people who have died and have yet to be born, of the stories that have ended and have yet to begin. "We fret so much about our own lives we forget that this world—this universe—doesn't only revolve around me or you," I often say.

It was August. Debris lined the beach of Bas Daku in Moalboal, Cebu Island. Rotting coconut husks, small tree branches, and twigs were drifting across TaƱon Strait from Negros Island. I didn't expect the beach to be that unsightly that time of the year. Yet the tourists, mostly foreigners, didn't seem to mind. I didn't care much either, as the glorious view of sun rays piercing through the clouds compensated for the mess.

My skin hurt from hours of exposure to the sun, but the burning sensation across my face and my bare shoulders didn't dampen my elation. It was the first time I traveled purely for leisure in a long time. I'd traveled a lot in the last six years, but my trips had always involved work. I hadn't given much thought about going away for a quick vacation until my girlfriend convinced me to celebrate her birthday far away from the city. Sitting on the sand and listening to the waves, I felt the constant feeling of heaviness across my forehead disappear, as though my head had broken open and out poured a thick mixture of liquefied worries.

"That girl over there is Swedish," I said, my lips pointing to the blonde woman drinking brandy with a Filipino woman. My assumption was based on a flimsy premise: Her face had some resemblance to Avicii's. A few months ago, on a plane from Boracay to Cebu, I happened to be seated beside a young Swedish man who looked very much like the Swedish DJ, whose music I listened to quite often. I pointed out the resemblance and he replied, "I get that a lot."

"She's here because she's lonely," I continued. "She left her work-obsessed boyfriend."

My girlfriend was gazing at the sky in silence, her eyes squinting. She would be twenty-five years old when midnight strikes. She's letting it sink in, I thought. When I turned twenty-five ten months ago, I felt sad—not so much because of the age, but because I felt I had to take life more seriously from then on. It was the same feeling I had when I turned twenty, realizing that my teenage days were over. At twenty-five, I felt I was at a tipping point—I must decide with finality what kind of life I wanted or become forever confused.

I looked toward the tourists I suspected of having a polyamorous affair. They looked like they were in their mid-twenties, too. The only time I heard one of them speak English was when the girl wearing a green bikini cried, "How much?" But I realized she may have meant to ask how many push-ups the boy managed to do for he had just finished doing push-ups. Green Bikini had brown skin. Dotted Bikini had lighter complexion and smaller eyes. The man looked Middle Eastern with his thick facial hair.

Green Bikini swam off, leaving Dotted Bikini alone with the boy. He kissed Dotted Bikini on the cheek. She held his shoulders from behind. They talked and laughed while Green Bikini was away skillfully treading water, barely glancing at them. After a while, she rejoined her companions. They took pictures of each other. He took a picture of the two girls holding hands, facing the hazy mountains, their backs to him. Dotted Bikini took a picture of him and Green Bikini embracing tightly in the water. Green Bikini took a picture of him and Dotted Bikini standing on the sand, her arms around his torso, his arm around her shoulders.

"The girls may be best friends or cousins," my girlfriend said, still in doubt.

It doesn't matter to me whether my speculations about people are true or not. I enjoy making up stories not because I am a rumor-monger but because I love imagining different versions of life. Each time I imagine the stories of other people, I get a sense of becoming one with them—becoming them. It feels utterly liberating to think I'm everybody on the planet, and everybody's me.

I have seven weeks left before turning twenty-six. I haven't decided yet what kind of life I want. Perhaps I'm bound to be forever confused. But then why can't I live different versions of life at different times all through my existence?

I looked at the sky. Just below the splendid view of sun rays slicing through the clouds, the blonde woman and her Filipino companion took turns drinking Emperador mixed with Coke from a plastic cup.

Another young woman, a Filipino, walked up to them. "Where are you from?" she asked the foreign traveler, striking up a conversation.

With a friendly smile, she replied, "Sweden."

Written by Rebelander Basilan

Photo credits: Pixabay