Javier and I are engaged to be married sometime in the not-so-distant future, which is not the most comfortable subject for someone who does not believe in marriage, but I need to get used to talking about it because here we are!
We have been together for almost two years, and the commitments we’ve made along the way (not including the commitment to our choice to be together for a very, very long time) have also meant turning into very different versions of ourselves from who we were when we first began dating in 2015. In other words, we’ve been growing up together. Prior to (and I hesitate to say this because of how much doubt it will end up casting on the final outcome, which is the current state of our relationship) hooking up with Javier, I had been in and out of often fruitless, often noncommittal relationships with not-so-random dudes. Many of these relationships only taught me that at any age, you could still be “a dude”, but some were also genuinely productive lessons on what I wanted out of a relationship.
In one of the more heartbreaking episodes, I remember asking one of these dudes, “Who is going to take care of you?” after a brief but particularly bleak period where he disappeared because he was sick. Like, actually sick and unable to move and too uncertain of where he stood with anyone in his life to actually ask for help. That same year, while enrolling myself in a bunch of career-enhancement things (because 2015 was kind of a mess, career-wise) and filling up Visa applications, I also had to fill in contact details of my closest relative or friend, in case something happened.
I think I had several very mild breakdowns in several bureaucratic agencies from overthinking the fact that the person–or rather, a person–I was spending most of my time with that year was not an emergency contact. I thought about those times when I didn’t hear from him whenever something serious (like internal bleeding) was happening. On my end, if he was called in, would he actually come to my rescue? Would I do the same?
I was living alone at the time, I hated my job, the only thing that really structured my days was caring for my cats and the possibility of being with someone I cared about; but there was something very crucial missing when it came to caring, and I felt it whenever I had to fill in some very basic surveys about who I was and who was looking out for me. When I asked him, “Who’s going to take care of you?” I was not referring to recent events, but to a future wherein we had to acknowledge our deteriorating bodies and our dwindling number of close relatives. And that was the beginning of the end of that.
Over the weekend, Javier and I went on an Art Deco-themed tour of the Chinese Cemetery on the northern tip of Manila. For anyone who hasn’t been to the Chinese Cemetery, let it be known that there is nothing even remotely idyllic or peaceful about the landscape. On the surface, it’s a mess of concrete structures competing with each other over who can make the grandest statements about the families whose ancestors’ remains are housed inside. But it also gives you really strange insights about care and filial piety and ’til death do us part: fun things to think about while holding the hand of the man I’m planning to marry. Javier had an ear infection on that day, and just wasn’t feeling it with the tour and and the weather, but he soldiered on nonetheless. And me–being who I (currently) am–snapped at him for acting bored, snapped at him when he fell asleep in the car, and finally apologized only after I had something to eat (but I don’t think he heard me because of the situation his ear was in).
I know that I still have so much to learn about being with another person and building a life together (with our cats). I know I’ve always wanted to care for someone, but most of the time I still lack the patience to do so. There’s more to be said about knowing that someone is good for you, but I don’t think I should be the one to testify to this. And while getting married won’t fix who we already are, it will be another context to work within – same promise with a different bond? A different set of rules, perhaps?
When Javier applied for his first job, at a BPO near my neighborhood, he called to proudly tell me that he’d put my name down as his emergency contact. If something happened to him, I would be the first to know. We’ve already been living together for over a year and know very well what things are like when nothing happens – when we’re just going about our days and doing what needs to get done. Maybe marriage, at this rate, is really just a matter of confirming that we will be there for each other in case of an emergency.