by Kath C. Eustaquio-Derla
I have been with my Johnny for more than three years and despite my greatest efforts, I still don't understand what he does for a living.
Johnny Montreal is a software engineer for a global technology company. When pressed for details, all I know is that he creates software for something that someone can use to do something and he earns megabucks for answering his emails 12 to 15 hours a day at an office where they have free brewed coffee 24/7. Sometimes, I hate him for being so lucky.
Tonight, Johnny is wearing his usual office attire—crisp, white, long-sleeved polo with slim black tie, black slacks, and black shoes. I always joke that he looks like one of those expats in Singapore with his Aladdin good looks. His thick, unruly black hair is trimmed and groomed to the best his barber can. His broad shoulders and lean arms are the results of regular sessions at his condo's gym; his long, slim torso is well maintained by morning laps at the Olympic size pool; and his legs are as manly as they can get from regular marathons. He smells of faint cologne, leather seats, and money. Sometimes, when he happens to freeze at an angle, it makes you wonder if he's really Filipino. From where I stand tonight, it's almost impossible to see traces of the laid back guy he used to be.
From being the carefree, cool guy who broke down my “Great Wall of Snob” by being the first guy who wasn't intimated by me and my mean friends, Johnny had transformed into a worldly, sophisticated man, almost like Mamoru transforming into Tuxedo Mask and never transforming back. From beer to scotch, from piggy banks to stocks, my boyfriend of more than three years has catapulted himself into a go-getting, money-making corporate machine before he even turns 30.
Johnny is the only guy who made it through my “crazy phase.” Sure, he got mad at me when I tore his 1,000 peso bill into pieces after a stupid fight at the cinema two years ago. I actually thought he would end it that day. A week later, he took me to the movies and paid using plastic. And that's what he has been doing for the past years. For someone who doesn't even have a damned credit card, being with someone the banks actually trust is hard. Sometimes, you can't help but feel like he's treating you like a recovering addict who will have a relapse because she can't control her own finances. Sometimes, you can't help but feel like you're not on the same level anymore because his multinational company actually values him. They gave him a new car just last week. And sometimes, you can't help but feel left out because you see, the newly upgraded Johnny comes with restrictions that I have to live with, and that includes dinners scheduled weeks in advance because he's always busy.
“Where do you want to eat?” Johnny asks as we walk around Makati.
“I want something meaty tonight,” I answer, cringing a bit. New shoes. New paltos in the works.
“Wait, I'll check online.” That is another upgrade: he checks his smart phone for everything.
After a few minutes of fiddling with his phone, we end up in this quaint steak place with cozy red and mustard yellow walls. And since I owe Johnny a steak dinner due to a bet we made during the De La Salle University versus University of Santo Tomas Finals in the UAAP, I offer to pay. His 6-figure salary can wait for a more expensive tea place some other time.
As we enjoy our perfectly cooked steaks, the rest of the world fades away. We talk about the future and for the rest of the night, our conversation reminds me of the things that made me fall in love with him in the first place. Under the brand new sparkling Johnny is the same guy I fell in love with. The good conversationalist with a mean streak of good humor is still there. The package has just been upgraded with better clothes and a sharper career focus. And this, suddenly, causes a sharp pang of shame in me.
When did the tables turn? I was used to dating guys who were beneath me. Before Johnny, I always had two predetermined reasons why my relationships go kaput: either I get frustrated or ashamed to be seen with someone who questions why I drink red wine every night. Before Johnny, I feel like I had to explain double-meaning jokes twice before my date finally gets either one. Before Johnny, I had to tone down my personality so I won't intimidate the guy on the first date.
It's a cruel yet funny twist of fate: Johnny is always on top of his career. And I'm always onto something. Oddly, it works for us. Well, at least I think so. I'm complaining about this new version of Johnny, who, by the way, dresses better than I do these days. There was a time when I cut a hole in his five-year-old, faded corduroy pants and lied about it so he can put the damned thing to rest. As you can see, aesthetics is very important to me. This time, I feel like I am on the other side of the table. I am now with a guy who is building his career at an astonishing speed, buying expensive things he clearly can afford without making a dent in his bank account, and working for a multinational company that clearly values him.
“By the way, I bought a house,” Johnny says.
My steak knife drops to the tiled floor. The uniformed door man, who is standing by the bright red door, has to second-guess if he should pick it up or not.
“Why?” I ask, my voice slightly louder than a whisper.
Johnny bends down to pick up the steak knife and in the same breath, signals the waiter for a new one. I feel like a wayward kid who tried to eat with a pair of adult silverware.
“Why not?” he replies nonchalantly and motions for more red wine. The logic behind his real estate purchase is so simple I feel even more stupid: he wants his own property.
Great! I say in my head. My boyfriend is a millionaire and I am a starving writer. I eat more steak before I begin to hate myself for offering to pay.
Read Chapter 3: Sir Chief, My Friend
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Kath C. Eustaquio-Derla is a journalism graduate from the University of Santo Tomas in Manila, Philippines. She wrote Bedroom Blog by Veronica, a relationship blog for Cosmopolitan Philippines from 2009 to 2011, which covers most of her single dating life. In 2015, she published her first book Before I Do. She’s passionate about coffee, red wine, books and Mad Men. She stopped collecting hearts when she got married in 2013 and went back to collecting Archie Comics ever since. Send the author a tweet @kceustaquio.
Edits: Paula Bianca Abiog
Before I Do
Philippine Copyright © 2015 by Katherine C. Eustaquio-Derla
Disclaimer: This book is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places and incidents are products of the author’s imagination and are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual events, places or persons, living or dead is entirely coincidental. Image from Pexels.com.
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