I knew Brian was looking for a benefactor at the time Nanay Nena approached me but I didn’t recommend him to her. It was part of my selfish attempts at distancing myself from him. If I can’t have him as a friend I didn’t want to do anything with him at all. It was all or nothing, which was pretty much how I approached things in life. As required, I met with the rector every month to report on what I had been doing to live a celibate life.
Prayers. Writing journals. Music. Newsletter. Monsignor Mon. They occupied my time and kept me out of trouble. Nanay Nena came to visit from time to time checking out if I had found the perfect fit for her offer of support. But I never found one. At one point I was going to tell her about Brian, but I never did. Brian seemed to have accepted the fact that I would never be close to him again as he found a group of four other seminarians to hang out with regularly. Gerald, Henry and Joseph all went to the same minor seminary with Brian. Geoffrey, who also went to a minor seminary and whom I once was friend, became part of Brian’s circle.
Seminary life was difficult without friends which led me to seek out a group to belong to, or at least feel that I do even on an occasional basis. I was like a tourist, out for a short visit and never expected to stay for good. That’s when I started hanging out with Tyron, who transferred from another seminary that year. He too had his own group of friends. They took me as an honorary friend who got occasionally invited to whatever happenings they got going. I went with them to the occasional movies on Saturdays. I got invited to the occasional midnight snacks. On occasions Tyron asked me to go with him downtown when he and I both didn’t have class. At first the trips to downtown was to go to a restaurant and eat out when lunch was awfully inedible. Then it became the secret trips to places that I had never been before, dark places that normally required an identification to be admitted, such as a Gigi’s Place.
Tyron didn’t tell me we were going to Gigi’s the day that he first took me there. I was wearing a T-shirt emblazoned with the seminary logo. I thought it was the occasional restaurant trip to eat out. I thought it was a food trip. We didn’t wait for the jeepney for long at the stop in front of the seminary but Father Andrew, who was driving his Toyota Cressida back to the compound, saw us waiting. Tyron waved at the priest, who simply nodded, almost questioning what were we doing in front of the seminary gate at three o’clock in the afternoon, when we were supposedly in class. We didn’t have class but that didn’t mean we should be going out of the seminary for anything other than confession. Confession at the Redemptorists’ church wasn’t until half past four. Father Andrew didn’t say anything. He simply proceeded to enter the seminary compound, but I suspected we would be questioned later. There would be a reckoning when we come back. I almost wanted to tell Tyron, perhaps we shouldn’t go but the jeepney came and stopped for us. We hopped in the vehicle and on to our secret journey downtown we went.
“Are you OK?,” Tyron quizzed me when he noticed I became quiet and reserved, unlike when we were still walking towards the gate to catch a jeepney.
“I’m fine,” I said still nervously transfixed by Father Andrew’s sighting of us.
“What’s wrong?” he asked again.
“I’m kinda concerned about Father Andrew seeing us,” I confessed quietly, guilty that we were escaping in the middle of an afternoon to go on our merry way downtown instead of studying or writing required essays.
“We’re just going shopping for supplies,” he said.
“Are we really?” I asked.
“Do you want to go back?”
I couldn’t say what I wanted. My tongue seemed to have been chopped off and fed to an incinerator. I didn’t want to go back, but I also didn’t like the guilty feeling swirling in my scrupulous mind. I needed to be beyond reproach. I couldn’t blemish my good record so far. Well, it wasn’t exactly unblemished because Monsignor Armando already had something bad to say about me when he found out that I had been spending time keeping Monsignor Mon’s company. I also didn’t want to be seen by priests with somebody. I couldn’t give them any impression of any exclusive friendship I was nurturing.
The humid afternoon wind coming from the jeepney window blew to my face as if reminding me I would be better off staying in the seminary that afternoon than being dragged by Tyron to one of his trysts. The jeepney didn’t have many passengers, a couple of students heading to the city for their afternoon and evening classes, a woman with a little girl playing with her lollipop and an elderly man with a wooden cane stuck between his knees. Tyron asked me to pay our fare. I dug out from my pocket a five-peso bill to pay for two. The driver handed me two pesos and fifty cents back, which I stuck back to my jeans. Jeans? Why was I wearing jeans? I should have kept the seminary uniform, the black dress pants and white button up short sleeve white shirt. It wouldn’t have been more obvious that we were going downtown for some monkey business. Father Andrew would think we were going to town for an official business, for an errand that must be accomplished that day. Father Andrew wouldn’t have been suspecting we were up to no good. But it was too late. I was in my jeans and a white shirt with a seminary logo. I was wearing something with a logo. I had hoped that would count for something. I had hoped that Father Andrew wouldn’t think we were going to a place where seminarians shouldn’t be because I was wearing something that screams my affiliation to the church. I was drowning in my own scrupulous musings when the jeepney stopped and Tyron got off. I didn’t hear him asked the driver to stop, but obviously we got to our destination for the day. It wasn’t the usual stop. It wasn’t the front of the eatery that has become our hang out whenever we were downtown. The jeepney stopped in front of a bar. And before I knew it, Tyron had been swallowed by the door that advertised Gigi’s Place.