Mariel’s and my love story started even before the now famous Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan movie came to the screen. And for the record, this is how it all begun.
It was 12 midnight and I was at our Makati office pounding away on the internet when I got a “page” ( pre-yahoo messenger, this meant an instant message sent by one user to another within the same ISP- Internet Service Provider). And all it said was “Hi Mon, how are you?”. I was surprised since I never liked the idea of paging and did not even know user- “omni”. It turned out that omni or Mariel was actually paging my good friend Mon Ser who at one time used my internet account to page some users on the net probably expecting to lure young, nubile women ( just kidding, Mon). It turned out too that Mariel had just received her computer from repairs that day and was thus offline for quite sometime. She had merely wanted to test the machine. What happened next was probably cooked up in heaven, because we ( Mariel and me) both will not be able to explain to this day why it just happened.
I said to her that “this is not Mon and I am Bong and Mon is away on a business trip to Jakarta. She said why on Earth was I at the office working at past 12 midnight. Well I said I was actually in the office licking my wounds because of a love relationship gone bad that day. Mariel being probably maternal as she can be started to console me. I instantly poured my heart out to a complete stranger and told all. (My daughter Sam will probably shriek in horror and say “eeew” at this confessional but this was the way it really happened). Mariel even then, did not try to preach, she just listened to my heartaches and rants with the patience of Mother Teresa. So that pages or online chats turned into emails that turned into long phone calls. A few months hence, on a lark I took a chance and sent her this email: ” you were once a bleep on the screen, now you’re a bleep in my heart”. I guess that sealed it because after a few more dogged attempts, Mariel agreed to meet me for the very first time.
Mariel of course being aware of internet fiends in the lurk, was also very cautious. At this point, while she had indeed shared with me her interests, hobbies, dreams and other life concepts, she had left out giving me any personal data such as, her last name, address, mobile number etc. And she thought it best for us to meet in full public view at 3 ‘o clock in the afternoon at Gourmet’s Cafe at SM Megamall. But… not until she finishes with her MBA final exams. (You know the recurring theme with Mariel is that she will start on something new only after making sure to complete any pending task. As such, she has learned to stick to important priorities at the expense of hedonistic pursuits. Of course, you can look at the opposite end of that spectrum and find old bohemian me).
On that day in May, having prepped her by asking her to watch out for a Keannu Reeves lookalike (it’s about the hair thing in “Matrix” the movie), I was able to get her to give me her cellphone number just in case I got lost. Fiendishly, I had planned to dial her mobile number from afar, look first and check if I liked what I saw, and make a great escape if I did not. Necessarily, I executed my plan with the precision of Seal Team Six.
I programmed the cellphone number for speed dial, I looked casually at the menu from outside “Gourmet’s Cafe” and secretly dialed the number. From the corner of my eye I saw someone waving at me. I looked and there was my Mariel. She asked if I was Bong. And as I approached sheepishly, she told me that she knew that I was the one calling and that was why, she wasn’t answering. I was floored, surprised, frozen in shame. For I was caught. Mariel was indeed more than a match for me. I had once thought that I was the best at the game. And there was this one person who conquered me “in style”.
And someone with a high sense of style, was also what best described Mariel. Aside from always being impeccably dressed and groomed, Mariel showed class inside and out. For she never once talked to me again about any of any of my online revelations during our married life. Never once did she use any of what I had told her before. Even at the height of our little arguments. She had real style. She was a decent person. But most of all, she had truly loved me very much. She took me warts and all for the frog that I was and turned me into her “prince”.
Mariel, my princess, I miss you now and love you so much. One day we will meet again and will never be apart forever.
5 thoughts on “You’ve Got Mail! (The Prequel)”
I remember Mariel talking about this guy that she met through the Internet. I was skeptical at first because I never believed in these internet exchanges blossoming into something real. I was already living in Zagreb when I first heard about Bong. I finally met him when I came home to give birth, all of 8.5 months pregnant and they picked me up from the airport. I was impressed with Bong because I think that finally, Mariel found the kind of person she was waiting for. So, it didn’t really come as a surprise yo me when she told me that she was getting married, a few months after I gave birth and left for Zagreb. I was so happy for her because, frankly , I was worried that she’d turn up to be an old maid. Obviously, her waiting for the right person paid off because she was definitely happier and more fulfilled when she met Bong.
It’s me, Mariel, from the states! I just wanted to say that I read your blog and it truly moved me to tears(truthfully). I didn’t have much time to spend with you during your visits because usually it was schoolwork that brought me stress, but I could truly tell that the love between you and tita Mariel was going to be everlasting. You, Sam and Auntie were always happy when you were here in America and I know that the strong bond between you and Tita will always remain forever intact even through death. I know Auntie is in God’s hands right now, watching over you and everyone else, and I assure you that we will join her someday. So, Smile, Tito! We all love you!
Hi, Bong! Couldn’t help but share with you what Mariel told me about that meeting at the mall.
Eleven years or so ago, after lunch, we were in the ladies’ room of our office catching up on recent issues and giggling like schoolgirls. After brushing our teeth (btw, she would always remind me not to brush my teeth so hard so that the enamel, or something, that covers my teeth would not be destroyed), I asked her if there’s anything new. (Well, our life as bank examiners would bring us apart for many months. So, we’re always excited to bump into each other and share stories/secrets.)
Her excitement and my fear…
She told me how she met you at the mall. The beginning was how you narrated it here. I was so shocked and so fearful for her sake! Who wouldn’t be? In our “barkada”, she was the most “mahinhin” and ever-so-cautious Mariel. I couldn’t believe that she would be so brave to meet a guy/stranger all by herself. But as you said, she got it all planned out. She met you in broad daylight and in a very public place at that.
Well, I asked what made her so brave to meet this guy (with matching reprimand: “ano ka ba, di ka nag-iingat, etc.”)What she said was a revelation: that in her exchanges of communications with this guy, she could “feel” that he’s a good person; that somehow there’s a “connection”, which she didn’t feel with the previous guy (Mon). Somehow, there must be something but she still couldn’t explain. So, she decided to meet you, partly out of curiosity and partly to see what this “connection” could be all about. We parted ways and the next time we met, it was when she told me that she was getting married to that guy she met at the mall. (Will you share with us how you proposed to her? ;=)
Call it God’s plan, call it fate, either way – I felt happy for my dear friend. At last, she found the love she had been waiting for.
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