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Sunday, 18 August 2013


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Please understand that I'm doing this because I need to get laid on Valentine's Day. LMAO.
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I called him CHiP.

I guess it could have simply been "Chip," but he was an artist. There just had to be some idiosyncrasy to how I spelled my term of endearment for him.

CHiP was short for "chipmunk." His pocket-sized build, joyful presence and irresistible will to make me laugh reminded me a lot of Alvin and the Chipmunks.

And he called me GoOf - one letter short of "Goofy," in reference to my large, clumsy feet that would inadvertently step on his much smaller ones whenever we held hands while walking (all the time).

"Pneumonia," Kris, his best friend, messaged me on Facebook. " He's been in the hospital since last Wednesday. His sister told me he was getting better and then, all of a sudden, he couldn't breath. And then he was gone."

I was shell-shocked.

I last saw Claren in 2003, just before I started work on a TV talent competition and a soap opera. We broke up.

"He was much too gentle and beautiful and perfect a soul for me," I told Kris. "I loved him a lot. He was everything I ever wanted. I saw us getting old together - laughing. And I think that that scared me. We were both so young. I couldn't be sure until I was sure. Isn't that silly?"

"Claren Torres, 26, ex-boyfriend material," was his succinct description of himself on his blog. Even in death, he makes me laugh.

"Claren's such a cheat," Kris complained, with fondness. "He never turned 30."

"He'll be 19 forever," I said.

"In my memory," Kris reminisced, "we're both still 17."

Kris and Claren were like twins. Same age, same build, same boyish charm. One's darker, more brooding. The other one's an imp.

Kris relocated to the States several years ago, immediately following their graduation, methinks.

"I last saw him in 2007," he shared, "and only for, like, a few hours. I was in Manila only for two days. I asked his ate if I could have a pair of his pants. And I'll wear them when I go somewhere new. I guess at least kahit ganun lang, we can see places together..."

Boyfriends, especially at the age when Claren and I dated, are dispensable. mIRC was all the rage back then, and relationships came and went as quickly as you'd like for an EB to occur. But I can't even fathom the depth of Kris' loss. They were best friends. I understand the need to hang on to something - anything - as long as it wouldn't die and therefore remain an evergreen reminder of the one who once owned it.

What's perhaps funniest about my and Claren's brief relationship was the circumstance that brought us together. I dated his best friend, Kris.

Last night, I spent almost four hours making up for lost time. That's what happens with exes. You wanna be friends after you break up. And while you do make the effort initially (through some combination of guilt and determination), it's hard to keep it up. What I realized was, I missed out.

Claren's light shone even brighter - like the pop of his Canon's flash. Claren bathed his life in whimsical, colour-saturated imagery that married the character of Old Manila with his own need to express himself in ever-maturing ways through digital manipulation. By far, Claren's Flickr Photostream is the online profile that best represented him.

He called himself "Junkyardkid" - a collector of discarded objects and memories, because he finds pure, child-like joy in re-imagining these in ways we'd never see them otherwise.

He posted a photo of himself in the hospital, on his Facebook wall. His eyes looked rounder than the camera lenses' aperture must have been. He captioned it: Greetings from the hospital.

Up to his very last moments, he found a way to repurpose a junkyard of an experience - knocking on heaven's door - as something that clawed right back in a funny, ever-present way towards the living world.

Rest in peace, CHiP.

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