Warmth crawls across his skin when the rays of the sun chase away the moonlit sky. Slowly, as seconds disappear into unconsciousness, the walls in the late morning are painted with the soft tint of yellow. Netted light patterns coming from the window above skips across their nestled bodies.
The usual loud grind of the jeepney’s gears and rubber skidding over asphalt grows fairly distant 16 stories below their residing unit. Besides the faint swishing of the floor fan’s propeller, only their even breaths fanning against each other’s skin sounded. It was a warm summer’s Wednesday morning and the rising heat between their skin didn’t falter their embrace even in their sleep.
It was however, enough to defuse the mist of sleep behind the brunet’s closed lids. He slowly stirs awake, pushing the tip of his nose against the side of the other’s neck as the weight of the other’s fingers slide down his back. As consciousness slips back to him, he’s reminded of the warm body that pressed against him and held him until he slept, the night prior.
He softly hums at the memory and it leaves a soft smile on his lips. Finally, his eyelashes separate.
He peers up through them.
The warm kiss of the sun on the other’s rich glowing skin catches his eye and it causes a hitch in his breath.
He finds serenity.
His lover remains peaceful in his slumber. He admires him for a while, a habit he’s grown to be more fond of than embarrassed by.
He feels himself slip in and out of his consciousness as he hazily watches his lover. The stillness of the room wrapped around him as if time has stopped. As if his ears had blocked off any other noise. Nothing cut through the silence and stillness of their state. But he didn’t mind it. He found comfort in it.
Patterns of light dusted across the bridge of his lover’s nose, over the patch of skin on his cheek, and peeked through his thick lashes. His golden bronze skin glowed, under the soft glare of the sun. Ethereal. Neo thought.
His sight travels down from his lover’s forehead, his peacefully shut eyes, the bump of his cheek, the tip of his nose, down to his chin. A memory of a myth somehow resurfaces his head. The myth: a woman, Maria Makiling and her spirit watching over the people of Laguna while she rests in the form of an ensemble of mountains.
He remembers seeing her beauty for the first time.
The sky was clear and tiny hills surrounding them were blanketed in fresh, alluring green. They were cruising between this landscape, along the highway under a summer’s heat. Salle was driving while Neo took in his surroundings. By location, Katipunan always one upped Taft Avenue, with their open spaces, fresh air and ever green trees, but there was something he missed about driving through a somewhat endless road of blue skies and green hills, knowing that they were headed to a place where complete serenity is guaranteed. They were headed to Batangas for a weekend getaway at the beach.
His eyes caught the sun’s mist. He was on the brink of sleep, when he heard his lover speak.
He lifted his head from the window he leaned on and turned to look at Salle.
“Ay tulog ka ba? Sorry,” his voice was moderately deep—smooth and soft. He heard his lover softly chuckle to himself while he watched the road.
Neo’s eyelashes dipped as a smile crept into his lips, fondness radiating from his smile as he stared at Salle beside him. He absentmindedly shook his head, still entranced.
Salle quickly glanced back at him with a smirk.
“Baka matunaw ka diyan,”
Neo blinked several times and rolled his eyes. His cheeks ended up dusted with pink anyway.
“What were you saying kanina?”
Salle pointed far into the road.
“You see that?”
“The road? Yeah. Don’t you?”
The other chuckled. “Tanga, I meant the mountain.”
A light laugh escaped from Neo. He nodded once, regarding Salle. “What about it?”
“That’s the mountain of Maria Makiling,”
Neo only stared at Salle with his eyebrows knitted, “The who?”
Salle chuckled again, “Maria Makiling babe, the diwata or something?”
“What’s a diwata?”
“A fairy… I think,”
Neo made nonchalant sound of acknowledgement. A few seconds passed between them, before Neo realized Salle had more to say.
“What about it?” He asked, leaning his cheek on the car seat to turn his eyes back to his boyfriend.
“Well, the myth is that ‘yung shape nung mountain is ‘yung body ni Maria Makiling when she slept.”
Neo averted his eyes to the far mountain ahead. He slowly nodded with slightly sarcastic sound of approval.
“Why is she sleeping?” he asked.
Salle’s shoulder shook as he laughed. Neo turned his eyes back to him with a gleaming smile, on a brink of laughter himself.
Salle chortled again, “Uhmm… ewan… Tired from diwata duties, maybe?”
Neo continued to stare at him, Salle suddenly turned his head and their eyes met for a second— before the car filled up with the sound of their snorts and laughter.
Once the high of their light conversation diffused, Neo sunk back into his seat. Salle turned back to the road in silence.
Neo stared out into the road, eyeing the mountain that they were referring to. His eyebrows knit and he bent his neck to the side, trying to find a different angle.
“... I don’t see it.”
Salle laughed once more. “You use your imagination, babe.”
With a residing smile on his face, Neo only shrugged.
Neo only remembers the rest of that weekend as a blur. However, he is sure it was full of instances where he just stared at his lover while they bathed under the rays of the bright sun, in depths of the cold water, under the warmth of thick sheets and pillows. The details of that time are no longer vivid, but the feeling of the high is embedded into his memory. That time felt distant, as if it were just a dream.
As if having a weekend getaway with his lover was a dream. It felt too good to be true.
Neo slowly blinks as the memory fades.
He nuzzles his face on Salle’s skin, an attempt to certify to himself that he was real. Neo sighs, inhaling the man’s scent, feeling the surface of his skin on his cheek. He evens his breath, matching his breathing in time with his lover’s. The racket on Taft Avenue begins to muffle in his hearing. He feels distant from the city, until he no longer hears or smells it.
He peers up through his lashes once more and his eyes slowly travel down from his lover’s throat, the dip of his collarbone, the dent between his chest and dips on his toned stomach. He watches as Salle’s body heaves and deflates with each even breath. It causes the light to dance around the ripples of his rich bronze skin.
Neo sighs. His eyes linger on each inch of his lover’s skin, reflecting the light in the summer’s heat. He absentmindedly reaches to brush his fingertips across his chest as if to check if such a beauty was still within his longing reach.
His lids drop to a soft blink. He’s real.
His fingers gently press. He watches as it dips, creating a crater on the other’s skin, accepting his caress. Neo could almost feel his toes curling against the sand on the beach until it sinks to shape his foot. The gentle wave, hisses into white foam as it gently crashes into the sand, crawling over the shore, and caressing his foot as he steps further into the sea.
He could feel the soft ripples of the mildly cold water he was submerged in, gently swaying him to easiness. As he floats away farther from the shore, the water suddenly turns warm and solid, wrapping around his waist; for the mere purpose touching; of ensuring his safety, so as to not stray too far away into the deeper depths of the water. The idea of submerging himself into a vast open sea had always terrified him. But he never imagined it would feel like this. Never thought it would feel warm around him, wrapping around his body, grounding him to where it felt safe, swaying them both as the water cradled them back and forth. He never thought he’d seen the sun beam so softly at him despite the blaring brightness of its personality.
Neo’s lashes separate once more, bringing him back to present. This time, his fingers slowly brush up to caress his lover’s cheek. He couldn’t resist, he had to stay in contact with this glowing ethereal being.
He combs his fingers through his dark tousled hair, clearing to see his peaceful face. It earns him the faintest hum of relief from the other.
A smile creeps into Neo’s lips. An overwhelming warmth spreads across him. It fills him with contentment, knowing that such a beauty as Salle, responds to his simple touch. It brings him back to earth from his godly trance. Nearly a year together and being with Salle still feels surreal. Especially during times like these when they were lazing a summer's day away. Being with such a man that he is, felt too good to be true, like a dream he never wishes to end. It pulls him back to taft from the warm and sandy beaches.
He remembers that this was the place where it all started.
Neo’s eyes stray away from Salle’s features to stare into the wall beside them as his cheek rested on his lover’s chest. He lazily draws patterns over his lover’s warm skin, drawing further away from the memories of the tropical beaches in Batangas.
He sees the soft rise of white smoke diffusing over his face. He turns away with disapproval as the other man who sat by the ledge, with slicked back hair, deeply chuckles. He was holding down the level of alcohol he’s chugged earlier while the man left him at their table with his sister. He tried to not let his intoxication show while he exchanged with the other man in low and sultry promises.
But he got called out. He remembers that much.
Neo’s eyes flutter shut and he presses his face on to Salle’s skin at the memory.
Next thing he knew, he was already in bed, in his condo, in Katipunan. And he lay there with him. They lay fully clothed, unlike how they were now.
Neo peers up at Salle once more. A smile tugs on his lips while these memories resurfaced.
Thank God for Cessie.
He thinks to himself.
Who knew that a little alcohol was the only push they needed to get to where they were now.
It stirs him to scoot closer, nestling back into Salle’s embrace.
Neo sighs. Despite it all, he’s reminded that such a being as Salle is still flawed. Flawed and complex. His radiating, glowing beauty was just a plus from all that he already was. Salle was more than just a pretty face with an even more beautifully sculpted body.
He was the man he used to spite because of how cocky he was. He was the man who was so full of himself like he owned the world, and thought that every single person would be tripping head over heels for him. He was the man who’s list of vices guaranteed him a spot in Satan’s hit list, but despite that, somehow still managed to pass every single subject course he’d taken.
But, he was also the man who was passionate about several things. He was the man who took care of his little sister. He was the man who drove his drunk ass back to Katipunan, even if he had to get back to Taft so early. He was the man he fought with over the weekend in Tagaytay, but never left.
He was the man who he always fell into several arguments with over the simplest and menial things. But he was also the man, who he would always run back to. He was the man who stayed. He was home.
He was the only man who’s made him feel so much; happiness, sadness, anger, spite. Love.
He was everything more than an average dictionary could describe. And the best part? He accepts Neo for all that he is.
Neo remembers this.
He shuts his eyes and smiles against Salle’s skin. The bigger frame he is burrowed in stirs and shifts to lay on his side, facing Neo. The arms around him pulls in tighter. The same blissful hum emits from Salle’s lips. He tucks his head under his lover’s chin.
Neo presses a soft kiss on Salle’s skin.
Whether they were forgetting the world at a weekend getaway on a beach, or lazing around on a Wednesday morning; whether they were drinking their asses off at a bar or fighting over menial inconveniences; whether they grounded themselves on earth or found themselves in celestial spaces in every sense of it; for everything they were; He was his. And he was his.