It is September 2014. The late afternoon sun peeks through the blinds in my room and hits my bed while I revel in the leftover heat of lovemaking. From my condo’s living room, I hear the sound of a Naruto episode playing on Karl’s iPad.
He likes to do this sometimes. In movies, there’s the cliché of someone lighting a cigarette after fucking. Instead of puffing cigarettes, Karl likes watching videos. Sometimes it’s a Lady Gaga music video. Other times, One Direction concerts or America’s Next Top Model episodes serve as his post-coital fix. Today, he’s watching Naruto.
I don’t have a ritual like that. After having sex, I just want to stay in bed a while; maybe stare at the wall while catching my breath. This time, I am deep in thought. I am trying to figure out the best way and time to tell Karl it’s over.
There’s nothing wrong with Karl, per se. But whatever is going on between us has gone on for too long. I met him in June, when I was trying to get over a summer fling gone wrong. Heartbroken, I opened the Grindr app on my phone and saw his profile. He was smiling a close-lipped smile, with his head slightly tilted. His hair was purposefully tousled in that tasteful way that’s supposed to make you think he always looked like that upon waking up.
In person he kind of resembled Albie Casiño, if you drained 40 % of the fat and protein from Casiño’s body. It would take a few cases of protein shakes and many tonkatsu dinners for Karl to achieve Albie’s physique.
The first time he came over one Saturday morning, he was holding a plastic bag filled with Jollibee breakfast meals for two. He brought them in but we never touched them. When we saw each other, we started craving other things besides food.
He was just what I needed then. Loud in person. Gifted in the right area. Brutal in bed. Sometimes as he’s about to come, he would grab my shoulders and bite my neck hard as he collapsed on top of me. In those moments I would forget everything else, including my heartache. All I felt was him and the pain and pleasure he was causing me — inside and out. He was the perfect distraction. I would also find out that he was fresh from a year-long relationship. We were both recovering.
But it’s been three months now. That’s too long for a rebound hook-up. Since we met we’ve eaten out in Makati, went biking in Nuvali, and have taken an impromptu road trip to Tagaytay (and did some … fun things … in a parking lot on the way home). Over the past few weeks, he has gifted me several things: a rubber bracelet, a bouquet of stargazers (my favorite flower), and a can of Coke with the word “babe” imprinted.
These are things that couples do. We are not a couple. Since the beginning, I’ve never felt like what we have could turn into something more — something with a future. And at 20 years old, he’s seven years my junior. Too young for me if we’re talking serious relationship. I usually date guys older than I am and Karl, so far, has been a fun detour from that pattern.
I get up from my bed and go over to him. He’s sitting on my sofa, completely engrossed in the Naruto episode. I’m not a fan, myself, but I know enough to get a conversation going.
“Which episode are you on now?”
Karl gives me an answer and I search the episode number on my phone. I discover that it is a filler episode. My college friend Rea, also a Naruto fanatic, once told me that Naruto is infamous for fillers.
“They’re no longer simply filler episodes, Raydon. They’re filler arcs. There are season-long storylines that are not based on the manga,” Rea once told me, flinging her fork over lunch.
“What do you mean?” Karl does not seem to know what I’m on about.
“You know, it’s a filler episode. It’s not based on the manga.”
“And?” he shrugs.
“You’re kidding, right? You don’t know what a filler is?”
I explain to him that fillers are narrative paddings that shows like Naruto and Inuyasha put out to keep the franchise going while the original source materials like the mangas they’re based on take time to breathe.
“So now you can just skip that episode,” I tell Karl.
“Why would I wanna do that?” he says.
“It’s not part of the main storyline. It’s just padding. If you want I can search the episodes that are based on the manga for you.”
“No, I’ll just keep watching the way I’ve been watching.”
“Why?” I ask.
“Well, who cares if they’re filler episodes? So far, I’ve enjoyed watching everything,” Karl explains, adding, “Even if they’re fillers, who knows? They might end up being good.”
My argument against fillers loses weight and I end up saying nothing. Before turning his eyes back to his iPad screen, he asks me, “We’re having dinner later, right?”
I take a few seconds to answer.
“Yes. We’re having dinner later.”
I join Karl on the sofa, lying on my back and resting my head on his lap. The filler episode resumes playing.