Option to Live by RJ Santos   
"Option to Live"
by RJ Santos

Young Adult

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Seven-thirty p.m. Right on schedule. I saw the black Camry making its way towards the streetlight… towards me. My heart thumped loud in my ears as my nervousness painfully took hold of my body. I tapped my right foot pretending to be impatient as my left hand stayed in my pocket. It was a technique I've learned from the older ones on how to pick up a customer. And now, as cold sweat broke out on my face, I tapped my foot faster… harder on the ground as a regular customer made his way towards me. I was nervous as always, but I was also filled with anticipation.

I was a call boy… a prostitute, a whore. I had been one ever since my father and mother kicked me out of their house seven months ago when I told them I was gay, a full two months before I turned fifteen. I wandered the streets in hunger and sadness, afraid that some syndicate would pick me up and make me a slave. I hadn't become desperate yet to dig in garbage cans. But I had become desperate enough to sell my body to old gay men who couldn't find company for the night.

Believe me. I did everything I could to find a job other than this. I had gone to the city market to see if someone would accept me to carry loads and stuffs for them. But no. Either they're afraid of getting caught for child labor or they didn't trust me. I had gone around offering my service as a dishwasher, busboy, whatever really to canteens and diners around the area but to no avail. Nobody wanted to hire me and begging never became an option to me. I had to have a little dignity in the way I live. At least, I didn't ask for money from people who worked hard for it. I earned it. I sold my body, pleasure… myself. I was underpaid.

I remember my first time, the first time I've ever had anything related to sex except jacking off. I had given my virginity to a brute of a man. I thought he was only going to ask for directions because from the way he looks, I would never have expected him to have any desire for gay sex. But instead of asking for directions, he had asked me, "How much?" I was stunned. He had to repeat himself to get my attention again. So, I told him my price.

"Five thousand pesos?!" he near about yelled in shock. There seemed to be amusement in his face that failed to escape my eyes. I was naïve, but even through that, I saw the unmistakable hunger in his eyes. The lust. There was something in the way he looked at me that terrified me. But I was willing to risk anything to live. Even my life. At least, even if this brute were to kill me afterwards, I know I tried my best to live. I tried my only option to live. He just had to pay my price.

"I'm a virgin," I blurted out, feeling myself shed all the innocence of my childhood with only that statement, because in only a few moments, I know I wouldn't be able to say those words again. In only a few moments, I would officially be part of the game. I would officially be one of the call boys in the street. I felt helpless. I felt desolate.

But instead of understanding me, the brute guffawed in his SUV, laughing at me like I just told him the funniest joke of the year while I was almost near to tears with grief because of my dying childhood and innocence. "They always say that!" he said, continuing to laugh, and it suddenly dawned on me how completely foolish I was for saying that. "Fine, boy. I'll see you around then." He chuckled one last time and was about to drive off when I stopped him.

"Wait!" I needed to live. I wanted to live, even if it means selling my soul to the devil. I had never contemplated ending my life. A lot of years lay ahead of me. I knew one day I could change the course that my life had taken. Desperately, I asked the man inside the 4runner, "How much do you usually pay?" The brute smiled. We're on.

I walked out of the shabby motel at two in the morning, one thousand five hundred pesos richer feeling the brute's cum running down my legs and tears running down my face. I had been holding it back from the moment we entered the room the brute had rented. I had been holding it back the second the brute shoved his cock inside my ass. It had hurt like hell feeling myself getting stretched open. But I was powerless to stop it. I had sold it to him and he had bought it… for whatever cheap price he had wanted. I had never felt so cheap in my life than that night.

I rode a bus to the park where I had hidden my things. I dragged them towards the grass where I lied down, made a pillow out of my gym bag which carried a lot of my clothes, and cried myself to sleep hoping never to wake up again. I was a coward to end my own life, and my cowardice had given me the bravery to face the day ahead, if I wake up at all. And I did. The next morning, I woke up with the sun beating down on me. I quickly went to find something to eat, and then immediately went about to fulfil my mission: to find a room to live in.

After the two weeks that I had spent sleeping in the park, I had finally found the room I had been staying in for the past six and a half months for only seven hundred pesos. "Just a room, a bed, and electric fan. The bathroom's down the hall. It's a cheap room. I don't ask questions. You pay for one month. Leave if you can't pay for another. If you like loud music, I don't. Buy an earphone," the landlady had rattled off, and the first thing I did when I was alone inside the room was to lie down on the bed and sleep. It was heaven. At least, the pillows loved me. The landlady was the kind of woman you would think of as your beloved grandmother, and she lived up to her image. Every night, she invited me to eat dinner with her. Every night, I declined her offer. I never knew the guys living in the other rooms even though I sometimes ran into them. I usually stayed inside my room brooding, planning my future of golden dreams… unless I have to go about my business once more. Then I returned to the present, the painful present.

One night, I was standing by a streetlight tapping my right foot and keeping my left hand imprisoned in the warmth of my pocket. It was two nights before my fifteenth birthday. I was irritated. I had gone over to the usual places several times during the night but it was like everyone had vanished. I couldn't seem to pick up anyone. I was running out of funds and this damn streetlight was my last hope. A black Camry stopped in front of me and its window rolled down to reveal a man in his mid-thirties, old enough to be my father, almost all of them are. He was well built. His pecs showed off in the tight blue tee shirt he was wearing, telling me that he was a gym rat. Gentleness was written all over his face, begging me to trust him. But I wouldn't be fooled.

"How much?" I had learned earlier on that I had been lucky on my first time. Not all of them paid beyond a thousand pesos. Still, when these old men asked me my price, I always answered them with the price the brute had paid me. One thousand five hundred pesos. I could never describe the misery I feel everytime I haggle with them over how much they should pay me. They bargained with me for a few hours of pleasure which were only torment for me. The man surprised me by agreeing to my price.

Every night I went out to… hustle myself, I would come back to my room crying. I wished I enjoyed the sex but I never did. It made me sick, even of myself. If this would be the way I'm going to have sex my whole life, I'd rather jack off for the rest of my life. But that night, I didn't come back to my room crying.

I hopped in the Camry riding shotgun. I was pleased that at least I would have a little money for my birthday even though I would be celebrating it alone. But I also dreaded the fact that I'm going to be having sex with a stranger again. I reasoned to myself that it is what I needed to do to live. I looked at the man and wondered why he would be picking me up when he could have had anyone for free with his looks and body. He must be married. I wonder what his wife would say if she would know of his penchant for teenage boys.

"I want you to pretend I'm your father."

"Okay, dad." Another one of those, I see. I had been picked up before by a man who wanted to play father and son. He would slap my butt telling me how much he hated me disobeying him, my father. If I hadn't been feeling so miserable at what I was doing, I would have burst out laughing at the man's antics. He wanted me to say how much I loved getting fucked by daddy. I wanted to pretend he really is my father then kick him in the balls. I would sure love that.

Much to my surprise, the man parked his car in a mall parking lot. He got out so I followed him but I was confused. What were we going to do in the mall? He put an arm around my shoulder as we went inside. I almost forgot how good my father and I got along before he went berserk after I told them I was gay. Somehow, in my own way, I had forgiven him because I knew he had his reasons to react the way he did. I was his dream. I was good-looking, popular in school; I was also brainy. I was everything he wanted me to be except for one thing. One thing that shattered everything else. One thing that turned his golden dreams into a hellish nightmare. I never should have told them.

"So, have you eaten?" the man asked me.

"Yes, dad."

The man chuckled. "I wonder why I asked. I wouldn't take no for an answer anyway," he said as we went inside a Taco Bell. He got foods for the both of us. "I never did get your name, son."


"Wow. I like your name," he remarked smiling at me. He really is confusing me already. "I think we still have an hour to get what you need before the mall closes."

"What I need?" I wasn't sure I heard him right. What is he talking about? I needed money, not this.

"Humor your old man, Kaizer. We're going to have fun," he told me. I found his words devoid of any insinuation of sex. He didn't look at me the way those other men did, as if I was a prey enticing them to devour me. Of course, the prospect of not having to give myself again to another stranger was something I would readily accept, but the way things are going, I was beginning to freak out. "Ease up, son. You're too tense," he said, sensing my discomfort. We finished our food and we went out the way we went in, his arm around my shoulder.

We went into a shop—a watch shop from the looks of it—and he immediately approached a sales lady who he apparently knew. They talked for a bit while I stood dumbly just inside the door. It was clear that they were talking about me as they keep glancing in my direction. I wanted to go back to my room or the streets. It was clear that I wasn't about to get any money from this guy. I was about to slip out when the guy called me, and against my own reason, I went over to him. "Kaizer, choose whatever you want," he told me, but seeing the look on my face, he shrugged his shoulders and said, "Ok, I'll do the choosing."

He chose a watch with a white face. The numbers were in Roman numerals and the hands were thin pieces of silver as were the band which was like a thousand silver threads woven into one. The watch was automatic. I had to admit I liked it. It fit and looked good on my wrist perfectly. At least, I thought it did. "Thanks for the watch," I said when we were already in the car.

"As long as you take care of it, Kaizer. Have you ever been to Baywalk?" My face reddened with embarrassment. It was one of the places I had been going to whenever I was short of funds already and I desperately needed money quick. That little strip of land along Manila Bay was a haven for us hustlers. There were motels nearby and it was rare that you go home empty-handed. But he didn't know that, or did he? "We'll be going there to hang out, check the scene."

Baywalk was fun if that was your sole purpose to be there. But if your purpose was a quick cash, it was misery. You could clearly see the indelible line between yourself and others. It was a line that I could never cross unless there came in my life a radical change, a change that would never drive me to sell myself again. I didn't frequent Baywalk that much. The place made me all the more miserable about myself.

As late as the night were when we got there, we were still able to get a table. He bought two subs, a can of beer, and a can of Seven-up for me. Music from bands all over the place filled the air but they weren't loud enough for the two of us to not be able to talk to each other. We got to know each other watching the ships floating in the distance and soaking up the beauty that the moon made out of Manila Bay, the beauty that was nonexistent during the day.

"What course do you want to take in college?" he asked. No one, not even my parents, had ever asked me what I wanted to do in the future. They, including myself, all assumed that I was going to be a doctor because that was what everybody wanted. The man asked me what I wanted. Everybody else asked what I was going to be; the answer to which, they had already made for me.

"I really don't know what I want. I always assumed I was going to be a doctor. But looking back, it was never what I want." I wanted to tell him that the issue was now moot anyway. There was no way I could go to college. I hadn't even finished my highschool yet. But he made me forget about my current state. He never asked me anything about the truth that was bubbling on the surface, the truth that I was a call boy. We just chatted and got to know each other well until at last, he said he got to go back home already.

"So… where do I drop you off?" he asked when we were already inside the car. His question harshly brought me back to reality. The palace that I had built in my imagination crumbled without a warning as I was forced to face the truth, the present. I wondered if this was how my dad felt. It was a punch in the gut, a kick in the balls. It was a reality check. Nothing was ever too good to be true. They thought I was perfect, but I had one single defect, one that they couldn't ever live with.

Despite my reservations about this man, I unexplainably believed that he would be paying me my price. I had argued with myself that I wouldn't accept any payment from him. He was the one I needed to pay. He had treated me like his friend, even his son. He had never once made any reference to how he found me and how I live. He wanted to get to know me and he told me about himself. He had made me feel human again. He had given me the best birthday present.

I had asked him to drop me off at the streetlight where he had found me. When we got there, he slipped a thousand-peso bill and a five-hundred-peso bill in my hand just as I expected. I just smiled at him and put it back in his hands. "I should be the one to pay you," I said. "But what you did to me… for me tonight was priceless. I didn't do anything for you to deserve that money."

"Kaizer, would you have wanted to do something with me?" I was struck by the sheer implication of his words. It was the first time he had spoken of what I do for a living the whole time we were together although not directly. He had not spoken like he wanted to have sex with me; he had spoken like he really wanted to know if I wanted what I was doing. If I let my imagination run wilder, I'd say there was concern in his voice too. But I couldn't open my mouth. I was too busy trying to control my own emotions. I couldn't… I didn't want to break down in front of this guy. "Kaizer, I think I already know your answer to that question. Take the money. Let's just say it's your allowance." I looked at him and nodded. "And son, that watch I bought you… it is for a reason. Today is Friday. After two weeks, I'll meet you here again. Seven-thirty p.m."

"I don't know what to say."

"Just take it, son."

"Thank you."

I had never had sex with anyone the moment I stepped out of the car that night, and I never considered having any with anyone again until I find the guy just for me. I just kept myself inside my room listening to the radio or my CD player. Sometimes I watched TV with my landlady, but I still declined her offer for dinner. I would go out sometimes and wander around the mall, and when Friday comes, I'll be waiting for Greg—the man's name, as I had later found out—at that spot where he first found me. We had fun all the time, and we came to know each other a lot more.

I couldn't forget the second time we were together because I got to know him even more. I mean, I got to know he was straight. I couldn't forget it; it was so embarrassing. That second time, he took me to Westin Plaza. Of course, what was I supposed to think? The minute we were inside our room, I took off all my clothes down to my underwear.

"Kaizer, what are you doing?" Confusion and amusement fought in his voice. I was speechless. What are we doing here, I wanted to ask him, but I couldn't get my mouth to cooperate. I was a little hurt actually when we got there. I had been thinking that I wouldn't be doing this anymore but here we were, in a hotel room. I just stood there naked, staring back at him. I watched his face as he came to realize why I had so suddenly dropped my clothes. He reached inside his bag and gave me swimming trunks. "Wear it," he said, then he changed into his own trunks. "I'm not going to do anything with you, Kaizer. You're like my son, already. Besides, guys don't turn me on." There had been no mention of what I did for a living again after that incident.

I found out later on that he planned to go night swimming at the hotel since he had the next day off at work. We did a lot of stuff together for the past five months. Around Christmas time, he took me to Boom Na Boom, an amusement park that only opens during Christmas season. He also bought me a cell phone as a gift, and I would send him text messages every night from then on. There was one time when he took me to a movie I wanted to see. I guess he was so tired from work that he fell asleep the moment the movie started. Then another time, he took me to Mall of Asia, and we did some ice skating. We always did something different everytime we met.

Still, he was a mystery to me. I couldn't keep myself from wondering what his motives were. I had learned early in life that we don't get something for nothing. He was being nice to me, and he did make a good job of making me forget all those worries when I'm with him. But when I was alone in my room, I couldn't help the doubting thoughts that ran through my mind. I couldn't help but wait for the other shoe to drop. There just have to be one.

I guess I just found myself a little bit more than nervous tonight as I watch the black Camry heading towards me. I woke up this morning feeling agitated and the only reason I could come up with was that it was Friday the Thirteenth. I never believed in superstitions, but falling off the bed, slipping in the bathroom, and tripping myself in the hall in this particular day were just too coincidental. If the other shoe were to drop, it would be today.

I couldn't help but think of the story of Hansel and Gretel. I felt like Greg was just "fattening" me up, and then he would "eat" me later. The house made of candies, it was all for shows. I was torn between trusting the only one who had shown love to me and doubting the only one who could have an ulterior motive against me. And they were only one person. I didn't want to feel this way towards Greg, but somehow I was a little paranoid today.

The car seemed to take forever to get to where I was, but it eventually did. I almost choked, feeling my heart beating so hard on my chest as the Camry stopped in front of me. "Come on in," Greg called from the inside as soon as the window rolled down. I hopped inside the car and Greg made a U-turn, driving to where he came from. "You seem nervous," he commented. I guess I was that obvious.

"I don't know. I have been ever since I woke up this morning," I answered half-truthfully. He actually looked a little nervous too.

"I want you to meet someone, but we'll talk a bit first. We'll eat first." Meet someone. Now he's pimping me, I thought sadly. I tried to act calmly even though I could feel his betrayal filling the air. My eyes stung from the tears that I was fighting to hold back. I never should have trusted him. But I guess this was what life has in store for me. I was to be this way forever.

"Kaizer, we're here." We were parked in front of Wendy's. It was actually where I always liked to eat back when I was still living with my parents. I loved their spicy chicken breast fillet sandwich. "You're awfully quiet tonight, bud." He said as we slid in a booth with our food. He looked concerned but I just shrugged my shoulders. We ate in silence with an occasional glance at each other.

After eating, we drove to a park. He just parked the car and looked like he was waiting for someone. I couldn't help myself; I had to ask. "Are we waiting for someone?"

"Well, I was waiting for you to talk to me," he said. "I need to talk to you. You know, for the past few months we have never talked about that part of your life." I looked at him frightened. I was sure this was it. The other shoe. Seeing the look on my face, Greg hastily said, "No, no don't think like that, Kaizer. I… I just wanted to ask you how you would like to be adopted."

I sat in shock. I was trying to digest what he had told me, but it was too much. "By whom?"

"By me, who else? And my wife."

"You have a wife?" I asked incredulously. What he was telling me was just too much for me to handle; so I dwelt on little things like him having a wife.

But I guess he would have none of that. He had come to know me too well; he was a psychologist, after all. "Yes, I have a wife. Let me rephrase my question, Kaizer. Would you like to be my son? Officially, that is."

I was overwhelmed and I broke down immediately right in front of him. I couldn't contain myself. I was bawling, and I couldn't stop. The tears seemed to be endlessly falling down my face. At the same time, I felt ashamed of myself for thinking something bad of the only person who had shown me kindness and unconditional love. But I couldn't articulate any of my thoughts and all the things I wanted to say. There were only sobs that came out of my mouth while Greg held me as I cried on his shoulders.

"I'm sorry," I said weakly when my crying had gone down a bit. The shame I felt made me realize how much he doesn't deserve to adopt someone like me—to have me as his son. He had taken care of me, but I accused him in my own mind of having ulterior motives. Instead of being grateful to him, I doubted everything that he has done for me. "You don't deserve me. You deserve someone better."

I turned around and opened the door to get out. I had one foot on the ground when Greg's arms clamped around my waist like a vise-grip. My strength vanished. I didn't try to fight him. I just sat with my back to him crying softly to myself. "Why do you think I don't deserve you? I want this more than anything. I don't want you back in the street, back in harm's way."

So I told him. I told him how much I thought that he has motives for being kind to me. I told him how much I doubted him. I told him I thought he was liar. "You said, you wanted me to meet someone. I thought it was a customer and you were pimping me," I said ashamedly, finally turning to face him. I knew I had hurt his feelings. "I'm sorry."

"That's perfectly understandable, Kaizer. I would have thought the same thing if I were in your place. I want you as my son," he said emotionally. His arms were still clamped around my waist and I suddenly found myself hugging him back. I laid my head on his shoulder and cried harder. I cried for the past seven months of my life. I cried from the rejection and the hate of my parents… the loneliness that I was subjected to. But mostly, I cried for joy.

"Thank you very much… Dad. Thank you."

"You made me glad, Kaizer. Come on now, and let's meet your mom and brother."

I could never have known how Friday the Thirteenth could change my life. Seven months ago, I was kicked out of the only home I knew by the only mother and the only father I knew. I lived in the streets for two weeks looking for jobs to feed myself. The futility of which drove me to sell my own body to strangers just for a meal everyday and a roof above my head. Then, I met this man who showed me kindness. He had shown me love in exchange for nothing but for me to be his son. He had given me a new option to live my life, one that I was willing to take.

I met my new mom and my new brother in my new home. It seemed that that was how everything felt to me right now—new. They were the most loving people I have ever known after everything that had happened to me. They didn't even seemed like they had just adopted me; they seemed like they had known me my whole life. They had given me love as freely as Greg did.

And they had the explanation as to why I was adopted right off the street. Karl, my new brother—I didn't even ever think of him as my adopted brother—was like me. He was also a call boy who was picked up from the street and given a home to live in a year ago. Like myself, he had been kicked out of their house for being gay, and he suffered through all the times he was in the street much more than I had.

I had learned that Greg had made it a mission to adopt him the moment he saw him and the same went for me. He and his wife weren't blessed to have kids, but they never took it bad. In fact, it made their love stronger seeing that there wouldn't be anyone but each other in the future. As for me, I knew I would be there for them anytime they needed me. They had given me a new life, and that new life included them.

Greg brought me back to my boarding house that night. He told me he would be picking me up the next day for something important. He didn't tell me we would be going back to my house and my parents. He brought a lawyer with us, and the four them went into the dining room to talk while I was instructed to get any stuff I would like from my room. We took my things to my new home and also picked up what little stuffs I had from the boarding house.

I still can't forget the look of hate my parents gave me that day, and it saddened me deeply that our once perfect family had gone down the drain. I had blamed myself for it, but over time, Greg had helped me realize that none of it was my fault. My parents didn't love me as unconditionally as they had said they did. The court hearings also breezed by, probably because my parents cooperated with whatever Greg wanted. It was like they wanted me out of their lives fast. The judge was too busy with his clogged docket to even give it much thought, and I was soon carrying Greg's name.

I had been enrolled to school as a junior like Karl, my brother. We had been the best of brothers and friends there was, and the fact that we were both gay made us much closer. We never did became boyfriends although when we did start dating other guys there was constant jealousy, but we quickly got over that and talked with each other about what we really wanted. We had decided to just continue being brothers and support each other through everything.

I met Vincent, the love of my life, in law school. He was the most beautiful guy I had ever seen, and he had the most beautiful soul I had ever known. He had accepted my past saying it was a part of what made me all the more wonderful. He liked to joke that I turned him gay because—he says—he had never looked at a guy before I came. My family liked him a lot. We had made a commitment to love each other even beyond afterlife, and we intend to keep it.

Oh, and I finally took my former landlady up on her offer for dinner.

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"Option to Live" Copyright © 2007 RJ Santos All rights reserved.
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