Introduction: Without You is about a woman’s rather late coming-of-age, whose quest for meaning in passionate encounters brought her to acceptance and power over self, within the context of Asian feminist theology espousing that sexuality empowers women to connect to humanity and to God. Learning to love Ziv, her grand passion, sans obsession and despair is almost an agape experience, which is why the protagonist Julliet says, “it is the only thing that really mattered to me in this lifetime.”  Without You is also the title of a pop song that says “ I can’t live / If living is without you…”

The deleted excerpts are shown as the paragraphs under strike-throughs. To present their contexts, they are presented with surrounding words that remain (for now) in the novel-in-progress. The strike-through paragraphs are deleted because they function to build character rather than build the story. They also slow down the narrative pace so that, with their deletion, the results flow with more energy.

Deleted from Without You
I was born to love Ziv and I would never be free of him, he would always be a part of me. He had broken down all the walls with his love. I could not live in this world without him. The ancient cliche, yes, but that was the simple absolute truth for me some forty years ago and until now, and I would not know how to put it in any other way. True, this was the same old story as primeval as the mountains.

I was not lonely anymore when I met Ziv. It was a whole new world. But then it came to pass that I was in frequent state of anguish that I wished I had never met Ziv at all. But then what would my life be? I asked myself if I would rather be in peace and lonely, or in constant turmoil but NOT lonely? It seemed the latter was the lesser evil, so I embraced this dark bondage. Deep down inside of course I hoped for the day of deliverance. Meanwhile I had to survive and learn along the way. Every experience was a form of knowledge. If not, what was the reason for living? The world was a huge laboratory and life was an experiment, I thought.

The world in my youth revolved only around my grandma’s house in Otis Street Paco; churches in Paco, Pandacan and Quiapo; school; houses of aunts in Makati; Makati cemetery during All Saints’ Day when once a charming cousin held my hand as he helped me overcome a steep path to reach the other side of the graveyard leading to my brother’s niche and his warm touch gave me a strange feeling—it was the first time that a young man held my hand in that way; markets and bazaars; Chinese jewelry stores; the pharmacy and the convenience store along Legarda; “my” national book store in Avenida Rizal where I bought innumerable Emilie Lorings; and I was looking forward to my exploration of Quiapo alone—the ultimate adventure, before youth loses its innocence and the old world charm of the city finally fades.

Then I met Ziv and he showed me the world wonder by wonder. We went to Mehan Garden where we walked forever and viewed an art exhibit; we watched movies (Dr. Zhivago, Tess of D’ Ubervilles, Fools, and the x-rated Language of Love) in theaters whose interiors I only imagined before; he was my date for my high school Halloween night (where he said he got almost killed by the boys’ dagger stares, but he was a young man already in college, they were no match for him); we went to his ancestral home one rainy day after my Linguistics class at FEU, where we needed to walk a mile of soft muddy brown earth that felt warm to the feet despite the pouring rains and cold winds. Then upon reaching home where the kitchen wall was actually a mountain rock (outside was a real mountain boulder), he washed my feet and wiped them dry with soft, white towel; then he boiled water on dry wood sticks so we can have sizzling coffee. When the rains stopped, Ziv took me to a still-undiscovered brook with crystal clear water cascading from a boulder, the water tasted cool and sweet, and one can also bathe in peace beside the brook. But one took risks in going there. We had to descend steep precipices then climb the same on our way back. Just one fatal slip and one would roll down, maybe hit one’s head on a sharp rock. Today, our secret trysting place has ceased to exist. The place has become a subdivision with houses that looked like sepulchers to me with their flat roofs and pallid paint.

Ziv brought me to the heights but it was also him who brought me to the depths of misery, shame, guilt, disgrace and despair. So I hated him as much as I loved him. I was sure someday I would grow wings and escape his hold on me.

It took four decades before the day of deliverance came unannounced. I was not aware that gradually, I was being set free from this perpetual battle, I was discovering treasures hidden in the darkness, riches stored in secret places. One day I just realized I had ceased to love Ziv in a desperate, obsessive way that was almost hatred; but calmly now, confidently, serenely, with grace and dignity; and for me this was the most precious thing on earth in this lifetime, the only thing that really mattered.

It was in October 1971 when I came to be aware that Ziv existed in our neighborhood. We actually grew up together without knowing each other until much later. He knew me first before I knew him.

One Saturday after lunch, I was on the bus bound for Quiapo (but actually all passengers disembark at the crossroad that led to Avenida Rizal) and was about to give the conductor my fare when someone from far right intercepted, “Here… for two.” I heard a man’s voice as an arm stretched to give the fare money to the conductor. 

“I live near your grandma’s house, we’re neighbors,” he recited as I looked his way, surprised. 

“Ah… Thanks,” I replied. 

When the bus reached destination, he nodded at me by way of saying he was going ahead, I thought he had a class, obviously he was in college, he had a notebook; and I nodded back. I walked a short distance towards National Book Store, feeling very much grown-up and independent because my grandma and aunt had already trusted me as responsible enough to go on a downtown trip by myself. I proceeded to the second level of the store where the paperbacks beckoned. Right there on the revolving rack were new arrivals, Emilie Loring titles. I bought two then went home to savor my new treasures. I already forgot about the nervous young man on the bus who paid for my fare, who said he was my neighbor but did not tell me his name. It was really awkward with all the people around us having to listen to him declare we were neighbors.

On a Monday that followed when I rode on the way to school, someone signaled also for a ride even before the jeep got to move and it was him again. He took the front seat beside the driver. He made sure I noticed him and was quick to pay the driver a fare for two, turning his head to tell me, “Don’t pay anymore,” and I said “Thanks” reluctantly. I felt uncomfortable having him pay for my fare. What did he want from me? I did not want to be friends with a man. After the five-minute ride to the gas station-jeep terminal, we crossed the street together at the rotunda where three lanes led to Mendiola, Legarda, and Santa Mesa. We walked together along Legarda towards my school.

“I study in UM,” he said to break the silence. “3rd year.”

“Really.  What’s your course?”

“Political science.”

“Where would that lead you?”

“My father wants me to be a lawyer, like him.”

I didn’t know what to say.

“You’re in fourth year, aren’t you?”

Was he guessing? “Yes, I replied.” Maybe he did some little research about me.

“By the way, my name is Sebastian.”

“How do they call you?”

“Ziv. May I know your name?”


We reached the gate of my school of which I was not proud. Why can the school owner not afford to take away those photo studio, tailoring shop and other stores on the ground floor to make our school look like a normal, decent school just like the three schools next to us along the same street. I was really embarrassed especially now that a guy from UM was walking me to the gate. But he did not seem to be affected by the abnormal façade of my school.

“I’ll wait for you at the magazine store this noon after class. My classes end same time as yours every MWF,” Ziv announced.

I was caught off guard again. Did I give my consent for him to become part of my routine? The truth was I did not really like him but I also did not hate him and I was not afraid of him either. Why did I not tell him to stop seeing me, stop riding whatever public vehicle with me, stop paying for my fare? It seemed I went into a trance each time he was with me. My mind went empty and I could not think properly.  Was he doing hypnosis or something? I realized he had a game plan and he was sure of every move to annihilate the target who was me. He was taking control of me and I was so naïve. I realized this just now, after more than three decades.

True enough, Ziv was waiting at the magazine store just a few steps before crossing the roundabout.  Strange, but I was relieved to see him. He kept his word. While we crossed the road towards the jeep terminal at the gas station, he told me he would stop and come down from the jeep at Mendoza St. and just walk his way home because my grandma might see us riding together and scold me. I thought why would my grandma scold me. Did my grandma know him and how would she suspect he was interested in me. So, he was really cautious and knew the obstacle to his target.

And so for a week, every MWF, we came home together after class. But every TTh, he got sick and would make himself very visible along Otis St. when I came home and alight from the jeep before 1:00 p.m. and I was confused and glad.

I was not exactly thrilled that Ziv came into my life the way I got excited with my crushes in school. But I liked the attention he was giving me and I came to notice that he was in fact handsome— tall, lean, with finely chiseled nose, a dimple when he smiled, soulful eyes, smooth skin and he smelled clean, with scent of fresh mint. He looked like Robin Gibb especially when he grew his hair long.

The following week as we walked one morning, when he held my hand and I did not resist, Ziv stated matter-of-factly, “So it’s us, officially, formally…”

“What? You have not even officially courted me!”

“That was what I was doing all along…”

“It was just a brief period, why are you in a hurry? I don’t know you well.”

“We have been neighbors for so many years. Your grandma knows my parents. We live on the same street. I’m not a bad person.” Later when my grandma discovered our relationship, she would call Ziv the evil one. I came to hate my grandma who loved me fiercely.

The next time we were together, he gave me his honor pin, awarded by the elite ranger cadet corps in his university. The gesture made us officially a couple.

“Please take care of my honor pin. I really worked hard to earn it, went through so many rigorous training, it is really precious and I’m entrusting it to you.”

I did not answer. I just looked at the pin, then place it inside the pocket of my school bag.  A few years later when we broke up, I would throw it away together with the silver ring with our engraved names that he also gave, the Russian-style cap, his photos and letters because I was so much in pain, I had to do something, but then I regretted doing it and suffered all the more.

Then he asked if I could be absent from class any day this week if we do not have an exam or any event in class that I could not afford to miss. When I asked why, he said we would go on a date. 


“Anywhere you like. Do you want to watch a movie?”

I love movies. So I replied, “Yes.”

I thought myself so fortunate. I was on top of my academic class, felt attractive and thought every boy in the class had a crush on me, and I had a boyfriend to prove it. None of my classmates had a boyfriend. Many boys were flirting with me but none had the courage to actually tell me explicitly what they felt about me. I thought I was in control. I felt proud and highly accomplished. Later I would learn from experience the truth that pride comes before the fall, and how terribly painful it was to fall from grace.
Copyright © Cymbeline Refalda-Villamin


Cymbeline Refalda-Villamin graduated with an AB in Literature from Far Eastern University and studied Creative Writing at Ateneo de Manila University. She was a writing fellow in the National Writers’ Summer Workshop–University of the Philippines in 1976. Some of her works are available at Amazon.


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