One Night Stand

“Out of suffering have emerged the strongest souls; the most massive characters are seared with scars.” — Kahlil Gibran

***

Admit it, she tells herself. You are excited to see him. Which is completely understandable. Only, please … refrain from giving in to your impulse to jump into bed with him and have sex like rabbits for 3 hours straight.

***

new haven

It did not quite take 3 hours; considerably less, actually. They were not rabbits, after all.

“So… okay, this is like a one-night-stand,” she said. “It shouldn’t mean anything.”

“Sure!” he agreed.

“Just how many one-night-stands have you had, if I may ask?”

“No, you may not,” he said.

The way she wrinkled her nose, before turning her head so he won’t see her face, showed that he had scored a point. Before this, he kept telling himself that the point of meeting up with Alice was so he could break his all-time record as far as making her wrinkle her nose was concerned. That’s what he kept telling himself.

“If you must know,” he continued because she suddenly went so still and silent. It has always made him nervous when she did that. “If you must know,  you may just be the first person I’ve had a one-night-stand with.”

That pleased her immensely. Not wanting him to know that, she changed the subject. “I finally saw my father,” she informed him. “Went to see him and his family in Baltimore. Maybe a month ago?”

He would have wanted to see her face; but the room was dark, and her arms and legs were all around and over him; and it all felt so comfortable that he couldn’t muster the energy to even turn. From his line of vision, all he could appreciate was her hair which, he noticed, was shorter than he remembered. “How was he?” he asked.

“He seemed … happy. Uncomfortable when he saw me but, what did I expect? We were civilized. Civil, even.”

“And your stepmother and siblings?”

“She made herself scarce when I was there. Her kids were in some kind of camp or something, so I didn’t see them that time.”

“What did you talk about with your father?”

“Oh … life — his and mine. And how wonderful the USA is, compared to the country he left behind. How his kids are doing, blah, blah, blah. He gave me 200 dollars for pocket money. Which  was great. I tried to buy something from Tiffany’s with it — but everything in that store was so goddamned expensive! I have no idea how Audrey Hepburn could have wanted to have breakfast in there.”

“Did you tell him you love him?”

Long pause. “Yes I did. But it felt … empty. Like I was only mouthing words.”

It took him a moment to realize that she was trembling. Finally, he turned so that he could look at her, face to face. Her cheeks were wet.

“I hate you, you know,” she said.

“I know,” he said. “I hate you too.”

Alternate Realities (or Alice Thinks “Deep Thoughts” While Typhoon Odette Rages in Region II)

So suppose this is all a dream, and this life is not really my life but the life inside a dream which is inside a dream ad infinitum. Hey  I watched that movie!  Leo was there and the ending was so groan-inducing, the whole movie-house just expelled a collective “Arrrgh” when the screen faded and that spinning top kept on spinning.

The best reality would be the one where  my father stayed and didn’t marry his white American wife. I think I have 2 siblings but, I barely know them … one of them friended me on Facebook. I will still have to decide what to do about that.

A better reality would be the one where my mother was not such a fragile dimwit that she would die of cancer when I was only 12.

I am not saying this reality is completely shitty. No, of course not. Lola and Auntie Cherry would raise their eyebrows at me if I said that. So, no Lola, Auntie, my alternate-reality-musings have nothing to do with you, not at all. Though, if I were to re-script your life grandma, I would have made it so that Lolo did not consume as much pork fat and beef as he had; since now we know that his cholesterol-bingeing probably was the main reason why he had that stroke.

***

It’s raining outside; there is actually a typhoon (again) and the winds are literally howling. The weird thing is, sometimes the sun would peek a little and it will all be shiny and warm, but the rain won’t stop.

The tikbalang.  Image from www.pxleyes.com

The tikbalang. Image from http://www.pxleyes.com

Why is that, I wonder? Lolo said — before he had the stroke — that when it rains while the sun is shining, that means that tikbalangs are getting married. Tikbalangs are local monsters/demons, sort of a cross between horse and human — like centaurs; only, tikbalangs have the head of a horse and the body of a human, something like that.

***

Last night, he called the house.

Which is crazy because I didn’t give him my home number. Kim most probably is the culprit and she will have to answer to me when I get back to Manila.

So there was chatting, small talk, yada, yada. No … not phone sex, pleeasee! He’s not that type of  guy (ha ha, or so I think!)

He said that, tomorrow is September 21, anniversary of Martial Law. 

martial law decraled

The President, who married a First Lady with an obsession for shoes, put my country under Martial Law in 1972. In fairness to Marcos — and other monsters like Sauron and Hitler — were it not for them, the Fellowship of the Ring, the state of Israel and People Power would probably have been confined to an alternate reality. Or maybe not, who knows?

I said, and so?

There’s going to be this concert in the Folk Arts Theater, around 7. And would I like to go?

With you?

No, with Noel Cabangon. For god’s sake. Of course, with me.

If my alternate self was listening — the one who would willingly drop her panties if Jonas asked her to at  this moment — she would have screamed and shaken me ten times by now for giving him such a hard time. My alternate self doesn’t believe in playing hard to get.  Well, tough shit! She’s not the one in charge.

Okay, I say, I’ll arrive in my apartment this afternoon, hopefully, if there won’t be any flooding.

He said that there is some drizzle and winds in Taft Avenue but the chances of heavy rainfall is just about 20%.

Said who?

PAGASA.

I see. And then I decided to be frank. It’s easy to do that when you’re on the phone and several provinces away. Just to be clear here, is this like a 4th date?

Alice, you are the one who is fixated on labels. You can call it anything you want.

I thought I could see him rolling his eyes on the other side of the phone.

And I couldn’t help it, but I had to smile — just when the rusty roof of our kitchen gave in to the rushing winds of the oncoming storm and flew to god-knows-where.

Songs of Conviction

She used to sing it while he was playing the guitar.

She would sing and he would laugh, saying that she had got to have the most off-key voice in the world.

But that he loved her anyway.

She would  roll her eyes and get up in a huff, pretending to be angry.

She would tell him that he’s lazy and crazy and his Jose-Rizal-dreams would land him right where his favorite hero had died.

But that she loved him anyway.

He would stop playing and start dragging her back, tickling her sides as he did so. And she would resist and laugh and try to swat his arms away.

He would hold her fast and tight, pinning her down. She would then smile at him and tell him, no more.

So he would stop; and then he would kiss her on the forehead. She would pout and ask him, why in heaven, of all places, would he kiss her on the forehead.

And he would grin, that parody of a lecherous smile. And then he would kiss her properly and they would proceed to lose track of time until his cellphone rings to remind him that he had a life outside her room, outside her apartment

***

Sometimes, she’d look at his fingers and wonder. They seem so much nicer, so much more elegant, than hers. Her ginger-like hands, with the short stubby wrinkly fingers that have never learned to navigate the simplest guitar chords.

When he wanted to rile her, he would point it out, that for someone who loves to sing as she does, it’s an amazing irony that she was also tone deaf; couldn’t learn a musical instrument; and once destroyed a new stereo system all by herself because she didn’t know  how to turn it on.

Well, she would say, my talents lie in other directions: I can memorize a lot of trivial information and I am an excellent liar.

To demonstrate, she took his face in her hands, looked into his eyes and said very softly, I don’t love you, I have never loved you.

***

He actually loved it when she touched him on the face; and he’d never tell her so, but he also loved it when she played with his hair.

Sometimes she would do it because  she was nervous, like now. She would never admit it and he would never ask her. He would oblige her and pretend that they were both as brave as he said they could be.

She said once that she loved him best for his convictions.

The hell of it was, he never understood why she loved him.

Now, she was combing his hair with her fingers (again) while telling him a story that he had heard from her before. It’s not like I knew him personally, but my grandparents, they were his friends. He and his family used to attend Lola’s Sunday lunches; he had a kid who used to pull my pigtails. Then he just disappeared; his wife looked for him everywhere, even the morgues, but he was just … gone. Eighteen years … I am afraid, you know …

He swallowed. He wanted to say, me too. But he didn’t. He just hugged her tighter and kissed her on the forehead. She did not ask him why in heaven, of all places, would he kiss her on the forehead.

***

She stared at the newspapers, the flashdisk with all the video clips, the CD with some of the stuff he was working on. They were over 6  months old.  Tita Blessie sent them reluctantly.

She stared and stared, wishing with all her heart that he would listen to her off-key singing once more.

Swear Words are Difficult to Translate

Jonas’s family decided to hold a service every year to commemorate his disappearance. They would not believe him dead; but with every passing day, week, month, year … the chance that he may still be alive was growing slimmer and slimmer.

They were in a limbo. Which was worse than being in hell, actually.

That year, Alice found herself sharing a cup of coffee with Jonas’s older sister, Marianne.

***

Alice’s Monologue from Marianne’s POV

The  following passages are difficult for me to translate, so I would beg readers to bear with me in my inadequacy to put into English words that, I can only surmise, have been buried far too deep and far too long.

I used to have an aunt who was also an OFW (Overseas Filipino Worker). She failed to attend the funeral of her dad because she was in America with no green card yet, so she couldn’t come home for the services. Grandfather was buried without her even seeing him.

Alice, somehow, reminds me of her.

***

Sa totoo lang, Mary, ang gusto kong inumin ngayon, beer. Naiinggit nga ako sa mga uncle mo, ayan sa labas, naka-Ginebra.

Actually, hindi talaga ako umiinom. Si Jonas hindi rin mahilig sa alak diba? Bait nga ng kapatid mo. Sa aming dalawa, ako ang demonyita.

‘Tang ina nila Mary, ano ginawa nila kay Jonas? Nung bago ako umalis, galit yan sa akin. Nag-propose ba naman e, sabi ko, sorry huwag muna. See, demonyita nga ako! Paano naman, gusto ko rin matapos yung Masteral ko. Pero sana nagpaka-dalagang Pilipina na lang ako ‘no, at hindi na umalis. Alukin ka ng kasal, mag-yes na lang diba? E gaga ako.

‘Tang ina nila Mary. Sabi ko naman sa kapatid mo mag-ingat e. Masyadong nagpapaka-bayani! Yan nga ang pinag-aawayan namin dati. Sinasabi ko sa kanya na ang mga Ninoy Aquino at Jose Rizal, maagang kamatayan ang hantungan nyan. No exceptions. Sabi naman nya, kaysa naman daw mabuhay ng walang karangalan, walang paglaya, walang prinsipyo. Sabi ko, bullshit! Ano ba yun! Male ego ba?!

‘Tang ina nila Mary. Kahit ganyan yan, mahal ko yan. Mahal ko kapatid mo. ‘Tang ina, bakit ba ako nagmumura?

‘Putsa kasi, sa US hindi ako makapag-mura ng Tagalog. Na-miss ko siguro.

Nang umalis ako, inihatid pa nya ako sa airport. Heavy drama kami! Parang sine nga. Akala ko galit talaga sya. Akala ko maghahanap na ng iba.

E nag-email ako. Aba sumagot! So yun, email. LDR daw, pero officially hindi kami.

Isu-surprise ko sana sya e. Binibiro ko sya na merong Alex Pettyfer look-alike sa faculty ng department sa Yale na type ko. Hindi kumagat ang lolo mo! Ang sabi sa ‘kin, kung para daw kami sa isa’t isa, wala daw makakapigil kahit pa si Alex Pettyfer. Ang tatag din ng kumpiyansa sa sarili nyang kapatid mo, hindi man lang na-threaten na papalitan ko!

‘Tang ina Mary. May karibal kasi ako sa kanya e. Sana babae nga, wish ko lang! Kaya lang, ang karibal e Inang Bayan! Sino ba naman ang makaka-compete? Ha? Sabihin  mo nga?!

‘Tang ina nya .. ‘tang ina nila …

Leonor Rivera was Jose Rizal's girlfriend (sort of) before he went to Spain. She was supposedly the model for "Maria Clara", a female character in the novel "Noli Me Tangere". Maria Clara is supposedly the model that Filipinas are supposed to emulate. Alice just said, fuck them!  Photo from Wikipedia.

Leonor Rivera was Jose Rizal’s girlfriend (sort of) before he went to Spain. She was supposedly the model for “Maria Clara”, a female character in the novel “Noli Me Tangere”. Maria Clara is supposedly the model that Filipinas are supposed to emulate. Alice just said, fuck them!
Photo from Wikipedia.

The Starfish Story

Alice: All right, explain it to me again, why do you have to do this?

Jonas: They need help with logistics.

Alice: And that would have to be provided by you? You are not exactly the secretary type, you know.

Jonas: The offer is great. Fresh air, mountain trekking, very nice people. And there’s a beach!

Alice: No electricity, no water, no reliable transportation. And I wouldn’t be there.

Jonas: You can come with me. We can travel together.

Alice: Yeah right! And do what? Carry your camera?

Jonas: Well  … you can provide the entertainment (lecherous smile).

Alice: Jonas, why do you have to do this?

Jonas: If I tell you the starfish story again, you will start rolling your eyes at me. I have to do this Alice because this is what I am.

Image from Wikipedia.  The starfish story came from an inspirational book and it goes like this: Once there was a young man (or woman) walking along a beach who saw a fisherman throwing a starfish back into the ocean. The young person  asked the fisherman why he bothers throwing the starfish back when there are so many starfishes along the beach that can never be saved. What difference can this futile action of the fisherman do? The fisherman didn't reply and threw another starfish back into the sea. Then he said,  "Well, sir I made a difference on that one."

Image from Wikipedia. The starfish story came from an inspirational book and it goes like this: Once there was a young man (or woman) walking along a beach who saw a fisherman throwing a starfish back into the ocean. The young person asked the fisherman why he bothers throwing the starfish back when there are so many starfishes along the beach that can never be saved. What difference can this, futile action of the fisherman, make? The fisherman didn’t reply and threw another starfish back into the sea. Then he said, “Well, sir, I made a difference on that one.”

Alice: Why you?

Jonas: Why not?

Alice: Sometimes, I feel like a spoiled little bitch girl when I think that  my … you know …

Jonas: Boyfriend?

Alice: … something like that. When I think that you go off to do these Indiana Jones stuff while I enjoy my bourgeois ass in the city.

Jonas: I happen to love that bourgeois ass.

Alice: Thank you.

Airport Tragedies

In August 21, 1983, a man died in this airport.
Picture from http://www.consulting.ait.asia

His death sparked a revolution. Jonas considers him as a personal hero. Picture from ash0621.hubpages.com

… His death sparked a revolution. Jonas considers him as a personal hero.
Picture from ash0621.hubpages.com

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

He was not so heartless that he wouldn’t accompany her to the airport.

The thing is, she needed a driver — and of course, she could have called a taxi for that. If she had, then she wouldn’t be having this scintillating hour of non-conversation en route to NAIA while braving the most atrocious traffic in EDSA.

“How’s your work, Jonas?”

“Let’s not get into that, Alice.”  She can actually count in one hand the number of times she had heard him speak in that clipped, cold and no-eye-contact manner.

“Kim emailed me,” she persisted. “She said I can stay with her in New York while I’m still trying to look for a place. My classes won’t start for a few more weeks yet.”

Silence.

“Are you going to punish me forever? Will you never try to understand why I have to do this?”

Alice heard the man beside her  take a deep breath. To prepare for what he was going to say, perhaps?

Still silence.

She tried to put her hand over his.

“I’m driving, Alice. Please don’t do that.”

So she didn’t. And tortured herself looking at his profile while his eyes were fixed on the highway.

***

Ninoy Aquino International Airport Terminal 2.

The queue was short at the Departure Area.

She turned to Jonas who was holding her luggage bags. “Well, here we are. Please say something. I don’t want  to go like this. I don’t want to remember you hating me.”

For the first time that day, he looked at her. And for the first time that day, she recognized the man she loves; not the stranger/driver who brought her to the airport.

“Right now, I’m debating with myself whether to break your legs or take you to the National Penitentiary.  Just so you won’t leave me. But I don’t hate you.”

She laughed. The choking, crying type of giggle that she can only do around him. Just because she was so relieved. “You made a joke!”

Jonas took her hands, kissed them; then he framed her face with his palms so she would look into his eyes.

“Alice, I love you. And it pisses me off like hell that I am not enough for you. No, don’t say anything. It’s true. This is not enough. I am not enough.” He brushed off the tears that had started trickling down, ruining her mascara. “It’s okay. I love you. Nothing will make me happier than to know you are happy. We had 5 years together and they were the happiest of my life.”

That was when he kissed her. Right there, in the middle of Departure Area, in the airport where a man was shot so many years ago.

“Jonas, I’m sorry,” she said, still crying.

“Goodbye, my love.”

And that was it. She had  to go.

The Love Story that Disappeared

The Pasig River. Where a lot of tragic things happened. Photo from Wikipedia.

The Pasig River. Where a lot of tragic things happened. Photo from Wikipedia.

Before I met Jonas, I get woozy when I would hear the term “falling in love.”

In my (personal) dictionary, “woozy” is defined as “adj. to be nauseated to the point of retching one’s tonsils out of one’s throat” or “noun. a sensation similar to the gag reflex combined with the compulsion to throw oneself into a river.”

That was before I met Jonas. After I met him I had to construct a different dictionary.

Kim used to say, “Alice, you are an old maid waiting to happen.”

To which I would reply, “Kim, I’d rather be an old maid than be Britney Spears.” Or my mother.

Jonas (at first) looked … ordinary.

He arrived at the gate of my apartment wearing a dark shirt, dark jeans, and a wooden image of the Virgin Mary strung on an abaca yarn around his neck.

He asked me where I wanted to go. I asked him, “Didn’t you have a plan at all for tonight?

He smiled. And I was floored. “I thought we were going to be spontaneous.”

So off to Star City we went. It’s a carnival of sorts, beside the Manila Bay.

We did the ferris wheel and the roller coaster. I had to beg off going into the horror house — imaginary zombies also make me woozy.

Jonas, needless to say, was the perfect gentleman. Didn’t even try to hold my hand.

“You would have slapped it if I did,” he told me years later. He was right.

On the way back to my apartment, we saw a bunch of college guys hooting at a very sexy model-like girl with high heels, big boobs and legs that reached up to my armpits.

I looked for my companion’s reaction. He smiled at me. A sad smile, I thought at that time.

“My dad used to say that humans objectify the things they love in an effort to control them. But, if you truly love a person, you do not reduce them to an object.”

I returned the smile and patted him on the shoulder. I would have wanted to hold his hand at this point; but I remembered that I never hold hands on the first date. Not that I’ve had a lot of first dates in my life.

“I think I love your dad,” I joked.

“You do?”  That smile again. Good god, I thought, all this smiling would soon freeze our facial muscles and turn us into Jokers. But Jonas sure had great-looking dimples! “Well he’s dead.”

Faux pas, I thought. “I’m sorry,” I mumbled. Without thinking, I took his right hand  in mine and squeezed it. As a gesture of sympathy, of course.

Then he said: “You know Alice, if I knew that my dad would get you to hold my hand, I would have mentioned him a lot sooner.”

Eight years after he said those words, Jonas disappeared.

My dictionary acquired another word: “heartbroken — adj. a feeling or emotion that makes one want to throw oneself into a river.”