Alice knew she had to find work. The kind that pays a steady salary. The one that can translate to a career.
Surfing the net and going to government agencies and writing letters and emails to people asking for information regarding a certain missing person is not a job. Okay, she had been doing ODesk and Freelancer projects (the wonders of the Internet!) but it is not enough. She had always perceived work to happen in a “real” world; not in a virtual one (whatever that means).
But first: she had to realize that her return — this return — is (probably) not a short-term (not even a temporary?) hiatus. She may have to stay in this godforsaken country of her birth for a loong time.
Her aunt was beginning to ask her the question that Alice had been dreading to hear: “What are your plans dear?”
Her preferred answer was: “I initially planned to come here; look around, perform a quick, painless extraction mission (and maybe get laid); then leave again, back to my cushy New York job that offered an H1B visa.”
Of course she did not say that. But if she were a bitchier person, she probably would — but, she was only beginning to realize, frankness is never the best policy when dealing with her people.
She reads the news everyday. And everything can be summarized into a Charles Dickens cliche: it was the best of times; it was the worst of times.
The Philippine Stock Exchange is moving up; constructions are beginning to sprout; the Philippines is second to China as far as economic growth is concerned; her Aunt Juliet, after 54 years of being a bachelorette, married a 60-year old widower who adored her.
Jonas is still missing.
So things are looking up — except for Alice’s depression.
She tells herself: he is probably dead. It has been months and there’s … nothing. Just clues that lead to a series of disappointments. You have practically traveled the whole archipelago that you can write a Lonely Planet guide about it (she has actually done something like that in one of the freelance internet ghostwriting jobs that came her way).
She still looks at his picture. Every night … well almost. The last one she took of him when he visited her in Connecticut. It was spring and she hustled him to pose beside an apple tree. Jonas was usually averse to having his picture taken, which is weird because he does photography as a hobby. He could do selfies with Alice and he has taken thousands of pictures of her. But he would usually refuse when she offered to take photographs of him solo.
That day was an exception. Maybe it’s because they almost fought that day. Because Jonas asked her a question she did not want to hear from him: “What are your plans Alice?”
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