♒♒ Tully's


"He was so... more than unreal. Do you know what I mean?" said Z.
"I think so."
"I guess it took someone as unreal as him to break through my own unreality. It struck me the very first time I met him. That's why I liked him. Or maybe I only thought so after I got to like him. It amounts to the same thing either way. "

The other piano player returned from his break and began to play themes from old film scores. Perfect: the wrong background music for the wrong scene.

"I sometimes think, maybe, in the end, I was only using him. And maybe he sensed it all along, what do you think?" Z asked.
"I wouldn't know," M said. "That's between you and him."
Z said nothing.

♒♒

After a full twenty seconds of silence, I realized the two had nothing to say. I put the magazine down and checked my watch. Half past eight. There were no people outside the glass walls. The bus that brings people to Ayala Station will soon be on a 30-minute interval round. M placed her hand on the table.

"Z, just be patient. Without this you're pretty much screwed." said M as she fiddled through the ring on her right hand. "I used to think that I was the most impatient person in the world, hell I still am, but somehow with him, It's like he transformed me into a much more patient person. Maybe it's just with him, or maybe I've changed in general."

"I get you."

"I don't know if he purposely tries to play mind games or what, but if you're not familar with him you will automatically assume he's playing hard to get, which pretty much is, he just does it without realizing it or so he wants us to think."

"Mmm.. hmm." Z nodded as she eagerly listened as to what M has to say.

"If he seems like he's ignoring you, he's not, he's busy, doing his own thing, wrapped up in work, or his little box. Ignore him, thats the only way unfortunately, and when you do finally get him off your mind he shows up out of nowhere like nothing happened, ready to talk your ear off."

I couldn't believe that my piano buddy understood me that well.

"Don't call him a lot, don't talk to him a lot, just keep contact to a minimal."
"That's kind of depressing, isn't it.?"
"You bet." M tossed with unparalleled force. Her coif bounced a few inches.  "Anyway, he needs this thing called space, and if you don't give that to him, well, you'll get disappointed and it seems to me the only way for that is to treat him like butter. In all honesty, it's sad, but true, and maybe this is just him that I know but you have to treat him like butter or he will treat you like butter."

Z chuckled. I caught her smile as she put her hands on her lips to clear a speck of orange pulp.

"Understaf he's not like other people. He's different, so different from other people you can't help but want to follow him into the forest of his out of this world perspective... He interests only at the present time and look at the world positively. Many times he feels hurt because of reality, but he will not run away and he will overcome that difficulty." M tried to catch for her breath.

"Go on..."

"Stand by him. He might seem like he's pushing you away one minute then holding you close the next. He's probably testing you, examining you, probing in with a flashlight, trying to figure your motives, your thoughts, et cetera... Don't take too much of his aloof nature though, stand your ground once in a while. Being a bit childish as he may seem, he needs a girl who can handle him,  a-k-a, a very strong individual."

"Are you two that close before?"

"Of course! I could say he is a good best friend, until the complexity of a romantic relationship came in. But you know, deep inside, he's shy and has a few close friends, who mean a lot to him... It may seem like he's a social butterfly but that's just his nature. He hates confrontations, and conflict, so if you must confront him, expect to deal with a very stubborn uncomfortable situation."

A brief pause hovered between them.

How about you? How do you see him? M broke the silence.
"Well... He moves very fast and very energetic, and he's very self confident... sometimes. He is not the type to sit down and feel sorry or regret anything for long, especially with "love"?

"Uh-uh. Fill me in."

"Even he is a high and self-confident type and he centers his own thought as a main focus, he certainly is not a mean person. He is the type who feels sorry if you remember bad things he said to you that he had already forgotten, but you did not -- like justice, I think he likes that. At times he  dares to show his opinion or even argue about a certain subject even he knows it might bring him problems." Z said. "You know... A straight forward type of guy." she added.

"Ha ha ha. He's not a good liar, is he? He hardly lies except if he think it is necessary and he will not lie to you about serious matters, but if he lies he will lie only to a small little thing." M interjected.
"But he still lies."
"Aren't we all liars?"
"You have a point."
"You see, he might take forever to say what really needs to be said. Who cares?"
"You're losing me."

"Wait wait wait, what I mean is... Let him say it first. It might take forever but who cares, at least you know when he says it, he means it deeply in his core of his being. You know with his personality he won't say something he doesn't mean, he wont lead you on, he wont push you down, he will be there with kind words, and a gentle voice, then there are times his voice is colder than ice, and his distance is unbearable, but just remember at the end of the tunnel, there is a light, and hope, and if it's meant to be, it will happen."

"Sounds like a hard thing to do."

♒♒

"It's 9, don't you think it's better if we go somewhere else?"
"Sure, I don't mind. It's nice talking to you."
M smiled and got up, whisking away the bill. "Let me take care of this, it's pay day, after all."
"If you're sure then by all means" Z said. "But one more thing, I was wondering If I could ask you another question."
"Certainly."
"Over the phone you said that there are times that I should let go. I don't quite understand that."
"Yes. Sometimes he acts like he doesn't want you there, but in reality I believe he does, the more he acts like he doesn't like you, is probably when he does, and that means you have to let go."
Z nodded.
"He's a complicated creature, but isn't that what you like about him?"
"I suppose so."

♒♒






I didn't follow them. They sure had a great time, and probably they will have another good talk. Clutching my brown umbrella, I went outside and waited for the bus. The rain kept falling on the same rate. From where I stand, through the building arcades, the neon signs of the building next door, a hundred thousand strands of rain sped earthward through an orange glow. If I looked down, the rain seemed to pour straight into one unified point on the ground.

The rain kept falling until midnight.

♒ Tully's

The drizzle still hadn't let up by seven. It was the first rain since last month. The rain had been preceded by four or five days of crisp, clear, late summer skies, fooling people into thinking that the rainy season has started. From the twenty-third floor window, every square inch of ground looked dark and damp, and a traffic jam stretched several blocks from the east 32nd street.

It's 7:30 pm now. An hour and a half past Close-of-Business, and an hour and a half has passed that I should have gone home.

I stared out long and hard, things began to melt in the rain. In fact, everything in this pre-made city  was melting. The premiere hotel across the street, the cranes, the rows of buildings,the artificial open spaces, the figures beneath their multi-colored umbrellas, everything. Even the streak of light that stretched across the horizon of Laguna de Bay. Yet when I shut my eyes for a few seconds and opened them again, the city was back the way it had been. Six cranes loomed in the gray haze in contrast with the black of the night, flocks of umbrellas dodged back and forth across the streets of shops, the artificial open spaces soaked up their fill of May rain.

25... 24, 23. The elevator opened it's steel doors. A late thirties-looking lady was standing on the corner right of the elevator box, alone. She was kind of cute, for a person who might have twins or quadruplets as children. Putting eyes off her curves, I pressed the "G" button. Apparently, the lady behind me forgot to press this button. Or should I say, she did that on purpose? Beats me.


In a sunken area in the middle of a coffee lounge at a building across ours, a girl wearing a bright pink dress sat at a cerulean blue grand piano playing quintessential coffee lounge numbers filled with arpeggios and syncopation. Not bad actually, though not an echo lingered in the air beyond the last note of each number. What striked me is the sheer similarity of the girl I dated in high school. She was also my pre-school crush.

It was quarter to 8 and the queue lines to West Route Bus headed to Ayala station was still unbearable. Since I had nothing better to do, I had a cup of coffee inside and watched the piano player. She was about twenty-one, same as mine, her shoulder length hair immaculately coiffed like whipped cream atop a cake. The coif swayed merrily, left and right, to the rhythm of some classic jazz piece, bouncing back to the center when the song ended. She gazed around after the number and her face showed as clear as day. Back then I knew, she really was M.

at some coffee shop

M was my pre-school and piano lesson classmate. We were the same age, the same class. We sometimes had to do duets together.  But came grade one, and we parted. All that was left of me was a memory of her tiny pale hands and pretty hair and a fluffy dress. We dated when we were in high school, during a fine summer vacation. After a long while, we parted ways again. A summer fling, I guess. But I can say that she was the one who understood me, from all my friends.

It's disturbing to realize this. Have I stripped her of her hands and hair and dress? Is it the rest of her still living unattached somewhere else? Of course this can't be. The world goes on without me. People cross streets through no interventions on my part, sharpen pencils, move 20 meters a minute west to east, fill coffee lounges such as this with music that's refined to nothingness. She sat on the table across mine, looking out of the glass walls. I didn't bother  to call her or even to introduce myself. There's no point in doing that. Besides, I prefer looking at her from a distance.

"Sorry to keep you waiting," a woman's voice from behind her said. "Work ran late, and I just couldn't get free."
"No problem, the piano keeps me company"
She dropped her keys down on the table  and ordered an orange juice without bothering to look at the menu. It was Z, the person I was dating.

I like Z for a lot of reasons. Her dry humour and natural disposition to things of little to no value makes me feel anchored to the ground, but in a good way. Her taste in clothes was nicely succinct as well. This day she wore ample white cotton slacks, an orange and yellow floral blouse, sleeves rolled up to the elbows, and a leather shoulder bag which probably belonged to her mom. None of them new, but all well cared for. She wore no rings nor necklace nor bracelet nor earrings. her bangs were short and brushed naturally to the side. She keeps me up all night, by this I mean in a wholesome way. And I'd like to know her more.

"What sort ofwork?" M ventured to ask.
"Air traffic control at Philippine Air Lines. I've been there for quite some time." said Z.

Their conversation trailed off. I slowly took out a magazine on a nearby stand and covered my face for they might see me. Another piano player sat on the bench, finished a piece, brought the lid down, and retired somewhere else for his break. I envied him.

"How long have you been friends with him?" M asked.
"Two weeks, three days, I guess. And you?" Z said.
"He was my pre-school piano buddy. I knew him since we were little." M answered right off. "From the time I first met him at the recital practice to the time we parted ways after high school. I remember because I keep a diary."

The orange juice came. They talked for a few minutes then the waiter trailed unto my seat. My empty coffee cup was spirited away.

Past eight. The lights in the shop dimmed for dinner hour. The warm incandescent lights began to blink on. Red lights lit up on the crane. Fine needles of rain became more visible through the gathering night. The queue line outside was starting to subside.

"Where were we?" asked M.
"The things I had to know in order to understand him."
"Oh yes, that's it. Believe me he's one complicated intergalactic jerk."

The taxi driver and God's telephone number

1:43 am

I gave my  arms and legs a full stretch on the roomy backseat and considered where I should really go. I have a full night at my disposal, being the last one at the office rendering overtime work. Now all I have to do is figure out where the hell should I head to and spend the rest of the day. Right now I needed a good dose of regular people walking on two legs in a regular way in a regular place.

"Edsa-ayala, ser," I told the taxi driver.

Traffic was jammed solid in the direction of Ayala. Even at this unholy hour, McKinley road was full of metal junks with nocturnal people inside. Past a certain point the cars seemed practically glued in place, motionless. Every so often a wave would pass through the cars, budging them forward a few inches. I thought about the rotational speed of the earth. How many miles an hour was this road surface whirling through space? I did a quick calculation in my head and came up with a figure that could have been no faster than a Spinning teacup at a carnival.

There are many things we don't really know. It's an illusion that we know anything at all. If a group of aliens were to stop me and ask, Say, bud, how many miles an hour does the earth spin at the equator? I'd be in a fix. Hell. I don't even know why Wednesday follows Tuesday. I'd be an intergalactic joke.

I can't remember where and when I took this photo.









I've read 20,000 leagues under the Sea and Don Quixote three times through. I've read The Metamorphosis by Franz Kafka once. I can even recite the value of pi to sixteen places. "3.1415926535897932" Would I still even be a joke? Probably. They'd laugh their alien heads off.

Would you care to to listen to some music, ser?" asked the driver.
"Sure.," I said.
And at that a Mozart string quartet filled the pine-scented car. I got the feeling I was in a dressing room at a wedding reception.

"Say," I asked the driver, "you know the value of pi?"
"You mean the one they sell in Jollibee?"
"Uh, no. That's peach mango pie. I mean the pi, in mathematics."
"Ah, that 3.14 shiznit?"
"That's the one. How many decimal places do you know?"
"I know it to thirty-two places," the driver tossed out. "Beyond that, well..."
"Thirty two places?"
"There's a trick to it, but yes. Why do you ask?"
"Oh nothing really," I said, taken aback, crestfallen. "Never mind."

I  suddenly remembered a friend who said that he was always defeated. We have a lot of similarities, and maybe circumstances that happen to each other's lives too. So we listened to Mozart as the taxi inched forward ten meters. People in the cars and buses around us seemed like zombies hanging in aluminum rods to be transported in a nearby zombie-shredder. None too comfortable.

"Awful traffic," I said.
"That it is, but sure as dawn follows night, it's got to let up sometime."
"Fair enough, but doesn't it get on your nerves?"
"Certainly, I get irritated, I get upset. Especially when I'm in a hurry. But I see it all as part of our training. To get irritated is to lose our way in life."
"That sounds like a religious interpretation of a traffic jam if there ever was one."
"I'm a Christian," said the driver. "I don't go to church, but I've always been a Christian."
"Is that so? So you've seen God then, as many Christians claim."

"Certainly, I telephone Him every night."
"Excuse me?" I stammered. Things were starting to jumble up in my head again. "If everyone called God, wouldn't the lines be too busy all the time?

"No problem there. God is your simultaneous presence. So even if a million people were to telephone Him at once, He'd be able to speak with everyone simultaneously."
"I'm no expert, but is that an orthodox interpretation? I mean, theologically speaking."
"I'm something of a radical. That's why I don't go to church."
"I see," I said.

The taxi advanced fifty meters. I can see the gasoline station at the corner of Edsa-Ayala intersection.

"My father gave it to me when I was 12," said the driver out of nowhere.
"Gave you what?"
"God's telephone number."

I let out a groan so loud it drowned out everything else. Either I was going crazy or they were all looney toons.

"He told just you, alone, in secret?"
"Yes, just me, in secret. He's a fine gentleman. Would you care to get to know Him?"
"If possible," i said.
"Well then, it's 0917-314..."
"just a second," I said, pulling out my notebook and pen. But do you think it's all right, telling me like this?"
"Sure, it's all right. I don't go telling just anyone. And you seem like a good person."
"Well, thank you. But what should I talk to God about? I'm not Christian or anything. I don't go to church recently."
"No problem there, all you have to do is to speak honestly about what concerns you or troubles you. No matter how trivial you think it is. God never gets bored and laughs at you."
"Thanks. I'll give him a call."

"That's the spirit." said the driver.
"Well then I can tell Him about how I can be so detached and cold but my intentions tell otherwise. You see I'm not that wonderful for a person."
"Maybe you should start by going back home, toss away your ego, and tell your family that you love them."
"Maybe."
"Don't waste time. Life is short."

Traffic began to flow smoothly as the Ayala skyscrapers came into view. We didn't speak the rest of the way there.

"Can you drive me home?" I said.
"Sure, this taxi can go to any point of Luzon, anyway."

Pour toi.

At the bottom of her heart, however, she was waiting for something to happen. Like shipwrecked sailors, she turned despairing eyes upon the solitude of her life, seeking afar off some white sail in the mists of the horizon. She did not know what this chance would be, what wind would bring it her, towards what shore it would drive her, if it would be a shallop or a three-decker, laden with anguish or full of bliss to the portholes. 

Capones island, Zambales 01-21-2012

But each morning, as she awoke, she hoped it would come that day; she listened to every sound, sprang up with a start, wondered that it did not come; then at sunset, always more saddened, she longed for tomorrow. 

Dusty miller

I sat down opposite her and rubbed my eyes. A short ray of sunlight divided the table, me in light, her in shadow. Colorless shadow. A withered potted "Dusty Miller" that i bought from Manila Seedling bank sat on the table. Outside, someone was watering down the street. Splash on the pavement, smell of wet asphalt graced Malumanay Street.

"Want some coffee?"
No reply.
So I got up and went over to grind coffee for two cups. It occurred to me after I ground the coffee that what I really wanted was ice tea. I'm forever realizing things too late.

The transistor radio played a succession of innocuous pop songs. A perfect morning soundtrack. The world had barely changed in four years. Only the singers and song titles. And my age.
The water came to a boil. I shut off the gas, let the water cool thirty seconds, poured it over the coffee. The grounds absorbed all they could and slowly swelled, filling the room with a sweet aroma.

"Been here since last night?" I asked, kettle in hand.
An ever so slight nod of her head.
"You've been waiting all this time?"
No answer.

The room had steamed up from the boiling water and strong sun. I shut the window and switched on the air conditioner, then set the two mugs of coffee on the table.

"Drink," I said. reclaiming my own voice.
Silence.
"Be better if you drank something."
It was thirty seconds before she raised her head slowly, evenly, and gazed absently at the withered potted plant. A few fine strands of hair lay plastered against her dampened cheeks, a sign that tears ran through her face.

"You know I only drink milk tea. Oh by the way dont mind me,
I didn't mean to cry." She said.

I held out a box of tissues to her. She quietly blew her nose, then brushed the hair from her cheek.

"Actually, I planned on being gone by the time you returned. I didn't want to see you."
"But you changed your mind, I see." I said.
"Not at all. I didn't have anywhere else I wanted to go. But I'm going now, don't worry."

Film burns

Nagsasa cove, Zambales. 01-22-2012

The great moments of your life won't necessarily be the things you do, they'll also be the things that happen to you. Now, I'm not saying you can't take action to affect the outcome of your life, you have to take action, and you will. But never forget that on any day, you can step out the front door and your whole life can change forever. You see, the universe has a plan kids, and that plan is always in motion. A butterfly flaps its wings, and it starts to rain. It's a scary thought but it's also kind of wonderful. All these little parts of the machine constantly working, making sure that you end up exactly where you're supposed to be, exactly when you're supposed to be there. The right place at the right time.

The girl who'd sleep with anyone

Of course, strictly speaking, she didn't sleep with just anyone.
She had standards.
Still, the fact of the matter is, as any cursory examination of the evidence would suffice to show, that she was quite willing to sleep with almost any guy.
Once, and only once, I asked her about these standards of hers.

"Well, if you must know...," she began. A pensive thirty seconds went by. "It's not like anybody will do. Sometimes the whole idea turns me off. But you know, maybe I want to find out a lot about different people. Or maybe that's how my world comes together for me."
"By sleeping with someone?"
"Uh-huh."
It was my turn to think things over.
"So tell me, has it helped you make sense of things?"

"A little," she said.

The sea is just the wetter version of the sky

I have a dream destination, but I haven't found it yet. They say it only shows itself to people who have the sincerest wishes to reach it. There are scenes that repeatedly loop inside my head convincing me that someday, it will show itself in front of me like a painting that comes to life little by little.




Here's a quote from my fellow nomad blogger Drew: "My imaginary list changes all the time."

For years that I have been exposed to fiction and things that are detached from the norm, this humble nutshell of mine concocted a dream destination, that is honestly, beyond reality. But who says reality should only be of this world?

Clothes

Clouds hovered above the azure sky as I took the laundry from my uncle's house a few blocks away from ours. It has been months since they moved in that good ol' bungalow which they painted a striking mint green. On sunny days like these, bringing the clothes straight from the laundry in their concrete garden has been a protocol every weekends. It won't take an hour before my lola will call me to pick the clothes one by one probably because the albedo value of concrete is more than enough to dry them.


For years I learned the art of folding clothes. The number one rule is that one should be meticulous enough to fold the little details and separate the "pambahay" to "plantsahin". It's a tedious task but will be fairly easy if executed well and you won't have any problems in dealing with the ones you need to iron. Folding clothes for trips is a different topic though, one needs extreme strength in compacting rolls of cloth just like kimbap (a korean delicacy). Still, the techniques and way of dealing with this chore vary with every person, and I personally think this is one of the most noble chores in history.

After I placed every crease and fold into their rightful gaps, I took a short nap and browsed mobile twitter to see anything that interests me. It's the only website now that I frequent because I just deleted my facebook, a bold move to be reacquainted with pen, paper and other things that is non-facebook-able. Now, I regret, a little, that I won't be too updated with my friends and anything "in" because I am disconnected from that internet monster. But that's fine, at least I get to help my parents in doing the chores and save myself the laziness that causes a lot of arguments inside the house, just like moments ago, with my brother.