♒ 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."

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