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I don't look a thing like Jesus but I talk like a gentleman.

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

hello love


There was a man who couldn't understand the puzzle of life. But these
are his first words. 24 different pies under 24 different skies. Oh me oh
no I don't want to have no wife!
All the other words are pointless. His
words were only of kindness. The busy little witches cackled and spat at
that curiosity, suspecting wicked demons at play. We've done all we
could but...
Her daughters all wept, tearing off robes and basking
fully nude under the moonlight. There was no way the sundial could
express the things they saw. We're going to die soon, he said. Oh
how you'd like that for sure,
they replied. Hiding in the dark was a
happy little bear. His invisibility granted him many privileges. You…
you don't understand what you're doing,
it said to them. And they
have made me very afraid.
I didn't want to tell her she's all but
made it. That really wouldn't be fair to anyone, most especially to
me because I vowed to always be honest and never cruel to you. Of
these purple waves that are going to come crashing, How many will
last without proper nutrition and oxygen that they deserve? About
two days from dying of exhaustion? It's been too long, at least seven
years. It might have been too long.

I could see all this happening from my dusty balcony. Perhaps I didn't
look too far ahead. Like ants under a magnifying glass, marching
forward as they plot their own destructions and deaths. And I know that
to do all this from such a vantage point may seem cruel. The liaison was
spending way too much money. Everybody needs time to go and explore
the things they really want, even if it is embezzling company funds. The
rest persist like animals do. We are guided by instinct and mouths fed,
of course. Off course as it may be, there will always be something in
my current situation that jars me. That's life, my boy. That's just how
life is.
That's what my father told me and what his father told him. Mix
with everything you want. Wonder about the crazy things happening to
you. Then you'll get by just fine.

Happy never grows old. She's the same white dog. On that iconic show's
second year, the old faithful pet was given a chance to speak. On their
anniversary, the producers sat her down for an interview. I want
my puppies to remember that family is important
, she said. I've shown
love. I never aged and I never died.
In reality, she was a puppet.

You used to tell me these things when you were learning to play golf. You
are pretty strong yourself, though you know nothing could compare to
the funny way she collided with all of us. Or maybe we knew he was the
best at golf and we were better at other things. Like Monopoly? That
thing he said could make all our strengths better than our weaknesses. If
that's okay with you, we don't all have to be great at cooking. All we
ever do is eat crappy things, we say that it's okay and good. All it's ever
been is mediocre and lackluster. The fault? I don't know if it's yours or
mine. Maybe it's yours. Maybe it's mine. Or maybe, just maybe, it's ours.


♫: Naya Rivera | Mine [Glee Cast Version] (2012)

Monday, February 3, 2014

ember cinema


Every now and then, I remember him. He's the kind of paramour whose memory creeps up on you when you're sitting alone at a random café, thoughts drifting into space. The fires have long been extinguished and yet in the deepest corners of my heart, quiet little embers still persist. If you listen closely enough, they'll tell you a story.

The theater lights dim as a song from too long ago begins to play. I am the hero in this story as everything else blurs away.

---

The next few days breezed by very quickly. We continued with training without incident. I learned about the strangest things like DST, AHT, and the dreaded, despicable schwa. It was strange to learn about a whole new world that existed apart from mine. I thought I had everything I needed to speak to an American. That week, I learned that I was wrong. It seems that not only did I struggle with the cultural pieces. I also had a slight problem with prepositions.

Vincent and I continued smoking together. It turns out, we had a lot in common despite the fact that he was about a decade older than me. We listened to the same music, laughed at the same jokes, and enjoyed the same films. He also turned out to be really good at grammar. Over one of our breaks, he taught me a trick about prepositions.

"I just don't get it. In Filipino, it's all sa sa sa. And then suddenly, I learn there's in the car. On the bus. At the train station. Ano ba yun?"

"It's in that's used more often than not. Rooms, cities, states, counties, even barangays. Anything that has a border uses in."

"See that's what my problem is. I always end up using on. It just sounds better. On time. On point. On cue... On top? Everything sounds better with on."

"I don't know about you but I'd rather be in than just on," he retorted with a smile. I looked up from my seat to see that he was staring at me. Suddenly, it was clear that we weren't talking about prepositions anymore.

---

On our last day of training, he asked if I had any plans after work.

"But we're broke!" I exclaimed, laughing at the very idea of drinking when I was still living off an allowance from my parents. "How do we get drunk if we can barely afford a bucket?" It 'd be a good two weeks before either of us got paid.

"It doesn't have to be a whole bucket," he said. "And we don't even have to get more than one each."

"I'm not gonna get drunk from just one," I dismissed. "I'm a college kid, remember?"

"You were a college kid. And trust me," he said, grabbing my hand as we walked to 7-11. "Have I ever let you down?" It was the first time we ever held hands like that and it felt like I could just explode.

A few minutes later, enveloped in the cold 6AM breeze, we stood about a foot from each other. In our hands, we held a can of San Mig Light each.

"Ready?" he asked, his smile wide and beaming from miles away. "And remember, it's one long chug. If you break at any point, next round's on you."

"One long chug. You know I'm pretty sure this is illegal." I said. We were standing at a street corner. I looked around for any guards or policemen who could spot us.

"Stop being such a wuss, will you?" he said as he lifted the tab. He caught some of the escaping foam with his mouth and wiped the rest on his sleeve. "Ready?"

I took a deep breath and opened my can. "Ready."

We linked arms like they do in the movies. "Bottoms up." I emptied the can into my throat. I tipped my head back as the last of the golden liquid dripped into my mouth. I felt a rush almost immediately. He was right. I'd never drank beer so quickly before and my head was swimming. When I came to, I peered at him and saw he was only about halfway through.

"Not so strong anymore, are we? C'mon old man, you can do it!" His eyes grew wide with those words. Old man. He finished his can, crushed it with one hand, and threw it to the ground.

"Old man? Old man? I'll show you old man." He wrapped both arms around my waist and pulled me close to his body. I looked up at him in shock and anticipation. I could smell the alcohol from his breath as his body pressed against mine. My knees felt weak as he tightened his grip on my body. My heart started beating furiously, like it wanted to escape from my chest. I wanted to shout but no words could escape my lips. I let my bag and my inhibitions slip to the ground. I closed my eyes, certain he was about to kiss me.

---

"Who's the old man now?" he scoffed as he let go. I couldn't move. He picked up the can, tossed it into the bin, and walked away. I was left standing there, slackjawed and wondering. What just happened?

"I'll see you tomorrow, Mr. Cruz," he said, walking away. I could hear a persistent smile in his voice. I stood there, immobile, recalling those six little words. They were a promise of more days like this up ahead. They sent me home on a cloud.

♫: Amy Winehouse | To Know Him Is To Love Him [Live] (2007)
City Part 1 | 2

Monday, January 27, 2014

unfold


When I was a kid, I wondered what it was like to fall in love. I had only ever seen it in fairy tales – the prince would sweep the lonely maiden off her feet as the music swells. There would be birds singing and stars aligning. If you're lucky, maybe you'd have fireworks. I wondered if it was like that in real life. In the summer of 2007, I found out.

Vince was not a friend of mine, at least not right away. He was quiet, always sulking in a corner with a paperback and pack of Marlboro reds. But I loved him just the same. I had just graduated. I didn't know the first thing about love, my career, or anything remotely adult. By the time I threw my graduation cap in the air, I didn't know where it would land. I received a call from a call center recruiter one day. They received my application from a job website and they were inviting me for an interview. A sign, I declared. Since I had no other leads, I wore my father's best polo, polished my shoes, and dragged my ass to their Makati office.

I got in and on the first day of training, I spotted Vincent right away. He was slightly older than me and spoke with a perfect American accent. Because we were the only smokers in our wave, we got along fairly quickly. In between orientation and pronunciation modules, we learned about each other's lives. I was a call center virgin fresh off of college. He was an undergrad who had spent years in a non-voice account in Cagayan. He didn't look bad either. He certainly knew how to dress himself. He also had quite a temper on him. We'd barely gotten to lunch when he got into an argument with our accent trainer.

"It's ih-REH-vuh-kuh-bul," he insisted. On the board, a speech drill sentence stood frozen in time. "Irrevocable" was underlined twice for emphasis and they were arguing about how it's supposed to be pronounced.

"Americans say ih-reh-VOW-kuh-bul. It maintains its original stress. Surely, I must know this. I'm your trainer." Our rookie trainer looked like she was about to explode.

"Surely you must. But that doesn't change that fact that it's ih-REH-vuh-kuh-bul." My other wavemates and I, we didn't know what to do. It felt like we were caught in the middle of the world's most pointless war.

"Here, I'll show you," he said as he typed furiously into his assigned computer. Within seconds, the speakers boasted of the truth that none of us wanted to hear. He was right.

"Are you browsing a non-work site?" she asked. We all knew the rules and he clearly just broke one. It didn't matter if he was right all along. He made her look like an idiot and there would be hell to pay. "Stay after your shift. HR will be hearing from you."
I waited for him outside our building after class. There I was, first day of work and the only guy who was remotely interesting was about to get terminated. I must've burned through my pack of menthols from the nervousness. When HR finally released him, he walked out of the building looking cool and confident.

"What happened?" I asked, fear in my voice.

"I explained what happened and they let me go with a warning." He fished out his pack of cigarettes from his coat pocket and lit up a stick.

"If it makes you feel better, Merriam-Webster agrees with you." I showed him my phone. There were fine lines on his face. His eyes squinted into tiny slits as he viewed the definition.

"But then so was she," he said, referring to the secondary pronunciation. He continued to read the article. "From Latin. Irrevocabilis."

"I thought for sure they'd sack you." I said, hesitating. "I was worried that I would lose my only friend."

"It'll take more than a green accent trainer to bring down Vicente Cabrera," he chuckled. "Plus it wouldn't be fair. I was just starting to get to know you." We finished our cigarettes in peace and went our separate ways. In my heart, I could feel the quiet tugging of a chapter about to unfold.

♫: Jason Mraz | Unfold (2000)
City Part 1 | 2


THE HARDEST STORIES to write are the ones that are actually true. I realized this as soon as I started writing this story down. A friend and I were talking about the cheesiest things that ever happened to us and I remembered this little scene from when I first started working. I got to write it all down this morning and the daunting word count led me to chop it up into smaller bite-sized chunks. I won't make the same mistake I made with Stella. I actually made sure I'd written most of it down by the time I started. Next installment within the week. :)