Monday, October 17, 2011

seeing

She sits at a lonely table in the middle of a busy restaurant. Her hair is pulled back, her clothes simple but stylish and there’s barely any blush on her cheeks. She has her hand in an open book but her eyes stare blankly at the window. Her fingers feel the words. A woman. A man. They are in love. They kiss under the pale moonlight. She finds it hard to focus on the words, on the promises they betrayed, on her own thoughts racing quick like fire. She closes her book, takes a sip of water and listens to the sounds around her.

There is a baby a few feet behind her. His cries pierce through the symphony of spoons and forks scraping against plates. There is a man talking loudly on his cellphone, something about an art deal that went sour. She can hear a pair of women gossiping about her from a faraway table. They comment on her shoes, how they’re too high, how they’d have bought a pair in a different color. They speculate about why she’s alone. She shifts uncomfortably in her seat.

“Phone call from an unregistered number,” an electronic woman speaks from her purse. She fishes out her phone and taps lightly on the screen. The voice of a man from a thousand miles away patches through crystal clear.

“I’m sorry I couldn’t be there.”

She smiles. His voice feels like soft fur across the fleshy part of her thigh. It’s not right but it feels nice. He talks about Cleveland, about how it’s not what he imagined it would be. He talks about the airport, how the people look funny, how the shops feel alien to him. He talked about how slowly time seemed to pass over there and how he longed for nothing than to have her by his side.

“I got you a little something.”

She inhales sharply. Perhaps he did remember after all.

“I know I shouldn’t. At least not after the last time.”

Her eyes stay transfixed on the window. He reminded her of what happened, how the wounds have not mended, how it pains her to not know where they stand.

“Anyway, I wish you’d talk to me. I really am sorry.”

She sighs. It is all she could give him. Any more would be indulging. Any less and she’d explode.

“Are you seeing anyone new?” he asks. She waits for the line to click, certain he’d soon tire of speaking to the wall she’d put up.

“I wish you had remembered,” she says after he ends the call. She stands, her napkin falls to the floor but she does not pick it up. She walks towards the sounds of the bar and lightly touches the arm of one of the waiters.

“The middle table,” she commands. “It’s her birthday. I want a cake – strawberry, not chocolate. I’d also like for you to sing her a song. Do this when she asks for the check.” She slips a horizontally-folded fiver with a handshake and walks slowly back to her table.

Her food arrives and she eats slowly and carefully. The meat tastes sinewy. Its juices tickle her taste buds. She tastes a bit of the potatoes. They are mushy and overcooked. She listens to the hollow sound of her swallowing, of food making its way down. Do they sound the same way while I digest? she wonders as the sounds of the restaurant fade away.

The women have stopped talking about her. The baby has stopped crying. The man on the phone has left. She listens as new people take their places in booths and tables around the restaurant. People coming, people going, nobody stays long enough to enjoy their food anymore.

When she is finished eating, she hears the familiar sound of tambourines coming from the kitchen. People stop talking as several waiters slowly approach her table.

They sing Happy Birthday, their voices loud and off-key. She smiles politely, her eyes resting lazily on the flowers on the table. One voice particularly stood out. She imagines him to be stout and sweaty with long curly hair. The song ends on a sustained, happy note as the lead waiter wishes her a final happy birthday.

“Thank you,” she says quietly. He hands her the check. She pulls out three vertically-folded bills from her purse and slides them into the leather holder. She takes a final sip of water, puts her book in her purse and maps out her exit route.

“Is she?” one of the gossiping women asks.

“Dakota,” she calls out and her golden retriever springs up from his rest. She clicks her tongue and he pops out from under the table. He walks slowly, guiding her out of the restaurant and onto the street.

The October wind was a little chilly but her nape burned feverishly from the restaurant’s collective gaze. She walks calmly, confidently, her heels making loud clacking noises on the pavement. He had asked her if she was seeing anyone new. She smiles an empty smile, wondering if he understood the irony.

♫: Rachael Yamagata | Answering The Door (2008)

44 comments:

  1. You got me from the start to the end. I went to imagne the scene as in watching a movie. Coincidence, i am seated in a restaurant at yonge street, toronto, so the feeling is really in there. There are lines that, i felt like i am saying and hearing them. Lines like, i can't be there... It has been heard probably a million times already in my 41 birthdays... Hopefully next year, there is a new story for me...

    Great post! Have a great week my friend... :-)

    JJRod'z

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  2. @JJRod'z: Wow, considering it's 2AM here, you being seated in a Toronto restaurant is very interesting.

    Yes, let's claim that for next year.:)

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  3. he doesn't see her, she couldn't see her, and he asked her to be there for someone they couldn't see both - it's almost the same. I wonder if they really have accomplished anything.

    People really have learned to be comfortable with anything fake these days.

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  4. @Alter: Hmmm.. what an interesting idea. I suppose we take what we can when we fear we can't do any better. Not sure if that's what she felt like. (I know, I wrote her but I still feel like she's got a mind of her own. haha)

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  5. nice one :) but I have this positive and negative feeling towards the girl :) Anyways, great piece

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  6. @Wicked Writer: Hi! Welcome to my blog.

    Baka nadala ka lang nung dalawang tsismosa. hehe

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  7. "The only thing worse than being blind is having sight but no vision."

    Helen Keller

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  8. @Rudeboy: Thank you for the validation, Ruddie. I was a little worried that I didn't write it clearly enough. And there I was being careful not to describe any sights, the braille book, even the dog. So thank you for saying what I couldn't.

    And yes, she may have been blind but I'd like to think it was the other characters who truly could not see.

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  9. @ Nyl : To be honest, it took me a second reading to get it. Of course, the first time I read the piece I had just awakened from sleep, so there's that.

    Nevertheless, it isn't true that in the valley of the blind, the man with eyesight is king. And rereading Keller, indeed, what is the point of having sight, if one cannot truly see?

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  10. @Rudeboy: Yesterday, we asked some of the waiters at this restaurant if they could greet my friend who was celebrating her birthday. They arrived, brought a little cake and sang for her. It was awkward, we took pictures, yaddah yaddah yaddah. After all the destivities, my friend joked about how it would've been so sad if she approached the waiters and asked them to sing for her. Like she had no fun friends to set that up for her. I said it would've been even sadder if she were alone and she just wanted someone to sing to her on her birthday. I brought the story home and here we are. ;p

    I was worried it might alienate a few people. I didn't want it to be that clear so whether or not you had just woken up, I wanted that second reading. Weird ba? Ako na ang selfish. haha

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  11. This reminded me of several things, Nyl. Some sad, others blissful, if not melancholic. :)

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  12. @Spiral: Wow, three andjectives I really like! Thanks! :)

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  13. @nyl: Braille? --- "She has her hand in an open book but her eyes stare blankly at the window. Her fingers feel the words.

    good thing she couldn't see the gossipmongers around her.. i admire how she managed to look and stay classy..

    even if she's blind, i've pictured her as this glamorous "other woman" who's a combination of wit, beauty, class..

    so what if she's alone on her birthday? she'll get by.. i know she will..

    i also imagined her gracefully strutting her way towards the exit.. with the Dakota on her right hand, and her lovely Chanel “Diamond Forever” Classic Bag on her left..

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  14. @Nate: Yes, she was reading Braille. :)

    I love what you've done to it. haha I had to google what the bag looked like and I must admit, it looks real purrty. haha

    She can peg that glamorous other woman. haha I guess that could be one reason why she and the man were fighting. lol Siguro wala lang Anne Curtis curls. Di keri ni Dakota yun. haha

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  15. Love the way you set the scene, telling us without telling us, the way she was reading, and facing the window. There were other hints, like imagining the waiter's appearance. I'm slow, but glad I am for this story: I was struck doubly by the revelation of her situation. I'm also struck by the revelation that Cleveland may be the one who's truly impaired. Or just stupid.

    Um, what other stories will you bring us from your various outings???

    Rick

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  16. @R. Burnett Baker: Awww Rick. You're too sweet. :)

    Lemme explain Cleveland. See, I wouldn't really know what it looks like there. haha It was inspired by this Jewel song* that started playing while I was writing this. I wasn't gonna name the place but I fell in love with how the city name feels in my mouth when I pronounce it. lol

    "Um, what other stories will you bring us from your various outings???"

    Let's see. At this point, I'm editing and screening less and just going with the flow. Let's see how it goes. :)

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  17. nyl, na-sad naman ako dito. powerfully written but soooper sad. :(

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  18. @Gentle: Thanks Oj! Sorry if I made you sad. :(

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  19. Cleveland is a five hour drive from me. Not much to see there (Rock 'n Roll Hall of Fame), but the airport IS one of my favorites to transit through: Easy and efficient!

    As for Jewel, well her book of poetry titled "A Night Without Armor" is a, um, jewel. Have it on my desk!

    Rick

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  20. @Rick: I have that too! I thought it was interesting. What I enjoyed more was that collection of journals she released called Chasing Down the Dawn. I caught a glimpse of her creativity, how it just oozes without much provocation. she wrote about peeing in a public restroom and how the woman next to her was waiting for what her pee sounded like and I was slackjawed, hooked. lol

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  21. The irony of smile. Nice read Nyl, as always.

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  22. @Rehv: Thank you, Vher. :) I'm glad you liked it.

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  23. Ahh seeing beyond what eyes could see. But after seeing, what's next? That's another thing, eh?


    -db

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  24. I am in love with this NYL. Right from the beginning I knew she was blind but damn. Haha. You're so awesome doing this. I love how you didn't describe what she sees and how I wanted to know her and how I wanted her to not be blind. Amazing. Amazing. Amazing. XD

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  25. @DB: Smelling? Tasting? I don't know. But one thing's for sure, she's not gonna find out for herself. At least not with this guy.

    @Rei: Thank you. I was really aiming not to describe sights too much. Napansin ko kasi medyo exagg yung pag-describe ko dun noon. I wanted her to seem cold so I'm glad you still found a way to empathize with her and not wish she were blind.

    If you think about it, lahat naman tayo bulag. Hindi lang naman mata ang pinangtitingin.

    Shet, ako na emo. haha

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  26. it's a sad thing.. medyo nakaka-emo.. u are good, i really felt something. hope u had more stories to come.. and sana happy naman.. :P

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  27. @Ardee Sean: Hi! Welcome to my blog! :)

    Thanks for your well wishes. I intend to start posting more regularly so that really means a lot to me.:)

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  28. Haha. Si NYL, kung maka-emote, parang wala ng bukas. Hahaha. Chos.

    Anyway, I agree that all of us are blind. We only see what matters at the moment. Some of us won't even look at the big picture.

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  29. meeting is not by faces, but by complementing imaginations, the inner thoughts of people that works together that bind deeper than faces and time. we see not out of the contour of the face, but of the shadow of imagination we cast and created for them. thus, is etched deeper and lasts longer.

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  30. @nyl: go!! here's to more awesome posts from you!! --- I intend to start posting more regularly so that really means a lot to me.:)

    gusto ko ring magsulat.. yung hindi naman sweet nothings.. hahaha.. :)

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  31. wow.. this was a nice surprise. a moving story. I must say, rarely do i come across a blog post that's got this kind of substance. i really enjoyed it. thanks. :)

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  32. Hi Nyl!

    Pity those who see only that which satisfies themselves. Sometimes we need to show incapability so others will notice leverage should it present itself.

    By the way, Dakota must be a hot dog! :3


    Joe

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  33. nice one nyl! i still haven't had sleep yet and i got work 4 hours from now but you got my eyes glued on the screen up until i finished your story.

    i only noticed that she's blind after the women asked if she is. haha. parang andun lang din ako. wahaha :)

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  34. @Rei: You know me, I emote like it's going out of style. But if you meet me in person, you'll see that I couldn't be any more different. haha I suppose citybuoy is just a refraction of who I am.

    @Pepe: Very well said. You can spend years with the same person but now know who the eff he is (sorry, Nicki Minaj hangover) because your imaginations don't complement anymore. It's sad if you think about it.

    @Nate: Go lang! haha If you write it, people will read it.

    @tndcallphilippines: Wow! What a nice thing to say! Thank you and welcome to my blog! :)

    Joe: You're back! :)

    "Sometimes we need to show incapability so others will notice leverage should it present itself."

    But if you think about it, isn't it this kind of thinking that screws up our love-lives?

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  35. You. Got. Me. Hooked. Line. Sunk. :). Bravo!

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  36. @She Writes: Thanks, Amy! You're so sweet! :)

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  37. Hello again, Nyl! Thanks.

    Is it? I suppose, it varies with how we handle the situation. I'm defiant this way. Haha. To me, this kind of attitude is sexy, isn't it? :D

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  38. @LOF: You think so? I guess I just chose it at random (oxymoron?) It might as well be some other city with an airport. :/

    @Joe: Ooh, someone's got a new DP! :)

    It is sexy, unless of course the other person doesn't get baited by all that. haha Think Cheryl Cole's Parachute. hehe

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  39. that is what's funny about choosing Cleveland. Cleveland has held a cinematic bookmark for Anywhere Middle America, nondescript, impersonal. It's like a placeholder and its funny because Anywhere Middle America has sort of receded from the center of cinematic consciousness in the last decade, but there it is and there he was.

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  40. @LOF: Another lucky guess, I suppose? haha or maybe Jewel just really got it right.

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  41. @LOF: You know how much I love her. lol

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