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.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.
"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."
"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. :)