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)
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