Thursday, April 13, 2006

solace: chapter 2

Kip mindlessly counted the cigarette butts on the ashtray in the middle of the table. There were many, and he tried to guess which ones are his and which ones are Brad’s. He found this pathetically childish, and worried that this lonesome waiting was not about to end soon. It wasn’t that he minded Brad’s presence or the fact that he was waiting with him. It was because of whom they were waiting for. He picked up another cigarette and lighted it quickly. He motioned to the waiter for another ashtray, determined to keep track of how many cigarette butts were his. He checked the time: it was a quarter until midnight. Now is a perfect time to arrive, he thought, wishing that the one he was waiting for would barge through the front door and with that ever charming smile of hers pasted on her face, sit directly in the empty chair he had set in front of him. Now he was imagining, and he found himself more pathetic than he was a couple of minutes ago. So he returned to counting the cigarette butts.

Kip checked his phone, and was surprised to find a message in it. He wondered why he didn’t hear the message warning, but shoved it aside. He fished his phone and read the message. “b ther soon. Gotta do somthng.” It was from Jason, and a hint of disappointment surfaced in his eyes. He didn’t feel the need to reply. He thought he wasn’t interested and yes, it was the shortest most valid text message that Jason could compose. He let go of the chance to inquire. Instead, he got his bottle of beer and took a very big gulp. “pare, Jason has something to do daw, baka matagalan. Text mo nga, baka makulitan. Sabihin mo bilisan nya.” He said to Brad, to which his friend complied.

Kip’s mind was floating again. He thought of something, then of another, and still of another until his thoughts were a myriad of incoherent thoughts. He slapped himself silly so that he could wake up and focus on something. It couldn’t be the alcohol, I only had two so far, he reasoned with himself. So he picked up his phone and composed a message. This time it’s an invitation. “pare, r u stil up? Maybe ud lyk a bottle r 2?”. As he pressed the send button, he thought that there was something he should have said but couldn’t remember what it was. “Oh shit!”, he blurted out loud, and made Brad swing his head into Kip’s direction. Kip had forgotten the Happy Birthday part.


The traffic light burned bright red and Cathy was amused by the way it reflected on the roof of the blue car in front of her. Farther away, she could make out the familiar neon sign of Gloria Jean’s coffee. She could almost taste the coffee now, and caffeine would definitely help her tonight. Her attention returned to the traffic light as she became impatient for it to turn green. She remembered she still had a text message to reply to so she took this time to do so. She silently whispered to the traffic light to delay its turning green. “Ey thanks pare. Yep, am driving around. Watup?”, she wrote and pressed the send button.

The traffic light cooperatively turned green and Cathy shifted to drive, stepped on the pedal, and proceeded straight down the road to that coffee flavor she imagined in her lips. She chanced upon her watch, it showed 12:05. “No way!”, she thought, “I missed midnight? Aw shucks, and I didn’t get to greet myself earlier…” she sported a frown on her face that made her even more adorable. And as suddenly as the frown was, it was replaced by a childlike smile, a happy face that celebrates a birthday. She was officially 24 then. If only she had someone to share that night with, maybe over a joyous bottle of beer or two. Then she remembered Kip and his invitation. Girls do change their minds, and she was no exception. Cathy composed a message for Kip, “ey, r u still there? Am n my way.”

Cathy passed by the coffee shop, the taste of coffee no longer in her lips. In its stead was the taste of cold beer. She turned to look at the people inside the shop, and noticed a girl with a funny hat at the counter ordering. The girl had long hair and a short skirt, and looked like she probably came from a night of partying. Cathy examined herself, and concluded that although she also has long hair and tiny skirts, she wouldn’t be caught dead with that funny hat. A smile again crossed her face as she continued down the road towards Kip and Brad.

Another message came into her phone, and she read, “wer to? Wid whom? Was wondrin mayb ud lyk 2 go out tnyt. It’s Friday.” The devil’s message again, she quipped. Amusement never seemed to stop for her tonight. That’s one sweet devil of course, and she thought Jason was indeed one. On the other hand, another idea came to mind. If Jason, Kip and Brad were together, why would they invite her separately? Hmmm, the boys are on to something. She replied to Jason, “am on my way there, Kip already invited me. R u nt 2gther?”


Kip waved for the waiter, and asked for additional beer. “And wait,” he said, “bring a glass with lots of ice.” Kip remembered this little fact. Subtle maybe, but he’s sure Cathy would notice it. He slid back on his chair, still holding his phone, and smiled a bit. Brad looked at him inquisitively. Finally he asked, “what are you smiling about?” Kip told Brad about Cathy’s message, that she was on her way there, and this made Brad’s face light up. That’s good, he thought, and anxiety almost filled his face. Brad took the ashtray near Kip and shoved aside the old one next to him. He dunked his cigarette in and got the pack for a new stick. He paused, thought of something, then lighted the cigarette slowly. He sucked in the smoke, and heaved it out like he was sighing. He grabbed his beer and took a sip.

The loud club music blared all over the room, just the way they all liked it. But particularly this night, Kip wished they would quiet down. He somehow wanted to be somewhere else more serene, perhaps where they could really talk, and not shout to each other just so they could be heard. He imagined that they were on a beach perhaps, with the sun setting and casting a golden red color across the horizon. Then he would find him with Cathy talking while sitting on the sand, the waves barely reaching their feet. They would have a bottle of beer each on their one hand and a good smoke on their other hands. He pictured this perfectly, because it was what Cathy told him when he asked her what her perfect get away scenario would be. He hadn’t forgotten since.


The girl on the counter turned her head slowly towards him, and Jason was quick enough to turn away. He didn’t get caught; he was sure of it. He was interested however, on where the girl was going, or where she had just come from. He thought it funny that someone would wear a hat like that at this time of the night. The hat had pineapple prints in it and was shaped like one too. Or he could be just imagining it. Either way, it was sure to catch attention. But other than the hat, Jason’s attention was caught by how the girl looked from behind: long hair that touches her bra line, a very sexy figure and that distinctively small skirt that rides high above the knee. Way up! This reminded him of someone – someone he had hoped would be next to him tonight.

He checked his phone, and saw an incoming text message. He eagerly read it, “am on my way there, Kip already invited me. R u nt 2gther?” His face turned to dismay. He should have known Kip better to not only invite him, but Cathy as well. He had hoped for a different thing tonight, one that didn’t involve alcohol consumption. Well, he reconsidered, maybe a little alcohol and after a long talk of course. Jason couldn’t think of anything to say back to that message. He knew that there would be no convincing her otherwise, short of pleading to her and telling her his true reason for the invitation. He regretted having erased that last line in his last message to her. Now he has no choice but to follow the gang into that smoke filled cavern if he wanted to see Cathy tonight.

He stood up from his seat which had been home for about two hours. He wanted to say goodbye to the man next to him and tell him to go home, she’s not coming whomever you’re waiting for. But of course he didn’t. As he was going out the front door, he consciously avoided looking at the girl with the funny hat. He can feel her staring at him. Maybe she knew he was looking earlier, or maybe she knew that he had an opinion about her. Or her hat. Jason stopped a few steps down the stairs out front. His gaze followed a red Toyota Vios passing by. His eyes were fixated on the car’s license plate. It read VCN 968. He knew whose it was.

Thursday, April 06, 2006

solace: chapter 1

“Excuse me, do you have the time?” the man seated on the next table said as Jason broke from his trance. Jason obediently looked at his wristwatch and replied, “It’s eleven thirty.” He was half amazed at how slow time must have gone since he planted himself in that quaint coffee shop. His thoughts must have run rather far because he felt like he’s been sitting there for years. He instinctively reached for his coffee and felt the side of the paper cup. It was still warm and that brought him relief. He conjured an almost autistic smile and toyed with the question of whether or not the man seated next to him thanked him for the time. It doesn’t matter, he concluded; he needed to be snapped back to reality anyway. He should even thank him. But it was unnecessary, he thought, and never proceeded to do so.

Around him Jason noticed a bevy of people busy living their lives that night. There was the man next to him who, judging from his anxiety and interest in the time, may already had been stood up by his date. In one corner a group of youngsters were busy enjoying their adolescence while in another corner a couple was having their after-movie-or-dinner-date date. Still, other people’s lives were flashed before him and Jason suddenly wished he could have his own life flashed before him. He wanted to know answers to simple questions like why he was alone in that shop.

Or why Cathy is not there with him.

His cell phone sounded off a message alarm. He fished it from his pocket and started to find the message. His heart thumped a bit harder and he felt his body rushed with adrenalin. But to his disappointment, it was Kip. He read the message: “Pare, wer u na? D2 na kmi hangout. Dala k yosi. Madami.Bilis!” It’s Friday, Jason reckoned, and Kip and Brad are waiting for him at their weekly brotherly asphyxiation through cigarette smoke and beer. He whispered to himself, “be with you a little later guys.” He was about to compose a reply to Kip’s message when a new message arrived. And it was what his heart thumped a bit harder for.


Cathy blew the lighted matchstick with closed eyes, pretending that it was a birthday candle and that she was entitled to one wish. It was after all a few hours before her birthday. She opened her eyes slowly and the light from the candle on the table next to her bed blinded her. She had turned off the ceiling light and the lone candle lighted the whole room. Cathy had just climbed to her bed, but still not in the right emotional level to sleep. Her mind was filled with random thoughts that are becoming disturbing to her only because she was entertaining them. She couldn’t do otherwise, she reasoned with herself, and she felt more confused. Tomorrow is her birthday, and she’s alone. Her boyfriend Joseph is miles away on a completely different continent. Strangely though, she wasn’t so anxious about the expected midnight call from him, and she never did expect any. It was one of those thoughts that bothered her.

Cathy reached for her mirror lying on the desk next to her bed. She looked at herself and asked, “what’s wrong with you?” She examined her face, scouted for facial lines that might be showing already. At 24 there couldn’t be many, if there are any at all. She was pleased, and she smiled a bit. “You need a drink young lady.” She told herself, as she looked straight at her reflection’s eyes. They were dark, round spheres that seemed unfilled. That’s no problem that a good drink wouldn’t fix, she concluded. Cathy got up, hurriedly changed clothes for a pre-birthday night, probably alone. Nonetheless, she liked the idea of being alone tonight. It’ll be for a change. She got her cell phone and her keys and went directly out the door. As she was about to turn the knob, her phone sounded off a message. It was from Kip, and it read, “pare, r u stil up? Maybe ud lyk a bottle r 2?” Cathy felt amused. She remembered she should have half expected her three best boy friends to be out on a drink. And it’s always an open invitation for her. Not tonight boys, she said to herself, I’m on a one-girl night-out.

Cathy lazily cruised along the main thoroughfare, still undecided if she’d try out one of her fantasy. Yes, she could say that. It was indeed a fantasy for her: driving all the way up to Antipolo and parking her car right where she could have nice view of the city lights below. She’d very much like that, if only she wasn’t so afraid to do it alone. And besides, Jason would really freak out if he knew she did it. Jason, yes Jason would be much concerned about it. She suddenly had a funny inkling to go immediately to where the boys are. But she brushed it aside. Then her cell phone sounded off again. “well, what do you know? Speak of the devil and the devil sends you a message.” She playfully said aloud. It was from Jason, and it read “ey pare, hapi bday. R u out?”


Brad slid back on his seat. He took a sip from his beer bottle and took a cigarette to light. He searched for the lighter from his pocket, and accidentally shoved his bottle on the table. He clumsily picked it up and wiped the spilled beer with some table napkin. Kip was laughing all the time. “You clumsy oaf!” Kip handed Brad the lighter that he was holding all along. Once settled, Brad threw a piece of crumpled tissue on Kip, saying “pare, are they coming?” Kip shook his shoulders, and with head shaking, inhaled a large amount of smoke. “I dunno. They ought to, it’s Friday. Let me check.” Kip fished out his cell phone and proceeded to compose a message. His first thought was Cathy, but hesitated. Suddenly he didn’t know what to say, so he decided to send Jason a message first. “Where can you be tonight?” he asked himself. He wrote, “Pare, wer u na? D2 na kmi hangout. Dala k yosi. Madami.Bilis!” and immediately pressed the send button. Kip suddenly had a strange feeling, and imagined that Jason was with Cathy. This made him uneasy, and Brad noticed him stare straight into the wall in front of him. He knew there was something in his friend’s mind, but was already sure what it was. He didn’t bother asking him, but instead raised his bottle towards Kip and teasingly dared him to go straight up. Kip snapped back to reality, and politely obliged. Then having emptied their bottles, Kip signaled to the waiter for another round.


“ey thanks pare. Yep, am driving around. Watup?” Jason read the message. He was somehow alarmed at the implications of that message. Was she driving alone? And where to? She’d probably be going to some date or with girl friends like she usually does. But what kind of a date would let her drive and not pick her up at her house? Jason’s head was filled with questions again, and he wanted answers for each of them. It was becoming more often that when it comes to Cathy he was always bothered. This has to stop, he thought, and fast! “wer to? Wid whom? Was wondrin mayb ud lyk 2 go out tnyt. Wid me.”As Jason typed the last letter, he fidgeted. His thumb cannot seem to press the send key. That’s too bold, he thought, she’d never fall for that. So he erased the last part, “wer to? Wid whom? Was wondrin mayb ud lyk 2 go out tnyt. It’s Friday.” That’s better. And finally his thumb hit the send button.

Jason took a sip of his coffee, and celebrated that it was still warm. It’s amazing what 100% recycled paper can do. And he patiently waited for the reply. He remembered Kip and Brad, probably slowly growing irritated at him for not showing up. He felt he needed to explain, so he composed another message for his two friends. He typed, “b ther soon. Gotta do somthng.” That should do it; after all, it’s the shortest most valid reason ever. No questions can possibly come after that. He heaved a sigh of satisfaction at having rid of the need to hurry up to them. Now what he needs is another message from her.