“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.