Sunday, January 29, 2012

Sausage and Balls

I woke up early to a rumbling stomach. I knew that my husband won't be up until noon, so I took a shower and decided to grab a bite downstairs. I walked to the 7/11 around the corner and ordered a sausage and milk tea.

I placed my food and drink at the small counter inside the store and started eating. Someone with a serving of fishballs and a can of beer followed and politely asked if we could share the narrow table.

He was extremely attractive. Tanned, stocky, perhaps muscular underneath the thick jacket. He was chatty and had an easy smile. I was surprised he spoke to me in English, and I found out later that he was Nepali.

He was standing a bit too close. His taut arms brushed against mine a few times too many. Some of the questions he had were a bit too personal. And the implied invitation to his place or mine was a bit too obvious.

He was hot, and it took every ounce of strength to say I needed to go. And as Tika and I shook hands, my eyes fell on the tarnished gold band around his ring finger. And on the invisible one wrapped around mine.

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Saturday, January 28, 2012


I lit a cigarette. My first in over a year of having quit. I took a puff and inhaled deeply, anticipating the onset of a buzz with just a few more. Having given in to temptation, I wondered if I'd get hooked again.

I was tense. That was my excuse. I looked at the interactive map on my phone. It confirmed that I was at the foot of the correct building. I flipped to the browser and read through what waited a few floors above.

Extremely popular.
Gym-fit Asians.

I've been watching the traffic in and out of the building and confirmed the last two lines. I took another drag at my rediscovered oral fix and felt the prickly sensation on my scalp, signifying the approaching rush.

I quickly stubbed the cigarette, tossed the rest of the pack in the nearest bin, and walked away before I got hooked.

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Thursday, January 26, 2012

An MTR Ride

Since hubby had an obligation to visit relatives while we were in HK, I decided to meet a friend who is based in the city. Not having been in touch for a while, we had a lot of catching up to do. With sale signs posted everywhere, we decided not to waste any time and spoke as we shopped.

She is considering moving to the Mainland and asked what she should expect. I told her the people are lovely, but that Chinese culture is different, even compared to that of their HK cousins. With its distinct social norms, she shouldn't benchmark behavior against her own values.

"Like what?" she pressed further, as we fell in line behind twenty people in a busy station. I pointed to the orderly crowd and explained that people do not normally queue back home. One needs to be aggressive in order to get a ride, and there is nothing personal in pushing or being shoved.

The train arrived and the doors opened to loud beeps. I was the first through the door and on one of the vacant seats. I loudly called to my friend, who was still at the back of the queue of passengers that slowly came in, and reserved a seat for her with my bag.

My friend hesitantly took the seat and whispered, "I think you've been in China too long," avoiding the stares that we had to endure until we got off at our destination.

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Sunday, January 22, 2012


We sat by the countertop, facing the front window of a small but popular ice cream parlor. Seated close together, we merrily chatted away, sharing two scoops of our favorite flavors, watching people as they passed by.

To those walking past, we probably looked like a couple of guys out on a date. Well, technically we were. I mean, on a friendly date. And yes. We used to be together. Mark's was the very first promise that I held on to.

But then he had to go away to further his career. We each promised we'd wait. He became lonely, and I was too young understand what he was going through. In the end, the distance just became real.

We never got to tie a lot of loose ends. I knew he wanted to ask questions as much as I did. But we kept quiet, as we both set aside the peanuts in our shared dessert. Why bother, we were already both happy.

We hugged each other, perhaps a few seconds too long, before saying goodbye. He had to rush back to the hotel to meet his husband, while mine was on his way to pick me up.

I went to the counter and handed my debit card to settle the bill. The cashier handed me a device, and I typed in my PIN number.

Mark's birthday and mine.

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Saturday, January 21, 2012


All my Pinoy friends have left for Manila. Even the Chinese are leaving the city and heading home to the provinces. I've been begging my husband for us to spend the Chinese New Year holidays somewhere warm. He took much too long to decide, and now the fares are just too expensive.

I don't blame him. His family couldn't agree on dates for the obligatory family dinners. I think he regrets not having gone on a trip. Now that the temperatures have started to drop further, I have permanently clung to him, leeching off all the warmth I could.

After he left for a family affair, I decided to brave the cold outside. I put on a sweater, a jacket, and a trench coat before heading out. While I do enjoy the illusion of walking down the runway each time I wear layered clothing, I still prefer tees and a pair of shorts in beach lounging weather.

I took the bus and got off at one of the major train stations. It was packed with hundreds of thousands of migrant workers heading home. The sight should have turned this demophobic away, but I remained rooted to the spot, watching.

I couldn't understand any of the chatter, but I recognized the anticipation and excitement in those around me. I pushed my way through the crowd, as I rifled through my pockets. Not long after, I was peeling away layer after layer of heavy winter clothing before settling in my seat.

I looked out the large window as the train started to accelerate. With only my wallet and sense of longing in my pocket, I headed South.

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Thursday, January 19, 2012


My line of work requires me to make sense of things. To simplify the complex. Find patterns in what appears to be random. Distill the essence of the adulterated. And be able to focus on the black and white, beyond the varying shades of gray.

And that's probably how I became wired to always seek answers. To understand cause and effect. And uncover truth behind metaphor. They even say that you need only stare at it long enough, and the image within a stereogram will reveal itself to you.

My nephew will be celebrating his second birthday soon. I bring up his photo on my phone and touch his virtual face with affection. He was just shy of one year then. And now. Perpetually.

They say that if you look at something long enough, its meaning will come to you. It's been over a year already since he passed, and I'm still staring.

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Saturday, January 14, 2012

Beauty & The Geek

Hubby spent so much time scouring his favorite electronics haven for his new gadget, that we almost missed the UPS guy when we got home. I signed for the package, and for a brief moment, our flat was silent save for the ripping sound of boxes being opened.

We cried out in unison as the contents of our respective packages were revealed - tan wingtip shoes and an Android phone for the beauty and the geek. He turned to me and rattled off the specs of his new toy, as I raved about the detailed craftsmanship of my oxfords.

I couldn't understand his questions on battery life and firmware versions, and he dismissed mine on matching belts, socks, and trousers. We spent the rest of the afternoon in separate corners, busy with our new objects of affection, remembering the other only when the pangs of hunger came.

As we walked side by side to a nearby eatery, hubby's phone rang loudly.

"I like your ringtone," I complimented over the phone. "And reception's still clear in this usual dead spot."

"Shoes are nice. You look great," he replied, his face lighting up. As did mine.

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Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Cattle Car

I was on the metro on my way to work with the rest of humanity. It was a typical winter's Monday morning. People wore grim faces with their dark winter coats and bed hair, most likely unwashed, judging by the stale scent of Sunday that hung in the air.

One Chinese guy boarded in one of the stations and immediately caught my eye. He smiled at everyone, a stark contrast to the long faces around him. He started tapping the ring on his finger against the overhead railing, as he bobbed his head to the beat of some music in his head.

The crowd around him quickly parted, and I heard more than a few people whisper the word "crazy". As I stared at the man and rest of us in the cattle car, I wondered if soundness of mind is really defined by the behavior of the majority. I plugged in my headphones, selected a playlist, and started tapping my foot, trying to find my rhythm for the week ahead.

Sunday, January 8, 2012

38 Seconds and More

Time ticked away. It was still early, but you could feel that everyone was counting down the hours. The family did some last minute grocery shopping for missing key ingredients for the feast being prepared, and everyone in the mall was in a rush.

The minutes ticked away, and I could hear the ticking everywhere. It was in my cousin's tapping of the steering wheel, as we rushed home from a trip to the convenient store for more alcohol. It was in the regularity of the passing lights, or even in my own breathing.

The seconds ticked away, then everyone started counting out loud. Five, four, three, two, one, then everything erupted into chaos. The noise, bright lights, and smoke immediately consumed everything. In spite of the din of fireworks, I could still hear the incessant ticking.

"Happy New Year!" I texted to my hubby. "Will be home in 7 days, 8 hours, and 38 seconds..."

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If I had doubts on the magic of Christmas, they disappeared when i witnessed my nephews and nieces open their Christmas presents. The surprised expressions, the sparkle in their eyes, the squeals of delight.

One of the little ones even became emotional and in between loud sobs, declared that it was the best Christmas day ever.

Then it was my turn. I was handed a beautifully wrapped package with my name from beneath the tree. I felt each side with my fingers, and scratched a corner of an adhesive tape, which I then carefully peeled off.

I unwrapped each package to the sound of oohs and aahs of an audience. A mug, a shirt, a box of pastries - things that I didn't really need. I reminded myself to sprinkle some Christmas magic, even if it was merely drawn from up my sleeve, into my facial expressions.

But I didn't need to put on an act. I was genuinely surprised and grateful for the presents, for the blessings, for my family. I scooped up my nephew, who was still sobbing, and held him in my arms.

"You are right little one. It is the best Christmas day ever."

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