Sunday, June 29, 2008

Boulevard: A Nodding Acquaintance


The spirit of the brain grenade was starting to make its way up my head. My fingers started to smell of nicotine, and my eyes were beginning to blur the lights of the huge lampposts. The sea breeze blew cold, and the gentle sound of the waves against the stones was serenading. Small groups of people—majority of which were indulging in libations—thronged the boulevard with their motorbikes parked before them. A few feet from the spot that my friends and I claimed were a group of girls desperately trying to get wasted- or so it seemed from the manner they passed their shot glass and their constant twirling around to the sound of house music that came from their car, a Ford. To our left was a group of some seven or eight boys graced with one girl, their motorbikes served as chairs for some of them.

Some thirty minutes before the tween hour, on a cold Friday night, I started to allow myself yet another moment of drifting away, so to speak; I swayed my hips and bopped my head to the house music from our right while I listened to my friends' sentiments and in return sharing some of my own. The awareness of our surrounding slowly loosened its grasp on me, and it would turn out to be just another night of getting shitfaced until he approached me.

"Pwede mudagkot, bay?" he said, holding a cigarette in hand.

As what I would usually do in similar situations, I refused the stranger to share the amber of the cigarette that was dying on my lips, so I took out my lighter and handed it to him.

"Thank you," he said with a little awkwardness in his smile, and gave my lighter back.

After what occurs to me now as one abridged chapter of my undying issues being shared to my friends, he approached me again just as I turned to look at his direction.

"Pwede muhuwam na pud sa lighter?" he said, this time with a smile that was evident of slight intoxication and congeniality.

It was this instance that I gathered myself to take a good look at him. He did not look like one of those poster boys you find at the mall. He, in fact, looked a little rugged in shorts and an orange shirt that was just a bit over sized; his hair tousled—but which appealed to me.

After saying 'thank you' and handing back my lighter, it seemed he was about to turn away when he said, "Ila-ila sa ta," stretched out his hand, "Long."

I gave my name and shook it with as much brisk as I could muster. He smiled; I smiled back coyly, when all the while I was trying to fight a huge grin from showing. After I introduced my friend, he asked where I lived and he in turn said where he was from. He left, leaving what must have appeared to be a clown smile on my face.

In between gulping copious amounts of beer and making my mouth a temporary chimney, I was hoping he would come back and borrow my lighter if having a conversation was out of the possibility. After we were done drinking, we decided to leave. And there was not a chance he could even give a nod of goodbye. I was not at all disappointed, though. I have come across similar bridges and I knew all too well that guys—even if they get pass their pride into introducing themselves—would never cross the line between being casual and being friendly. I was sober enough to realize it. It was just a nodding acquaintance—that I was sure of. So we started to drive home, taking a detour upon deciding that we take a swim buck naked to wash off drunkenness. It seemed too late so we ditched the plan; I talked my friends into going back to the boulevard, somewhat hoping that I would at least get to see enough of him to be able to make a vivid image for a dream.

By the time we got to the boulevard, they appeared to be discussing on whether it was about time to call it a night—some of them have already turned their engine on. I quickly got off the motorbike and sat on the pavement. A few seconds later, I saw him approaching from the corner of my eye. He sat beside me and smiled. My friends acted on the hint and excused themselves to buy cigarettes.

"Hi," he said, and smoked his cigarette.

"Hello," I replied with a huge grin I had been trying to hide from him earlier. What the hell.

"From where are you again?" he said, looking me straight in the eyes. I replied , and did the favour of looking him straight in the eyes, too. I prayed hard I would not blink for it was then that I noticed his eyes (I am such a sucker for beautiful eyes.) His eyes were two buttons that reminded me of a puppy's—the kind that just melts you without effort. I moved, and we sat face to face. We talked about seemingly mundane things, and laughed for no particular reasons. I guess my heart was deprived of any palpitations due to the alcohol because it did not skip a beat even if I could practically feel his breath on my face. Then there were moments of silence, and he would just stare at me, and I would do so, too. His smile did not fade, and it was that of a kid that just received an unexpected reward after having aced an exam.

"OK ra sa mga migo nimo nga naa ka diri?"

"OK ra, kasabot man sila." he said, keeping his eyes fixed on me. I was beginning to feel a burn in my stomach. Silence fell on us again until he brought the now-very-short cigarette to his lips, breathed the smoke in, and let out a little smoke from his pursed lips. I motioned to ask for a puff and he carefully handed me the stick. It was crazy how I allowed the filter that touched a stranger's lips to touch my own. I gave what remained to be one more puff back to him, and for the last time, he drew the cigarette to his lips. He threw the cigar butt down the slope of rocks and looked at me to smile.

After what seemed to be a full episode of Growing up Gotti, which I often find too long, he said he had to leave. "Oh," I muttered, hearing disappointment in my own voice. He explained they were going somewhere else and that it was not possible for him to stay because someone needs to hitch a ride. I could be imagining it then, but I swear I saw a letdown on his eyes. I was silent.

"Exchange lang ta'g number," he lighted up, took out his phone and dictated his number, "Paring-i lang ko." After his phone buzzed with my number, he punched in my name. "So, I have to go. Text-text lang 'nya," he said as he stood up.

"OK." I said, realizing that it was a kiss of death. 'Text-text lang 'nya?'—who was he kidding! I looked as he walked away; as if on cue, my friends arrived.

Well, I was right- it was a kiss of death. You know what happened, or rather what did not happen. There's no disappointment in my part; any hope of further connection crashed the minute he uttered the words that meant it was just, indeed, a nodding acquaintance to him. I should blame it on my being intoxicated to think that it could be something. I could also blame it on my constantly hoping that I may find a spark. I could even blame it on his eyes. But truth is, I feel no need for blame; it was simply another ball in my ring, if you take my meaning.