Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Revenge of the Chillies

Spicy food whets my appetite. So preparing any spicy food in the kitchen definitely makes me high. I can’t remember when it started but I’ve been deeply in-love with anything spicy since I can remember. And with spicy comes the first thing that pops into everyone’s mind: chilli.
Sunday morning, I was hyped up to finally be able to prepare my version of Bicol Express. There has been left-overs from the lechon on Christmas, and it was planned weeks ago that I cook B-Ex, if only to satiate my unreasonable craving for spicy food even just for a few days or so.
So there I was, fantasizing on how blissful it would be when I’d finally be able to taste what I’ve been waiting for for weeks, months even. After all the spices had been prepared, I started slicing and dicing the chillies—the green ones called ’siling espada’ and the little ones that are just extremely hot, according to others.
Everyone had been complaining that I’ve prepared too much chillies already. But actually it’s not as much compared to what was really needed for the dish. I wanted to slice more chillies but they kept nagging me about it.

The dish was, of course, delish! It was hot but not as hot as I’d wanted. Can’t exactly say it was a sold-out dish, though. They’re not much on chillies. I wanted it to be hotter but I guess I could do it that way next time, when no one’s nagging at my back.
Some time after lunch, I started to feel a little heat on my left thumb. Thought that it was, of course, due to the chillies I handled—that it was normal. A familiar sensation I always felt after handling quite a lot of those little heat grenades. I could handle a little heat on the thumb, I thought. And I was right. Then about an hour later and I started to feel the rest of the digits on my left hand start to burn. It was bearable for a few minutes, then it started to burn like hell. I could not move my fingers. It was as if my hand was being suspended above burning charcoals, as if a barbecue. It felt like it was burning so bad that I Googled home remedies for hands burning from handling chillies.
Nigella was right. You can’t be too strong—or too much of a chilli maniac—to handle chillies with your bare hands. And apparently, a lot of people have made the same mistake. That was a relief. So I tried the remedies I found on the net. Remedies submitted by the poor souls who have suffered the same burning feeling on their hands.
So these are the remedies I tried:

  • Wash your hands thoroughly, scrubbing through every digit under running water.
    >It didn’t work for me. Hell, my hand was still burning like hell.

  • Soak your hands in milk.
    >I shouldn’t have drank the milk on the bottle. I regretted having gulped those last few glasses. I was left with no choice but to dissolve powdered milk in water and soak my hand in it. Still no use. The pain was alleviated but only while my hand was submerged in milk. Each time I remove my hand from the solution, it only burned worse.

  • Soak your hands in vinegar.
    >The same effect, err absence of effect. The pain continued. And I wished I wasn’t so stupid enough to slice those chillies with bare hands.

  • Apply baking soda paste on the affected area.
    >They have got to be kidding, I thought when it didn’t work—at all. It was as if I was being filmed for a prank show. And I had no idea why a lot of people claimed that it worked. For them, maybe. But apparently my hand was immune to any cure, it seemed.

  • Soak your hands in coconut milk.
    >At last, a remedy that actually worked. A little, that is. I had to keep my hand submerged in coconut milk for some 20 minutes.

Of course, the impatient bastard that I am, I wasn’t able to wait for the coconut milk to fully take the burning off my hand. I cursed, and removed my hand and had to blow it with my mouth. I had to bear the burning feeling. I found it useless to follow any more of those remedies that obviously worked only for other people.
I suffered for four hours, wishing there was some way I could trade my mouth’s ability to withstand ridiculously spicy food for relief from the pain in my hand. Now I know better, needless to say. The next time I decide to murder chillies, I’m going to use kitchen gloves. No matter how few the chillies are.

Saturday, December 20, 2008



Exactly thirty-one minutes before midnight on my computer clock. 19th December, 2008. It feels like my head is filled with salt water, like I've been swimming in the sea for the evening. But what happened was nothing close to an encounter with nature—the beach, I meant.

If you knew me, then you'd probably know that I am writing under the influence—again. If you feel it proper, blame a few bottles of the bland yet notorious (at least in my case) San Mig Light. And yes, I had to open another tab to be sure if it's spelled with three words or two. And if I may, I'd like to clear that I am, in no way, inebriated ; if your vocabulary serves, 'tipsy' is the word that fits my condition. And now, I'm not quite sure 'condition' is the word I was looking for.

I am amused at the fact that I am still able to check my grammar. At least to me. I will not make excuses for any error I may commit with this post. Hell, I don't owe anyone any explanation for this post.

So how exactly am I feeling at this very moment? Um, I don't know. I guess I feel a bit underwater. A bit, being the the operative phrase. My eyes rolled to the lower right corner of the screen and the clock reads 11.41. Sweet! Just sweet.

Tonight's the barkada Christmas party. You know, nothing fancy. Nothing out of the usual, actually. You know, we had dinner at KFC. Ordered a bucket. Ate. Talked. Laughed. Agreed that the gravy at KFC is the best around, and that no other fast food joint has come close to beating its taste. Of course, I was half listening to my friends talk about the city's business development as I was busy with my food. I was so full I thought I needed to unbutton my jeans.

So it was supposed to be a barkada Christmas party, right? Apparently it wasn't to some of us. I am not going to drop names because that would only be an insult to whoever that 'some' refers to. If you're reading this, which I doubt you are given your 'busy' schedule—what with all your responsibilities and all—and you don't feel in the mood to tolerate such expression of grievances from someone who's probably going to laugh it off the next day, just find your way out the page.

Where was I? Yeah. It was supposed to be a barkada party but some of us didn't actually find the will—and want—to attend it. Catching on up while we're already thinking of collapsing onto our beds so doesn't count. I don't think you can even call it 'catching up'. It's not like I am surprised though. I am used to the situation. But apparently, the disappoint is inevitable. You sit there, facing the bottles of beer, listening to your friends talk about this and that, thinking 'Hey, it's okay. This has happened before, and it's not like you're the only one being taken for granted, you know. Get over it.'. You sit there, and bam! It hits you like a blow on the side, and you start to think if you're actually okay with the constant flaking out of one of your friends. Thank you for showing your support the past week by showing up, although you still had to leave for something that I completely understand was important. But tonight, your presence would have so made things a whole lot different.

After I had confided on the same situation exactly six days ago, a friend outside the aforementioned barkada told me that I should be aware that at some point my friends would not be able to attend our gatherings. Of course, I totally get that. I am not a bloody eight-year old. But when it's (almost) always like this, can you blame me if I feel this way?

I don't mean to vilify or anything. It's just that I have a huge button for being taken for granted, just in case you failed to notice it from my previous posts. Or from my previous blogs. It's like, "Where the fuck were you? You have the nerve to show your face to us after having been late for, oh I don't know, four freaking hours? And you have the littlest nerve to attend to your phone when you knew you at least owed your friends a little act of consolation?" I mean, fuck!

So anyway, I had fun. A friend had me occupied with her little childlike trick of forming tissue strips into a circle, something like that. And as it turned out, I did one complete circle which, according to her, meant the person I was thinking while doing the circle was meant for me. I wondered if it was true. Wondered. Past tense. I wondered if it was true for the first few minutes after my friend gave me her giddy congratulations for making one full circle. After that, I was sane and not naive enough to realize it was a major pile of bullocks.

Bottom line is I had fun. I had fun. And I want to thank my friends for being present on our party.

I can be a bitch, I know that. I can be the grandest bitch one could ever have the chance of knowing. My words can cut like a knife. My eyes can roll like they regret ever having laid on you. Plainly put, I am a bitch. But here's the deal, I am the bitch who'll stick with you for as long as you show me you're worth sticking with.

Now, I think I've bitched enough. I deserve a good sleep.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

A Shade of Grey



To paraphrase Miranda Bailey’s lines: if we lived in a black-and-white world, it would be easier to call a man a bad person or a good person. It would be as simple as identifying colours—even for a colour-blind like me. Needless to say, we are not in a black-and-white world. No one is entirely bad or good; we lie between the lines of good and evil.


I was staring blankly at the wall, disgruntled by my student’s inability to convey his thoughts into the simplest English sentence possible. I was beginning to regret having agreed to teach him, without foreknowing by that lousy smile on his face that it would be a very difficult task to edify his English skills. I flipped through the photocopied pages of a grammar book, willing myself to stay calm, when he said, in an almost indistinguishable utter, “I think teacher good person.”

“What?” I asked, and regretted doing so when he just looked at me with that same smile he’s been flashing since we met.


“What did you say?” I asked again anyway, although I have already understood what he meant.


“I think teacher good person.” He repeated, much to my surprise.


“You think I’m a good person?” I asked, rhetorical.


He nodded, smile stretching even wider.


I tried hard not to laugh. Out of desperation, I cleared my throat. Of course, I could have retorted at his simple-minded, immature opinion. But doing so would only be a waste of time, and would add a strain to my throat for he would not have understood what I’d have uttered.


It was funny, in a way. I so rarely receive that kind of opinion. And from strangers, too. Complete strangers who have clearly no idea of who I am. Who I really am.


Well, I guess each one of us has our fans from both sides. Those who see the good in us, and those who see the devil in us. And there will always be those rare few who see us for who we really are- an amalgam of all things good and evil. And it’s priceless, having those people who don’t see you through black-and-white lenses. Truth be told, though, I’d rather be labelled ‘evil’ than ‘good’. It’s easier to give justice then.


One thing’s for certain: we all have the seeds of good and evil in us. It’s up to us which seed we let grow. But in this world, it’s easier if we let them both bloom. There will be struggle. But that’s just the way it is. It’s better that way.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Worlds Apart


Three thirty-five a.m., I lay restless in bed. My hands under my head, and I tried to make sense of the interplay of the ceiling and the shadows that the light from the backyard illuminated through the window. I tried to make up shapes, figures—it was my own alternative for silently counting imaginary sheep jumping over an imaginary white fence. I wanted to believe counting sheep, in its illusory sense, worked.

My head was filled with everything that has happened hours before I gave in to my body’s exhaustion. I tried to shake things away; tried to tell myself it was just one of those hallucinations I brought myself without any help from alcohol. But I guess it’s true what they say: the more you try to forget something, the more you unconsciously think of it.

I should not have felt that way. I have been praying hell time would not come that I’d feel that way. But one can’t really force himself to feel things; more importantly, one cannot force himself to not feel things.

I twisted and turned, hoping my mind would just shut down or something. I wished there was a key I could press—one single key, like that on my keyboard, that when pressed would, in seconds, turn the system off. But my mind was restless. My mind has always been restless. Too restless, in fact, that it sometimes worries me. And hell, it was past midnight. My mind was, in some twisted reality of mine, entitled to work more intensely than usual. Even without my permission.

See, just when I thought the city that I lived in was somehow growing, I saw him sitting at my usual spot in the coffee shop. For a fraction of what seemed an eternity, my chest pounded like it was about to explode. Then, it stopped—I couldn’t feel my heart beat.

But like that kid in the Nido commercial, “See, I’ve learned.” I’ve learned to combat my tendency to panic when thrust into a moment where I was expected to shake, frown, and publicly humiliate myself. I’ve learned long ago how to appear collected even when my heart just wants to jump out of my chest.

I was hoping that time would come. Silently hoping. I hoped I’d be able to stare into those two dark eyes and not flinch. Well, I didn’t flinch. Not that I’m aware of. And well, I’d hoped it would be different. Needless to say, all hopes—along with their sons—crashed into a dead-end alley of my quiddity. But I guess things are better that way. For hope, they say, is the most evil of all human gifts.

It was hard enough that we were just inches from each other, yet there seemed a thick glass between us. I tried to strike a conversation. Asked a pretty stupid and ineffectual question only to be shot back at with a curt response. I have tried desperately to break the glass but it only seemed to grow thicker with every attempt. There was distance between us that no bridge could efface.

I wondered how things could have been had we not been around friends. Had we both been alone, would there have been any inch of possibility that we'd actually talk? Would there have been a chance that we'd laugh together while poking at the most trivial things other people seem to care so much about?

Once again, I asked myself if I haven’t been good enough for him to be able to claim me as his friend with people around. And once again, I told myself that some questions in this life are meant unanswered. I could be wrong. But then again, there’s a bigger chance that I’m right.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Cappuccino's Thriteen-year Old


It started to drizzle as I made my way to the coffee shop. I cursed beneath my breath. I hurried; started to run, almost knocking a girl down as I gained speed. It wasn’t my fault she was blocking my way. She sure didn’t seem to mind the drizzle. I thought she was one of those people who could stand under the rain and not get sick. I am not one of those people. I wanted to reach the shed of the coffee shop before the drizzle turned into rain.

By the time I got inside the shop, it stopped drizzling. I wanted to mutter another British-inspired curse but stopped myself. It was as if the clouds just wanted me to run so I would sweat, to piss me off. I frowned, pulling the earphone from my left ear and walked towards the counter. My frown turned into a goofy smile when I saw who was at the counter. It was Cappuccino, the single most cordial-looking barista in the shop who caught my eye some months ago.

I tried to peel the ear-to-ear smile off my face, but even if I wasn’t facing a mirror, I could see I was failing at the attempt. I felt like a thirteen-year old, albeit without the butterflies in the stomach. I felt relieved feeling that way; I thought, for the past months, I have stripped myself the gift of attraction.

“Hi!” I said, aware that it was in my signature oh-gawd-you’re-adorable tone.

“Good afternoon, sir.” He greeted with that certain degree of formality I knew he thought was suited for greeting a customer. I’d wished he knew he wasn’t allowed to be that formal. Where’s the manager?

I scanned the board behind him as if trying to decide what I wanted, when in fact I had already made a mental order for ‘Crumble’. As he punched my order into the machine, I asked for his name. It was the second time that I asked, and I felt like a complete idiot for it. He must think I was deaf or plain flirting. Which in either case, he was mistaken. Goofy smile doesn’t count for flirting in my book.

After he had given me his name—by this time the too formal appeal had faded—I explained that I got confused from the way he said it when we bumped into each other days ago. I knew it was unnecessary but I felt I had to say something just so his mind wouldn’t get clouded with assumptions. Most guys are good at that, and I should know.

Cappuccino  has a way of talking, you see. It was hard for me to roll my eyes from his face when he’d look me straight in the eyes when he spoke. He didn’t have painfully beautiful eyes which I am a sucker for, but I just found it winsome. I had to will myself to take a step from the counter and grab an ashtray behind me.

The sky had completely—and surprisingly—changed its shade when I got outside. I sat on my usual spot and stared into the sky, aimless—as if I was a zombie. Half-aware, I started to get impatient waiting for  my friend to arrive. She had agreed to meet me at the mall, and almost an hour had passed and she still was not in sight. I pulled myself from the trance-like activity and lit a cigarette. At the back of my mind, I knew I should not have bought a pack but I didn’t want to buy from the street vendors. Opting not to smoke in the first place was not an intention; the moment I felt the day drop its weight on me, I knew I had to puff some sticks.

In the middle of replaying my favourite scenes from Grey’s Anatomy, the glass door opened and came my coffee. Cappuccino placed the plastic cup beside the ashtray, with the cigarette resting on its grove. I looked up and saw his eyes fixed on me. Or maybe I was just hallucinating. To my surprise, he stayed to talk about stuff that concerned our random meeting. I was actually expecting him to bring my order and leave. By this time, I had the goofy smile under control. He motioned to go back to his post and I smiled, saying “Thanks” with as much composure as I could afford.

The thirteen-year old in me didn’t want him to leave, but the twenty-four-year-old-and-not-so-naive in me also knew I couldn’t—and shouldn’t—entertain such shallow attractions to someone who does not even know my name, and who’s just genuinely friendly and trying to do his job. I shook it off when he was gone and came back to staring at the sky.

Six sticks and half the coffee gulped later, my friend arrived. She went directly inside and so I picked up my coffee, and mobile, and followed her. When she ordered, Cappuccino was no longer attending the counter. It was the guy in eyeglasses with a shaved head. When my friend was given the promo card for a free mug, I complained that I was not given one. The bald guy in glasses looked surprised but handed me a card anyway. Then suddenly, from the corner of my eyes I saw him standing at the end of the counter, Cappuccino. I turned to him and complained in what I now gather a somewhat childlike manner. He smiled and explained that he forgot. His smile was nothing extraordinary, not your Close-up kind of smile. But it was unfeigned, I noticed—and I know one when I see one.

Back outside, any trace of the thirteen-year old was non-existent as the conversation stretched. When I think about it now, it was unlike me to be able to brush any interaction with a guy so easily. At least at that moment. But even now, I can’t reacquaint myself with the giddiness I’d felt. I guess one really learns from the past. Unaware maybe, but still. It feels good to know I have not grown insensible to things such as a little pash.