Monday, August 29, 2011

When life gives you lemons

lemons

 

“When life gives you lemons, make lemonade.”

 

I’ve never found that saying amusing despite it being an attempt at trying to lighten up a sullen mood.

 

Lemons are not easy to find in this little city of Tagbilaran. And when it is available at the grocery, it is either about to shrink by itself or it serves as a good example of how, even in nature, things can be made mini. So you go to the grocery expecting to see lemons the size of a clenched fist, as you see on TV, and you find lemons indeed the size of a clenched fist—but of a baby’s. And they’re priced at, what, 11 pesos? It makes one appreciate the calamansi.

 

I feel like a kid when I see a basket of lemons on the fruit section of the grocery. Yellow never looked so good; sorry, Kris. I like the smell of lemon, and I like lemonade. I make my own lemonade, which isn’t remotely worth bragging because even blind people can make lemonade. Still.

 

I’m not much of a juice person, you see. I’m more of the iced-tea or soda type or alcoholic beverage type. I frown at the sight of juices, even the freshly squeezed ones. Lemonade, however, is that one juice which I think might take me off the Coca-Cola curse. It’s refreshing, and it keeps me up at night.

 

Oh well, lemons.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

The Dunkin’ woman

bunwich

 

My head pounded as I half-listened to a family friend narrate the story of her son’s budding romance. I had been asked—no, ordered—by my mum to get my brother’s report card, and since it’s Saturday and I didn’t have anything better to do, I agreed. The school was a marketplace—parents (mostly mothers) were everywhere chatting with each other, when instead they should be listening to the speaker who was rambling about some fund-raising event; some were busy tinkering with their phones; others watched over little kids who ran around like maniacs. Personally, I don’t like kids—especially the restless ones.

 

After an hour and a half or so of waiting, I was facing my brother’s class adviser, listening to what she had to say about his performance in class. I smiled, answered politely, listened, smiled again, and thanked her. I was humming a tune as soon as I walked out of the room. When I got to the parking area, I uttered an incoherent expletive, seeing that cars were blocking me in. But I managed to move the car out.

 

I’d have headed home if my throat didn’t scream for a caffeine fix and my stomach didn’t grumble. I drove to the coffee shop, and saw the lack of parking space. Shit. I decided to head to Dunkin’ Donuts instead. Ah, the parking area was vacant. My head still pounded.

 

I waited for my order, trying to drown out the noise that the other customers made. Three elderly men who read the paper while waiting for their order made comments about someone they knew; the one wearing a white shirt annoyed me the most among the three, because while his companions spoke in soft manner, his voice seemed to reverberate—making the pounding of my head even worse. He kept talking—no, bashing the person they were talking about—in his broken glass-like voice.

 

A large group of early-twenties occupying 7-8 tables, give or take, was also an annoyance; they shrieked, laughed, talked loudly, and shrieked some more. But at least, I thought, it was in their early-twenties character; unlike the man with broken-glass for a voice, who acted like he was in his prepubescent years, screaming at his parents for not letting him go out on a Friday night.

 

My order was taking too long. And I was about to do a follow-up when a woman, about in her late forties, walked up to a crew behind the counter and started complaining about the burger she and her foreigner husband ordered. She complained that the egg wasn’t toasted. Her voice was loud, even more irritating the man who had broken glass for a voice. But I think what made her so unlikeable to me was the fact that she was so arrogant. She sounded arrogant; she talked arrogantly. In her ugly pink blouse, with a multi-coloured bag on her shoulder (which I knew my mum would disapprove of), and her burger in one hand, she recited what to me—and maybe to everyone else that overheard her—was an unnecessary tale of how often she and her husband frequented the place for the burger; and how—since she and her husband are regular customers—she finds it annoying that she has to keep telling the crew, each time they order, how they want their eggs done. I thought I wanted to stand up and give her a slap, because even after the girl behind the counter apologized, she still kept complaining about it. And she told her story in English, by the way. And no, her English wasn’t good; I wanted to tell her to just complain in the vernacular so she doesn’t look any more stupid than she already is. Stupid because she wasn’t in a restaurant; she was in Dunkin’ Donuts, for Christ’s sake—she can’t expect the crew to remember how she wants her eggs done. It’s a fast-food establishment, and fast-food establishments don’t do special orders that way—the ‘automatic’ way she wants it. Stupid because everyone knows that employees of such kind of establishments work on shifting schedules; the person she must have ordered the same thing for God-knows how many times, isn’t always the person that’s going to take her order and toast her God-damn eggs. Stupid because her bag didn’t match her blouse, and because she didn’t have to yell at the poor girl for everyone to hear. I really wanted to give her a piece of my mind, but my head was pounding badly and I wasn’t in the mood to help people who couldn’t talk back because their job doesn’t permit them to. And I know that’s a whole different thing.

 

As soon as I got my order, I left. I went to the boulevard to enjoy my burger and iced coffee. At the boulevard, windows down. I stared into the sea as I sipped my coffee and chewed my burger. The sea breeze was relaxing; I temporarily forgot about the horrible woman.

 

I admit, as a customer I can be hard to please sometimes—for lack of a better description; I find faults in things. And when it comes to customer-seller (or whatever it is in business terminology), I always have something to say. I complain, I rally. I can turn from an amiable to an irate customer if I am provoked. But I don’t do yelling. And before saying anything, I make sure I have the right to complain. Oh well, from the way she was behaving, one only guess her moral background.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Read on

reading

 

I used to read a lot when I was a kid. I devoured graphic comics (especially of those horror stuff), books about animals, story books, general references (I especially liked the dictionary because I found it challenging to pore through pages looking for word definition), and even those tiny pocketbooks our help read.

 

Now, I don’t know what happened. High school was, I think, the last of my glory reading years. I didn’t mind reading even if it was purely for academic reasons. But in college, I started losing genuine interest in reading, perhaps because of the modern craze that was the Internet and SMS. I hardly read in college. I wouldn’t spend my time in the library reading; I spent it chatting with friends. When I did spend time in the library to read, it was at the periodical section. And I would only flip through magazines, reading articles that caught my interest.

 

And later on, I grew into a January reader—I’d be engrossed in a material, but halfway through reading, I’d stop. And I wouldn’t feel any sense of want or need to finish the material. And not only have I become a January reader, I’ve also become selective about what I read. I no longer find interest in reading reference books or any material that was intended to broaden my knowledge. And I don’t like reading—no, I don’t read at all—philosophy or self-help books. Those two wouldn’t strike any interest in my even if my life depended on them.

 

I’ve reduced reading materials to the labels of products in the kitchen or in the bathroom, manuals for appliances or gadgets, and stuff. I think, too, my attention span has greatly diminished, and it has had a profound effect on my reading habits. When I’d read a long article, I’d oftentimes stop to gather my focus because I easily get distracted. And when I’d finish reading an article in one sweep, I sometimes have to re-read parts of it. I like reading short materials, like blog posts, columns on newspapers and magazines because I think it fits the span of attention I can afford myself.

 

I’d like to get back to being a passionate reader. I know that would be difficult since I have a lot of distractions around me, and I can’t seem to tear myself away from the Internet. Thankfully, the Internet has numerous reading opportunities to offer, otherwise I’d have completely lost any muscle for reading.

 

Right now, I’m trying to finish Nathaniel Hawthorne’s “The House of the Seven Gables,” and I can’t even remember how many times I’ve stopped reading because I needed to check my mobile phone, plot a get-even scheme, or I was simply busy psycho-analysing the characters in the story. Good luck to me.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Leaving

leaving

 

I stood there, amongst crowds of people whipping past me. I stood there with my right hand clutching the handle of the trolley bag; my left hand clutching a mobile.

 

Even with all the noise around me, I could hear my heart race, like somehow it was going to jump out of my chest. Sweat trickled down the back of my head, down to my nape. Every breath seemed like a struggle.

 

What am I doing here? The gaggle of people started to make me feel dizzy, and I wanted to let the weight on my feet pull me down. I was immobile, and yet, more than anything, I wanted to leave. I wanted to take that step to leave everything behind.

 

What the future holds is beyond my guess. What the past has given is beyond forgetting. I took one deep breath, and turned around. I wasn’t ready. Leaving can be the hardest thing. What I did know then, was that I wasn’t going to leave for the sake of leaving.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Not so strange at all

coffee

 

Outside the coffee shop—on a corner, I sit waiting for my friend to return from an unexpected but unsurprising deviation, clutching a plastic cup of coffee. The chill of the evening air strokes my face. It’s drizzling. The sky is of deep, eerie shade. Sounds of my surroundings have been deafened by the loud music playing through earphones tucked—no, buried—in my ears. My hands itch and my chest begins to pound—tell-tale signs of my growing impatience. I take a sip of the bitter, cold coffee. It has been a while. I believe I may have seen a bird fly from a distant tree seconds ago. But what with the dark sky, I could be hallucinating, and I won’t be surprised. Or it may not have been a bird, if you know what I mean. But I am certain it wasn’t Superman.

 

The old, familiar guard casts a look at my direction. I stare into his eyes for a second. What do you want? I can’t understand the song I’m listening to even though I have heard it a million times. I have memorized its words by heart; I have fully dissected and absorbed its substance. Tonight, though, I can’t understand it—it sounds foreign. It’s muffled. I take another sip of the iced coffee that has now gone bland. I pull the earphones out by the wire—something I don’t usually do because it breaks the wires.

 

New sounds quickly register: the sound of a passing vehicle, the voice of people on the table to my right. Incomprehensible sounds from around me. Sounds. Silence versus sounds—which do I prefer? Can’t I choose both? Isn’t that the purpose of choices—so that we can choose? I choose both. One may argue that we are given choices because we can’t have it all all the time. But I choose both.

 

Two paunchy men in their early forties come and stand just in front of the glass doors. They begin to talk about cars. It’s not eavesdropping if I listen to their conversation, is it? After all, they’re just standing there. So the man who I earlier judged was a seaman merely by the thick golden necklaces and bracelet that threatened to overthrow Cleopatra—it’s a popularly accepted observation that seamen liked to wear too much gold accessories—starts talking (more like bragging) about his SUV which is parked conveniently outside the shop. He starts yapping about how his SUV was way better than his cousin’s just because the latter’s was bought second-hand and its engine simply didn’t have the same power his SUV has. The other man who looked like a washed-out version of the late Johnny Delgado appears interested and pitches in a few agreeing remarks. An SUV passes by and catches their attention, and they continue their conversation. Sometimes—if not all the time—we do like to brag, don’t we? I think it’s a basic human need. Sometimes we do it wilfully; sometimes it just slips beyond our control.

 

On the other table are three kids who came in with the two men; a boy not more than 15 years old, give or take, is playing with PSP; a girl, a couple of years younger than the former, grasping her mobile phone with two hands as if it had the ability to escape her grasp and that she didn’t want it to escape; a boy about 6 years of age sipping what looks to me is a Cookies-and-Cream drink. They barely look at each other. They didn’t even talk to each other. They were engrossed in their tiny private worlds that it would look to anyone that they didn’t know each other.

 

A strange time we’re living in. But oh, no, maybe it’s not so strange at all.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Fetcher

fet

You were a dream. A dream that came true despite being years late, no thank you to altruistic tendencies and certain other factors.

You were ridiculously huge and shiny and black when I first saw you. Beautifully intimidating. I didn’t know how to steer you at first, but I had to learn to. And so I did. And you were easy on me. Just like I had imagined, once I knew how to stroke you, you were eating—rather, spinning—under the palm of my hands.

We’ve travelled on smooth roads, under sunny or rainy days; sped fast like we didn’t care; stopped to admire things that caught our eyes. We’ve gone to the famous places on this island; you were witness to how fine the sands of Panglao beaches are, how winding and narrow the road to Chocolate Hills is. We’ve boarded countless rides on ships.

And like every relationship, we too have been through bad times. We’ve endured scratches and minor accidents. And yes, who could ever forget about that poor chicken that stood frozen until you crushed it, and those two dogs that came out of nowhere. They were casualties that could not be helped.

Sometimes it feels you’re too heavy to use, as if there are times when you just don’t want to move; and you’d channel your tantrum on me. Sometimes it feels like you’re too eager to crush stones, and I’d hear you calling my name, begging me to use you.

Other people have used you, yes. And although I liked the feeling of just being inside you without having to steer, I still like the feeling of being in control.

And it’s hard to clean you, you know. I sweat when I clean you, like exercise. You need too much water, too much energy. Sometimes you just don’t want to shine. And sometimes, you look as if you’re a black gem gleaming under the sun. I don’t mind cleaning you, though.

You like the attention, don’t you. You like the attention people give you when you pass them by. Sometimes the attention is unwanted, for me. But I don’t mind, because when I’m holding you—when I’m in control—nothing gets my attention. OK, OK, most of the time.

I was, at first, anxious when my friends went in for us to take them for a spin. But you did not disappoint, and they liked you. Everyone seems to like you, really. And you know that and you like that, I know. You’re a brat.

I hope we share many years together. I hope you don’t give my siblings a hard time when it’s their time to control you, to command you. I hope you stay fortunate for as long as you can, and that isn’t too much to ask for, is it? Because you’re not really being treated like a machine. In fact, as you may already know this, we consider you as having a life, as crazy as that may sound. We have to be careful, though, because there are a lot of idiots on the road. We know better, and so we must educate them, but without jeopardizing ourselves.

Happy second.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Disco don’ts

disco dont

I hear the clock ticking, insects making weird noises that sound like non-cable TV sets at midnight. And I remember how frustrating the sound of that sort of TV is. I hear the keys under my fingers. I still hear that damn clock, and it’s 4:53 in the afternoon. Why is it so quiet? Why do I hear that damn clock? Oh, it’s a Sunday.

It’s Sunday. And I am nursing a bad headache. But I’ve had worse. I still hear the damn clocking ticking. And I hear myself giving a faint, albeit irritating, lecture about what not to do again. Especially when in the confines of a dark, cold disco bar.

Do not talk to strangers. You don’t go to discos to talk to strangers. You don’t spend money to talk to strangers.

Do not bring your beer to the dance floor. Some things, like driving and using a mobile phone, aren’t meant to be paired for multi-tasking.

Do not lie on the couch like you’re watching TV at home when you’ve already had more than two bottles of beer. Sitting in that lousy position is meant with popcorn or sandwich in hand, not beer.

Do not resist the urge to yell expletives at the rude bartender; otherwise you’ll have a really hard time trying to ignore that idiot dancing on the dance floor. Yell at the bartender.

Do not smile back at drunk people just because they smiled at you.

Do not wear jeans when you’re going to the disco.

Do not close your eyes for more than a minute, unless you want the world to spin.

And do not drink five bottles of beer in under half an hour, because you’re at the disco to dance, not drown.

Friday, August 12, 2011

No, I am not a nurse

nurse

I have been asked, countless times, if I was a nurse.

Once, at a hardware store, the sales personnel who was attending to my queries about wires interrupted, “Di ba nurse ka?” I shook my head no. “Nursing student?” I chuckled and said, “I wouldn’t even dream of it.” Well, I could have been a nurse, had I taken my dad’s offer to shift courses in college.

I don’t know why. It’s odd, but in a way not surprising. There must be some sort of nurse stereotype that I somehow fit. Snob and maarte—that has got to be it. Quite a number of people have told me that I appeared snobbish or maarte. Nurses (nursing students, especially) are often seen like that because, well, some of them really are. I have nothing against nurses, I tell you. But as with nursing students who act like they’re something special because of their white uniform and the belief that they have the golden ticket to go abroad and earn loads of money because of their soon-to-be profession—they have another thing coming.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

It

lonely

 

They said to not stop looking for it. And so I didn’t. I tried to look for it in obvious appearances, in places they said I’d find it. I tried hard to look for it because everyone else, it seemed, has found it. And I have heard tales of people who looked for it and found it. Their tales fuelled the hope that was slowly fading. I looked for it even when there was no reason to. I looked for it even when doing so was draining me dry. I looked for it until I got tired.

 

And they said to not look for it; to let it find me. So I waited with hope flickering inside. Like a dying candle that could no longer lend its brightness to a room that’s been swallowed by shadows. I waited, but it didn’t come. Not even a spark was breaking the darkness. It didn’t come. But I found myself. Hope began to burn.

 

And I said that maybe it was there all along, that I just didn’t see it. That it was right under my nose, like a faint familiar scent that got disregarded because something else smelled sweeter and new. And I thought I had. It was there, and maybe I felt it. I felt it but I couldn’t trust it enough to hold on to it. I couldn’t see it for what it was because my walls have been put up too high. So I tried to hold what’s left of it for me. I’d hold it tight so it wouldn’t get away. And I’d let it go so it could grow and come back. And I hoped that it would come back stronger, and that it would be enough for me to hold on to. It would be strong enough for me to stand on.

 

And I stood on it for some time. I stood on it, steady. Until it started to shake. It shook me and the foundation I thought I had with it. It left me thinking if it was ever mine or if I was just blinded by seemingly sincere intentions.

 

But one has to make do with what he has, what he feels. And one has to go on even without it. Because it isn’t for everyone. And I’m starting to think it isn’t for me. There is a hole inside that’s growing, yearning for it. And as time passes, as hope flickers into darkness, I become more content with the emptiness and unmoved by the yearning—neither searching, waiting, feeling.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Now showing

cinema

I know of people who spend too much money on keeping up with movies—watching them at a cinema as soon as they’re being shown, renting them at the video shop, or buying pirated DVDs from stalls you find on the side of the streets or tucked inside a small room behind the stairs. I know, too, of people who spend hours after hours searching for direct or via torrent download of movies, thereby eating up their hard drive space.

Well, obviously, I am not one of those people.

Sure, I like cinemas—how I feel like I am a spy on a mission each time I set foot into one, how the audio is ridiculously clear and mind-blowing, how the video appears soft and warm so my eyes don’t hurt—but unless it’s a movie I am dying to watch, I don’t like to waste a hundred bucks sitting alone in a freezing room, drowning out unnecessary noises from couples who are making out or from that jerk who might as well ask for a microphone so he can narrate the story.

Even when I’m not the one paying for the DVD rental, I don’t like renting DVDs because, most of the time, it’s a waste of money. What’s the point in renting a DVD in hopes of enjoying a movie in the comfort of your own couch when the disc suddenly stops halfway through because it looks like it’s been wiped-clean with steel wool? Frustrating. I have once complained about it to the management, and what I got was, “Is you player branded?” and when I didn’t respond and instead gave a blank stare on the account that it was an irrelevant question, the guy behind the counter rephrased his query into, “What’s the brand of your player?” I said it was Samsung, and I don’t know why, but somehow the idiot scoffed and said that it was probably why the player couldn’t read the discs properly. What an idiotic reasoning, really. And so I went on defence ala kill-the-idiot-behind-the-counter-with-reality by explaining that the issue was not about DVD players. That it was their manner of handling the discs when a customer returns or borrows that’s one of the major reasons why their DVDs are pretty much scratched on both sides. After that day, the idiot won’t attend to my transactions; he’d find excuses to arrange returned DVDs or be on break as soon as I walk into the shop.

And no, unless it’s a TV series I’ve been dying to start watching or a movie that I’ve already seen which I really liked, I don’t like to buy pirated DVDs. Not because I am an advocate of anti-piracy law (hell, no!), but because I’m simply not into it.

And no, no, no. I don’t like to use up my computer’s hard drive by downloading movies that have just been released in cinemas. I’m more into downloading songs.

I’m not the type who’d spend money or in any way go through lengths to watch a new movie. When I’m in the mood to watch a movie, I just choose from the ones I have a copy of, pop it into the player and crank the volume up until my mum or my sister complains. Or I watch it on my laptop in my room, with a candle lighted and the AC turned on—it’s just like in the cinema, except for the size of the screen and the unnecessary noises.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Please shut up

I am generally a talkative person. I can’t keep my mouth shut for long periods of time. I don’t run out of reasons to open my mouth—to curse, eat, sing, drink, curse, curse some more, eat some more, laugh.

So it should usually be a cause for alarm when I am extremely quiet, because it only means one thing: I am pissed off. And when I am pissed off, I hate it when people ask me questions or tell me things I don’t really give a fuck about.

But my mum doesn’t seem to get it. Well, I think she gets it when I am pissed, but she keeps trying to appease me to absolutely no avail, almost all the time. Even when it’s pretty obvious that I am so not in the mood I could practically slit people’s throats for talking to me, she still bombards me with questions and useless bits of information that only rile me even more.
So much for “mother knows best,” if you ask me.