Wednesday, November 02, 2005

Chapter One - Unexpected

If there was one thing in the world that Gerald Mapagtapat ever believed in, it was that everything in the world happened for a reason. It was not because of Gerald’s Roman Catholic upbringing that gave him a sense of Faith that most men his age (or generation for that matter) sadly lacked. Nor was it in any way related to the fact that Gerald had actually been, at one point in his life, actively part of new-age spiritual/shamanistic practices and even realized he had the subtle gift to see and commune with the dearly departed. And even if the said strange occult-related gift had in many ways given Gerald a much broader and more open-minded view towards the world in general, Gerald’s absolute faith in the existence of a sense of reason and order governing the world was due to something he had gained somewhere else entirely:

He had fallen in love.


And the experience was absolutely the worse kind of experience he had ever thought he would have to go through. Though Gerald has been in relationships in the past, none of them would compare to the strange complexities and frightening moments of sheer idiocy that sprouted like overly-energetic fungi in his previous relationship with some woman named Jenna Garbino.

Jenna Garbino was the only daughter of a military man, who had long given up on ever truly making a difference in the country he served, and a housewife, who had long over-compensated for her inability to control Jenna by becoming plain and simple, a pain for everyone else concerned. Caught within a household where being cynically obsessively compulsive was the norm, Jenna easily found herself assimilating that manner of mindset much to Gerald’s disappointment. Bad enough as that was, Gerald had the even more rotten luck to only see Jenna’s inherited personality only after the third month of being together.

It was the little things that begun the most epic of arguments. Clothes that did not match when it came to the slightest of colors, would be one example. Gerald once visited Jenna wearing a predominantly white shirt that had three mint green strips of color at the right-hand side of the chest. His pants, unfortunately were a dark blue pair of jeans that happened to have a large vibrant green logo on the right-rear pocket. For Gerald, it was a shirt and a pair of jeans. For Jenna, however, it was a disaster of Odyssian proportions with two shades of green that would have counted, in her humble opinion mind you, as a reason for the Second Coming to demand the trumpets of Armageddon be blown. On another occasion, Gerald made “the mistake” of requesting for red wine while they feasted at a fine restaurant that served a delectable and highly recommended variant of one’s typical blue marlin dish. Never mix red spirits with the white meat of fish, Jenna argued, as if she spoke of some strange chemical danger had the two elements been allowed to combine. Never ever.

Jenna, unfortunately, also had the extremely frustrating habit of answering every question with another question. Gerald thought it was cute and endearing at first, hearing his lady love return any inquiries he made with a plea to hear his own opinion first. Until he realized that none of his opinions ever seemed to matter. Something as simple as deciding where to eat would be returned to Gerald in verbatim with a slight shift of accent from the word Where to the word You. And yes, no matter approach Gerald attempted to adapt in coming up with an answer, Jenna would always find some reason or personal preference that negated his contribution to the conversation and allowed Jenna to choose something else. One day, Gerald would find Jenna telling him that having pizza for dinner was an act of infernal treason against the Gods of dieting only to have her two weeks later contradict his suggestion to eat at an all-vegetable dish at another restaurant because she felt the day was a pizza day. And this was not something limited to eating choices mind you. Gerald toyed once with the idea of listing down each and every question in order to know what questions would permit his personal opinions to have any particular merit.

And yet, he loved her. So much. Beyond any hint of doubt. Beyond any touch of uncertainty. He loved her because she made him laugh when he needed to laugh. Because she knew exactly what he needed when he needed it. Because her absolute need to control and order her own surroundings to follow the unwritten rules of her preferences allowed Gerald to let go of his own need for personal wants and focus his own energies on other things.

And other things, by Gerald’s definition, sadly included other possible women.

It was not typical of him to be the manner of man who considered infidelity as an acceptable vice. Nor of his nature to consider the “other fishes in the sea” to be worth “watching and not touching”. But in some strange synchronistic twist of relationships, seeing what else the world offered gave Gerald a sense of defeatist acceptance of his imprisoned fate. After all, as any man with no true understanding of love can attest, there were indeed very many fish in the sea. And the very fact there were that many was due to the fact they were the unwanted and unaccepted majority.

In short, Gerald’s misguided tryst with what he thought was love transformed him into one of the biggest jerks to ever walk the Earth.

Such was the perilous history of Gerald Mapagtapat under the wing and shadow of Jenna Garbino. A history that he endured for three years before he one day finally realized he deserved someone better. He finally accepted the fact that as a human being, he deserved to have someone to take care of him. And finally, he realized how unfair it was to see nothing but the “unwanted majority” when he looked out into the world. Not when in truth, he himself was one of them, imprisoning himself in what he claimed was a content and volatile relationship rather than face the risk of being one of the people who had loneliness as a roommate again.

And so, it was an odd Tuesday morning when Gerald took a detour from his usual routinary heading home. On normal days, Gerald would have taken a cab the moment he stepped outside the confines of his office and would raise his left hand to signal one to come close. He would then take the cab back to his place, ignoring all the restaurants, net cafes, spas and the like, and eventually would drudgingly climb the steps leading to his apartment. (And upon arriving there, give Jenna a call, turn on his computer to check the e-mails Jenna sent him, answer each one and end each letter with “I love you so much that I can hardly breathe when I see you!” because she wanted a lover who ended each letter with that line, and finally, give her a call but only if it was past 9:45p.m. because to call earlier would be to interrupt her while she was watching her favorite reality show.)

Instead, he left the office twenty minutes early, walked past the parking lot of yellow cab where a co-worked often purchased his lunch. He stepped into the first coffee café he saw, ordered something sweet, tall and covered in whipped cream, then sat down at the nearest table to enjoy his drink. He began to hum some recurring melody that he overheard from some children at the street that was stuck in his head. He could barely recall the lyrics but the song was there, like some dark and vicious parasite, crooning about gigantic hotdogs and challenging women to handle such a mightily sized meal. And then decided to try to find something to read, stood up, walked to the newspaper and magazine rack beside the door to the restrooms and reached for the only magazine that had the words computer and games on the cover, only to bump his head painfully against someone else’s lowered head.

Gerald rose to standing, ready to argue and complain. Ready to unleash another long withheld torrent of Jenna tension onto an unsuspecting stranger. Ready to argue about how some people should learn to watch where they were going. And perhaps even demand an apology from the other.

But instead, Gerald stared back at the tall cheerful woman who carefully rubbed her head with the loose sleeve of her cardigan jacket. He stared at her half-closed eyes as she offered a friendly smile and bit her lower lip in embarrassed amusement. And found himself unable to keep from smiling himself as she ducked back down without warning, grabbed the magazine from the rack, and rose with a triumphant smirk.

“Sorry, I got it first. But you can read it after me.”

He watched her as she rolled the magazine into a small tube, and tucked it under her arm as she maneuvered past the other people who waited in line for the barista to take their orders. He followed her with his gaze as she reached her chair, the very seat behind his own, and sat down with a contented show of relief, shifted the magazine to the table and leafed through it with an almost childish hint of success.

So the last thing Gerald thought would happen that day was what did:

He fell in love for the second time in his life.

Word Count = 1612 of 50,000
Previous Count = 0
Total Count = 1612


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