Fruit. Faggot. Queer. Gay. Freak. Fudge-packer. Flower boy. The list went on and on. It took Gerald a moment to realize that his dear neighbor John had actually increased his vocabulary of gender biased slurs within the last few weeks pretty well. And that, in its own was, was an achievement, considering who John was. John was never the bookish type of guy, limiting his reading attempts between glossy men’s magazines like FHM to more intellectually (and sexually) stimulating readables such as Playboy and Penthouse. And yet here he was, testing the limits of creative labeling and hoping some how, someone would come forward and save him from all this.
The botox woman, Elaine, offered a smile as she stirred her coffee in a slow circular motion. Blinking her carefully retouched mascara eyes, she gave Gerald another frozen smile as she asked, “So?”
“So?” Gerald replied, uncertain of where Elaine wanted the conversation to head.
“So so… boobs! He’s looking at your breasts again, Laine,” Seth’s cantankerous voice and indecent announcement brought John into a laughing fit. Gerald felt his cheeks blush, frustrated at how this man could still make him the target of all these jokes. Elaine didn’t seem to get the joke. Seth struggled to catch his breath. John stood up and continued laughing as he made his way to the kitchen. Gerald felt like he was tied up, painted with a bull’s-eye target and prepped for target practice. John, Seth and Elaine were mapping out their positions, preparing their arrows for the volley of insults that was to be unleashed.
“I’m not looking at her breasts,” Gerald finally responded, sighing audibly as he covered his face with both hands.
“You’re not?” Seth sneered.
“And what’s so wrong about my breasts that you won’t even look at them?” Elaine teased back and the room was again filled with laughter. Gerald tossed a glance at John who returned with a few steaming mugs of coffee. He placed a mug before each guest and offered one to Gerald. Gerald took it and cradled it in his hands.
“This is a no-win situation,” Gerald admitted, “I’m not playing.”
“Aw, you’re no fun!” Seth gasped.
“Okay, okay,” Elaine took a sip of the still steaming coffee before continuing, “This is good John. Going back, uh.. Gerry was it?”
“Gerald,” he replied.
“Gerald,” Elaine smiled, “We’re just making jokes here. Don’t worry. Yesterday, Seth and I noticed you staring at that gal-”
“Patricia,” Gerald offered, not knowing why he even bothered to.
“Yes, Patricia-“ Elaine continued.
“Nice name,” Seth admitted. John returned with his own mug of coffee and a small tray with still warm pandesal and a slad of butter. Seth helped himself to the tray and began making a sandwich.
“We saw you staring at her for like… five.. ten minutes. And then realized you were the guy whom my cousin John here told me about. His eccentric roommate,” Elaine explained.
”Eccentric?” John asked aloud, in mock surprise.
“That’s what you said,” Elaine shrugged.
“That’s what I called him?” John asked again in false shock.
“Among many other things,” Seth teased but before anyone could ask, Elaine continued the conversation, “Anyway, since we recognized you as the geek next door to John, we thought no harm in having some fun. Especially since we knew John would introduce you to us later on.”
Gerald focused his gaze on John who was taking another long drink of the coffee he had prepared. “So,” Gerald asked, “John basically gave you guys the idea that I wouldn’t mind being the butt of someone’s practical joke. Is that it?”
Elaine and Seth were about to answer yes when they noticed Gerald’s face didn’t seem to be too amused. Both turned to John who looked up from the mug and looked back at Seth and Elaine. Seeing them both nervous, John rolled his eyes up and mumbled, “Damn, he got you quick.”
Gerald burst out laughing and brought his mug towards John for a mock toast. The two porcelain mugs clinked as John and Gerald grinned at Seth and Elaine. Seth realized they’ve been had by the two and gave his attentions instead on the buttered bread that he began stuffing into his mouth. Elaine spanked John’s arm in a playful show of irritation and crossed her arms over her chest. “That’s not fair!”
“We’re even,” Gerald called out and took a sip from the mug. The ambiance in the room had quickly changed into a more comfortable one, now that Gerald knew the “misunderstanding” had finally been clarified. He rested his head back against the couch more and unconsciously stirred his coffee. “So, you guys know Patricia?”
“No,” Seth replied between bites, “What gave you that idea?”
Gerald sat upright in confused surprise. “But I thought you said you did the practical joke because you knew her?”
“Knew you,” Elaine reminded him, “We recognized YOU. We didn’t even know who Patricia was until you started saying his name over and over in your apartment.”
“In my-“ Gerald paused, realizing something, “Wait a minute. Are the walls of my apartment THAT thin?” John grinned in response and simply set his now empty coffee mug on the table. “Oh heavens no,” Gerald groaned in frustration and stood up.
“Where you going?” Elaine asked as Gerald made his way towards the door.
“I need to get some sleep,” Gerald admitted though in truth the reasons he had for leaving were something else entirely. John and Elaine stood up to follow him to the door. Seth busied himself with preparing another sandwich. Gerald found himself for a moment thinking maybe all football jocks were like that; very selective in perceiving the world.
“Catch you around sometime?” Elaine smiled her botox-frozen smile and waved a goodbye. John stepped through the door way and patted Gerald’s shoulder, “Listen, you don’t have to be so tightly strung all the time. Try to relax a bit or something. Do you realize how wound up you are right now?”
“John, I just don’t really-“
“Listen. I know I pick on you a lot. But that’s really just because I know you won’t take it personally. You’re my buddy and frankly, you’re probably the only other person on this floor who’s sane. So take a break, calm down, and relax okay?” John turned back towards his apartment. Gerald did not know how to respond. He felt the shattered shards of his ego suddenly glued back together. He felt the broken self-esteem suddenly fixed all along. Smoke and mirrors, it was. Just illusions that he was having it so hard.
“Hey John,” Gerald called out from his own apartment door, “Thanks!”
”Don’t mention it fruitcake. Just keep in mind, we’re sick and tired of Palchelbel’s canon,” John called out, in reference to Gerald’s ringtone. The phone probably had been ringing while he was out. And if the thin walls were true, John probably had to endure hearing the same song over and over and over.
Gotcha,” Gerald replied before closing the door before him. He found himself staring at the closed door and knocking his head against the wood a few times after realizing it was true. The walls were very thin.
It was later in the morning that Gerald found the urge to sleep beyond his ability to resist. Eyelids heavy as lead weights, Gerald slid off his shirt and jeans and crumpled onto his bed with the intentions of getting some sleep. Absent-mindedly, he groped the headboards for his cellular phone with the intentions of setting the alarm clock on but then realized that the phone was still somewhere beneath the refrigerator. Something to work on, he told himself, before allowing the need to rest to take over.
And in his sleep, Gerald found himself once more dreaming.
Red curtains swayed with the motions of an unseen wind as the smell of candle wax slowly filled the room. Gerald turned his head, unawares of the dream having begun, to see two bodies gyrating on the space of the bed next to him. Jenna lifted herself from the sheets and giggled, a mischievous one that seemed thick with unspoken intentions, then bit on her lower lip as she stared at her partner. Gerald’s eyes shot open to realize there was someone beside him and looked up at Jenna with utter shock paralyzing his ability to speak.
“Oh don’t make a fuss,” Jenna hushed Gerald and slid back down amidst the sheets to give her partner a few kisses down the length of her arm, “We just wanted to show you that I’m okay with it. Really.”
“Okay with it?” Gerald gasped out and grabbed the blankets closer to him. Unveiled,
“My clothes,” Gerald gasped aloud and saw his jeans and shirt were on the floor. “I’m… naked.”
“You normally strip your pants off when you sleep,” Jenna reminded him.
“No.. I’m naked naked. Where’s my…”
“Gah!” Gerald pulled away, visibly shocked, “You’re wearing them!?!”
Jenna chuckled as Gerald stared at
“I didn’t say that,” Gerald shook his head, “This is… this is some kind of wet dream isn’t it?”
“If you want it to be,”
“Listen,” Gerald shook his hands as if in surrender, “I’m going to step out of the room, okay. So you two can have some privacy.”
As the two girls broke into yelps and contained laughter, Gerald slid back into the living room and shut the door behind him. It felt cold. Painfully cold. And Gerald tip-toed his way towards the window where the brilliant golden ray of warm sunlight was cast upon the floor. He could almost imagine the comfortable warmth that was to kiss his feet when the lights in the living room suddenly switched on. Turning towards the couch, he found three other guests in his living room. The surprise nearly knocked Gerald off his feet. And out of the sheets.
“What the hell are you doing here?” he cried out towards John who was currently getting a back rub from Elaine. It took Gerald a moment to realize both were naked. Behind them both, doing what Gerald could only imagine to be squatting crunches, was Seth. He too was naked save for a small towel that hung on his shoulder. “And where the hell are your clothes?!?!”
“Oh hello,” Elaine smiled, “Want a backrub?”
Gerald shook his head as he spoke, “Why on earth are you people naked in my apartment?”
“What’s a matter? One would have thought you’d enjoy the show, fruit cake,” John teased though his own bits and pieces were hidden thanks to the fact he was sitting cross-legged on the floor. “Actually, you’re the one dreaming all this. So maybe there’s something you should explain.”
“Yes you,” Seth muttered back. He did another squat and grunted as he flexed every muscle he could, “After all, its not like we’re the one dreaming everyone else here being naked.”
“Why would I even be dreaming of you people?” Gerald whined.
“Aw just admit it fruit cake, you wanted some of this ever since you met us!” John teased and Elaine found a sore spot in John’s back. John gave a loud yelp of pain as Elaine kneaded his shoulder with her hands. Seth rose from his squat and shrugged, “No pain no gain, so they say.”
“This is one fucked up dream,” Gerald mumbled to himself as he continued to the window and clamped both feet on the warm sunlit floor. He rubbed his hands on his face and slapped his cheeks a few times. “A dream. This is just a dream.”
“It better be,” a new voice replied and Gerald found himself staring at the source. Just outside the window, standing under the sun, was his mother. She was tall for a woman of her generation with hair that remained black and wavy for someone of her age. Wearing a red bathrobe, Gerald’s mother stood outside by the sidewalk with her hands on her waist. Gerald quickly unlatched the window and slid the glass panel back.
“Mom?” Gerald asked aloud, suddenly very conscious of the fact there were three naked people in his living room, “What are you doing here?”
“What, can’t a mother visit her own son nowadays?” Gerald’s mother complained and reached into the window to give Gerald a hug and a kiss on the cheek. Gerald felt panic rise when he heard John’s voice issue from inside the living room.
”Good morning missus Mapagtapat,” John greeted Gerald’s mother as he and Elained waved a hello. Seth was too busy squatting to do the same.
“Oh hello John,” the mother replied and turned to her son, “I like you’re friend John. He’s always so genial and respectful.”
“Mom,” Gerald groaned, “Don’t you even realize he’s naked? With two other naked friends? In my house?”
“Of course I do honey,” she replied ever so calmly, “But I don’t think it’s my place to complain. You kids nowadays, so different from how we used to be.”
Gerald found himself blinking a few times. Dream or not, there was no denying that this reality seemed far more appealing and interesting than anything else he had encountered before. And the fact that he was certain this was more likely to be a dream in some ways saddened him. It frustrated him to realize that such an open-minded and generally friendly world would only be something remotely permissible in a dream. And only in a dream.
“Freud,” Gerald mumbled to himself, “This is a Freudian thing isn’t it,” he asked his mother and she could only smile in response. A smile formed on his face. Gerald clapped his hands together as he began to nod out in realization, “I get it. I get it now. This is all some subconscious thing. Naked people in a dream means seeing people in their most vulnerable. In their most honest state. And sex is a signifier of accepting another person. So this dream is some unconscious message telling myself am okay with you guys. That I’m more accepting of who you guys are.”
“Could be,” Gerald’s mother replied as she clamped her hand on his cheek. Smiling, she patted the cheek twice before stepping back into the street. Gerald watched as his mother walked away with a cheerful gait in each step.
“Could also be you’re just horny for us, buddy,” John teased.
But now Gerald realized for the first time in his life he was actually happy. And content. He actually knew where he stood and what he had to gain. He knew what life had to offer and what he had to simply offer in return.
The clarity of his current state in life was overwhelmingly simple. And to Gerald, it was in some ways disturbing. Not accustomed to this feeling of clear comprehension of what direction his life was taking, Gerald felt a sense of anxiety growing in the fringes of his awareness. It was like a sense of paranoia. Or a hint of worry. After all, Gerald realized that with the rate things had been going, it was only a matter of time that something would come into view and mess things up. It was the second act cliché, you see. The fact that something would always have to complicate things that were already moving in a desired direction.
And for Gerald the second act cliché came with the coming of noon. While Gerald slept and dreamed of naked friends and his mother, John found himself answering the door to find a delivery boy searching for a Mr. Mapagtapat. Accepting the delivered folder for Gerald, John noticed the front face of the brown envelop and read what was written on it. It was a letter from some university in the
John wasn’t sure how to break to Gerald the news. It was after all what Gerald really wanted, right?
It was a few minutes past the hour of seven when Gerald finally realized he was more hungry than sleepy. Stomach grumbling in agreement, Gerald sat up from his bed and gave his back a good stretch before searching his vicinity for his shirt. It was dark and having forgotten to leave a light on, Gerald had to feel his way towards the wall and find the switch through touch. The remnants of his dream no longer remembered, Gerald made his way to the bathroom, shut the door behind him even if he was alone, and began washing his face to help wake up faster.
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Total Count = 19,734 of 50,000