Friday, November 18, 2005

Gerald arrived at his apartment in such a gleeful mood that he was literally singing and dancing as he made his journey from the bakery to his apartment; his jovial mood was infectious, bringing the mail man to singing along with him and the next door neighbor to dance a few steps amusedly as he walked passed them.

“What’s with the good mood today, Gerald?” they would ask and Gerald would dance circles around them with a huge grin on his face. “What’s the good news?”

Gerald would give no reply. None verbally other than lines from a song or a few shakes of a dance step. And the others would simply wonder as he walked on. Was it winning some lottery? Was it taking a trip to some vacation paradise? Was it finally being able to afford a bigger apartment?

The questions would dance in their minds just as Gerald would twist and shake his buttocks at them. He would reach out to Mrs. Majo’s wiry arm and boogie with her down the apartment hallway a few steps before giving her a cheerful spin and moving on down the long corridor. “Did you by any chance find a few million pesos on the floor or something, Gerald? Why are you so happy?”

But he would give no answer.

Gerald would instead continue humming the song he was singing, giving words to the lyrics only when they were lines he was certain were right. “I got you… under my skin,” he would call out, “I got you… deep in the heart of me… “ then slip back into humming and side stepping as he approached his apartment door at last and saw his next door neighbor, the cynical and sarcastic John leaning outside the door and enjoying a cigarette. John, wearing his usual sly smirk, leaned out towards Gerald and sung along, “Don’t you know, little fool… you never could win…” before flicking the cigarette towards Gerald’s feet, “I know why you’re all so happy dappy, fruitcake. You’re mother superior is in your apartment waiting for you. Excited to take another generous helping of whippin’ aren’t you?”

“Mother superior-“ Gerald’s voice faded far slower than his enthusiasm did.

“Your girlfriend,” John clarified and walked up to Gerald, stomped a foot down on the still burning cigarette, and gave his foot a twist, “Oh, don’t tell me you were all hopping and dancing over someone else? We’re you?”

Gerald stared at his apartment door. Closed as it was, he could already visualize the interior of his apartment. The red couch. The white walls. The stacks of DVDs that occupied one corner. The bookshelf filled with VCDs and books in the other. And somewhere amidst the collection of knick knacks, personal stuff and public entertainment, Jenna Garbino with her long relaxed hair and her far too perfectly made up face would be most likely standing with her arms crossed before her chest. She would have an expression of contained rage and irritation, having most likely used the duplicate key of Gerald’s apartment to gain access inside, only to find him missing and his cellular phone answering to her calls from somewhere underneath the refrigerator.

The image of Jenna was a sudden splash of dream-slaying water upon Gerald’s excited happiness. It was a cold shower upon his growing enthusiasm.

“Oh fuck no, it was someone else,” John muttered the very moment the door to Gerald’s apartment slid open and revealed the face of Jenna herself, her expression locked in the very irritated and angry scowl that Gerald had just imagined she would be wearing. And any pretense of having hoped she did not hear John’s words flew out the apartment faster than a rumor could spread as Jenna’s face, and yes it actually was possible, assumed an even more irritated and angry. John turned to see Jenna’s face and slid an arm around Gerald’s shoulders. Tapping Gerald supportively in the back, John whispered a quirk message of support before giving Jenna a half-forced smile. “You’ll survive this, buddy. If not, well, I can’t wait to watch the episode inspired by you on CSI.”

Gerald wanted to say something. His mind raced at the many possible things to say. He thought of the dozens of excuses he could give. He considered explaining how John was just really out to get him into trouble whenever it were humanly possible to do so. But ultimately, he realized in many ways John wasn’t even lying. And in some strange unexplainable way, Gerald felt relieved that this was happening as it was this very moment. Perhaps because it allowed him to talk about something he knew Jenna would have to know about soon enough.

And for some things, there was no day but today.

“Gerald,” Jenna started and the break in the silence gave Gerald the strength to say it. “Jenna I’m terribly terribly so-“

“Shut up,” Jenna interrupted her with such cold vengeance that the rest of the corridor quietly yet hastily excused themselves to hide behind locked doors and strain their ears to listen for what was to come. Somehow, Gerald could even imagine some sending each other short text messages through their cellular phones, placing bets on how the confrontation was to come down. “Step inside, we have to talk,” came Jenna’s command. Gerald blinked a few times and watched in disbelief as Jenna walked into the apartment and waited for him by the red couch. No screaming. No yelling. No shrieking. A quick thought had Gerald thinking Jenna was somewhere in some alien unidentified flying object while this clone of hers was trying to pass off as the real thing.

“What?” Jenna asked aloud and looked at Gerald just as Gerald realized he was thinking aloud that moment, “Clone?”

“Nothing,” Gerald muttered and slid into the room. He quickly glanced around and noticed everything was as it was. No shattered mugs. No scattered books. No torn pages or thrown about pillows. Just Jenna Garbino sitting on his red couch with her hands covering her face; She was crying. Gerald closed the door behind him, much to the collective disappointment of a neighborhood used to seeing him whipped and treated like a dog, and walked up to his girlfriend with an honest concern in his heart. It was a sensation that he had not felt in a very long time.

“What’s… what happened?” Gerald asked, honestly concerned for his girlfriend’s welfare.

Jenna gave no answer which, for Gerald, was definitely a bad sign. He slid down to the couch, sitting beside her and wrapped one arm protectively around her shoulder. He saw she was very struggling to contain her feelings, trembling with a locked in emotional burden that seemed to cause her even more pain. “Talk to me,” Gerald offered and Jenna finally broke down, tears flowing down her cheeks as she gripped his shoulders tightly and gasped for air between heartfelt sobs. Gerald remained firm, giving her the shoulder she could hold on fast to for support. He slid his face against her hair and kissed her forehead, not feeling it was right to kiss her anywhere else after all that had happened the night before.

“Gerald, I’m so sorry…” she gasped and struggled with her seemingly useless fingers to bring out her hanky. Gerald noticed her frantic attempts and pulled out his handkerchief instead. “Here, use this.”

“I’m so terrible…” Jenna gasped aloud, eyes reddening with each passing second.

“What are you talking about?”

“Oh, I know I’m so terrible. God, I hate myself.”

Gerald could not believe himself. Jenna, the woman who would never admit she committed any mistake, was now beside him and guiltily bearing her soul before him. Gerald hugged her closer, wanting to somehow alleviate her burdened heart. He wanted to help her feel better, but he had no idea how.

“Don’t say things like that,” was all Gerald could muster.

“Its true. Don’t you see it’s true,” Jenna gasped and blew a loud noseful of mucus onto the handkerchief. Gerald stroked his fingers through Jenna’s long straight hair and hushed her gently to stop weeping and relax. “There’s nothing to feel bad about,” he whispered to her, “It’s okay… I never resented you for being such a terrible girlfriend.”

Gerald found the courage to finally admit his disappointment and dishonest contentment for how their relationship had been all those years. Was it karmic balance or divine retribution that allowed this moment to happen?

“I could understand how you’ve never really had anyone so willing to devote his time and happiness to you, and that can scare a person. I guess in many ways, I too was at fault for being too willing to spoil you and make you happy. Perhaps I tried to please you too much that when it came to the honest truth that I didn’t like doing those things, and yet you were too blind and self-focused to realize that was the case, I-”

Or was it just another horrific case of Gerald misunderstanding.

“Gerald,” Jenna’s voice came, strong and focused, and Gerald found her pulling away from him and rising to her full height as she stood up from the red couch. “What are you talking about?”

Gerald could imagine John at the room next door, having overheard everything that just happened, now calling the other neighbors to collect his winnings.

“I thought-“

“You were never happy?!?!” Jenna nearly yelled at him. Gerald scratched his nape and let his face remain obscured as he hung his head low. “I,” Jenna began, her voice rich with a new-found rage, “I should…” a rage that quickly faded into the quilt-ridden quivering voice she was speaking with earlier, “… should… Oh Gerald!”

Jenna gasped and moved forwards again, hugging a now very confused Gerald who had been bracing himself for her wrath. Peeking at her, Gerald noticed she was once again swimming in her regret. “What is going on?” Gerald finally found the courage to ask.

“I was… I’m…” Jenna muttered, perhaps still not ready to admit the truth.

Pregnant? Leaving you? No longer in love with you? Joining the missions? Gerald rattled off any possible reason in his head. Anything that could help make this moment have more sense and reason than it already lacked.

“I’m in love,” Jenna sobbingly admitted and Gerald felt the beginnings of a smile emerge on his face, “You’re in love with someone?”

“I’ve been such a fool, treating you this way for so long,” she admitted.

“And now you realize you love someone and no longer want to be stuck with me. Oh I completely understand,” he genuinely replied in a supportive manner, “Jenna, if it makes you happy, then we’ll end this. We’ll end us. Now.”

“You mean it?” Jenna looked at him, her face showing the initial signs of relief. Gerald could not believe his luck. “You don’t hold it against me? Hold all that has happened against me?”

Gerald gave her a supportive hug and kissed her on the forehead a second time.

“Absolutely not. We got into something we didn’t understand,” he explained, “And now we’re both starting to see where we fit in better.”

Jenna smiled now, wiping her tears away with his handkerchief, and gave out a heavy yet more peace-filled sigh. Gerald stood up and walked to his refrigerator, pausing for a moment as he remembered his cellular phone still being stuck under it, then opened the refrigerator to grab a jug of cold water.

“Drink? It will help you feel better,” he offered.

“Thanks,” she smiled and rose from her couch, walking towards him with a much more emotionally-balanced gait, “You… I fell like I should say something. About us. About how we used to be.”

“Don’t,” Gerald admitted, “If we’re over, then that’s that. We had our good times. And we had our not so good times. No use comparing notes or grading performance, right?”

“I still want to say you actually did make me happy,” Jenna admitted, “And I guess I should apologize for being so tough on you.”

“It wasn’t like you intended to-“ Gerald began but noticed her biting her lower lip as he spoke. “Oh,” he realized, “It was.”

“Yeah,” Jenna admitted, “I was kind of having fun making your life a living hell. You used to find it endearing.”

“Jenna,” Gerald sneered, “There was a time even Barney was endearing. Now anyone who sees that purple freak feels the urge to wring his neck.”

“Point made,” Jenna shrugged and accepted the glass filled with cold water which Gerald had poured out for her. The room suddenly seemed to be much brighter as clouds that obscured the sun parted and let the sunlight through. “What about you?” she asked, “John said-”

“John says a lot of things,” Gerald grunted.

“Like how John used to tease that you were into the Spice Girls?”

“Hey, I’ll tell you what I want, what I really really want!”

Both shared an honest laugh, perhaps the first they ever shared in the many months they have been together. It felt slightly unusual yet very right. While Jenna took a deep drink of water from the glass, Gerald found himself staring at her and seeing what made him fall in love with her in the first place. He saw her as who he knew she was; disarmed and slightly quirky with a naïve view of the world. He reached up and brushed her hair away from her face and smiled as she looked up at him.

”What?” she asked and Gerald sighed, “We had our times, didn’t we?”

“Yeah,” Jenna admitted and set the glass down on the counter. She reached into him and they shared a tight warm hug. Gerald felt the tears gathering at his eyes and fought against the urge to cry. Jenna openly wept and kissed Gerald one last time on the cheek.

“I’m sorry again,” she admitted and he shook his head, “We tried to force it… that’s basically what was wrong about it from the start. We tried to force it.”

Jenna nodded and finally stepped back. She wiped her tears away and this time, shied away from Gerald when he tried to help. “Its okay, I’m okay,” she replied and dried her eyes with her own hanky this time, “You’ll be okay… right?”

“I will,” Gerald nodded, partly feeling the urge to share that he too found someone, but decided that today would be best left as Jenna’s day of finding her true happiness. “Know that you’re still my friend and I wouldn’t mind if you come by every now and then.”

“I do have to get some of my stuff that I’ve left here,” she admitted, “Toothbrush, some clothes…”

“No rush,” Gerald smiled, “Why don’t you go on now and visit your honey dovey,” he mimicked the way she’d give herself a baby talk voice the way she used to when she’d cuddle up to him “Stop that,” she interrupted him, “I only did that cause I thought you liked it. Ugh, Baby talk. I hate baby talk.”

“Oh,” Gerald felt sheepishly embarrassed. Somehow, things were still the same.

“Anyway, I better go. Thanks so much for not making this harder than I thought it would be. I do feel better now.”

“No problem,” Gerald smiled and tossed an imaginary punch to the sky, “That’s me. Mister Make You Feel Better.”

“Cute,” Jenna told him and made her way for the door. Her stride was confident now and as she made her way to leave the apartment, Gerald caught up with her at the door and called out, “Maybe sometime we can even go out? You know? You, me and him?”

“Her!” Jenna called back as she walked towards the stairs leading out, “Her name is Maui!”

“Dang!” Gerald turned to see John also at his door, “You’re Jenna’s now part of the pink patrol? Dude, you have to ask her to let us watch!” Gerald walked back into his apartment and slammed the door behind him closed.

“What did I say?” John asked out loud.

* *

Gerald could not believe his luck.

The world had seemingly turned around overnight and transformed into a place much more interesting and wonderful. What was once a horrible example of a romantic comedy gone bad had suddenly become something that showed promise.

“Patricia,” Gerald muttered her name out loud and found himself smiling again. It was strange, how something as simple as a name could suddenly seemingly feel so right. How the sequence of letters forming the name would suddenly be like some magic spell that unlocked a powerful sense of belonging. Of fitting in. Of being just right.

Gerald began to remember the little things about her that made her even more beautiful in his eyes. How her cheeks would blush a slight red as she laughed. How her eyes would squint into narrow slits when she smiled. How she had this little pout that seemed to show itself whenever she let her mind wander.

He remembered how she carried herself with no false pretenses of how beautiful she looked. She barely wore make-up, which for Gerald meant she was comfortable with who she was. He always felt a little bit sad for women who felt the only time they could look beautiful was when they would conceal their faces with cake and powder. Patricia wasn’t one of those, and for that Gerald couldn’t help but admire her even more.

He laughed to himself as he recalled how much she smelled of powdery musk and hints of flowers. Jasmine. Lily. Rose. She had the scent of someone who had just woken from a silken bed that had been covered with flower petals and the soft shower of rainfall.

Gerald was so focused on how happy he was about the day that he had totally forgotten to lock the door behind him. John slid into the room, watching as Gerald stood by the window with his face against the sunlight. Gerald’s eyes were closed as he smiled and realized he could still smell her perfume in his hands. It wasn’t Jenna, who loved wearing layers of strange strong perfumes which reminded Gerald more of his grandmother.

“Please don’t tell me you’re turning gay,” John hissed at Gerald as John watched him slowly run his open palm against his own nose. Gerald’s eyes popped open as he heard John’s voice.

“John, what are you doing here?”

“I’m doing you a favor, being the best friend you can rant on,” John offered as he maneuvered himself to the red couch and leapt upon it, hands behind his head as he laid back to listen to what he expected was a long drawl of tears and regret. “So, she laid you off at last, fruitcake?”

“Don’t call me that,” Gerald muttered back, “First of all, I don’t recall asking you to come over here. Secondly, you have it wrong, she was the one whom I broke up with. And thirdly, I am not a fruit.”

“I know,” John sneered, “but its fun to call you that, peaches.”

Gerald sighed audibly, “Why are you here?”

“Like I said,” John sat up, “I’m here to offer you some manly advice. I know you’ve just broken up with your dominatrix Jenna, oh she had breasts on her, I’d tell you that. But life goes on, man. There are lots of fishes in the sea! Cucumbers too, if you’re into that.”

“John,” Gerald frustratedly exclaimed, “I am not gay!”

“Then why are you getting so riled up over it?” John shook his head, “Anyway, so tell me. Who was the other chick?”

“I don’t know,” Gerald shook his head, “Jenna didn’t say. Probably someone from that theater thing Jenna has been managing. Maybe one of the dancers. How should I know?”

”Dude,” John smiled as he walked up to Gerald and patted him on the shoulders, “I meant your gal. But then again, I wouldn’t mind talking about Jenna and her muff-muffin!” Gerald tossed John a not entirely playful punch which John easily dodged. “Hey, no need to be violent man! If you don’t like sharing yet, then I won’t insist.”

“Thanks,” Gerald pointed towards the door, “Maybe you can show yourself out too or do I have to insist on that?”

“Okay okay… I’m going,” John smiled and stepped out the door way. But just before Gerald could slam it shut, John added, “We can talk about Patricia next time?”

Gerald froze as he stared at the door he had flung slam shut between them. Rushing forwards, he pushed it back open, stepped outside and saw John about to close the door to the his own apartment closed behind him. Gerald literally leapt to the door, kicked his foot forwards to block it from closing, and reached for John’s shoulder.

“John, you have to explain-“ Gerald stopped midsentence. John turned to face Gerald as Gerald realized that John’s apartment wasn’t unoccupied. Staring at the two other guests, Gerald backed away and covered his face in shame. “Oh god no,” was all he could muster.

“Hey, you’re here. Here I thought you didn’t feel like chatting,” John smiled and stepped back to give his guests a good view of Gerald. Gerald cringed and wished he could shrink away and vanish. “Gerald, this is my friend Seth,” John remarked and Gerald stared in horror as John introduced the last man Gerald wanted to bump into again. Ever. In his entire life.

Ape-man smiled and gave Gerald an affirming nod, “We’ve met.”

“God no,” Gerald frowned and turned to John. John smiled and continued, “While this vivacious beautiful lady here-”

“Oh Johnny boy, stop that!” she slapped Ape-man Seth’s arm playfully.

“-is my cousin, Elaine.”

Gerald could hear the psycho trumpets blaring. He forced himself to smile, gave them all a quick hello, and ducked back into his apartment. John turned to Seth and Elaine and shrugged, “A fruit, what can I say?”

Word Count = 3677
Previous Count = 13,112
Total Count = 16,789 of 50,000

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