Thursday, November 24, 2005

Night came with the cold soft winds carried across the sea. The stars had difficulty coming out that night with a cloudy sky greeting the arrival of the moon. Gerald, in his still slightly confused paranoid state, and Patricia, in her now blessed by the presence of things beyond death state of mind, we on another collision course even if neither of them knew it.

And this time the setting of their drama was to be the Metro Rail Transit.

Much like the subways of New York City and Hong Kong, the Metro Rail Transit or MRT as it is more popularly known to be called is a mass public transport system built above street level that allows a much easier commute between numerous major stops and cities for a quite affordable bargain. Which is why, as it should have been more anticipated, the transit suffers from a despicable over-crowding problem with far too many people struggling against one another to ride the thing each journey a train makes.

Every few minutes, a train arrives to see throngs of people already waiting at the deck with impatience marring their typically good natured personalities. Converging like hungry cats upon a single bowl of milk, the crowds would then jam themselves into the opened trains more often than not even before those who had hoped to alight have already exited the vehicle. Once inside, practically everybody suddenly embraces the far annoying habit of simply stopping at the first seemingly comfortable point in the train rather than walking all the way in to allow more space for the passengers to follow to get inside. And lastly, this is the point where certain far more annoying individuals would see the bars and handles meant for everyone’s use as a means to maintain their balance in the ride and lean on such things instead the way a man does upon a wall, believing no one is ever adversely affected by their selfish ways.

It was like having an argument with your parents while roaring drunk.

There was simply no way you’d make any sense or win if you were to complain.

And so it was, fifteen minutes past the hour of eight, that Gerald woke up from his strange dreams and realized he had definitely overslept a good part of the day itself and hoped for another miracle (perhaps like one of time suddenly standing still for an hour or two, or perhaps a more sudden yet over-all affecting event like say some government official being assassinated along a major thorough-way) to grant him the excuse for his tardiness. But alas, though it seemed like the Gods have been kindly watching over him and throwing interesting moments his way, sparing him the salary deductions for arriving late was not among the list of things to bless Gerald with within the next few days.

Gerald worked late night shifts as a graphics artist for a major commercial network. The company currently had a team of seven artists, not including Gerald himself, but managed the needs of over seventeen various international branches of the company and as expected tended to find itself still in a rut as far as manpower was concerned. Projects would flow into the office in droves, with requests for designs for calendars, calling cards, brochures, fliers and even stationary coming each day. And mind you, such projects tended to have numerous nit-picked details to be followed; ranging from a Middle Eastern branch requesting for a Christmas themed calendar which must have not a single icon, symbol, image or statement which was religious in nature (Do correct me if I am wrong but is not Christmas a religious event in itself? Were they expecting a belen with the spot for the child Jesus empty? Or a Christmas tree of nothing but bells and balls to stay on the safe side. Let’s not even try to have a parol as part of the design considering how parols tended to reflect the supposed north star that lead the three wise men to the Child Jesus…) to projects like a bill board design which meant a graphic file that took perhaps ten to fifteen minutes to load up in one’s computer, practically the whole day to lay-out and tweak, and around twenty to thirty minutes to save. Add to those a tendency for those who approved the projects to suddenly become fickle minded and very unattentive to the very corrections they have asked for in the past (“Try approaching this background with a bit more reddish blue hues, I don’t think the green hues work.” “But it was green when I first showed it to you! You’re the one who asked me to try something more red and blue!”) and you have the recipe for disaster ready to explode in your arms.

Still, Gerald loved working there because of the people he worked with. Well, not all of them for there always will be the rotten apples in a basket of good pickings. But generally, the people whom he worked with did not happen to be total idiots. A good number of them were relatively normal kind and open-minded individuals who loved to share a good story, a hearty meal and a laugh. But the rest. Oh to suffer the indignities of having to be associated with the rest, Gerald could only wish that the world would be kind to him and somehow rid itself of such individuals. From the woman who seemingly had an understanding of how time was read which contradicted with everyone else’s understanding of it… and mind you, she believed she was the one who was right. To the man who loved to make every possible pathetic excuse in the world to find ways around actually doing an ounce of true work just so that he had time to use the office hours to yak away on the phone with whoever it was he had wooed with his claims of band fandom or to practice playing the very songs he plays every weekend nights when his band actually comes to existence. And though in all honesty the band did have talent and merit, the fact his working ethics functioned in such a manner simply destroyed any credibility that he may have had. And let’s not forget the supervisor who loved use five to eight syllable words to express his capacity to declare that he shall accomplish tasks at deadlines which he himself sets but never meets.

It used to be a privately shared joke for Gerald to call working with these people early Holy Week reenactments of the Passion.

But work was work and one should never truly complain about a job that actually allowed you to still have the semblance of a life outside work and paid you honest money. At least that’s what Gerald always convinced himself to believe.

After taking the good amount of an hour struggling to reach his trapped cellular phone (it rang seven times too, Palchelbel’s canon filling the air with its repetitive sequence of notes, during the amount of time it took for Gerald to realize it would have been far simpler and more effective to have attempted to fish out the cellular phone with a ruler than to find some impossible way to redistribute his arm’s mass to the rest of his body) and the better part of half an hour to get a shower and dressed for work before he was able to leave. Inwardly cursing himself for being unfocused and for failing to use his brain in recovering his phone, Gerald squinted his eyes and rubbed them twice in disbelief upon realizing that deep within the confines of the moving train, trapped amongst the teeming sweaty mass of people, was someone who looked exactly like Patricia.

Patricia, on the other hand, was on the train for three reasons.

The first was out of necessity. Patricia had to travel from Taft avenue all the way to Quezon City to pass by the house of some crone whom she had accepted a quick job from. During her free time, Patricia too was a graphic designer, though her work tended to lean more towards magazine lay-outs, posters and logo designs than the variety that Gerald worked on. Having taken the offer of an old spinster who raised her two bratty children by her lonesome, Patricia was enroute to deliver the final logo design and collect her humblely priced fee.

The second reason was out of economic honesty. Patricia did not own a car. Nor did she have the money to afford her own. Considering flight and teleportation were not among her many gifts, Patricia was then left with one alternative in mind: Commuting. And so, like every other underpaid and overworked regular cogs in the great economic machine of the City, she commuted.

And the last was out of Lola Jocelyn’s advice.

Patricia wasn’t sure how to react to the fact that a house filled with the spirits of people from various homes, timelines and backgrounds would be unanimous in supporting her interest for some guy she had met just a night ago. It seemed surreal in many ways. Even more surreal than the fact she talked with dead people. But in some ways, Patricia felt a bit guilty. For there was one spirit among the eighteen who was not too keen with the idea of Patricia risking the possibility of getting hurt to some stranger she just met.

“You do not even know him,” Carlo complained though he faced the wall and spoke to no one in particular. Patricia was at the foot of the stairs, looking for him, when his outburst reached her ears. Downstairs, the rest of the spirits were singing and laughing and dancing. But Patricia had noticed that her best friend among the spirits, Carlo, was not among them. So she decided to head upstairs to check if he was there.

To see a spirit on the verge of tears was something no one can every get used to. The guilt carried by the sight of seeing someone who has already suffered the trauma of having died and existed on to perceive that death was something a remote few would ever truly understand. What more to see the same person go through another heart-wrenching moment such as this? And to know you were the cause of it all?

“I know he’s funny. I know he makes me smile. I know we have things in common,” Patricia wanted to explain, but somehow she could not understand why it felt so shallow. So hollow. Was it guilt? Was it because her reasons really were shallow and hollow? Or was it because she knew no logical explanation would compensate for the pain she was causing.

“You like him, don’t you,” Carlo asked her and she found herself nodding even before she considered thinking of what to say. Carlo was always the older brother Patricia never had. The older sibling who watched over her, acted as the devil’s advocate in any decisions she made, and reminded her to be careful and to take care of herself whenever she was leaving the house. She never knew how much Carlo truly wanted to care for her. Or how much he hated the fact his influence was limited only to the confines of the old Spanish Castillo. It reminded him he was trapped. It reminded him he was dead.

And that she was not.

And so, in the Metro Rail Transit, Patricia was oblivious to the world with her thoughts heavily brooding over the conversation she had with Carlo. She did not notice Gerald standing directly in front of her barely fifteen feet away.

Gerald shook his head, doubt starting to convince him that it was not Patricia who was standing just a few feet from him. Perhaps it was someone who happened to look like her. Or maybe even a sister. A cousin? But considering the only people in between him and her were three short and pudgy school girls who mistakenly believed anyone in a school girl’s uniform immediately became attractive in men’s eyes and a hulking muscular man in a grey sando and jeans who seemed to have muscles on his muscles and a skin tone that suggested he always worked under the sun, it was terribly doubtful that she would not notice him if it was her. So Gerald turned away and began to hum to himself, suddenly aware that embarrassingly, he missed her. He wanted to see her. And that he was smiling just thinking of her.

Word Count = 2,104
Previous Count = 22,324
Total Count = 24,428 of 50,000


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