The night felt less colder than Gerald had expected. Though the winds carried the cooled gusts than had crossed over the sea, Gerald found himself not having any problems with the temperature that night. It felt, in lack of any better word to describe it, comfortable.
There was that time when Gerald visited the city of Baguio with some friends and not a single day passed with him not making some fuss over how his toes felt numb, or how his face felt chaffed or how his lips were cracking from being so dry in the cold biting air. His friends eventually gave up on him, opting to cut the trip short with the secretly shared promise to never again invite him to join them on any trek back to the mountains up north. And it was a promise they had kept since then.
“So,” Gerald inhaled sharply as he finished the word and turned to face Patricia, “Let’s begin?”
“What do you mean ‘Let’s begin?’” Patricia asked him back with one of her eyebrows raised in suspicious amusement. Gerald realized how his statement could suddenly be misconstrued in so many ways and felt a slight panic rise to the fore. But the shock of panic faded away with Patricia’s laugh, “You’re trying to break the ice. That’s cute.”
“What can I say? I’m not really good at this sort of thing,” Gerald admitted and some how he found telling her one of his biggest embarrassing truths didn’t feel difficult or too revealing at all. “It is not like I haven’t met other women in the past, or tried breaking the ice and starting conversations with people I didn’t know before. I just never really found myself comfortably doing that.”
“Quantity and Quality,” Patricia offered.
“Yeah,” Gerald grinned, happy she understood, “I guess its all partly connected to my dislike for the dating game. The ligaw stage that tends to happen. All this courting rituals that just scream hypocrisy and lies to me. You know how so many people try to set their best foot forwards the moment they meet someone… or even worse, present a façade of who they are totally different from who they truly are when no one is the target of their attempts to impress?”
Patricia stared at him, smiling but somehow, Gerald sensed something was in her head.
“What?” he asked, prodding her to talk.
“What what?” she replied and smiled back, obviously teasing him.
“You were thinking of something,” Gerald went for the attack, “Say it.”
“Say what?” she dodged, still smiling.
“Say what you were thinking before I asked you ‘What?’”
“Well, I was just amused you were suddenly thinking about how men try to impress women. The dating game. I have no idea why on earth you’d suddenly be thinking about that among all other things,” Patricia replied without any hint of sarcasm or insult in her tone, “Do you think we’re dating?”
Gerald felt his face flush red. He probably would have shrunk to the height of a mouse had he had the power to do so. It was one of those questions that seemed impossible to answer correctly. A yes would have been presumptuous. A no, on the other hand, would raise the question “Why not?” and suggest the woman did not seem attractive enough to be worth dating.
Feeling like a young boy caught trying to escape detention, Gerald tried to delay responding by suddenly motioning towards a café across the street. Patricia looked at the coffee place Gerald suggested and offered a quick nod of her head to say yes. The two crossed the empty street and walked beneath the glow of early hung Christmas lights as they made their way to the café’s entrance.
”I do not think we’re dating,” Gerald realized he was over-thinking things. He was falling into the dating trap. He was trying to be impressive. Grabbing every instinct to think of something witty and throwing it out of his head along with the image of himself staring at incoming headlights, Gerald reminded himself that he wanted her to know who he was and decided to do just that. “In fact, I have to admit, I don’t do dates. I really feel dating and dates are strange unnecessary rituals cloaked with hidden innuendos and attempts to impress. If I had my choice, I’d rather spend some time with someone I found interesting in what ever ways appealed to me and that particular person. Why limit yourselves to sitting in some restaurant, ordering horribly expensive food that the same two people later on as a married couple might never be able to afford eating at again? Why waste money on renting a fancy car or on suddenly upgrading one’s wardrobe with signature apparel and more expensive smelling perfumes when in the long run the same man would not want to wear such things except for the occasional wedding or funeral.”
Patricia stared at him as he make his little monologue. The café was open and a waiter ushered them both to one of the tables just outside the door. Patricia reached for a chair and found Gerald pulling it back for her even as he continued speaking.
“Why not just go out and do things you find fun? Like climbing trees or visiting strange corners of a mall that neither have checked out before? Or just hanging in some park and chatting about things that the other doesn’t know about yet. Personally, I’d pick meeting up to just talk about anything more appealing than going to some fancy restaurant where I don’t think I’d enjoy the food or the expense, but I know will impress my date-”
“-Or her parents?” Patricia offered and the two broke into a shared honest laugh which was definitely a sign that if there were any ice left to break, they were definitely too small to even matter.
Gerald received the menu and scanned it for anything that was to his liking. Patricia chose a cup of cold chocolate and returned the menu back to the waiter. Gerald noticed the café had raspberry flavored drinks and opted to try one.
“We haven’t met before have we?” Gerald asked Patricia after returning his menu to the waiter, “I mean… its strange but I feel pretty comfortable right now. I’m not usually that good with meeting people.”
“Or opening a conversation with rants about how the whole dating practice invalidates any possibility of a real conversation taking place?” Patricia teased.
“That too,” Gerald grinned back and shrugged, “Sad how pretty much the rest of the world doesn’t realize it. Hence the huge percentage of divorces occurring all over the world.”
“My parents got divorced,” Patricia replied and instantly Gerald blinked and felt he had committed some faux pass. He bit on his lower lip and whispered, “I’m sorry, I didn’t know.”
”Actually I’ve gotten used to the idea,” Patricia admits, “After all it happened back when I was seven. My dad and my mom met during their college years. He was your typical Elvis wannabe who liked trying to impress girls while she was the last kind of woman you’d think someone like my dad would be interested in checking out.”
“Uh, a nun?” Gerald offered.
“You kidding me, most guys are fascinated by nuns! She was in a band. They called themselves the Boneheads. She played bass guitar.” Gerald laughed out loud and Patricia stressed the point. “She was one of those girls who loved her music more than the idea of meeting other people. So in many ways, she was an introvert who preferred to just be part of the music when playing in front of a crowd. She would close her eyes during concerts and from what she told me she wouldn’t even open them until she realized someone from her band was tugging at her arm to walk with them off the stage.”
Gerald found himself impressed, “You’re mom was an artist!”
“She claims she was just shy. But I think she is one too. I never learned to play any musical instrument. Never had the talent to do it. Although I always wanted to learn,” Patricia shared before asking, “You?”
“Played the piano. Well, tried to learn to play it,” Gerald admitted, showing a mock sad face, “My parents were insistent that one of their children become a musical genius. And since my older brother already covered for the math and technical drawing side of genius, I had to cover for the musical side. Had around five teachers in a span of less than two years. All quit on me eventually, finding me difficult and unwilling to learn, which I will admit was how I really was back then. Of the five, I heard three actually quit teaching music altogether! Guess I was that horrible a problem child then. The irony of it all though is by the time I hit high school, I discovered the music of Tori Amos and realized how much I wished I knew how to play the piano.”
“Did you learn anything? Any songs you can play?”
“Just one. On Top of Old Smokey. Embarassing ain’t it?” Gerald admitted.
And the drinks arrived.
Word Count = 1541
Previous Count = 10,092
Total Count = 11,633 of 50,000