Thursday, November 10, 2005

They were kissing beneath a canopy of stars and moonlight. Cold mist hung like a semi-translucent curtain that gave the whole park a mysterious ambiance, transforming the normally sinister location into a venue most appropriate for a fairy tale romance. And such, it seemed, this one turned out to be.

The soft strings of music crept into the scene from a far distant source, trickling moments of horns and guitar strings plucked to the tune of an unplanned melody. It sounded strangely familiar, yet discerning what song it was became the furthest objective in Gerald’s mind. Gerald smiled at the sight of silhouettes in the distance, moving along in their tepid lives unaware of this momentary presence of paradise within the very throng of the city. It was quiet. It was perfect. It was good.

“Funny how things turn out,” Gerald joked out aloud as he laid back and stretched his arms in front of him. Like a director preparing to shoot a scene, he framed the sky with his two hands and peered between the gap his fingers and palms made. Squinting one eye, he focused on the moon and had it remain half-hidden against the edge of his right hand. “I was never a believer of these romantic notions. Seriously. After all those years of seeing movies like Sleepless in Seattle, As Good As It Gets, My Sassy Girl… one begins to think ‘Sure, that happens. But only in the movies. After all, in the movies a heartbreak scene that happens for two months can appear to last only two minutes before the two finally realize they do love each other at exactly the same time and only then.. mind you, only then do they actually bump into each other again.’ That’s what romance movies teach us. They make us believe in a love that will never truly be defeated. Love conquers all. Love is eternal. Love and truth prevails. But do we ever see if they really work it out in the end? No. And that’s what makes movie love always work. They end the moment they are happily still in love. Jack and Rose for instance. Titanic. We never get to see if they could have really worked out in the end because they wouldn’t have. Seriously.”

“Don’t be mean,” another voice replied as Gerald paused in his rant against Hollywood’s romantic notions on what love was supposed to be, “People who watch movies know such things aren’t real. They know they’re just stories.”

“That’s not true,” Gerald pouted, “And you know it. You got all these teens. These kids. And you got these adults who still believe in such notions about love. You got people who still believe that-“ Gerald paused that moment, considering which movie to dissect, and settled on what he began earlier, “Jack and Rose… let’s go back to them. Jack, poor yet artistic Jack who has the body of a Greek statue and the face of an angel and terribly pampered and rich Rose… let’s just say they actually escaped the sinking of the Titanic and make their way back to the shores of America. They finally are together. In love. Free of the world’s pressures. Or are they? Day one, Rose discovers that neither of them have any money. Where do they sleep?”

“Oh you’re ruining it,” the woman’s voice replied.

“No, I’m just giving it a shot of realism. All the love and romance in the world suddenly falls apart as the two discover they are penniless and in terrible need of money and a place to stay in before the winter cold of New York comes to freeze them to death. Suddenly, it turns into a local telenovela. With Jack probably choosing to become some macho dancer in some club to help them earn their keep. And Rose becoming the most attractive and made up palengkera who get’s targeted by others’ rudeness and anger plain and simply due to her fantastic Hollywood looks. All you need now is some third person, maybe some other rich chick or guy who’ll try to rip them apart.”

“Seriously,” the woman shrugged, “You are ruining the notion of a love that works happily ever after using a movie where it didn’t even get to happily ever after. Gerald, you’re intentionally being mean.”

Gerald grinned and sat up, looking at the woman from the café who was resting on her side while running her fingers through the inch tall damp grass. He watched as she giggled at him and crossed her eyes in mocking agreement. “You realize you’re starting to sound like Ewan McGregor’s father in Moulin Rouge.”

Both spoke in unison, “This ridiculous obsession with love!”

Laughter came and the two shared it fully. Neither sought to hide the joy in the shared joke, heaving with each laugh as they both struggled for air. Gerald turned around to rest on his stomach as he crawled on all fours to get closer to her. “You are truly amazing.”

“And you are mushy,” she teased, “Way too mushy.”

He pouted. “It could be worse,” he mused as she slid her free arm around his waist, “I mean, I could be horribly pathetically and embarrassingly in love.” She raised an eyebrow in mock surprise, “You mean you aren’t at this point?” Gerald grinned and looked around for a moment before returning his gaze to her with a mischievous smirk on his face. Not wanting to let him have the last laugh, the woman let go of her hug upon his waist and rolled away from him. She rose to her knees between laughing spasms and made for the closest tree. Ducking beneath a low hanging branch, she hid behind its truck and playfully peered back at him from the shadows.

“Oh come now,” he struggled to say between laughs, “You’re not making me run after you again?”


“Like before,” he explained.


“Like back when we first met,” he tried to convince her, intoning a pleading nature to his voice. But she saw through his façade far too easily and remained where she was. It was a game they loved to play; the one where he’d play the longing blind fool while she was the fickle and joyful panda bear. She called herself that – a panda bear. And he found it most endearing.

“You haven’t tried to chase after me yet,” she teased from the shadows and sprinted away from the tree to hide at another one much further from him. He saw her run, but felt it was not the time yet to chase after her. Felt he could still win the game by luring her to come back near. A harmless game, it was. Unlike other lovers who played cat and mouse games in order to find reasons to argue with one another, or accuse each other of no longer caring.

“Only because I know you’re eventually coming back,” he admitted.

“What if I don’t?” she teased him again, peering at him with only her face revealed.

“Then I will die, happily. I will die with a smile upon my cold dead body, knowing that though I have left the world and begun my journey upon the sunless seas, I had at least the incomparable pleasure to knowing you and having been part of your life even for but a short moment in time.”

She stepped out from behind the tree, eyes brimming with tears. “Not fair,” she called back as she smiled at him even as her tears began to fall, “Not fair.. you’re making me cry.”

“Tears of joy?” he asked, suddenly partly afraid.

“No,” she pouted even if it was obvious the answer was yes. And Gerald rose then, walked towards her and stopped barely a foot from where she was. He brought his hands up, the left to brush her hair back and allow him to see her face better while the right offered a handkerchief to wipe away the tears. “Here,” he mumbled, suddenly worried he played the game wrong.

“Got you,” she triumphantly whispered and hugged him. He held her tight and smiled as he realized she had lured him to come to her. She had beaten him in his own game. And it didn’t feel like losing at all. “I know,” he mumbled as he breathed the scent of her. He kissed her cheek, then her neck, then moved his head and kissed the bare hollow of her throat, “and I am glad.”

“At least one of us is,” the voice came abruptly from the other set of shadows in the park. Gerald’s eyes widened even more as he realized he knew who it was. Almost forgetting to pull back from the kiss first, he spun to see Jenna watching the two of them from the shadow of one of the trees. Jenna had her arms crossed over her chest in an obvious non-verbal show of disapproval. Her eyes were narrowed slits that would have caused deadly wounds had they were any more edged than they already were. “I see you’ve been… preoccupied,” she hissed, “To answer my call.”

“Your call?” the woman with Gerald asked aloud.

”Your ca-“ Gerald repeated only to realize the musicians playing in the background; Pachelbel’s Canon in D Major, “Oh my God! Your call!” Gerald bolted straight up and found himself amidst the darkness of his apartment. He realized he had fallen asleep on the very kitchen floor. The cellular phone, still trapped beneath the immovable refrigerator, was the feeble source of light in the kitchen save the moonlight and street lights that found their way through the parts of the kitchen window that the Venetian blinds failed to block. The remnants of the dream still in his head, Gerald rose to his feet and struggled to feel his way to the light switch. Clicking the fluorescent light on, he scanned the kitchen for his wallet and keys, stuffed both into his pockets and made his way quickly to the sink.

“She said to meet at the café,” Gerald mumbled aloud, even if there was no one else to hear him save himself. It was a habit he had long told himself to stop practicing. A habit that was born from watching a tad too many romantic and comic movies back when he was still young. “She said to meet there… maybe she still is there,” he exclaimed excitedly as he ducked out of the apartment and locked the door behind him.

His cellular phone only stopped playing the classical piece after it hit its second repeat of the main refrain.


Gerald knew how to drive a car. Well, to say the least, he knew the basics. When he was young, his father and older brother used to drag him with them and teach him how to work the stick. They would demonstrate for him the purpose of each pedal, carefully explain to him the delicate balance that the clutch and the gas pedals had to practice, and even show him the reasons why certain gears were best for certain types of terrain to travel over. So as far as the basics of understanding how to drive was concerned, Gerald knew what to do.

They had also gotten him to practice with him during his young adult years. Forward, reverse, making turns. They even got him to practice during the evening a few times. Once, they got him to handle driving to a nearby store to buy some groceries while it was raining.

And Gerald’s love for books had him reading through the manuals on what makes what happen on a car’s dashboard. As well as how to understand and read the gauges for fuel, oil, temperature and the like. Gerald learned about what the basic traffic laws were, for both this country and those practiced in other countries. He also learned through friends how to change a tire. Or how to handle an overheated vehicle. Or siphon gasoline from one car to share it to another car with only a rubber hose to use. And last but not the least, Gerald even knew how to set the car radio and clocks… two of the most commonly least understood things that people who could drive knew how to handle.

So it would probably come to a surprise to most people to know that Gerald actually did not have a driver’s license at all. He never had one and he did not have any plans to have one. Some thought it was because he loved commuting. Some who asked him even were told about how he loved the freedom commuting gave. When the traffic on the street was far too heavy, Gerald reasoned, he loved to have the freedom to simply step down from the bus, walk to the nearest mall or bookstore and spend some time doing something else other than wasting his time waiting for the car in front of him to move. Some thought maybe Gerald was afraid to take the test. Afraid of the supposed difficulty it was reputed to have. Or maybe, a few suggested based on what they knew of him, Gerald simply wanted to avoid becoming the “driver” of the family. As anyone who had learned to drive while they were a young adult would know, the very moment one has the badge to drive, they become the first person to be remembered by a parent who wants something from a store or grocery nearby. “Buy this,” the parents would say and at first it would be more like a fun game to the child. It was a chance to legally show-off they could drive. And the child would go buy the thing with gusto and pride. “Buy that,” another day would come and another thing would be needed. “Buy this and that,” on yet another day. “But more of this,” it would continue on and on and the child would begin to realize that it was no longer a chance to show-off anything. It was merely now being a legal target to command if anything not found in the house was needed.

But in truth, it was something more personal.

Gerald was a Taurean. And in as much as horoscopes tend to be fictional collections of open to interpretation blanket statements written by a bunch of writers who like hiding their names under various colorful nom de plume, Gerald discovered that if ever there were two things that they say about Taureans that were true, one of them would be the presence of a bull-headed temper. (The other, Gerald would often love to claim, would be their amazing stamina and performance in bed. Of course, such a claim would best be something left for the individual partner to decide for herself.) And Gerald knew having such a temper would never be a safe thing if one were to command a fast moving bulk of metal. Already, as a back seat driver, Gerald was well aware of how vocal he could be about his anger towards people who drove and yet seemed to have less understanding of the rules than he did. The last thing he wanted to do was have a legal document allowing him to be behind the wheel.

But now, standing at the gloomy street corner deep within the depths of night, Gerald found himself wishing he knew how to drive and had a car. There were no taxi cabs within sight. He was tempted to reach into his pocket to check the time on his cellular phone but thought best not to risk getting held up if he showed any possible unscrupulous individuals watching him that he had a phone. That, and of course, the fact he realized his phone was still stuck under the refrigerator.

“Please let her still be there… please let her still be there,” Gerald repeated over and over the words in his head, like a mantra that he homed to come true. He strained his eyesight to look for any hints of headlights in the streets and hoped some taxi would come into view soon enough. He was not sure how to face the prospect of arriving there only to learn the woman who called him had already left.

The woman who called him.

Gerald found himself suddenly uncertain. Was the woman who called him the same woman at the café? After all, he had not gotten her name. What if the called was silicone-boobs herself? What if it was someone else entirely?

And how did she, who ever it was, get his name and phone number?

As a pair of headlights came into view, Gerald suddenly was filled with apprehension. With the caller’s identity was much less clear to him, he found himself thinking twice as to whether or not to hail down the cab. He tried to recall any possible ways that his name came up in the café, or for his number to be known when he realized there was something else missing.

“My bag,” he yelled out loud and raised his hand to stop the cab. The taxi cab driver, who earlier was peering at Gerald to see if he was being hailed down, nearly missed Gerald’s sudden change of mind and stomped down on the brakes. Rushing to the cab’s side, Gerald opened the door, slid inside, snapped on the seatbelt and asked the driver, “Coffebar Café, please hurry.”

The cab driver clicked the meter on and drove down the road. Looking tired and a tad overweight, the cab driver wiped a meaty hand against his chest and reached for a half-eaten sandwich that was on the dashboard. Gerald’s eyes widened as he stared at the half-eaten soggy sandwich with ham, tomato slices and cheese trapped between two thick crumbling slices of bread.

“Want some?” the driver offered.

”Uh.. no,” Gerald muttered in reply as his eyes followed the sandwiches journey from dashboard to the can driver’s lips. Tomato juices trickled down the corner of the cab driver’s mouth. A meaty tongue emerged from his clamped lips to lick the fluids back into his mouth. “Uh.. are you sure you can drive while eating that?”


”Drive,” Gerald repeated, noticing how the sandwich was not too gently returned to the dashboard with a soft and wet splat sound announcing its landing. “I mean, faster.”

“You think I’m driving slowly?” the cab driver asked aloud.

”Uh – “ Gerald tried to find something to answer when the cab driver cut him off, “You do realize how hard it is to be a cab driver? I have this boundary to reach, you realize? I have to earn around a thousand five hundred a day to give to the owner of this cab. Plus gas. I need to fill this cab back to full tank before I return it. That’s another thousand and five. So until I earn more than three thousand in a single day, I get nothing. Do you realize that? And you want me to stop eating. I haven’t even had lunch today! This is my dinner. My dinner and my lunch! I have to eat while driving and you want to complain about that as well?!”

“Sorry I didn’t-“

“Obviously you’ve never had it hard on you in your entire life,” the cab driver shook his head, the frustrations of life evidently now bursting out of him like ammunition to use against Gerald. “Probably never went hungry a single day of your life.”

“Now that’s unfair-“

“Is it?” Gerald heard the driver reply with such spite he suddenly felt a bit nervous for his personal safety, “I have four kids. My wife works near the wet market down Elizade street? The one with the red roofs? She goes there every day selling these pirated DVDs at the corner hoping to help make ends meet. When the police come to raid, she runs, at times leaving all her wares on the floor. On those times, she loses everything. If she’s not lucky, she gets caught, they burn or throw away her stuff after choosing which ones to keep, then require her to pay a three hundred fifty peso fine. If she can’t pay, they take what ever amount she does have. Two of my kids are selling sampaguitas near the church where my wife works. Of the flowers they sell, they earn around twenty to thirty pesos a day, depending on how many they actually get rid off. My other kid is too sick and stays at home. Doctor says its in the blood. The last kid is gay and hangs out at our neighbor’s parlor everyday. Punyeta, he probably will make more money than most of us in the family. Probably have some older baklas pay him for sex.”

Gerald remained quiet, not wanting to antagonize the man further.

“So don’t tell me you’re having a hard time,” the man muttered to Gerald and stopped the car at a red light. Gerald fought the urge to step out of the cab and run. He closed his eyes and intoned a prayer, then turned his head to face the cab driver. The cab driver was busy resting his eyes with one hand rubbing the skin of his forehead.

“I’m sorry,” Gerald found the courage to speak up.

”What?” the cab driver turned, surprised to hear Gerald say something.

“I’m sorry that you’re having a tough time,” Gerald said and then turned to face the road and bowed his head as he sighed heavily.

“Yeah,” the driver remarked, “Well, its not really your fault so its okay. I’m sorry. I shouldn’t have let it out on you. Its.. just been tough. You know. Gas prices and all that.”

“Yeah,” Gerald nodded, realizing how the man was right.

“Just don’t make the same mistakes I did,” the cab driver told Gerald. Gerald turned to face him again, a bit confused. The cab driver noticed Gerald’s facial expression and added as if to explain, “Pregnant.”

“Oh,” Gerald felt his cheeks burn. He felt a tad ashamed.

“She was sixteen. I was eighteen. I was actually still going to school back then.”

“Why’d you stop?” Gerald asked.

”Parents. They were ashamed.”

The car arrived at the street leading to the café. Gerald wanted to say something. Anything. He wanted to offer help but admittedly, he was afraid that if he extended any personal help to this guy, the guy and his family might conceivably abuse the help. Or need more than he could give. It was hard to tell. And it was a hard world to live in, to be honest. He wanted to give something. To share some of the load. But he didn’t know how. The car came to a stop and the driver actually shut the meter and waited for Gerald to pay up. Gerald stared at the meter and unconsciously reached for his wallet. The meter showed eighty-four pesos. Gerald pulled out two hundred.

“Here,” he told the driver as he paid him, and unclasped the seat belt.

”What?” the driver looked, caught off-guard, then shook his head, “No no.. you only have to pay-“

“Don’t argue,” Gerald muttered, “Its not out of pity. Its for good service.”

The driver smiled. And nodded. “Okay,” he tucked the money into his pocket, “Good service.”

“Heh,” Gerald offered a smile, “Wish more cab drivers were like you. Honest. Just try to be a bit more… clean?”

The cab driver smiled and closed the door. Then drove off. Somehow, guiltily, Gerald realized he still was worried if he had been swindled. And he hated the fact he still wondered about that. Maybe the world had changed people more than they realized it had. Maybe the world was no longer really a place for happy endings. For happily ever afters.

Or maybe, more often than not, some people are just damn unlucky.

Gerald walked into the café but he did not look around. He had one place to look in mind, and the moment he saw the seat was empty, Gerald felt the anticipation and excitement to get here fade away. There was no sign of the woman with the cardigan jacket who wore an olive green long-sleeved shirt under a white short sleeved tee. No, the girl in his (very recent) dream was not there.

“Can I help you with something?” a voice asked and Gerald yanked his head to the direction of its source. A bespectacled effeminate bald man wearing an “Ai-Ai shall never be ZsaZsa Zaturnnah” t-shirt peered from behind the counter. Though rather good-looking and well-defined, his obvious leanings towards flamboyance was certain to remind women where his interests lay. “Or were you just looking for someone in particular?”

“Yes,” Gerald coughed out as he tried to stop thinking of Queer Eye jokes, “Um.. there was a woman. Here. Earlier.”

“Uh hmmm,” the guy at the counter mumbled, “Presumably. This is a public café.”

“Hey,” Gerald replied a tad irked, “None of the sass, please. Don’t.”

“Fiesty,” the man replied, unconvinced.

“Okay… let’s start this over,” Gerald tried to appease things. He walked over to the counter and reached out his hand, “I’m-“

”Gerald Magpagtapat, and you were here earlier in the day when some sweet and lovely lady in an olive green and white wrapping realized you existed too. She noticed you storm out of the café after confronting your ex-girlfriend and her new Arnold dumberoo boyfriend about not being into women’s titties,” the gay guy interrupted Gerald and crossed his arms in front of his chest.

“Wow,” Gerald gasped in honest amazement, “You psychic?”

“No,” the gay guy giggled, “Heard all about it from the girl stationed here earlier today.” Gerald felt his face flush, another spasm of embarrassment hitting him hard. Maybe it was the café. Or maybe it was his unlucky day. One thing for certain, things were not working well for him today.

“On the other hand, she is,” the gay guy motioned with his pouted lips towards Gerald’s back and Gerald turned to see the woman who was in his dreams standing just outside the bathroom door. She had his bag, a small white and black backpack, slung over her shoulder.

“Hi,” she smiled at him.

”Hi,” he replied automatically, “I’m-“

“She knows your name is Gerald,” the gay guy muttered aloud, but Gerald ignored him.

“-Sorry,” he continued. Gerald wasn’t sure where the courage to say his words were coming from, but he’d be damned to let his paranoia get in the way again. “I thought the muscle jerk was with you.”

“You mean the guy claiming you were staring at his girlfriend’s tits?” the gay guy offered.

“Do you mind?” Gerald hissed at him and he raised both hands in surrender.

“You do like staring at tits?” she asked Gerald, catching him off-guard again. She grinned and walked up to him, slid the back off her shoulders and handed it to his still frozen hand. “Here, I think this belongs to you.”

“I do… I mean, yes it does. And yes, I do. But not yours. I mean, I do like staring but I wasn’t staring at yours. Not that they’re not.. nice… I mean,” Gerald rattled off feeling his cheeks flush for the third time. Tongue-tied, he stopped and closed his eyes and tried to focus. He knew he had to say it. It was now or never. After all, how much more could he possibly embarrass himself before her.

He remembered the dream he had. He remembered the cellular phone slipping down under the fridge. He remembered her calling and realized now that she never said anything about going to wait for him here. He realized how everything seemed to be falling into place. Everything seemed to make sense.

“Would you like to go out with me?” Gerald finally blurted out, finding all the reasons to take the gamble and finding none of the reasons to hide the truth. “Cause I really find you interesting and I would love to get to know you more.”

“Sure, sweetheart,” Gerald heard the gay guy reply, “And my name’s Kimberly. Now, if you meant Patricia, she’s sadly not in front of you.”

Gerald’s eyes popped open to see the empty café before him. He turned to see Kimberly, the gay guy at the counter, smiling a very amused smile. He tried to ask what had happened but felt again his tongue-tied down even more by embarrassment and humiliation. “She’s gone outside, and if you’re hoping she heard you am afraid you have to go after her and say it again.”

“Patricia,” Gerald smiled, liking the sound of her name. “Thanks Kimberly,” he muttered as he grabbed his bag and made for the door. Shoving past it, he stepped out into the night and found her standing by the sidewalk, waiting for a cab. He quickly stopped himself, slowed down to a walk as to not look too eager, and came up to her side. She noticed him, smiled, then focused her gaze on the road.

“Trouble?” she asked him, “If you’re wondering if I took anything from your bag-“

”Oh no.. no..” he replied and realized he was gasping between words. The sudden bolt to run and force the excitement down to walk was still struggling in his system. “I… you look like the trust-worthy type. I’m sure I can trust you, Patricia.”

She turned to face him. Eyebrows were raised. “You know my name?”

“You knew mine,” he replied back.

“That’s different, I’m psychic.”

There was no way to reply to that and still sound witty. Gerald saw Patricia giggle and realized that she probably realized why he was quiet. She turned away for a moment, looking down the sidewalk, then returned her gaze to him. “Hey, you want to come?”

“Where?” he innocently asked, though deep down he knew he’d say yes immediately if he had the guts.

“Walk,” she answered.

For a moment, Gerald found himself remembering the tunes of a beautiful song. Each note was distinct in his head. D major (tonic), A major (dominant), B minor (tonic parallel), F# minor (dominant parallel) G major (subdominant), D major (tonic), G major (subdominant), A major (dominant). He tried to blank it out but it kept coming back to him. Kept haunting him.

“Pachelbel?” Patricia asked him.

”What?” he replied, suddenly realizing what Kimberly said wasn’t an exaggeration.

“Canon. D major.”

“Oh wow,” he muttered, “You really are psychic.”

“Gerald,” she shook her head and smiled, “You were humming it aloud.”

If anything, Gerald was certain tonight was going to be a very interesting night.

Word Count = 5115
Previous Count = 4977
Total Count = 10,092 of 50,000


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