Friday, February 20, 2009

You know what I'd do this weekend...

At the tail end of yet another gruelling week of working to death, I was just glad to have been hit by a rude awakening.

Sitting through four hours of traffic-marred journey from Tagaytay back to Manila, I realized I had practically gone mad over the pursuit of money. The past few weeks I would have been lucky to sleep four hours at any given night. I would leave home at 5:00 in the morning, start chasing buses like a mad man in EDSA soon after, that is, if I'm not already engaged in some shoving matches inside the MRT, skipping meals like the monks in Tibet during hunger strike, and going to ridiculously distant places to meet clients. At day's end the earliest I get home would be around 10 at night, where I still do some additional take-home work and squeeze in some extra time surfing the net in search of part-time job-opportunity before finally dropping from sheer exhaustion by close to midnight - only to wake up at 4 am to repeat the same killer routine the next day.

I guess my frustration at having been twice fired from the same company in a span of three months had driven me into some ritual of self-punishment trying to keep working to the point of exhaustion, it was almost a death wish. I was going through a difficult search for personal redemption to atone for the guilt of successive failures and killing myself in the process. Okay being fired is perhaps way too strong a description because it wasn't really the case. The fact is, I was actually told in the most diplomatic language and in the least painful way possible that I simply couldn't fit into the transcription job that I was desperate to get so perhaps I should look for a more appropriate opportunity down the road.

But what the heck no matter how politely you say it, the result was still the same - it hurt like hell. How my new-found friends who welcomed me with such wide-eyed smile and heartfelt kindness during my application could later muster the cold ruthless courage to tell me to tender my resignation a month later because I simply suck at this job was almost incomprehensible now. After that, my life went into overdrive, fueled by a desperate need to succeed, or to put it bluntly, to make bundles of money, which is just about the only way I know how to radically change the course of my life to the direction I please, take my revenge at society and have the last laugh.

Anyway, as traffic came to a crawl approaching the coastal road bottleneck exiting into the Alabang area at high noon, with the bus interior assumng the ambiance of a cheap sleazy sauna due to the defective airconditioner that had me and the rest of the passengers, sweating like crazy, I just thought that if indeed I was trying to punish myself, I wasn't even doing a good job at it Why because it is the people who meant the most to me who were taking the emotional beating. I realized that the last time I had a cheerful talk with my closest friends had been ages ago, with work, work and nothing but work dominating the conversations. I had become a stranger in my own home, leaving when practically everyone is still asleep and coming back when no one is awake and I remember the last time I was addressing the kids, I was shouting through the roofs to shut them up and give me peace.

I was committing social suicide and unwittingly taking innocent victims along with me in my death plunge.

The hopelessness of my quest dawned on me while I sit there at high noon trying to endure the ridiculous heat and the constant badgering of an aching empty stomach. I watched from behind the windshield bare-footed street kids at play against the backdrop of the coastal road shanties and wandered if anyone among the grownups have similar things going on in their minds, and if they may have accidentally found the answers, and what difference it would make just in case they did.

I remembered my father. For all his faults and flawed humanity, he was a better man at dealing with adversity. I remember when the chips are down, he would come home with gifts to us, small tokens of appreciation, and I cannot forget the day he came home with a roll of sewing thread in his pocket which that night in bed, I overheard him tell my mother that he bought it with the last money that was supposed to pay his fare, choosing to walk ten kilometers on the way home instead. In the morning, he built a kite and gave me the time of my life. I remember the look in his face, the silence that spoke volumes while he sat there watching me tug at the string and I wondered if he knew all along that I was making a great show out of it, I was so desperate to enjoy the moment and for God's sake, to let it show, which is just about the only way I can cheer him up and perhaps obliterate the loneliness in his heart even for a moment. That story was actually the subject of another blog:

So tomorrow, Saturday, I will take the cue from that memory and do the right thing. When the chips are down, fly a kite... (If still it fails, then, it should amount to something more than any of the useless rants like this. I'm sorry, I can't think of a decent enough story to tell tonight)

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Friday the 13th (And Valentine's Day thereafter)

It's the eve of Valentine's Day and yet it's also a Friday, the 13th of February.

Chito chuckled at the irony and wandered what disaster could possibly unfold to spoil the lovely day of love that's coming tomorrow. As far as he's concerned, he assured himself, nothing of that sort could ever happen. He carefully searched for the bracelet he would give to Lily from among the items on display at the jeweller's counter in Trinoma. The saleslady was doing the hard sell but the 30 year old accountant was totally oblivious to that. "That's high-grade silver sir, the current rage, and it had in fact replaced gold as the favorite gift, well not really, but with gas prices and galloping inflation, the price of gold has... well turned gold, hahaha..." The poor girl realized she was laughing at her own joke and looking absolutely silly she finally shut up.

Finally, he broke his silence. "I want that one, the third item on the second row, yes that one with a mermaid pendant. yes. He pulled out his credit card and patiently went through the swipe, and watched intently as the saleslady wrapped the item with such pomp you almost sense any moment she might break into a song or offer free massage service to lend new meaning to customer satisfaction. Well she almost did, announcing to his surprise that they actually have a pre-valentine's promo, giving customers a 20-percent discount on every item. Not bad for a Friday the 13th...

"Hi, Lily how's your day? And what's for dinner?" Chito tried to look normal as soon as he arrived home. Well, normal after ten years together is being predictable and saying the things that he had been saying over and over from day one of their marriage, which also means being insensitive of anniversaries, births, deaths, valentine's, the unpaid bills, the fighting children, the visiting in-laws and if the days are that bad, forget asking 'Hi, how's your day and what's for dinner?' In fact, the more normal you act the better it is sometimes. Chito wandered if this is the day to break from the norm and to not be normal for a change. He reached for his chest pocket where he placed the box containing the gift and it took a mighty effort to not succumb to the temptation of giving it to Lily and watch the unfolding miracle. He longed to see her smile the smile of absolute joy, like she did the first time she laid her eyes on the wedding ring, with Chito on his knees and begging to marry her. It's been quite a while since he witnessed that smile and he realized just how much he wanted it badly now but amazingly, Chito was able to get hold of himself. There'll be plenty of time for that tomorrow, he promised. Today would be anti-climactic.

Meantime, it was amazing how Lily herself had totally forgotten what day it is today and the significance that it holds among the couples, or is she just trying to act normal the way he does? He wondered.

That night, lying in bed together, husband and wife were an absolute contrradiction. She had fallen asleep like a baby the moment her head touched the pillow while he tossed and turned. He was still brooding over the gift. At close to midnight, finally, sleep mercifully came to his rescue.

He jumped out of bed the next morning and ran towards the kitchen where she found Lily preparing breakfast. The sunny side up simmered on the frying pan and he smelled bacon. "I knew it". He blurted outlound. "You're just pretending you don't care but you actually prepared something for Valentine's, hahaha... Well guess what, I got a surprise for you too".

No reaction from Lily. "Happy Valentines Day, Honey". He went straight to the point. Still no response. He gave him a peck on the cheek. Nothing. He felt cold. He felt strange.

Chito remembered the bracelet and realized it may have still been in his shirt pocket. He rushed downstairs and searched for it among the heap of a full week's laundry. Then the shocking discovery. He couldn't even move the pile of clothes. He realized his hands pass through anything, his touch a gust of wind, an apparition in the tangible world. The next moment, he was inside their bedroom looking at himself. The froth from his mouth had spilled into the pillow, the ashen face and the fact that his eyes were wide open suggested a horrible death. He let out a soundless scream.

Lily was shaking him and pinching hard at his arm. "Wake up Honey, you're having a nightmare again. You're scaring me, honey, wake up, wake up". She was on the verge of tears when finally he opened his eyes. Chito held her tight and gave his wife a gentle kiss.

He realized he had just came back from the dead to greet his wife a happy Valentine's...