Gregor and Emma are examining book spines of classic Filipina collections hoping they will stumble across something interesting although they already knew that this is highly unlikely. If only great authors from the past could just magically write something new to send across to the present time, or maybe publishing houses would brilliantly come up with ideas like releasing special commemorative book editions or better yet, finding lost unpublished manuscripts from some hidden vault or a locked study. Emma is on her knees, as if praying in front of a shrine – her collar bones perspire – while Gregor is skimming the pages of a Nick Joaquin shorts. The old bookstore is so cramped, that religion and adult romance sections were placed next to each other.
Either it is a force of habit to induce intelligent conversations or just part of this unnecessary need for a routine that they occasionally come over to the same bookstore to have a proper venue to kick off their colorful speculations and exchanges that they agreed to term “The Crayola Sessions”. Today is about the eventful ending of life as we all know it. The end of the world.
Gregor is wearing a samurai blue coat, with a white shirt beneath it. The necktie knot is loose, and he wears sports sneakers for comfort, while Emma is wearing a gray cardigan over a sleeveless casual shirt and a pair of denim shorts.
A whiff of old papers and the cold rain from the open windows marinate in the air, there is nothing like it. Emma hailed the passing attendant of the store and ordered coffee and a pack of Marlboro reds, handing over the payment and a few change as tip. There are just about three round tables in the bookstore to occupy guests. They sat by the Capiz sliding windows.
“Say, do you think some divine being will truly show itself when the time comes? I really hope they’re cats. I think they must be, right? They are the sanest, most beautiful answer to save us from this godforsaken place. Ancient Egyptians believed it. I think it’s real. You should see that episode about it.” Emma continued.
“You’re annoying. But should it be true, at least it should be something original”
“I mean,” closing the book in his hands, placing the index finger between the pages “I hope it’s not going to be some cheesy judgment day where the sky opens up and angels appearing with trumpets start playing heavenly tunes, like what you see from those mediocre films.”
“Okay mister, supposing you are given a chance to participate to come up with a grand design on how things should end, how will you write it? What will be your ingenious version then? “
Emma scowling with a heft of sarcasm, crossing her legs together and leaning back against the My Home magazine back issues.
“I don’t know, probably angels and evil minions in Uber sedans, or perhaps a Ferris Wheel ride to enter heaven, only those permitted will be given a free pass.”
Emma gave out a genuine laugh.
When the attendant came back with their coffee the breeze picked up stronger. There is no rain, but the air is definitely damp. “Stay in for as long as you want, we’re supposed to close in about an hour, but you are welcome here anytime.”
“Thank you for the hospitality sir, but we have to be somewhere as well,” Gregor replied.
“Do we really have to go to that party? I mean, we’re already settled in here. “
“But you promised me, Emma, don’t be such a prick.”
“No, I did not! I said I will consider it.”
There was silence between them.
Gregor patiently studied the ceiling fan and making sipping noises from the cup that eventually graduated to slurping.
“But okay, to merit your infallible persistence, I will go. But only until midnight and you need to promise me that. Emma asserted.
“Okay, I promise then.”
“Just need to go back to my place and change.”
The attendant stepped back and nodded to the patrons before turning away.
“There’s no time, besides I have come prepared. I asked my sister to lend you her dress. You’re a size 6, right?”
Emma’s eyes rolled back, confused whether she would be impressed or annoyed.
When they arrived, the hall was already teaming up with people and loud danceable music. Looking around, people of different age brackets are there. They are drinking and dancing, but they don’t look like they are enjoying at all. They are like hermits in uncomfortable shells. It felt odd to Emma.
When Gregor came back from the refreshments table his face was beaming with excitement. He handed over a glass of punch to Emma.
“What’s this party about again?” Emma asked in a loud voice next to his ear.
“It’s a masquerade party!” Gregor shouted.
“A what party?!”
“A Masquerade parties!” Gregor repeated, and Emma finally caught up.
“I don’t think I follow you, I mean people are not wearing any masks here!”
Emma keeping up with the noise.
“Well, I don’t blame you! It’s a different kind of masquerade. People here are wearing a different kind of masks. That includes you, Emma.”
“Uh, I don’t understand” Emma now more perplexed.
“People came here wearing clothes of other people. Preferably people who are linked to them. And they pretend as if they are them as well”. Gregor explains.
Emma stepped back and surveyed the friend from head to toe.
“But you’re wearing your own clothes!”