“Two tickets please.” The lady behind the window tore two and handed him his change. The movie wasn’t good, but he loved it all the same. The woman he was with disagreed. She thought that the dialogues were lousy and it bored her to death. He liked how opinionated she was. He gave his rebuttal and she cooly answered them. They had a good, intelligent back-and-forth. But the truth is, she had seen it over a dozen times already for the past weeks. She had practice. The men who afforded her took her to the cinemas and always preferred they had debates like this at the end of it. Some men are strange, she thought. She always took the opposing view, no matter what side that was.
“The critics hated it.” The woman argued. But he cared less about what the critics wrote. He decided that he was too old for that. In fact, he doesn’t read any of their columns anyway lest it deliberately permits random people to just interfere with the story being told.
It was as good as it could get. Their conversations had flat-lined naturally when they found themselves necking all of a sudden while waiting for a cab. It did not seem to appall her, dating an old foreign guy such as himself.
“But how do you know when someone is being true to you?” He asked.
“Well, that’s easy.”
“Please do tell.”
She sat back as if it drew her more power when explaining.
“At nights, you could always tell. At nights, the whispers are the most honest thing there is.”
And one thing led to another. Before he knew it, he was being led to this shabby hotel down some dark alley where she was a preferred guest. After all, this wasn’t a real date. It was rather a business transaction. But he had hoped that it could at least mean something to the woman while it lasted. As they approached their place of accommodation, he noticed that there wasn’t a working sign. The hotel had none if you want to know the truth. All it had on was the address number by the glass door which said ‘9316’ with the neons from a nearby KTV gracing light on its facade. He thought that she had probably chosen this place specifically to bury their whispers.
There were some light rains and it was cold. It was dark all around with only a few cars jolting by at the corner street. He found some shade and waited outside while the woman took care of the room. He stared blankly up into the dark sky and searched for the invisible source of this unending downpour and wondered like a child. The wind carried the slanted rain. There were soft glimmers each time they passed through the street lights. He thought it was a nice gesture, the slow rain paying their respects like that.
After a while, they went inside and got into a small elevator which barely fitted them. Their shoulders almost touched, he felt nervous once again. Under the bright light, he could almost see her underneath all of that makeup. He thought her dark skin was beautiful, apart from the fact that she looked tired and older. When they reached their room, the woman asked him to place the exact amount on the dresser, or else she would keep whatever he’d left there. She undid her coat while she went into the bathroom to freshen up. He took off his shoes and sat at the corner of the bed where the window was near.
He was shivering when he touched her. He rarely gets the chance.
While on her knees, she looked up to him and then smiled.
But he couldn’t tell if she was sincere or not.
She was preoccupied. She was not whispering, of course.
But he was convinced that she was, that she cared for him.
For as long as the money is good on the dresser,
For as long as she is down there.
It was a good view from the top.
Something inside him stirred, something primal.
This was one of the rare occasions wherein he felt good about himself.
Right here, he was king.
He felt proud, dignified.
In this third-world country, he was living the great American dream.
He was old and wrinkly. He has halitosis.
But he has a good credit score.
And around these parts, that is all that matters.