Sweet Spaghetti

She ordered a spaghetti meal and a coke. Tony liked his brewed coffee lukewarm so he let it sit for a while as they talked. They were in a fast food joint in QC, in one of its old parts. It was two after midnight. You’d know if it’s time to go when the whole place starts to smell like hospitals, of antiseptic, when it’s too clean. There was only them and a few service crew left closing up. The streets were dark and almost empty. It felt like the night alleys are lurking. It felt that it had plenty of room for dark secrets and piss. There were night owls sitting on the gutters, overly embellished prostitutes stood under the yellow lights, and there was a parked police mobile at the dark corner. Tony was just getting started. There were small teabags hanging under his eyes. He wore them proudly. He liked to sleep in the mornings and live his life at night.  Joy doesn’t have much knack for it. But she’s the spontaneous kind. She was like a kite that goes along with the direction of the wind, never minding.

Joy was going to stay in a hotel suite. Just a short drive from where she lived. There was a scheduled water interruption and she asked Tony to take her. The water levels in the reserve were too low and it’s going to hit their neighborhood twice that week. Tony spelled out the irony. It was both severely dreadful and funny Joy told him. Tony agreed.

It was as if they were both waiting for the dawn. Tony poured some whiskey he had from his jacket pocket into their drinks. She finished her sweet spaghetti and drank, while Tony leaned against the window with his coffee.

“I apologize for earlier.”

“It’s fine.” Joy answered cooly. “I just hope you don’t go around kissing girls you just met.”

“I don’t,” Tony responded. “They don’t like me that much.”

“Did you mean it?”

“Do you mean if it’s real?”

Joy did not answer.

They drove to her subdivision to pick up her things. And while he waited for her, Tony watched the full moon that was accompanying him from the sky. There was cool air that blew from the direction of the hills. There were cloud patches translucent in metallic blue. Time seemed to have stood still and was waiting for him to say something, anything. There were stars, lots of them, and the city lights below him.

When Joy re-emerged, the sound of the heavy gate woke the dogs from the houses nearby. There was a lot of barking and howling.  She had changed her clothes and her knees were visible with the hems of her skirt just above them.

“Ready?” She was the spring that never happened, thought Tony.

“There is no such thing. You just kind of do.” Joy answered.

“I guess it’s that simple huh?” Tony retorted.

“Like jumping off a plane.”

Both of them laughed.

Joy took Tony’s hand and said, “You know, to be frank, I like you, Tony D. And I think I want to keep you. But only for these sorts of conversations, you see?”

“I understand. Like how we prefer the night.”

“That’s just you, Tony.”

“Is there anything else?”

“Yes. And I like to fight sometimes too. Is that weird?”

“No. I don’t think that’s weird at all.”

Tony woke in her hotel bed the morning after. He suddenly missed home. But he decided to lie down for a while. Tony rested his eyes and turned to his side. His breath was on her temple and on her hair. He missed the sharp and muffled hisses of the cold air the night before when they drove. He thought about the amber lights when they passed through the highway.

Tony woke Joy up. They got some air and went for a walk. It was still early. They smoked while they held hands. Tony did. Joy was sucking on flavored vapor. Tony remembered what Collin Farrell had said in True Detective about e-cigarettes. It really looked like that she was sucking a robot’s dick. Tony laughed. She also laughed with him. They were holding hands still.

Cats Smoked the Souls of the Dead

At the funeral of a friend, he saw her helping out, handling over cold tetra packs of juices and repacked green peas and peanuts to the guests. His relationship with her was as dead as the one lying in the pine casket by the electric candles. He thought about saying hi but hesitated and felt it was completely inappropriate to do such a thing. It wasn’t the place or the time to rekindle with old romantic acquaintances, even though what he only wanted was to ask her one question after all.

It was a cool and damp night. She was wearing a comfortable-looking knitted cardigan over a strapped blue top and a pair of her usual outfit, a square pants and worn down sneakers. It was close to midnight but it was still quite a work finding his way through being noticeably visible. When he was young, he was made to believe that funerals are big farewell parties every time a relative died. “And that cats feed on the crematorium smoke, that’s why they have many lives” His uncles would tease the kids. But it wasn’t the case when his dad went when he was only eleven.

He thought about what happened between them. There was that problem she one day declared to him, turning the other way as she sat in the passenger seat. It was all a blur to him, but he can remember very well the humming of the car engine while she was at it. He wasn’t worried, she still had the seatbelt on.

What could have been said more often was reduced to mere incidentals, and what should have been felt as something natural eventually became a matter of opinion. A cause, and a consequential effect to put it simply. In the movie Interstate 60, James Marsden was told that all relationships were a reaction of the previous ones we had. It wasn’t the point of the scene, but that was the message that stuck. That night she just left in his sleep without saying goodbye. He always thought she’d come back for her stuff in his place, but still hasn’t.

“I almost couldn’t believe my eyes, I thought I was seeing the wrong ghost.” There was a soft chuckle when she said this after many of the guests left. “I was surprised to see you here.”

The night was filled with stars, there were only a few thin sheets of clouds scudding across. The wind was cool, it was such a good night for a long drive to the coast, what he truly wanted to say. “It was such a beautiful service.” He said after a while.

“I’m just glad it was over, peaceful. You know?” She replied without looking.

A week after he was at the door in front of the house, feeding a stray cat with milk and a corn-flavored cereal. Then it hit him, cats didn’t feed on the souls of the dead. They rip them apart until they were completely gone.

Cake

A heavy downpour was reportedly on its way, but we reckon that we still have a couple of hours to discuss the matter on hand.  Well, he first saw her on a crowded elevator, midway to his floor.  He eventually braved the odds and spoke to her after a few more encounters which turned out to be a positive thing that he did.  He was always proud of that and would boisterously tell friends at dinner tables or after a few rounds of drinks during the weekend literature meetings held at his place.

He would occasionally talk about how it went on down to the very last detail and how this series of pleasing events would make him write about her. Unsolicited, he also does recite poetry whenever he feels like and claims that the taste of rice has just become sweeter. Clinical or not, I think a sort of madness has stricken him.

It was exactly a month from today since the last time I had cake.  I have almost forgotten its taste; how soft the texture is like exactly whenever I gorge a mouthful while smoking a stick of cigarette.  And so, I agreed to go out today.

We live near to each other, practically a good stone’s throw away. He was at the door for a good fifteen minutes before I reluctantly answered back.

I crammed my pockets with keys, phone, and a few changes, quickly pulling a jacket on. I took a deep sigh as I braced myself before stepping out.  In the sun, I can see more visibly the tufts on my coat and the highway lines of my skin. Invariably despising this idea almost immediately, but there was also a hint of mood that stirred inside me. All of a sudden, I became somewhat excited to see the moonglow and thought about spring.

On the reflection of the glass, my eyes followed a line of ants marching across the pane until I could no longer see where they were heading.

We were standing in the cold, at the front of a jewelry store.  This younger friend asked me to choose which one he should buy her. Our hands were tucked deep in our pockets, nursing to their feeble quakes.

I told him he was stupid, and we should buy cake now.

Photo by F. Osorio
Photo by F. Osorio

The Night Express

It was by this time that the thick evening sky has completely draped the entire city as if a giant palm has cupped the world to a close. With only a part of the moon slightly showing between the bisecting portions of the clouds, other than that it was an odd dark night comparing to the others.  While a cool drowsy breeze from the direction of the sea was gently wafting onto my skin, I pulled the collar closer to the nape while walking around back to the side of the building where employees go to smoke. I had no complaints; it was the next best thing to anything counted as a good dessert, capping a well-deserved late-night meal after a long tiring shift at work.  I work nights during the weekends, probably- subconsciously happy about it, as there were not many people there and it is a lot tranquil and I could play music without putting my earphones on.  I did not mind the short strolls around the retired empty streets of the business district whenever I need to; in fact I like it better as it is now than how they are during the day when rushing pedestrians on autopilot crowded the streets like fire ants on a mission while the sidewalks flooded by real estate agents and other sorts of company representatives handing out brochures that people don’t really read about.

The lamp posts gleam with a faint orangery hue that made everyone walking under them look a little better than they should be. It was some sort of an emboss to add a thrilling texture to the characters from a movie. Add a little mystery to an ordinary story and it will be worth telling.

This is why I like nights better.  Think about it, people are a bit more honest at night than they truly are during the day. Ever wonder why it always seems easier to confess a feeling to a lover at night? Or why the conscience is always there lurking wide awake during the wee hours of the dark?

I struck a match to light a cigarette and puffed out a train of smoke to the ground. A gloomy looking guy in his Pink Floyd shirt appears from the corner where the brighter side of the building was.  It was an old friend that I haven’t spoken with for a long while.  We used to go home together when taking off from work, but he got transferred to another department which meant he also had to work on a different shift.  The only time we get to see each other is during the weekends when I get to work on the same shift as he is. But even that prevented us to talk since we hang out with a different set of friends which we both don’t really like, or too busy with our work assignments that time did not allow us to.  At first, I thought it was to be a complete drag, being on your own, but it was what it was, and I got along quite well with solitude eventually.

We did not need words nor do anything to express that we were glad to see each other after some time.  It was an implied understanding between two longtime friends.  We practically grew up together.

I could not tell what if it was age or the night itself that diluted us to be this glum.  We used to be a lot louder when we were in college.  We were in our late twenties now, and we should not be acting this way, at the very least not yet.

“Remember the time when I used to work as a delivery guy for a fast food chain during summer some years ago?”  He laid his back flat against the concrete wall beside the stainless ashtray while staring at the towering condominium columns which stood two blocks away from where we were.  They were like in competition among themselves.

“You’d be surprised how many of those people up there are placing orders every night.” He followed.

“I don’t know what exactly, either they just like to stay up late, or they live reverse lives as we do. But it’s quite strange just the same; the phones ring off the hook for delivery orders. There was a time that we had to hire extra night riders just to cope up with the demand” He says, as he reached for the pack of cigarettes in his pocket and lit one.

There was a strange sullen look on his face for a moment, and he quickly gave out a huge laugh finally breaking the silence and threw a soft punch on my left arm.

“Glad you are still there inside that shell, how’s everything back home, how is she?” I responded.

“You know we are not the type who talks about this stuff right?”  He replied cracking a half smile.

“Right.” I affirmed.

“But do you reckon that people just simply like your food? “Returning to where he left off.

“Uh-uh, I don’t think it was that at all.” Shaking his head.

“Did you know that there was a study that we may be physiologically programmed to eat cookies at night?”

“So, are we like monsters after dusk?” I asked smiling.

“Sort of.”  He flicked the burnt butt towards the direction of the bin and fell silent for a while.

“Hmm, interesting, but aren’t we all?”  I asked aimlessly.

The dark of the night seemed to have added a colder heavy temperature as we stood there.

I placed both hands together while holding the almost done cigarette and we started walking.

We crossed the road where the PED XING sign hangs over the island of the intersecting streets.

As we were threading on midway, a fast single-delivery motorcycle zipped on by behind us.

Night Express

Cold Planked Boxes of Ernest

Remember the ones you left behind, the dead with their faces during the last moments you saw them speak. How could you possibly bring them back with you? What means did you have if there were any? It was such a cruel thing not being able to give what they truly deserved, as their voices fill your head in your sleep as you lie there on the dirt. You wonder what were those they prayed for?  To believe in the war is different from rooting for the deeds that come along with it.  It was necessary to take someone’s life, but one should not believe in it.  I phoned the commander and asked him to wait until the sun reaches above the scalp.  But damn the politics that helped oiled the gears which led us here.  Fool is to believe that all are selfless.   I was once proud and naive, for the flags I heeded to represent.  I was an urged rock that was given life, to be heavy and still as I am also numb.

A friend is when I speak out loud to myself.  It has been groomed unconsciously that it now turns into a living grieving habit.  Yes, it is normal that you have thoughts brewing to the point of discussion or a mere debate with yourself. But it should only stay within an inaudible state and not to be uttered for others to hear.  The mouth is for conversations that require a pair of ears other than yours.  And so, it is unusual to speak that way.

But how does one take control in the most piercing moments when the scorching sun strikes you back hard and when it turned the tracks of your tears into mere salt on your cheeks.  When you only have the barrel of the gun to depend on, when all of your brothers are motionless around you and you chose to crawl towards the one you are closest with. You see him drowning in his own spoils and blood. You are to willingly stick your fingers into the bullet holes just to convince any of them to accompany you even with just a hurtful moan.  You’d hope to be as faithful as your resolve.  The residues of these days are a stench that will never go away.  You rely on the handgun hoping it will not fly off when the time for shooting has come.  When it is already time to give up the bullet that will carry your message across, that the time for writing novels must be set aside for now.  It is not because you were left with no other choice. It was the circumstance presented at your feet.   You knew this was not the end, but you were also sure you could be absolutely wrong.

And you’d tell yourself, that the time for grieving is not now.  You will have plenty of that hereafter.  Nor is this the place to do it.  The dead must be respectfully cleansed.  The dried-up mud and blood must be washed off to reveal the chivalry and truth of their souls.  But most of all, as a final act of selflessness, for the families’ sake and the loved ones who waited, as one is sure that they will not have the stomach to witness the remnants of the horrors of their fate.   So, your body must be cleansed.  Your battle uniform must be replaced.

And so, you had it done, for them, always for them.

Omelet Tidings

The two waited on the bleachers with their eyes wandering through the damp. They were exchanging a half-done flask as they were also whistling cigarette smoke across the soccer field.  They have found themselves in a vacuum within this seemingly infinite void before the dawn.

She reveals her face to the voyaging clouds across the sparkling seas of the night, giving up a smile as she pulls back the hood of her jacket. The paradox of the universe unfolds. She gently kisses the stale tasting lips of nicotine, freeing its very soul one drag at a time.  It had no complaints, nor did the silence of the surroundings, as it implied in affirmation. Neither even the imposing claws of the tree branches nor the entire army of crickets under that sweet vanilla moon had any quarrels with her at that moment.

Her make up smears, she hasn’t painted her nails for a while, but she doesn’t really mind at all.

Deep breaths, as she administers imagination, what needs to be done?  She had begun in the shallow waters of her mind.

And little by little, she submerges down into the depths of her profound contemplations. And in every burning sip from the bitter openings of the flask, it was as if a passionate lover making love to her, she finally reconsiders.

She was taken gradually, within the raptures of the abyss and the parallel dimensions of her make-believe world. What is this unalienable truth that haunts her now? She then wishes for an antidote, like morphine, dismissing the pain in ten folds.

Then she ponders on the reassuring respite of bacon and omelet. How this dynamic duo may soon have to save her and the world when they both cry out for help. Be great presidents someday perhaps, or a pop song playing in loop, or be an empathizing friend for just a little while.

She then retracted these notions out of her head almost immediately. She must be drowsed, she thought.  Over romanticism might have murdered her skeptical heart she feared.

But these apprehensions were real. Confronted by their undeniable strength, she was tied to the mast.  As she turns to him reluctantly, almost uttering the words, falling like the rain in September.

She gave the boy a smile instead.

Omelet Tidings

Photo by T. Angara-Aragon

Departures

On that damp and cold night, she kissed the glass pane and left a flyer in a public phone booth on some dark alley. ”Life also exists in the deepest parts of the ocean.” She said.  And for her, we were chasing modern-day heroes, a commodity hard to come by nowadays.

Her fragile heart was shattered into frosted pieces. But that only made it countless, she refuted. Before I could even open my mouth to respond, she undressed herself clean to finally make love.

“When we bleed, a part of humanity also reeks.” She sang.

An old man now and her clasps were replaced by arthritis. More and more it often visited me like a loyal friend.  I couldn’t even change guitar strings right anymore.

I like spending most of what’s left of my shorter days on a wooden boat.

Over the course of this journey, I am grateful to have made those acquaintances. Different kinds of Tuna, Mackerel and other sorts of fish you’d normally find around the region. And despite the ever-changing weathers, I never really gave up on her.  Something about the sea that calms me down and makes me feel connected.  I feel like I’m a part of her now, a part of this grand design.

I spend my early mornings in the calmness of the lake, swinging the fishing rod away and just wait for the longest time which I do not mind.  Right here I have a steady control.  I like listening to the swishing sound of the leaves. They feel no fear when the winds arrive to invite them for a spin.  Watching the whiskered terns plunge from the skies and up again, I allow myself exposed out in the open.

Lately, I have also grown fond of my garden. Growing tomatoes, green beans, lettuces, and bell peppers has been a delight.  Waking up to their colors, and witnessing life unfold as if they were my children.  I have made a promise to take good care of them and I intend to keep that.  My life was far from perfect, but she was always good to me, it’s the least thing I could do.

I can still remember that day when we slept together under the flight patterns.  Beneath the familiar rumbling sound of the turbine engines, propellers, and the crosswinds. Our eyes fluttered in the ordinariness of that day.  My head rested on her thigh, while jet lines intersected through the sallow skies.

The runaways by the runway, seventeen, we will always be.

The other kids raced, passing on twigs until they reached the end of the line. They ran so fast that their shoes barely touched the ground.

In those fleeting moments behind the steel fences, we watched in awe those who took off and flew.  And they were so graceful, we were so proud of them.  We wanted to encapsulate that world in a fishbowl and keep it forever.  Constant that memory was, but we knew that even the earth had to move sometime.

“Save me a seat, will you? I’ll be a little late tomorrow.”  A kid exclaimed to his friend under that afternoon sky.

“Make sure to bring hot chocolate in a thermos like always.”  The friend required of him.

He’s all grown up now, and he went into the sunset like how cowboys do in those films.

He always rooted for the arrivals and the departures, always the romantic one, while the other counted the hours down for the friend’s safe return.

In those carbonated days of summer, life was easy to comprehend.  How I wish we can go back, I always wonder.

Somewhere in a dream, I heard you say, “Fill the gas tank only a quarter full, spend the rest on flowers.”

Flabbergasted, I smacked your head real hard and sneered.

Like sand castles, you insisted that we can always rebuild that day.  The hues were lined low, and the sun was almost dimmed.  The commander crowed across the field, ordering to sling our rifles and move out.

And everyone did.  But I had a change of heart.

I wrote war stories instead.

Yours and hers.

Had I known, I would have done otherwise.

The needle was loose, so the constellations were made compass.  Come back and fish with me.  Let’s spend an afternoon once more.

Photo by Denvie Balidoy

Photo by Denvie Balidoy