Monday, May 31, 2010

Benjamin (again)

"Come!" he said, motioned with a non-chalant move of his hand for me to come towards him, while he continued to walk. I took several giant steps before I could reach him and by the time I did, his one foot was outside the door of the main gate.

"Wait!" I said. "Where are we going?" I felt my face flushed. How dare this man make me follow him.

But he smiled and said in a low voice, "Let's leave Mila and Danny. I think something's bound to happen tonight."

"But my books are with her," I said and looked back as the security guard closed the metal door of the college's gate. I stopped and hesitated in the middle of the street. But Benjamin continued walking, and I followed him until we reached the jeepney stop. He hailed one going north to Escolta. My face was full of questions, and he knew what those questions were. But his gentle touch at my elbow, as he nudged me to board the jeepney, seemed to calm me and I got inside. He handed the driver some coins.

We got off at Brown Derby on Taft Avenue.

"Have you been here before? The food here is good, right?"

"No, I've never been here before," I replied.

We sat at a table on the quietest corner of the restaurant. Immediately, a uniformed waitress came with a small menu. He ordered a hamburger and Pepsi. I scoffed at him, playfully, though. I ordered a foot long hotdog and Coke.

"I told Danny that bridges sometimes give way to the river's waters, especially when the current is strong," he said, his eyes sparkled in the restaurant lights, the smile in his lips reveal some kind of giddiness. I cocked my head, not understanding what he meant.

Danny, his friend, was fervently wooing me. Danny had asked Benjamin to be his "bridge", meaning he, Benjamin, would woo me for him, Danny. Benjamin had been talking to me almost everyday, telling me how Danny felt. Mila, my friend, however, had this huge crush on Danny. I had told Danny in no uncertain terms that he is not my type. I wasn't particularly into anyone at the time, not even Benjamin.

"So, when you had told Danny for certain it's a no, I told Danny I will have to cross the bridge I built."

"Me?" I asked, pointing at myself as I realized what Benjamin was trying to say.

"Yes," he said.

The number one song of the week was being played on the jukebox: Bobby Goldsboro's version of the song "And I Love You So".

He took my hand and placed it on his chest. "I would have died if you had liked Danny."

I ate my foot-long hotdog with a grin on my face. I had scored the hottest boy in college.

Thursday, May 13, 2010


I remember the night he sang "My Foolish Heart".

I was in the hallway, outside my classroom, looking down at my friend Mila as she spoke to her boyfriend. My seven o'clock class got cancelled and I was waiting for my eight o'clock Sociology. There was no one else in the hallway. Only one class was being conducted and it was in the farthest room down the hall. I was looking at the full moon when suddenly he appeared beside me. We exchanged the usual pleasantries. I noticed he wore a dark teal poloshirt, the fabric hugging his lithe body, and a pair of white pants that flared at the bottom, the back almost touching the ground but not quite, and only the tips of his white boots were showing. He smelled of musk, very faint, but distinctive.

His eyes sparkled in the moonlight. Or maybe it was that the moon sparkled in his eyes. We were making small talk and sometimes his elbow would brush into mine. Some of the girls looked up at us, and I could see in their faces the envy. For Ben was one of the good-looking men in our small community college. It felt good to be seen side by side with a well-dressed, good looking man.

Suddenly, in the brief pause between our small talks, he blurted out: "The night is like a lovely tune, beware my foolish heart; How white the ever constant moon, take care my foolish heart..."

I turned to look at him. I was flabbergasted because he had such beautiful voice. He was leaning on the ledge, facing me, with that sparkle in his eyes and a naughty smile.

"My goodness," I said, obviously pleasantly surprised, "you have a beautiful voice. You should be a balladeer!"

Ben, of course, worked at the department store at the public market, in the fabric section. This was why he could afford those nice clothes because he got them at employee-discounted prices.

He stopped briefly, "I sing in the church choir."

"Well," I said, "this choir of yours must be very good! Too bad I don't go to church."

He smiled, leaned his chest on the ledge, looked at the moon, then at me, then at the moon again.

"This time it isn't fascination..."

I raved some more about his beautiful voice and beautiful singing. Somehow I felt special because it felt like he was singing TO ME. But at the time I thought he was just passing time by chatting me up. I didn't have any inkling that he was starting to court me by that singing.

"It's love, this time it's love, my foolish heart."

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

PROMPT - sunset

The kitchen window of our first house, the one that my father built on a piece of land by the public cemetery, faced west. I remember the orange light casting a long rectangular reflection on our floor. I would sit on the floor, right in the middle of that rectangular reflection and would move as the reflection moved until it disappeared. Sometimes, our backdoor would be open and long shadows of crosses from the tombs in the cemetery were cast on the floor.

I liked to watch the sun as it set and disappear beyond the distant crosses and the mango trees. My mother used to tell me not to look at the sun for it will damage my eyes. But the setting sun was different. It had a soft quality about it, almost candy-like. I used to imagine that the orange-coloured clouds were cotton candies and the fiery setting sun a large lollipop.

Ihor appreciated my love of the sunset. The first time we went out of town, we went to Laoag, La Union, about four hours drive north-west of Manila. The place was then known (probably still is) as a resort town, with long stretches of pristine beaches facing the South China sea. We swam in the sea the whole day and had a late lunch. We explored the town afterwards, taking pictures of old Spanish houses and churches. While he napped in the late afternoon, I went to walk on the beach to watch the sun setting on the sea. I found a rocky place at the far end of the beach about a mile from the hotel. I picked up little shells and threw tiny pebbles on the rushing waves. The tide was fast coming inland. I sat on a flat rock and watched as crabs scurried as the sea water rushed in. On that rock I had a magnificent view of the horizon, the sun squarely in the middle of the wide expanse as it slowly turned from bright orange then fiery red and until it disappeared.

It was dark when I reached the hotel premises. Ihor wondered where I was. Later I learned someone told him I walked "that" way towards the rocks. When he saw me, without him saying anything, he took my hand and we walked on the shore together until it was so dark we couldn't see anything anymore, just the distant flickering of lamps on the houses nearby, and the sound of the waves that sometimes caressed our bare feet.

"What is it about the sunset that you have to watch it?" he asked.