F Chapter 3: Friction



We hate those who have what we can't have. We hate guts we can never have. We hate heart, the kind that we gave up. We hate ourselves for being a coward. The worst part is that we take it out on other people.




Kris
What’s with Disney?

Kris texted me at one in the morning because psychoanalyzing Disney is more important than our health.

Me
It’s the happiest place on earth

I texted back because it’s Disney and defending it is more important than… my sleep.

Kris
I am serious!

So am I.

Me
What’s on your mind?

Kris
How are they able to come out with
a movie and have the whole world at
its feet. Cinderella. Elsa. Snow White.
Even 1-year-old children, who most
likely don’t understand shit about the
story, are going crazy over these cartoons.

I’m an annual season pass holder. I pay $50 a month of my hard earned cash so I could go to Disney anytime I want. Never mind that I work two jobs. I can’t even go and get coffee with my friends on weekends, let alone go to Disney anytime I want. But… it’s Disney. Along with Apple and Amazon, you are supposed to pay them for merely existing. Fortunately, Google makes advertisers pay for their existence. If they change their business model and start making us pay, we’d be selling our souls and still owe them seven more.

Back to Disney.

It has become some sort of a rite of passage. From Mickey to Cinderella, every child goes through a Disney phase and some don’t ever grow out of it. Disney has evolved with the times. You gotta give them that. As humanity very slowly (seriously, word, you're putting turtles to shame) comes into their senses and realizes that women are also, in fact, humans and deserve to be recognized and measured by their, well, humanity instead of their reproductive capacity, waistline, and the length of their thigh gap, Disney is trying to do its share. It created Merida, Mulan, and ‘revised’ the characterization of Belle.

Progress.

Not a whole lot though.

It has not diverted from the formula they know works and it remains the epitome of stereotype (was that a pleonasm?). Each of their female characters is patterned after Minnie Mouse. A mouse becomes the model of humanity - sweet voice, big eyes, small waistline, great pair of ass, and astoundingly perfect eyelashes/eyebrows.

How Disney portrays women remains the same and it isn’t likely to change drastically because we were never really down with the change. Mulan and Merida never made it to the same popularity as Cinderella and other damsels in distress. Women are still judged for their civil status. Women who speak softly and submissively are much more desired. Women's waistline is still the anchor of fashion.  You can’t blame Disney. It’s a business and they’re not about to risk the billions they earn so they can fight someone else’s war. It’s a business, not an ideology, cause, or revolutionary. When we win the war, maybe they'll start capitalizing on it.

Kris
Wait.

I see the typing symbol appear and disappear several times after I shared my point of view.

Kris
We have professed to appreciate women
for their minds and souls and spirits.
We vowed to never subscribe to stereotypes
about women and we have annual Disney
passes. What does that make us?

Hypocrites, obviously.

Me
Child at heart 


================================


“You live with your sister?” Kris asked as she computes how much the Aveeno lotion actually costs with tax on her cellphone calculator.

Filipinos looooove getting stuff from America. It doesn't matter what it is as long as we send something back home in big brown box marked with US customs, they like it. They love lotions from the U.S. It's a tropical country but they put those lotions on like it's snowing ice cubes.

For those who earn enough, a quarterly package filled with identifiably American products, even if it is actually made in China, sent to the Philippines is like sending your heart, an expression of your undying love and devotion to the people in the Philippines.

My family, who has enough money to buy some luxuries for themselves, still can’t contain their happiness whenever I send stuff back home. They love spam, bed sheets, towels, perfumes, purses, and corned beef. All of which are available in the Philippines, same brand, cheaper price but they don't care.

"Yes, I live with my sister and her family," Anthonia said, glancing at Kris before following me.

"What the hell are you doing with so much spam?" Uma asked as I pick up 2 dozens of spam. "You don't even eat pork or beef."

"My family likes it," I said.

I also don't understand why my family back home keep on asking spam. They insist that spam from America tastes different from the spam they buy in the Philippines. I've checked the labels over and over again. Both are made in China. But it makes them happy, so whatever.

"You do know you're 40, right?" Kris said, motioning her hands to Anthonia's body.

"I don't earn as much as you guys do. I need to pay for school, phone, and stuff. I can't afford to pay a rent to pay my own rent as of now. Not yet," Anthonia said. "My brother-in-law said I should save first before I move out."

"You can always find a room for rent for like $500," Kris said.

"But I can't afford to pay $500 for rent right now," Anthonia said.

"Yeah but you see if you really want something, you're going to make a way to get it done," Kris said.

"I will move out someday just not now. My eldest sister said I should get my own retirement plan before even thinking of moving out. I just need to save. I'm still paying for my lawyer for the processing of my green card. I pay for school tuition. That's $650 a month. Of course I need to pay for my phone and for my food," Anthonia said.

"We all have phones and we all eat," Kris said.

"My brother-in-law said that it would be a better idea for me to just buy a car than to rent my own apartment. Then I can just drive to work and to school," Anthonia said.

"Unless you're going to buy a hybrid, gas is going to kill you," I said, spotting Kirkland's brewed coffee on the other side.

"Going for Kirkland now, huh?" Shedry asked smiling as she sees me getting 5 boxes.

"Since I sent brewed coffee back home, my father now refuses to drink instant coffee. He drank it for more than 50 years. I sent him brewed coffee once and he refuses to go back," I said shaking my head.

"Are you crazy? I thought you said you don't have money. Where are you going to get money for the down payment?"

Shedry and I knew exactly what's going down even though we're at least three aisles away from the three. By the time we make it to them, Uma is watching the two with an evident amazement in her face.

"Besides do you know how much insurance is going to cost you? You're a first time driver here. Let's say your gas is worth $75 a week because Torrence is quite a drive from here," Kris takes out her phone again to start calculating. "That would be $300 a month and this is assuming that you're not going anywhere else except your work and your house. And then insurance, that is at least $100."

"My sister said that they will take me on their family plan for the insurance. So it won't be as expensive. It's not going to be much," Anthonia said.

"Even if they take you on their family plan it would still be at least $100. Are they going to pay for that?" Kris asked.

"Of course not, I'll pay for it."

"Exactly," Kris said. Punching in more numbers into her calculator which is actually her cell phone. "See that's already $300 a month. that's just for gas minimum and insurance. And then your monthly for the car. That would be at least $300? That is easily $700 a month. You can rent a room for $500 a month and actually be independent."

"But my brother-in-law said..."

"Your brother-in-law said, your sister said, your neighbor said, your uncle said, your nephew said,  your mother said, your sister's boss' mother's uncle's neighbor said... what about what you said? Do you even know how to think for yourself?" Kris spat.

"Hey, what the hell are you two doing? You're in the middle of Costco, my God," Sherry said.

"Nothing," Anthonia said. "We're just discussing."

"Discussing? Even mummies in Egypt can hear you," I said.

"We were just talking. I'm trying to straighten the head of this woman in front of me who supposedly the eldest among us but who is acting like a baby. She can't even live on her own and get her ass off to live independently pay for her own her own grocery pay for her own rent and make her own decisions. It's embarrassing. You're the eldest among us and you're acting like you're 18 years old," Kris said.

"Kris, I am the youngest in my family. That's how I grew up. I am not a hustler like you," Anthonia said.

"I am the youngest and the only girl in my family. And my parents are just as rich as yours if not richer back in the Philippines. And I am still independent," Kris spat.

"Okay, okay, why don't we pay for all of this before security comes here and throws us out of Costco. How is that and then we can go find an empty lot and the two of you can go kill each other?" I said, turning towards the counter.

============================

Friendships usually start when people find a common ground. I'm the only girl in my group back in college. We look everything that's wrong for each other but that's another chapter... or another book. We shared the same interest with a certain literature that translated into board games. We would regularly hang out together so that we can play those games. In between the teasing, the discussion of which card could be most useful, researching ways on how we can make our deck more powerful, we talk. Those casual conversations turn into exciting discoveries about each other. Those discoveries lead to Curiosities. Those Curiosities lead to Adventures. And those Adventures lead to Common experiences.

She, Uma, Kris, Anthonia and I started our friendship because we shared a common dream, a dream to find something of ourselves here in California. That night when Lady Gaga was attacked by a homeless woman, we came together. I guess it is safe to say that none of us was planning to become friends. It just so happened that they know Lady Gaga from school, and they saw what was happening. The dinner lead to us sharing about why we are here, why we left more than three decades of life, career, commitments and relationships to take a chance in a country with a different culture, different language, and different values.

I found comfort in that, to have someone that understands what it is I am trying to find even if I myself don't understand.

As we go along, we have come to discover that we have more in common than we initially thought. In fact, back home, we know the same people. and at some point in our lives, we were actually in the same place at the same time. We just never had the chance to become friends. Here, as we explore and as we live our lives, as we take risks together, as we share our fears, our changes, our victories and defeats, certain parts of us take similar form. We become mirrors of each other and it's nice to have it especially at times when we seem to have lost who we are.

It’s what makes friendships. Unfortunately, these commonalities are not always welcome. Mirrors are not always welcome.

"I always like my lunches freshly-cooked. That's why my nanny would always bring me lunch at exactly 11:30. Our break time is at 12. She would cook whatever I tell her to cook in the morning before I leave. But most of the time it would be my favorite, friend bacon. There are times when I would actually change my mind as soon as I see what my nanny brought so I would call my sisters and my parents. One time my eldest sister actually sent me three different kinds of dishes because I couldn't tell her what I liked. That's the perks of being the youngest," Anthonia told us about her high school days.

"Well guess what? You're the oldest here. In fact, you're ten years older than I am. Start acting like it," Kris said, walking towards the next isle. We are all in Ross.

"Meow," Uma said, curling her hands to scratch the air to imitate a cat in fighting form.

"I'm done," I said, in my attempt to divert Anthonia's attention. I turn to Anthonia. "Are you getting anything?"

"No, I actually want to go to Americana, I want to check out Tory Burch there," Anothonia said.

"Tory Burch?" Shedry clarified.

"They the color of the shoes that I want," Anthonia said.

"There are Tory Burch shoes here," Uma said.

"Yeah but those are out of season," Tanya said.

"So the hell what?" I asked.

"It's out of season. And besides if I'm going to buy a Tory Burch shoes, I might as well make sure that I'm buying quality," Tanya said.

And you refuse to move out of your sister's apartment because you don't have enough money to pay rent. "Whatever, I said. I'm paying see you at the counter," I said.

"I thought you said you can move out and live independently because you don't have the money," Kris said, suddenly appearing from behind us. I would have jumped six feet in the air if it wasn't for the cart that I was holding.

"What the hell where did you come from?" I asked but I was ignored.

"Now you want to go to Tory Burch and buy a $300 shoes? That's more than half of what's going to be your rent if you're just going to grow up and live on your own. You may be the youngest in your family but you're 40 years old. Newsflash, you stopped being cute 30 years ago. You're more than 12 years older than I am."

“Oh, you’re 28? Could have fooled me? With that look? You could pass for a divorced-45-year-old with 11 children,” Anthonia said, walking away.

Kris’ mouth falls open. The mic drop didn’t really give her a chance for a comeback.

“What are you doing?” Uma asked me as I type away on the notes in my iPhone.

“Writing that whole shit down. This will go into my next script,” I said.

“Are you serious?” Uma said, laughing.

“Where do you think I get the lines for the movies I write? From real people, of course. I’m not that talented,” I said, typing as fast as I can before the words leave my memory.


================================


“I think he is looking at me,” Kris said as I tear a plastic bag from the roller. We're at Seafood City, a Filipino store and I’m feeling some salmon. I’m gonna get me some salmon.

IDGAF. “Who?” I asked.

“That guy,” Kris said, pulling my sleeve.

I really don’t give a fuck. “Oh, okay,” I said after glancing towards the direction of where Kris is pointing for a fraction of a second. I really want my salmon.

“Oh my god, he smiled,” Kris said.

“Did he?” I asked, zeroing in on a salmon.

“Yes. Shit, I think he is coming over,” Kris said. “Do I look okay?”

Still not giving AF. “You always do,” I said.

“Oh my god, he is… he is coming over,” Kris said, inching closer to me. I really have no idea why she would feel the need to come closer to me. Am I supposed to hide her from the guy? WTF is going on?

“Hi.”

Well, damn.

“Oh. My. God.” Kris said, eyes wide, anger starting to boil at the scene unfolding in front of her.

This is interesting. The salmon can wait. I turn around to witness Anthonia give the guy in question the ‘I'm ready to sleep with you tonight as soon as you ask’ smile.

"Hey," the guy said looking a little bit confused.

"I am Anthonia," Anthonia said, offering her hand that is extended right in front of her breasts that are popping out of her unbuttoned black shirt. Why does her shirts keep on getting unbuttoned. She needs to buy better quality shirts.

The guy takes her hand and shakes it, "I'm Rodney. Nice to meet you."

"I just saw you from across there and I told myself I had to meet you," Anthonia said.

The guy is blushing. The fuckin’ asshole is blushing. Is he 12 or something?

“Really? That's flattering,” Rodney said.

Oh god. Does Seafood City sell some wit? This guy needs to gorge a liter.

“I would looooove to play this out but I have four friends with me now and one of them really hates seeing me flirt. So why don’t you hurry up and ask for my phone number already?” Anthonia said.

Holy cartwheeling chryst.

“I hate her!” Kris said.


===============================


I sometimes think America is on drugs or something.

I was told that the national event called Superbowl is the championship of Football. When I heard that, I immediately imagined that sport where people use their foot to pass the ball around and score a goal. Hence, the name.

I checked out the game saw players were using everything but their feet to pass the ball. America decided to name their most popular sports after the one body part that cannot be used in the game to pass the ball. I don’t know what kind of drugs this country is on but hey…

“He is the one!” Anthonia said while they are on their way to my place for our very first Superbowl weekend.

“Is this like the 125th?” Shedry whispered to Uma. With no car, the three always meet in Downtown so they can Uber together to my place in Koreatown. Uma is riding shotgun.

“I have lost count,” Uma said.

“I am serious!” Anthonia said.

“Okay,” Shedry said.

“I was in line pay my grocery. He was on the other lane. Our eyes met and that was it. We just knew,” Anthonia said.

“Is that a code for ‘we had sex the first day I saw him ever’?” Shedry asked.

“I didn’t sleep with him… that day,” Anthonia said.

“The next day?” Uma asked.

Anthonia blinked.

“Oh my god!” Shedry said.

“Where did you see this guy?” Uma asked.

“Von’s,” Anthonia said.

“Oh my god! I would have given you a pass if it was Whole Foods but Von’s?” Shedry asked, feet bouncing up and down while hitting the backrest of Uma’s seat.



==============================

It was several hours before the designated time of their arrival when I got a call from Lady Gaga.

“Can I bring someone?” Lady Gaga asked.

“Sure,” I said. I am not one for big parties and certainly not one for meeting new people in my house but the Superbowl mode makes me a bit fuzzy and welcoming. So, why the hell not? I am more than prepared, anyway. I have enough ice, disposables, and enough space in my living room to accommodate give more unexpected people.

“I mean… someone someone,” she said.

“Yeah,” I repeated although entirely sure her sentence didn’t make sense in any level. I mean… someone… someone… some…”

“I fuckin’ got it and yes, you can bring whoever you are seeing,” I said. When she showed up with a 6-foot-white guy who looks like a budding actor, I knew we are all in for great laughs.

“Hi, I’m Connor. Thanks for inviting me to your house,” Connor said.

“Come in and make yourself feel comfortable,” I said as Lady Gaga hands me their share for today’s event, chips, dips, and 6-pack of Bud.

Lady Gaga is not entirely equipped with kitchen skills. Back in the Philippines, she said that they like hosting parties but butlers and servers were always there to do the work. She just went around talking to people. So, I wasn’t really surprised when she stood in the middle of my kitchen like a lost child.

“Why don’t you entertain Connor?” I suggested.

“Are you not going to ask questions?” She asked.

“No,” I said as I place the chips and beer on the table.

“About Connor?” She clarified.

“Yeah, no,” I said, looking back at her.

“I will answer you honestly,” she said.

That won’t be possible because there’s no question. “Does Connor want to drink anything while we wait?”

“That’s not what I mean,” Lady Gaga said.

“Xath! Xath!” Kris yelled from behind the door. I left it unlocked allowing Kris and Robbie carrying loads of drinks. “We brought a friend. Hope you don’t mind.”

The friend is Matthew, a tall, tan, and totally shaggable doctor who is also very much engaged. He is going to be Robbie’s best man… and Anthonia’s next target, apparently.

Shedry, Uma and Anthonia arrived soon and the distribution of booze began. As Uma tries to understand enough about football to at least follow the game once it begins.

“What’s a ‘down’?” Uma asked.

“What do you specialize in?” Anthonia didn’t care about football.

“My question is not important,” Uma said. I nod. It won’t feed the hungry kids in the Philippines.

“I’m a pediatrician,” Matthew said.

“I’m a Clinical Lab Scientist,” Anthonia said.

You didn’t even take the boards in the Philippines, woman.

“What do you do, Connor?” Shedry asked.

“I’m an actor,” Connor said.

“Cool,” Matthew said. He means it. “Have you done anything we would know?”

“Probably not. I’ve only been getting small parts and I don’t really audition a lot. I actually want to become a talk show host,” Connor said.

Talk show hosts, at least the good ones, are witty and smart.

“Do you audition for that?” Matthew said.

We all laugh. Maybe this guy should be the talk show host.

“Most of them start on stand up comedy,” Connor said.

“And do you audition for that?” Matthew said.

“Yes,” Connor said.

But you said you don’t do a lot of auditions. How the hell do you want think you’ll become one? 

“How did you two meet?” I asked.

“Well,” Connor said. “Lady Gaga is a sweet girl.”

Okay. Let me try again. “Did someone set you up?”

“I really... she’s the sweetest girl I’ve met,” Connor said.

I could hear the crickets in each person’s head in the house. Is this guy on drugs or something?

“Oh my god,” Anthonia said. “The que…”

“Wait,” I said. I think I know what this is. I just need to confirm my suspicion. “Where did you meet?”

“I approached him. In a cafe,” Lady Gaga jumped in.

“Who approached who?” Uma asked.

“I did,” Lady Gaga said.

“You saw him having coffee and thought you’d walk up to him to introduce yourself?” I asked.

“Lady Gaga is a really sweet girl,” Connor said.

It’s Tinder. It’s so fuckin’ Tinder.


==================================


“So, who are we rooting for?” Anthonia said as she deposits her ass on the space between Matthew and me, which isn’t a whole lot.

“I’m going for the Seahawks,” Matthew said.

“Broncos,” Robbie said.

Uma thinks a bit, “I’m…”

“Seahawks it is,” Anthonia said.

“My answer is not important,” Uma breathes out. I nod before standing up to move to another chair.

“Tell that woman to stop,” Kris said as soon as I passed her on my way to get a foldable chair.

“Uma will be fine,” I said, smiling.

“Not her! That flirt!” Kris said, pulling me towards the kitchen… which is 10 steps away from the living room where everyone is. This is a bad attempt at getting some privacy.

“Anthonia?” I asked.

“Yes! Matthew has a girlfriend,” Kris said.

“She’s 4 decades old. I think she knows what she’s doing,” I said.

“Her brain didn’t develop with the rest of her body obviously,” Kris said, crossing her arms as she watches Anthonia laugh with her body tilting towards Matthew, head miraculously landing on Matthew’s shoulders. “Oh my god!”

“I don’t think Matthew is interested, anyway,” I said, turning her away from the living room to spare her eyesight from Anthonia’s flirting.

“She’s humiliating herself!” Kris said.

“She’s flirting. There’s nothing wrong with that,” I said.

“Matthew has a girlfriend,” Kris reiterated.

“We’ve established that,” I said. “A girlfriend… not a wife.”

“What would you feel if you have a boyfriend and Anthonia flirts with him?” Kris said.

“I’m her friend. She doesn’t know his girlfriend.”

“So, that makes it right?”

“That makes it a fair game,” I said.

“I can’t believe you’re siding with her,” Kris said.

“I’m not siding with anybody. Kris, what is this about?” I asked.

“Look at her!” Kris said, extending her hand towards the direction of where Anthonia is seated except… she’s not there anymore… neither is Matthew.

===========

“I want to try the Cabarnet Sauvignon,”

“I need to see your ID,” I said.

“Are you fuckin’ kidding me?”

I fix my hat and apron and unnecessarily fix the bottles and disposable cups on my stall. I just started a weekend job, giving out alcohol samples in Ralph’s. Except for the part where I can’t drink the products I am sampling, I have been enjoying it so far. The $20 per hour pay, full benefits, and a chance to meet so many interesting people to use as inspirations for my book spell ‘fun’ for me.
Except today… on my third week and guess who decided they want to try out some wine.

“Please don’t curse in the booth,” I said, smiling. I have to smile. It’s part of the employee handbook.

“You know I’m in my 30s,” Kris said.

“I’m so sorry, you will have to show me your ID or you I can’t give you a sample,” I said.

“Fuck you,” Kris said as she takes her ID from her wallet.

“Here is my ID and I want to taste each,” Uma said with a smug on her face, eyebrows raised.

“Each?” I asked.

“Each,” she repeated.

There’s 35 bottles of different types of wines on my cart.

“I can give you 5 at most,” I said.

“Is there a rule that says you can’t give me one of each?” Uma said.

“There’s a rule that says I can't get you drunk,” I said.

“I won’t get drunk,” Uma said.

“I will give you 5 and let’s take it from there,” I said, reaching for the first bottle.

“Here is my ID,” Kris said, her ID blocking the bottles.

I’m going to fuckin’ kill all of you. “Ok. I’ll just serve hers and I’ll get to you.”

“I got here first,” Uma said.

“You got here together,” I said.

“I got here first,” Anthonia said. “I want one of each too.”

“I’ll also need your ID,” I said as I take Kris’ ID which she doesn’t want to let go. I look at her, “I need to see the date.”

“You know my birthday,” Kris said.

“Hand me your ID,” I said. Two can play this game. “Or no sample.”

“Where can I send feedback on the behaviour of your employees?” Kris said, finally letting go of her ID.

“You can put 5 star feedback on our website,” I said as I examine her ID.

“Your service is so slow,” Kris said, tapping her feet on the floor.

“I’m just being thorough. You can put on your feedback that I am thorough,” I said. “Where is Shedry by the way?”

“Probably being imprisoned by her husband. I swear to god, we have seen her like twice since her husband got here,” Anthonia said.

“I’m going to say on the feedback that you’re slow,” Kris said.

“Am I going to get my sample soon or should I go get food and water?” Uma asked.

“Let’s go with that,” I said. “She texted me yesterday inviting me to have dinner at her apartment.”

“You have the worst customer service ever!” Anthonia said.

“I am impeccable,” I said, handing the ID back to Uma.

“She didn’t text me,” Uma said.

“She didn’t text me either,” Kris said.

“I think her husband hates me,” Anthonia said.

“He doesn’t. Why would he hate you?” I asked as I lined up 5 rows of sampling glasses, three glasses each row. I pick up one of the wine bottles and pour on the first row.

“Woaaahhhh,” the three pests said in unison.

I put the cork back on the bottle before doing the next four bottles.

“Woaaahhhh,” the three said each time I finish a row.

“I hope you like them,” I said, smiling.

They must have been thirsty because they finished the samples in less than 10 seconds. What the hell?

“You’re supposed to let the flavor linger in your tongue,” I said.

“Give us the next 5 and we will linger,” Kris said.

“I want to buy this bottle,” Anthonia said, pointing to the most expensive one.

“Whoa!” Umai said. “That’s $35.”

“I thought you constantly don’t have money?” Kris said.

“Matthew and I have date tonight,” Anthonia said, grabbing the bottle of wine she wanted.

“What?” Kris asked.

“In the hotel?” Uma is referring to the hotel where Anthonia works as receptionist part-time. This is where most of Anthonia’s ‘dates’ end.

“You are not going on a fucking date with Matthew!” Kris said, banging the disposable cup on my table.

“Excuse me,” I said as I see the store manager approaching us.

“Dear, I never asked for your opinion,” Anthonia asked.

“And you should!” Kris said. “That’s my fiance’s bestfriend who has a girlfriend!”

“So?” Anthonia asked, facing Kris, the bottle of wine already in her hand.

You’re paying for that even if you smash that on Kris’ head. Just sayin’.

“Have you no shame?” Kris asked.

“Shame?” Anthonia said, steady. “And this is coming from a person who is marrying somebody for green card and can’t even admit to herself? You don’t own Matthew’s dick and you don’t own my vagina. I will fuck whoever I want to fuck and you go be a hypocrite to the world and lie to whoever you want to lie to.”

Two things. One, that’s one hella mic drop moment.

Two, my ass is so gonna get fired. I have 10 years of managerial experience in the Philippines, two MA degrees, and giving out samples in Ralph's is the highest paying of all my three current jobs and I will get fired.

Fan freakin' tastic.


=================================


Anthonia is prepared. She has that wine, a room with fresh sheets, and condoms. She also shaved her legs, armpits, and bikini line.

What she wasn’t prepared for is Matthew picking her up black buttoned up long sleeved shirt that hugs his body just right, black pants and black shoes. She suddenly is thanking the heavens Shedry forced her to wear her black dress and silver high-heeled shoes. What she is even less prepared for is when Matthew drives her to an exhibit… art exhibit.

“This happens once every quarter,” Matthew said as he hands Anthonia a brochure.

“Artists donate some pieces to be sold. All proceeds go to the Children Cancer Foundation.”

“Wow,” Anthonia said as they approach the first piece.

Matthew gets closer to the painting to make out the name of the artist.

“Oh, Takani,” Matthew said smiling. “He donates at least two pieces every quarter. He is known for his post-modernist style. He is one of the few artist I know who makes a living just on his art. I really like his choice of subjects. It’s always so common and so… ordinary but his colors make it look like there’s 7,000 layers of meanings behind it.”

Anthonia is not much of an art fan. She certainly loves music but sculptures and arts are not something she enjoys.

“This one is sold,” Matthew said, moving on to the next one. “For $200,000.”

“What is it?” Anthonia asked, staring at what looks like a predominantly pencil canvass. Matthew steps back and takes a good look at the painting, “I think it’s two children lying down facing each other.”

“How do you even see it. It’s like… several pencil lines,” Anthonia said. Matthew laughs. Anthonia likes it.

“You get used to interpreting things if you do it often enough, I guess,” Matthew said, reaching for Anthonia’s hand. “Am I boring you?”

“No. No. It’s just that I am new to this. I have never really gone to an exhibit before but… I like it,” Anthonia said and she means it.

Matthew smiles. Anthonia likes that.

“Good. Good. I’m glad,” Matthew said, squeezing her hand before pulling her into the next piece.
Matthew didn’t let go of her hand the entire time they were in the exhibit… and he never tore his gaze away from Anthonia. There were other people… women, specifically, who were so obviously trying to get Matthew’s attention but he never wavered. As he continues to explain how he interprets each piece, Anthonia can’t even begin to try and understand what he is saying about the painting. All she can think about is that hand on hers, that gaze on hers, that voice and how those lips that make them will taste against hers.

So much so she almost said no when he was about to drive them to a restaurant for dinner and she would rather have him for dinner.

But she didn’t decline dinner because for once… there is a guy… that’s treating her like woman. 


===================================


Anthonia
He was a perfect gentleman. He opened the
door for me. He talked to me. He listened to me.

Me
That’s good. Does he not have a girlfriend?

Anthonia
They broke up.

Me
He told you?

Anthonia
I just know it. I think that relationship
has long been over. He was just
holding on to it because he was scared
he wasn’t going to find somebody. And he found me.

Me 
How did you know all these?

Anthonia
He was so so so gentle in bed

Me
You had sex on your first date?

Anthonia
We didn’t have sex, Xath. We made love.

Jeezuz tumbling Cryst.


====================================


It’s easy to laugh at someone’s gullibility or stupidity especially when we are the outsider that sees the scene unfold before our eyes. It’s easy to get frustrated at someone who doesn’t see the whole picture because we do.

But we’ve all been there. We’ve all been in that situation one time or another. We’ve all wanted something so much that we are willing to sacrifice anything, even the truth, for a chance to have it.
Anthonia probably knows Matthew is in it for the sex, just like the other “the ones” she met since she got here but as unlikely as it may seem, she sees a chance because Matthew is there, with her, knows her, talking to her, making love with her. And no matter how idiotic it may seem to others, every moment they share is still a chance she has and that’s a whole lot more than people like me has.

The fact remains, she is seeing someone and I am not. The fact is that half of those raising their eyebrows at women who sleep around still get moments when they wish that even for just one night, there would be someone that will hold them tight.

The only difference is that women like Anthonia are willing to take the risk of getting hurt for the slightest chance to finding love. They play every hand they are dealt with, they cross every fuckin’ bridge. And if they do end up getting broken, they collect themselves and try again. And then there are us who would rather play it safe and take comfort in our proclaimed dignity so we don’t feel so lonely when we go home lonely at night.

“I got a job!” My daughter says as she executes what looks like a Beyonce shimmy on Skype.

“Congratulations!” I said laughing as she transitions from a shimmy to grasshopper dance.

“Where are you going to work and what are you going to do?”

She stops her dance and slumps on the chair, gasping for air, “I am so out of shape.” She complains before gulping down a bottle of red Gatorade. “Aunt Chella recommended me. I’ll be doing some clerical work at her office.”

“I see nepotism is working out for you,” I teased.

“Shut up,” she said, giggling. Chella is her auntie on her father’s side and she is the head of HR for a government agency in the Philippines. “They were all so nice to me when I was introduced.” She cackled.

“Oh, you were already introduced?”

“Yeah. I went to the interview last week and then Aunt Chella asked me to go there this morning. I did and they told me it’s 5-month contract. My classes are in the afternoon so they gave me morning schedule.”

“You do know what clerical work is, yes?”

“Yes… answer the phone, photocopy… whatever. I don’t mind. I just want to earn extra money to shop more,” she said.

“I give you shopping money,” I said.

“I know… but I feel guilty to spend it on shopping.”

“You do?”

“Yeah… I mean… I know it’s hard to live there… you’re alone… you work like… two or three jobs. And knowing you, you don’t like spending on yourself either. I don’t want to just splurge on the money you work for,” she said. “So, I’ll just make some of my own and use it to buy CDs of my favorite Korean boyband.”

I would be lying if I say I am not surprised at what she said. Every mother would know how we all hope and pray that our children grow up to be considerate, sensitive, and sensible. It’s an entirely different thing when you see their 2-year old selves struggling to walk straight just to reach for the cutest Barbie on display.

So, yeah… I spoiled her a bit and I tried to shield her from the stress of my job I had to do just to make sure I have enough money to spoil her more. She has enough Barbie dolls, Archie comics, and Bratz toys to fill a museum but somewhere between the shopping trips and bedtime stories, I must have done something right for her to think this way, for her to think of me this way.

I clear my throat because I don’t want her to see my crying and tease me to death for it, “That’s very mature. Thank you. But you do know that when I send you money for shopping, I don’t mind if you spend it for shopping. As long as you use the money I send you for what it is intended for, that’s fine.”

“I know,” she said. “I’ll save it all and spend it there when I visit you. I’ll visit you soon, right?”

“Right,” I said. “Mari.”

“Yes?”

“You have to work hard, okay? Do everything you are told as long as it is not illegal or immoral. Don’t let yourself get abused but work hard. No matter how minute or ordinary or brainless it is that they are asking you to do, do your best to do it well,” I said.

“Of course, I will. What else do you expect from your daughter, huh?” She wiggles her head and crunches up her nose. It’s a childhood habit that will most likely never go away.

My phone rings.

“Get that,” she said.

“I will get it later. We’re still talking,” I said.

“It’s okay,” she said. “I’m going to fry some nuggets and cook rice, anyway.”

“Are you sure?”

“Yes, let’s just leave our camera on. Let’s watch Walking Dead later,” she said.

“Okay,” I said watching her leave the screen. I pick up my phone, it’s Shedry.

“Hey!” I greeted.

“Xath, where are you?” Shedry asked.

“Home. What’s up?”

“I just… is it… can I see you? I need to see you.”


F (a novel) Chapter Guide




Fairlane Raymundo

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