Superficial (3) (Fiction)

Made it to the other side of  the road without any trouble.

Ah, Metro Manila. I wonder why people with boring lives tend to look for adventure and thrills, spending money for trips and accommodation just to go bungee jumping, white water rafting or swimming. Just get out of your apartment and what an adventure it would be. Good thing this meeting is happening on daylight.

I shudder at the thought of going out at night. Used to feel all invulnerable and immortal, going out. drinking and painting the town red. I’m not particularly tall, but built like a barrel. Years of getting beat up as a kid made me tough on the streets. But nowadays, you can’t be too sure. That red paint could be my blood splattered on the pavement.

But anyway, such morbid thoughts on a day like this when a chance to earn is at hand.  I stopped at a corner, lit up a cigarette and scouted the place for coffee.

9:45am, still enough time for one.

Took out my white Kata S10 and typed a message that I’m already in the area. I’m prompt this way. Sms does it for me. and email. But calls are something I avoid receiving , or giving in fact. If you have had the chance to work for Pocketbell in the nineties, you’d know. Talk about having your ears fall off from answering too many calls.

Got myself a rather flat tasting coffee at a nearby fast food chain. And went out again to light have another smoke.

Nasty combination. Caffeine and nicotine.

A steady flow of students chattering pass by me. People who are hurrying to someplace they’d rather not be. You can see it from the pinched expression on heir faces. Looks of disgust and disappointment, and the looming possibility if being late. I smiled a bit. At least I am the master of my own time.

If only I could earn as much from this.

Almost time.

Mr. Joseph should be arriving soon.

Then something occurred.

Actually, three things happened in this one setting.

A box filled with clothes and stuff came hurtling from above me, maybe several floors up. It hit the taxi below who have just taken a fare and was idling to look for another passenger. The cardboard box gave on the roof of the taxi and garments of ghastly colors and knickknacks flew everywhere. Something like a mug found its way into a bystanders forehead, shorts and underwear scattered like dry leaves. A shoe hit a woman on the back of her head, just as she was slamming the door and was walking away.

All happened in a span about 9 seconds or so . . .

A strange tableau of non-coordinated colors and ungraceful choreography. With a rather silly soundtrack playing somewhere near, maybe from one of those watering holes with a videoke machine, a steady stream of “Pusong Bato”.

Now I’m no hero.

But I caught that woman who was stumbling towards me, and managed to get a hold of her before  she hit the gutter with the dried up vomit. Not much of a rescue. I hurt my knee on the sidewalk, her bag hit me in the face as her hands struggled to grasp anything that would break her apparent embarassing tumble. Her sundress caught on her pumps, and we sit there for a moment like lovers in a Sharon-Gabby movie, but in a comical fashion.

It was at this moment that I noticed my own bag was tangled with the rest of the stuff she was encumbered with – her own bag, a manila folder,  and that stereotypical kikay kit females are fond of holding in their hand when it could be safe inside their own shoulder bag.

I helped her up, but not without any trouble. Her dress was torn a bit from having been caught in her suspiciously lethal spikes for heels. Also, to add insult to injury, her elbows hit me on the chin while she fumbles to fix herself , and I took a step back to catch my breath.

About 35 to 38 years old. Long hair in a bun, now a bit loose. Good neck and shoulders showing on her sundress with spaghetti straps hanging snug, smooth brown skin. Good teeth.

Darn. My own teeth are falling off one by one.

You alright. miss . . . . ?

Josephine. Call me Josephine. And thanks.

(To be continued)

She picked up her fly shades.

Superficial (2) (Fiction)

So I got onto a jeepney heading out to Shaw Boulevard. There’s always one waiting at the corner just about 100 meters from our doorstep. And as usual, those before me have this idea that they were paying for three fares.

I paid mine and waited till the driver has deemed  it full enough to get a move on and tipped the barker, how much I’m not sure. Sometimes, I wonder, these jeepney barkers can earn so much with just standing around, occasionally calling passengers, as if commuters are uneducated or can’t read. Judging from the way people are seated inside this jeepney, I’m almost ready to agree.

The woman opposite me was wearing clothes one size too small. The guy beside me was looking intently at his tablet. The hair from the woman on the shotgun seat was making darting attempts at my eyes. Should have brought along a pair of scissors.

And it was getting hotter, I could feel sweat trickling from the crook of my legs, and the small of my back. But short trip as it is, it is very slow going through Kalentong and it’s throng of vendors and shoppers, delivery vans and tricycles. A steady flow of humanity going either way, to and fro. The smell of rotten produce replaced the chemical smell of petrol, but someone inside the jeepney has clearly bought cheap perfume and has liberally doused himself or herself with it, that it bothers me more than any bad smells that the street has to impose on my nose.

It took 30 minutes just to get to Shaw. Now I have to switch jeepneys.

Customary water bottle inside my bag  jiggled a bit as I wait for another jeepney going to Sta.Mesa.  And this heat seems to be rising a little bit each minute. I sure hope this new bottle doesn’t leak. My USB flash drives might be ruined. Better check on them first .

Good. Dry and safe.

Caught one with just enough free seats, planted myself near the driver and paid the fare, but not before checking if I still have enough money to go back. You know, just in case this meeting wa s a dud.

Been that way lately. Someone referred somebody to me, and of course, being a freelance I take what I can. But not without conditions, though. I try to demand a 60% down payment on projects. But I also try to do workarounds for clients. There was this guy whom a former co-worker gave my number and email to. It was cool, a marketing material in the guise of a comic book, 40 pages, full color, and seemed like they have enough rope to pay. The initial meeting this client set , he scheduled for the 16th, a Sunday. I’m used to clients calling me in the wee hours of the morning, and in all sorts of awkward time of day and day of week that it didn’t seem strange.

Good luck with that.

The day came, and I was already out when the guy said it’s a Sunday, the office is closed. Serves me right. Should’ve confirmed earlier.

Shit on that. I never got back to him. Looks like a shady deal to me. Besides, the former co-worker who gave my number around has a knack for asking for favors and stuff, of which he never really cares afterwards, so no big loss.

But this one I just got to have this new gig or else I may have to kneel and beg and borrow from friends and family, which by now has left a bad taste in my mouth and I’d rather not go through it again. I’m not worried if I go hungry in the city. There’s always coffee in my pantry. But my family in the countryside could use some boost right now. Been several months since I quit my high paying  job and has gone full freelance. Much good it did. I’m still reeling from that botched gig with a book publishing firm. More like punch drunk and out of my wits.

Well, this was my decision. Might as well make the best of it. At least I am being creative, and if I coul land one good gig, there’s always a possibility that my name could be passed around.

The sudden stop of the jeepney jolted me back to reality, by punctuating the situation with a nasty knock on my head from a large android mobile phone or could be a small tablet, clunky gadget. I couldn’t see myself carrying this kind of mobile communication. Too big for my hands nor my pocket. I caught the darned thing and I gave it back to the lady, who was profusely apologizing in between cussing the driver for that unfortunate incident that nearly destroyed her precious Facebook connectivity had I not grabbed it before it splattered on the jeepney floor.

Smells good too, this woman with the sharp tongue and the sweet apology. But, sorry, sister, I’m a married man and I get off this stop.

And so I did. But not without a second look as the jeepney blew dark smoke obscuring my vison, I tried to make out the face to go with the fragrance.

Darn.

If I didn’t know better, I could say I was flirting.

Tough luck . That was in another life.

Today, I have to find work.

Move it, you schmuck. The light’s turning green.

(To be continued)

Superficial (1) (Fiction)

 

 

 

Goodness, what time is it?

I reached for my mobile phone, that also serves as the alarm clock for my everyday activities. Not that I have much to do these days. But it never hurt to keep the habit of waking up early and do more.

Not today, though. Forgot to set it last night. The sun is already up, threatening to melt the black top laid new outside my landlord’s house, of which I am a tenant, with the rent due sometime soon. Made it to the common sink all tenants use and washed my face with water already warm from the heat. Eyes felt puffy. The beginnings of stubble easily discernible on my fingertips, as my brain registers the fact that I am awake and I have to do something today.

What was it?

Dried my hands and face on the towel hanging by the veranda, still clueless of just what it was I was supposed to be doing. Filled the electric pot with warm water from the tap to boil. Barefooted and with dirt accumulated from last night’s dust settlings, took a few steps to the bathroom and relieved myself of the previous night’s caffeine consumption, noticing the grime from my bare feet on the wet floor. To use the bowl would require a lot of water because the flush is broke, so I aim for the drain and pour water around it, and the mud like dirt on the floor.

My Toshiba left on all night managed to finish the virus scan last. Thank fully, I have kept this laptop working even if the joint is about to lose it’s integrity, as I look for new emails.

No. No new job offers today. Drying my feet and legs with the tee I took off this morning, wet with perspiration and now also with slight stains of dirt. It’ll come off if I wash it, I assured myself, and threw it right smack into the clothes bin, and sat on my black monoblock chair, and lit a cigarette, the first of many, for the day, while browsing for news.

Ah.

There was supposed to be a call yesterday that didn’t come. I’m supposed to submit the drawings I did and get the balance payments. Sadly, I think they have no money, so play the waiting game.

But no, that was not why I had to get up early today.

The water boiled and I pull the plug, and made myself coffee. Hot as it is, I savor the smell and taste. Took a few puffs of smoke and tried to do some stretches. The usual ambulant vendors with pushcarts and baskets are already doing some good business outside with vegetables and fruits. I coul hear the guy selling watermelons, with his well modulated voice yell “PAHKWARYN!” over and over.

I’m hungry.

Not really, but something in my head says I have to have food today.

Got a fresh tee from the closet, took a second look and changed my shorts too. Because I noticed the sticky stuff that dried on the crotch on the one I was wearing. Remnants of last nights solitary sexual gratifications. One does that as the only relief for being alone in this city. I tell that to myself so I don’t mess around. Not anymore.

Quick look at the mirror and I went down the stairs, out the gate and walked to my favorite food stand. Favorite, because the manang there let me eat and pay later.

Which is what I’m about to do now since my wallet hardly has anything in it, just receipts and Pera Padala forms, and my coin purse is protesting that I can’t even fill it up with money. Macaroni soup, two servings for Php24, rice, meat and vegetables for about Php55 and I promised to pay her after I get my money from clients, lying through my teeth because as of today, I still don’t have anything to collect, just a finished project from the client whose finances are only a bit more flexible from mine.

After dodging jeepneys picking up passengers on the street, I made it back to my room on the second floor.

And what was it really that I am supposed to do today?

My coffee’s still warm, and I think I’ll just have the macaroni soup for now. The rest I will have for lunch. fervently hoping it would not spoil in this heat. The sky, so blue promises a day of unrelenting sunshine, that will surely burn the social networks with status posting of “Ang inet!” complete with hashtags and photo attachments, I smiled.

A soft wind managed to lift some feathers left by birds I caught playing by the veranda. And I could see pigeons way up.

Then it hit me.

I wa supposed to meet with a potential client for a storyboard job.

Goodness, what time is it?

8:22am.

Still enough time for a quick bath, and be in Sta.Mesa by 10am.

Okay.

Move you old fart. Time’s a-wasting.

(To Be Continued)