Superficial (4) (Fiction)

Sheepishly, I try to act with utter nonchalance, which are two very different behavior, I know, which only shows how stupid I could be at times. Personally, I was thinking Geez, I have to spring for coffee or worse – lunch. May I remind you before I left the house, the subject of monetary content in my coin purse is close to nil, and to have bought that coffee earlier has nearly left me with just enough fare to back in my rented matchbox.

“Josephine, are you from the publishing house that sent me here?”

As I opened the door into an already packed fast food chain with the bee. She answered ” So, you are the guy they sent me to see. Hmm.”

“What was that, disappointment?” I tried to sound like I’m kidding.

“Not really, I was expecting someone. . . . younger.” She let out a loud guffaw, opting to go ahead and follow the line up the counter. ” Don’t worry, this is my treat. You look like you could use some breakfast.” As she opened her big wallet and rummaged through it. ” Does chicken and pasta sound good to you?”

“Anything edible.” I said. Another blatant lie. Last night my supper was Jjampfong. This morning it was food on credit and it should take me through tonight.

“Get a table upstairs, I’ll have the food taken up” She said this with her back to me. Nice view from here, her shapely butt, sturdy thighs and legs under that sundress.

What was I looking at?

I found the upstairs level a lot less crowded and noisy. Just like in a bus where everybody seem to squeeze themselves at the front when the back part is relatively emtpy. Food came and we ate, not much talk just glad to have something in our mouths and skip the niceties.

“So, you draw?” Her lips were a bit glossy from the chicken. I tried not to stare.

” Among other things. I was an inbetweener with an animation company, I illustrate my own comics, I also did simulation drawings for news tv.”  Why do I feel like I have to impress this lady?

“Sorry. What?”

“What’s ‘What’ “? I answered.

“In-betweener. What’s that?”

Ah. The InBetween days. How much I would love to tell tales of sleepless for 48 hours on a single cut. The meticulous lines for One Piece. The hard corners and smooth muscle tones for Dragonball Z. Long, circling, curly lines for Sailormoon and Marmalade Boy. The sheer enjoyment of putting motion where the key animators deemed it needed. Curious peeks at story lines that would have to wait for another two months since a single tv feature animation episode takes 3 months and about 200 manpower, not including the hours at night.

But all these things people tend to take in with a quizzical ear and a suspicious eye, and do not really understand how animation people think. So I just answered back – ” Animator.”

” Wow. Disney?”

Somehow, all this good skin and teeth, not to mention the shapely shoulders and legs, has a real brain behind it. But who am I to judge? I’m a has-been with a love for illustration. That is all. All those wonderful things I did? That’s just it. They were in the past. What matters is now. And I need a new source of income.

“Forget it. What project are we talking about?”

“Well, we need a storyboard artist. Someone who could tell key scenes by illustrating them.” Josephine started. And she went on rambling about the production for a TVC, how the director wants the shoot the whole commercial with the initial 60 seconds, and to cut it into 30-sec, 15-sec versions. All the while she’s talking, her lips move like they were in a music video, still glossy, or maybe that was lip gloss I didn’t see when she applied it.  And She is beautiful.

No, not Megan Young  slender, barbie-doll beautiful. But Judy Ann Santos-Agoncillo beautiful, with the right curvesi in all the right places and with the scratches and bruises of real life, not some glossy magazine cover’s idea of beautiful. You know, beauty, not just pretty. It’s an overall description, unlike cute or pretty. Those are comments made by boys.

She was still talking when I sipped the last of the coffe in my cup. Was this my third or fourth of the day? I lost track. maybe it was the food that’s currently marinating inside my stomach cavity, readying itself for digestion and distribution to starved parts of the body that need replenishment, that even with the mundane story she’s been telling, I feel good and content. For the moment by the way. The good looks in front of me also added a bit more languidity.

Until she uttered that dreaded phrase.

“We want you to think out-of-the-box on this one.”

I feel like a headache coming.

(To be continued)

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.


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)