Monthly Archives: June 2012

Table for Two (Chapter 25)

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In this very rare occasion, I want to share my personal favorite in my first book Table for Two. For everyone else who has read it, let me know which part in the story is your personal favorite.

Twenty-five part one 

The closer I get to the coffee shop, the smaller my steps become. My body becomes frigid and I can’t breathe.

What if he yells at me?

I know I owe him an apology. I’ll tell him I’m sorry, and then I’ll leave. Or if he wants to humiliate me, fine. I’ll take it.

It’s what I deserve. After all.

I swallow. I take a couple steps forward, then push the glass door of the coffee shop. At once I see him towering the rest of the people even when he is sitting quietly in a corner.

I freeze, not knowing what to do.

Should I wave?

What if he’s still angry?

It is too late when I realize that his eyes have ever so slowly fallen upon mine.

Neither of us moves.

What now?

And to my surprise, his lips curl to a smile.

The same nervous smile.

“Hi,” I say, trying to stay calm as I get closer to his table.

“Hi,” he says softly in a voice that sounds free of anger or hate. “I was in Palo Alto the whole week and I wasn’t able to check my emails. Sorry, I missed your previous invitation.”

“Oh, no.” I say as I sway my hand left and right, nervously. “Don’t think about it.”

So, it’s not that he hates me or anything.

I heave a sigh.

“So, how are you?” I ask to break the silence.

“Just a little busy with the coming anniversary.” He says briefly and we both fall back to awkward silence.

“So, how’s your friend’s knees?” he asks that I almost fell to the floor.

I grip the arm of the chair tighter.

“She’s—she’s getting better.” I lie.

Instantly, his forehead creases to a frown.

God, now I really give him enough reason to hate me.

I shut my eyes as I see his lips twitch to snarl.

“That’s good to know. Tell her I wish her well.” I hear Evan say in his calm voice.

I open my eyes and bite my lip in surprise.

Something’s not right. He’s supposed to blame me, shout at me, call me names, but instead, he sits in front of me, looking at my face.

“I think I have to get back to work now.” He says finally as he stands up to leave.

What’s wrong with him?

I’d rather he yells at me and hate me than see him leave without a word.

“You know I’m lying.” I say flatly.

He looks at me and instantly I know he sees right through me.

The crease in his forehead, gone.

He smiles his nervous smile, but says nothing and turns around.

“No, wait, Evan.” I say before he can take his second step. “I’m sorry I lied. I never wanted to. It’s just so complicated.”

And before I can even stop myself from speaking, I hear myself telling Evan everything—Beth, Gian, my torrid affair.

“Why are you telling me all these?” He asks in a serious tone after I delivered my long speech.

Oh god, I don’t know.

“I just know I don’t want to lie to you.” I say honestly.

“Are you really happy?” He asks, looking concerned.

“I am—”

I should be.

“But someone will get hurt eventually. It can be her, it can be you. You’ll never know.” Evan cuts in.

Gian has changed.

“It will only be a matter of time before he breaks up with Beth.” I say in confidence.

“What if he doesn’t?”

“He will.”

“Well, I wish you happiness then, Juni.” He says, sending my stomach to another lurch.

“I wish you the same,” I say as I reach for his hand. “Thanks for listening. I really don’t know what’s gotten into me, but I feel lighter now that I told you everything.”

“Remember what I told you?” he asks smiling. “You always try to be honest, just like the day I met you.”

I can feel myself blushing.

“Thanks. So I guess I’ll see you in the coming anniversary?” I say, changing the topic before I turn pink.

“Yes, or maybe sooner will be better. If you need me for anything just call me.” He says sincerely.

“I’ll keep that in mind.” I say finally before we part.

I’m about to take my first step back to the office, but somehow my body unconsciously turns toward Evan’s direction, hoping for all hopes to meet his eyes.

Instead, I see Evan’s back as he strides to the opposite direction.

Turn around, Evan. Look at me just once.

But he keeps walking until he disappears from the crowded street.

For a moment, I freeze on the sidewalk wondering why, what, and how. And before I know it, I’m left alone, standing still, amidst the crowd in motion.

Twenty-five part two

“Welcome back to the Philippines, Sir!” I hear my people greet me a warm welcome after my weeklong vacation in California.

I have to admit one week is not enough to take her out of my head.

Why did she have to lie to me?

Why?

I’m sure she has a reason, but what?

Dear Juni,

Would you like to have coffee at three? I’ll be at Starbucks in Dela Rosa. See you, I hope.

Evan.

The closer I get to the coffee shop, the bigger my steps become.

Will she be there?

Unfortunately, she isn’t. I open the door to an empty coffee shop. Everything starts to sink so low.

She won’t show up. Why would she when she’s already so happy with that guy?

She won’t show up. So, why else do I bother to look at everyone coming in at the shop?

Maybe there’s a slight chance I’ll see her—or not!

As I sit at the corner table, I can’t help but remember her wide grins. We were having such a great time until after that phone call.

It changed everything.

Suddenly, the door swings open, and I see her as she sweeps the room to look for me.

I swallow, not knowing what to do.

And slowly, her eyes found mine.

Relax, Evan. Relax.

Smile.

“Hi,” she says as she makes her way to my table.

“Hi,” I say, trying to hide the nervousness in my voice.

She’s right in front of me and I’m not exactly sure what I want to say or do.

“I was in Palo Alto the whole week and I wasn’t able to check my emails. Sorry, I missed your previous invitation.”

“Oh, no.” She says quickly as she sways her hand left and right. “Don’t think about it.”

I nod—not knowing what else to say.

“So, how are you?” I hear her ask while I’m trying to figure out what to say.

“Just a little busy with the coming anniversary.” I say, and once again, there is silence.

“So, how’s your friend’s knees?” I just had to ask.

“She’s—she’s getting better.” I hear her whisper.

Why does she have to make up this story?

“That’s good to know. Tell her I wish her well.” I say as direct as I can.

Shoot.

“I think I have to get back to work now.” I say as I stand up to leave.

What am I even thinking?

She doesn’t like, me, what else am I doing here?

I must be crazy.

“You know I’m lying.” She says flatly.

I look at her instantly and she is looking at me, as though she can read my thoughts exactly.

That look in her eyes, I can’t explain it. It’s so different—so blank and grey.

Turn around and walk away, Evan. That’s what you should do.

“No, wait, Evan.” She called before I can take another step. “I’m sorry I lied. I never wanted to. It’s just so complicated.”

And before I can even take another step, I hear Juni telling me everything—Beth, Gian, her torrid affair.

“Why are you telling me all these?” I ask point blank.

“I just know I don’t want to lie to you.” Juni says, making everything greyer as it can possibly get.

“Are you really happy?” I ask. I just had to know that she is, and if she is, I wouldn’t bother her, ever.

“I am—”

Boom! That is a complete blow.

But what is Juni thinking? That two-timing bastard is just selfish and all he cares about is himself.

“But someone will get hurt eventually. It can be her, it can be you. You’ll never know.”

“It will only be a matter of time before he breaks up with Beth.” She says in confidence.

What is wrong with you Juni? Why don’t you get it?

“What if he doesn’t?” I ask trying to make her realize that that guy is such a douche bag!

“He will.” She says so confidently that it feels like someone just stabbed me.

“Well, I wish you happiness then, Juni.” I say and I mean it.

“I wish you the same,” she says back. “Thanks for listening. I really don’t know what’s gotten into me, but I feel lighter now that I told you everything.”

Why does she know all the right words to say?

“Remember what I told you? You always try to be honest, just like the day I met you.”

“Thanks. So I guess I’ll see you in the coming anniversary?” she asks, changing the topic as though she hasn’t already blushed red.

“Yes, or maybe sooner will be better. If you need me for anything just call me.”

“I’ll keep that in mind.” She says finally before we part.

I’m about to take my first step back to the office, but somehow my body unconsciously turns toward Juni’s direction, hoping for all hopes to meet her round eyes.

Instead, I see her back as she faces the opposite direction.

Turn around, Juni. Look at me just once.

But she never looked around, until the crowd blocked her from my view.

I can’t understand how, or why, or even what. And before I know it, I find myself walking alone, feeling empty amidst the crowd in speed motion.

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80 things (simple and bizarre) that make me happy

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  1. The smell of petrol stations
  2. That immediate feeling after holding a pee for so long
  3. The smell when I walk pass by Cinnabon
  4. Finding a soundtrack on google just after hearing it on tv
  5. Downloading that soundtrack I found on google after hearing it on tv
  6. Throwing a stone on the sea and it bounces more than three times
  7. That fresh pop I hear when I pull the thingy from a soda can
  8. That feeling of not knowing exactly what I want until I look in the fridge and finding that last slice of cake
  9. That feeling after I just remembered what I was meant to say four days ago
  10. Finding money in my dirty laundry
  11. Tipping my bag of potato chips for that very last crumb
  12. Feta cheese
  13. Beating my high score in Temple Run
  14. Looking at old photos and realizing changes (and maturity?) through the years
  15. Looking in my closet and finding something nice to wear within the minute
  16. Cigarette break after a two-hour meeting
  17. That precise second after typing in the last punctuation of a 1,200-word article assignment
  18. The feeling of cold water on my skin after a humid day
  19. Air conditioning
  20. A good book to read (currently reading Fifty Shades of Grey)
  21. Getting free frozen yogurt at my usual place for no reason at all
  22. The way my old jeans fit after it’s fresh out the dryer
  23. Crossing the street without actually getting run over by a micro bus
  24. Getting home at two in the morning and finding that the gates were left open (the people in the building I live in usually lock me out)
  25. Free wireless
  26. Unexpectedly seeing old friends
  27. Going on unplanned rendezvous with old friends I saw unexpectedly
  28. An eight-hour uninterrupted, deep sleep
  29. The smell of fresh, newly washed bed sheets
  30. Throwing myself on a huge bean bag just after a long day at work
  31. Lego Technic
  32. Dancing salsa with a really good dancer
  33. Dancing bachata with a really good dancer
  34. Dancing kizomba with a really good dancer
  35. Snickers bar
  36. Finding my keys just where I left it
  37. That rare occasion when I push the button of the elevator and it’s already there
  38. Waking up before my alarm (usually never happens!)
  39. Using all the different shampoos and soaps in someone else’s bathroom (Katie, I seriously hope you’re not reading this!)
  40. People changing the charcoal of my shisha without having to ask them
  41. The goodbye wave from my front door to the people in the car after they just dropped me home
  42. Getting my ID checked when I’m way past 21
  43. Wearing flipflops when I shouldn’t be wearing flipflops
  44. The first scoop out of a Nutella jar
  45. Rain on a really hot, summer day
  46. Sun light on a really cold, winter day
  47. Getting in a cab and realizing that the ac actually works!
  48. Rice cooked to perfection
  49. Watching a movie I saw eight times before and realizing I have no idea how the movie ends
  50. Watching a movie for the very first time and knowing exactly how it’s going to end
  51. Trying those free food samples in shopping centers and grocery stores that I have no intention of buying
  52. That second when I finally figure out how the hotel shower faucet works
  53. My old, and ripped sleeping shirt that I refuse to throw away even after nine years
  54. Realizing that my old, ripped sleeping shirt still fits even after nine years
  55. Tortillas and blue cheese dips
  56. Going to a salsa party without cigarettes and finding at least one person who smokes the exact, same brand
  57. Stealing a cigarette from that person who smokes the exact, same brand at a salsa party when I ran out of cigarettes
  58. Leaving my lighter on the table and realizing that no one took it
  59. Managing to squeeze out that last toothpaste for one last brush
  60. The way my hair looks like when I wake up in the morning
  61. Finding things I didn’t even know I lost
  62. Perfectly popped pop corns out of the microwave
  63. Remembering who said what
  64. Staying up super late knowing that the next day is my holiday
  65. Cleaning up, doing the laundry, turning the TV on, choosing what clothes to wear, all in the last 30 seconds of waiting for the microwave to finish
  66. That moment when I’m finally the one next in line
  67. The after gym pain
  68. When I ask people to add mint on my coffee and they do it for free
  69. My phone ringing and realizing that the call is in no way work-related
  70. All you can eat sushi buffet!
  71. That relieving feeling just right after I sneezed
  72. Knowing at breakfast time what I’ll be having for dinner
  73. Sleeping in on my holiday
  74. Staying out on my holiday
  75. When a pen and paper magically appears when I’m on the phone and the person on the other end requires me to write things down
  76. My call being answered on the first ring
  77. Reading the first page of a newly bought book
  78. Going to a record shop to look for new releases to download later
  79. Birthdays
  80. Buying three things for the price of one

The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Dating a Writer aka Things You are Getting Yourself Into if You are Fool Enough to Date Me

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If you are reading this, most likely, you are so into me (or maybe you just don’t know it yet!) You are attracted to me and that is perfectly fine because I don’t see any reason why not. Who can resist the charms and eloquent wordplay of a writer, right?

Look, the first thing you need to know, should you date a writer, is that we are full of sarcasms. On the first date, we will not be caught eating with our mouths closed and/or speaking politely. Instead, you will find us talking endlessly, and loudly! Every conversation will be filled with irony and wry humor. In between munching our freshly tossed salad, we will manage to retell as much anecdotes from our childhood in full details. Usually, we will start the story with “when I was seven” which is a clear indication that you should prepare yourself for a long talk.

We don’t know about you, but we certainly don’t want to be on a first date with awkward, piercing silence, and the sound of crickets in the background.

Should you want to ask us out on a second date, (we are slightly impressed you would even consider that) please know that the three-day rule does not apply to us. For goodness’ sake, be considerate enough to know we have deadlines. And if we are in the middle of finishing a 1,200-word article, sorry, Babe. We will have to say no even when we might really be dying a little bit inside to see you too. Dating a writer means you have to understand that we can disappear out of your radar for hours, or days, even weeks, not because we are not that into you. We are just very busy writing the next best-selling novel, no kidding!

If, after sometime of seeing each other, it turns out that you still like us (hallelujah! We are taking that as a miracle,) please, do not be a chicken, and just have the balls to tell us. We don’t want sissy characters in our love stories. Tell us how you really feel about us so that we can be inspired to finish four chapters that should have been on our editor’s desk two months ago. Motivate us. Give us that sense of euphoria that will release our minds out of that dreadful writers’ block syndrome.

You have to know that we are eccentric, which is a fancy word for crazy. You’ll have to have a vocabulary that will keep up with ours. We want someone we can communicate with–someone who can understand us and who we can understand. One of the good things about dating us is that you’ll find yourself learning how to express (just in case you are the typical macho who contains emotions in your private, dark, empty cave.) Maybe you are the kind of guy who always starts every sentence with “I think.” Well, if you are dating a writer, you might catch yourself starting to use “I feel.” We don’t blame you. Writers are highly emotional and intensely dramatic beings. That is just one side effect from spending time with us.

Remember that we have this unique ability to string words to perfection. Sometimes, you will hear us using the words chauvinistic and creme brulee in one sentence. When that happens, show your support with a quick smile and a nod telling us that you get it–that it makes clear sense.

If you happen to read our blogs or articles that got published in some magazine, and it is against your liking, call it anything but stupid. That will turn us off to a degree that we might consider the idea of strangling your neck with our bare hands. Worse, it will be a lucid demonstration of your poor taste in literature.

Because we know that you are reading our every single blog entry (although, most probably, this is just all in our heads–we have a highly creative imagination just for you to know) to find out how messed up we are, we will not disappoint! We will fill our blogs with a parade of seemingly screwed up and downright depressing stories just so we can live up to your expectations. These blog entries might not be real, they might just be overflowing with hyperboles and exaggeration, and we will leave it for you to decide. We are sneaky and considerate at the same time in that way.

When you date a writer, everything is covered in chocolate-melted metaphors. You will never hear us say “I’m hungry.” But know that when we say “I woke up with an empty appetite” we are definitely not talking about food.

Dating a writer means you are at risk to being the subject of our piece 80% of the time. Even when we are writing about politics, or the latest designer bag, or Buddhism, or how cute chihuahuas are, we have the tendency to turn any topic to a reflection of you. (What? We changed your name!) For all you know, we have already started your autobiography the moment you asked us out.

Don’t worry about us publishing negative stories about you when our little thing fades. Unless you are an asshole, then yes! You should worry, a lot! Because in that case, there will be no changing names, and your full name will be written in bold, bloody letters from start to finish. Do not take this as a threat, we just want you to become a better person. It is for your best interest, really!

When you are dating a writer, watch your every move. We notice things that are not visible to the naked eye, like how you always roll down the window of your car on that specific curve on that specific bridge every single time. Or how you like sushi and hate wasabi. Or how you are keeping a dead body in your trunk.

If you really want to date a writer, tell us that you hate Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet. Convince us that it makes little to no sense how a cheap portrayal of puppy love and adolescent suicidal tendencies clamored in old english ‘thou art’ can even be considered an epic love story and you will forever hold a place in our hearts.

When you date a writer, you will always feel beautiful when we look at you. Under our scrutinizing eyes, you are the cunning Mr. Darcy, and we would like to be the remarkable Ms. Bennet. Past loves may have said something about your eyes or your body, but a writer who likes you just the same will notice the smirk on your face when you’re upset. Or the change in your tone when you’re down. We will memorize every single line that forms around your lips when you smile, every single scar, the length of your nails, even the deep furrows in your brow when you don’t agree to an opinion. We are creepy and romantic like that.

You must remember that when we are not writing, we are reading, and boy do we read between the lines! Every smiley, every punctuation means something more to us. An error-free text message can go a long way. It translates to how much effort you put in making sure your SMS will not get butchered down to a T.

On a serious note though, if you are reading this because a writer is currently crushing on you and you are not interested, just tell us. The nice thing about us is that we can handle rejection. Rejection is our middle name and we take it lightly. How many publishing houses do you think have turned us down before we got our first writing assignment? We’re used to putting out so much effort without getting anything in return. Come on, most of us even write for free! So, if you don’t like us, we’ll get over it. But if you do, we’ll appreciate you even more, and chances are, you’ll be one of the greatest characters ever written in an epic love story.

Should you decide to stick with a writer, there will always be meaning to every second, a thought behind every gesture, and climax to every situation. Though you may not fully comprehend the effort we put in, we hope that somehow, it will make you feel special and liked in return.

Now, dating a writer can be all of these things, or none of these things, and that is the riddle you’ll have to figure out on your own. It’s like your personal Choose Your Own Adventure kind of thing. The rest of the story is now up to you. Don’t say we didn’t warn you.

Me Time

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I can’t remember the last time I spent an entire day alone. It seems everyday after work, I have to make sure I go to a salsa party to be with my friends. If not, I’ll go see them for shisha or dinner for the same reason. I like the feeling of being part of a group or being in someone’s company.

As anyone who moves to another country knows, one of the immediate side effects, apart from the change in time zone, is that eagerness to belong–I try to fill in the gaps caused by forced separation from family and friends I left behind at home.

So, the natural reaction is to drive myself to the core just to have even a slice of that sense of belongingness.

I try to squeeze out time to meet new people, or to know the people I know much deeper.

I will drop out plans to go to the gym or write something, or have a well-earned sleep if a 10% chance to spend time with people I consider friends is knocking at my front door.

Who cares about sleeping? It’s just a fancy way to waste time. I have an eternity to sleep when I die. I’d rather smoke shisha at Hussein with my long-time friends until sunrise (which, by the way, I did last night) than spend a full eight hours dreaming.

I will drag my sore bottom out of bed at 7am if that’s the only time I could get to see friends I haven’t seen in months because of their insane work shift schedule (given that it’s my day off of work.)

I think my point is that I live on people’s company. Everyday, I hunger for social interaction. I thirst for those delicious 1000 megawatt laughters exchanged between sips of coffee and meaningful conversations. To me, this is the way to fill in the void.

But today is a day unlike everyday. I woke up, a little after two in the afternoon, with an empty stomach and a much emptier appetite for social action. There is no drive to ask friends out, no effort to see anyone, no energy to even answer the phone. No desire to belong.

I just wanted some quiet time–a time to catch up not with anyone but myself. I might have been too busy caring too much about everyone else’s lives and business that I forget to care about myself.

I wanted a day where I don’t have to go where my friends want to go. A day where I don’t need to wait around until they pick me up. A day where I don’t have to bend my schedule. A day where every music playing in the background is from my playlist and not anyone else’s.

I’m calling today as my official back-to-basic day–simple, quiet, solitary (which is ironic considering I am sitting in an American chain where all the tables are crowded with groups of friends and families who are all smiling, talking, and laughing in HD.)

And that is perfectly fine. As long as I have my coke float refill, the salad buffet, a pen and loose sheets of paper, I’ll be OK.

After all, I am already with the best company I can ever find.

Oh, the Games we Play

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What’s up with games?

I think everyone will agree with me when I say that we all live in a playing field.

When we were little, there is nothing more valuable than the games we play–hide and seek, tag, you name it. We can’t wait for the bell to ring just so we can go out in the playground for a whole session of swings and slippery dips. Then, throughout puberty, we spend hours of time playing video games–Mario Brothers, Pacman, Nintendo, Playstation, Xbox, Wii. Every year, it seems there are always new games introduced that will never fail to hook us to addiction.

And it doesn’t end there. When we’ve had enough of these online games and whatnots, we turn on the TV waiting for the next season of Games of Thrones, if not, we go to the movies to watch the Hunger Games.

Everywhere we look, there is always something suggesting that we have to play the game.

Now, as you would have guessed, this is the part where I start talking about relationships and ranting about games adult people play.

A few nights ago, I was talking to a friend on the phone, and I was telling him how it seems so unfair that some people can demand so much out of someone and they can have it all. Meanwhile, here I am, just wanting the guy I like to like me back, without conditions, without demands, and I can’t have even a quarter of what I am asking for.

And this friend just started talking about how men are hunters and how they like a good challenge. He told me not to be an easy prey–to play the game, to play hard to get, to not initiate contact, to wait for the guy to ask me out.

He told me that when a guy likes you, he will take the step, he will act upon it.

Well, bullshit to that!

I think women who have the courage to tell the guy they like how they feel is everything but an easy prey. Why is the world so patriarchal that it denies women privileges that men so likely take for granted?

I find it unfair how they always say “when a guy likes you, he will take the step and he will act upon it.” Why can’t a girl take the step and act upon it when she likes someone?

Why do I have to play hard to get? Why can’t it be as simple as “you like me, and I like you, let’s stop pretending, spare me the drama, and get over it!”

The real tragedy lies when a woman is brave enough to actually tell the guy she likes about her feelings. The tragedy does not come with the rejection that is just waiting to happen. It comes from the reality that when a woman is actually man enough to grow some balls, she is seen as borderline desperate, rather crazy, straight easy, less desirable.

Please, cut us some slack! It is not desperation or insanity that drives us to refuse to play games. We’ve been playing games since childhood and we can only take as much.

Men are hunters, blah blah blah. Does it ever occur to you that women hunt too?