-I wrote this draft of a story in a strange frenzy some months before. I don’t know if these ramblings will ever amount to anything, or if I would even get to finish them at all. So many unfinished stories are left in my drawers, in diskettes and USBs, in yellowed pages stapled together many sunsets ago. So many clutter, so little time.-
It was raining heavily for three weeks. Cristina Asuncion stumbled into her one-bedroom apartment in soaked high heels and a dripping umbrella, and then dropped her handbag on her desk, on top of which were a mug of leftover tea from the morning, an old copy of Emily Bronte’s Wuthering Heights, and a glass paper weight in the shape of a fish. She left the office at eight thirty in the evening, gusty winds and slashing rain greeting her in the face, as she ambled her way down the open stairs to the ground floor, and farther down to the front gate, where the solitary guard nodded his head in goodbye and went back to reading his komiks. Her apartment was one on the first left corner, at least twenty-five steps from the office building, which actually had been a two-storey residential house with wooden floors and grilled windows, until the owners relocated themselves to Manila, and offered the house for rent. The upper floor was divided into four individual apartments; while on the first floor the owners’ caretaker lived with his family of wife and two small children, and eventually opened a small convenience store of canned items, junk food, and other staples.
Cristina rented out one of the second-floor apartments, which was actually just a ___ square meter room with a tiny bathroom, a two-door closet, and huge screened windows. The floors, ceiling, and walls of the room were all pinewood, and most early-mornings, the bitter cold would seep through the tiny crevices between the panels that she had decided to hang thick curtains on the windows, obliterating light on luminous daytime, and keeping the room in comfortable warmth during the chilly December days. The house caretaker had given her a single bed and a thick mattress along with the apartment keys, and over the years she had accumulated some furnishings for her small dwelling. Facing her bed was her old television, and DVD player, and a few feet away was her tabletop refrigerator, a few clean dishes and clear glasses neatly arranged on a holder. The apartment had a little sink, a pair of floor cabinets below it, and on the closed space above, away from the menace of rodents and roaches, she kept a small pantry of instant fares – instant pancit canton, noodles, canned sardines, and decaffeinated instant coffee. In the lower part of the cabinets, an old wooden guitar was kept in a zippered duffel case, and a few loose pages randomly tucked in a brown paper envelope.
She was twenty-nine, living on her own since she was twenty-five, now without spouse or lover, employed for three years by a private insurance company as a front desk clerk. In this sleepy town, very few companies have opened their local offices, and she was fortunate enough to land a job, as the townspeople here are prone to gratify their hunger by growing corn and squash. She was married once, to a musician who smoked two-pack everyday, ate nothing but red meat, and once made love to her at a public restroom in one of the music bars in the city. Cristina was twenty-one and a fresh graduate when Ferdinand proposed to her and they married two weeks later, much to the detriment and outrage of her Catholic conservative parents, who had given her the best education in a top university in Manila. They had a brief affair back in college; he was in a band that played in almost every school event and as she was a business student who loved music secretly, they soon found themselves in the same circle. Her parents however soon found out about this, and threatened to discontinue her education if she strayed from their wishes. So she stopped seeing him, he soon pulled out from college and pursued his music, staging small gigs all over the country. Cristina graduated from her business education two years later, and her parents officiated a big party of four lechons and tons of pancit in honor of her, their neighbors and relatives squashing themselves inside their small house back in their home province. She remembered asking them for a guitar as a graduation token but her parents merely chortled at her, and gave her a small box tied in a pink ribbon. Inside was a set of pearl jewelry in pure Chinese gold, both resplendent and devastating against the red velvet. Cristina kissed her father on the right cheek and her mother on the left, carried the box with her up to her room, and wept into her pillows until daybreak.
The rain had stopped exactly twenty minutes after she arrived home. Her wet pumps were now carefully laid out on the floor outside the door, and the umbrella was left open to dry beside them. It had been a long day at the office, and the burgeoning paperwork kept her inside until well past eight, eating her dinner of just-add-hot water noodles and white bread on her computer desk. Her salary was pitiable, just a little above minimum wage, and her four colleagues, including the supervisor were all male, a foul-mouthed crowd who brushed their teeth regularly but still stank of rum and ashes. She smoked too, a habit she had picked up from her ex-husband, but she always preferred to do it alone, during lunch breaks especially, when everyone else was taking noontime naps and at night in her room, though she always kept Lysol spray beside her bed because the lingering smell of smoke usually gives her insomnia.
She dropped on the bed in her soaked trousers, turned on the television, and switched the channel to her favorite telenovela, a heartrending tale of a servant girl who married a wealthy old man for money, then eventually found herself without love, or money in the end. Cristina Asuncion chuckled, as she lit her Marlboros, amused at the idea of marriage. Hers was a joke, really, she had always professed to be violently in love but left without a word the morning when Ferdinand, reeking of someone else’s perfume, presented her with a pearl bracelet, the gems round, immaculate, and painfully plastic. The door was left open as she sped out, a flower printed beach bag on her shoulder and a few books in her left arm, but her husband stayed rooted to the couch, observing everything with a chilly nonchalance. She only packed a three-day change of clothing, a few pieces of underwear, a cardigan, and her toiletries. She never owned much anyway, having given up most of her comforts when she married this erratic musician, never spoke to her parents again since that day she told them she wanted to leave home and be some man’s wife.
She loved him, yes she did. He bought her a guitar and she learned to caress the chords with her tiny hands, oftentimes wounding herself but she had relished the bleeding; this was something she yearned like respite, to make music, to sing unabashedly well until the blue morning. Ferdinand’s career was not monumental, but he always got invited to perform across cities, leaving her in their tiny apartment for days, even weeks. The guitar eased her solitude, as if she knew nothing else, she practiced as though this was her only occupation, even her friends’ whereabouts she refused any knowledge of, hiding her mobile phone under their bulky mattress. When her husband came home, she would massage his feet, serve him his favorite meat stew, and make herself available all evening. They would play their guitars together too, and smoke their Marlboros, she was often ashamed at her own incapacity when faced with such talent before her. Someday she would get to act for a live audience, he told her, and travel with him to cross cities. They would rent a beach house, drink coconut wine, visit old churches, and make babies. And in the end, they will get a decent house, and quietly raise their four children.
– This is where I finally lost momentum. Pray tell, how will I ever learn to craft and conclude these beautiful lies?-