The Storytelling scene (cont.)

A Surf and Sand series (2)

Part 1: He’s here and he’s near

I didn’t took a sleeping pill but I was asleep throughout the 4-hour ride. I also had my legs crossed because the guy beside me was too large (he’s not fat, he’s just…large). So I had to pack myself into this tiny space that was left for me, just me and my brown handbag. My legs were already numb by the time the bus took a quick stopover.

“Take your bathroom breaks na, kasi last stopover na to,” Jia said through the microphone. “mga 2 hours pa ulit before the destination.”

I stretched my arms up, but not as high so I get less attention. I’ve had enough attention for the day. I looked at the back end of the bus to look for Lorenz and Menchie. No one told me they were there. I just assumed. That’s how people in a group are, you know. If you’re the good lads who like following rules and keeping your life as organized as possible, far from the miserable, who prefers getting any information first-hand, you sit in front up to halfway through the bus. If you’re the part of the 25% that doesn’t care about any of the administration, who likes their ‘own space’, who cares little about anyone but themselves, you sit at the back.

Well, at least, that’s how I’ve seen it ever since grade school. I’ve sat both ends, even in the middle, and scenarios all the same.

People were gushing out as soon as the bus opened its doors. I looked behind the bus in search for my friends but took half a minute to finally see them. I was beyond relief that I saw them, I needed someone to defend myself to. And for company, above anything else.

They were fiddling through their bags to look for their wallets and mobile phones while I was kneeling down my seat and praying I get to have coffee.

But most importantly, I was secretly flabbergasted of how wonderful he still looked asleep, with mouth opened. Normally, when I see guys sleeping with their mouth open, I don’t find them attractive at all. I mean, seriously speaking, what’s attractive in a face that looks like they are waiting for a fly or a big chunk of meatball to fall off from a sky that they got bored they dozed off to sleep? None. There is none. Neither do I find myself pretty when I’m open-mouth sleeping.

None of the people I know, looks otherwise. Except for him.

He was majestic. His face, soft like a mallow. But the sharp edges that his jaw drew gave metal linings. His thick brows, his narrow eyes, harmonizing together. And his broad shoulders, his blades seen through his white shirt, cradled him like a lover. He looked young in the morning light

I was drooling, my eyes felt dreamy. But I was hungrier.

I was hungry for food. “Samahan niyo ‘ko. Bili akong breakfast,” I said, sliding my wallet at the back pocket of my jeans. As they came strolling down the aisle, I started moving from my seat and onto the bus doors.

Nakakaloka ka, nasa taas ka lang pala! Kanina ka pa namin hinahanap,” Lorenz said.

Friend, nakatulog lang ako. Technically, I was here bago pa ni isa sa inyo,”

Kaya nga ako natatawa, kasi kung kani-kanino ka na namin hinahanap, tapos tulog ka lang pala sa taas ng building. Gaga ka,” we laughed. “Ito si Menchie, galing rin inuman, eh.”

Oo, girl. ‘di pa ako natutulog. 5 kami natapos sa inuman, dumiretso ako sa Eton,” Menchie added.

Okay, good. Straight from inuman,” I said. I was literally ‘TIDES TO TIDES’ real quick.

We went on to look for my breakfast. Mcdo, although it was my first option, clearly was off the list. The people lining up the fast food store counted more than the the times I have told myself I would eat less. I ended up buying suman na may latik. Beware when eating this type of suman! It gets pretty messy. I had to remove 6 layers of banana leaves before getting into the food. The juice inside would drip also, so be mindful where you eat your suman and be careful so it won’t stain your shirt.

Mukha kang tindera, pep,” Lorenz said, while I was eating my breakfast bare-handed on a small square steel table beside a tiangge shop.

Mukha ba akong may pake?” I said, through a ball of sticky rice inside my mouth. Damn, I was hungry.

I still had one more suman left when we decided to go back inside the bus. “Baka maiwanan na naman tayo, ikaw na naman ang may sala,” Lorena teased.

As we moved up the bus, there were some few guys sitting at the front seats. Without permission, as it would have been a lot more civilized than not, Lorenz introduced me as the girl who caused the delay. “Siya yung nahuli kanina sa bus, yung inaantay natin lahat kaya tayo na-late.” I wanted to slap my plastic of suman to his face.

Nakatulog lang po sa taas,” I explained.

Nasa 12th floor lang pala siya, nakakatawa,” he laughed. They all looked at me and grinned through, i dont know, sarcasm? But it turned out, they were his teammates. And they were actually harmless, so it was all good.

While we were talking, I shot a quick glance at the back seat of the bus — at that corner, where the majestic creature lies asleep. He was no longer asleep. He was looking at us.

Were we too noisy? Did we wake him up? God, I hope not. I slid down to my seat while Lorenz and Menchie were standing along the aisle. We talked for a couple of minutes when the rest of the team started filling up the emptied seats again. After a brief headcount, the bus started rolling again. And I started sleeping again. I could never stay awake during a bus ride, or any ride actually. It makes me nauseous and it helps me to kill time as well.

I finally woke up at the sight of the familiar steak house my sister and I ate dinner at during my first surf in La Union. It was then, about 2 years back, when my sister tagged me along into one of her surf travels. And she promised me to take me to this restaurant wherein the steak was exquisite at a fairly cheap price.

She was my closest sister among all four big sissies that I look up to. She’d always make fun of me, saying that I idolize her, but never to a point she used it against me.

I’d feel puking everytime she brags about it, though.

Idol mo ko, eh, diba?” she use to say.

Bakit ginagaya mo ko lagi?”

Bakit gusto mo rin lahat ng gusto ko?”

Alam ko pipiliin mo, idol mo ko eh.”

Throughout the years she’d always kid me about it, I probably must have already grew in it. Absorbed in it. Lived in denial with it. Because maybe I do, afterall. And I am just in that position where I don’t allow myself to feel inferior from anyone.

The bus was quite silent the whole trip. No music, no television. Just us, the air we breathe and all of our conscience and responsibilities lying in the air like sparrows waiting for their feast.

It was not long after when I finally saw the strip of beach resorts that marks the surfing capital of the Philippines. “Good thing I’m finally back,” I thought.

Upon arriving at the hotel, after finishing our lunch at a diner near our place, the team started gathering up and grouping themselves into numbers. The lobby felt rather humid, under the scorching heat. The air blowing from the ceiling fans neither did any help. Sweat was crawling from beneath my hair and my backless top. When we entered the hall, the majestic creature showed himself up right away. He was drinking iced tea.

We lined up for registration and room assignments. As the people were looking for their roommates, I secretly wished he’d get assigned with us. I looked for a pen and filled up the waiver form. His presence around vibrates throughout the room, making it harder for me to write my name.

Bes, sama na lang raw tayo sa mga ka-team ko. Kulang sila apat,” Lorenz mentioned.

Dude, are you serious? You’re not realizing this is actually one of the greatest gift you’ll ever give me and you’re not even taking the initiative of making a friend smile, I thought. “Ah okay,” I said, as if I have any other choice.

And it’s not like I’d really want him inside the same room as I am.

Menchie was playing pool at the other side of the hall while I was sitting on the sofa beside it. I could feel my neck getting sticky and my back getting silky with sweat. While the three of us were chatting over the pool game, I noticed he hadn’t have any roommates yet. There were a couple of them. So I guess they’re going for the same room altogether. They picked up their bags and slid it on their shoulders as the hotel staff started packing up the emptied plastic cups that were left unnamed on top of the wooden desk.

Dude, seryoso, ang init.” I said, wiping off beads of sweat from my nape.

Sige, tapusin ko lang ‘to. Tapos akyat na tayo,” Menchie answered, hitting the ball as it bounced back from the edge, turning and hitting another ball into the hole. “Saan pala room natin?”

Barkada 6 raw, di ko alam saan. Tanong ko si ate,” Lorenz walked up to the information desk.

I never knew how to play billiards, at all. Lorenz does. Menchie does. Menchie knows. She’s like a worldcup billiards player, that good. She started playing pool when she was in college, she did it so frequently she must have mastered it already. She could turn 0 to winner. This is not overselling my friend, because she really does know how to play pool. She’s been into company competitions, slaying as usual.

I’ve tried playing, though. When I was a kid, my dad used to play pool at the basement of SM North Edsa in Quezon City. I used to stay there while my mom and my sisters go out to shop for some big girls stuff. My dad taught me how to hold and to hit. I was, as far as I remember, 10 years old then. But I never played as much as my dad did, just wasn’t my thing. We’d go for ice cream afterwards. My mom, on the other hand, never liked the idea of my dad teaching me billiards.

Tara na, akyat na tayo,” Menchie said, while placing the stick back. The ball was rolling down the green plane as it came to a subtle stop, nearly hitting another one.

Hello,” Menchie said, as she entered the room, greeting the group of guys we will be sleeping with for a night. They all looked a little bit older than us. They have already occupied all the single beds, which left us 2 double decks.

Dito ako,” I said, throwing my bag on the bottom bunk of the bed father from the door. Menchie laid down at the bottom bunk of the other bed, sprawling out her arms.

Pep, dito ako sa taas mo ah,” Lorenz said, placing his bag on the top bunk.

Apparently, the group of guys were part of the former team of my current manager. They told me he was pretty cool, that Mark would usually hold an annual Wingfest Party. It’s a party held at his own house wherein you can eat all wings you want, and drink all beers you want. Just my type. The party, I mean. He’s gay. And he likes to play minus ones on Youtube, and he’ll sing when the room’s too quiet.

Gusto niyo ba sumama? Mag-falls na kami ngayon. Kasi sure kami, hindi na makapag-falls bukas,” One said.

Oo, masyado nang maghahabol,” The other one said.

May bayad yon?” Lorenz asked.

Oo, 400. Tapos medyo malayo nga lang siya. Mag-car pa,” The first one said. But really, I didn’t understand anything after ‘400’. I immediately turned around and whispered to Menchie, “Friend, ang mahal. Wala na akong cash dito.”

Oo nga, eh. Wag na lang, ipangkain nalang natin,” Of course, the idea of food is always better than anything else. I was thinking, beer would be good, though.

We stayed for a while inside the room. After an hour of drenching ourselves under the sun, we kind of begged for the aircon’s breeze to sweep through our lungs. Menchie took a quick nap, while I was busy washing my body under the shower. I felt stained from the night before, so I didn’t stop putting on shampoo until my greasy hair bubbled like heck. As soon as I got out from the shower, I saw Lorenz taking snaps.

Pep, snapchat!” he laughed, as he took a photo of me while I was wearing my bikini.

Hoy, tangina. Delete mo yan!” I said, throwing curses at him like a third-time offenser.

Joke lang. Tara dito, picture tayo. Send ko kay Angel,” he said, while I slid beside him on one of the single beds. He showed me his messenger and said, “Kitamo, kung kani-kanino kita hinahanap. Kina Angel, Reika, Mars, hindi ka kasi macontact, walang hiya ka,” as he scrolled down his conversation list.

After finishing all our rituals, I woke Menchie up. I couldn’t bare getting this near to the shore, and not actually going to swim. “Mench, tara.”

As we walked towards the Sebay restaurant, I could already smell the spirit of sand and salt in the air. It doesn’t smell like industrialization, or those big blocks of malls in the city, it doesn’t smell like capitalists, it doesn’t smell like burnt leaves, burnt plastics, it doesn’t smell like work and money and responsibilities. It’s like a whole different place — fresh, young, uncommercialized, local, coconut. It smells like free-spirit invoking freedom-seeking people.

Manila isn’t like this. Manila is automotive cars, Manila is factory buildings, Manila is machine running, Manila is people hooting for money, Manila is pyramiding scam, Manila is that CEO that builds blocks of concrete buildings across the country like mushrooms, Manila is a toxic substance.

As I walked near the steps down to the beach, I could feel the breeze soothing my dreams. I wanted to open my hands up and let myself fly along the grains of sand whipped off by the wind.

But it’s too hot outside, I’d just probably end up getting toasted in the air.

Dito nalang tayo,” Menchie said, as she pulled a chair towards the round table with umbrella sticking up on it.

Hindi ba kayo mag-swim?” I asked, feeling a little jumpy over the sight of deep blue clear water and the creamy brown fine sand.

Mag-swim. Tara? Maya-maya onti. Sobrang init,” Lorenz said, as he pulled out a stick of cigarette and placed it in between his mouth.

I rested my back against the monoblock chair while I watched the scenery in front of me. I was about to fiddle through my mobile phone, as my two friends were doing, but realized I don’t have mobile data so there’s nothing to fiddle through anyway. I placed my phone back to the table. Then I looked around and inspected the place.

I’ve never been into Sebay. We never dined nor stayed in here. We usually opted for a cheaper stay over Sea Nymph, Monalisa or Circle. But never here, although it was popular among the other inns in La Union. There were people having their late lunch, the others waiting for sundown, the others smoking, the other drinking.

3 tables from us were a group of guys chatting over 3 buckets of beer. They seemed like they’re good friends out for a vacation. It was until I saw him that I recognized who they were. I took a sharper look at him and all those around him and realized those were some of the guys from the bus. His hair fell like Goldilock’s curls, his blades showed off under his sleeveless top.

And he caught me looking at him — staring, crushing, observing, drooling, call it whatever you want. I pretended I didn’t see him, that he was just any other guy, that I am not secretly rolling down the table at the sight of him.

I pretended to be checking my phone, scrolling through the pictures I’ve seen too many times. Then scrolled through the other album, the other one, and the other one…until there was nothing to look at that I decided to stop. Sebay had their wifi but was not responsive, no use. I looked back to where they are seated, they are having different conversations. They were seated across the long rectangular table, talking to the persons beside and in front of them. Few beers remain unopened inside the bucket.

I watched him as he conversed with that guy next to him. He was making gestures with his hand, as his head was bent a little downwards. What’s he like? Is he a snob? Is he a maniac? Is he one of those guys who are so breezy they think all of the girls would kneel before him? Is he a drummer? Is he a surfer? Does he drink always? Does he even cut his hair? I thought all of these and many more as he stayed in depth of the conversation he’s into.

Then he looked at me — at us, i don’t know. The second time he caught me looking at him, I have cursed myself through gritted teeth. I wanted to laugh at myself for being so stupid and idiot but I just can’t because I will be blushing. I wanted to know if they were laughing at me — “This girl, she’s head over heels blah blah” — only to find out he was not.

He was observing me — or maybe, catching me again. He was looking at me — at us — when I realized I’m being too showy. I was being too young. I felt kind of embarrassed, though.

I’m not pretty, I do not own a goddess-like figure, I don’t even have a fair amount of boobs. I can never be fully developed because this is the maximum I can ever be. I am not tall, I am the younger sister everyone pats her hair. I am not the type of girl who laughs like an angel, I laugh like you can see the world inside my mouth. I do not talk like a princess, I talk like a gay. I am not prim and proper, I am loud.

With all of these, he can never like me. We are not compatible. We are not alike.

Fuck, tara na please. Swim na tayo,” I said. Lorenz took a few more hits when he asked Menchie to look over our things.

Tangina, andito siya, I thought while I was getting my skin tanned, walking towards the seashore, thinking he might be — might be — looking over at us. Tangina, sana matangkad at sexy nalang ako.

[to be continued…]

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