It’s the last day of their week long vacation in LA, and to top things off, Maine wanted to try something she almost always saw in movies.
“Bakit pa tayo magtatanong sa mga locals eh meron naman Yelp,” RJ said, sweat beading down his forehead from the hot summer sun of California.
“Cause it’s more authentic!” His wife answered. “Sige na. It’s our last day and we’ve had our fair share of restaurants na obvious naman na sikat. I want to discover something na talagang, alam mo yun? Nitty gritty. Authentic!”
“Eh, mahal yung hinahanap mo naman is a Chinese restaurant na authentic sa California!” RJ looked at his girlfriend, completely exhausted from all the walking they’ve been trying to cramp in the day. “Hindi ba medyo nakakawindang yung logic nun?”
“Not for me,” she shrugged. “The most diverse city nga ‘to diba? I’m sure na meron naman mga China born locals dito that built a restaurant.”
“How about, we Yelp a 5 star Chinese restaurant, order for take-out and then stay in our room for the rest of the night?”
“Mahal, 5 star restaurants are too fancy! Pag authentic, madumi,” she explained, her hands moving in all directions in her feeble attempt to persuade RJ to check this one last thing off her list. “And people don’t give 5 stars to a dirty restaurant.”
“With good reason! Hindi kaya hygenic yun!”
Crossing her arms over her chest, Maine glared at him. “Fine, if you want to go to the hotel kasi sobrang init na, go. Maguuwi na lang ako ng authentic food from the authentic Chinese restaurant that I’ll authentically go to.”
The effect this girl has on everyone, most especially him, is so palpable RJ sometimes wonders if he’ll ever get the chance to say no to her. Then again, to say yes to the woman who’s done nothing but make him look forward to waking up in the morning isn’t exactly a feat.
But RJ still groaned and rubbed his face in frustration. He peaked through the spaces in between his fingers to see Maine already hailing a cab down. Rubbing the back of his neck, he took in a breath and caught up to her. “If you want to authentically go to the Chinese restaurant, let’s take the bus.”
— — — — -
“You see? It’s not so bad!” Maine said as she bounced on her chair, the hinges squeaking so much RJ worried that if she continues on doing it more she’d end up eating her food while she’s sitting on his lap. “Penny for your thoughts? Bakit kung makagrin ka parang sobrang tuwang tuwa ka.”
“May naisip lang ako,” he said as he pointed what he wanted in the menu to the waiter. “Naka pag order ka na?”
Maine’s face brightens and the non-English waiter was more than happy to take her order. “Do you think we can have the fortune cookie first?”
“I-Chinese mo, mahal,” RJ chuckled.
“Fortune cookie,” she mouthed. “Cookie?”The waiter looks at her confusingly and Maine purses her lips into a line before moving around as if she was suddenly in a game of charades. Eventually, he got it.
True to her quest to find the most authentic Chinese restaurant in LA, Maine managed to find a restaurant that’s located on the basement of the sketchiest building in Chinatown.
Unlike that ones they’ve managed to visit since the beginning of their vacation, this restaurant was decorated in a fading floor-to-ceiling mural of The Great Wall of China. There’s a small window that gives a customers a peak to all the action behind cooking fried rice, and a waiter who can’t speak an ounce of English. The cashier, a small and frail woman with the agility of a 40 year old, would come up to them and ask if they wanted water even when their glasses were full.
“Gagi ang exciting!” Maine whispered as she grabbed RJ’s hand and squeezed.
“Mahal, yung exit nandiyan lang sa likod mo,” he replied, eyes transfixed on every minute thing that would set-off alarms in his head. “If something happens, like let’s say, sumabog yung LPG sa kusina, takbo doon okay?”
“Ang OA mo.”
“Safe,” he said in a deadpan voice. “I’m being safe.”
“Honestly, RJ, I don’t see why you should worry about anything, hindi naman tayo gagalawin ng mga yan.”
“Not them, pero yung iba nating mga kasama. Menggay, mukha silang gang!”
“Ay jusko,” she answered. Thankfully, the waiter finally comes in with RJ’s order and a plate full of Fortune Cookies for the couple to play with while they wait for Maine’s dish. “Oh ito, open a cookie.”
RJ reaches over, open the cookie and immediately shoves the thing in his mouth before reading the fortune. “di nam gets.”
“Sige lunukin mo muna yan,” Maine said, rolling her eyes as she excitedly opens her own. “Ano na sabi sa’yo?”
“Hind — “
“Wait ito sa’kin!” She cuts as she silently apologizes to him before looking down at the half inch wide paper in her hands. “Huh?”
“Weird din ba sa’yo? Yung sa’kin kasi parang, uhm, ano ba ‘to?”
“RJ,” Maine said, her voice just barely above a whisper as she lifts her head just in time to see the other customers look at them. The guy behind RJ was already pushing himself out of their table while his friend read their own fortune cookie and immediately started saying stuff in Chines. “RJ, I think we need to go.”
“Ano ba yan! Nandito na ta’yo oh!”
“Wait! I’m trying to figure this one out, parang puzzle,” RJ answers, already too busy with his own fortune cookie. Maine looks down to read hers once again, heart dropping to her stomach as the five letter word confuses and taunts her all at the same time.
“GETS! COORDINATES! 75.089 — “
“RJ!” Maine shuts him up immediately and puts her own fortune in front of him. “Read it.”