Abr 15, 2003

Alone, in a Cafe

It was a breezy afternoon in Makati. The breeze was peculiarly comforting. Most afternoons here are now usually hot, seldom attended by the breeze. Maybe I didn't believe there was really such a nice draft or, if there was, that it would last. So I opted for the more reliable air-conditioning of the mall.

I got myself a few CDs as a reward for finishing my first semester of both studying and teaching. Later, I would not look at it as any sort of gratification. It was just something I did to make myself believe that I achieved something in a span of five months. I didn't. All I really accomplished was getting myself some CDs.

I stopped by the cafe to get some hot chocolate and buy some time to pace myself, plan my next moves, and read up on Dutch poetry. So i went in, placed my order and waited until I heard the barista call out my name with her classy accent. I didn't really know why this place seemed like a good place to do the stuff I wanted to do. Why be surrounded by people that aren't kin to me, in fact, non-kin in many ways? Later, I would doubt whatever sense I used to expose myself to other people. Other people have a way of stirring something already shaken.


1 White mocha

I opened the anthology before the planner. I began with Jan Elburg's no place like home:

This must be me
I feel this more than I
feel others smarting at my notions.
this must be me
where I look in and out of.


There was a pregnant woman alone on my left, alone with her white mocha. She was in a dark corporate attire and wore highlights in her hair. She's texting somebody while her cheek rests uneasily on her left fist. She's not that big, maybe just a little over four months. She slouched on her seat. Later, with her right thumb still on the keypad, her left fist would become a palm beneath her belly.

2 Frappucinos, etc.

To my right, a bunch of students worked with textbooks, notes, expensive pens, and scientific calculators. Some of their classmates studied in front of me with their heads to the glass wall.

In between these batches and forward diagonally to my left, a fat, hairy, white man showed some harbor plans with plates of colored sketches to a brown man.

If the white man was selling, the brown man didn't look like he's buying. He didn't look like he could afford it. Maybe someone was conning someone. If so, I had no idea who's conning who. Or maybe they're both out to con somebody else.

3 Macchiato

There was a girl on her cellphone four or so meters to my rear. She had a white blouse on with the 3/4 sleeves ending in ruffles. She had her law books and black purse in front of her. She has largely ignored them along with her styrofoam cups of water and macchiato. Her head was thrown back, she was slouching, possessing the entire couch.

She chatted away very happily, so happily that her mouth suspended in open-mouthed smiles whenever she paused to listen. Her smile was a gaping promise, the red edges moving in ripples when she talked.

Her eyes flitted absent-mindedly to every corner of the room, looking everywhere and nowhere at once. She was not in the room, I guess. She was on the other end of the phone.

4 More white mocha

The pregnant woman was arguing with the guy who joined her. She brought in confident, incorrect English with her crossed corporate-sleeved arms.

She was negotiating, asking for 1/3 or at least 1/4 of something. Her tongue was hard. It was neither lashing nor hysterical, just hard. They were somehow involved.

The guy remained silent. He was married. He was also white, the pinkish, foreigner kind. And also very hairy.

I hated the taste of losing myself to peeping tomfoolery and eavesdropping. I fetched myself some water though I was not finished with my chocolate. I read on:

it can't be otherwise: these, my hands
rendering me more services
than all the hard and soft ones outside;
these, more joy at my body's raging
than pity on what I bring about.


5 More frappucinos, etc.

A youngish teacher came in and was noisily greeted by the students. The fuss died down and a girl approached the teacher from across the room and said hi sir with a flirtatious tone. The male students were all smiles and said they will consult him. Probably about their assignments. They were finishing up.

I myself had no plans or "pacing" done. Outside the glass walls, the leaves of the cement-boxed trees were rustling. The sky was falling to darkness, hue by hue, shade by shade. A young man opened a van parked by the sidewalk. A lady followed with a baby in a stroller. After loading the stroller, they entered the van, the child in the lady's arms. Inside, the couple collapsed into a relaxed conversation. After a couple of minutes, they drove off.

The lights were turned on and I decided to go home for dinner. I had no place at the cafe. I was done with my cups.

I think I'll stay here, after all,
with my very own agonies:
between my teeth is where I feel at home.