| September 17, 2015

That Blue and Orange Floral Dress

Treat a woman like she is already dating someone. Eventually it would not really matter – even if she’s single, but if you can’t have her, she would belong to someone in the end, one way or another.

I woke up at dawn, at around four-fifty. This happens every time. Every time my friends from work and I go to the beach, staying until the next day, I was always the first to wake up in the morning. We had tequila, gin and beer last night but I was quite surprised why my head didn’t hurt.
We rented a cheap, open cottage on a resort down south. I looked at my workmates, still asleep, some on the floor and on the sofa. The empty liquor bottles and chips were lifelessly resting as well on the table.
Then I looked at Alice, skinny and peacefully sleeping on a couch beside mine, curled like an infant. Her orange and dark blue floral dress further defined the brightness of her alabaster skin, like the clouds that will be illuminated soon by the first light of the rising sun.
Because I felt thirsty, I searched through the refrigerator for anything to drink that’s non-alcoholic and found only a bottle of beer and two cans of Coke. I took a can of Coke and went out of the cottage to the dock facing the beach.
Because it was still dark outside, I can only hear the strident sound of the waves down the shoreline a few meters away from the cottage. One of the sounds that I can never hear in the city. I felt the cold air especially on my face and ears as I sat on the edge looking through the darkness of dawn and feeling the cold surface of the dock made of wood. I turned on my iPod which was playing the Counting Crows’ Holiday in Spain. I unlocked my phone’s keypad and saw that I only got one new message from Liliana asking me how I was. I locked my phone without leaving a reply to her.
I opened my Coke without hearing the popping sound of the can and had several gulps of the sweet, bubbly liquid almost forgetting I got extremely thirsty. I unlocked my phone again to check the time and it was already five-fifteen.
I continued to stare at the darkness waiting for the sun to come up. I was also trying to remember what my friends and I were doing or what we were talking last night.
I felt something warm on my shoulder – something skinny and tender like a human hand. I took off my earphones and looked up to see if I can even see anything.
“Why’re you up early?” Alice asked me with her tiny voice.
“I woke up and I can’t go back to sleep. This happens every time.” It was the first time I felt her hands touching my shoulder.
She sat with me on the edge of the dock and holding that one last bottle of beer from the refrigerator as I tried to see what she was holding in the absence of any light except from the cottage.
“Some night, huh?” I wanted to ask soon what they were up to when I was drunk before I passed out.
“Right. Especially you.”
“What did I do?”
“Well, you were talkative unlike your sober self. You were more spontaneous when you’re drunk, you know that?”
“Did I do anything stupid?” I, being a person that wants to go directly to the point, I asked her directly to get some answers; but I also noticed the first light from the sky that made her more visible than before. She looked good with her floral dress but I don’t want to consider liking her. I don’t know why. I can’t like her.
“Hmm, let’s see,” Alice changed her seating position and squatted. “They were actually teasing the two of us because of that.”
“What, did I flirt on you or something?”
“I don’t know how to call it, but you told me you like me because I’m beautiful, and you said you wanted to put your head on my shoulder and you did eventually. That was time you fell asleep.”
“Dammit.” I wish remembered that.
“They had to carry you to the separate couch so you can sleep better.”
“So then, would you believe on what I said when I was drunk?” On second thought, maybe that was foolish to directly ask her that.
“I don’t know. But would it be true that you ‘like me’ like me?”
I don’t like to answer that question. I might hurt her feelings – perhaps if I say “no,” or she might think I’m taking advantage if I say “yes.” I just looked at her and I was obviously conscious that I was slowly blinking. I looked at her so that she would not think I was ignoring her.
She was smiling, and don’t know what that meant. I wish I was even more spontaneous than when I’m drunk.
I decided to change the topic: “So how was that Charlie guy going?”
“Who – Charlie?”
I confirmed by just raising my left brow and sipped the lukewarm Coke as I looked at her. “Didn’t the two of you went out or something like that?” My hand was wet because of the dew from the surface of the can of the once-cold Coke.
“No.” She almost said it like it was a question.
“Well I guess I’m living under a rock almost as always then. Sorry for the lousy conversation topic.”
She just laughed in a rather unusual way, like a kind of laugh where you might feel she’s closer to you than you think that she laughs so hard in front of you.
Or was it because I subconsciously like her?
I looked at the already visible horizon with the top arc of the sun giving off more light than before, which made the sea look gold and silvery from the dock, giving a change of the colour pattern on the sky from orange below, then yellow, then blue to dark blue as it goes higher behind the orange clouds. Then I looked at her and her slender legs crossed as she lay back in a position where her slender arms supported her weight. But I looked away, hoping that she doesn’t notice.

I paused my typing, raised my arms and held my hands high to stretch my back as I yawned.
I checked the time and it was past three o’clock. I realized that did not have any lunch yet. It doesn’t matter because I did not even feel hungry yet. The left over pizza on the kitchen can wait. I looked at the window and saw how the sun shines brightly in the windy afternoon in January – it looked like summer except the wind ridiculously had a hangover from Christmas.
I focused on the computer again, opened my account on Facebook to go have a quick look at Alice in her profile picture. I really don’t want view other people’s profile on purpose but I have to do this, just once. I just want see her picture on the beach with that blue and orange floral dress she’s wearing.
What I saw next felt like a slap on the face from my angry ex-girlfriend, getting me back to my senses – disenchanted from the muses, throwing me hard, down to the ground, telling me to face the real world; another way of saying: “go away from your fantasies, you bastard.”
She placed a two-hour old post on her Facebook timeline saying that she was attending an afternoon mass with a guy named Jacob at the Basilica. I wonder who this Jacob is. I viewed him and Alice was his only mutual friend that I knew. My first impression of him directly led me to believe he’s dating her. Masses in the Basilica typically last an hour so that means that by now they may already be in a restaurant or a coffee shop where there’s free Wi-Fi for her to post that post.
I checked my messages on Facebook. The latest one was from Liliana. She said she missed me. I did not reply to her. I thought it’s better to just keep my mouth shut, because I don’t know if miss her or not. I think, so far, that it was better for us to break up and live our own separate lives. Better to live everyday alone than being in a relationship with her but felt like choking every day because of her, despite her claiming that she loves me unconditionally. I think she’s more selfish because she wants to keep me for herself than me being selfish for keeping me away from anybody else’s control.
But right now, I just want to meet someone new, or keep in touch or re-establish communication with Alice. She was there when I was ranting relentlessly about my failing relationship with Liliana. She was the only person at work who understood my stupidity – even to myself. Even if I never really told her of any blaming, she understood how much I blamed myself for dating Liliana in the first place.
Four months after Liliana and I broke up, a thought came to me, a thought of considering liking or even dating Alice. But on second thought, it was rather unthinkable and I then thought it’s too awkward. I don’t want to act like a fool in from of everybody else, especially at my workplace and a fool to myself.
Liliana and I have been together for almost seven years. I remained faithful to her for seven years. It’s like were living in our own world, away from my friends and my life outside; and more time on her life. When she left, her friends saw me as the insensitive one. Now I’m on my own. I tried to catch up with society and ask how my friends were doing.
It has also been years since I wielded my Telecaster guitar. Nonetheless I never felt any regret when I turned down several of my friends’ proposal who wanted to recruit me in their band because I chose to spend more of my time to Liliana than in making music. I tried to strum some chords on my guitar but it looks like my hands lost the passion that it can’t grip the fret board for an F chord without feeling pain on the thick muscle between my thumb and pointer finger on my left hand.
Three days ago, I tried to Daria a message who’s now in San Francisco as a nurse for five years already. During her first year on that job, she sent me a message on Facebook and told me that she missed me but I did not reply to her to avoid any suspicion from Liliana that time. She was one of my fellow students in college and her friends claimed that they heard her verbalize that she liked me and had special feelings for me. I was in no position that time to show any reciprocation although I can feel that she was being sweet and nice to me. Three days ago I tried to send her a message in Facebook to ask how she was. She never left a reply and our message box was already marked by “seen” below my message.
I tried to resume my typing to see how far I’ll go but I couldn’t think of any other ideas. I decided to go outside and take a walk, and breathe the fresh air on the seaside. I took a forty-five minute ride to Mactan and went to a beach to watch the sun set. The beach was similar to the one me and my friends at work went the last time, except that there was no wooden dock. I sat on one of the benches and made myself comfortable.
Then a girl appeared and sat on the opposite side of the bench. She has a straight, brown hair (which may be done in a salon) tied in a ponytail and has prominent eyelashes. She wears a yellow cardigan on top her white dress where the skirt reaches her knees. Her legs were alabaster-like and she wears mint green flip-flops. She smiled at me and I flashed a faint smile back at her and I looked away, to the setting sun. I noticed my heart starting to beat fast and I sat with my legs crossed as I titled to rest my back on the bench’s backrest.
“Hi.” Her voice was low and sounded mature. “What are you doing here all by yourself?”
“Just watching the sunset.” I took me three seconds to put myself together to look at her and say that.
“Wow, it looks like you had a lot of extra time to do things like these.”
I was no sure why she asked me that so I just asked her, “So, what are you doing here anyway?”
“I’m waiting for my boyfriend.”
All of a sudden I was back to my senses again. “Isn’t it getting a little late for you?”
“Well, he’ll be here soon.”
Our conversation ended there and I focused again on the sunset. Watching the sun set was what Liliana and I did occasionally. I tried to send my friends a text message about going for a drink with me at that sports bar near Cabancalan but all of them can’t go with me. It’s either they are busy at work, assuming their duties as a family man or had another appointment already.
The girl’s boyfriend arrived in a few moments. I looked at them and the girl waved her hand at me as she stood up to leave and I waved back to her. As they went further away from me I heard the man asking her who I was in an inquisitive manner, almost raising his voice. It reminded of Alice. One of these days, she may go the beach walking with Jacob on the sea shore as the sun sets. And the two will love each other and would get married sooner or later. And she will be lost in my memory like the Atlantis.
I left the spot and I saw the sky that is dark blue already. I decided to go to Ayala for a walk, to see if I can come up with new ideas for the story and check for new books in the bookstores there, now that there’s nothing else to see on the beach at night except for the stars.
I arrived in Ayala after one hour, because of the heavy traffic within the rush hour all the way from the First Bridge to the Mandaue Highway going to Mabolo.
I almost forgot I got my iPod Shuffle clipped on my grey t-shirt with an Andy Warhol print. I put on the earphones and turned on the iPod that is now playing Death Cab for Cutie’s Bend to Squares. I especially felt cold January wind that gushes through my legs and toes because I was only wearing flip-flops and light gym shorts.
I wanted to take dinner first before going to Fully Booked. I went to Harbour City because I wanted to have tea and their stuffed taro. The place was almost full but the waitress led me to a vacant table.
I looked at the people in the restaurant and almost all of them used spoon and fork with their dim sum on the table. On the opposite edge of the restaurant, I saw Alice and that Jacob from Facebook. She’s wearing a white dress and white sandals. Jacob is wearing a black t-shirt with a cheap graffiti art and his hair was gelled that he looks a bit like Wilson from the movie Castaway. The waitress handed me the laminated menu but I directly told her my order without looking on the menu. I don’t want to let Alice notice me so I rested my elbows on the table that my conjoined hands, the left holding the balled up right, covered my face.
I tried to finish quickly as soon as my orders came in, but the hot tea rather slowed me down. Jacob and Alice, both holding each other’s hands was heading to the exit which is towards my direction. I assumed again the “rested elbows” position to cover my face and looked away. I can smell Alice’s sweet perfume from the trail of wind as they went past me.
I called for my bill and went out to begin looking for new books in Fully Booked, and afterwards, in National Bookstore. I did not find any new book there that caught my attention. It’s either that, or I can’t afford to buy those other books on the shelves that I wanted.
In National Bookstore, I went to the fiction section to saw the same books on the shelves. I reached for that single copy of Chuck Palahniuk’s Fight Club to read a portion of the first chapter. I noticed a girl on the same isle I’m standing, reading the back part of Truman Capote’s Breakfast at Tiffany’s. Her eyes and hair made her look like Gogo from the movie Kill Bill. She’s wearing a blue loose blouse and an orange wide skirt that reaches down right below her knee and she’s carrying a black back-pack. I resumed reading the book I’m holding because I don’t want her to notice that I was looking at her. After finishing two pages, I closed the book and looked at the front cover.
“Will you be buying that book?”
I looked at the girl’s direction and she was smiling at me. “Nope, just browsing on some pages.” I placed the book back to where I got it.
“Great! I was actually planning to buy it, if you don’t mind.”
I smiled at her, took the book and handed it to her. “Here,” I said flippantly, “it yours.”
“Thanks.” she grinned and felt her ebullience with the way she moves. “What’s your name?”
“Gus.” My heart started to beat fast again.
“I’m Simone.”
“So, are you a fan of Fight Club?” I asked her like I knew just half of what I just said.
“Not much, I’m actually buying this as a surprise birthday gift for my boyfriend.”
“Well,” I don’t know what else to say. “Good for him.”
“I heard him say he’s planning to read a Palahniuk novel, and I thought this tittle would be a good start.”
“I hope he likes it.” I positioned myself to leave the isle and waved at her. “Bye.”
“Bye Josh!”
I walked straight towards the exit without bothering to look back at her to say: “it’s Gus, not Josh.”

I wanted to go home and sleep. The ideas never materialized. I headed for the taxi stand outside the Terraces. Once again, I saw Alice and Jacob on the queue waiting for the next cab. I was four passengers on the line away from them, which I thought was a safe distance for Alice not to notice me. They were talking and both of them looked very happy. I saw them went inside the cab. As the cab passed beside me, on the pavement where I’m standing, I thought I saw Alice kissing Jacob.
Good for them, good for them. Such happy couples. And it came to me then: Treat a woman like she is already dating someone. Eventually it would not really matter – even if she’s single, but if you can’t have her, she would belong to someone in the end, one way or another.
Now I feel like this pulpy mass of organ below my right collar bone feels heavy. And the feeling of remorse surfaced in my existence. The remorse of doing nothing when the opportunity was right there in front of me. Those weeks after Liliana left me, I could have made my move. Before Jacob even showed up, I’m sure. Now it’s too late.
Daria has already moved on and has a happy life in California, Liliana may have already found someone better than me by now, my friends already happy with their lives with their own families, those girls I encountered earlier today, needless to say, loved their boyfriends so much; but here I am, standing still, still about to cope up with the world, without any new ideas to write, with an inglorious existence in this universe while everybody else has already gone far and has reached the stars.
I guess it all ends up that I liked her in the first place. The truth is, indeed, that I liked her. I want to date her. I liked the way she talks to me especially while I look at her small, round eyes who are also looking on my direction – when to two of us are looking at each other. She talks to me and understands me like she already knew my fate.
Now I can’t have her. I can’t even write a story about us anymore. I was a fool all this time. A fool walking in the harrowing path to folly.
And so there it was, my fictional visions of her were shaken off and I didn’t know how to end the story. The story of us in a parallel universe where everything else was the same but our relationship, the story of us watching the unsullied sunrise on a peaceful corner of the world.
When it was my turn to take a cab, I told the driver my destination and plugged on my earphones. My iPod was playing Perfect by Smashing Pumpkins. I looked outside the window and looked at the blurry, hazy street lights as the cab moved and is already gaining speed. The cab smelled of shoddy air freshener that is lemon flavoured.
When I reached home, I tried to type all of these in that story I was writing but I decided to stop from here, saved the story with the title “experimental work 14” in a folder of my unfinished stories and turned off the computer.

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