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Sunday in 3,000 words
It's my first day at a new job—cashier at 7-11. Last week I shoplifted pens at National Bookstore and spent a night in jail. My mother begged the police officer to hold me a bit longer. I could hear her from the front desk: "I need you to detain him for the rest of the week. Make up something, please." The policewoman she was talking to could just chuckle in response—perhaps trying to hide amusement. I'm used to this. I wanted the same thing, to be honest.
When I said "I'm used to this," I meant I'm used to people wanting to get rid of me. When I said "I wanted the same thing," I meant I wanted to stay in prison for more than a week, to never have to come home. So I was telling you about my first day at this new job. This is my penance. My mother thought it would do me good to be around stuff that'd tempt me to steal. It makes sense, yes? I agree with her. Just now I was eyeing a Pringles canister. Something's wrong with me.
Of course, something's wrong with me. Isn't there something wrong with everyone? My shift started at 8 p.m. It's 9 p.m. as I write this. This 7-11 is at a mall, and right now the mall lights are turning off one by one. Stores are closing up, and the place is gradually darkening. It's a sad sight. People are pouring out. "Before midnight those who are watching the last full shows will fill this place," says Ally, my new 7-11 friend. I've known her an hour and already I dislike her. Sometimes you instantly know, yes?
It's early September. Manila is just now recovering from that godawful summer. At home, my dad is still wary of the water supply. My sister's on edge each morning, lifting the water receptacles' covers, checking that they're full. My mother keeps turning the faucet on and off. We're a family of compulsives. I myself keep checking my toilet bowl's tank, listening for the refill sound after each flush. Whenever I hear someone use my bathroom I stop whatever I'm doing to make sure the tank's refilling. I even wake up from deep sleep. Our house is going to explode someday.
It will explode because everyone who lives in it is smoldering. It will only take some time before something catches fire and obliterates us. This is how my mind works all the time. This is probably why this teenaged girl is glaring at me. I must have been ignoring her for, what, a few seconds? I notice her and pretend to not see her. I keep rearranging the cigarette display, waiting for her to verbally acknowledge me. I know she's waiting for me to do the same—I won't. Ally comes to the rescue. I decide to really hate her.
I'm 19 and prone to making everything about me. Also, deliberately being immature even if I know better. And I do know better. Despite their obvious dislike of me, my parents are decent people who do their best to love their children. They also taught us well. Manners, respect, courtesy—all its synonyms—the works. When I get older I'd really like to get rid of this hard shell that "licenses" me to "hate" whoever I want. There is a certain age when people should start growing up. I refuse to do it for now. Ally can choke and disappear.
I'm being unfair to Ally. She's been nothing but nice. It's 11 p.m. My three-hour 7-11 friend is restocking the canned goods aisle, shouting instructions at me in a way that reminds me of how my older sister lovingly (I say this unironically) relinquishes the household reins to me on weekends when she has to work. Being the youngest sibling has its pros and cons, as some of you know firsthand. But that's another story. Let's focus on my new friend, Ally. She shook my hand when we met earlier. Not many people do that now, yeah?
Ally knows the hours very well by now ("I've been here two years!" she announced when we met earlier). Like she said, the store is full of last-full-show theatregoers, scrounging for junk food. I almost lose my mind attending to these people, but at the same time a certain calm washes over me. If I can get past this—if I make it to 2 a.m. intact—I'll know that life's going to be OK. Ally signals to me from the aisles, we talk via eyes now. "Holler if you need help," her eyes say. I wink.
I make it to 2 a.m. intact. Time for "lunch" break as Ally mans the till for me. She said someone's coming in for the 3 a.m. shift. My watch says "SUN" and I marvel at that...how a day changes into the next day without us noticing. It felt like only minutes ago when it was "SAT" evening and I was starting my shift. Now it's only 3 hours to go and I'm off to wherever. I think of where I want to go later at 5 a.m. as I sip 7-11 coffee. Too sweet.
I'm wearing an old polo shirt. White with pit stains. Ally said uniforms are given on the employee's first month, something about making sure the person is likely to stay. "Making sure" and "likely" in one sentence. Laughable, but also relatable. I pepper my sentences with "siguro" and "talaga"—"Pumunta nga siguro talaga siya doon kahapon." It's fascinating, language. Anyway, I was telling you about this polo shirt. This is Kuya's favorite. He got this wholesale in Divisoria. No idea where the others are, this is the only one left. He keeps looking for it, and I keep hiding it.
It's 4 a.m. The 3 a.m. guy's here. Roy. He said he'd be the cashier and I should bus the tables. Sweep. Mop. Empty the trash. Sure, in my head it's already 5 a.m. so I will say yes to everything just to be able to get out of here. Don't first days of work bring with them a certain kind of ennui? Something, something like that. I know because I've had numerous first days of work by now. I'm excited but I cave on the day itself. It makes me sad once people start needing me.
It's a few minutes before I clock out. A family of four enters the store and immediately we are assaulted by gleeful screams. The kids—twin boys; around 4, 5—are excited. "SLURPEE!!!" They shout, their little hands holding their little heads. It's cute, no? How we hold our heads like this when we're excited, as if our brains will explode of too much happiness. They bounded up in front of the Slurpee machine and continued screaming there. I admire their parents for allowing Slurpee this early in the morning. The mom pays for the drinks and the screams continue.
5 a.m.!!! It's my turn to scream. In my head. I say bye and thanks to Ally, who I like now. My instant dislike turned out to be a mistake. I say sorry to her. In my head. I do a lot of things in my head. Exercise, pinpoint an ambition, grow up, help others, etc. All the "good" things I do in my head. Roy rattles off a list of stuff I need to remember for tonight, but I've checked out. My watch says 5:05 a.m. and I can't wait to leave this 7-11. Bye.
I walk over to a nearby Ministop because: Fried chicken. I randomly Google "Ministop" and Wikipedia says that its "Romanized" name is "Minisutoppu Kabushiki-gaisha." That's cute, no? From now on I will refer to this store as Minisutoppu in a slight Japanese accent. What's in this chicken? It's truly one of a kind. It's on my Top 10 favorites. Kuya once tried to sway me into liking Wendy's and I considered for a bit only because I love him, but I keep coming back to Minisutoppu. What's your #1 fried chicken? KFC not included because it's its own category.
6 a.m. I'm the first customer at this Starbucks. Home is a 10-minute walking distance, and I'm thinking of all the ways I can delay coming home. The barista greets me with "Sir Baron Geisler look-alike!" She thinks this pleases me because I'm too polite to tell her otherwise—and I always feign a smile. I can understand why she thinks this is a good idea. It's a curious thing, yes? When people tell us we look like someone, we get a glimpse of how they see us in their head. Baron Geisler I certainly am not.
Have you seen Elite on Netflix? You know Ander? That's who I won't mind being compared to. I should tell the barista this. But she's moved on to the next customer and forgotten about me. I'll try and tell her next time we see each other. Then I think back to my thoughts of a few seconds ago and laugh at myself. My self-absorbed self. Telling people how they should see me. Ha. At home I feel so seen and invisible at the same time. Do you understand? When I do good I'm invisible, but when I fuck up...
I should have brought a book. I'm tired of my phone so I watch the now-long line of customers in their Sunday best. People still go to church, huh? I stopped when I was 11. I focus on a young lady who's got "line cutter" written all over her annoying face. I don't usually think black things like this, must be the sleepiness. Anyway. This young lady. I can see her brain churning, coming up with ways on how to get ahead of this perfectly lined-up gentleman. What's the hurry, young lady? It's irritating when people are rude.
At the next table an elderly couple laugh in hushed tones at an iPad. I assume they're watching videos of their grandchildren because every now and again I hear a contented sigh (Ahhhhhhh...) from each of them. I remember this other old couple I saw at MRT, holding hands. That day was a bad day, and when I saw them I cried. I don't know why exactly. OK, maybe I do know why—a little. Do you? Maybe you do. Something about the years spent between them. I've no idea about the specifics. But to love each other that long?
9 a.m. I decide it's time to walk home. I choose the Fernandez Street route hoping for a narra shower. There are three large narra trees in that street and on some days I chance upon a bright yellow carpet in three spots and small flowers raining on me as if they're angels coming home to the ground—gently but with intention. It's been a rainy two weeks and though I know the narra showers only happen in the summer, I still hope Fernandez Street delivers today. I hold my breath at the turn, praying for the impossible. Amen.
Mom's sitting on the front porch. Coffee cup steaming. She's concentrating on the Sunday crossword—I know this from the familiar furrow on her forehead. I steady myself for an anticipated verbal abuse. OK, here, see...I exaggerate. Mom loves me, I'm sure of this. Just, sometimes I'm scared of her too much, scared that if I do something wrong she will eventually stop loving me. But today she smiles at me: "I bought you nilupak. It's still warm, bonito." I love when she calls me this. Sometimes, my heart can't contain this love for her, it feels like bursting.
It's a typical Sunday at home. Kuya's on his way out to a basketball game. "Bonitooooo!!!" he teases me as he kisses Mom goodbye. Ate's frowning at the faucet in her bathroom sink. When she sees me she's startled and calm all at once. "Nilupak on the table for you, Mom won't let me have it!" I enter and cross her room and stand beside her at the sink. I wordlessly fix the faucet leak. There's a certain way you have to turn it. She knows this, but she wants me to do it. IDK, habit. And so I do.
After scarfing down my nilupak I head upstairs to the common room where Dad's watching TV. He recently discovered Netflix and is being cute about it. He's watching Chef's Table. He gestures for me to sit beside him. "So, Mom's having a good day," I whisper. "She is!" he says proudly. "Forget about that prison incident, she was just being dramatic. Don't believe that she wants you gone that long, bonito." Two Bonitos in a day! Have I won a contest? This is jackpot. He takes notes while watching. "I'll cook this pasta tonight." I already look forward to tonight.
11 a.m. I wake up to Dad's nudges. "Lunchtime, sleepyhead." I see that he's switched the TV to local programming. That pesky soap commercial is on, in it a lady is rubbing the soap bar on her arm ever so gently, so slowly, so uselessly. "That's not how we use soap," I say to my Dad. "No, bonito, it certainly is not the way we use soap," there's amusement in his voice and I feel a fondness for him that takes my breath away. I am Bonito extraordinaire today. I don't want this day to end. But I'm sleepy.
11:30 a.m. That couch nap energised me. At the lunch table Mom's eyeing my polo shirt. She informs me that Kuya asked her to throw the whole lot. "All his Divi polo shirts?" my eyes widen. Mom nods. "Why do you like them so much? I see you managed to save one. It's yellow now though." YEAH as if I don't know? Thrown away and here I am treasuring the fuck out of it, partly because I thought he still wants it. I forget now how this happened, why I believed otherwise. It's still a good day though.
2 p.m. Still awake. I wasn't so sleepy after all. But now I decide it's time to sleep. In bed I think back to why I didn't want to come home earlier. "This is the house I didn't want to come home to?" I come to the conclusion that on any other day I would be thinking the opposite: "This is the house I wanted to come home to?" So I just punctuate the day with a happy thought: Three Bonitos (four if we count Kuya's). I count the hours until I need to wake up: 4 hours. Bye.
I'm dreaming, I know it because here I'm driving and yet I'm not agitated. If this were real life I'd be sweating. But I'm gliding! Even here I'm perpetually on first gear. LOL. Kuya's beside me and he's not frowning. If this were real life he'd have asked me to get off the car. "You know, I love you. It's just sometimes I don't like you very much. Maybe this is how Mom and Dad feel about you, about all of us," Kuya's serious so I think of a straight answer. I try but I can't. I'm too busy gliding.
4 p.m. I adjust my alarm clock and add 15 minutes. Get woken up at 6:15 p.m. Hallelujah. Fifteen extra minutes. I succeed at deep sleep again because now I see a bed in front of a buffet table. I'm at a restaurant with my ex-GF and there's a papag facing a sumptuous spread. We're in a private room and hesitating to dive in because IDK, we're waiting for company? My ex points at the lechon. She has that familiar smile, the mischievous one. I need to wake up before I get attached to this. Hello?
I'm in New York with the woman cast of Friends. We're waiting beside a fountain across Central Perk. Monica points to a mermaid 's head at one corner and whispers something to Phoebe. Rachel is pacing, muttering. I decide to wade in the fountain and discover that the water doesn't reach my knees. The girls join in. "We'll wait for Joey here," Phoebe says. I crave for coffee all of a sudden. I don't want this dream to end. Does this go on for 20 minutes or so? In another universe, am I a 20-something finding my way home?
7:00 p.m. Yup. Snoozed and snoozed and snoozed. Eh. Work's a 20-minute walk. 10 if I'm fast. I smell something cooking. Sour. Herby. Dad said earlier he was going to cook pasta. I bolt up and run downstairs. Bingo. Mom's setting the table and motions for me to wash my face and fix my hair. "Come back down in 5 minutes." I dress up and make myself presentable for the table. I hope Dad lets us use his special parmesan cheese. It can be quite hard to start one's day at night. On a Sunday. But. Pasta!
8:45 p.m. I wanted to stay home. Mom and Dad were watching some comedy film when I left. My siblings would've been home before 10 p.m. Sundays at home are cozy. I think back again to my imagined persecution from earlier today when I didn't want to come home. I make a mental note to be more positive, open. Thoughts become things. Most of them, yes? I want to pocket this moment wherein I'm full of affection for my family, this moment when I actually believe I can be someone worthy of love. OK. Time to work.
The Tip Jar