So, it was finally Friday. At seven, I just wrapped up my Math tutorial and effectively squelched the demands from the kids for an extension of one hour just to hang around the Mission House by giving them the cryptic “I have a date (plus inane smile)” statement.
I pulled on a black blouse — the only decent, no-ironing-required piece of clothing available from my stock of washed, yet still unfolded, wardrobe — and splashed on my usual cologne and attempted to tame my scraggly hair with the aid of a clamp. I caught my reflection in the mirror and decided that I looked more blah than ever so I ditched the clamp.
As an afterthought I also ditched the stiletto sandals and opted for my reliable pair of black Islander. Gateway’s just around the neighborhood anyway and I didn’t want to add more worries to myself if I tripped up on some cracks in the dark sidewalks of Cubao.
Anyway, I wasn’t aiming to impress anyone. My cousins, endeared to me by ties of blood, were more viscious than a pack of starved hyenas when it came to teasing other members of their family that it could either leave one permanently traumatized that would require years and years of near-futile psychotherapy to undo the damage or it could thoughen anyone’s hide and immunize one from any other criticisms encountered over the years from people outside the family.
The stilettos would have been my undoing if I’d worn it.
Since I live in the vicinity of Cubao, I got to Gateway first. I exchanged SMS with the cousins who were still on the way from Ortigas area who assured me that they would be there in less than half an hour.
While waiting, I sat outside Pizza Hut and people-watched a bit. However, I made the mistake of looking a stranger in the eye. The next thing I knew, he, a man of about fifty-six with sparse hair and yellowed teeth plus a beer gut (no criticisms intended), walked up to where I sat and fixed me with a smile that only he could personally think was beguiling.
I shuddered inwardly and gave him an arched eyebrow plus American accent, “What do you want, grandpa?” send-off. He looked embarrassed and quickly shuffled away.
Great. I got mistaken for a night flyer.
I informed my cousin, Lanie, who was still in her cab at that moment. She gave a characteristic “Ha ha ha” reply. Very sympathetic, my cousin.
Fifteen minutes later Lanie arrived. We hugged. Bussed each other on the cheeks and proceeded to give each other the customary once-over.
Lanie: Shucks, you look… thinner!
Me: Hmmm, you too! (Lanie was always underweight. Score one for me.)
Lanie: You actually look, um… good this time. How’s your boyfriend? I saw his pic in your friendster, my God! So… antique! (ouch)
Me: Thanks. He’s my showcase.
Lanie: Hahahahaha! Funny ka talaga!
We decided to stay outside while we waited for the other cousins to arrive. Lanie brought me up to date of the things that happened in the intervening six years that we never communicated (she’s a mother now, unmarried, she works as a telemarketer, was recently promoted, and enjoys her singlehood) while we waited for Tox and Che (and Che’s friend, Lienny).
I’ll just leave it to the slideshow to do the rest of the narrating.