JJ and His Stripper Dreams (For Archon… a long-delayed promise)
by Feyoh (updated, 26 February 2007)
JJ opened the door with a nervous hand. He gulped before letting himself into the darkened interior of the apartment. Surely Mia should be sound asleep by now. He groped his way through the living room, careful not to bump into any of her stuff sent over by the mother in law who lives in Hong Kong. A broken imitation Ming vase would probably not just raise hell but invoke the Devil himself right in the living room than the very late hour of his arrival.He tiptoed over to the kitchenette. Surely she would have left some dinner out. Even a cold slice of scaly fish meant for the cat would suffice. Yet the table was bare. He half-expected it, that was why he had a bite in the all night barbecue stall right before boarding the bus. Nevertheless, it really hurt that she did not think of his late homecoming. Might be hungry. Might be cold. Might be tired.
Well, yes, he was tired. JJ rubbed his nape. If only she knew how to give a massage… ah, that is too much of a thing to wish for.
As if surrendering to his thoughts of tiredness, his knees shook slightly. He eased himself unto a monoblock chair. Deciding.
The couch would be soft enough. It’s summer and the heat could easily be appeased with a column of jalousies half-open.
He removed his shoes. Socks next. Pants. The damp polo shirt went on top of the small heap. It was dark. He only had his boxers on. He knew she wouldn’t mind when she sees him in the morning. She’d surely pretend he wasn’t there.
A ray of sunlight woke JJ up. It insisted on resting on his eyelid and he cannot avoid it no matter where he positioned his head in his cramped location on the couch. He stretched. The house seemed quiet. Surely, Mia should be awake by now, preparing breakfast with her usual violence and hostility, banging pans onto the tolerant stove, cursing at the onions because they make her cry, screaming at the cat to stay away from the fish thawing in the sink. The usual violence and hostility that she displays as the wife of a male stripper. But she was not yet up.
JJ sat up at a sound which came from the other side of the front door. In a moment, the doorknob rattled as a key was inserted. The door cracked open.JJ only had a split second to fish off his crumpled polo from the heap of soiled clothes he discarded last night by the foot of the couch and put it on over his boxered form before the massive apparition of a woman with permed magenta hair and tattoed eyebrows filled the sole available exit in the apartment. Button-like eyes, nearly hidden by the folds of flesh on her face, surveyed the surroundings before her.When the woman’s gaze landed on JJ seated on the couch, a tattoed eyebrow rose in disdain.
JJ looked on, in his mind, all of these are just part of his morning nightmare. If he sat there impassive and insubstantial, these might all pass and he would wake up in cold sweat yet have none the worse for it.The woman parted her lips to speak. JJ was painfully reminded of the red neon signs he sees each night when he comes home from work. JJ can’t help but notice that this woman had daubed the same garish shade of lipstick on her lips as far as he could remember. As his attention was on the woman’s lips, he can’t help but notice how the red has emphasized the yellow of his own mother’s teeth. A reprieve from the nightmare came with the sudden bang of the bedroom door as it flew open. His wife, pale and gaunt, jointily cranked into JJ’s line of vision. His wife and his mother hugged.
Still half asleep and praying very hard that everything is just a nightmare, JJ watched the tableau unfold in his living room. Mother and wife embraced, exchanged kisses on two pairs of cheeks. Wife leads mother in law to the kitchenette. Mother sits on the monoblock chair, laying an overflowing market bag on the table. Wife offers mother a cup of instant coffee with artificial creamer. Wife asks how mother had been. Wife lets mother babble about her day at the market.
Something warm and furry brushed against JJ’s ankle when he got to the room. The cat. At least here’s someone who seemed to like him. He scratched the cat lightly between the ears before proceeding to the closet to find something to wear.
White polo, like yesterday’s. A pair of jeans. Nothing interesting. But nobody at work would mind. He dressed without showering first. He’d do that when he got to his workplace. It seems senseless to linger in the house with two women closely related to him are now probably talking of how to best rid of him.
He bade the two women of his life goodbye as he let himself out the front door. It seemed that they didn’t hear. Only the cat gave a small miaow.
“What’s wrong, man?” JJ felt an elbow nudge his side. He realized that he must have dozed off while sitting in the bar.
He’d walked a couple of blocks from his house, stopping when he reached the chapel where he used to light candles for his dead father’s soul. He’d stopped doing that when he got married. A passing tricycle slowed down and he got in, telling the driver to take him to EDSA. JJ arrived at Bonitos Y Bonitas an hour ago. Too early, he realized. The dusty double doors were closed and the front window was shuttered. JJ let himself in with the key that Lino gave to all his regulars. JJ could still smell the odors of the previous night in the dim interior of the beerhouse. Cigarette butts and the general litter are still on the floor. He estimated that Manong Johnny wouldn’t be arriving in another couple of hours for the cleaning. Until then, he’d be alone with the mess. In the dimness. JJ heard the rumble of his stomach and half-hoping, he peered out across the street. Yet Shelly’s Carinderia was closed. That early. He had decided to sleep a bit more and pulled a stool closer to the bar.
So Kiko woke him. Kiko was one of the newer batches from the Visayas, where Lino was from, too. Kiko with the toasty brown complexion, whom the matronas favor most nights. Kiko who looked older than his twenty three years. Kiko the probinsyano who is the only person JJ could tell his problems to after every work night and they are helping out the busgirls gather bottles from the empty tables.
And so easily, JJ confessed the problems he had at home last night and that morning. Kiko listened. Lighted a cigarette and listened.