the breakup diaries
By Maya O. Calica
How’s your BQ (Breakup Quotient)? Do you have the saavy to survive a breakup – Or are you doomed to stay depressed long after your man says “adios”? 1. The love of your life says the dreaded three words: “This isn’t working.”You… a) Ask “Whatever it is, I’ll fix it. I’ll do anything for you.” b) Say, without looking up from your plate. “Call the waiter to replace it, sweetie.” c) Get up, crumple your napkins into a ball and say in your loudest voice, “I knew it! It’s because I wouldn’t have sex with you, isn’t it? Isn’t it?” 2. When you hear the word “burn”, what comes to mind? a. Your lovey-dovey photos with your ex. You so want to torch them! b. Calories. You’ve done your ice cream mourning, and are ready to move on – t0 the treadmill at your gym. Get to it. c. His house. You text him “it’s too bad I know where you live…” 3. You’re depressed and feel the need to put something in your mouth. You automatically reach for… a. A stick of Marlboro Lights or a box of goldilocks brownies. b. Reduced-fat peanut butter on whole wheat bread and a glass of non-fat milk. Yum! c. A shotgun. 4. Your concept of your relationship is best exemplified by the film: a. Sliding Doors – we have choices, and each one has a consequence, good or bad. b. Snow White and the Seven Dwarves – love is a fairytale with lots of little extras and you as the star. c. Romeo and Juliet – if you can’t have him, no one else can. 5. You’re itching to do something – anything – to change your look. You: a. Go to your hairdresser, the one who’s trimmed your hair since you were 15, and ask for a trim. b. Tie your hair in an updo – you don’t need to change anything. c. Go to the most avant-garde hairdresser on the face of Manila, and ask him to give you a haircut you’ll never forget. Result Key
Mostly A’s: Broken, not Beaten
You’ve checked in a t Heartbreak Hotel, with no intention of leaving your room until you’ve squeezed every angsty tear from your eyes. You wear your heart on your sleeve, and give your painful emotions room to run free. While it may be hard to
find something good in your situation, give yourself a pat on the back for crying away your stress. You’ll love a longer healthier life- and will recover sooner!
Mostly B’s: Too Cool for Comfort
If you think skipping the mourning part of the breakup is just a waste of time, park your positive thoughts in your gym bag for now. It’s OK to cry and say you feel awful. Denying your sadness may let that repressed emotion bubble up to the surface when you least expect it. And unless you find schizophrenia cute, bring out the tissue and sib your face puffy.
Mostly C’s: Dangerously Deranged
Sit down before you hurt yourself – or anyone else, for that matter. Breaking up is never easy when love was involved. But hating your ex- or putting a contact out on his life – won’t get you anywhere…except behind prison bars.
February 1, (past midnight, my room) Has anybody seen my self-esteem? I think I may have tossed her out on her nice, decent, well-mannered ass in the trashcan, together with the empty bottle of Gato Negro Merlot I swallowed to the last drop last night. A girl can do that – lose things when she’s had a little too much to drink. And I don’t drink. Well, OK, but only when the occasion calls for it. Like New Year’s Eve, or at the annual barkada out-of-town thingie in Tagaytay/Baguio,Tali Beach which legitimizes drunken bonding. Or now that Itos, the guy I’ve been thinking about/breathing for every waking hour of this past year, has told me, “This isn’t working.” Like our relationship was the windup toy that came with his Happy Meal – the hopping hamburger he was so aliw with in the beginning. When it suddenly refused to walk/jump, he didn’t want it anymore. It was an occasion that literally begged for inebriation, if you ask me. Medical science has confirmed that alcohol is indeed a great anesthetic. And boy, I so don’t need to feel this pain right now. Bottoms up, then. Don’t worry: I’m pretty sure the million and one soiled, balled-up wads of tissue that got in the trash can ahead of my self-esteem cushioned her fall. Otherwise, I would have heard her scream or painfully simper the least. But then again, my self-esteem has always been the polite one. Always doing the right thing. Covering her mouth when she coughed. Saying “I’m sorry” when she inadvertently stepped on someone’s toes or intercepted somebody’s cab in the taxi line at Glorietta. Blurting out “excuse me” after she coughed – even if she was the only person in the room. Forgiving her super busy boyfriend if he didn’t call when he said he would. Like those nights itos insisted on inuman with the boys/ dinner with his family/basketball with his officemates instead of seeing a chick flick/trying out this new kebab place/watching a new VCD of an old film like Singing in the Rain with his girlfriend. Each time he was unfortunately supposed to be somewhere else, my selfesteem sagged just a bit only to recover and chirpily answer, “That’s OK,babe”.
Afterall, I patiently assumed he was being in his proverbial “cave”, wanting to be his primal lonely self. And boy, my self-esteem was quite the bouncy kind. She always had the right things to say to a friend who had failed miserably – whether that friend had lost a parent, a job, a boyfriend. My self-esteem had that proactive go-go manner of Stephen “Seven Spiritual Laws” Chopra. Or, God forbid, that sappy Bo “You can Have a Beautiful Lie” Sanchez. In shot, she was disgustingly perfect. And all it took for her self-esteem to shrink from its former size XL to a diminutive, breath-constricting size XXS were three words: “This isn’t working.” Want to curl up and cry myself to sleep – again. See previous entry for reason. (previous entry) January 31, 5:41 a.m. Am giddy in manner of a 10-year-old on the morning of her birthday. Except that it’s not my birthday today. It’s my anniversary! Not month-sary, but anniversary as in one year of coupled bliss with Carlitos Ongpauco! Slipped on my black slacks, cardigan and Nike sneaks just in time for 6:15 mass. Thanksgiving time, you know. Have a bit more time to muse about the joys of couplehood. Except for Dixie – pseudo-boyfriend-slash-pen pal in second year high school – Itos is my first real relationship. I mean, hello, Dixie and I exchanged nothing but letters and shy glances the few times we actually met. But Itos and I, well, we’ve exchanged…so much more. In fact, he has been topic of conversation with just about anyone who was willing to listen. Can’t help it – am stricken with a terminal case of Itos mentionitis. With Mom, during our monthly overseas calls. With Giselle – best bud and requisite beautiful friend – who’s very impressed with our love affair to date. (The fact that G hasn’t been with the same guy for more than six months puts my 364-day love affair with Itos on level with historical biggies like Edas Dos, the legalization of annulment in the Philippines and the invention of the low-riser thong.) With Raj – male best friend fascinated by dark side – who suspects Itos really a vampire in lawyer’s clothing. Same day, 9:04 a.m. Subjected Father Lito to Itos mentionitis at confessional this a.m. “Bless me Father for I have sinned,” I croaked. “Yes, my child,” Father Lito replied from behind the webbed window. “What are your sins?” I paused – was hoping voice would sound unrecognizable to Father, who is probably on to me and the “sins” I regularly ‘fess up to him month after month. But given slight distortion in my audio at six a.m., was pretty sure he couldn’t tell it was me, Monica Tanseco, guilty of the following transgressions, namely: “I’ve had impure thoughts about my boyfriend, Father…” “Go on, my child…” “…and I’ve engaged in deep kissing with him a couple of times…” “Go on..” “…and I’ve allowed him to , uhm, sort of touch me…below my neck,Father…” “Good priest let out a heavy sigh.
“Hija,” he said, slowly and gently. “The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak…” I hear you, Father! I hear you! Can I help it that Itos is tall, handsome and built like Richard Gomez at his prime? Pretty sure any girl in her right frame of mind would likewise be tempted. And isn’t that what penance is for? “God knows your heart, and your intention to do the holy thing…” Amen, Father. Would like to stay a virgin until am married but can’t help enjoying make out sessions with my boy. I’m only human, right? “But you’ve got to do your part and not put yourself in tempting situations, my child.” Now how do I do that, prey tell? Especially with a romantic candlelit dinner and very probable hot-and-heavy kissing session in the cards tonight. Oh Father, forgive me! “How’s that Father?” “Do not stare at the wine when it is red,” he said ambiguously. Sounds like a secret Church code I should already know about, now that am a 23-year-old Catholic. Perhaps it’s Father Lito’s poetic/biblical way of saying “Thou shalt not have sex”? “For you penance, say one Our Father; 10 Hail Marys and one Glory Be, hija…” “Thank you, Father,” I said meekly. “God bless you, Monica” he replied. Am so busted. Same day, 7:08 p.m. One of the rare nights in my life Giselle convinced me to wear mascara, and she unwittingly lent me one of the non-smear-proof variety. Rule number one: Never experiment with new makeup techniques on night of big date. Unless it’s a fundraiser for the World Wildlife Fund and you’ve decided to come as a wasted panda/raccoon. Have other plans, though. Want to look drop-dead gorgeous in manner of Hollywood star walking down red carpet during Oscar night. Or maybe at least a rung above average for this one evening. Rummaged for baby oil and cotton balls to repair mu unsuccessful attempt to achieve this season’s smoky eye (courtesy of M magazine’s “New Year, New You” issue). Itos will be here in 16 minutes, but am not even halfway to scintillating! Hopefully The Little Black Dress sprawled on my bed will make all the difference. Good luck to me! Will be dazzling diva when I meet my prince in lobby. *** It was 7:30 on the dot when I got his text message: Itos: IM DOWNSTAIRS AT T LOBY As usual. My punctual, perfect sweetie. I thumbed back my reply: ON MY WAY DOWN. C U ;-) I searched for my keys, locked up the apartment and ran to the elevator in my bare feet, my three-inch stilettos in one hand, my handbag in the other. Felt like Dorothy (Renee Zellwegger) in that scene from Jerry McGuire when she ran to meet Jerry (Tom Cruise) in the street. Pretty black dress, check.
Black cardigan, check. Rosy cheeks and breathless anticipation, check. Updo with loose tendrils, check. Lithe, sylph-like silhouette, check. Well, give or take an extra 10 pounds. But Giselle reassured me The Dress gave me the illusion of slimness. She helped me pick it out, saying I deserved a little splurge on this momentous occasion. In the elevator, I closed my eyes and ran a finger across the smooth ceramic mug, tracing a slightly raised swirl of paint on the surface. Like I was blind and reaching Braille, Itos is going to love this, I whispered to myself. Twenty floors down later, I sashayed across the lobby, trying to look as sexy and comfortable in my heels, visualizing Itos’s expression upon seeing how extra special I looked tonight. “this isn’t a dress, it’s an Audrey Hepburn movie,” I sighed to myself like a mantra. “I am an Audrey Hepburn movie. I am an Audrey Hepburn movie…” Gasp! Itos never looked so handsome. “Hey,” I smiled from the top step of the front entrance, tilting my head for extra pa-cute effect. “Hey,” he grinned back from the driver’s seat of his car which was purring in the driveway. “Let’s hurry or we’ll lose our reservation at Viet Kong.” I teetered down the steps and deposited myself on the leather seat next to him. I kissed his clean-shaven cheek as he twiddled with the radio, finding a station. God, he smelled good – like musk, soap and clean airconditioning. Itos settled on what sounded like a basketball game. “got a thousand pesos bet riding on this game, so hope you don’t mind if I listen to the last three minutes,” he said. “No prob, hunny,” I said, then raised my hand to fondle the back of his neck. Itos leaned towards me, his hand running down my right shoulder, down my back to the base of my spine, then to what felt like my ,my, uhm, my but? “Itos!” I giggled. “Can you wait till later? I just got in the car!” He looked puzzled. “Huh?” he asked, slightly peeved. “I was just checking if you sat on my cell phone. Can you feel it?” “oh – no, I can’t.” I felt my face slightly burn. “Sorry,” he laughed, rubbing my back.” I could have sworn I left it on the seat –“ “Aaaaaaaah!” I yelped, as I felt a vibration under my thigh. I reached underneath my butt to fish out Itos’s Ericsson mobile. One text message received. Itos grabbed it from my hand with the lightning-speed reflexes that made him a college, hoop hottie. “There you are!” he said, looking very happy and relieved to see his phone. Itos replied to the text with frantic thumb moves, before he turned to me. “Office stuff,” he smiled. “I’m starved. Are you?” Itos seemed a little preoccupied all throughout dinner. His phone was busy beeping messages all night. Most of the time, he looked up from his cang cua boc tom (shrimp on crab legs) to answer a text message. Ever since he’d been hired as a junior associate at Encarnacion, Ongpauco and Buenaventura – his father’s law firm – he’d been too busy to just hang out with me. Some days, he’d call to say he couldn’t come over because Mrs. X – a woman filing an annulment case against her philandering husband – has stalked Mr. X and his mistress en route to the airport.
Damage control, he says. I say, it’s fine. Meanwhile, I limited my food intake to the Vietnamese spring rolls and soup for fear that I’d pop out of my dress. Given my options, I decided to just chew the fat. “Raj is inviting all of us to their house in Subic on Saturday,” I said in my most lambing tone. “Let’s go!” “Who’s us?” he chewed. “Well, there’s you, me, Paolo, Giselle, Teray.” “Can’t. Have work.” “On a Saturday?” “Might be off to Cebu for a convention.” “This Saturday?” “Whenever you guys are doing Subic. But you go.” “You don’t like my friends babe?” “Monica, don’t start.” “That’s OK. I won’t go if you won’t go.” “What are we? Joined at the hip?” Then somewhere between dessert and the Vietnamese coffee, Itos said those three words. “This isn’t working.” At first, I assumed Itos was referring to a defective strainer through which the hot water dripped. I efficiently inspected the faulty utensil. “It’s fine, babe,” I told him sweetly, after realizing it was in perfect condition. I fluttered my mascara’s lashes (with extra curling power), but caught something in my eye instead. “I didn’t mean that,” Itos said impatiently, his dark gaze drilling holes in my banh dua ca ramne (coconut flan with caramel). Politeness being one of my virtues, I pursued this line of conversation not knowing I driving a stake deeper into my heart. I mean, I didn’t exactly expect to hear those three words given the warm glow of the tea lights on our faces, the soft guitar strains serenading us and my attempts to look above-average for the evening: For once I wasn’t wearing my trademark black slacks and black hoodie pullover that camouflaged me on my fat days (everyday of my life since I turned 15). “what isn’t working, babe?” Long pause. Finally, Itos looked up. “Us.” Was I hearing this right? Was Carlitos Ongpauco breaking up with me on our – gasp!- first year anniversary? I was too taken aback to have thoughts of some depth. The only thing that came to mind was that, had I known this forthcoming tragedy was in the works, I would have saved the P3,699 I sepnt on the Little Black Dress. I absentmindedly ran my hand over my lap to feel the fabric. Itos tried to break it to me as gently as he could. “I feel this last year has been a landmark year in my life, Monica. I passed the bar and am in a job that’s the envy of every guy in my batch…” he said, his eyes downcast. “ and had it not been for you, I wouldn’t have sobered up and really buckled down to study and keep going when I was at my lowest.” I felt a lump quiver in my throat as I Recalled our very first meeting a little over a year ago. A serendipitous encounter that I thought was the start of something very good, real and lasting. And I was right. Until this moment.
“Monica, I am at a crossroads and I feel the need to appeal for a recess from our relationship.” “A what?” I asked. “A recess,” he mumbled. Ah, yes. Lawyerspeak for a “break”. From then on, there was no stopping the litany of legalese pouring out his mouth. For a split second, I wondered how many years I’d get for stabbing a lawyer with a dessert fork. “But why? I thought we were fine,” I implored softly. “Correction, your honor, I beg to disagree,” he replied, raising his palm up at me. “You thought we were OK. But you made that conclusion on insufficient evidence.” “But I thought you loved me,” I said, ignoring his previous statement. Getting mildly desperate perhaps. “You said I was the wittiest girl you’ve ever met, that no one made you laugh the way I did…and that I had the cutest laugh.” “But you’ve changed, Monica,” he said, matter-of-factly. Last time I checked, I was the same old Monica he net at The Breakfast Club. Didn’t he appreciate me watching his monthly basketball games instead of going out with G,Teray and Raj? All his family lunches? And all the other times I was available when he needed me? “These days, I feel like you life revolves around me, like I’m the only person who can make you happy,” said Itos. “When I can’t be with you, I feel guilty because I know you’re just staying home watching some sappy 80s movie on HBO…” “Don’t you like that?” I asked. I felt I had just hacked a window marked “Breakl glass in case of sheer desperation.” “Oh Monica, you’re soooo nice..” Somehow, that last statement didn’t feel like a compliment. More like a character defect disguised as a well-meaning phrase. He plowed on. “and I can’t deal with the pressures of my work and…” he bowed his head, “making you happy.” For a moment, I couldn’t breathe. Like I’d been smothered with a pillow in my sleep. “you know…” Itos smiled. “I haven’t heard you laugh all night.” I looked him in the eye, holding back every tear that threatened to escape my ducts. Then I opened my mouth hoping to tell him what was in my thought bubble: “Would you laugh if someone was breaking up with you?” But I couldn’t say it. All I could do was listen to the drip, drip, drip of his coffee. (After all, we had established early on that , yes, the strainer was working). “I need to be alone for a while, Monica,” he finally said. His words cut through the silence like a Bushido blade, the weapon Japanese samurai used when they felt compelled to kill themselves. “Mocha, please , say something.” Oh God. Itos was using the nickname. Like he always did when he was desperate. “My coffee needs more condensed milk,” I muttered. Itos tensely waved a waiter over to serve me.
I sucked in my breath, straightened up, then asked him, “how much time do you need?” “I don’t know,” Itos said, burying his face in his big hands. “Don’t wait for me, Mocha.” Then his phone beeped a message. I knew I had to let Itos be. Relationship gurus like John Gray, Margie Holmes and Tita Dulce have all advised their dear readers the same thing: Let him go – if he comes back he’s yours. If notm he was never meant to be. Or was that Sharon Cuneta’s memorable line in Sear Heart? Oh, whatever. Later that night, after he had dropped me off and hurriedly sped away, I reached into my bag for the anniversary gift I had painstakingly painted , glazed and wrapped at Color Me Mine in Shangri-la Mall. At the bottom of the ceramic mug, I had scribbled five words in the hopes that Itos would read them every time he drained his morning cup of coffee. It read “Love, Your Latte Day Saint.
February 3, 10:12 a.m. Paralyzing morning with Giselle. Must have looked like discarded rag. Certainly felt like I had been dragged through the mud over protracted breakup dinner that I didn’t even see coming. “Holy Kamote! Have you been stung by a bee or something?” Giselle cringed, looking at my uber-puffy eyes. Then I broke down with the news. “oh no,” she gasped. After hugging me tight for what felt like 10 minutes, she said: “That makes two of us then.” As of last week, she and Pao were cooling off indefinitely. Feel a wee bit better am not exactly all alone in new state of wretched dumpee. Then Giselle walked me to the kitchen, in manner of physical therapist aiding invalide, and prepped me the following eye compress: Ingredients: 2 tea bags (preferably green tea or the chamomile variety) Ice Water How-to: Drop ice into a cup of water. Allow tea bags to steep in them For about five minutes. Place a bag over each eye to reduce Puffiness. Kind of reminds me of that saying by Betty Ford (or was it Eleanor Roosevelt?): “Women are like tea bags; put them in hot water and they get stronger.” Note to self: Make sure tea bags are steeped in cold – not hot – water! Oh, why doesn’t he love me anymore?!
February 4, 8:42 a.m. Heroic struggle to keep myself together. Must take to list-making as therapy. Perhaps sense of achievement will help me salvage my self-esteem? Miss her already! My to-do-list: -Clear room of debris. Goal: must see bottom of floor, not carpet of used Kleenex. -Toss out trash. First check for bruised ego in can. If still breathing, salvage and place in a box for safekeeping. - Punch holes on box lid to provide ample oxygen supply (to ensure ego stays alive). -Check phone for messages (none so far). -Erase all saved messages from Itos in phone Inbox. Except the one where moi was referred to as His Precious Little Swettie. -Delete “Babe” in Phone Book to avoid texting him messages like “I miss you hunny” or “Come back.” Or worse, sending him mistext in the hopes that he will reply. Pathetic. -Change “Babe” to “Don’t Test Him!!!” in phone book. -Call Raj, Teray and Giselle for post-breakup pow-wow. -Call in sick for work. *** I rang up TIta Annie at the Breakfast Club as soon as I had successfully peeled myself off my bed – 20 minutes past schedule. “Breakfast Club,” Tita Annie chirped into the receiver amidst a clatter of plates and teaspoons, all sorts of spraying sounds, and a cacophony of voices. Sure sounded like a busy day. I was suddenly struck by paralyzing case of dyahe. “TIta Annie?” I mumbled. “Hey Mon, you’re up,”she said. “On your way down to the café? Got a full house today.” “Uhm, how full?” “As in full full,” Tita Annie laughed. “My cup runneth over,” she added mock dramatically. “What time can you be here? I have the espresso machine buzzing nonstop!” “I was hoping I could,uhm go, er, on, ahh, on leave today?” “Bruha…” Uh-oh, was she mad? I hadn’t used up all my leave credits yet, so why was she getting on my case? “Oh, I’m sorry Tita, but…” “Decaf brew, ha!” Tita Annie instructed one of the counter crew while speaking into the phone. “Sorry, what’s wrong, Monica?” “I don’t feel too good. I feel I may have the flu…” I felt the sides of my mouth tug down as I explained myself. “Wanna tell me all about it- lat-?” “Layer? Oh, you want me to call later, Tita? Well, if you’re too busy I can…” “Latte?” Tita Annie called out to someone – not me. “OK, one café latte coming up!” She returned to me. “Sorry, Mr. Francisco’s secretary is here to pick up his morning latte, What were you going to tell me later?”
“I think I’m coming down – “ “Great, come down, Mon! need you big time. Thanks! “ Then the end of the line clicked. “I think I’m coming down with breakup fever, Tita Annie.” Sheesh. *** February 4, 9:28 a.m. Looked in the mirror this a.m and discovered something I had never seen before. A second chin. Smiling back at me. Am 23 – my order for a double chin shouldn’t be due for at least another 30 years! Who’s the wise guy who had it FedExed to me via overnight delivery? It is physically possible to gain five pounds overnight? Can feel love handles around my waist. Aargh! I have officially become a blimp! And it’s all Itos fault. Damn him for treating me to all that rich food in fancy restaurants with his impressive lawyer paycheck. For telling me I looked pretty just the way I way, then insisting I watch his weekly basketball games instead of working out at the gym or playing badminton with Teray and company. For saying I was malaman, not matba. Perhaps he was fattening me up so no one else would look at me in manner of wanting to possess. Because the last thing he needed to worry about was some dude making a play for his girl. His sweet, precious…tabachingching! Can see it on T-shirt now:”My boyfriend dumped me, and all I have to show for it is my cellulite.” Felt productive pulling out all my “fat clothes” from closet. But seriously dread going to work. Feels like I have to go on two-hour commute instead of mere three minutes in elevator to café at ground floor. Perhaps there will be elevator traffic? ***
the breakfast club, all 50 square meters of it, was teeming with people when I walked in. when you’ve got a café that small, 10 people are enough to make the place feel like a mosh pit. I tied on my apron and assumed counter duty. I wasn’t exactly looking forward to a day of serving up coffee or ringing up the cash register, but a girl has to make a living. I’ve been at this since the summer before college graduation. Mom had just left for Los Angeles to find work and I needed to make productive use of my spare time. Dad had passed away ar Christmas, and my mother felt the need to earn more for both of us. Tita Annie, Mom’s youngest sister, also felt the change of scenery would be good for her. She had just set up BC and needed someone to take care of business while she assumed her day job as a senior purser for Cathay Pacific Airlines. My job description: Work the espresso machine, keep countertop spanking clean, give correct change, maneuver CDs in the manner of a DJ, tally daily sales. I liked the work so much that I never left. You could say it was like a summer fling that morphed into the real thing. I think it was the unlimited
coffee that did me in – a job “perk” I couldn’t resist. And to be perfectly honest, I really didn’t know what I wanted to do after college. After four years of English 101, Asian History, Statistics, and Communication Theory, my future stretched out before me as nebulous as a cloudy August sky. What’s more, I discovered firsthand that job hunting was just that - a fight for whatever few slots were available to the graduating class. It truly entailed the survival of the fittest, and I wasn’t up to the challenge. But Teray surely was. She was the smart one our group. Thanks to her cum laude, she had employers from procter and Gmable and San Miguel knocking down her door a few days before graduation. And Giselle, despite her AB Economics degree, opted to turn her bead-making hobby into a fulltime enterprise. In some ironic way, she was thankful her mother got an annulment from her father. Now she didn’t need to get employed to avail of a company car. Her dad readily bought her a silver Lynx as soon as the ink was dry on the annulment papers. Apparently, guilt has the power to do that. Raj was lucky. As scion to Bernardo Industries, he had a job waiting for him the moment he was born. But then, who cares about getting P30,000 a month if you’d rather live in Palawan, drinking pina coladas out of coconuts and romancing some blonde ex-stockbroker named Helga who was a warlock in her past life? But then, Mom always told me you can’t have everything. Tita Annie like to joke that she was lucky enough to employ the only barista in the country who has a degree in Bachelor Art, major on Communication Arts. Just so the degree can flex its muscles a bit, she gave me an extra job: She let me write the menu for the Breakfast Club. Bananarama Split (two bananas split with vanilla ice cream) St. Elmo’s Pie (apple pie a la mode) Desperately Seeking Sushi (tuna sashimi rolled in vinegar-ed rice) Hungarian Like a Wolf (two Hungarian sausages served with potato salad) Must seriously rethink life plans. This booth at The Breakfast Club, with its red cushioned leather seats and shiny formica tabletop, has seen happier times. Friday night dates that lasted into the wee hours of the morning, cups overflowing with bottomless hazelnut coffee, conversations brimming with wit and innuendo. Couples who kissed between mouthfuls of the Bananarama Split as Tears for Fears crooned from the CD player behind the counter. But there was going to be none of that tonight. Not for as long as I was parked here. Alone. I quietly summoned St. Jude, patron saint of hopeless causes, to slow down my racing heartbeat and hold back a torrent of tears. I
wanted to feel as normal as I could. After all, there were cappuccinos to be served, sales to be punched up… “The Reflexexexexexexex…” …and CDs to be changed. Or in this case, CDs to be reported to the Piracy police of the Philippines. Tita Annie should seriously stop buying these obscure, strangelytitled, obviously pirated compilation Cds. (This particular one, entitled, Duran Duran in Concert, was dead giveaway.) as I walked over to the counter to change the music, Tita Annie waved me away. “I got this, Monica” For a split second, the jarring noise of the CD skipping made me forget my heartbreak debacle with Itos. Sweet relief was mine, no matter how short-lived – just when I felt I was going to be OK, the Universe sprang me a biggie. “Give me time, to realize my crime…” Of all the CDs in her collection, Tita A had to choose Culture Club’s Best Hits in the 80s. my shoulder quaked a la Billy Crawford, my eyes lactated a rivulet and I assumed the composure of split milk. “Wahhhh!” I bawled shamelessly, very much like a woman having a nervous breakdown. Tita Annie rushed to my side. The leather seat squeaked against her thighs as she slid in the booth next to me. She rubbed my back with a warm hand and offered me a stack of paper napkins to decongest my nose. “Why? Why?” I sobbed. “Why isn’d id workig oud. I thoughd we were hu,hu,happy!” “Sige, let it all out,” Tita Annie told me as Boy George crooned on… “Do you really want to hurt me? Do you really want to make me cry…” Breaking up really sucks, don’t I know it, but I didn’t need a crossdressing 80s pop icon to drive that point home. I didn’t ask for this. I didn’t go to bed at night, secretly pryaing that God make the coolest, smartest boy in school fall in love with me. Getting Itos Ongpauco to like me was more than a long shot – suntok sa buwan more like it. So you can’t say I manipulated it into happening. Alright, so maybe I fantasized about it until it materialized – like the first time I laid eyes on Itos in freshman year when he campaigned in my class for student body treasurer. Or when he led the Trailblazers to their sixth straight win at the UAAPs in sophomore year . And that time when he walked onstage to receive his summa cum laude medal on graduation day. Not to mention every day in between those big ticket moments. OK,OK, so maybe my obsessive thinking had something to do with getting the Universe to make our paths cross more than a year ago today, but this is exactly how it happened…
A trippy January shower tap-tapped on the awning of The Breakfast Club. How odd, I thought to myself as I arranged the coffee cups in neat rows above the espresso machine. It was Friday night, but the café was virtually empty at five past nine. Usually, pop kids from the nearby college hung out here – six people squeezed into a booth designed to seat four – nursing their iced coffees for hours before hitting Chico – that “chill place” – at midnight for dancing and major partying. Quite a departure from my Friday night agenda, the highlights of which are as follows: -Prepare nonstop musical entertainment courtesy of The Eurythmics, Culture Club, Duran Duran, Cyndi Lauper, U2, The Cure, Bananarama, Madonna or whatever “rare” 80s compilation CD Tita Annie had brought home from her latest flight. I popped in Culture Club’s Best Hits in the 80s on the player, and settled down to read my copy of M magazine’s February issue. Boy George was singing “ I Tumble $ U” while I answered a quiz titled, “How psychic are you?” And then, it happened. The tiny bell attached ti the front door tinkled. More like rang itself into a convulsion as the front door swung open. A man slogged his way into café, his back drenched from the rain. He looked soaked to the bone, his hair rumple, his oversized jacket in dire need of dry cleaning. Even in this disheveled state, I knew this stranger was no other than batch brainiac, all-around jock who enjoyed near-celebrity status in campus… Itos Ongpauco. In the flesh. Of all the coffee joints in all of Katipounan Avenue, he had to walk into mine. And he was drunk as a doorknob. A girl should be so lucky! Itos dragged his size 12 sneakers to the corner of the café, followed by a trail of muddy tracks on the floor. He miraculously squezzed all six feet of his athletic mien into a booth, then slumped over. Limp as a rag doll. A rag doll that had knocked down a napkin holder and sent paper napkins paragliding onto the café floor. The muddy, wet café floor. Under normal circumstances, I would have let out a tired sigh (in the manner of Judy Anne Santos in one of her api roles) before fetching the mop from the closet to clean up the mess. But since mu U.C.C. (Ultimate College Crush) had caused this topsy turvy, I pushed the matter aside. There were other things to think about, such as: Do I walk over there right now and introduce myself? Or do I wait for him to come to the counter like all paying customers do? Did my hair look alright? Would he recognize me from school? Do I call him Carlitos or Itos? Or is the latter a kind of in-crowd nickname reserved for just his really close friends? Oh, and there was that tiny, insignificant matter about my heart. It was thumping like a rabbit on ecstasy. But when I didn’t see Itos move for five minutes, I panicked. What if he had collapsed from alcohol poisoning? Or could he have sleepwalked into the café, in the rain, only to awaken clueless and sick with pneumonia tomorrow morning? So I tiptoed over to his table armed with the only First Aid I knew. Unfortunately, it wasn’t CPR – damn. Instead, I brought him a large cup of steaming café latte. I made like a mouse on a stealthy mission to score some cheese and walked over to hum slowly and quietly. Rather silly, really, because what I really needed to
do was make noise to rouse him from his probable hypothermia/cirrhosis of the liver/ narcolepsy. So I tugged at his sleeve. No reaction. I tapped his shoulder. No movement. I pulled his hair. He didn’t budge. Then I haltingly reached for his wrist to search for a pulse – “Aaaaaaaahhhhh!!” I screeched. Ito’s corpse had suddenly grabbed my wrist. He was still slumped on the fornica tabletop, eyes shut. But he was speaking. To me. “Am I dead yet?” he slurred. “Uhm, apparently not, no, not yet,” I stammered. “You sure about that?” He opened one eye slightly, and stared at me. God, he’s cute. “Positive,” I nodded, doing my best cool and collected act. “Prove it,” he smiled weakly. “well,” I nervously replied, “last time I checked, your beat was pulsing..” Gaga. “What I meant was…” I slowed down, took a deep breath, and corrected myself, “your pulse was beating.” Itos smiled. Both his eyes were open now. He pulled himself off the table, rubbed the back of his neck, and stretched his arms upward. Then he propped his head onto an elbow, and stared at me through squinty eyes. He said nothing. This was the first time I got an up-close-and-personal view of Itos Ongpauco’s sculpted square jaw, doe-shaped brown eyes and straight white teeth. His smile was bright and comforting – much like the lights of a Christmas tree – that I suddenly felt at ease despite his awesome physical presence. “So if you aren’t an angel, what are you?” he finally asked me. Angel? Did he just call me an angel? As in celestial being of the skies? Oh my God! Who cares if it sounds like a line?! I slid the cup of coffee right under his nose. Mustering my most cherubi grin, I shyly said: “ Your latte day saint?” A lazy smile stretched itself out on his full lips, like one would on a hammock. I think he like that – he stayed on and we chatted until I closed shop at midnight. It amazed him, he said later on, that he should find an unlikely friend in a “funny, angel-faced, attentive barista” (his exact words) just as the pressure to pass the bar multiplied exponentially (no thanks to daddy) and he had hit rock bottom. Every night after that, Itos showed up at The Breakfast Club and waited until I locked up the café to walk me to the lifts, then to my Tita’s apartment 20 flights up the building. You could say we made beautiful elevator music together. But that was a year ago. *** February 6, 11:58 p.m. Reasons why Itos broke up with me (must be written down, again and again, let I forget!): 1. I’m too nice – itos’s words 2. “He’s too cute for you.” – Giselle’s point (reassess friendship with G) 3. “He’s an asshole.” – Teray’s opinion (everyone’s entitled to one)
4. I didn’t sleep with him – Raj’s demented reasoning February 7, 1:20 a.m. Should I have slept with Itos? Support group post-mortemed dead relationship last night over beer and cheetos at roof deck. Raj was on my case about being all chaste and pure and not going “all the way” with Itos. “You should have unleashed Monique on him,” he said with the author of God creating world in seven days. “Then maybe he would have stuck around.” “Monique who? Where’s the Cheetos?” Attempted little diversionary tactic to no avail, as Raj remembers Monique too much. Suspect Raj out to ruin me, but concede he makes quite a sharp point sometimes that pricks. “Monique you,” he said offering me a swig from his bottle of San Mig Light. “Oh her.” G acknowledged , looking a tad embarrassed for me. Ah yes, Monique – my alter ego with an attitude. The half of me that emerged when I was stone drunk. Will explain: One barkada bonding weekend in Baguio – upon prodding of Raj – I consumed two rum and Cokes, two vodka tonics and a glass of wine in one sitting. Alcohol overload made me, uhm, particularly hot under the collar. I believe the word Raj used was “horny.” Personally, I prefer bold and brazen. Was so wired – started hitting on just about any man standing close enough to be my prey. Except we were at Mines View Park, hence the objects of my – er, Monique’s – affection were trees older than Baguio itself. Raj himself doesn’t qualify as prey-able male no matter how drunk I get. “you were waaaaay hot that night, Mon,” Raj teased me. “Really?” I cringed. “Scorching,” he laughed. “I had to pull you back ‘cause you were about to smooch a pine tree.” Alrighty. “Can we change the subject?” in desperate attempt tp change cringe-worthy topic, I sobbed into my hands. Also felt paralyzing case of Missing Itos. “Besides, my bark is worse than my bite.” “You got the bark part right,” he smirked. “Ease up, Bernardo,” Teray said in her tough-love tone. “Tanseco didn’t have to do anything to keep her guy.” Ah, the voice of reason in our barkada! “Thanks, T,” I quipped gratefully. Despite seemingly tactless ways and siga, surname-calling tendency, Teray’s a true friend. But then, did Raj have a point? Did my conservative, Catholic upbringing drive Itos away? Not like we didn’t do anything physically. We did. A lot of kissing and touching and fondling and groping. Perhaps Raj is right as I am very territorial about my body. Have mom to thank for fortress-like protective tendencies, or perhaps blame, now that we were holding a memorial for my love life. Mom always used to give me The Lecture: “You give him your hand, he’ll take your arm.” And so on and so forth until a guy “traveled south of the border, if you know what I mean.” Mom’s exact words. So even with eyes closed while kissing, I knew just when Itos’s hands were about to stray into No Entry territory. Every time he ventured underneath the V-neck of my baby blue sweater, my hand would seize his frisky fingers automatically. Like I had an inner tracking device that warned me of trespassers.
And this is really embarrassing, but here’s a secret: the first time Itos got to see my, uhm, breasts in their naked splendor; I cried. (For full story and details, see Journal #7, p. 76, but seriously no point in reliving dead relationship’s high points.) Sobbed into his chest all night that his shirt had gone all soppy and soiled with my tears. Didn’t touch me with a 10-foot pole for a whole month after that. Was starting to get annoyed actually, but I didn’t know how to give him a go signal to try again. Should I really have slept with him? “You know my take on this guy?” G chimed in prettily. “What?” “The truth? He was way too cute for you, girl. He was bound to leave.” Still trying to find solace in Giselle’s words of wisdom as she is my gorgeous best friend, who has gotten every guy she’s ever wanted since we were 12 years old. Can’t. This Cause Relationship’s Death not any better than the “I should have slept with Itos” argument. Am beginning to feel a burn on my forehead, as if am being branded in manner of cattle before the slaughter. Am a loser. February 8, 9:15 p.m. Cannot believe my own mother prying into my sex life! My ex-near-sex life rather. Called me on my cell today. Tita Annie must’ve told her about The Breakfast Club plus detailed breakdown scene at BC. Suddenly, my tears gushed as if La Mesa Dam broke in my bedroom. So comforting to hear Mom’s voice, to hear her consoling me the way she did when I scraped my knee while playing dodge ball in grade school. Or how she caressed me to sleep every time I had a high fever. Could almost smell the scent of her Jergen’s hand lotion and Pond’s cold cream lulling me to sleep. Bad case of missing mom had me bawling. “Come and get me na,Mom! When will you send for me?” “Don’t worry, anak. Give me just a little more time.” Just as I was getting sentimental and mushy, mom eased into lecture mode: “You’ll get over him,” she assured me “It only gets hard to recover when you’ve already given yourself to a guy.” Ha! Loaded with so much meaning. Mom obviously fishing for my reaction as she continued: “Just remember, when you give your finger, he’ll ask for your hand..” Pretended to have a second bout with nervous breakdown to change the topic, and mom momentarily shifted to world news. Mom: Have you been watching CNN? Me: Sniff, yes, sniff, sniff. Why? Mom: Well there’s some really disturbing news these days. Me: I know, Mom – war violence, all the useless fighting. Mom: and that new medicine called The Orgasm Pill? Me: (reddening): oh OK. Mom: How outrageous! I mean, whatever happened to good, old-fashioned love and marriage? A pill for orgasms! What’s the world coming to? (No pun intended by Mom here, I’m sure.) Me(shrugging, attempting best approximation of total innocence): Don’t know. Mom (whispering): Do you..know..what an…orgasm
Me: Mom! Mom: I mean, you’re so young. Me (in best defensive, I’m-quite-mature-thank-you tone): Mom, I’m 23. Of course I know what an orgasm is. Read all about it in Cosmo. Mom (tersely and haltingly; am pretty sure she was grasping an armchair to keep from succumbing to dizzy spell): Well. Do you…know…what..it ..feels..like? Icantbelieveshesdoingitagain! Me (mimicking static over the phone): Mom, you’re breaking up, breaking up… Mom: But I thought that was you, dear. *** I was beginning to get used to a worsening state of insomnia. Quiet nights stretched out like a now-comfortable road. I sometimes spend the night thumbing through old journals, and recently I’ve taken to analyzing body language in old photos to search for early clues I might have missed regarding the demise of my relationship with Itos. The later on, tired from body language analysis, I think up reconciliation scenes and that’s when I finally begin crying myself to sleep. But tonight an unidentified number was interrupting my misery and persistently ringing my cell phone at such an unholy hour. The display flashed “Private Number”. Who was this? Oh God – did Itos change his phone number? Was he calling me just to hear the sound of my voice? Or – paranoia alert!- was this the new girl in his life, checking me out? She had probably rifled through his phone book while he was in the bathroom or something! Girls can be such nosy sneaks! My heart thumped wildly as I picked up the call. “Hello?’ I said softly. “I’m calling for Gee-selle Ramos,” said a female voice. “Who is this?” Exasperated sigh. “I’m looking for Giselle Ramos, please.” “This isn’t her phone…” “Then why the hell did she give this number to me?” she asked, sounding real pissed. “I don’t know…” I meekly replied. “but this is her best friend, Monica.” “Well Monica, can you pass this message? Tell her to show up at the M offices Monday morning, nine a.m. It’s an emergency model call.” Stunned silence. G was going to model for M? My favorite magazine in the universe? “Who shall I say is calling:” I asked, still in shock. “Tell her it’s Carla…” the voice tersely said. “Carla Maniquis of M magazine.” No way!
February 9, 9:16 a.m.
Just told Giselle about way-past-midnight call from Carla Maniquis and seriously doubted she was going to stop trilling and jumping up and down while holding my hands. When finally got to ask, “What’s happening, G?”, she replied, “I’m going to be a supermodel, Mon!” Giselle, a.k.a. G (for Gorgeous, Guy magnet) of the silky curtain of black hair, zero-fat-content body and endless legs, had been spotted by a talent scout while walking around power plant a week ago. Like you wouldn’t pick her out from a sea of people looking the way she did in her white halter and low-rise jeans that revealed a flat, newly-pierced belly button with shiny stud gleaming. With daily calorie count as low as 500 (equivalent to one banana, two non-fat cappuccinos, one muffin), it’s really no surprise Giselle as skinny as a reed. “I was checking our Bench and Human last week when I spotted a familiar face at Figaro,” narrated Giselle. “ I Recognized her from a photo in one of your magazines, Monica.” Hello, am biggest fan of M’s editor-in-chief (with unofficial job of hunting for fresh new faces) and can rattle off her trademarks at drop of a hat: “Cat-shaped glasses, black shirt, black slacks and pointy kitten mules?” Must admit, feel mix of joy and envy for my friend. Carla is my idol – wonder why I didn’t happen to be there at the right time and place? Note to self: speak louder to Universe to up chances of being heard. “Carla was with this artist dude, and they were sipping coffee from really tiny cups…” “Espressos..” I mumbled. “Right! I overheard her ranting about how the look of the Pinay has become very boring. The fashion world needed a change – blah,blah,blah. And the last thing she needed was for M to look like all the other magazines. I snuck up to her and asked for her autograph, then said ‘I sooo love your magazine.” My jaw dropped. “But you don’t even read M!” “I do too!” “Over my shoulder, and all you do is insult all the models! “ I said sharply. Oops, hope bitterness didn’t show too much. “I do not insult anybody, Monica!” she shrieked. “oh yeah? Then why is that if it isn’t bigot or big pata or dark armpits, there’s always something wrong with the girls in the photos?” “Don’t go ballistic on me, dude,” G said. “Alright, so may not love the mag, but I wanna be in it! And she asked if I could come and try out. So I gave her my number and yours – just in case I didn’t have load to answer her back.” Some girls have all the luck. G’s clear complexion, perfect teeth, nice tall physique and sparkly eyes made Carla sit up and take notice. Wonder if she could feel my pain, my envy? My shucks0that0could-never-happen-to-me vibe? “Hey Mon,” she elbowed. “I thought you’d be thrilled for me.” “I guess.” I shrugged, forcing a very small semi-smile. “Then I have a huge favor,” she beamed. Her almond shaped eyes were silently imploring me/ then she said, “Come with me when I go see them for the job?” Perhaps failed to see the ray of hope earlier during conversation with Giselle. Come to think of it, at least will get to see M offices as I would not be able to on my own. Gorgeous friends have their benefits, despite the damage they do to your selfesteem.