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Mostly Manila

Some time in 2017- It was a scene straight out of a coming of age film. A jam packed apartment turned bar, the crowd singing along with the playing band. My friend whizzes through and gets me to follow her to the washroom where we stand inside with the door ajar as Dee looks on.

“Zip me up!” Stellar had been struggling to get into her dress and decided that she’d take an Uber to Saguijo with an unzipped dress instead of changing into another one.

“I’m stubborn I know.” She tells me as I try my best to zip her up. “I don’t think it’s you, it’s the dress, the thing just gets stuck.” After a few more minutes of struggle I finally managed to tuck Stella into the dress.
“Way to start the night. Ratchet.” I said not realizing the events that were to come.  It was Cat Kinko’s EP launch, Javier , Dee’s boyfriend was the drummer of the band and we’d been invited to watch the show. I had shown up earlier than my two friends and was just about to throw a tantrum when the rain poured. Oddly the rain made me feel better. Javier offered to get me a beer. Or we could go inside, and he could get me in for free but I said I’d wait for the two missing souls who said they were going to arrive in a few minutes. Dee finally arrived earlier than Stellar did and she got us bottles of beer until Stella found us through the crowd and dragged us off to the washroom.

I love how my friends acknowledge a relationship that I didn’t find pleasure in remembering. They refer to him as an ex, and to our parting as a breakup, they say it without second thoughts even as I find it hard to tell people what exactly happened. I often remember how Georgina would mockingly tell me “eh wala namang kayo!” as if relationships were solely based on labels. That the existence of anything was solely based on labels. And if such rules existed, then there would be so many things in this world that shouldn’t exist.

We talk about that for awhile and then we talk about what I’m planning for my thesis film.

“Uhm it’s about emotionally abusive relationships and. . .misogyny.” I say uncertainly but Stellar and Dee nod. They both like it, we’ve all been there and we stayed in these suffocating relationships for years. Smart, progressive women finding themselves in relationships that did them no good.  We go back into the bar as the main event starts. Cat Kinko’s upbeat music makes everyone in the room sway. After all the frenzy, everyone disperses in high spirits with a couple of people lingering outside.

Outside, I hear snippets of conversation about another musician. “Isn’t he the one who’s dating that promiscuous girl, parading as a free spirit, open love hippie kind of thing? What a pushover though, I feel bad. He’s not seeing anyone else.” In between these hush-hush gossip Stellar and I argue over whether we should have Korean barbecue and soju at Big Mama’s or go to Tipple and Slaw. Outvoted 4 to 1.

Tipple and Slaw was a restaurant during the day, but at night it turns into a bar where it’s patronized by mostly well-off university students and yuppies. It was a small cubic room and it was always packed, the music was always bursting and it’s always so lively, there’s not even really a space to dance. People just dance where they stand. Out of the few times I’ve been to, I remember a girl grazing her hand on my ass as I squished through bodies of sweat. Stellar’s become a figure there, whenever she goes, she always gets a table. These tables are expensive, and from what I remember you had to spend 5000php for these, but at least you get to sit. There’s often only four of us, so I always worry about how to spend 5000php in 3 hours. We order lots of food, and sometimes get strangers drinks. I’ve noticed a few girls lingering around tables to get drinks, they’re very pretty well-dressed girls who look like they attend the more expensive universities. And there I was, sitting in a corner eating fries and wings.

When we get there I promise myself not to be such a grandma and I start drinking glasses of Jack and Coke. I don’t remember how many glasses I consumed afterwards but I do remember feeding everyone pizza and dancing like a weirdo. And then I remember things going woozy, bottles getting broken and bile.

Unfortunately I am the kind of drunk person who does not forget. I remember the ride home, and the moment I slammed on the couch with my shoes intact. Somebody sensed my discomfort and took the shoes off, bless their heart. But the party wasn’t over yet and Stellar came home with more guests. I slept.

When I woke up it was quiet, I quickly went for a shower. There’s a knock on the door, a random girl. She tells me she was here last night and left her phone. I didn’t know about a phone but maybe Dee and Javier did. She had made a call and someone answered.

The phone wasn’t in the unit, I lent her my phone to call her number. Apparently she lost it at the bar and not while partying in the condo. She tries to find a way to get her phone which is all the way in Quezon City while she’s here in Makati. She agrees to meet up at Fisher Mall with the man on the other line. I help her book an Uber through my phone. I try to be helpful but not that helpful. My inner self wrestling with my goodwill vs. my “who dis bish i’m groggy and hungover.” Then she disappears, I fall back into sleep. Then I wake up with a cancelled Uber booking and a 100 peso fine to pay.

A few more hours and Stellar arrives with breakfast in tow as she chastises me. “Who told you to drink that much, noone was pressuring you to drink that much!” I think I was trying to have fun or be fun. It was the end of the semester for me and my life loomed on like a flatline. I felt I needed something exciting, I thought I’d never be this young again and I’d never have the liberty of doing things like these when I voluntarily place myself into corporate servitude.

“At least i didn’t lose my phone while drunk” I told Stellar smugly. “Speak for yourself!”

Apparently I had also made Javier pay an Uber cleaning fee. I apologize to the group and we have breakfast. Afterwards Stellar falls asleep on the sofa bed. I ask Dee and Javier if they wanted anything from the convenience store. Javier goes along with me and we walk a block, adjacent from the train tracks to a 7-11.

He asks me if I remember anything and I tell him that I unfortunately do. I apologize again but he says as long as I had fun then it’s okay. We arrive at 7-11, each getting a bottle of water, candies etc. Then we walk back to the building, a tall wall on our right and the train tracks to the left. We don’t say anything going back. I drink my pineapple juice and contemplate on  life.

*some names have been changed.

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