07 Mayo 2012

Blind Dates

"Type mo siya?" Manda asked, suppressing a giggle.

"Oo nga! Kaya kailan ka ba aalis?" Miguel shot back, finishing his third beer. He set the bottle aside and grabbed a fourth. He didn't know how she roped him into another blind date but here he was, stranded with his fourth beer and a headache, the lights dancing around his eyes and Manda grinning surreptitiously at him from behind a stack of freshly fried kropek and isaw still smoking from the hot, hot coals.

"Tatapusin ko na lang 'to, kuya!" She popped another crackling into her mouth, the vinegar had turned her gums red, her lips ghostly white.

Manda referred to everyone - including taxi drivers, guards, and the waiters she led outside the kitchen and down any alley dark enough to conceal them - as her kuya. When Miguel asked why, she shook her head and smiled. Petite Manda, cropped black hair, loose white tank, faded old jeans, and the dragon that crawled out of sight down her chest, owned a bar and grill along a highway outside Metro Manila. Mapapa-smile sila, she explained, licking her cracked, thin lips. Pag nagsmile na si kuya, gora na. The tall, sweating glass of pink lemonade stood half full. Manda took a long drink and coughed. Miguel called for cold water and pushed the glass towards her, his eyes hovered above Manda's head.

"Sabi ko sa'yo, 'eh." Manda reached over to mess up his hair and he inhaled a faint, earthy scent: newly laundered clothes, soap,  a well-aired room. He shook her off a little more violently than he intended, his hands tight around her wrists. He never knew they were this small. 

"Tama na nga, Manda!

She knew that tone brooked no argument. Shaking his hands off, she seemed to crumple back into her seat the way a stubborn cat recoils when injured. The only reply she ever offered was her silence. Tonight, it was a brooding, haphazard thing that seemed to sulk. It dragged its heavy weight to settle upon Miguel's lap. Manda toyed with a slice of lemon that came with her drink. As usual, Miguel cracked first.

"Hoy, huwag ka na magmukmok diyan. Ang kulit mo kasi."

"You like her, kuya?" She wanted to say: pakipot  mo kasi, 'eh.

He was unused to the honorific but it came to her naturally. The sound of it reminded him of a floating boat buoyed by gentle waves: coo-yah. 

"Kaya nga umalis ka na, eh." He took the last beer but he imagined how she looked with her pixie hair, her ruby cheeks catching shadows. Lyna wore her light brown hair in a tight bun.

"Ang hirap ng trip mo, eh, kuya." Manda said, sipping her drink. Her hair was growing out; short strands loitered aimlessly across her forehead.

For a while, Miguel didn't reply. From where he sat, Miguel had a clear view of the small corridor that led down to the women's restroom. He watched as Lyna reappeared in her pale yellow dress, body swaying upon five-inch heels. She took the seat in front of her second bottle of beer. Underneath the table,  Miguel positioned a hand upon her thigh.  Opposite them, Manda burped and set an empty glass on the table. 

"Your dinner is on me, Lyna. Kuya has a tab here." Manda winked and walked away towards the kitchen. All through Manda's complimentary plateful of calamares, sisig sizzling on a hotplate, and four cups of steaming garlic-fried rice, Miguel ate one-handed. With the other, he sipped a thumb and finger between her legs but Lyna giggled so much it was difficult to judge if he found the right spot. She was telling him about her career as an account specialist at a small ad agency but as she talked, he began to rub lazy circles on her thighs, all the while inching carefully upwards. Lyna uncrossed her legs and bent her head over the plate of food, chewing silently. She made a little sound -- like a moan, only she inclined her head towards him, offered him an exhalation of garlic breath and a fleeting view of her breasts.

Lyna's tastes and preferences were easy enough to discover: she bent towards him, moved to the edge of the chair, made his hand cup the warm flesh between her legs. She had taken off her panties in the bathroom.

Lyna had stopped eating then, instead she was looking at him as he chugged beer and wiped his mouth on the back of his other hand.

"Sabi ni Manda gentleman ka raw."

Underneath the table and between her legs, Miguel gently pushed between the folds of her flesh and Lyna, ever obedient, spread her legs half an inch wider, permitting access, as if he'd asked, as though Miguel was entitled. He felt her straining towards him, straining for more, to be touched in some place that he hasn't yet reached, but he was desperately close.

"Paano ba kayo nagkakilala?" He removed his hand, squeezing her thighs, massaging the flesh there, intead. Lyna sat up, straightening her back, her eyes glinting suddenly cruel.

"Noong high school. Girlfriend ko siya." Her tongue flicked over thin lips and Miguel was kissing her, smothering her, trying to find Manda out, trying to breathe out the many times Manda had called him kuya, soothed him with that voice, ruffled his hair, or never really looked at him.

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