Jukebox: A Short Novel By Jonathan Aquino (Part 2 of 7)
Two weeks later, Wally went alone to Jo's club. It wasn't full, and the stage was empty. There was piped-in music playing softly, Muli by RJ Jacinto. A waitress who looks like Maja Salvador in Thelma welcomed the young man.
"Hi, I'm Sandra!"
"Hello," greeted Wally shyly. "Uh, Sandra, is Jo here?"
"Ah, Jo? Yeah!" replied Sandra. "She's inside, getting some drinks. Come on, I'll get you a table," she continued, leading the young man to the nearest vacant one. "Oh, there she is!"
Jo was serving beer and a plate of sizzling sisig to another table with four young men. She was friendly, smiling all the time. Then she came over to Wally's table, radiant as sunshine.
"Jo, you have a visitor!" smiled Sandra. She winked at Wally and went to the door to greet a group of customers just coming in.
"Hello, Jo!" said Wally, blushing, fidgeting, excited and terrified all at once.
"Wally!" smiled Jo, surprised. "You actually meant it!"
"Of course!" he replied. "Is it okay if ...?"
"Sure!" she laughed. "What can I get you? Beer?"
"Hopefully," the boy nodded. "But just lite, and lots and lots of ice!"
Jo laughed. "Okay," she said, turning away.
"What time do you get off?" Wally can't believe how casual he sounded.
Jo smiled again. "Four in the morning!"
"Let's eat later," Wally said. "My treat!" he added. "I know a pares-pares place that's open 24 hours!"
"We're not allowed to go out with customers," Jo quipped, smiling at her own joke.
"Then I'll wait for you at the corner!" he quickly retorted. He smiled, hoping to charm her. "Please?"
Jo was smiling, obviously making a decision.
"Sure," she finally said.
The sight and sounds of the city after dark evoke secrets, broken dreams and quiet desperation. Manila by night is fully alive, like a vampire before breaking dawn. Wally was waiting at the corner of Ronquillo, politely turning down the come-ons from the whores of Rizal Avenue. Soon Jo appeared, surprised to find Wally waiting for her.
"You really meant it!" she exclaimed, amused and a bit pleased.
Wally was intrigued more than ever. "You act as if everybody are liars," he said conversationally, keeping it light, as they started to walk.
"Oh, Wally," she sighed, running her hands through her hair. "You're so young!"
"What's that supposed to mean?" he replied in mock indignation. But at the back of his mind, he felt that Jo's past had somehow left a scar that even time can never heal.
Jo and Wally got a booth in the restaurant. The jukebox was playing Naaalala Ka by Rey Valera: "Kay sarap ng may minamahal, ang daigdig may kulay at buhay..."
"Can I take your order?" asked the young waiter who looks like Elmo Magalona in Tween Academy. His nameplate says "Benjie."
"I'll have beef pares," said Wally. "Then soft drinks and extra rice!"
Benjie nodded, scribbling on his pad. "What about you, ma'am?"
"Just mami and ice tea," said Jo.
"You won't eat?" asked Wally anxiously.
"I'm not really hungry," Jo assured him. "I just want to have some hot soup."
"Anything else?" asked Benjie.
"That's all for now," said Wally. "Maybe later."
Benjie nodded and went off to the kitchen.
Wally smiled. "That's one of my favorite songs!"
Out of the jukebox came the refrain: "Sa tuwina'y naalala ka, sa pangarap laging kasama ka..."
"I didn't know you also like music," said Jo wistfully. Her smile had an evanescent trace of sadness.
"Jo." Wally was serious. "Do you believe in destiny?"
Jo was stunned.
"Joke!" laughed Wally, relieved to have shattered that brief tension. "So tell me about you," he smiled.
"What do you want to know?"
Jo looked at him.
"Joke!" he laughed again, wanting to know her yet afraid she might get offended.
Jo smiled, again brushing her hand through her hair. "You first."
"Well," said Wally, "I was raised was by my grandmother. I was a real lola's boy. But she died when I was thirteen."
"Where's your parents?" asked Jo.
"Never knew them," answered Wally. "My parents died when I was a baby."
"It's hard to be alone," Jo said in a far-away voice.
"You get used to it," Wally shrugged, smiling.
"So hard," Jo repeated softly, almost whispering.
Suddenly, from outside, there was a terrifying crash.
Wally saw that Jo didn't flinch, not even a little. A driftwood would have reacted more. The atmosphere was electric; a woman was getting hysterical.
Benjie appeared with their orders.
"What happened?" asked Wally.
"It was taxi, sir!" said Benjie. "Rammed into a jeepney!" He shook his head. "Red light, but it just kept on going!"
"No, sir, the jeep!" said Benjie. "I think the driver is drunk!"
"The jeepney driver?"
"No, sir, the taxi driver!"
"Oh!" said Wally, totally confused.
"Well, if you need anything, just call me," Benjie told them before going outside.
"Gosh, Jo!" said Wally admiringly. "You didn't panic!"
"Why should I?" replied Jo, finding the idea amusing. "I don't know," she continued, laughing self deprecatingly. "Nothing surprises me anymore, I guess!"
"Hey, it's your turn!" said Wally brightly. "What's your province?"
"Samar," said Jo.
"Are you single?"
"Better keep it that way!" Jo said, a bit grimly. "Don't complicate your life!"
"Why do you say that, Jo?" Wally was so intrigued he's about to burst.
"It's a long story!"
"I'm willing to listen," said Wally earnestly.
Jo seemed to be considering it. "The only way you'll understand is if I start from the beginning," she said thoughtfully. "But are you prepared to hear it?"
"Trust me, Jo!" said Wally. Whatever may have happened in the past, he knew, he would still love her forever.
Jo sighed, conflicting emotions raging within her. She began to tell her story.
This is tale of two men running for Congress. I saw The Campaign on StarMovies on the eve of Obama's win over Romney.
Over 65 million jobs are being outsourced to other countries, leaving many Americans unemployed. One proposed solution is "insourcing," and two businessmen are planning to sell the city's 14th district to China. The billionaire brothers (Dan Akroyd and John Lithgow) promise to bankroll Huggins (Zack Galifianakis) if he endorses insourcing in his campaign. Huggins says no, defying even his father, who was in the meeting.
He storms out - but the door wouldn't open.
"Jiggle the knob," one of them tells him.
"Shake it," said another.
Then everybody was helping out, showing him through gestures how he can open the door:
"Jiggle and shake, shake and jiggle!"
Huggins was leading, with one of his TV ad showing his opponent's son calling him Daddy.
"If my son calls you Daddy," screams Cam Brady (Will Ferrell), "I will fuck your wife!"
Huggin's wife tells Brady: I'll be leaning on the open fridge while you hit me from behind!
Brady was leading despite, or perhaps because of, the sex video he caught on an iPhone
Election Day: Huggin's last commercial is shown.
"I've been caught in the hoopla of big time politics," he confessed to the nation. "But if you choose to vote for me," he says, "I will never tell a lie!" Then came revelation after revelation, including how he tried to masturbate using his feet. Then he urged the people to turn to the person beside them - and tell the truth.
A husband who was watching at home confessed to his wife that he had an affair with the waitress at the diner. "Oh," replies the wife, "I did too!"
"Telling the truth," the candidate tells his fellow Americans, "is what this country has been founded upon!"
From The Journal of Jonathan Aquino aka Huggybear
September 2, 2012, Sunday, 7:11 p.m. I read somewhere a long time ago that happiness is measured by how much your life is similar to your ideal life. There are some things I need for my life to be how I want it. It doesn't mean I'm unhappy. Actually, I am, though some people find it hard to believe, especially those who are, deep down, miserable. One of the many reasons why I'm happy is because I have developed the attitude of gratitude; I'm now more focused on the positive side of things. On top of which, I am by nature an optimist, so the result is a mindset which makes me realize that everything that happens brings some good, even if the situation seems like a curse. I still don't have the life I want, but I know I will get there, so I can still smile and chillax. As long as I maintain my self-respect, and never lose my freedom and privacy, I'll be fine