Jukebox: A Short Novel By Jonathan Aquino (Part 7 of 7)
Rico frowned as he opened the door.
Standing outside was a well-dressed man who looked like Allan Paule in Masahista.
"Daniel!" Rico was shocked, blood draining away from his face. "What are you doing here!"
"I've following you," Daniel said, with leashed menace, entering the room. "So this is why you're always out of the house!"
Rico stepped back, his face ghastly pale.
"Babe, is this your uncle?" asked Jo, frightened, coming up behind him.
"Is that what he told you?" Daniel asked her, his voice rising.
"Leave her out of this, Daniel!" said Rico, covering Jo. "Please!"
"Why? Are you afraid to be embarrassed in front of your girlfriend?" shouted Daniel. "You're afraid she'll know the truth?"
"Babe, what's he talking about?" cried Jo, nearly hysterical.
"Babe, I'm sorry I lied to you!" said Rico miserably, turning to face her, beginning to cry. "I wanted to tell you but I was afraid..."
"We're going home now!" Daniel commanded, heading towards the door.
"Daniel," Rico turned back to him, afraid but defiant. "I love Jo!"
"You're going to choose that woman over me?!" Daniel exploded in rage. "Don't you forget, if not for me, you'd still be in the living in the streets!" he shouted. "It's only because of me that you've eaten without scavenging from garbage!"
"I've had enough of you!" Rico shouted, getting angry.
"How dare you!" shouted Daniel, drawing out a gun and aiming it at Rico.
Rico stood his ground, covered with sweat. "Daniel, please," he gestured, trying to calm him. "Put the gun down!"
"Go with him, babe!" sobbed Jo. "I don't want you to get hurt!"
"I won't leave you, babe!" Rico told her, looking defiantly at Daniel.
Daniel was livid. "After all I did to you, this is how you repay me?" he screamed. "You ungrateful son of a bitch!"
The gun exploded.
Rico fell back with a cry of pain, blood gushing from his chest.
"Babe, no!" she cried hysterically.
"Babe, take my wallet!" said Rico as he lay dying. "I want our baby to see me, even if it's just a picture..."
Rico shivered. "Don't forget me, babe!" he cried, clutching at her desperately. "Light a candle for me during my birthday, okay?"
"Hang on, babe!" Jo sobbed. "I'm going to get help!"
"Promise me, babe!" Rico cried, not letting her go. "A candle on my birthday!"
"I promise, babe!" Jo cried. "I promise!"
Daniel stood there, crying. "Oh, God, what have I done?" he moaned. He looked down on the gun on his hand. Slowly, like in a dream, he aimed it to his head. Out the window, another LRT train thundered past as Daniel pulled the trigger.
The sun was already up but Jo and Wally were still at the pares-pares restaurant, the ceiling fan going 'round and 'round over them. Wally was speechless as Jo ended her story. But he managed to call Benjie and order coffee just to avoid dead air.
"Well, Wally," Jo shrugged. "Do you understand now?"
"Jo..." Wally was overwhelmed by the horrors she went through. "Jo, I didn't realize..."
"Most of the time," she shrugged, "those who know nothing, they're the ones who are always eager to judge and condemn you..."
Wally blinked. "What happened to the baby?" he asked.
"Oh, Mickey!" smiled Jo, fishing something out her bag. "He's Miguelito. This is his picture." She handed him a wallet. "He's now a year and two months old. My cousin Yolly is taking care of him. We're living together again. Now I'm the one helping her, just showing back my gratitude."
Wally was looking at another photo. "And this?" he asked, showing it to her.
"That's Rico," she answered quietly. She looked down. "That's his wallet..."
"I admire your courage, Jo," Wally told her, giving it back. "You know whatthink? I think you told me your story because you're hoping I'll be turned off because you want me to leave you alone."
The coffee arrived. "Good morning!" said Benjie cheerfully as he placed two mugs of steaming hot water with thin plastic stirrers, a jar of sugar, a jar of cream and a cup of condensed milk on the table. He smiled and left.
Jo prepared their coffee. "You want it sweet?" she asked, as she opened the sugar jar.
"Very sweet," whispered Wally, looking at her. "Jo, I love you!"
Without missing a beat, she replied, "Do you also love milk?"
"Jo, I'm serious! I-- hey, don't!" he said as she was about to pour the milk.
"Cream?" Jo went on, amused by the the whole thing.
Wally shook his head. "I knew it the first time I saw you!" he said earnestly. "You don't ignore your heart, Jo!" he continued. "Sometimes, it's the only true thing in our lives!"
"Wally," said Jo, groping for words, "you don't even know me!"
"I already know what I want to know!" he said.
"Wally, it's just a crush, okay?" Jo told him. "It's normal, I'm a girl, you're a boy, but it will pass..."
A customer who looked like Derek Ramsay in No Other Woman approached the jukebox. He slipped a coin and pushed some numbers. Saan Darating Ang Umaga by RaymondLauchengco started to play. "Bakit ba pinagtagpo, pala'y maglalayo, tayo sa ating buhay..."
"Jo," said Wally. "It's not an accident that we found each other."
"Wally," Jo replied. "I don't think I'm ready yet..."
"I understand that you still love him, and you'll probably never forget him for the rest of your life," Wally said seriously. "And I won't take that away from you." He sighed. "But I want you to know, Jo, that I will always be here, and I'll be waiting no matter how long it takes!"
"Oh, Wally..." Jo was confused. "I don't want know what to say..."
"You don't have to say anything, Jo," he said, putting his hands over her. "Just remember that, from now on, you're not alone anymore!"
"Kahit pa anong hadlang, mananatili kang mahal sa aking tunay; may umaga man pala, kung 'di ka niya dala, ito'y walang buhay..."
From The Journal of Jonathan Aquino aka Huggybear
December 31, 2012
I have always yearned for a simple life even during my bohemian teenage years. Then I realize I already have it. I'm living in a quiet place with good neighbors, within walking distance from the office. A friend from way back asked in Facebook how I am. I told him I'm living quietly, with a clear conscience and no enemies, and I am blessed with peace of mind.
In my fiction story Baywalk, published in the Sunday Times last year, the narrator, Johnny Gibbs, meets a young homeless masseur who didn't finish school and gets customers in the park beside the breakwaters.
Then comes the epiphany like a thunderbolt: How successful are you if you have lost sight of the most important things in your life? And are you really a failure if you are poor but earn a decent and honest living and never a burden to anyone? Most of all, is your worth as a person and dignity as a human diminished if you have nothing to show for yourself except the principles you stand for, and that you are free to do whatever you damn well please?
The office was almost deserted when I came to work that night. People came in trickles. That's one of the nice things about this holiday: people who normally ignore you will greet you back with enthusiasm and big smiles.
I was pleasantly surprised there was free food, catered. There's rice, fried chicken, canton noodles, caldereta beef, brownies. My shift starts 9 p.m., first 15-minute break is 11; I had an long call, almost an hour, when I went for a break. It was 11:57 p.m., just three minutes to go. I went to the pantry to get coffee, and on TV is German Moreno leading the all-star GMA-7 countdown.
As I went outside, it was already the Big Event. The Northgate Cyberpark skyline was filled with fireworks, most from outside, the sounds of celebration echoing off the buildings. I was leaning on a lamppost, smoking, having myself a merry little New Year, facing 2013 with Auld Lang Syne on my head, peace on my mind, joy in my heart, and gratitude in my soul
From The Journal of Jonathan Aquino aka Huggybear
December 30, 2012
8:04 a.m., Sunday
The change in my life I'm most grateful for is the mindset of congruency in my words, actions and attitudes, thanks to Tony Robbins. I'm getting results.
That was my message to Chink Positive, the radio-TV show of wealth enhancement guru and public speaker Chinkee Tan, who just read it on air. His co-host read my second message: I also just sent this Facebook update via mobile: Happy Birthday Chinkee! Happy New Year to you, your family, everybody in the studio and all your listeners! Pls greet Cesar Basilio of Parañaque and Sammy Sigue of Cebu.
The greatest lesson I learned during this episode is two of the secrets of successful Filipino-Chinese business titans whom Chinkee has interviewed: Don't put your eggs in one basket, and never kill the golden goose. Meaning: Create another source of income but don't take the original for granted Its amazing because I just wrote a story about the golden goose on the Comments section of last week’s issue of 2Rivers
It's the first time for weeks that I woke up Sunday morning because of my graveyard shift at my call center work. I went to get breakfast; my landlady has a packed-lunch catering business. She said I was tumataba despite my small rice intake, and I was so happy because I'm trying to gain weight by working out despite my physical gains being undermined by my nocturnal lifestyle.
To celebrate a beautiful morning, I ordered tinola, a local chicken recipe. Coincidentally, that was the same dish prepared for Crisostomo Ibarra when he returned from studying in Europe. Crisostomo is part of My Most Unforgettable Literary Characters, one of my first articles published in a national magazine, in 2005. He is the hero of Noli Me Tangere, my favorite Filipino novel, written by the great Jose Rizal.
I have the deepest admiration for Rizal, the world famous national hero and one of my role models. He's a traveler too! Another coincidence: Rizal wrote Noli in Spanish, the language I'm studying now, with my class in Instituto Cervantes starting in January.
El sabio siempre quiere aprender, el ignorante siempre quiere enseñar. It means: The wise always want to learn, the ignorant always want to teach.
A half-hour later, a friend texted me that my poem, Immortal Saul, is published in Philippine Panorama, the Sunday magazine of The Manila Bulletin. "I was born in the time of heroes..."
I posted it on Facebook via mobile, adding "Finding Nemo song on radio."