By JUSTINE MEGAN YU
It’s Reggae Wednesday and I’m drunk again on the third Tanduay flat. No chaser. As rhum should be drunk.
Escaño Beach with a full haloed moon. A hot chick passes by. Fair skin, long hair, pink halter top, ample breasts, tiny waist, hips made for large hands. I’d love to fuck her. I wouldn’t want her for a girlfriend though. Girls who look like that will only leave you for someone else. Someone more good-looking, with more money. Or a shinier bike.
Sometime later, I walk to Hayahay to use their toilet. I pass the large foam flip-flop that might fall on me any minute.
The hot chick is suddenly at my side.
She grips my wrist. “Come with me,” she says, and drags me to the toilet. “I need someone to take me home. I’m a little tipsy na.” Giggle, giggle.
We’ve never met before. It’s a lucky night. An easy score.
“But I need to pee first. Wait here,” she commands.
I nod blindly. The gel on my curly hair feels heavy and I lean on the rough blue wall reeking of human and crab piss. I realize I don’t have a condom on me. Great. Wait, I think I know this girl. My friends have done her. Not a prostitute. Just very, very slutty, and desperate as hell. I bolt out of there and hide in the shadows of a friend’s parked car along the sea wall.
The next day at lunch my girlfriend asks me how my night went. She doesn’t go out much because of her curfew and because she doesn’t really drink.
“I went home early because I felt a fever coming on.”
She places a small, warm palm on my forehead. Her neat eyebrows softly furrow.
“A little headache too,” I say.
“Aw. My poor baby.” She kisses me on the nose. “How do you feel now?”
“Better.” I give her the smile that a girl once called the bra-snapper.
She’s a sweet, pretty girl, and I feel awful for lying. But she knows I love her and that’s enough. “You know, someday I’m going to marry you.”
“Because I’m a cheap but effective pain-reliever?”
“Yes. And because you’re good for me.”
And she leaves it at that.
Three nights later all the bands are playing U2 covers at Hayahay. The whole barkada is there—guys I’ve known since first grade.
We wave our lighters in the air when Mickey the Poet performs “Until the End of the World.” We sing along to the last band belting out “Where the Streets Have No Name.” Our anthem.
We’re all stoked from the high that only good rock music can bring and we decide to go for another round of beer.
Along the sea wall, the boy choys pose with their stripped motorcycles; loud college freshmen crowd on a pick-up truck; and guys in same-colored shirts flick The Finger at some passing foreigner in a blue convertible, clearly rented from Happy Fred’s.
A couple of Red Horse Grande bottles lay smashed on the road. Someone is cursing in Binisaya to a hip-hop beat. This scene isn’t for us, so we make our way to Silliman Beach.
A couple of girls have joined us—classmates and girlfriends and friends of friends. One of them has pulled out all the stops. Short skirt, thin shirt, silver glitter on the cleavage.
Everyone gets stupid drunk real quick. One guy tries to light his cigarette on the wrong end of the car lighter.
When the ice runs out, I volunteer to get some. The glitter-cleavage girl comes with me. No one notices we take a ten minutes longer than we should have. This one’s a real Girl Scout, ready with a condom. We do it standing up in the bathroom stall at Barefoot Bistro. She cleans up well, too. There’s not a spot on my jeans or my Vans slip-ons.
On Sundays my girlfriend and I go to church together. Today my head feels only slightly numb after I downed two Tylenols and half a liter of water. I pick her up at her boarding house where I know I’ll find her waiting outside, a bright smile on her face. She never makes me wait.
Today she’s wearing a pastel yellow shirtdress, which brings out a pinkish flush on her cream complexion. My heart stops a little at the sight of her.
“Awww. Guwapa-ha sa akong uyab, uy.” I plant a light kiss on her cheek. She smells like freshly squeezed sugar cane.
“Nyeh. You say that because you’re late.”
She blushes anyway.
Our first anniversary is coming up fast. I let her think I’ve forgotten it. She drops hints, and I play dense. I want to surprise her, if only for the pleasure of seeing her blush. I’ll probably get her some roses and a Marvin the Martian pillow.
“No, really. I’m the luckiest guy in the whole world.” That elicits another blush. We both laugh. She slips her arm through mine as we wait for a ride.
She’s the only girl I’ve ever held hands with in church. I used to think public displays of affection like that would feel awkward, but with her it’s different. It feels natural. When I’m with her I don’t think about other girls and other nights. They don’t really matter, anyway. She doesn’t have to know and she never will. There’s an unspoken rule among male friends. You never talk behind a friend’s back to his girlfriend about their relationship—or anything remotely related to it. You can talk about school, about common friends, even celebrities, the weather. Anything else, but never about the relationship. A similar rule goes for one-night stands. Those girls understand that when you meet in daylight, a nod and a half-smile is enough.
“I’ll miss you when I go home for the Christmas break,” she whispers to me after Communion.
I squeeze her hand. “We’ll talk everyday.”
We take turns calling each other once she is home in Bukidnon. She wakes me up in the morning with a call. We talk before we fall asleep at night.
“Good morning! What are you doing today?”
“Uhm. Playstation. And maybe go to my high school homecoming tonight.”
“As in? Me too. I’ll be at my high school reunion.”
“Don’t have too much fun. And watch out for those ex-crushes.”
She laughs. She went to an all-girl school.
“So how did it go?” she asks when I call her the next day.
“Fun at first. But then it got a little boring.”
Of course I don’t tell her that all my friends and I did was check out which girls filled out, lost fat, or finally learned to show-off a little skin. I don’t tell her we made bets on who’d lost their virginity.
“You? Lingaw ra?”
“Yup. ‘Ey, I’ll talk to you later. I need to help for a party tonight. My parent’s friends are coming over.”
Weird, I later think. She only gave me a one-word answer when usually she took up all of fifteen minutes before Sun Cellular cut off the call.
Finally New Year comes and Dumaguete is alive again. I meet my girlfriend at the pier. Walking behind her on the ramp is glitter-cleavage girl, still underdressed for the occasion. So she’s from Mindanao, too. A nod, a half-smile. Well-played, I’m impressed.
“Hi.” I take the duffel bag off her shoulder.
I grasp her hand and link my fingers through hers.
“I missed you.”
“I missed you, too. Let’s have lunch?”
She lets go of my hand.
This scene replays itself clearly in my mind a month and a half later while she sits crying on her bed with the pink sheets and her Marvin the Martian pillow. Her hands are on her lap holding a flat, white plastic stick the size of a ballpoint pen. On one end is a small, yellow smiley-face.
“I’m sorry,” she says.
I am too stunned to say anything.
“He’s a family friend. We hadn’t seen each other since they left for the States. We were thirteen then. We didn’t think we’d see each other again. Then they came home last Christmas. It just happened. After that party. I didn’t realize what I was doing. It happened only once. I’m sorry. I’m so sorry.”
Her sobs and hiccups shake her small frame.
I punch the nearest surface blindly.
I don’t notice my knuckles starting to bleed. I don’t see the specks of blood on the cement wall.
But I keep promises.
That summer I marry her before the bulge in her belly starts to show.
She moves in to our house. She doesn’t know this yet, but as she sleeps next to me each night—a soft, warm presence—but I don’t think I can ever have sex with her again.
Justine Megan Yu hails from Dumaguete, and was a fellow for creative nonfiction at the 2011 Silliman University National Writers Workshop, and also at the Second Creative Nonfiction Writing Workshop for Doctors in 2021 by the Bienvenido N. Santos Creative Writing Center. Currently, she is a medical doctor practicing Neurology, and maintains a clinic at Negros Polymedic Hospital in Sibulan, Negros Oriental.