I see you walking down the street. This time I’m not in my Uber – I’m running low on cash and credit. Salaries don’t last a week these days. Not with the kind of expenses we’ve forced ourselves to pay. So I watch you from the crowded FX instead, my legs folded, my head slightly tilted. If the LTFRB only knew how many Filipinos are five foot ten inches they would have banned most of these PUVs. But the grievance is immediately relieved by music.
I’m listening to Charlie Lim; I’ve been obsessed with him for a month. “Does it always take a stranger to snatch you out from the deep.” What a song, ei? You’re crossing the same intersection where, over a month ago, in my Uber, I had offered you – sweating under the morning sun and because of the morning commute – a ride. It was a simple gesture of kindness on my part. Works of mercy, my spiritual director says. Confronting your pain, Nouwen writes.
Now, from inside an FX, I watch you cross the road, mumbling, mouth opening and closing. You’re singing. Ha! I grin. What a silly boy. The passenger in front of me looks questionably my way. Half a minute later, I alight. Two minutes later, I’m in the office. Five minutes of scurrying later, and I fail to avoid sharing the elevator with you. I should have walked faster, I say to myself. There are three of us. Four, if you count the waiter’s clattering clunky food cart. Maybe Charlie will save me. But even with my earphones plugged deep, I hear you.
“Franco…” I pause Charlie. Good morning. The elevator opens and all three enter. “Thank you for the churros.” I smile. The waiter from the canteen alights at the fourth floor. The plates make a noise. The glasses too. We’re left alone. The elevator closes. “How much are they, the regular ones?” About two hundred pesos for six sticks. Kind of expensive. You let out another one of those awkward laughs. The ladies didn’t like the matcha flavored churros so I gave them to Paul. “Who in turn gave it to all of us. I googled where is the nearest place I can buy some.” Megamall. “Megamall,” you also reply.
Seventh floor. Have a nice day. Charlie sings again. “So helpless in the half-light When you’re not a man of faith”. Strangely enough, I didn’t feel anything. Maybe when you’re running out of money you become numb. Or maybe, I’m just tired of fooling myself, tired of fooling God. Must Franco be forever the portrait of futility? No, of course not. I have something to fill me up now. And it’s not just churros.
And so I change into my office attire and go to straight to the chapel. You’re not at mass. I kind of knew it. I expected it. Thank you Lord. It’s the feast of Mary Magdalene. And then, the first reading. There’s something about the Song of Songs…
“Him whom my soul loves—have you seen him?”
Hardly had I left them
when I found him whom my soul loves.”
Have I found him? you might ask. Yes.
But he’s not eating churros like you.