Tuesday, September 14, 2010
The Long, Lost Weekend
It was a long weekend with - miraculously - no pressing work commitments, so I was determined to make the most out of it. And by that, I meant abusing my liver with extreme prejudice. Santi - a longtime friend and drinking buddy - was predictably at the usual watering hole and we boozed the night away.
"So, did you hear what happened?"
"Someone slapped your best friend in public two weeks ago."
I almost drowned in alcohol gurgling with glee.
"Who? What? Where? How?" I peppered Santi like a Salisbury steak.
Putting his beer down for a moment, Santi regaled me with the tale.
Apparently, Gio - another drinking companion and longtime acquaintance - had gotten into some sort of altercation with another guest at a bar. A guest who was a friend of the bar owner, my so-called "best friend." To make a long story short, in his usual drunken and belligerent state, Gio ended up slapping my "friend" in front of his own bar and his stupefied staff.
"Mmm, tell Gio he's my hero," I told Santi as I downed my beer. "What countless others have only dreamt of doing, he has done."
"Uy, wag ka namang ganyan," protested Santi.
"Oh, you know I'm serious," I rebutted. "And if he does it again, but this time with a crowbar, I shall erect a marble statue in his honor."
After seven beers for me and half a case for Santi, we decided to call it a night. And since lately I haven't been driving if I know I'm going to be out boozing, Santi offered to drive me home. But I got the munchies and asked if he wanted to have a late supper first.
"Let's eat at Silya," I said.
"Do you really want to eat there? Silya?"
"Why? The food's okay, prices are cheap."
"You don't want to eat at Soju, instead?"
I crinkled my nose.
"Their food is good, but their lighting is fluorescent."
So off to Silya we went.
"Sir, did you hear?" asked the waiter as he plunked down the menu.
"Jorel suffered a mild stroke recently," offered Santi helpfully.
Well, that explains his mysterious disappearance from his usual perch at the bar. And the instant disappearance of my beer buzz, as well.
"So, is he better?" I asked. "He's not facially paralyzed or anything, is he?"
"Well, he texted me he's better na raw, konting pahinga muna," answered Santi.
If Jorel can text, then he's going to live.
As to whether he'll be the same barfly who had the dubious distinction of being the only one who could drink two cases of beer all by his lonesome in a single night, only time will tell.
Same time. Same place.
Yes. I have a reptilian complex.
After yet untold bottles of beer, Santi was once again driving me home. As the car turned left onto Orosa, a guy pounded on the hood and waved a gun in front of us.
"Baba!" he yelled as Santi rolled down the window.
"Hello, Kiko," I half-groaned, half-smiled from the passenger seat as Santi dutifully pulled the car over and we resigned ourselves to our fate.
"Long time no seeeeeeeeeeeeee!!!" he shouted as he hugged me, gun still in the air.
"Yes, I have missed people pointing guns at my face in public," I replied.
"Ramon is heeeeeeere!" he cheerfully exclaimed as we walked to the sidewalk bar. "Reunion tayooooooooo!"
Kiko and Ramon are a couple of my longtime straight friends and business partners. And like most of my longtime friends, we barely see each other. They know I like guys, they're not afraid of being seen in Malate hanging out with the homos, and they pretty much know the story of my life so far.
And they really don't give a shit.
"Beer, beer!!!" yelled Ramon as we shook hands and Santi and I sat down. It was a yell that would be repeated many times that night until around 4:30 am.
As the rounds magically appeared and even more magically disappeared, we played catch-up. About career developments. About business. And about monkey business.
We talked about the good old days when the Malate strip cowered whenever Kiko made his iron-fisted entrances. We remembered that early morning in Samowar, when at one point Kiko was engaged in happy banter with some gay guy and then the next time I looked the both of them were rolling in the street in a frenetic fistfight. I remember trying to restrain Edward from joining the fray while trying to enjoy the spectacle, but he escaped my grip and soon the street party was a party of six drunken, angry, wrestling men of various sexual persuasions.
The melee ended only when Kiko and his adversary both ran to their cars to grab their guns, at which point the proverbial cooler heads intervened and we were denied the pleasure of a real-life Tarantino scene - and another morning filling out affidavits at the police station.
"Bro, why don't we open another bar?" asked Ramon, interrupting our reverie, his eyes gleaming with possibilities.
At this point, I'd rather open my veins than get back into the bar business, so I just gave Ramon one of my patented "oh-I-don't-know" looks.
"Sige na!" egged Kiko. "You can run it and we can make more money than you-know-who."
"I love talking shit about people who are just standing behind us pretending to look somewhere else while trying very hard to listen in," I grinned under my breath at Ramon as I espied the person who was the present subject of resentful conversation.
And with that, the object of gossip pretended to have just seen us and sat down, radiating wide, warm smiles as sincerely as Miranda Priestly.
"Joaquin," I acknowledged with a tilt of the head and an arched eyebrow, before plugging my mouth with my beer bottle lest I said something more.
"Oy, musta na, frieeeeeeeeends!" he beamed like some homecoming queen.
And so the talk turned small - basically about nothing at all. We did not talk about how Joaquin turned Cyndi Lauper on us and showed his true colors. Nor did we talk about how we knew that he knew that the jig was up. Neither did we talk about what to do with the current dismal venture shotgunned with everyone's differing agendas.
And that's how you shoot the breeze: light as a feather, unweighed by any substance whatsoever.
Santi, who had been sitting in a corner slowly melting into the furniture, finally stood up on wobbly legs and mumbled that he had to go. And since Ramon, Kiko, and I still had a round between the three of us, we decided to grant him his freedom.
"I guess you're driving me home tonight," I told Ramon.
Joaquin The Unwanted eventually sauntered off, leaving us with the radioactive fallout of his existence, and so after finishing off the remaining beers we decided to call it a night.
"Bro, may E ka ba?" Kiko asked Ramon as walked to the cars.
"Meron yata sa glove compartment," he replied, but an inspection of the car revealed nothing, not even Cortal.
"Why does Kiko want E?" I asked as Ramon and I drove off. "We're already going home."
"We're going home. He's off to fuck his girlfriend."
"But E inhibits erections, di ba?"
Ramon pondered the question for a couple of seconds.
"Maybe he meant Viagra."
Yes. You guessed it.
If you think people stay home on a Sunday night, think again.
The bar was positively buzzing with revelers, perhaps protesting the end of the long weekend by getting soused one last time.
The notorious Gio was there and I warmly congratulated him for his outstanding service to humanity. He blushed beet-red and stammered protestations about being drunk and not knowing what he was doing before I pressed a beer bottle into his hand and told him to stop being so modest.
Someone hugged me from behind and it was Brandon, a sometime protege whose love life tragically mirrors mine.
"I missed youuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuu!" he squealed in his inimitable, endearingly boyish way.
"So does my mom," I replied. "At least you don't make me lasagna and charge me P10,000.00 a pan."
He gave me a disbelieving look - the same one people always give when I tell them how my mom wheedles cash out of me.
It's a wonder I still love lasagna. She must bake it with the blood of innocents or something.
"Anyway, how have you been?" I asked Brandon.
"Heto, nananaba," he pouted as he held his 26-inch waistline.
It was my turn to give him a disbelieving look.
"Oh, we also moved to a new place."
"Again? You hiding from the law or something?"
Brandon gave that signature braying laugh of his before he shrugged "Wala lang. We've also segregated expenses. "
Brandon's lover is a good 20 years older than him, and they have been together for a long, long time. As is usual with May-December affairs, the older party normally takes care of the younger one's material needs - until such time that the younger has established himself and can pull his own weight.
I was happy that Brandon was finally at that stage where he was starting to pay his own way and not having to rely solely on the generosity of his lover.
"So how does it feel?" I asked.
"Hayun," he replied. "I pay for the koryente and the internet, kaya kapag kailangan ko mag-computer, tayo agad siya for me."
I had to laugh.
"Well," I replied. "I'm happy you finally get to exercise The Golden Rule."
"The Golden Rule?"
"He who makes the gold, makes the rules."
It was Joseph's birthday and I couldn't say no.
Busy week at work but for some insane reason, Joseph wanted to celebrate on the day itself instead of waiting for Friday like a normal person.
And so I found myself at a popular beer joint somewhere near Cash N' Carry.
Boozing for the fifth straight night in a row.
It was one of those "Okay, I'll just stay for a couple of drinks" thingys that end up with someone getting rip-roaringly drunk. Well, I didn't, but I certainly stayed much, much longer than the hour I had initially assured the celebrant.
First time there and it was a pretty nice place. Nice crowd, surprisingly full on a Monday night. We had four tables which quickly filled up with a procession of ravenous friends and colleagues, all ready and eager to get wasted.
I'd forgotten the simple joys of hanging out with predominantly straight company and discreetly checking out the surroundings for PLUs. Methinks there was a trio of them right at the adjoining table, and one more at another table with his girlfriend, but of course, I couldn't do anything, even if I wanted to. Instead, I was reduced to observing the crew getting steadily drunker and wondering what point of inebriation it would take for them to be seduced.
Years before Truth Or Dare, I remember blowjobbing a Super Dry bottle in Penguin in an effort to shock and hopefully, titillate Gabby, our college track star. He met my shit-eating grin with a wide smile and twinkling eyes, but nothing ever happened.
Nor did anything happen when two straight girl friends sat on my lap and another gay friend's in Blue Cafe, as the four of us defied the dictates of nature and lapped away, man to woman, to the strangely-aroused disgust of the other bohemians.
I remember Nadine and her double-Ds. She knew I liked guys and I suppose therein lay the appeal. We necked and petted all over Creation: in the middle of Joy, on the dancefloor of Bed, in Antonio's apartment as the horrified gay guests looked on, aghast.
Our best ever was in a cab, me getting all over her as, in between her moans, she instructed the cabbie. "Ooooohh...mama, kaliwa...ahhhhh...kanan sa pangalawang kantooohhhh...mmmmm...deretso lang po."
Had my girl friends been just a tad more aggressive, I'd probably have enough kids by now to rival my brothers'.
But God is infinitely wise, and I am sober.