Friday, June 3, 2011

San Biag Ko: Cafe Conversations


©2010 Johnny Domawa 
All Rights Reserved

Life is strange. It operates on some kind of ever shifting equation that gets more complicated as one gets closer to understanding it. But it is perhaps this unpredictability that makes it so exhilarating making every experience in it as exquisite as century old wine. Even the bad ones.

“We’re thirty now.” It was a statement. I looked at Mark’s face and noted the anguished expression there. Like everyone else in the table, he is a young professional, bored and caught in the cusp of youth and impending middle age. And like all of us, unattached and living a solitary existence in the established bedlam of the urban city.

For introductions, we are a ragtag group of urban singles that had somehow established a friendship of sorts in a roundabout way. We are customers of a small cubby watering hole in a near forgotten section of the city. Frequently meeting in that small shop gradually gave way to a bond of sorts which maybe considered friendship, though the socialization only stayed there, a transient relationship that is maybe just that, transient.

There are seven of us, all in all which maybe considered regulars. The rest are transients. Mark is an account manager in one of the call centers , a heavyset man like myself with an eternal scowl in his face; Ted is also an account manager at the same firm, but is more gangly, and more outgoing than his friend; Phyllis is an artist, given to heavy smoking, and a nearly gothic lifestyle; Romel is a government grunt, a silent man who is often lost in his own world; Danni is a supervisor at SM, a beautiful woman who is rather insecure of herself; Malik is another artist, who sneers at the greater society and then there’s me, a professor of sorts, lost in the madness of routine.

We often congregate here, spending an hour or two sipping our own poisons during weekends and engaging in conversations that transcend the tedious boredom of those found in the outside world.
A series of grunts acknowledged Mark’s remark. Though I doubt we were all thirty, our ages should be near that. Danni and Ted are probably closer to 25 and Romel and Malik around 33 but we probably share the sentiment behind it. It is this unspoken understanding that had drawn me to this group in the first place making me come back every weekend when I could. We are kindred souls, a rare occurrence which must be treasured once found.

“Thirty ha..” Danni exhaled taking a long sip from her cocktail and then unceremoniously dumping her head across her arms. She stared balefully before her, a sad expression in her face. It’s a look I know too well, a face no one save the solitude of my pad could see. It is resignation, the acceptance of a dreary existence, a look of surrender. After trying to go against the current of life in an attempt to chart one’s life, one had stopped resisting.

I glanced across the faces. All wore the same.

Phyllis caught my eye and gave me a tired smile.

The currents of life were too strong to go against. We all probably reached the same conclusion: Just let it be.

Though I wonder if we ever truly accepted that conclusion. We are not the kind of people that wallow in despair when things don’t go our way. We may yield at one time but we always wait for that opportune time when we can swim our ways again. The glut we collectively experience today is a mere hiccup in our roads. It will pass or we’ll get over it.

Our reasons are probably different. Mark is worried about his future prospects of a family, Ted and Romel about their jobs; Phyllis and Malik about their perceptions about the apparent stupidity of society; Danni about her future and I on the impending crossroad that I have to choose from. Or something like that.

Glasses tinkled as the next batch of drinks were delivered. The waiter gave us an unsure look. I wonder how he perceived us. Probably as people of high class. I smiled at the thought. It happens. We are not really that type. God knows we’re probably living off our monthly salaries with nothing to spare but when we are grouped together, people usually consider us as higher than our real statures. They feel insecure, though in truth, save the different topics of choice for conversation and the eclectic taste in beverage, we are all just the same.

We smiled at the waiter, probably thinking the same thing but instead of making him more comfortable, it seemed to exacerbate his unease. He rapidly delivered the drinks and made a hasty exit. A few of us watched him depart. Probably pitying him for his rather limited outlook in life. He would probably continue to defer to people whom he will consider higher than him. A pitiful existence, a trait that will be taken advantage of by others.

We exchanged understanding looks around. Such is the lot of people. We make our own pits and traps.

That is life…

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