Quite a Handful

Creative Nonfiction by Ria Valdez |

We were on the rooftop of her apartment in Obrero. A blue Marlboro was in her right hand, a Nescafé can on her left. Her eyes focused on the lights from the new condominiums and the nearest Jollibee signage. Meanwhile, I had a Nescafé can in my right hand, and traces of sweat in my left. My eyes were fixed on her hands. Both were full.

She promised we’ll eat at Jollibee next time. I nodded, worrying what her girlfriend might think. We didn’t have a night like that again.

She kept her promise months later. It was Valentine’s Day. She watched me as I ate my fried chicken.

“You’re like a surgeon. The way you cut your food,” she said.

I stopped eating as if to wait for her to continue speaking. But her eyes never left my hands.

“Go ahead. I like watching you.”

We had both ordered two pieces of chicken with extra rice. The drink upgraded to pineapple juice. This was the exact order in that cheesy TV commercial where the guy became a groomsman of the girl he loved.

After the waiter had given us our orders, I suddenly felt conscious if I still looked at her the way that groomsman did. I wanted to tell her that there was no way she could finish the food because she didn’t have a big appetite. I knew that since she didn’t order an extra rice in Bulcachong. But instead I told her “Uy, invite mo ako sa kasal mo, ha.”

She smiled at me like she always did when she had nothing to say. I had usually misunderstood this act of politeness.

“Finish your food, uy. Ang dami mong inorder,” I said in between chews.

She grunted and said she was almost full. So I kept eating while she stared alternately at my hands and her phone.

“I’m too clumsy to be a surgeon,” I said.

I knew her girlfriend was studying Medicine. That was the reason they broke up countless of times—distance and doubts. She had told me this when we walked from Obrero to Acacia because she thought I was sad. And I was—but she was lonely. The distance didn’t matter and it never did for me, nor them.

“Your movements are careful,” she replied. She finally picked up her fork to poke at the hotdogs on her spaghetti.

I stifled a laugh and it hurt my throat. “I wish I was.”

When we had walked to Acacia, she explained that she liked walking because like the Ancient Greeks, it helped her write. The traffic light glowed red when I asked her “O, ano? May kwento na tayo?”

She smiled before she told me to be careful as we crossed the street.

She finally decided to have her food for take-out so she could have something to snack on in between her classes. She looked at me again. “You’re too busy to talk lately.”

I fixed my things because I knew we would leave soon. I smiled at her because I believe it was my turn to.

When we left the food chain she asked me where I was headed.

“Acacia,” I replied.

“Will you walk? It isn’t that far.”

“Kapoy na. I don’t think I can walk that far again.”

We exchanged quite a handful of goodbyes and I rode a jeep to Acacia, thinking that I finally have a story of ours to write.

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