Copyright © 2021 by VeryWellAged
Sir! I promise I come back tonight. My husband, he sick, he have no rice, no money. He not able to get to Palawan pawnshop for remittance1. I bring him this money and I come right back.
I don’t like it. It’s not clear if you can get through the checkpoints going, or coming back.
It OK, na2. All say it allowed.
‘All’ don’t know, LoveRose. That’s just gossip. The TV says the checkpoints are all up and you can’t go anywhere except to your home.
Sir, please! My husband, he not able to work. No money, no food. His nanay3 she very bad with the diabetes. He spend all for her medicine and now his back hurts bad. He say he stuck in bed.
You better take your daughter with you.
No, Sir. Better she stay here. They say no one her age allowed to travel. She be good, truly. She not be a problem for you. I be back tonight.
LoveRose, this is a bad idea. Is there someone you can send the money to?
No, Sir. There not any.
But if you don’t get back here, I have a problem too! You know this! All over 60 must stay at home. All under 21 must stay at home. You are the only one who can go out for us. If you don’t come back. There is no way for us to even get any food.
Why you say I take her? … See? You know she not able to leave the house. … Do not worry. There fifty kilo of rice here, many cans of tuna, beef loaf, corned beef, six flats of eggs4, sardines, and many, many packets of pancit canton5. There is enough here for more than a week. True, maybe you run out of gulay6, but you not starve. Sir, I must go na!
Five minutes later, LoveRose is gone.
Her home is three hours away by bus and then another half hour by van, if the buses and vans are running. Word is that they must operate with about thirty percent capacity to assure proper distances between the passengers, so some are operating not all.
To get to the bus, she needs to take a tricycle7 to the depot, and then a van and another tricycle once she gets to her destination town. Best case, she might make it back in eight to nine hours. There is an eight PM curfew. Her departure at seven this morning might allow for delays with the bus at both ends, if she is lucky, and if there isn’t any dawdling back at her home, and if she doesn’t get turned back at a checkpoint on the return trip. That’s way too many ifs for me.
Her husband is a carpenter or, as they say here, a panday8. But the guy has had chronic back problems, which is one of the reasons LoveRose is working as a maid. I allowed her to have her daughter stay with her because there would be no supervision for the kid most days when the husband works. And when the guy is laid up, he’s not much good for the kid either. Plus, the child’s lola9, who lives in LoveRose’s home as well, is pretty much unable to walk much because of diabetes.
LoveRose said she doesn’t want the kid to have too much freedom. She promised me the kid would not be a problem if her daughter lived here… and in the three months the two have been here, it has been OK, as far as the kid being here is concerned.
But, this damned virus, they are calling it COVID, I guess, is making things mighty fucking inconvenient.
Normally, I’m out of the house every night, meeting up with a few other expats at some resto-bar10 or another. That’s where I catch my evening meals, drink some and just chew the fat in English with others who can actually speak the damned language!
Yeh, and during the day I normally do the shopping for food I can eat when home. While there I frequently have a lunch at one of the malls; each of them has decent fast food places, like KFC, Pizza Hut, and McDonalds.
LoveRose rarely needs to cook for me. I make my own breakfast ’cause they just don’t know how to make a scrambled egg right. They have no idea what easy-over means. They ain’t got any idea of how to whip up some pancake batter, and they sure as hell can’t cook bacon right. … So I make it myself, if I get up early enough for that meal. Sometimes breakfast just doesn’t happen.
No, LoveRose ain’t my cook. Her job is to keep the house clean and do the laundry. The food she was talking about is the shit she eats. Unfortunately, it is what I am also going to have to eat now, now that the quarantine is functioning, and if she can’t make it back.
See, she is allowed to go out to buy food, but I am not, not at all. They say I’m too fucking old. Hell, I’m not allowed off the property.
I’m not the only one not allowed out. Ginalyn, LoveRose’s daughter, is also not allowed. The kid is fourteen and the restrictive quarantine rule applies to her too.
Up until a few days ago, I rarely even saw the kid. Between her hours at school and my being out of the house when she normally got home from school, and the time she would go to bed, there was no way I would see her midday or evening. I would wake up after she had left for school during the weekdays and after she had left for church on Sunday. The deal with LoveRose about the kid worked out just fine, until this past week.
But school has been cancelled. She is here, without her friends, all day and every day. She is watching a bunch of TV, and it’s pretty obvious she is bored.
As to the TV she’s watching… I can’t understand what is said on the TV shows. I guess it’s in Tagalog, not that these gals speak it, but I guess they can understand it. … Plus I don’t like the damned noise of it.
And… I’m bored too.
Stuck at home with almost not a damned thing to do. I can’t go out to hang with the expats. Can’t have those sociable meals and drinks.
There’s a Wii game console here. I don’t use it. It was a ‘gift’ from a family member in the USA who sent me a balikbayan11 box last year. Exactly why it was included in the shipment was never explained. So it’s here but the only ones who use it are LoveRose and Ginalyn.
Yesterday, LoveRose tried to get me to ‘dance’ with them as they followed along with some dance program on the Wii. I took a pass on the dumb idea.
I guess I was feeling sorry for myself, wishing I was back in the USA, that is, until I saw what’s going on back home.
If things are locked down tight here, at least there isn’t much actual virus here. Back in Seattle it’s a fucking mess. I guess I’m better off here, even with the frustration of the quarantine.
Now that her mother left the house this morning, Ginalyn has made herself scarce. That’s just fine with me. I turn on the TV. Bloomberg, BBC, and CNN are all just wall to wall COVID-19 coverage, and there’s just so much of that shit I can take. FoxNews is saying it isn’t a real thing, this COVID, and that don’t make much sense, not with the news out of Seattle. I normally like FoxNews, but it’s been getting strange lately.
I start-up the FireStick and log into NetFlix, figuring I’ll watch a movie this morning.
I do and the movie this morning is OK. I make myself two peanut butter and jelly sandwiches for lunch. It isn’t fancy, but it works. Halfway through a second movie this afternoon, my cellphone alerts me to a text message.
Sir, I am not allowed to return. They turn me away at the checkpoint. I say I must get back to you. They ask where I come from. I tell them. They say I go back there. No choice.
Fuck. That’s exactly what I was afraid of!
Isn’t there a side road you can come through on?
No, Sir. The roads they closed.
Sir, it is very scary. I not have enough money now to stay at home. I not know what I do.
I can’t help you. You know that! Damn it. We are both screwed!
Yes. This true. I make a serious mistake! Sir, maybe you can allow my daughter to use your phone and text with me? Maybe she can help. I not know. But I hope.
OK. Wait I will find her.
Ginalyn is in the bedroom she shares with her mother. I knock on the bedroom door and the kid barely opens it. I hand her the phone and say, Your mother.
The kid seems to understand and takes the phone as I hand it over to her. With the door partially ajar there proceeds to be a somewhat lengthy back and forth between the two of them.
Ginalyn hands the phone back to me and, rather than immediately reclosing the door, says to me, I make your supper, Sir. At six, OK, Sir?
I’ll be damned. The kid has more English than I thought she had.
Yes, that’s fine.
And with that, the bedroom door closes. I go back to my movie.
I am never told there is supper waiting for me, but my nose informs me that something has been cooked. On the kitchen table I find a large bowl of fried rice with SPAM in it. There is also a clean plate with a fork and spoon sitting on it. The kid has made my ‘supper.’
It would have been nice if she had considered telling me supper was served, but it is what it is. What it is won’t win any awards, visually, but it doesn’t look like it will kill me either. I put a scoop on my plate and try it.
It won’t win any awards for any reason, though my assessment that it isn’t lethal seems to be borne out. It’s odd, but SPAM is well thought of here. I suspect the kid may have seen her choice of it as a way to treat me in a special way.
However, there is no way to thank her right now. She’s nowhere to be seen, and so I eat my meal alone… very much alone.
I have had girlfriends but refuse to get tied down to any gal here. It seems to me that as soon as a guy settles on a gal and moves her in, his life goes to shit. He’s either fighting with the bitch all the time, or he stops going to the bars and meeting with the rest of us, or she’s there at the bar with him, watching, birddogging, bitching, gossiping, and hell, I got no interest in it.
Normally, not having a steady squeeze hasn’t been a problem for me; there are plenty of pros, if you will, who will fill in for a night or two. But now, not having a squeeze of any type, in the magical 18 to 29 year range, has created a fucking mess. I’m horny, pissed-off, and more than a bit depressed.
And, I am just not used to taking all my meals here at the house. Unless I cook it, the food here in the house simply isn’t intended for my consumption. And what I like to cook will be gone in a day or two. The rest of it is for LoveRose and her daughter.
Done with what amounts to my meal, I’m about to drop my dish and utensils in the sink, but stop. Ginalyn isn’t my maid.
I appreciate the girl cooking the meal, but I really can’t expect her to take over her mom’s duties. She’s simply a fellow passenger on this lifeboat. This sucks – for me and for her, too.
The quarantine of ‘shelter in place’ will be, like it is now, for the next two weeks. At least that’s from what I have heard. Two weeks of this shit.
Two weeks, not only being alone, but two weeks being sober.
I have no way to go, to shop. No rum, no beer, and no bar girls for a no-commitment roll in the hay. Fuck.
With nothing to do, I watch another movie and then go to bed hours before I normally get home from the bars.
I normally don’t roll out of bed before nine or ten, but then again I normally don’t get to bed at ten. This morning the clock reads six. What the fuck I am going to do for the entire day is a mystery to me.
I get showered and dressed. It’s not even six thirty when I walk into the kitchen and almost bump into Ginalyn. The kid is wearing PJs and looks as surprised to see me as I am to see her.
Yes, good morning, Sir. … You want breakfast?
It’s OK. I’ll make my own.
Sir! Nanay say I to do this.
No. You are not the maid. I will make my breakfast. Fuck. She looks like I gut punched her. OK, sure. I was going to make some eggs and toast.
Maybe eggs and pancit canton? You want, maybe?
Sure, sure. Fine.
OK, good. I will make it now. You wait, please.
She’s a sweet kid, but she ain’t the maid and this just ain’t right. I grab my cellphone and text LoveRose.
You should not have told your daughter to do your job.
It is needed.
No. You are needed but no there’s nothing I can do about that now. Your daughter is not my maid.
Allow this. If you not, she will be scared.
Just what did you tell her to do?
All you need. Your meals. Your clothing. Cleaning the house. Anything else.
For Christ’s sake. She is only fourteen.
It is OK, Sir. She is old enough. Promise.
This just ain’t right.
Sir, please. Please do not be mad at her. She will do good for you. And, Sir, maybe you are angry because you not able to go to the bar, I think. It not her fault for this. Please not be angry with her for that.
Yeh, OK. OK, maybe I am grumpy because of that. Yeh, I know it’s not her fault. But you should have taken her with you.
Then who take care of you?
Jesus, I don’t need a teenager to take care of me!
Sir, please. Do not be angry.
The kid brings me a plate with probably two packs of the cooked noodles and a fried egg on the top. She has made it the way they like fried eggs here. I was always told that a fried eggs should not have hard almost burnt edges, but here it seems to be the way that all make the eggs. I have given up complaining about it.
The egg white is not as soft as a result of this cooking method and that, in some ways, fits in to how they use the resultant cooked product. Often enough you will see a half a dozen of these fried eggs sitting all stacked up laying over each other on paper towel, waiting for diners to retrieve one, as the eggs get completely cold. Diners put the cold fried egg between two slices of white ‘cream bread12.’
The combination of an egg over the pancit canton is also pretty common. It's something that Ginalyn understands.
There is no toast. In truth, I have never seen a Filipino make toast, which is what I asked for. They eat their ‘cream bread,’ as is, from the plastic bag it comes in.
With the pancit (noodles), this is a more substantial breakfast than the one I had planned on having, but what the heck. Everything else is out of whack, why should this be any different.
Once again, I am eating in solitude; the kid has disappeared. But, when I head to the sink to wash the plate and utensils after breakfast, she appears and insists that I permit her to do the cleanup.
I just give up. She wants to be the maid? Well, fuck it. Let her.
Rummaging around in my night table in my bedroom I find an old pack of playing cards. I make sure it’s a complete deck and sit back down at the kitchen table for some games of solitaire.
I’m concentrating on the cards, but note that the kid is sweeping the floors. As lunchtime approaches she is busy in the kitchen for a while before bringing me a plate of rice and a bowl of heated up canned corned tuna. Once again, it isn’t fancy cooking, but I can eat it and it works as nourishment. It’s better than MREs. Well, slightly better.
I haven’t seen her eating, but I suspect she is just taking her meals out of sight. Once again, as I am ready to wash the dishes, Ginalyn appears and takes over. I take the opportunity to thank her. All she says back is, You welcome, Sir.
After lunch I return to my games of solitaire as Ginalyn disappears again. So passes my afternoon, only to be interrupted by a dinner meal of rice and sliced beef loaf medallions cooked in a beaten egg. If one of us could go to the market, we could get some vegetables, but that isn’t going to happen.
After dinner the same dance occurs at the sink, following which she disappears for the night and I decide to watch another movie, before retiring for the night at an unseemly early hour.
It is becoming a routine, these four days. I see Ginalyn for the three meals, as she sweeps up, gathers up laundry, takes out the trash and washes the dishes. Other than that, she’s a ghost.
My playing cards are losing their uniform markings on the back as the ink wears away in irregular patterns. The red and black ink on the face side is also wearing increasingly thinner as bits of the off-white thin card stock peek through. These are cheap cards of local manufacture. They are smaller and thinner than the Bicycle, Maverick or Tally-Ho cards we have in the States.
How many days has it been now? I have lost count. Every day slides into the next. There is nothing to say… this is Thursday because I did X on Tuesday. I have to look at my cell phone to tell me that this is Saturday. I can’t remember which day it was when LoveRose left.
I look back at the old text messages. She texted me, on the day she left, to tell me she could not return. … Let me see. When was that? … Eight days ago!
I haven’t heard from LoveRose for a week. It isn’t that I should be hearing from her, but you would think she would want to know how her daughter is doing. Well, fuck, if it doesn’t matter to her, why should it matter to me?
Now, I’m sure I saw the jack of diamonds. Why can’t I find it now? … Damn, I lose again.
This is day twelve; I am looking forward to the end of the quarantine in two days, the return of LoveRose, and the chance to go back to my normal activities – socializing with the guys, drinking and getting a little pussy.
Please, may I text Nanay. I need to ask her something?
What do you want to ask?
It embarrassing. May I do it? Please?
I hand her the phone. She moves off from me and is texting back and forth for no more than a minute before deleting the conversation with her mother entirely.
It’s a good thing I didn’t need to save any part of earlier texts as it is all gone.
Your mother is coming home in a couple of days, and all this will be over. I bet you are looking forward to that.
She say the quarantine extended for another two weeks. But she say that not matter! She say my lola get the virus and she very sick now. She say that maybe she get the virus because of this. Maybe my tatay13 get it. She not know what they do. It scary.
Damn. … OK, Yes, I can see that it is scary for you, but your mother is young and healthy. Even if she gets it she will probably be just fine.
Fuck! Just what I didn’t want to hear. Not only is LoveRose not able to come back, but I will still be unable to get out of this house.
Yes, Sir. Thank you for that. … Sir?
She say she has no more load14. Maybe she not text us again.
I see. I do not have a way to send her a load and I will be out of a load soon enough.
I think I know what that personal ‘embarrassing’ text session was about. Ginalyn must have run out of pads for her period because she has been wearing dresses the last four days. She never wears anything but leggings and some sort of nondescript top normally. I wonder if she is using cloth or towels for the bleeding.
Nothing else is different. Our routine is as it was, but any day now these cards will be useless.
I am beginning to watch movies I have already seen as the days stretch into another week.
The house is shaking real fucking hard. It’s loud.
Doors, windows and the house itself is making a hell of a racket. It’s dark out. It’s a damned earthquake! Shit, I’m awake now. I get the hell out of bed and run to the bedroom door, and out of the house in my skivvies15.
I am outside now, but the ground is still shaking. It’s not so bad that I can’t stand, but this one was a big one. There is little light out here, not much, but some. It’s enough to see that Ginalyn is out here, in PJs, curled up in a fetal position and weeping.
Being in my skivvies makes it a little awkward for me. I really want to comfort the kid, but not while wearing as little as I have on now.
It’s OK, Ginalyn. Nothing bad.
Scary! Maybe house come down.
It didn’t, and we are safe.
How you know I safe?
How you know?
She is pointing to the maid’s apartment. It’s not part of the main house and a good thirty meters across the yard.
Your apartment is only one story. It isn’t going to collapse on top of you. It is safe.
She’s still crying.
Yes, I am sure. Come on. I will walk around it and if we find any cracks you can stay in the guest room in the big house.
I put my hand out and, grabbing it, she gets up, before I release the grip and walk over to the apartment. The place is eight meters by four meters. A place of that size and one floor does not need a building permit. Its ceiling is three meters high. The place is your basic Filipino dwelling, hollow-block walls come up one meter. There is a woven “kalatkat16” bamboo upper portion to the wall. It is topped with simple rafters and a corrugated steel roof. There’s lots of room for air flow, between the top of the panels and the gap between it and the roof.
A walk around the apartment makes it clear that there has been no damage.
Good. Go back to bed. I am going back too.
Last night’s excitement is over. There have been no aftershocks, at least none that I have felt. The morning begins like all my mornings have unfolded since LoveRose left. But as I come into the kitchen to make my breakfast, Ginalyn hands me a bowl containing a porridge of some type. It is brown and a bit lumpy.
She looks up shyly and asks, Try?
She hands me a spoon. I dip the utensil in just a bit into the very viscous material, and in my mind I seem to remember an old and rank joke about mustard/moose-turd pie.
Tasting it is a surprise. It taste like chocolate pudding. I take a full spoon full. Yes, sure as hell, that’s what it must be, but what are these little lumps all through it?
It’s good. What is it?
Thank you. It is delicious.
Thank you, Po. I scared last night. You make it better. Nanay right. You a good man, even though.
Even though? What the fuck? What do you mean by that?
Oh! Sorry!! Sorry! I not mean to say that.
Yes, you did. You are not in trouble. What do you think your mother meant when she say that.
Sir, I not want to say.
Please? For me? OK?
I mean it. It doesn’t bother me if her mother thinks I’m a horse’s ass. So long has she is happy to do the work and take the money, I don’t really give a shit what the gal thinks.
Yes, Sir. Po, I am sorry, but my mother, she say it not good to stay out late and come back drunk. She say you wrong to go with … how you say? I not know the word.
What it the word is your language?
Oh. Yes, I know the word.
Sorry. You mad at me now?
No. I am not mad.
Why you do that? Why not have one?
You mean a live in partner?
Because I want my freedom. If I have a live-in partner I lose my freedom.
Po, what if you tell the girl, ‘you will always be the one, but I want my freedom?’
Because it will not work. When I want to go out drinking, she will complain. If I kiss another girl, she will stab me with a knife.
Why you want to kiss another girl?
Ginalyn, I am not sure this is an appropriate conversation for us to be having.
Po, Sir, what you mean? It just you and me here. We here for weeks, this is true I think. I think I like you, and… I am lonely. Why we not talk? I just want to understand.
I can believe the kid is lonely. She doesn’t even have a cell phone and so she can’t text anyone, and if she had a phone, she would have blown through her load by now.
It isn’t the talking. That is OK. It’s the question you asked.
Why? I am confused. If you have a girl, why you want to kiss another girl?
If I tell you, you will just be angry with me.
I not! I promise. Really, I promise!
What the fuck. You know, I have been completely sober now for close to two weeks. I haven’t been so completely dry in decades. If I had a little sauce in me, maybe I would just blow the kid off, but she is right, it’s just the two of us and if I blow her off, things aren’t going to get better here.
Because once a girl gets you for her own, the kisses don’t come any more. The passion ends. The excitement ends. It’s boring.
You need a different girl every night for it not to be boring?
No. Hell, I see the same ‘puta’ many times. But she doesn’t think I am hers.
So if you have a live-in and you can be with others, then there is no boredom?
Not going to happen.
Because no live-in allows it. Imagine what would happen if your father had a girlfriend. What would your mother do?
Ginalyn giggles. I look at her and wait for the answer.
I think she cut off his thing and hand it to the other girl.
Yes, that is my reason.
But if you tell the girl, ‘if you are the live-in this is the way,’ why not?
Even if she said OK, it would not stay OK.
Why you sure of this?
Age and experience.
I think you wrong.
Well there is no way to prove it one way or the other now. I can’t go out, and when I can, there is no way I am going to risk it. If I did risk it, and if I am right and you are wrong, I will be stuck. I don’t want to be stuck.
I think the live-in partner not want to get a disease from the puta. If the other not a puta, I think it will work.
So then, what do I have, two live-ins? How does that work?
She laughs a bit. Hala!21 I never think about that. Yes, that make it harder. Then it like two live-ins who not be jealous with the other. But, Po, if they are both live-ins, do you get bored? Do the kisses stop?
Now it’s my turn to laugh. I have no idea, Ginalyn. I have never had that.
Sir? Why you call me Ginalyn?
That’s your name, right?
She giggles, Totoo22, but my nickname is Azzy. Sir, no one call me Ginalyn. You the only one.
Oo, but at school, and in the family, I am Azzy. … Sir, maybe if you have two live-ins there is no boredom?
Maybe, but we will never know. Even when the quarantine ends, there is no way to find out.
Because before there are two, you have to start with one and that isn’t really possible. Once you have one, even if you can find another the first can get ugly and refuse. There is no way to find out safely.
I finished the champorado a long time ago. Azzy takes the empty bowl and spoon from the table and takes it to the sink. She starts washing the bowl and over the sound of water running from the tap I hear, You can try. I will be your number one.
I am not sure I have heard her correctly. What did you just say?
Yes, I got that part. What was the other part? Who will be the number one?
Remember what you said about your mother cutting off your father’s thing?
Well, I don’t need her doing that to me.
I will text her, Po. If she say OK, we try?
I thought you said she has no load… and if she disagrees, which she most certainly will, she will get angrier and angrier without a way to say no! Then there will be great danger. Plus, I do not want her to think this is my idea. Even if she would say OK, I am absolutely not saying OK.
This is confusing. Maybe you explain better?
I can see that this has gotten way too complicated for her. Get some paper and a pen. We have both items nearby, as we keep them for making lists, including shopping lists.
OK, Sir. Ready now.
I walk her through each issue in outline form on the paper.
Nanay has no load.
She can’t say she agrees or disagrees.
She doesn’t know that this is Azzy’s idea and not Sir’s.
She doesn’t know that Sir has not agreed.
If she disagrees and can’t say no, she will get worried and scared and angry.
Sir is worried that bad things will happen to him when Nanay comes back.
Po, I will text Nanay that this is my idea and not yours. I will text her that you not agree. If she can text and say yes, maybe you not agree. That better?
No! It’s too dangerous. We don’t think she has a load. She will get angry even if you text her all that.
Sir, you have good load on your phone? Yes?
Some, yes, but it will runout, too. Why do you ask?
May I call her? Then she not need load and I can explain.
She’s right. I had not thought of just calling. It does solve the ‘load’ issue.
Still, fuck, why am I even having a conversation about taking on a girl of fourteen years as a live-in partner? That’s nuts.
Sure, a couple of the hookers I have been with are barely eighteen. So it’s not that I don’t like ’em young. I do. But even though fourteen is legal as far as statutory rape is concerned, as that is under twelve years of age here, I can still be charged and sued. The laws here are more than a bit murky on this issue.
Azzy, why do you want to be my lover? I’m an old man. I am not going to marry you. You are going to have to share me if I agree.
Last night, Po. I am scared. I am alone. This is not a good thing. If I am your girl, I not alone. I not want to be scared.
If your mother was here you would not be alone.
Maybe. What if she not come back? What if she gets the virus and dies? She goes to my father. She not take me. Why that? If she do get the illness, too, what I do, then?
What if I get the virus and die?
I not let that happen.
So, that gets a laugh from me.
Azzy, get real, there is no way you can do that.
OK, so I am alone again. No difference from now!
Yes, the difference is that you will no longer be a virgin. That is what I do with the putas. You know that, right?
How do I know you won’t do what I said other girls would do?
I know you. I not stupid. I know I not able to change you. The only thing I say is no puta. Only good ones.
Well, I won’t agree to that and even if I did… and I’m not, how do I find good ones? It isn’t like we can advertise for one like we can for a maid. Besides, with the quarantine, there is no way now, even if there will be in the future.
She’s stumped. Did she think there is some menu from which to pick? I decide to push this a little and show her why it isn’t going to work.
Say I agree to try it your way (I’m not) and you become my live-in number one. And say I can’t find a number two. The only options are that you stop being number one and are no longer my live-in or you agree that I can have putas.
I will find you second girl!
OK, and what if I don’t like her, or you can’t find one to agree to the deal? What happens then?
I will find!
Azzy, I believe you want to find another, but what if you can’t?
You give me six months after the quarantine is over to find one?
Really? OK and then, if you can’t find one, what happens?
I stay and you have a regular puta. Maybe, she becomes the one.
And if she doesn’t?
You find another puta. We keep on trying. No end.
Why are you wanting this?
Not good to be scared and alone. You agree and my life different.
As dumb an idea as it is, she is right about that. She would move from the maid’s quarters to my house. I’m not sure her food would change, but maybe it would. As to the loneliness, hell, I am lonely right now, too.
I really want a drink! Man, do I ever want a drink… and a maiden-of-the-evening to make it clear that Azzy’s plan is fucking nuts.
I’ll think about it.
Give me your phone, Po.
I haven’t agreed.
I know. I tell Nanay that. I promise.
No. There is no way I would want anything to begin until after the quarantine is over and, by that time, your mother will be back and you won’t be lonely. … If we did anything now, and then your mother returned later, well, shit, I don’t even want to think about that!
OK, I tell nanay that too. Please, Sir, give me your phone.
I have no idea why… but I do it. The phone is in Azzy’s hand as she walks off and exits the house.
Nanay say she want to speak with you.
Her look is one of fear. That much I can tell. The reason for the fear is unknown but as the phone passes from her hand to mine, the fear enters my heart.
This your idea?
No! Absolutely not.
You want her?
LoveRose, I have never done anything to make her think I want her.
That not what I ask. You want her?
I will answer you in a few minutes, but I have to ask you something.
What is it?
Did she tell you how this whole conversation started?
No. How it happen?
She said you told her, “I am a good man, even though.” I ask her what that means. She said it’s about my drinking and the whores.
She tell you that?
How could I tell you, if she didn’t tell me? Of course she said it. She then asked me, why I don’t have a live-in partner and not bother with the whores.
What? She ask you that?
Yes. Ask her and ask her what happened after that. I am giving her the phone back!
I do exactly that. Azzy doesn’t look happy, but she has the phone in her hand and she puts it to her ear.
The conversation is in Cebuano and I really don’t know enough to follow what is being said. I know a few words and phrases, but that’s about it. This is a full blown and, if not heated, then excited, conversation. I don’t have a clue. It is going on for a long time, far longer than would have been required to explain what had transpired.
I gather the conversation only ends because her mother’s cellphone battery is dying.
Nanay want you to call her back after lunch. She will charge her battery.
What is happening?
She knows now.
What does she know?
That’s not an answer, Azzy. What does she know?
She know why there no live-in now. She know why you not want to say yes to me.
OK, why do you think I don’t want to say yes to you?
Because you afraid of Nanay and you not think what I say, it possible.
OK, fair enough. So, why does your mother want to speak with me?
I not know. … You hungry? You want your regular breakfast now?
No, the champorado was plenty.
OK, I sweep now. … It weird, Po.
I not know if I am taking care of your house or, maybe, our house.
I decide to charge my phone too, as I try to pay attention to the worn-out deck of cards. Between the reality that the cards are literally disintegrating in my hands and the mental contortions my thoughts are creating, playing solitaire isn’t going so well today. I can’t concentrate.
None of this has to do with whether Azzy is attractive. She is, but so are many other Filipinas, not all, but many. She’s too young to be legal in some ways and not in others. She does not profess love and so my lack of the same is in balance. She needs to feel safe. I want intimacy without being ‘owned.’
Good afternoon, LoveRose.
Maayong udto25, Po. Po, my daughter say she will take care of you. You know this?
What do you mean?
I not return to you. This what you want?
No! I do not agree. I never agreed to this.
Ha! OK. Maybe she is afraid what it like if I am there and she is yours. Maybe that is right?
Yes, that might be her thinking. It was one of the things that I gave her for why it was a bad idea.
You OK with me there?
You are my maid. That has not changed.
Even if my daughter is in your bed?
LoveRose, even if I agree that she is in my bed, she will never be my wife. I have no idea how it could possibly work with you as the maid and her in my bed. … And I have not agreed that she should be in my bed.
But if she is, I am the maid?
Well, if I did agree that she is in my bed, then you would be taking care of the home your daughter lives in. That sounds crazy, right? It doesn’t sound like it would work. … But I am sure you still need money, so… hell, I don’t know. It doesn’t seem like a good plan.
You will see your putas other places and not at the house?
I have not agreed to that and I will not.
Yes, I tell my daughter that. I think she is being foolish. She will be seeing your putas in the morning. And if I am there, I will see them too, just like now. But if my daughter is in your bed, it is different for me. You see?
Yes, I see exactly. LoveRose, it is a bad idea.
May I talk to my daughter, please, Sir?
Azzy isn’t right at my elbow, but she is close by. I signal to her and she comes. I hand her the phone and try to concentrate on cards lying in front of me.
Nanay wants to speak with you.
And the phone, once again, moves from hand to hand.
OK, I’m here.
We agree. I will bring you the second one.
We not want you to have putas. My daughter think, yes, maybe that will happen. I not agree with this. I will bring the number two.
What if I don’t like the one you bring?
Damnit. You can’t know that.
I know you. I sure.
Well, just in case that you don’t really know me, what happens if I reject the girl you bring?
I will bring you another one.
I’m sorry, LoveRose. That will not work. I don’t care that you don’t agree with my rule. It is my rule or not at all.
See, even if Azzy was willing to swallow the pill, her mother isn’t and, once again, I am not going to allow anyone to dictate what I can and can’t do.
Please, may I talk to my daughter?
I hand the phone back to Azzy.
I need a drink! Damm! Fuck the cards. I can’t concentrate.
When the phone is returned to me, the call has ended.
Well, what has happened?
Nanay say, I am the maid now. She quits. She not want to see what happens.
You can’t be the maid. You are a school girl and when school starts, you have to get back to school. I need your mother here.
She not here now. She not coming back. I will make you supper now.
And off she marches to do just that.
I pick up the phone and call LoveRose back.
I not want what will happen. I not want to see it.
Then nothing will happen. I will not agree to be with your daughter. Don’t quit.
No. She angry at me then. No good. I quit.
If you quit, she must leave here.
Why you do this?
Damnit, LoveRose, I am not the one creating the problem.
What I do?
OK, OK, I not quit. But you not have a puta.
No. I will do what I want. You cannot tell me that.
I not want to see it!
That is not my problem.
We end the conversation following a discussion about what we both have learned of our local quarantine rules. My cellphone’s battery is at 22%.
Come eat na, Po.
What is this? There is a light brown broth with corn on the cob, cabbage, what looks like a beef bone, and some vegetable I am not sure I can identify in it.
There is a plate of rice also in front of me. I have seen Filipinos at times spoon soup over rice in a flat plate. The process seems odd to me. I would reverse the order, potentially putting the rice in the soup bowl, but they never do that.
This bulalo26, Po. Try, please.
As I rarely ate dinner meals at the house, I have not had many of the dishes LoveRose cooked here for her daughter and herself. I gather this is one of these. The dish looks pretty sketchy but I try it, only to find the flavor is good. It is a humble soup, but tasty and probably nourishing.
I take a spoonful of rice between spoonfuls of soup. It’s a bit awkward to do that but I just can’t do what the Filipinos do. Oh hell, I dump a bunch of the rice into the soup bowl and look to see if Azzy is disgusted by this. She is not here.
I finish my meal following the method of rice into soup bowl and take my dishes to the sink. Once again, Azzy just appears at the right time to do the dishes, but as she does it she asks me for one hundred pesos.
It for you, Po. You have?
That didn’t explain too damned much, but I have come to understand that this is the way of much in my conversations with Filipinos. I take two fifty peso notes from my wallet and, after she dries her hands, she takes them from me and leaves.
A little later I am getting ready to watch another movie via Netflix when Azzy appears with a bowl of ice, a small glass and, praised be, a 750ml bottle of Tanduay Dark Rhum.
Where did this come from?
The sari-sari27, Po. They have it. See, I be good to you now. They not care I too young.
Fuck! I’ve been dry for a couple of weeks and there has been rum to purchase right here?
Why did you do this?
You see, I take care of you now. No problem for me. You drink. I help. I not argue. I not like nanay.
I gather, by inference, that LoveRose doesn’t like my drinking. That’s her fucking problem, but here is Azzy saying if I am home, she will make sure I have something to drink. It’s an interesting message… stay home and drink here. Stay home with Azzy.
I move a couple of chunks of the ice from the bowl into the glass and pour a liberal amount of the Tanduay over it. I have yet to start the movie. I need to do some thinking… over a drink or two.
Po, you agree na?
She has been patient these last two weeks, since the conversation with her mother. Nothing has happened other than I have been getting my rum brought to me regularly.
So, do I agree now? Sure, it’s been four full weeks since I ‘got any.’ But, really, it’s not like I am dying for not having it. If the quarantine was going to end this week, I am pretty sure the answer would be a simple, no. Azzy would return to school, LoveRose would return to the house and this all would pass as a foolish idea.
But there is word now that it will last for yet another month. Some are saying, just wait, it will be longer. It is going to be hard living with Azzy, just the two of us stuck in this place for so long and saying ‘no’ to a girl who is as ready and willing as she appears to be.
But that means a month or more while it is just the two of us and, if we did seal the deal, might that lead to a refusal later to accept others in my life? Would it give her time to expect that her ‘role’ is like a wife? If I could add others now, the risk of her thinking she has exclusive rights might not be a problem, maybe, but if I was able to add someone else, why would I even consider Azzy in the first place?
I had better pour some more rum! Ha! Maybe I will get a headache from all this confusion.
I don’t know, Azzy.
When you know?
I don’t know!
Drink more, na.
Then… maybe you will say yes. And with that comes a giggle.
There’s a role reversal for you! At least she is being honest about it. Guys aren’t. I surely never was.
OK, Azzy. If you really want to be a live-in lover, but one who must share me, OK. But, Azzy, you had better be goddamned sure, ‘cause I’m not goin’a to change for you. You’re not goin’a be a wife to me, and I am goin’a fuck you, a lot. You really want that?
Grab a glass, kid. You might as well have some rum.
She doesn’t want to drink and, hell, I can’t blame her, but I mean, here she is wanting to be my bed buddy and she wants a coke instead. I’m not used to my fuckbuddies being sober companions.
On second thought, no, not yet. Not until there is a second one too. Maybe you will be OK, but, no, I don’t trust it.
We have really never touched. We, sure as hell, have not kissed, and I am not ready to put my fate in the hands of a fourteen-year-old kid.
But, I not want to wait!
Yeh, I get that. Tough. … Hey, does that sari-sari store sell loads?
Maybe. I not know.
Are they still open?
I think so. Why?
I pull seven hundred pesos from my wallet and hand it to the girl. Have them put three-hundred on my phone and the same on your mother’s. Plus, see if you can buy some new playing cards.
After writing down the numbers, she leaves. Damn. If I had known, and if she can get to the sari-sari to do these things and things like it, life these past four weeks might have been a bit easier!
Your cellphone should have load now.
Why you do this?
I didn’t know that Azzy could go to the sari-sari. So, when your load gets low, let me know and I will send you more.
Thank you, Sir, but why you do this?
You are my maid and the mother of Azzy.
They allow Azzy at the store?
I guess yes. Your daughter bought me Tanduay.
Hala! Why she want you drunk. I not like that.
There’s no surprise in that. But she wanted me to get drunk and take her to bed. I refused.
Why? You take young putas. Why you not take her. She want this.
She is too young. I do not want a fight with you about others. I do not really trust that she will be OK with others.
She there? Maybe I chat her?
Azzy, your mother wants to text with you.
The phone in her hands and with a new deck of cards in mine, with a tumbler of rum next to my right hand, it all works just fine for me. Let them text all they want. I’m not sticking my dick into that young’un without another here at the same time and, as that sure as shit isn’t going to happen, let’s see if I can find a red jack.
Last night’s bottle of Tanduay is in the trash now. For the first time in a few weeks, I don’t rise until nine-thirty. Blessed be rum.
When I get to the table, Azzy puts down a plate of garlic fried rice, tocino28 and a fried egg. This is your basic Filipino ‘tapsilog’ breakfast except it replaces the marinated beef, which we don’t have, with the pork product. It is a staple you can find from vendors in street-side stalls all over the Philippines.
I ask nanay what I cook for you this morning after you drink last night. She tell me that this what Filipino men eat the next morning.
She never made this for me.
Ha! Sir, she say, you not talk to her when you get up. You just leave to the malls. But you here now, so I make this. OK?
Yes, it’s fine. … You think I was mean to your mother, don’t you.
Yes, maybe. But maybe you just unhappy. This I think. Maybe this what she think, too. … Sir, I need more money. You need more Tanduay. Or maybe, you want Emperador29?
Do they have brandy at the sari-sari?
Maybe. Maybe we get it downtown.
You can’t go downtown.
Totoo, but Ate Nelia, she can!
Nelia? Who the fuck is Nelia?
She a friend of nanay. Nanay chat her last night. She will help.
So, this Nelia, she is your mother’s age?
No, Sir, she is twenty-two, but she is a friend. She will help us now.
She can go to Palawan and send money to your mother?
Well, your mother has no money. Even if the rules allow her to return, she needs money to come. And for now, she could probably use some cash. Can this Nelia go to the pawnshop and send a remittance?
Yes! Yes! She can do that. You do this for nanay?
The kid has tears. I may be an asshole, but I like LoveRose, in spite of her attitude about my activities; regardless of this shit with Azzy, I want her back. Still, if I am boinking her kid, and I’m not saying I will, why would I not want to make the mother happy?
About this Nelia… who the fuck is she? I’ve never heard of her before. Why now?
Sir, Nelia coming! I tell her you will send money to nanay. So she say she will come right away. Maybe we make a shopping list for her, too? She can go to Palawan first and then she can shop for us.
Right now, I think the things we need most are vegetables.
Yes, Sir, but maybe the brandy and beer?
I have to laugh. Is the kid is trying to keep me drunk? Still, I sure as hell would like both the beer and the brandy.
OK, what do you want to eat and drink?
Sir, maybe later we get a case of Royal, and Sprite or Coke?
Cases are heavy!
She can put them in a tricycle to bring here. It OK, Sir. Same with the beer, brandy and gulay!
Why is she willing to do all this? Or, maybe you are expecting more that she is ready to do?
Is this the one LoveRose said she would get for me?
I sure she will. No problem with that. You will see. She will be good for this. Promise.
Well, well. I guess, if the gal is LoveRose’s good friend, she might well want to help out this way, but is this the one she thinks will be a fuck buddy? What did Azzy’s ‘…good for this. Promise’ mean?
Sir, I will make your lunch after Nelia goes to Palawan. We will see her very soon. Nanay say, you will like hotdogs. That OK?
Yes, that’s fine.
And with that, Azzy moves off to do god knows what. She has her own internal agenda, which we do not discuss. It’s simply that everything seems to get done.
I return to a game of solitaire.
From outside there’s an Ayoooo, Ayooo.
Nelia is here! Wait! With that, Azzy runs out to the gate.
Nelia is a good looking gal. She is dressed to keep the sun off her body and so the style of clothing has little to do with fashion and more to do with her deeply held desire to be as light-skinned as possible.
If it means wearing heavy clothing covering every part of her body on the hottest of days, that’s what she will do. In fact, the warmer it is, the more clothing will be put on the body.
It seems pretty clear that she has been here before. She’s not looking around. That I have never met her is not a bit of a surprise. I’m never here in the afternoon, so she might well have been here every day for two months prior to the quarantine and I wouldn’t have known it.
Sir Jon, I hear from Rose today that you need help. She tells me much, so I say, I will go to her employer. And now, Azzy tells me your first request is to send money to my friend. I am happy to do this, but, Sir, it is a surprise. Yes, this is a big surprise. I not think you like this!
I am sure, Nelia… it is Nelia, right? ... Like I was about to say, I am sure that by the end of the day, I will do something to fix that and you will decide I am the bastard that I am.
No, Sir, I think you want others to think that. I now think this must not be true.
Harumph! Look, here’s five-thousand pesos. Do you have the info you need to send it to LoveRose?
Yes. I text her already and get it. … Azzy say you want beer, Emperador, and gulay?
Well, if you can get Fundador30 Light instead, that would be even better. But, yes, that is what I need. Azzy would like a couple of cases of Royal and Coke or Sprite.
Azzy breaks in, in a little bit of panic, Not now for that, Ate. Maybe I will get later. What is needed is on this list, it for Sir!
A smile finds its way to Nelia’s face. It’s a lovely face. Not a word is spoken, but she takes fifteen-thousand pesos from me, nods to me, and kisses Azzy’s cheek. With an OK, I go now, Sir? … and a nod from me, she departs.
Sir, thank you so much for the money. I not earn it. I not deserve it. You are kind.
Consider it an investment. I need you back here.
Sir, truly, I not know if this is possible. So far they not allow. I find some work here. It not good, but I must. My husband, he has no work and maybe he cannot work. You know his bad back. Now doctor say there is RA31. No way to work, even if there is a job, he cannot do it.
And, Sir, his mother, she is bad too. My life is here now. Azzy is for you. I sure this.
Are you just making excuses because you don’t want to see whores here?
No! Not needed. You have Nelia, now. So no need for puta. See? I tell you I find the second one.
What? What do you mean that I have Nelia?
Oh, Azzy not tell you. Yes, it true.
Go to Nelia
1 - Sending money between individuals in the Philippines is a common occurrence. There are a number of companies that do this, including: Cebuana, LBC, and Palawan.
2 - Filipino for ‘Now.’
3 - Mother.
4 - A flat holds 20 eggs, and so six flats are 120 eggs.
5 - Typically dry noodles in a plastic pouch much like ramen noodles in the USA but served drained of the water, and with the seasoning packets from the pouch.
6 - Vegetables.
7 - Motorcycle inside an enclosed shell with a ‘sidecar’ like third wheel.
8 - Cebuano (though it can be Tagalog, though in Tagalog it normally means blacksmith) and pronounced as Pan-DI.
9 - Grandmother.
10 - Short for Restaurant Bar. A tavern or, I guess, the Brits would call it a pub. It’s got a full menu, serves beer, rum, brandy and scotch, but not much else.
11 - A box sent from overseas like a ‘remittance’ of a sort. That which goes into the box, comes into the country without tariffs or customs fees. Balikbayan literally means ‘return home.’
12 - Filipino style somewhat sweet white bread, small in height and width, soft, no crust worth noting.
13 - Father.
14 - Prepaid cellphone load.
15 - Briefs, boxers, men’s underwear.
16 - A Cebuano term.
17 - Yes, Sir.
18 - In this context it means, All right.
19 - It is a chocolate porridge made with ‘sticky rice.’ The glutinous rice is loaded with starch, which gives the porridge into the sticky, pudding-like mouth feel.
20 - Cebuano and Tagalog word for prostitute.
21 - Literally means ‘Watch Out!’ but it is also an exclamation of cautionary surprise.
22 - True.
23 - [Pronounced ah-TEH] This one is a little tricky. It means older sister or older respected female. Here as Ginalyn is her ‘oldest daughter’ she takes on the role of an Ate to other children and her mother is noting that by using the term as an endearment.
24 - Kid / child.
25 - Good afternoon. Cebuano.
26 - A beef soup comprised of shank with bone marrow still inside the bone.
27 - Humble but common local independent-owner stalls selling basic needs, normally, in small sachets. Alcohol is available in such places.
28 - A sweet cured ham product fried up as one might do bacon but is wetter and thicker.
29 - A brandy.
30 - Another brandy.
31 - Rheumatoid Arthritis.