Thursday, August 27, 2009

Pedestrian Entry

Warning to the reader: this entry contains blow-by-blow minutia. I drowsed, it seems, while writing it. I suspect that reading it will be even more tedious...


Another sticky day, skirt and shirt clinging to the sweat dew on my skin.

Lizzie went off to school early--school hours 10:00 to 3:30 today, instead of 12:00 to 5:30, in order to accomodate a whole-school special production, something to celebrate Filipino culture. "Wiki something or other," Lizzie said this morning, after I made her dress in a collared shirt to honor the day. Actually, she was supposed to wear something Filipino, she said, "but I don't have anything."

I don't know if it's my sudden descent into middle age or the weather or the time of year or even where we are (3 months out of 5) in the stream of this adventure, but when I've got a day off from teaching and Lizzie's not around and no one wants to take me to lunch and I don't have a stack of papers to read or a short story or clutch of poems to pore over in preparation for class, I don't know what to do with myself. I wander around in a half-daze, room to room, putting things into my backpack in the interstices between mental vagaries. It's not as if my head's in the clouds. It's as if my head IS the clouds.

Today I packed up and headed out by 11:00, taking the umbrella that Beng delivered me back past her house, thinking, in a wandering and nonspecific fashion, of inviting her to a last minute lunch at the Chateau Verde. I took a new way down to Juan Luna, her street, passing into a dark, slightly cooler section of Roxas Street where dogs drowsed on the ends of their leashes, giving me half a lidded eye as I passed. Sweat soaked my back under the pack.

At Beng's, both the cars nestled under the carport, behind the closed gate. The whole street drowsed in the hazy sun. I pushed the big white doorbell and it screamed into the house. "Cesar, the driver, came out.

"Ah, Ma'am," he said. "How are you?"

"Returning umbrella," I said, waving it like a baton.

"Oh, yes," he said, as I handed it over.

"Thanks," I said. "Salamat."

"Don't you want to come in?" he said.

"No," I said, already turning away from the gate. What had happened to my lunch plan?
I walked around the curve and past the Alumni building. Oh. Yeah. I should go in to the tour agency and see how the plans for Singapore and Bohol were shaping up. I threaded my way through the side door into a tangle of sound equipment, folding chairs, cords, men struggling with big pieces of wood, a stage and a colorful banner that stretched over the entire back wall of the meeting hall. Crap. The guard watched me from across the room, hands on his hips. Perhaps I imagined the wrinkle between his eyes. He smiled when I got to the stairway, nodded. "Hello, Ma'am," he said.

I nodded and trudged upstairs. Watch, my brain said, the cynical part that hides when it's so hot but pops out as soon as a little cool breeze reaches it, the agency will be closed. But it was open, and I pushed into the airconditioning and plopped down in front of the receptionist's cluttered desk. Oscar, the manager who I talked with last time, wasn't in.

Turns out they're waiting for confirmation on our hotel reservations. Should be ready this afternoon, maybe. They'll call--Oscar is out of the country.

I left the Alumni building thinking hm, lucky Oscar, but not in a way that meant anything in particular, because I realized at the same time that I was already worrying in a small way about getting to the airport for a 6:30 AM flight to Singapore, going through all the taxi traumas that might happen, the language barriers we'd have to navigate while still sleeping, a sure sign that the reluctant, fraidy-cat part of me is already on the travel case.

I made my way through the sunken park that serves as the vast, semi-jungly center of the campus, toward the Museum. I'd have lunch at the cafe, read my book, drink some coffee. A group of bumptious students jumped off and on a concrete stage I'd never seen in the middle of the park, hooting and shoving each other. I walked past them on autopilot, semi-floating through the heat, up the bank, across the busy street in between cars and jeepneys, down the small bricked path, and up the museum steps. I wanted a piece of cake--Chocolate Explosion, I saw it in the refrigerated case, yes.

I sat down, looked over the menu, ordered a 3 cheese panini and an iced mocha and a glass of water. No cake. Read my book. Drank more water. Finished my mocha. My sandwich. Almost all of my book.

Paid my bill, left a tip, wandered back home past the Coop, where I got a package of Kleenex, a banana clip for my hair (which is still too short to scrape up into it--hope springs eternal, though), wet wipes. In a daze, I made it back here, damp, sticky, melting, retrieved the key from the guard, climbed up to the 4th floor, and found housekeeping wilting on the sofa, taking a short break from cleaning the apartment.

So now I'm downstairs with the laptop, tapping this out, enjoying the smallest of breezes over the top of the bushes. I'll read the last three pages of my novel, let more of this folk music trickle out of the Ipod into my ears (Nick Drake right now), upload this (assuming that the Internet gods allow me to connect with my tiny prayer), and pray for a cooling rain, something to rip through this haze, push away the clouds.


  1. What book were you reading? I'm nosy about this, always peering at the top of the page of a book someone on the bus is read to see if I can figure out what it is.

  2. A little embarrassing, but it was the last in a Young Adult series, the Seven Deadly Sins, that Lizzie got going on here. I think that last one was... Greed? Can't remember (not saying much about my memory). The author is Robin Wasserman.