Mouth ajar



"I don't want to make a dramatic entrance, but I guess I don't have a choice," Nanay tells me as I hurriedly pay the taxi driver some crumpled bills. She's already 30 minutes late for her conference, thanks to the infamous Manila traffic. We quickly make our way past the bell boys, the security, and the people loitering at the lobby.

"Lance, please meet me at two this afternoon," my mother tells me as she finds the nearest elevator.

"Okay. So what do I do while waiting for you?" I ask.

"You can stay in the lobby, read a book, do something useful. The meeting will take long...and go eat a good breakfast."

"Sure, 'Nay. Basta don't be late. Two o'clock is two o'clock," I warn her. It's waiting for people that irritates me, especially if they take too long to appear. I kiss her good bye, see you later.

I realize I don't want to eat in the nearby restaurants. The prices are expensive, and I don't have a lot of money in my pocket. So I go out of the building then hail a cab. "SM Mall of Asia po," I tell the driver. He motions me to get inside. Except for the heavy traffic along Roxas Boulevard the ride goes on smoothly.

It's only 9 am when I get there. The mall is still closed for visitors, but I roam around anyway. Except for the waiters doing their morning routine of setting the tables, arranging the chairs, prepping up the place for the drove of customers who will start coming in one hour from now, I see only a few people in the benches, anticipating for the entire place to come alive.

I bask in the silence. I am all alone, I can do anything I want. I slowly walk towards the Bay area where the air reeks of the sea. I contemplate how wonderful the view is, and all I can say is, "Ang galing mo, Lord." Time seems to stand still. Then I look at my watch and realize that it's already past 10. It's getting noisy already. "Andyan na ang mga tao."

I go to a coffee shop, order a drink I haven't tasted yet--the name sounds enticing though, Java Banana Something--and find a place under the umbrella shade. It's a good thing I brought my book with me--Crime and Punishment by Fyofor Dostoevsky. I read a couple of pages, I rest my eyes, I fall asleep, I sip my coffee, I read again... the cycle continues. I'm like that for four hours.

When it's ten minutes to two, I hail a cab just outside the mall. I am taken to the hotel where Nanay is supposedly waiting for me already. But she's not there yet. My waiting brings me to sit beside an old man--in his early 60's, with grey hair, and I can only surmise he must be Japanese owing to his eyes. He must be waiting for someone, too. The music playing in the background lulls him to sleep. His eyelids gradually get heavy, his breathing becomes slower, and his mouth leads me to ask why some people just can't keep their mouths shut. Even when asleep.

Like an apparition I see Nanay going down the stairway. Finally we're going home. Yes, home.

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