I was staring at the Christmas lights outside Kenny’s when Rust came. I, Kristine, and Paulo were already there finishing up a Junior Lapad. We decided to wait for Rust before bringing out the longneck.
“He’s here!” shouted Kristine, obviously tipsy.
Paulo then stood up and went to the counter to get the longneck.
“Hi, Sigil!” Kristine greeted Rust when he got inside the carinderia. She leaned her chair back to look at Rust. I was thinking that she might fall and break something. Luckily, Rust was there to grab on to the back of the chair, preventing a mishap. What the hell was she thinking anyway?
“Be careful, Kristine,” Rust said, still holding on to Kristine’s chair while grabbing a chair for himself.
“Where were you?” Paulo asked when he came back with the longneck and a liter of Coke.
“I went down to the city to take care of something.” Rust then looked at me. “Ken, you’re here!”
“Yeah, the nurse wouldn’t let me stay in the clinic the whole night.”
It was starting to drizzle outside. Half the time there, I was wishing it wouldn’t rain; I was wearing my third pair of pants that week – the third of three.
Paulo opened the rum and handed it to me. Well, that’s one thing he’s good for– opening bottles.
“Bai,” Paulo said, turning to Rust. “What happened to Ken? He wouldn’t tell us how he got his nose all patched up like that.”
Rust was rubbing Kristine’s back. Kristine was all red. I didn’t know if it was because of the rum or because of Rust’s hand.
“Some jerk threw him on the floor,” Rust said.
I really didn’t know what to say. Well, one obvious reason was that I didn’t want to talk about that experience. And because last night I was thinking that Paulo got what he deserved. I was busy thinking what the hell I did to deserve being thrown – in Rust’s terms – on the floor. Not just any floor, mind you, it was the basketball court’s floor: pure concrete.
“Ha?” Paulo asked, surprised. “No one’s strong enough to actually throw a full-grown person all over the place.”
“Well,” I said. “It’s possible to send a full-grown person airborne with one punch.” I looked at the purple patch of skin below Paulo’s eye.
Rust laughed and got the bowl of ice. He was probably going to give a piece to Paulo to make fun of him. But all that was left inside the bowl was water. Rust got up and walked towards the counter with the bowl.
I poured rum in the glass (yes, I was still the gunner) and handed it to Paulo. He refused the glass and told me that he would wait for the ice so he could put it in the chaser. Yeah, I thought, a big f*cking wus.
Rust came back and told us the store didn’t have any ice left. He offered to get ice from the nearest store, which was, by the way, a kilometer away. He had a car, he explained, therefore he should go. I couldn’t agree more. I mean, if I had a car, there was no way in hell that I would let a drunken wus drive it.
So, Rust left and the three of us were left staring at each other again.
Kristine giggled when Rust drove away. “He has changed a lot since we were kids.”
“Yup,” replied Paulo. “I can still remember the time when we met in fourth grade.”
“You mean the time you taught him how to play ‘Harana’?” I butted in. I really wasn’t in the mood to just sit around and listen while they talked about their childhood. I mean, come on, I was the gunner and they’d leave me behind on their talk?
Paulo laughed at my question and Kristine slowly lost the glow on her face. What, I thought, did I say something wrong?
“That happened just three years ago,” Kristine said. “Rust asked Paulo to teach him how to play that song so he could play it in front of –” I took a wild guess. “– Samantha.” Bingo!
That’s how the conversation started to revolve around Rust and Sam. Kristine, already tipsy, confessed that she had loved Rust since they were in high school. She also confessed that she broke up with her boyfriend so she could be available for Rust.
Now, isn’t that sweet.
“Well,” I interrupted. “Why did it take so long for you to break up with your boyfriend? I mean –” I turned to Paulo, “hasn’t Rust been single since, like, nine months ago?” I didn’t know what came into me to ask that question. I was just curious, I guess. I mean, Rust has been available for nine months, why didn’t she go get him?
“I just needed time to prepare myself for him.”
“So you were just using your boyfriend?”
“You make it sound so harsh.”
I was like: what the f*ck? I was just telling the truth!
I was thinking then that women were masochists. I mean, Jesus, how the hell could they stand being hurt for long periods of time? Why the hell can’t they just go get what they want and all? I mean, my mom has spent years wallowing over dad. Jesus, she knows where he lives, but she doesn’t go to him and tell him that she still loves him. What the hell kind of act is that?
Then again, something told me that it was a good thing that Kristine didn’t make a move on Rust. I could only imagine him with a girlfriend like nine months ago. I probably wouldn’t have met him during summer.
“Give the girl a break, bai.” Paulo interrupted before going outside to puke.
“Kenneth,” Kristine said. “Please don’t mention any of this to Sigil. I don’t want him to think less of me.”
Yep, I thought, women are masochistic. And, yep, they love their pride.
Kristine leaned back and closed her eyes. Then the damn girl fell asleep.
It wasn’t long before I heard the sound of Rust’s car.
Rust stepped inside the carinderia while carrying an unconscious Paulo. I got up and assisted him and placed Paulo on the chair beside Kristine.
“Damn, Ken.” Rust said. “You’re one hell of a gunner.”
Rust seated himself in front of me. “I guess it’s one-on-one.”
I gunned for Rust. We didn’t talk much. Most of the time, I was looking at the Christmas lights outside. I really didn’t know what attracted me to them. It was just so…happy.
I felt my face warm up. I looked at Rust’s face to see if it was getting red. I wanted to talk to him when his defenses were down. For a moment, I didn’t know if his face was red or if the Christmas lights were playing on his skin. I didn’t care.
“Rust,” I said. “How did you and Samantha break up?”
Rust took out a cigarette, lit it, and looked outside. “We never did.”
I was stunned with what he said. My God, Samantha IS a whore.
“She only told me that she needed space.”
I poured myself a drink and thought of something else to talk about. What the f*ck was I thinking? I mean, no one in their right mind would ask a person how or why that person broke up with someone. That’s just plain moronic.
“Oh, ok.” That was the only thing I could say.
“Well,” I gulped the rum down. “What about Bulldog?”
“Ha?” Rust asked, raising his eyebrow. “How we broke up?”
“No! Jesus, no. I mean, what’s the deal with you and that guy? Why does it seem like he’s afraid of you?”
“He is?” Rust exclaimed. “Well, I don’t know, really. I just helped him one time. I lent him money, that’s all. I just felt like I had to help him.”
“You’re too kind, Rust.”
“Yeah, I blame my dad for that. He always helps people whenever he can and all.”
“So, you want to be like your dad, huh?”
Rust suddenly jerked back and began searching his pockets for something. He took out his phone. “Hold that thought, Ken.” He stood up and answered it. “Hello, Dad?” I looked at Rust’s face and saw his face lose all the redness in a matter of seconds. “Ok, Dad. Yes, Dad. Bye.”
“Ken,” Rust turned to me, “I need to go home.”
He woke Kristine up and carried her to his car. It was only eleven o’clock and three-fourths of a long neck was still on the table.
Rust’s car pulled out of the driveway. There was a light drizzle, the silver threads of rain looked like blood against Rust’s red Volkswagen – I was vulnerable, like what Peter Gabriel’s song suggests. I began to see everything Rust told me about his hatred towards the emo culture: he hated it because it bastardized its own ideology; he hated it because it bastardized his beliefs; he hated it because it bastardized his current state of mind. I began to see why he called himself rust.
I wanted to embrace him, to comfort him. I wanted to be one with him. I imagined the sound of being one with Rust. I imagined so clearly the sound of rust – a subtle high-pitched squeal, like some kid dragging his nails on the surface of my heart.
This excerpt is from a novella Marius Monsanto wrote as part of his requirements in the BA Creative Writing program of UP Mindanao.