There were twenty computers inside SKY 91, wedged in the form of letter E. Toto occupied number eleven, filling a row of cubicles. The words appeared on Toto’s monitor: “I’m Faith. What’s yours? ASL?”
He had chatted few of the girls. There was Maria, twenty-years of age, who liked to go scuba diving. There was Gretch, who was interested in meeting him in exchange for cellphone cards. But none of them sustained the exchange of information. He was hoping to look for another one, someone beautiful and witty, and there he found Faith.
He hadn’t seen Karla for about a week. He had tried to give her gifts, bringing her in secret places to make love. But she had been testy and moody. It had begun after they made love. Toto told her something that made her cry. They both agreed to cool off for a while, to give her space and time, as what she had asked from him.
Toto typed: “Toto, 25, M, Cebu. And you?”
Then on the screen appeared: “I’m 29, Davao.”
They shared information about themselves. Occupations, the schools they’d been, hobbies, email adds. He had already been sitting there for hours when his feet felt numb. He stood up to give the attendant the stub, then paid for the fee.
He stood there at the pavement, looking for a cigarette vendor. There was none. He walked the sidewalks with other passers-by. It was around six in the evening and he could hear horns of vehicles beeping loudly on the traffic. Gray smoke filled the air.
He felt lonely for a while. He didn’t know where to go. He took out his Nokia 3310 from his jeans pocket and checked if somebody had texted him. He had texted his classmates and friends, but there wasn’t any reply. Maybe they had been busy with their girlfriends or maybe they hadn’t received his messages, or maybe they had run out of load. The money left in his pocket was just a few coins.
He thought of Karla. Where could she be? Was she at home? Was she drinking with her friends? He wanted to text her, but he hesitated. Maybe if she had enough space and time, she’d come back to him. He was optimistic. He knew she loved him as much as he loved her. But his ego was confusing him. He wouldn’t try to make up with her just because he was lonely and alone.
He came across a cigarette vendor and bought a stick. He lit it with the match. Some moments he found a jeepney bounded for home. He threw away the cigarette and mounted up.
The next morning he had until ten o’clock to finish his breakfast. He had no roommate. His apartment was the only one standing bleak at one of the buildings at Colon Street. He ate by himself on the table inside his room.
He had been already dressed for an errand. Black shirt tucked inside his blue jeans. Black Reebok running shoes he had bought in an ukay-ukay in Carbon. He groomed his hair with a gel, gleaming as if a cow had licked it. He ran out of food he had stored on the landlady’s fridge. Sometimes the landlady would be nice enough to offer him humba or pancit. When he finished his breakfast he was yet again ready for another day.
He was thinking about Faith. He wondered if she was beautiful. He had thought of opening his email to check if she had sent him pictures of her. He decided to go to the Internet café first before buying groceries.
He felt displeased when he went out the streets. The scorching heat of the sun hurt his eyes and burned his pale skin. He didn’t like it as he had always treated his skin with great care. Sometimes he would put sunscreen on his face, his arms, and the back of his neck.
He reached SKY 91. He came in through the glass door. There were only a few people on the seats. Good, he thought. So he could concentrate and not be disturbed by noisy kids playing video games.
As soon as the attendant gave him the stub, he immediately clicked the E icon that says “Internet Explorer.” He had to be quick. He had only one hour to surf the Net. He opened his email and there he found pictures of Faith. He can only saw her face down her tummy. She was pretty, he thought. She had chinita eyes, teeth as white as a pearl, revealing two little pits in both sides of her cheeks, although the skin of her face was a little bit sagged, which he didn’t like. She looked like no less than 30 years old. She had large breasts that bulged on her tight gray shirt. From the background she seemed to be in the United States, although she definitely looked Filipina. He decided to send him pictures too. Pictures he had scanned some months ago, pictures from his school’s acquaintance party. Her letter read:
Hi Toto. It’s been nice chatting with you yesterday. I find you’re a good man. I hope we could still get to know each other well enough to meet someday. I think you’re not the kind of man whom I can’t trust. Here are my pictures you have asked. Hope you’ll like them.
Hope to hear from you soon. Good wishes.
Your New Friend,
They shared more information about themselves, letters, pictures. Sometimes they would send funny texts, some beautiful and inspiring quotes. He knew they were getting along with each other. He knew that she could be his girlfriend someday.
One day they decided to chat again on the Net. It was half hour past nine when Toto was once again sitting in front of the monitor.
They were chatting for about an hour when Toto opened his e-mail. He saw a new message. The message was from Faith. Attached were jpeg files. He clicked to view them. He was startled. The pictures showed she was sitting on a wheelchair. The rest of them showed she was sitting on the bed and nothing where her legs were supposed to be. He came back to the chat room and typed: “Faith, I’ve just received your pictures and I am surprised. Is this you?”
She responded: “Yes. That’s me. I am handicapped. I have no legs. I didn’t tell you because it might be the reason you won’t keep in touch with me anymore. Now I reveal it all to you. Does it bother you?”
Toto couldn’t type a word. He was still looking at her pictures. She really had no legs. He was disappointed. He hadn’t expected this.
Then after a while he typed: “Why did you lie to me? I can’t believe this. Why did you make it so long for me to wait?” He paused for a moment. He hesitated to press the Enter key. He didn’t want to hurt her feelings. He was confused. He deleted all that, and typed: “I’m sorry. I didn’t know. No. No. It doesn’t bother me at all. Nothing changed. There’s nothing to be ashamed of.” Then he pressed the Enter key.
For a while there was no reply. He waited for some moments. No reply.
After a minute he typed: “Faith, are you there?” Still no reply. He typed: “That’s perfectly fine with me, Faith. I still like you.”
But still there wasn’t any reply.
He was immobile. His hands were numb. He felt a pain in the stomach. He had regrets. She might have been gone before he could reply. She might have been gone because he had taken a long time to reply after she revealed everything. He was ashamed. He was contrite. He didn’t know what to do. In a second he was informed by the attendant that his time was up.
He stood up.
Thereafter his cell phone rang, and he answered it.
“I called to say goodbye.”
“I’m sorry. I made up my mind. It didn’t work out, and I think it never will.”
“Oh, please don’t tell me this over the phone, Karla. I need to see you.”
“It’s over. I’m sorry. Goodbye.”
He tried to call her back, but she was out of reach. He dialed again, and again, and again.
But she was gone.
Honesto Avellanosa III is a 48-year-old guy who makes content for his YouTube channel Cebu and Davao Journey. He used to be a musician.