I could never understand why anyone would love feeling sand between their toes. That tickly sticky sensation stuck in the middle of the toes and those lingering stubborn bits forcing its way into my ingrown. This is why I’d never walk on beaches barefooted.
Don’t get me wrong, I am a strong believer of beach trips supremacy. Especially here in El Mañana. Think about it. No corkage fees. Crystal clear water. No algae build up, not a single random urchin to stab my feet, no yellow submarines creeping at you out of nowhere when you’re swimming about. It’s nothing short of a remote paradise.
The first time I went here was for work. Back when almost all of their kubo was termite-infested. An El Mañana problem that would occasionally garnish their visitors’ precious handa with wood dust and feast on any unfortunate thigh that would sit on them. Good thing, your boy, Buddy, is a master termite-nator. Because of me, El Mañana became pest-free once again.
I should also tell you how El Mañana went viral for its breathtaking sunset view. I longed to watch it for quite some time now but I thought sunsets are too magnificent to be enjoyed alone. So I promised myself I’d come back here with someone I’d watch the sunset with. The one who won’t be gone by sunrise. I have to admit, I was pretty desperate in fulfilling that promise, I had been here with several women my age. But none of them to share the sunset with, really. It was always either raining, or the woman I was with just was not cut out for my Buddy romance, or the vibe was completely off. But I am not giving up on that quest yet. Which was why when Lyn asked for resort recommendations to treat her teenage daughter, Brianna, El Mañana easily came up to mind.
I had only been seeing Lyn for a couple of months and I must admit, our thing not being official yet was quite a sore spot. More than her ex-husband finding out, she was too worried any relationship she’d have would just be another reason for Brianna to pull farther away from her. So against my better judgment and pride, I settled with the title of a suitor. A single mom’s suitor, at that.
Initially, Lyn wanted her and Brianna’s reunion to be just the two of them but I insisted on going with. I told her I could help with the heavy lifting, earning discounts with the fees, and who wouldn’t want a macho gwapito like me as a beach chaperon, right? But if I were being honest, I wanted to meet Brianna in person. Perhaps, this way, I could charm her into giving her blessing and I could finally truly be someone’s person. Lyn’s, preferably. I was growing impatient with what Brianna called, “a whatevership.”
I was grilling the bangus Lyn marinated the night before while she was anxiously fanning our food from flies while waiting for Brianna’s arrival. I can tell she’s agitated. The signal in the resort was spotty and the unconscious lip biting gave it away. That, and the fact that she had not seen her daughter for almost a year because Brianna chose to study in a university miles away from her mother out of spite. But there was something about the way the seabreeze blew Lyn’s yellow summer dress, her wavy copper hair brushing against her face, and her tucking her hair over her ears as she sported those sunglasses bigger than her sun-kissed cheeks. She was stunning even at 42.
The sight of her distracted me from the distress knowing that I had no indicator whether or not this bangus was cooking as it should be. Lyn had told me peeking through the foil cover would make all the moisture from the bangus escape so I was trying my hardest not to do so. Brianna liked the bangus juicy filled with ripe tomatoes, diced onions, ginger, and a bundled tanglad. It took me quite a while to keep the charcoal burning, but I managed by fanning every now and then. That was the good thing about Brianna being almost an hour past merienda late; she would not see me struggle with grilling her favorite dish. When I thought the bangus was good to go, I hurriedly sprinted to our kubo while juggling the hot bangus when a woman dashed to the step, her elbow striking the bangus to the sand.
“Yang!” Ah, so this was Brianna.
“I’m sorry, you didn’t think to put that on a plate,” Bri said.
Was that even an apology? Wow! She was really Lyn’s kid. Lyn approached her with an embrace when she swerved to the side to put her bags down. Lyn’s attempt for a hug landed as mere shoulder strokes. Brianna asked to bless from Lyn’s hand instead. Although I only saw her in pictures, her hair used to be raven black, not blonde. And she did not have pin cushions for ears. Even so, it must be awkward for them to meet after such a long time.
“Don’t call me Yang now, ma,” she said as she sprung back up again, flipping her hair up, and finally tying it together. “I go by Bri now.”
I have to say, although I did expect the two’s physical resemblance, their sassiness was uncanny. While Yangyang, or shall I say, Bri took a good long while before sitting to complain about how long the drive was to enter the resort, I quietly picked the bangus. I placed it on the table first, peeling off the foil before putting the fish on a foil tray. Good thing it was sealed or else Bri would have wasted my effort grilling her favorite dish. I tried my best not to interrupt their conversation because I was quite curious whether Lyn would introduce me to Bri or not. And if she did, what would she introduce me as.
“You did not have to spend this much for a vacation, ma. We could have just stayed home. Could we afford it?” Bri asked as she applied sunscreen.
As far as I’m concerned, the entrance fee for the three of us was already included with the kubo, which I had already settled on when I booked the resort exclusively. I just knew Lyn would ask, “It was Buddy’s treat! Why did they ask you to pay? That guard rea–”
Before Lyn could full-on complain, another woman entered our kubo carrying a box full of Soju with a pink ribbon bow.
“You didn’t have to,” I said to the woman thinking she was El Manaña’s new manager. I did not know when El Manaña began welcoming their guests with complimentary drink, but I wouldn’t complain.
“Sorry what?” the woman said.
I repressed my urge to repeat what I said to her when I saw car keys hanging on her denim shorts just as Bri uttered, “Joey, come here.”
And Joey did. Unlike Bri, Joey had a nicer vibe, a bit demure. Humbler, even. It usually does not matter to me but I could tell Joey was well-off. She wore a hat without the cap, the ones similar to golfers. I would bet her top was just a scarf wrapped around her torso. She had braces even though her teeth seemed fine as it was. Fair skinned. And if it was not a solid case, her nails were pointy, long, had gemstones, and held an iPhone with three eyes. How could I mistake her for a manager? She could easily be a resort owner, for all I know.
“Joey?” Lyn wondered. “I thought Joey was your uyab, Yan–” Bri’s nose scrunched so Lyn corrected herself, “I mean, Bri.”
I could tell Joey wanted to introduce herself but while she was just recalibrating her tongue, Bri already mouthed an answer– “Exactly, po.”
To be continued…
Princess “Preng” Arguelles is a twenty-something Creative Writing major at the University of the Philippines Mindanao. She attempts to capture reality-based ordeals in her fiction.