When Bri hesitated to wear it, I hurriedly locked myself in the cubicle out of shame. A knock got me out of my thoughts. It was Joey.
“Thanks for the piss. Worked wonders.” Joey put out a thumbs up below the cubicle door as I tried to pace with my breathing. “And by the way, Bri is mad at you because she heard something, not because you’re here or anything like that.”
“Something?” I was curious.
“Something about you having a baby with another woman–” What did Joey just say– “and you walking away from it.”
“Where in the world did you hear that?” I asked.
“Her kababata told her,” Joey said as she dusted the sand off her palms.
“Yeah, Chris.” Joey went back to the kubo.
I was too taken aback by what I heard that it took me forever to walk back to the kubo. The sun was setting. I was barefooted but I did not mind the sand. When I was near the kubo, I heard Lyn. I felt some kind of relief.
“Yanggg, why won’t you selfie with me, yang?” The tipsy affectionate Lyn was always the first to show up when alcohol hits her. Judging by the bottle on her hand, she was drinking the Soju straight up. I forgot to buy the chaser.
“Yang, take a picture of me baaa.” Lyn pleaded as she became extremely touchy with Bri.
The pep talk I gave Bri was probably working because she was tolerating her mother’s behavior, “I’m not in the mood, ma.”
“Ay uy! I think you don’t love me anymore, Yang. You don’t take pictures of me anymore.”
This was Lyn’s attempt at convincing Bri. I knew how much Lyn loved having her pictures taken, but I thought if I went inside the kubo, Lyn’s attention would be directed to me and not to Bri. This was their bonding time after all. And I was running out of energy to deal with Bri right now, especially from what she thought she knew. Besides, I would have better chances of making amends with Bri when Lyn and her are on good terms. So I decided to stack on the sand that was already on my feet and sat on a bench beside the kubo. That was not so bad
“Babe, palihog gud ko.” Bri asked Joey to take a picture of her and her mother. Joey was happy to do so as she pointed her polaroid and counted for them. As she clicked the button Lyn suddenly brushed the camera off, knocking Joey’s camera into the sand. All Lyn could say was how the flash was too bright.
“Ma, don’t be a maoy,” Bri said in a gentle but firm voice.
“Why’d you have to bring her here… You’re always together.” Lyn was making faces and she uttered, “Can’t you see I’m jealous?”
“Joey offered me a ride here, and I don’t want her to drive in the dark so I made her stay.”
Bri probably was probably tired of answering. So her deep sighs served as a response. She even had her mother’s temper. Joey got the cue and tried to console Lyn.
“I’d shower first na lang po, tita, so you and Bri could talk.”
Joey stood up and grabbed her towel. Bri wanted the both of them to just go at the same time, but Joey insisted on going first. I guess their bickering ticked something inside Lyn’s head, “No, no, no, no.”
“That’s it. I’m out of here.”
Bri walked out of the kubo grabbing Joey’s hand when Lyn got a hold of Joey and hugged her, “I’m not against you… I just want some time with my daughter. But you’re here.”
“Ma, enough,” Bri asserted. “I could say the same thing with Bud.”
“So you’d go there, Yang?” Lyn said as Joey wiggled her way out of her arms. “You don’t know him.”
“Well, you don’t know him well enough,” Bri said. Joey tried stopping her but not before she blurted something out.
“Did you know he ran away from his baby?”
That was it. I was at my third layer of sand castle when I heard that. I interrupted, still sitting on the sand.
“Nonsense!” I said. “The only baby I have is your mom.”
“Could you take anything seriously?”
“I am taking your mom seriously,” I said. “You’re the one not taking me seriously.”
At this point, I knew I was on the verge of losing my faith in gaining Bri’s approval. I could not convince anyone that was already convinced. Besides, I was a man after all. If I could not take home my woman, the least I could have was an unshattered pride.
“Is that true, Bud?” Lyn’s voice darted my guts.
“Of course not.” I should leave while I could still keep my mouth shut.
“Why would Chris lie about that?” Bri asked. “Why–”
“Bri, that’s enough,” Joey said.
Until everyone in that kubo had something to say. Something about me. Bri insisted that I was a fuck boy that hits and run. Lyn kept asking me to speak up. Joey, well, she probably regretted going with. The voices grew loud but my inner monologues grew louder. I no longer wanted to explain. I was an alpha male. I had kept my mouth shut, I could still keep it in. I could… Who was I fooling?
“I’m a virgin!” My voice earned their silence.
“I am a raging romantic that never got laid,” I explained. “Everybody got it?”
Bri, Joey, and Lyn looked at each other, dazed and confused. Lyn sat down. Joey sighed reaffirming, “huh.”
“Why–” Bri was at a loss for words– “why would Chris lie then?”
“Well, I don’t know, Bri.” I dragged her name as long as I could. “Maybe your first childhood crush had the biggest crush on your mom and got mad at me for not being rejected.”
Then I realized that was still a possibility, “…Yet.”
Joey spoke up, “What about the baby issue?”
“A co-worker that liked me owed me money and did not wanna pay,” I said. “Got upset when I ghosted her for your mom, so she faked a pregnancy rumor.”
Everybody was processing everything down. I know, for sure, Lyn sobered up. The sun was setting and I no longer had anything left to say, no pride left to protect. We all just sat there silently until Bri raised my 13th reason in the form of a question.
“So you’re a virgi–”
I ran to the shore. I stumbled on the hollow ground Bri was buried from earlier. I caught my breath and decided to sit. I could not look at the kubo; shame stiffened my neck. There were a lot of scenarios I had run down my mind about this day and what had unfolded still came as a shock. But at least, that was over. The sun was setting.
I was burying my face on my palms when a shadow fronted me. She raised my chin up, took away my palms from my face, and sat herself beside me. She fixed my sight to the horizon.
“About the rejecting,” Lyn said.
Just like that, my heart began racing again. I was no longer the cool guy. Just the embarrassment that pissed her daughter’s foot. Nothing could’ve prepared me from what she had said after.
“That’s not going to happen.”
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