i create. i am a creation.

COLD HANDS (A fiction)

Posted on: December 23, 2015

Stuffy. So stuffy.

I had to get out of the windowless hotel room that was to be home for 8 days. A craving for cold milk tea pushed me out of the room and into the humid night.

My search for a convenience store brought me to Chinatown Food Street. It was 10 pm and the nearest kiosk selling a variety of drinks, from Coke to Tsing Tao Beer, has just put up a sign saying it was closed. But the street was still teeming with mostly tourists dining al fresco.

I sat by a vacant table with a bottle of empty Tiger Beer on it after buying my 2.70-dollar milk tea from the nearby 7-11 and took photos of the food street. I was a non-tourist tourist after all.

“Excuse me, this is my table,” a guy with a thick European accent spoke behind me.

“Ooh sorry,” I turned around and saw the guy with ash-brown colored hair smiling at me. Scandinavian probably.

“It’s ok. You’re Filipino, right?”

“How did you know? I always get mistaken for Chinese or something else.”

“I always know. I work with a lot of Filipinos in our ship. They’re a jolly good lot. I’ve always liked Filipinos.”

The writer in me was curious. “Oh yeah, there are a lot of Filipino seafarers. So how long are you staying here?”

“I have a couple of hours before we leave. Thought I spend it outside my cabin and take a break from dealing with all the numbers,” he said. Definitely Scandinavian. Norwegian probably.

He was a first-engineer, whatever that was. Told me he was working on the German ship’s engines, for a German boss who was so gruff and stiff. Oh, the British are also stiff, I countered. No, the Germans are more stiff and are scowling a lot, he said. “That’s why my Filipino crew loves me, I am more relaxed than our German boss.”

Christien. His name was Christien. He had prodded me to give him my name. Lisa. Took me a while before I responded. Because I just wanted us to be nameless. Anonymous. But he managed to get it out of me.

I lit a cigarette. “Sorry, I should kick this habit but I still hold on to this vice to keep stress from eating me alive.”

We talked about my life as a writer and the adventures I had that were later shaped by my words, read by an unknown audience. I was in the city for training for my newish job. He talked about the 10 weeks circling Asia and 10 weeks going around the Mediterranean Sea, hopping from Genoa, to Barcelona, to Valencia, to some North African ports–places I could only pinpoint on the map. He talked about the absurdity of piracy in the 21st century, of having British body guards to keep them safe, of being locked up inside their ship for days or weeks at a time to protect them from those pesky pirates.

Of things in-between our struggles to keep our sanity intact: I in a landlocked concrete hell, he in an endless blue stretch of nothingness.

I painted a rather touristy picture of Cebu and gave him reasons why he should skip Manila, where I spend hours just driving to and from work. That particular dreadful, drizzling night that I was stuck in traffic for four hours. Why a tenth of our population endure months or years away from family. How they kept our economy afloat during the worst and best times.

He said that in his present company, he can be at sea for 2.5 months and 2.5 months off and anything longer than that would drive him crazy. But the Filipino crew, oh it was a different story. The guys told him they’re ok even if they’re 9 months at sea. They needed the money. They can endure, his crew said. That’s why he loved Filipinos.

Christien said it’s hard to keep a relationship when one is often away at sea. Yeah, I could only imagine the hardships my compatriots were going through. He was looking at me with sad smiling eyes. Guessed that he was 35 years old, pegging it on my age; no crinkles yet at the corner of his eyes. He felt flattered so I adjusted it to 40. He was crestfallen. Ok, I said, it was somewhere between. Let’s settle it at that.

“You are very beautiful. Who would’ve known that I would get back to my table to see a beautiful woman sitting there?” has said as he slowly slipped his hand into mine. “Why is your hand cold?”

“It’s from my milk tea bottle,” I said. I bought it two hours earlier.

“So it’s 12 midnight, what now?” Christien asked.

“I have to go back to my hotel. I have to go to our office to work tomorrow,” I gingerly took my black bag from the table.

“Can I come with you to your hotel?” His eyes were still smiling.

But mine felt like huge saucers at that moment. “Umm, no, I don’t do that. Besides, I’m already committed.” I offered him my hand for a handshake.

“OK I understand,” he took my clammy hand and kissed it. “You really are beautiful.”

“Are you sure you’re OK? How will you get to your port? Cab?”

“No, I can walk. It’s just 20 minutes from here.”

“OK bye then. Really nice talking to you. Had a nice time.”

He embraced me. Can’t remember if he planted a kiss on my cheek or on my forehead.

“When are you going back here?” he asked after he released me.

“I don’t know. It depends on when my bosses will ask me again to come back.”

“Will I see you again? Is there a chance that I will see you again?”

“No. Probably not.”

“Are you OK, just walking by yourself?” he called out as I took a few steps to the direction of my windowless hotel room.

“Yeah, it’s just two blocks away,” I said. “Bye, Christien.”

My head was whirling. What was that all about?

I tapped my hotel room key card on my door knob and flopped on my white sheets five minutes later.

I smelled sweet masculine perfume on my cold, clammy hands.

###

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life in business journalism

crazy. exciting. boring to some but hey, you get to understand the world better when you're a business journalist. you learn to be patient with tons of documents, make sense of numbers and charts. all geeky stuff. this is my story, behind the scenes.
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