It is during the period of inactivity between work that I am seized with a creative fervor of religious proportions. The patients we had lined up for the day had either called in sick – being patients that they are, had been scheduled for an important meeting, or simply had somewhere else better to go to and something to do other than the mundane task of attending to their health.
The night before had me studying with the single-mindedness often seen with lunatics. You know the type. You pass them in the morning rooted to a spot, studiously swinging a leg as if the world’s axial movement depended on it. Then you pass them again, in the afternoon, still swinging the self-same leg, still with the self-same expression.
Anyway, back to studying. After two hours or so of memorizing blurred obfuscations and understanding the counter-current mechanism and its implications on the piss you unceremoniously spray down the toilet bowl, my brain simply performs a meltdown. After that, studying would become a dying art, with the obstinate refusal to learn extending on to the morrow. It was a wonder that I graduated medical school on time and hurdled the boards in one take. Don’t take me for a snob. I have mediocre grades to show for it.
So, with no patients to see, nor any intellectual upheavals in the horizon, I took it upon myself to cook pancakes at 10AM for mid morning snacks (my equivalent for a creative fervor of religious proportions- go figure). As I was beating the lumpy dough to submission with a fork, I could hear whatshisname/whatstheband’sname cheesy song crooning over the radio.
“Ooh, once in your life, you’ll find someone, who will turn your life around,
pick you up when you’re feeling down....”
If memories serve as the shuttle for time travel, then music would be the key to the ignition.
So despite the radio’s tinny clanging and crackling acoustics, in a flash I found myself back in second year medical school.
I was über straight back then. I was such a pro that I even had myself fooled a couple of times. So, when a close friend aired the probability of celebrating his birthday in a local tavern where naked girls did lewd things to themselves or to an iron pole screwed to the ground, I lifted my head and gamely bayed with the pack.
The bar was a scene lifted from a 1990’s pito-pito movie: from the acrid smell of stale cigarette to the red haze provided by the foglight draped in red cellophane to the pot-bellied, moustachioed salivating men huddling in factions in tables dripping with spilled suka and beer. And over the boombox I heard the song (you guessed it) pounding away at our eardrums with the ferocity of a teenaged rabbit in rut. Any minute now, a very young and lush (insert name of teeny bopper turned bomba starlet HERE) would sashay to the stage, a victim of tedious scripts, bad acting and aimless directing. And the howling would start.
I was shivering. Not because I was cold. It was because this friend I had a huge crush on was included in the ragtag pack of wolves hungry for femme meat. Now, this is THE crush. Everytime he would speak to me, I would feel woozy and deliriously happy. You know the spiralling sensation when you are about to faint, your knees would start to buckle and you would lose all sphincteric tone? After a menial tete-a-tete, I would hurry to the CR. He had me big time.
The barkada were shoulder to shoulder in a round smallish table and the narrow table top could only hold so many glasses and plates of pulutan. It was a fortunate incident on my part that I saw him drink heavily from a mugful of beer and turn his back on it. They all had their backs turned. Sloshed as I was, I furtively claimed the mug and held it close to my face. And breathed deeply. His breath smelled like a freshly opened bottle of Red Horse - dark, brooding with a promise of heady addiction I could not shake off.
The cold glass had fogged with his heavy breathing and an imprint of his lower lip outlined an edge. Hiding the top of the mug with a palm, I flicked my tongue towards the mark of his lip. And with reptilian sinuousness, I tasted it. It was just what I would expect it to taste. Like glass with a smattering of beer. But unlike any glass! I brought the mug nearer and drank, matching his lip’s imprint with my own. I was giddy.
I did not find myself pathetic. I was just delirious I had French kissed a glass he drank from. At this point, feel free to stone me to death or point your puckered lips in my direction and send me some projectile vomitus.
But the story did not end there.
I was so into slurping in the drink (plus the fact that I had downed three glasses – my limit of alcohol a few hours ago) that I failed to note two chinito eyes slitted dangerously at my direction.
“Pare, that’s my beer.”
“Nope, thish ish mine. Not yours.”, I slurred obstinately. My world had faded to scantily-clad women whirling on the floor to the incessant boom-boom of canned music. Only the mugful of beer stood out with clarity.
The chinito eyes narrowed further and I wondered if they were closed. He looked like a cherub about to pass bad gas but a cherubim nonetheless.
“Fine, you can have it!”I banged the mug down like a gavel with all the macho-ness I can muster and lurched to the comfort room to pee off the inebriation and exultation.
I could see him in the corner of my eye as he peered closely at the mug, gingerly held it against the light, rotated it about carefully and after making up his mind, took a swig at it.
I don’t remember much of the night after that. I don’t remember shaming my friends by screeching gleefully when a dancer suddenly plopped on the floor, performed a series of gyrations intended to excite the male audience and proceeded to wipe the floor with her female mucosa. I only had insane snatches of a naked girl acting the part of a whirling dervish with one broken leg and a tummyful of caffeine. On and on and on she rolled like a mad Energizer Bunny. I neither had recollection of decorating the bar’s toilet bowl with remnant’s of that night’s dinner, with the birthday celebrant pounding on my back.
What I do remember was what happened after coming back from the toilet and before I made a complete fool of myself. I surreptitiously retrieved THE mug and examined it closely under the light of my cell phone looking for the new imprints his lips had made after he apparently took such pains to avoid my own. After a moment of bewilderment I carefully placed it back, smiling to myself.
The mug still had one smudge.