Six Boys and a Slut in a World With No Facebook

8am, Yakal Residence Hall, UP Diliman

Mark snapped out of his dream by the sound of shattering glass. As he scratched his head, his half-asleep eyes focused on the cause of the disturbance – his roommate standing at the center of the room with a broken plate at his feet.

“What in the world?” he asked.

“Sorry,” his roommate replied. “Dish slipped.”

“It’s okay. Got ‘em cheap from COOP anyway.” Mark rubbed the sleep from his eyes.

“Go back to sleep, Mark.” His roommate sat at the foot of his bed.

“I’m good,” Mark replied. “My blood’s pumped up.”

“Don’t forget your tech dress rehearsal later.”

“Don’t go all Lady Macbeth on me. What about you? No rest for the wicked?”

His roommate gave a big grin. “Really couldn’t fall asleep.”

“Who’s the guy?” Mark suddenly prodded.

“What? Shut up, Mark.” His roommate blushed.

“You’re hiding something.” Mark was insistent.

“Am not!” Mark’s roommate swiftly grabbed a pillow from his bed and threw it at Mark, who, eluding it, sprang out of bed, pillow in hand, and ran over to his roommate, hitting him with it.

“Come on, tell me!” Mark laughed.

“No one, there’s no one,” his roommate replied, also smashing him with a pillow.

“You can’t bluff an actor. Last time you couldn’t sleep, you had just met that Pol Sci guy.”

“Different case.” His roommate turned and threw his pillow back to the bed.

“And how’d that farce turn out?” Mark continued pillow-assaulting his roommate’s back.

“Not well at first. We’re friends. Now.”

“Right.” Mark stopped hitting his roommate, instead, tackling his roommate to the floor.

“We’re having lunch.” His roommate struggled against Mark’s headlock.

“I feel so offended, man. You’d rather spill your secrets to your ‘uncomplicated ex’ rather than to me. Is it because I’m straight?” Mark dramatically said, as he stopped wrestling with his roommate.

“You know you’ll always be one of the fags,” said his roommate, tackling Mark by the elbows.

It was Mark’s turn to struggle. “Shut up, my masculinity’s threatened.”

The roommates eyed each other before chuckling.

“Does your new guy know you like him?” Mark helped his roommate up. “You can be so slow.”

“You should talk.” His roommate brushed his hand away. “Hello. Melanie?”

“Apples and oranges. Guess this means I won’t be your number one boy anymore?”

“You never were my number one boy, Mark.” The roommate picked up his towel and bath kit. “I stink.”

Mark pouted and kneeled on his bed. “Kiss first.”

“Shut up.”

Mark stood up and went closer to his roommate. “One kiss.”

“Mark,” his roommate giggled.

Mark moved his face closer, trying to kiss him.

“Stop. I have to shower now.”

8:30am, Amorsolo Street, Krus na Ligas

In his faded green boxers, Nick sat at the edge of the double-deck bed, slowly dribbling a 20-peso smiling stress ball with one hand and playing with his dick with the other. His phone lay silent at the table. A small silver charm bracelet, the only relic of last night, gleamed lightly beside it.

Nick bounced the ball against the wall and picked up the bracelet. While it may have the craftsmanship of something sold at Quiapo, it still had a certain draw to it. His dick hardened a bit as he contemplated calling her, informing of the left-behind totem, but the moment passed.

He stood up and dropped his boxers to the floor. His body was still sore. Naked, he stared at the mirror. He whistled in content. His buff physique would always put a smile to his (and a lot of girls’) face. His whistling stopped. Something was different this time. He stared intently until he saw the red marks on his neck. Cursing, he pondered how to hide it. He thought of the scarf he was going to give her. He eventually resigned himself to his fate – it was no use, the team would see it at practice.

His thoughts drew back to her parting words this morning as she was putting on her blue lace bra. He was naked, stretched on the lower bunk, pretending she was special. That they were special.

“Nick, baby, this doesn’t go any further than this. He’s waiting for me. Sarah’s tonight?”

He wondered what she’d say about the hickeys. They were the fruit of a week of stolen glances, the outset of a weakness on both their parts. She was bored. He was horny.

His eyes lay on his new roommate’s dirty laundry dumped on a corner. Swine, he thought. Still, a good drinking buddy, nonetheless. If only he’d stop drinking so frequently and start paying his share of the rent, he’d be a much better roommate. At least, he had the decency to spend the night at a fast food joint to give him privacy.

Nick’s eyes darted to his unpaid Form 5 taped to the wall above the stack of dirty briefs. He pondered whether he should still go to his 1pm class. After all, this’d be the first time a professor passed away near the end of the semester.

For a math class, he didn’t know why it had such a big impact on him. This was his fourth, and not last, take of Math 17. He’d go to class hangover or high or both, sit in the back and draw nipples on double zeroes. But this professor was different. He unknowingly and inadvertently became Nick’s mentor – the stability he could count on in his life. Shit could fall from both ends, but his teacher would always be there, bonus points in hand.

Nick’s hands moved over his body, one hand on his groin, the other on a nipple. His thoughts fluctuated between his professor and the girl he’d just been with. He closed his eyes and his breathing slowed to a crawl. Finally, he tasted the forbidden fruit. He was able to lick it, smell it, eat it. His body trembled as a slight gasp escaped from his clenched teeth. He knew she wasn’t his, that she will never be his. He just didn’t care enough – the moment seemed so dirty, it just felt raunchier. It wouldn’t matter if she’d go home every morning to someone else’s embrace, when at night, it’s his body her tongue would play over.

He opened his eyes and released a wave mingled with happiness and frustration.

9:30am, Matiwasay Street, UP Village

Cigarette in hand, Jervis huffed outside the gate, repeatedly dialing his friend’s number and shouting his name towards the balcony. He hasn’t had any sleep, save for a couple of winks at Jollibee Philcoa. He wished his friend’d wake up – he had to be at Ortigas by 10.

With a rusty clang, the gate opened and his disheveled friend, traces of drool still at the corner of his lips, stood there under the glare of the sun, arms crossed and definitely not looking happy.

“Hey, bro. I left my shades when I moved out,” Jervis said with a million-dollar smile.

“Didn’t see it.”

“It’s by the ta -”

“Didn’t see it.”

“Things haven’t been the best between us, but -”

“Didn’t see it.”

Jervis stared at the stranger by the gate. He couldn’t believe that once upon a time this was the brother he always wanted. He threw his cigarette to the pavement.

“Remember the promise? That nothing would change? Well, you’ve cha -” Jervis pleaded.

“Jervis, people change. People grow.”

“I didn’t,” Jervis protested.

“That’s the problem,” his old roommate said coldly.

He glared at Jervis. Jervis took a deep breathe and advanced towards his ex-roommate. He stretched his arms out for an embrace.

“Jervis, don’t,” the guy said, ducking and pushing him away. “You can’t just hug me and say everything’s alright. You got away with that for so long. Not anymore.”

“I don’t know what you want me to do!” Jervis pleaded, holding his friend by the arm.

“Fuck,” his friend said, shrugging off Jervis’ hand. “Fix yourself.”

“I have a job interview at 10 -”

“Temp one, no doubt,” his friend scoffed, rolling his eyes.

“Bro, come on -” Jervis began, hurt in his tone.

“Why don’t you finish your course? It’s a fucking certificate course. How many units do you have left? 9! You’re done with your thesis, all you have to do is write about the experience.”

“I just don’t have any drive to finish that anymore. You used to give me the drive.”

The friend flinched, suddenly losing control of the situation. Jervis approached again, arms outstretched and gave him a hug familiar to both of them.

“Sssorrry,” the friend whimpered, his arms clinging on Jervis’ back.

“No. I’m sorry,” Jervis returned. “I missed you.”

They sat on the curb, Jervis’ arm draped around his friend’s shoulder.

“How was the move?” his friend asked, leaning his head on Jervis’ shoulder.

“Nothing special,” Jervis replied, lighting another cigarette. “You? What’s new?”

“Stressed. Finals.” He got a smoke from Jervis. “I’ll be at the lib, reviewing with a classmate.”

“Do I know him?” Jervis lighted his roommate’s cig, caressing his shoulder with the other hand.

“I hate Lights. No, just a classmate. I’m not sure if he’s coming – his dad just passed away.”

“Don’t you have Red upstairs? Tell him condolences.”

Jervis’ friend snuggled closer to him, ignoring the question. “Plans for the day?”

“Ortigas, then UP to talk to the college secretary.” Jervis leaned his own head on his friend’s.

“Let’s Sarah’s later?”

“Let’s see.” Jervis inhaled the smoke deeply. “Just us?”

“I’m bringing Raffy. We’re having lunch.” His roommate started puffing circular smoke.

“Cool, I’ll see you two.” Jervis removed his hand. “Have to go now. Bring the shades tonight?”

“Sure thing.” He reluctantly moved his head from Jervis’ shoulder.

They stood up and Jervis gave his friend another hug.

“I really missed you,” Jervis whispered softly to his ear. “You mean so much to me. We’re both only children, so I know what it feels like to not have a brother. Thank you for telling me about Mel. Leaving her was the best thing I ever did. I owe you so much – the friendship, letting me stay here. I love you, bro. I hope you know that.”

As Jervis left, his brother stood there staring at him, cigarette in hand. “I love you, too.”

10:30am, Ylagan Hall, UP Diliman

Raffy sat on the bleachers, a donut in one hand, a large C2 in the other.

The basketball varsity was practicing. But Raffy didn’t really care about them. He didn’t really care about the donut he was absentmindedly munching on. Both his eyes were on the team’s muscular power forward as he ran across the court. Crumbs fell to the floor as his mouth made a perfect O when that player jumped to hit a three-point.

His cellphone buzzed. He irritatedly glanced at it – a message from his friend asking to delay their lunch by half an hour. He replied with a curt ‘okay’ before feasting his eyes at the contraptions currently violating the court.

He mechanically took a large sip of C2 as he stared at the object of his attention. He noticed something a bit odd about the way he looked, certainly not something he took note of before. He scrutinized him, but couldn’t seem to get it. His legs were the same as always, so were his arms, his torso, his hair, his head. His neck? Raffy squinted his eyes to take a closer look. Something (he couldn’t quite place it) about his neck seemed off.

His eyes met those of the basketball guy. Three-second rule, he mused. For a second, he thought he was running towards him. He held his breath and absentmindedly let the remains of the donut fall to the floor until a hard bang on his right forehead made him yelp himself out of his reverie.

The whole team started running towards him. The referee and the coach looked on nervously.

“Are you okay?” “Is he hit?” “Oh, god, I think he’s bleeding.”

All the words were lost to Raffy as he gazed at the one player still making his way towards him. Locking eyes, the guilty player hastened to where the injured Raffy was seated.

“I’m sorry,” the athlete said, kneeling in front of Raffy.

“It’s fine. I barely feel it,” Raffy lied through his teeth.

“Hey, guys, it’s okay. I got it covered,” the guy said to his teammates, in reaction to the image of the coach waving at his watch. “Let someone sub for me.”

“It’s okay, you don’t have to -” Raffy began.

“Hush. I was the one who stupidly slipped and threw the ball. Shit. I feel so guilty. You want me to bring you to the infirmary? Or I could call someone from UP Red Cross Youth?”

“I’m good, your team needs you!” Raffy looked at the guy’s face. He noticed the guy was sweating so much and it shocked him that even he himself was perspiring terribly.

“They’ll survive.” The guy sat beside him. “Truth is I damn needed a break.”

“So you tried to kill me with your ball?”

The guy laughed. “No, no. Not that. That was an unfortunate scenario.”

“Great game.” Raffy tried to grin through the pain. He failed.

“You’ve been watching us practice. You’re a spy, admit it?”

“No, no. I’m not. Truth is I’ve got a crush on one of them.” Raffy was stifling a giggle.

“Lemme guess. That Chinese guy? Or the highly-toned center? Trust me, they both got small…”

Raffy blushed. “Neither. It’s the sexy power forward. Do you know him? A klutz, who almost killed me with his ball.”

Now, it was the guy’s turn to blush. They giggled in awkward silence.

“Damn, it’s so hot in this gym,” the guy said. “Mind if I have a sip of your C2?”

Raffy nodded and the guy stood directly in front of him and picked up the bottle. He tilted his head upwards and let the clear liquid pour from the container down his throat. Some deliberately dripped off his mouth and down to his maroon jersey. Raffy was mesmerized at how the clear liquid, in addition to the sweat, could highly accent a guy’s nipples. As if possessed, he stood up and wiped the C2 from the guy’s chin.

“I think I’m calling it quits for the day,” the guy said after handing the bottle back. “I’m headed for the showers now. Nice to meet you. Sorry again.”

He headed for the showers. Raffy sat there, staring at his back. Suddenly, the guy turned around and stared at him. He gave a sly smile, winked and then turned back again.

Raffy was counting. Three-second rule. That was all the signal he needed.

11:30am, Madasalin Street, Teacher’s Village

Naked, he stared transfixed at the closed door. His fists were clenched around his Justice League of America bedsheets. How could she believe he’d fall for that? As if he wasn’t his father’s son. He closed his eyes and calmly counted to three. If there was something he was proud of, it was that he never cracked. She never knew he knew. Sure, he couldn’t perform well that morning, but, given all circumstances, he knew he wasn’t the one at fault.

He stood and went to the closet. As he put on his briefs, he wondered how everything went to shit in just an instant. A week ago, he was happy. He had a stable home, a loving girl. What happened? Last week, he had a figure to lean on and he was happy. Last week, she was his and he was happy.

He put on a pair of old jeans and the black shirt he had been wearing before getting his army bag and running a comb over his unruly hair. Shit happens but life goes on. Shit, he thought, such a cliche. He slowly checked the books and material that had to be studied for finals. They were all there, but he couldn’t find his Heywood text. Never mind. His classmate ought to have one.

As he left for UP, he checked the time. There was quite some time before he had to be at the library. He checked his wallet, there was still some cash left for some lunch.

He buckled up and for the first time in days, he faced the world.

12:30pm, Chocolate Kiss, UP Diliman

Doodz carefully eyed his friend over glasses of bottomless iced tea.

“You just had sex!” he carefully pronounced.

His yawning friend almost dropped the plate of cake he was holding.

“Shit, what’s up with me and glassware today?” his friend said, trying to change the subject.

“Don’t change the subject. Speaking as your ex-turned-best-friend, you just had sex.”

His friend bit his lips and looked away, putting the plate safely on the table.

“Who’s the guy?” Doodz pressed.

“Just some dude, you don’t know him,” his friend waved.

“I know you. You don’t just have sex with dudes.”

“Wrong. I had sex with Doodz.”

They both laughed.

“Is it your roommate?” Doodz asked, stirring his glass. “Did you guys finally…”

His friend flared. “Of course not. We’re just friends.”

“Ah-ha! There’s something there, Mr. Defensive.”

“That virgin’s into this co-actress of his in his stupid play. Besides, we’re just sweet. Not unlike another pair of roommates. Exhibit A, those aren’t your shades you’re wearing.” He gestured towards a pair of old-school dark glasses perched on Doodz’ ears, very uncharacteristic of him.

“It’s over,” Doodz said, taking the glasses off and putting it on the table.

“Right,” said his friend, fiddling the sunglasses. “You’ve said that countless times.”

“I kicked him out a few days ago.” Doodz grabbed the glasses from his friend.

His friend’s jaw dropped. He firmly placed his hands on the table and leaned forward.

“No kidding? Whatever happened to your ‘brotherly love’?” he asked, dripping with sarcasm.

“Fucking bullshit,” Doodz replied blankly.

“Where’s he staying now?”

“At a friend’s at KNL. Don’t really care.”

“Face it, Doodz.” His friend smiled evilly, finally gaining the upper hand. “Speaking as your ex-turned-best-friend, there’s something you’re not telling me about your roommate.”

“Nothing!” Doodz blurted out. He paused for a breathe. “We just used each other.”

“Did you hug him when he slept?” his friend asked in a conspiratorial tone.

“Of course not,” Doodz smirked. “He hugged me and I just let him.”

“You slut!” his friend laughed, throwing a lemon at him.

“You’re one to talk, Mr. I-Just-Had-Sex-An-Hour-Ago!” Doodz retorted, deflecting the lemon.

“As if you’re such a prude, you whore!”

The two friends laughed loudly causing stares from the patrons.

His friend poured some more honey into his iced tea. He tilted his head to look at Doodz before silently whispering, “Did you guys ever do it?”

“Me and my roommate? No! We just, well, you know…”

“No, I don’t know, what?”

Doodz flashed his sweetest smile. “We just love each other.”

“Hence, you kicked him out. Congrats, Doodz, you really deserve that uno in Logic.”

“I had to. It was complicated.”

“When is it not?” his friend smirked sardonically.

“I have to move on, okay,” Doodz blurted out. “It’s tough when you’re sleeping right next to a guy, cuddling him, stroking his hair, kissing his nape, all the while knowing he’s not yours. All the while wanting him, and wondering whether he wants you, but just wanting out!”

His friend started yawning then, realizing how tactless it was, turned it to a cough. “Because?”

“Because I know he’s straight and I respect that. It’s just fucking hard. Fuck.” Doodz stared at the back of one of the waiter’s black shirts. He never knew what word vomit meant ‘til now.

“He just used you, you know that? All your friends told you that,” his friend said bluntly.

“Just because he needed a place to crash rent-free, yeah, I’m not stupid. But I used him, too.”

“Why’d you even agree to let him stay with you?” His friend was oblivious.

Doodz sighed. “I felt bad. After what I did between him and his ex.”

“Who?” his friend asked mechanically. He paused to play with his drink. “What did you do?”

“An old friend of mine,” Doodz reminisced. “She told me she was sleeping with some professor’s son, she never told me the name, and I told him she was cheating.”

“Because you’re a bitch?” His friend felt the need to be sensitive but still wanted to have fun.

“Because I know what it feels like to be cheated on,” Doodz said, looking straight at his friend.

Losing the high ground, his friend paused lightly, before saying, “Ouch. I said I was sorry -”

“Forget it, it’s not about us,” Doodz interrupted. “Anyway, he was devastated; deep inside, I felt guilty by telling him. So night after night, I was there comforting him.”

“Lubricant in hand?” His friend tried to grin, but his jaw still hurt. “Aw.”

“Shut up, this is serious.” Doodz looked at his friend’s face. “What is wrong with your mouth?”

“Irrelevant,” his friend waved off, more keen to put Doodz on the hot seat. “Seriously though, maybe it was just some sort of Florence Nightingale Syndrome?”

“Perhaps. But imagine living with that guy every night.”

“Ouch,” his friend reacted, more to the pain of his jaw than to Doodz’ story.

“It’s all that girl’s fault,” Doodz went on with his tirade. “If she just never cheated on him. But, now that I’ve lived with him, I understand why she’d cheated on him. That free-loading slob’s difficult to live with. Still, that doesn’t excuse that slut.”

His sleepy friend nodded, although he only just heard the last words. “She’s not a slut. She’s an independent woman capable of making sexual decisions for herself.”

Doodz stared at him and replied blankly, “In other words – slut!”

The two exes gazed at each other before bursting into another round of laughter.

1pm, MRT, EDSA

Nick’s roommate got a text from Nick. Just a few curt words – @ Sarah’s later. Don’t wait up. You can come if you want. Squeezed into the dated contraption that is the MRT, he pocketed his phone and clung on tightly to the envelope of papers he had with him.

It wasn’t a special envelope, just a typical brown one. Inside, however, was his new means of survival – leaflets and flyers to give to strangers. Just random words to him that once ended up crumpled on the sidewalk, now, he cannot believe he became one of those people he once walked past.

As he gazed around, he thought he could start handing out flyers right there, before shivering at the thought and letting his mind waver. He never thought that life outside UP would be this tough. He knew it was scary, but he never thought he could ever, for the life of him, stoop this low.

The call of the MRT operator rang out. Quezon Avenue Station. He pushed his way past the mob, all vying to get out. As he went down the stairs, he took one last look at the envelope he had with him – perhaps, the only thing his pride could hold on to.

He casually dropped it into the nearest trash bin before lighting a new stick of cigarette.

1:30pm, CASAA, UP Diliman

Nick could not believe his luck. He had an excuse to leave early, he got sexually gratified and he was 500php richer for it. Talk about taking advantage of college social status, he arrogantly thought to himself. If only this luck’d translate tonight in the bedroom. He wondered if she’d show up at Sarah’s later – she was always like that, spontaneously showing up and, just as soon, leaving.

Clutching his plate of adobo flakes, he scouted the cafeteria for any available table. There was none. He then settled for a familiar face to eat with. There was none. No option left, he approached the nearest table with a random guy, staring absent-mindedly at his plate of crispy liempo.

“Excuse me, is anyone sitting here?” he asked politely.

The guy made no answer just raised his head a fraction to signal okay.

As Nick sat down to eat, his eyes passed through the guy in front of him. He looked normal, although the eye-bags in his face seemed a little too much even for a UP student. His eyes then lowered to a black rectangle pinned to his black shirt.

“Condolences,” Nick said awkwardly. “Family or friend?”

“Family,” the guy said.

“Sorry, bro. My mentor recently passed away.”

“Yeah?”

Nick knew when to stop prodding so he ate his adobo flakes in silence. Occasionally, his eyes would dart towards the figure in front of him who just seemed to stare at his meal.

“You should eat, you know,” he intruded.

“Yeah?” the guy repeated.

Nick was about to say something comforting, but he felt something vibrate in his varsity bag. He put his utensils down and opened it. He rummaged through his sweaty clothes, haphazardly putting out stuff (his uniform, iPod, notebook, etc) on the table.

“What’s this?” the guy across the table suddenly asked, in the midst of the jungle Nick put out.

Nick paused, his newly-found cellphone in his hand, as he stared at the bracelet the guy had picked up from Nick’s things.

“Oh, that,” Nick replied, looking back at the ‘Okay, see you’ text from his roommate. “It’s nothing. Just something stupid I borrowed from a friend. A friend with benefits. You got me?”

“Yeah?” the guy said again, dropping the bracelet loudly on the table. He pushed his plate forward. “Hey, do you want this? Haven’t touched it, it’s clean.”

“Bro, you gotta eat…”

“Yeah? I have to meet someone.” The guy’s voice had risen, causing loud girls from the nearby table to stop yakking and look at the commotion. He barely glanced at them and picked up his bag.

The guy stormed out of CASAA. Nick shrugged, wondered what the fuck that guy’s problem was before feasting his thoughts elsewhere – another free meal!

2:30pm, Yakal Residence Hall, UP Diliman

Mark felt like a character from Waiting for Godot today. Maybe because he didn’t get enough REM sleep. Or maybe it was the weather. He just wanted to lay in bed, blare out Rent and ignore the repeated texts of the stage manager asking why he isn’t at the 1pm calltime.

Ignoring the latest ‘where-the-fuck-are-you’, he sent a text to his roommate, ‘How was lunch?’

As ‘Will I?’ started playing, he read the reply. ‘Usual drama. I’m headed home now, I’m too sleepy to go to class.’

He tossed his phone away, burying his face in the pillow. It was such a hot day and he felt so sticky. Grunting, he dragged himself up and picked up a crumpled photo of him and Melanie and a roll of tissues from the bedside table.

He sat at the edge of the bed, staring at the recent photo. He was still deliberating whether to do it, it’s too hot to do it, but it’s too hot not to do it.

His cellphone vibrated. He picked it up, expecting another bitchy text from the SM. He checked the name. Melanie.

‘Mark, why aren’t you at rehearsals? Come here. I miss you. Heart-heart.’

Mark sighed, making up his mind. He threw the tissue under the bed. He stood up, took his briefs off and wrapped a towel around his waist. Before he headed for the showers, shower kit and Melanie’s photo in hand, he sent his roommate a cryptic message, knowing he’ll understand.

‘Shallow, beautiful girls rule this world.’

3:30pm, CAL Library, UP Diliman

“So, in summation, the government is arguably more socialist than communist and that the public welfare has reached an all time high,” Duane’s study buddy droned on.

“Yeah?” Duane glanced blankly.

“Duane, focus. I, however, won’t take it against you if you have to go home now.”

“Yeah? I mean, no, I’m fine, I’m fine,” Duane assured his classmate.

“So, the increase in welfare funds had only been made possible through the high taxation laws implemented by the previous leadership,” the friend continued.

“Yeah?” said Duane, absent-mindedly playing with the zipper of his bag.

“Duane, why are you here?” his study buddy asked, trying hard to smile through his annoyance.

Duane was confused. “You mean, in the library? Or existentially?”

“In this course. You’re obviously not interested. Why not just, math?”

Duane shrugged, still playing with his bag’s zipper. “I never got my father’s brain.”

His friend turned a leaf. “You miss him?”

“Yeah.”

“Let’s just study, Duane.” His friend was exasperated, “However the question is still up for debate – which is the more important thrust in favor of public interest.”

“Can I tell you something?” Duane suddenly interrupted.

His friend shut the book. “Sure, let’s all pretend there’s no exam tomorrow.” He gave his bitchiest smile. “What’s up? Is this about your dad?”

“Sort of. Kind of. But not really.” Duane was dense. “Thing is I feel really guilty. I miss him and I know he’s all that I should be thinking about. But truth is, there’s just something else.”

His friend gave him an inquisitive look.

“Yeah, I have this girlfriend. We started seeing each other back when she was with her slob of a boyfriend. And now, she’s….” Duane found out words couldn’t escape him.

“She’s?” His friend has reopened their study book.

“She’s cheating on me,” Duane blurted out.

“How’d you know? She told you?” His friend has started to peruse the book.

“No, I just – I had an inkling all along. We stopped having sex at night because she’s pulling all-nighters memorizing her script, she fakes her orgasms when we do do it in the morning. All lies.”

“That’s all?” His friend is scribbling shorthands on his notebook.

“Pretty girls always fall for jerks. Besides, I got proof. Something I saw today just clinched it.”

“Which was?” His friend got a highlighter and started highlighting important names.

“A gift I gave her.” Duane noticed his friend’s disinterest. “No, no, it’s not important. Damn it.”

“Listen, Duane.” His friend became all serious, actually putting his pen down. “I can sympathize with you because I know what if feels like to be cheated on. But I can’t empathize with you. I’m sure you knew this all along. If a girl cheats with you, she’d cheat on you.”

“I thought she’d changed,” Duane replied. “She told me she did. She told me she loves me. She even told me I was the best fuck she ever had.”

His friend rolled his eyes. “Newsflash. People lie to make you feel better about yourself.”

“Imagine, if she just keeps having sex with random guys, what makes her better than a whore?”

“Coming from you, really? Didn’t you sleep with her when she had a boyfriend?”

“I did, but, well. I’m a guy,” Duane said, half-convincingly, half-sheepishly.

His friend just glared at him already back to transcribing notes.

“Sorry, asshole thing to say, but it just hurts you know. I can’t stop thinking about it.”

His friend nodded. “I know. Best medicine? Alcohol. Let’s Sarah’s.”

“Just the two of us?” Doodz got uncomfortable. “Yeah, I dunno, man.”

“Asshole. I’m not asking you on a date. Some friends and I are going later.”

“Fine, I was kidding anyway.”

His friend smiled at him and started reciting, “The socio-political environment has indeed changed from a delicate balance to full-on anarchy.”

5:30pm, Faculty Center, UP Diliman

Jervis huffed out of FC, a greater stack of papers in hand. Damn bureaucracy, he muttered. He wished these papers were also dispensable as he had a good mind to show those pompous jerks what he thought of the system.

He stopped by the windows outside FC and took out his pack of Marlboro Lights. He got a stick and fished out his lighter. As he stood there, papers stacked on the ground, he tried to light his cigarette before realizing that his lighter was out of fluid.

He looked around and saw a guy come out of the building. The guy took a fancy cigarette case, got a stick of Marlboro Black and lit it using a novelty lighter in the shape of a match.

Jervis approached him.

“Bro, can I have a light?”

The guy handed him his lighter, before fishing out his ringing cellphone.

“Hey, roommate. Outside FC. Sarah’s? Sure, I’ll drop by after rehearsals. Well, I don’t know if she wants to go. Fine, I’ll ask her. Bye.”

Jervis lit his stick and gave the lighter back. “Rehearsals, huh? Cool, you’re in a play?”

“Antigone. We have a show two weeks from now. You should watch.”

“We’ll see. Might not be here by then.” Jervis started puffing.

The guy also started smoking in rhythm to Jervis. “Why not?”

“Work.”

“I see.”

The two continued puffing their smoke. The actor guy took a deep puff, inhaled the smoke into his lungs and held the smoke in as he recited, “Pneumonoultramicroscopicsilicovolcanoconiosis.” After pronouncing it, he exhaled the smoke.

“Wow,” Jervis was impressed.

“You know any cigarette tricks?” The guy asked.

“Well, I can make circles with the smoke,” Jervis said, puffing out circular smoke. “The technique is to make your tongue cut through the center.”

“They say only those who give good blowjobs can do that,” the guy smirked.

“I learned it from an old gay roommate. Best time of my life – free board, free net, free everything. I didn’t even have to fuck him. You’re not, by any chance…?”

The guy flicked ashes of his stick. “Straight as an arrow.”

They both stood there smoking. Jervis got a piece of gum and started chewing it. He offered one to the guy who politely declined.

“I happened to date an actress once,” Jervis shared. “Some slut from Speech Com.”

“Really?” The guy paced nervously, occasionally checking his phone. “What happened?”

“Bitch cheated on me.” Jervis laughed. “Last I heard, she’s shacking up with some dumb basketball jock. People don’t change, do they?” His laughter turned to a self-pitying smile.

The guy was repeatedly tapping his foot. “That they don’t.”

“Thank god for unanswered prayers, eh?” Jervis scoffed.

“Speaking of,” the guy shared, “there’s a girl from Speech Com in our play. Big boobs.”

“I’ve always wondered what Speech Com majors do.” Jervis lit a new cigarette.

“Man, you’re a heavy smoker. Anyway, we’re in the same department and no one knows what the hell they do. They do make excellent call center agents.”

The two guys chuckled.

“Where you off?” the guy asked Jervis, eyes still on his phone.

“Might crash home, then I don’t know what else. You?” Jervis idly played with his stick.

“Rehearsals,” the guy breathed through the smoke from his already-short stick.

The guy’s phone rang. He looked at the caller then back at Jervis.

“It’s her. Boy’s gotta do what a boy’s gotta do.” He twitched his eyebrows twice at Jervis.

Jervis laughed. “As we all do.”

The guy flicked his cigarette at the floor and ran back inside. Jervis stood there, still smoking his butt. When it ran out, he used its remaining ember to light the last cigarette, the wish stick, from the pack. As he lit it, he wondered what to wish for. As the wish stick grew shorter, many wishes came to his mind but right before the stick ran out, a word escaped his lips:

“Her”

7pm, Sarah’s, Krus na Ligas

Six boys were seated at one of Sarah’s round stone tables. Bottles of Red Horse, Pale Pilsen, SML and Infinit Vodka, together with styrofoam plates of half-eaten breadsticks, plastic cups with isaw sticks and half-empty packs of Marlboro Black, Green, Blue, Gold, White and Red, stood testament to the raucous that emanated from that table.

One of the boys brought a deck of cards with him and everyone engaged in the various drinking games that ensued. From the seemingly harmless Pick-Pack-Boom, to the loudness of Horse-Racing, to the complication of King’s Cup, to the severity of Roxanne, to the raunchiness of My Penis-My Vagina and to the intoxication of Around the World.

Between rounds, they’d pester the slut who promised to come but never showed up. They’d take turns calling her (she never picked up, not once). There was a contest on who could come up with the better metaphor on how easy it was to get inside her legs (they never declared a winner). Later on, similar text messages were sent – ‘Where are you, you slut?’

Sarah’s closes at 2am, but the boys stayed ‘til 4. They illegally bought and smuggled in a bottle of brandy from the nearby 24-hour store, using the leftover beer as chaser. When they had to pee, (Sarah’s padlocks their restrooms) they just peed on the wall. After all, they were guys. And guys can only do three things. Drink. Pee. Masturbate.

By 5am, they all crammed into one of the boys’ room, whose it was wasn’t important. Six dark silhouettes were still visible from the outside window. All the remains of last night being the various briefs, boxers and jocks lying unheeded on the bear-print rug.

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