Nine Forty-five in the Evening

Story written by Markdaps on Monday 26, November 2007

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A short story set at Cagayan de Oro, Philippines

Overall Rating: 85%

This writing has been rated by 1 members, resulting in a rating of 85% overall. Below is a breakdown of these results:

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Nine Forty five in the evening Some of the crowd went out to breathe fresh air. The smoke filled almost the entire room of the bar that it was literally 'up in smoke.' They waited for the next band to perform and Jacob was disappointed; even though he played the best performance of his life. He played so well that most of the spectators complemented him with "Great music", "Cool band", or even a simple "Pawir kaayo mo gard!" which was usually a great complement for bands. He humbly accepted their complements, and just as he was about to went off. He was approached by his band mates with praising smiles. They invited him for some drinks but he kindly rejected their offer. They insisted and gave him a bottle of Colt 45 just to let him loosen up after a job well done on stage. It was a big improvement for him because he was always a stiff during practices. Afterwards, Jacob explained to them that he had to go home early. His band-mates understood they went back inside to watch the next band to perform. He stood alone in despair after he read a text message in his cell phone while packing his bass guitar a few minutes ago. He didn't want to believe it at first because it was so quick and simple. He reached for it once more and read it again. He tried to keep smiling so that no one could notice but to no avail. From top to bottom, he read it again-even the time and date. He calmly went beside the SM Mall parking lot; even though his thoughts were clouded. "What was all this for?" He asked himself. He tried to find the answers why this had happened. Especially one hour and fifteen minutes ago, the minutes he felt he had wasted before nine forty-five.
* * * There were only thirty minutes left before nine o'clock, and Jacob had just finished taking a bath. He made sure that he rid himself from the spoils of a very long day. Not taking any chances, he soaked his face with mild soap and even to the extent of pilfering his sister's facial cleanser. Though his actions seemed awkward to some but for him it was a matter of making an impression. It was natural for anyone to look and feel good. For him that justified his motives although some people might see it as an act of desperation. Yet it did not matter to him even though at any given moment his parents would notice this; especially the fact that the sink was just outside the bathroom door. For Jacob, time was his only enemy, and all that mattered was beating the very object that was hanging on the sala wall. He checked how many minutes were left, and found there was enough time to sort out his clothes he wanted to wear for the evening. Though it seemed this was another night for a typical underground musician, for Jacob Alonzo this was a special Saturday night. There he straightened his posture to see if there were unnecessary wrinkles visible, and inspected each clothing he wore: A pair of low-cut blue Chucks that he sometimes wear during wash days in school; there was his size thirty-four, semi tattered jeans which was not too loose nor too fitting. Then there was the medium red shirt which was just right for six-footer like him. The only thing missing were his "crown jewels", which he never left during a gig, his ever beautiful Elizabeth-his bass guitar. As he slipped the bass strap around his shoulder, he stood as if the whole world was watching, waiting to pluck the thick steel strings of his black Fender Jazz bass. His left hand was caressing her neck while the other rested on her body. His fingers gently slid along the strings with his thumb behind it. Slowly reaching to the first fret where he felt her surface. In a single motion she emitted a warm and deep tone. There he stood and projected a kingly smile, nodded as if his subjects were waiting for his royal decree. "I rock", he confidently exclaimed. At that moment he was so sure nothing could go wrong, and so he packed Elizabeth in her case. He reached for his mobile phone which he intentionally ignored while preparing. He made sure nothing can interrupt along the way when suddenly-it vibrated. There were two new text messages and this made him queasy. He lowered his breath as he opened the first message but to his disappointment it was just a spam. Then there was the other message which was from his classmate in Devcom (Development Communications). "Reminder! Miting 4 d thesis. 8 am sharp! Ktakts Ü" (translation of the SMS message: Reminders for tomorrow! There will be a meeting concerning for our thesis. 8am sharp! See Ya!! Ü) Somehow it wasn't something that surprised Jacob because based from his experience, eight o'clock in the morning always meant nine or ten o'clock. Pinoy time was something he definitely hated to the core; especially when involved something so important like thesis papers. He checked the clock and saw there were only fifteen minutes before nine. He picked up his bass guitar and rushed to his mother and asked for extra money as Plete (fare) for the Jeep. Unlike most of his peers in the music scene, Jacob was one of the few students who rarely got an "F" in the final grade. Behind that hard-edge rocker was a hard-working guy trying to finish his final year in college. It wasn't a wonder why her mother thought twice about letting his son go for the night. In fact, she was more concerned for his son's lack of rest for the last three months. For Mrs. Alonzo, Jacob needed this Saturday night, and somehow she sensed something was troubling him. He knew this very well. He could tell by the way she stared at him. It was as if his mother was telling him something. Yet at that moment, he couldn't afford to waste any time. So he gave her a warm kiss and went on his way, leaving her an assurance that he'll be back before twelve o'clock midnight. Mrs. Alonzo felt that she needed to talk to him about his unusual behaviour but instead she only told him to have fun. From the porch, he stepped down the stairs where it led to the garage. If it weren't for the lights, the whole place had a gloomy ambiance during the night. Just beside the house was an empty lot that covered in grass. Its leaves stretched long enough to reach the pavement. On top of that, there stood a dead tree to add the eerie effect of the Alonzo compound. If there was a blackout the whole place looked as if it was haunted. Then again that wasn't something new in some subdivisions in a city like Cagayan. Besides the only thing that was creepier than a haunted house was the people who lived in it, and the Alonzos were no Addams family. Though both families had one thing in common, and they were both close and tight. And yet it was this particular event which made an exception to their closeness. What can a guy like Jacob do? It was matter of pride and heart. Just as he approached the gate, he paused for a moment. He double checked his pockets to make sure that he, as he liked to call it, was prepared for battle. The money for the ride and additional expenses were in his right pocket. He placed them intentionally just in case if he had a close encounter with a snatcher, they became a lot picky because gadgets like phone worth more than the average allowance ba-on his mother gave. Aside from that, separating them saved lots of seconds when paying to the konduktor. Lastly there was Elizabeth which he had to carry along the journey, an experience that he had to endure for the past years before he became a banda-dude (a common term in his school which referred to musicians). He remembered the first time he brought her home, and it was an excruciating experience. It was back in the summer after graduation, he was so fixated in becoming a bassist during that time. It was a time he wanted to be one of the laid back banda-dudes in his batch. He felt it was a good way of escaping the hype that he experienced during high school where people thought of him as someone who dwelled on the top-figuratively and literally. No one knew behind his tall physique laid a boy who was very sensitive. Only a few noticed that side of him but at the same time many ignored. He went away from those so called friends after high school. That summer he enrolled in a music school which was a few blocks away from his alma mater. At first he wanted to learn how to play the guitar but he realized that it was a trend for most aspiring musicians. Then he finally decided to be an exception among the rest and play the baho or bass guitar. Almost every day during his vacant hours, he practiced his scales which he became really good at. Elizabeth was young back then, and Jacob had to carry her as if he was lifting a quarter sack of rice. He thought about those moments within a few seconds. Yet as he stood by the gate, he hoped that by the end of the gig he'll get more than the usual applauses, the cold drinks, or even the camaraderie of familiar faces. He stepped out, closed it and went on his way. * * * He trod along the Alco main road as he carefully controlled his pace in such a way that he won't break a sweat. He reached for his phone to check how many minutes left before their time slot. At that moment, he received a new message as he passed a nearby kan-anan which was a usual alley for motorelas. One of the drivers asked if he was going to KSY convenience store which was opposite from his destination. Like most people, he didn't answer back. He was heading to SM Mall which was at the Upper Carmen hills and to do that he had to ride a jeep. Aside from that, he was more focused in the message he just received which turned out to be another spam. It made him so frustrated because he was expecting a message from someone else-someone special. He came up with lots of hunches but it only made it worst. In his mind he was asking himself-"Ngano mani?!" Yet there was nothing he could do except respiring a sad sigh. The Jeep stop was only meters away but something was different. His eyes were directed at the stop while his hands held onto the case strap. He was walking normally and seemed to be just fine. Yet behind all that, his mind was somewhere else. At that moment, he was on auto-pilot which eventually reeled pictures of three years ago. That time he had finished his year as a college freshman, and he was in his second summer class in JT music school. It was a humid morning in the twenty-eighth of April; Jacob arrived quite early than usual. His schedule with Mr. Adolfo, his instructor, was only thirty minutes away. But the fact that the grand presentation was only a few days from then, he took no chances. While Ate Clara the clerk was busy making crank calls, he was all alone inside the studio. Unlike most music schools, JT was the least formal. It didn't have that environment where rules were strictly implemented or the impression that it was a music school. For Jacob it didn't have the certain feeling that reminded him of school; instead it felt more like home. The people were friendly, and most of the students who enrolled were children. The teachers didn't strike terror to the hearts of their students. Apparently they were very down-to-earth even outside the studios. And then there was Ate Carla, probably the craziest clerk who ever worked in the small institution. Aside from making crank calls, she distracted students by just barging in the studios. She would then dance and sang a song from Bob Marley-"Bupalu Soljer... Stawlen pram Aprika..." It was definitely annoying but it helped students loosen up. The teachers didn't mind as long as it won't last a minute. The interior was enough for twenty, and the studios were only fit for two or three persons. Back at the studio, Jacob was busy polishing his lines for the presentation. Unlike last year, his listening skills dramatically improved. He hit every note precisely. The only thing that stood in his way was standing on stage. Stage presence was one of his weaknesses even though he was easily noticed. Since music schools don't have a curriculum for dancing-while-playing, head bangs and stage dives, he had a really hard time trying to learn how. After that he decided to pause for a while and rest. At that time he was waiting for Mr. Adolfo, and the student who he was supposed to play with during the presentation. They were apparently thirty minutes late. The clock was ticking and though he waited for another five minutes, it only made him irritated. He waited for more than an hour, and still there wasn't a single knock on the door. All he heard was Ate Clara's voice passing through the supposedly soundproofed walls. He couldn't take it anymore. He immediately stood up and decided to go out of the room not knowing that someone had just arrived. He reached for the door knob when suddenly it turned. Was it Mr. Adolfo? Was it an annoying kid whom he was going to pair up for the presentation? Or worst, Ate Clara. He turned around the other way, and scratched his head, trying to calm himself from exploding until he saw the clock. It was almost nine forty-five and realizing that he waited that long made him even furious. As the door finally opened, he turned to that person and blurted out of impulse. "Dugaya ni-! " "Hello has Mr. Adolfo arrive?" she said. It was exactly nine forty-five where it was one of those moments that made his life worthwhile. His eyes widened while he gawked for almost a minute. He found himself staring at the one who eventually be the reason why he was preparing anxiously for the gig. The reason why he considered that Saturday night special and the fact his face was totally blank. Not fully aware that he was already at the Jeep stop; while the Jeep unloaded some passengers. He didn't even notice the people beside him were staring at him until the konduktor approached him. "Hoy bosing! Napay bakante", said the konduktor as he persuaded Jacob to ride. "Huh, Aha padulong bai?" he asked where the Jeep was going. "Esem ug Sibyer Hayts", the konduktor answered. He boarded the Jeep that was routing to the hills of Upper Carmen. Most of the workers inside were workers, and apparently he found himself to be the only one who was going to the Mall at that hour. It was quite obvious because he was the only one dressed for the occasion. He sat at the far corner of the passenger seat which was situated near the exit, with his head tilted down; he hid behind Elizabeth to avoid further embarrassment. There were myriads of voices clustered in his mind. All of them were a whirlwind of the worst back bites buzzing like flies. He couldn't find any answers why this happened. Vulnerable and lost, he couldn't do anything except reaching for his wallet, and took out the picture of the girl she met that summer of April. It was her graduation picture that she gave last year. His heart pounded once more as he gazed at it. It was a feeling he missed for the past few months but for him, it felt like forever. She had deep brown eyes coalescing with the warmth of her tanned skin. Her hair flowed like the cool blue blanket that covered the entire sea bed; although it was humbly kept, it emphasized her subtlety. A beauty held back by her seemingly innocuous simplicity. Most of the time people mistook as a woman with elegance and maturity because she was tall-tall enough to reach Jacob's face. Quite surprising was the fact that she was three years younger than him. What was more surprising is that a girl such as she, bared a name that most people couldn't assume. That time she was wearing a white blouse that made her looked like a heavenly being. And as she introduced herself, Jacob couldn't believe her name was Jet. Yet she was far from what people thought. She was definitely a sixteen year old. She had the child-like personality that appealed to everyone. It was her fourth time studying and practicing piano in JT, and she was definitely good. It surprised Jacob that he never saw her before but she explained that her schedule was in the afternoon-three fifteen to be exact. Her father always picked her up fifteen minutes after her class, and so she remained almost a mystery for the other JT students for the last four years. She was frequently mentioned by most of the teachers because of her excellent skill in piano. Aside from being a superb musician, she was also witty and friendly. Thus it made a lasting impression for the teachers. Jacob knew it very well by the moment they became friends, and it definitely lasted. He thought about the times he spent with Jet. Those times which they talk on the phone for hours, and those times that they made a complete fool of themselves; all of those memories were enough to make him smile. Her graduation picture was a testament of their friendship, and it was enough to make him focus once more. And as the jeep arrived at the SM Mall, he forgot all his fears and anxiety. He paid the konduktor and stepped out the jeep with his head high and felt like a proud king once more, and with Elizabeth at his side nothing could stand in his way. Again he reached for his phone once more and checked that the time was exactly nine twenty. He was just in time for five minute preparation when suddenly he received another message. "Ayna! Gasamok-samok lang," he exclaimed confidently. He ignored the message and proceeded to the gig. * * * "Jacob sori I couldn't cme bt I was wd Louie. Hope u undrstandÜ Guess wt? Kami na ÜÜ" (translation of the SMS message: Jacob I'm sorry I couldnt come but I was with Louie. Hope you understand. Guess what? He's my boyfriend.) He stared emptily at her message as he was sitting by at the farthest at lamp posts he found at the parking lot. Right beside him was Elizabeth and an empty Colt 45. He seemed calmer than the last fifteen minutes. At that moment, he gazed the whole area and felt its melancholic ambiance. In a way, it sympathized him-calm and hollow. He seemed indifferent but as he gaped at the lamp post above him. There the truth was revealed with the light emitted from the post as its witness. As it met his eyes, a tear rolled along his cheeks. He felt so helpless and vulnerable to the fact that Jet never felt the same way as he did for the last three years. He reached for his wallet took out her picture once more. He picked up Elizabeth and gave her a big hug while turning the picture to read her testimonial to him. It meant a lot to him because it made him so special. Who wouldn't be? Especially when she shared one of her deepest secrets she hid from most people. The message was very clear and simple: Kuya Jacob Ü,
To my best friend in the whole wide world! Ü
I pray to God that we'll be friends forever!!! ÜÜ
Jane Elizabeth Talles

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