8/18/2012
The awkwardness of being alone

I was out of the office at five, which meant I had three hours to kill before I'd head to Garage 88 for that not-really-little reunion Neil had unwittingly organized the week before. The plan was, I'd look for a taxi, head to the Fully Booked branch at Bonifacio High Street for a while, and then, when it's close to the scheduled time, I'd walk the not-really-long distance to the venue.

Of course, as with everything that's planned relatively painstakingly, nothing goes to plan. It took me three-quarters of an hour to find a taxi. Thank you, rush hour. It took me three-quarters of an hour to get to High Street. Thank you again, rush hour. My planned meet-up with Chex - it's more hastily planned than the reunion, so I specifically told her I didn't mind if it didn't push through - didn't push through, so I had far too much time going up and down the bookstore, and I ended up buying a copy of Mike Birbiglia's Sleepwalk With Me.

As I write this, I realize that she lives in Alabang, and that would, should, make meeting up a lot easier for both of us.

So I left the bookstore at around a quarter to eight and walked to Garage 88. The distance, yes, I said earlier, is not really long. It's actually much shorter than I anticipated.

It was Anna who reserved the place. There's this long table on the balcony outside, 24 seats all in all, with lots of "reserved" markers on top. One of them had a piece of paper taped over, with "Ms. Ana" written on it.

"'Yung reservations for Miss Anna Abola?" I said to one of the staff, feeling a bit uneasy, because I scoped the placed and I don't know anybody there. Also, it's weird referring to the person I've always called Mooie as "Miss Anna Abola".

"Doon po sa labas," the guy answered, and he ushered me out.

I sat on one of the seats in the middle. I admit, the thought that this was an elaborate prank crossed my mind, that this Facebook page set up for the event was an elaborate ruse to get me to say I'll attend, have me go there, and wait forever. Then again, I just came from the bookstore, and I read far too many back covers to be thinking coherently.

There's another long table on the balcony, and it's full of yuppies busy drinking beer and being jolly - what you'd usually do, really, when you're in a bar, ordering buckets of the stuff. I never really paid attention to what they're talking about, because I had my earphones plugged in, but I think I heard someone mention something about getting married.

I got busy trying to figure out how to access the bar's wi-fi. I couldn't, much to my and the bar guy's consternation. It could be that people are tweeting each other about whether they're going or not. No, I don't have a smartphone.

"I'm the first one here," I texted Anna. Miss Anna. No, Mooie.

"Whoops," she texted back. "I'll be there soon! Gonna meet Edsel pa. Thanks, Niko."

I tried logging into the bar's wi-fi again, and I still couldn't make it work.

I was planning to be fashionably late, whatever that means. And besides, the thing was scheduled for eight in the evening. I know it's a Friday and traffic is worse, but there's enough time to get here. Or, at the very least, I shouldn't be waiting for thirty minutes, maybe longer. Maybe this is what you call "fashionably early". You're alone, you're stuck, and it's awkward all throughout.

Another bar guy came to me, with a bottle of beer. He put it on my table.

"Uhh, sir," he started, "galing po doon sa babae sa kabilang table. 'Yung naka-blue."

It was a bottle of San Mig Light. This is awkward. I'm alone in a bar. In a table made for 24 people. A table, a bunch of tables, actually, made for 24 people, and destined to fail, because it looked like there will be more than 24 people. I haven't eaten anything yet. I have a bottle of beer on my table. It might be spiked, who knows? Why will anyone want to spike my drink? What do they need my sucky digital camera for? Do they want me for my body? Who will want me at this point?

I just came from the bookstore, and I read far too many back covers to be thinking coherently.

It would be funny, though, the idea of me having the first bottle of beer of the night. The people going, they're more used to drinking alcohol than I am. They go out more often, spend late nights and early mornings in some place in Eastwood, maybe, being slightly drunk and dancing giddily while the wrong people look at them. I, on the other hand, don't really drink. I do have a bottle of beer once in a while, but it happens so rarely, that when doubters ask me if I've ever had alcohol - the answer to which is yes - they have the urge to ask: "wine?"

The most beer I've had in one night? Seven bottles. I was in Cebu, entertaining some clients, making a fool of myself. I know I shouldn't drink a lot, but - a classic case of peer pressure, sort of - if I stopped drinking now, I'd look ridiculous. I'm drinking with clients. Seven bottles. I stood up and realized my head was heavy, but to my surprise, I didn't get drunk. Then again, it's seven bottles of San Mig Light.

That would make a good anecdote, I thought. My friends not believing that I did that? That'd be a hoot. If they'd come.

I just came from the bookstore, and I read far too many back covers to be thinking coherently.

I drank the beer. It's not so cold. In fact, it's warm. The nice lady might be watching. Better look busy. Drink a swig, Put down the bottle. Bubbles start coming out. My late grandfather is at it again. First grandson, do not drink! It happened one Christmas eve. Drank a swig, put down the bottle, boom, a sign from heaven, or wherever my grandfather is, supposing that is really what happened.

One of the things I learned about drinking at work is this: you do not have to finish your beer, especially if it's gotten warm. It's cheap anyway, and it doesn't get you drunk as faster. Also, apparently warm beer is terrible - I get it, but I somehow like the fact that you get to really taste the beer when it's warm. Although that probably means the beer is terrible in the first place. I went beer tripping of sorts in Bangkok, and I can taste the nuances of Chang and Singha even while ice cold.

That would make a good anecdote, I thought. My friends hearing that? That'd not be a hoot. It doesn't make for an interesting conversation piece when all you're going to do is catch up with people and make fun of those who haven't dropped by, or something.

Why can't I get through the stupid wi-fi?

And then Les came. I waved at her, she sat beside me, and we began talking. I made eye contact with the lady in blue who bought me the beer. I smiled, knowing that I won't be finishing my beer. She smiled back, knowing she's done well. It's almost nine in the evening, and finally, more or less, the get-together is on.

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