Four weeks at work

"Wow," Ariane said. "Pero hindi ka na kasing sad noon. Ayos!"

I've been typing away for eighteen out of the past twenty-eight days, and although I'm not exactly proud of the lack of, err, adventures at the workplace, at least I've somewhat reached a state of balance - or a state of compromise. I don't know what exactly contributes to it: perhaps my very frequent breaks, or the fact that I have been trying to say goodbye to both Kris and Neobie whenever they leave.

Well, that state of zen's partly because both Kata and Glenn haven't shown up for the past five days. Suddenly going home is a cold feeling, with me just standing up and going home, without having to say goodbye to Glenn, who is apparently down with the fever, as the white board near the conference room says. As for Kata, well, I don't know where she is - and suddenly I don't know who between her and Neobie is the more soft-spoken.

But perhaps the most important aspect of work has been fulfilled: my first salary.

"May sweldo ka na," Ate Sanve somewhat unceremoniously mentioned before I went home. I still haven't memorized my temporary PIN yet, and yet I'm anxious as to how much money I have to spend for the next three weeks or so. I only figured out on Sunday, when the family was out watching the movies, and it was some sort of ceremony; my sister even documented my first ATM withdrawal. I ended up treating my brother to drinks, as we were the only ones who ended up watching The Dark Knight; the parents have done so the night before, and I've indulged in jokingly calling my sister, who watched Mamma Mia! instead, a loser.

Monday came, and it dawns on me. I was never really taught how to budget; it just came, especially considering that I still have to treat the family to donuts - something I promised myself - and myself, to the Camerawalls' debut CD I've long wanted to have. It didn't really turn out anything unusual - well, perhaps for the fact that we're a decimated writing team, Kris, Neobie and I, and I'm being left alone when their shift ends an hour before mine's.

Tuesday, and I finally got my payslip. I spent the afternoon discussing and calculating rates with my father, who should know these things - well, he's a boss - and I ended up realizing that my withholding tax is between 17.5% and 18%. I didn't pursue not because the math is killing me, but because my phone is. And, at least, conversation is breaking free from the goodbye, because somehow the client has obliged the two new news writers to ask about each other's summaries.

"Henrik, what are your summary articles for today?" Neobie asked yesterday.

Suddenly I'm not used to being called by my real name again. But it's something for formality, and something for real world training, whatever that means. Then again, the bit when we talked about her missing payslip was a slightly amusing, if not weirdly teacher-like, effort - well, at least until someone broke out the emoticons.

It's Wednesday, and I'm still at the office, the writing team really decimated this time, although for more obvious reasons. My head is still abuzz with terms such as "such as" and "guest appearances," but somewhat proud of my rediscovery, of stuff like my favorite comedy Arrested Development to guilty pleasure The Wonder Years. Lunch breaks are still spent alone, but my justification is my need for a break from the drab office setting - and perhaps some creativity.

"Naaalala ko yung una kong screenplay," I told Ariane earlier.

"Ohhhh," she answered. "Okay yan. Creative stuff to keep you going."

You can't really help but pick up inspiration from things as mundane as, say, the mirror at the nearby Reyes Barbecue branch, or the urinal in the men's room that's dead (as tech guy Maynard said, "this drives me crazy"), or the way I spin my chair just to stand up and take another one of my breaks. Who knows? Maybe the fabricated excuse for a love story about Brett and Nicole will become a fabricated excuse for a love story about Brett and Jenny.

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