Pearl Drive

Piyar Recuenco, post-job interview, pre-whatever she bought from Starbucks.

It was unusual for my phone to vibrate at half past eleven.

"Niko!" the message read. "Pearl Drive ako ngayon. Sa Starbucks sa harap ng UA&P! Pero paalis na ako in a while."

With a distorted sense of time, I prepared to leave. I don't usually take off for lunch until thirty minutes later, but I stopped everything that I was doing - at that point it wasn't much anyway - and proceeded as if I was going for lunch. I didn't even know what to get. Nevertheless, I was in the elevator, with my phone in hand, typing in my reply.

"Susulpot na lang ako bigla."

Forgive me if I was excited, but what else can I do? I may not have walked any faster to Starbucks, as if my reputation as a fast walker within the walls of my workplace isn't solid enough. But my legs felt tense, as if it didn't want to walk yet. Besides, it's happening thirty minutes too early.

I don't normally go to Starbucks, so I slightly got lost looking for the entrance. A peek through the glass windows, though, proved that she was actually looking for any sign of me coming. Perhaps she got the text message already. We don't have much time.

The door was on another side, and it was open, so I merely walked in, half-nervous and half-giddy.

"Niko!" Piyar went.

I pointed my finger at her, pretty much like on television.

There was actually no need to catch up. We've been talking online intermittently, usually while she's idle in the middle of work. That day, though, she was from a job interview - "parang saling kitkit lang naman ako dun," or in other words, she's still looking for a full-time job - and so I was introduced to an unusually fixed-up girl.

"Tara, picture tayo," she immediately said. "Tapos ipapakita ko kay Kor."

Now that was unexpected.

It took a good two minutes before we finally had a photo. The first one was taken in a bad moment, and the second one went to my phone, which I struggled to flip open for some reason. The usual how-are-yous were followed by another good two minutes of me talking about where I just came from. Yes, I left without hesitation, and the office set-up meant nobody was out to stop me. Yes, my office is just nearby, which meant I can actually stride to the Starbucks branch in question without breaking a sweat. Yes, there's the conundrum. Suddenly I was talking about everything I've relegated to the online conversation, or the blog entry, and in a way different from the impromptu-ish meet-up I had with Ariane and Jackie last month. I forgot to ask about how she is, or how the interview went, or what the thing was all about. Well, all but slightly.

And all she said was this: "Hyper ka ngayon ah!"

"Pasensya na," I said breathlessly. "Mahirap nang napapanisan ng laway."

At least it became a two-sided conversation soon. While I finally got my phone's camera to work and started snapping senseless candids of shadows and counters, she started talking about stuff that I couldn't recall anymore. I guess it's the downside with being extremely giddy. Nothing else we can do, though. I've never felt so excited since seven weeks ago. I'm finally seeing smiling faces rather than constipated ones!

But, yes, we didn't have much time. Minutes after she belatedly received my text message from the elevator, and after I gave one of what she (in a fit of irreverence) called "manyak hugs," her car came, and she had to go. It could've lasted longer, but there really is nothing else we can do. "May second interview pa ako," she suddenly hinted. "Sabihan kita agad."

We walked out of the coffee shop, and she boarded the car as I mulled my lunch possibilities. I decided to walk the other way, and after the pokey-cheeked applicant waved another goodbye to the bespectacled pimply scribe from the car, it was over.

I ended up at McDonald's. Never mind the fact that I had a chicken burger two days before. I bought the exact same things - a chicken burger, large fries, a Coke float - and tried to continue the conversation.

"Napa-McDo tuloy ako," I said.

"Ang hyper mo!" she replied.

"Parang lahat ng nakatagong hyper sa nakalipas na anim na linggo, lumabas!" I said. Then I waited for my fries to come. My life has begun to slow down again.

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