Fish crackers

The waitress comes to your table. She's holding two buckets of beer, both full of ice, one with six bottles of pale pilsen, the other with six bottles of the light variant. She puts the latter bucket nearest to you. You take one bottle, slowly open it, and take down a few glugs.

Your friends do the same thing, just hands all over the buckets, taking a bottle each. There are ten of you on the table - actually, two tables paired together. There are two more buckets on it, with some melted ice, and definitely no more bottles of beer, or at least unopened ones. There are eight empty bottles and four half-full ones scattered. There are plates of sisig and fried chicken and crispy pata, and plates and dips and silverware. And, on one side, an ashtray. Only three of your friends smoke, but the ashtray has yet to be used.

There's some intermittent conversation, an explosion of laughter once in a while, but the table is generally busy with eating and drinking. The night is young, after all - that is something you won't be caught saying anymore; it's that much of a cliché - and you're just getting started.

Your attention is fixed towards the stage, though. There are two girls singing the usual stuff - Adele's "Someone Like You", Heart's "Alone" - and, beside them, half of a live band, with a guy playing the guitar, and another guy playing the keyboards, with a laptop doing everything else. The sound is cheaper than a karaoke machine's, but one of the singers - her name is Ethel, you think - looks nice and has a pretty good, albeit typical, voice.

"Thank you," Ethel coos, as she is surrounded by polite applause.

You clap your hands a bit.

"Now, for our next song," Ethel says. "We would like to call..."

She opens a small piece of paper passed to her from someone in the audience.

"...umm, Ronnie? Ronnie?"

Your table erupts in applause, and you bear a grin. Ronnie is one of you, the quiet, bespectacled guy who you often find nibbling some sisig in the corner. He's not a loner - he's fun to be with - but he's just quiet. He looks surprised at the mention of his name, but after getting goaded by your friends, he gamely goes up the stage. You clap your hands and cheer a bit.

"Ronnie?" Ethel says. "Ella. Nice to meet you."

You got her name wrong.

"Ngayon, kakanta ako ng 'Kiss Me'," Ella continues. "Pero maglalaro tayo ng game, okay? Kapag kinanta ko ang 'kiss me', may hahawakan akong part ng katawan mo. Dapat hawakan mo yung part na 'yun ng katawan ko, okay?"

Ronnie freezes a bit, but just musters a grin. And then he turns to your table, and to someone near the stage - Jake - and tells him, "walang video!"

"Ready, maestro?" Ella cues to the guy on the keyboard, as the other singer takes a seat on the side. The music begins. It sounds really cheap. You take another sip of your beer. The waitress arrives again, this time with bowls of fish crackers and chicharon.

Kiss me out of the bearded barley...

Ella touches Ronnie's cheek, and Ronnie touches hers.

A part of you wishes it was you on stage, but then again, Ronnie's the newly-married guy, and you're one of those who hatched the plan in the first place. Ella sounds like the girl on Glee, the lead.

...and I will wear that dress, ohhh, kiss me, beneath the milky twilight...

Ella touches Ronnie's stomach, and Ronnie, slightly uncomfortable, touches hers. This, you think, is getting more interesting, and your gang thinks so too - they're getting louder.

Lead me out on the moonlit floor...

You look at the bowl of fish crackers, grab a piece, and take a bite.

Lift your open hand, strike up the band and make the fireflies dance, silver moon's sparkling...

You chew. You've always liked fish crackers. You'd leave your school and, with what's left of your allowance, buy fish crackers at the nearest store. You kept up with the habit during high school, but slowed down a bit during college.

...so kiss me. Ella touches Ronnie's breast.

You swallow your food and prepare to cheer him on.

For a split-second, Ronnie looks really uncomfortable. He looks at Ella, a bit aghast, then stretches out his arms... and pats her in the shoulder, like a father would to a child. Ella is not that tall.

Your table explodes. Loud cheers, loud clapping. You raise your arms and start clapping too, loudly. You cheer out loud. "Ayos! Ayos!" Then you grab your beer and take another sip.

And so begins the last year of your life.

And your responses...

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