arnel lasik ha. tandaan mo. pag nagawi kayo sa masbate, ipagtanung mo lang ako. madali lang hanapin ang place ko, sabihin mo sa traysikel, dun sa may gym. i own that place. iisa lang naman ang gym dun.. alang hilig ang mga tao dun sa pagpapalaki ng katawan. magsama ka ng friends mo, okey lang. masaya pag pyesta dun. arnel lasik ha.
thus, the mild mannered gay man in his mid-fifties alighted from the bus along with his other companions. their stop was the dau terminal in pampanga, as arnel lasik claimed their small group was to attend a friend's wake, somewhere in angeles. when they boarded the bus an hour and a half ago somewhere in quezon city, i had no idea that the proceedings would turn out into such a mess, a mess where i barely emerged unscathed from, barely breathing and barely alive hehehe.
when riding the bus be it in short distances in the metro or when province-bound, i always like taking the window seat. when arnel took the seat next to me, i had no idea he was gay. he had companions, and the bunch looked like a family going out for a few days vacation in the countryside. being that the bus was almost full, they have no choice but to have separate seating (as it turns out, his taking the seat next to me was no coincidence at all); add to the details already mentioned, that he had this rough-hewn aura around him, almost like a father's--pot belly, the works--which probably accounted for my gaydar's obvious malfunction.
when province bound, i almost always have stuff to take home; i always like bringing pasalubong so the household would have something to busy themselves with/ nibble on, in the days i'm at home. i dunno if he took it as a signal, my rummaging around my little plastic bag placed on the floor of the bus (i probably brushed on his exposed legs by mistake--he was wearing shorts), but i guess that was it; coz that was the time he started talking. he sortof suggested to the lady sitting in front of me to adjust the reclining seat for me to have more room to sort out my stuff. harmless enough, don't you think? i thought so too.
when the lady gave in to the request of this fatherly figure seated beside me, and i finally straightened out in my seat, arnel began to work his magic. he started out by making a comment on the greenery we were passing by, which he probably noticed i take interest in, given that i stared at what's outside the window almost all the time as we were traveling. not knowing what to say, i just smiled my demure smile. he then asked me how long it would take them to get to dau terminal, to which i courteously replied "mga isang oras at kalahati, depende sa bilis ng patakbo ng drayber at sa dami po ng sasakyan sa expressway". to which he replied, "mukhang sanay ka nang magbyahe ah. so palagi kang nauuwi pag weekend?"
before i knew it, the conversation was turning out to be some sort of a question and answer portion in a beauty pageant--with arnel being always the first one to ask questions, and me answering them. the questions were actually designed for small talk and i didn't feel as if my life was being pried open for the whole of the bus to devour, so i answered. but at the back of my mind, i was already beginning to feel a little discomfort; my gaydar was slowly coming to life with all the little beeps it was steadily giving off. when i finally turned to face him, it was too late, arnel's fatherly demeanor has already transformed into something predatory, like the big bad wolf to my little red riding hood. but all of that was probably in my mind; for he was his mild mannered self, all throughout the journey.
when the bus finally stopped to unload passengers at the dau terminal, a rush of relief passed through my being. throughout the conversation i conducted myself properly; i didn't humiliate, and i didn't snub. i was cordial, as he was cordial. and when he asked for my name, i gave the real one. i wouldn't trample on an aging gay man's dignity and self worth by giving a false name. after all he gave his name too, many times, in fact, so that when time came that i get the chance to visit masbate i can look him up.
arnel lasik, ha. yung may ari ng gym. isama mo ang friends mo.