Monday, 29 November 2010

Suicidal Ground

“We apologize for the severe delays happening on the Central Line because of a fatality in Tottenham Court Road.”

As the announcement resonated along the place, gasps can be heard at the platform in Marble Arch. I could just imagine the horror people were witnessing as someone was just lying there, crushed beneath the train just 3 stations away from us.

I was in that area because I was supposed to return a pair of leather shoes that I bought from Primark, but they deemed it “unsellable”. Grrr.

Not to sound mean or anything, but I am running late for work, and this fatality is causing all this hassle.

It is not uncommon to hear about people killing themselves on the Tube. Last week, three fatalities were recorded on a single day. It is my first time to be on the line itself, experiencing delays because of someone who jumped just a couple of minutes ago.

Goodness. Is London really that stressful?

Yes, it is.

One of the fatalities last week was found out to be in a state of crisis when his business was going bankrupt.

I don’t have anything against them. It’s just daft to drag thousands of people along with their personal problems. All of the suicides last week occurred during rush hour. Major delays on three lines seriously crippled the aging transport network.

Today’s no exception. Great. Why don’t they do it in the comforts of their own home instead? I was just about to exit the platform to catch a bus instead when an empty train zoomed and gradually stopped inside the station.

“This train is ready to depart. Stand clear of the doors please.”

Finally, after 10 minutes, the train finally continued its journey. Yes, I will just be in the nick of time to work.

As the future is getting mistier by the second, I just hope that my soul would not end up wandering around the dark and damp underground lines. Good vibes, good vibes.

Friday, 26 November 2010

A New Home

“I wish you the best,” Mike said as he helped me open the door.

“Thanks, Mike. Take care!” I said. With 2 big paper bags and a backpack, I headed off to the bus stop just around the corner.

It was my last month staying at his place. For those who forgot, Mike's my first landlord here in London. He's openly gay, and he's a great guy to chat with. Too bad our schedules don't really match well, so our only bonding time would be watching the X Factor performances and result shows. 

His place is wicked I have to say, but £320 per month is just too much for me. I have to scrimp if I don’t want to burden my parents anymore.

I started moving to my new place a few days ago. It’s a house situated by the main road in Camberwell. It seems that I have to get used to the noise outside.

For £175, I managed to slash like, 40% from my current rent expense. Then again, I have to share rooms with 2 other Filipinos. No more quality time for myself.

I’ve already met them. For those wondering, I don’t dig them… at all. Our hobbies don't match up and they keep on talking to themselves in their dialect, thus I can't understand them. Be a bit more welcoming will ya?

Hay. When can I meet someone here who can debate in any topic, and travel with me to Glasgow?

Maybe after a few months, if I manage to remove my deficit, I can transfer to a gay flatshare. Lol

Monday, 22 November 2010

A Film Date?

“Are you sure?” I asked for the third time.

“Yeah, I am. So if you’re not coming, then, no problem, I’ll just watch alone.” Art was persistent.

It was kind of sudden, just like the last friendly meet-up in Kensington. This time, he was inviting me to watch Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows with him. He invited Gene and Tina as well, but they’re lazy to go out today, as they were working all day yesterday (that's what he said).

So, apparently, it would just be me and him again…. If I say yes.

“So, what? I need to check if there’s a showing in The O2.”

“Fine, fine… See ya later at 2PM, North Greenwich.” Wow, I just blurted it out.

“That’s great! See ya later then. Bye!” Beep. Silence.

It has been a few weeks since I last saw him. I still remember the incident in my house. He knows all of my Bare songs. What could it possibly mean, really?

I can’t blame anybody else if I were to fall for the same trap as other gays out there. Constantly pursuing a ‘straight’ man. Oh the thought of it is cringing in its own way.

1:30PM. Damn, I am too early again.

I was walking inside The O2 Arena. London’s version of the Araneta Coliseum never failed to impress. Restaurants can be found on both sides of the pathway. And it's awfully more spacious than The Dome, threefold.

World class events are held here. Take for example the ATP Finals Tour being held this week, where the top 8 tennis players from all over world gather in this massive tournament.

Growl. My stomach was rumbling as I was window shopping for ATP memorabilia. Bad timing.

I had to settle for Nando’s because it’s the cheapest resto I can find.

I took out my mobile and replied to Art’s latest message. Meet me in Nando’s. I’ll eat my lunch first.

“Yum, yum, creamy mash!”

I heard Art’s voice getting closer as he walked to my table. He’s looking as dorky as ever with that coat he’s wearing.

“Wait, just let me finish,” I said as I gulped the last spoonful of the resto’s signature mashed potato with butter.

"Long time no see! How's it going?" Art took a seat opposite mine.

"Heto, still job hunting," I sighed. As much as possible, I wanted to find a new one that would replace my kitchen porter position.

"Nah, don't worry, you'll find one soon. Just don't give up your job until you're not assured of another one."

"Yea, I know. I have common sense, you know. C'mon, let's go then! Next show starts at 3PM."

“Sorry, your student cards are not valid. We only accept NUS cards,” the ticket seller said.

I handed the money in disbelief. Students were supposed to be entitled to a discount when buying film tickets, but apparently, they don’t accept our IDs. So we had to pay about 1.50 extra.

The snacks were expensive as well. 2 large cups of Coke and a large popcorn for a tenner…. 700 pesos down the drain. And yes, I still convert up to this day.

We entered Cinema 7. It was as big as the cinemas in Eastwood. Oh I miss those. One ironic thing is that it’s hot and toasty inside, so we can take off our coats and jumpers.

I was a bit too excited in blabbering to Art about how British adverts differ from the ones in Manila. The screen was crystal clear… no lines at all coming from the projector. The way of showing trailers was different as well. In the UK, it will be trailers, then adverts, then trailers again. And yeah, it took like 20 minutes before the show really started.

“Oh! It’s Shaftesbury Avenue,” I exclaimed to Art. Harry and the gang were walking past by the famous Sanyo logo in Piccadilly Circus.

I felt embarrassed though as a few of the film viewers looked at our direction. I think I said it a bit too loud.

“Shhh Josh! Act like a Londoner. Haha!” He seemed to be enjoying my embarrassment as he kept on snickering on the side.

“What can I do? I’ve been to that place! I must feel proud!” I reiterated.

“Haha, suit yourself, mate.” He then messed my hair up playfully. I can feel a tingling sensation from my heart.

As the show went on, it seemed weird but magical at the same time when we laughed at the funny scenes at the same time. Like the time when the trio infiltrated the Ministry of Magic. We kept on laughing and looking at each other.

My heart kept on fluttering when our hands sometimes brush whenever I had to get a handful of popcorn. He didn’t mind, and I didn’t mind as well. I swear that I was not doing it on purpose.

And then, after Voldemort grabbed the Elder Wand from Grindelwald, the lights were back on.

“Come on Art, please?” I pleaded.

We were back in the booths outside The O2 that sells ATP memorabilia. Since Barclays are the main sponsors of the tournament, account holders can get a free USB. I was pleading him to get one for me.

“Nah, I am shy to do just that. Ever see people redeeming them?” He pointed to the booth. There wasn’t any queue at all.

Tsk. After a couple more minutes of persuading, I finally gave up. I just went to the shirt section to look and window shop.

“Hey Josh, since it’s still early, wanna go to Canary Wharf?” He was walking briskly towards me.

“Fine, I guess. I just wish I get to watch Federer and Nadal battle it out,” I said with disappointment. Ticket prices are at £20 the minimum.

We were walking outside Canary Wharf station. It’s basically like London’s version of Makati or Fort Bonifacio. Tall corporate buildings were housed there, with businessmen from all backgrounds walking past us on their way home.

“I’ve been dreaming of working here,” I blurted out. We were strolling inside a park in the middle of the urban jungle. I am currently working as a kitchen porter and an order taker. If I had stayed in Manila, would I be working like a corporate yuppie in Paseo de Roxas?

“Same here. I really can’t believe that the future is getting bleaker,” he sighed. News came out last week that the British government are planning to decrease net migration drastically by cutting the routes to permanent residency and citizenship.

“Well then, if we are not welcome here, what can we do? Let’s just move to another country then,” I replied. The Christmas lights in the park were flickering, as if it’s motioning me to think about my decision very carefully.

“Can I ask you something Josh?” Art said in a very serious tone.

I froze up. I didn’t know why, but there was something in this tone that made me think that what was coming was a dreaded question.

“Where can I buy some combs? Tita’s asking me to buy one.”

Pucha. That’s it? Why say it very seriously?

“Well, let‘s go to Boots then.” I pointed to the Jubilee Place Shopping Centre, just a few yards away.

After buying his comb, and strolling a bit more, it was time to go home.

“Take care Josh, see ya in the second term,” he said.

“See ya, Art.” I gave him a hi-5 before we parted ways. His hands were a bit bigger than mine. It felt warm as well. Lol.

It was such a tiring but fun day. I was about to fall asleep in the DLR train to Lewisham, when my mobile phone beeped.

1 Message from Art

Hey Josh, thanks for today. I really enjoyed it. Take care!

I tried to think what to reply so that it wouldn’t seem too obvious, but in the end, what I’ve come up was so generic that I felt bad for myself.

Same here Art. What a great day. Take care as well. Cheers!

Message Sent.

Sunday, 7 November 2010

Thoughts from Trafalgar

Damn it, I am still early for my shift.

It was only 4:50, yet the sun was already gone.

I was walking past by the National Portrait Gallery. Should I enter or not?

Nah… One hour is not enough. Work starts at 6.

With the paper in my hand, I traversed down the steps to the majestic plaza, with tourists taking their pics in the world famous Trafalgar Square.

No pigeons. Great. I still have extra bread crumbs with me. The government banned the feeding of pigeons a few years ago. But seriously, why can’t they make it like the piazza in front of the Duomo in Milan?

Three months. Time flies like a hawk. I can’t believe that 90 days had already passed.

 I sat by the fountains as I watched some crazy American teens taking their pics and listened to their American twang.

What happened to me within those three months? I thought of all the good things, and the bad.

What a naïve boy I was.

I came here thinking that life will be great since I am in one of the most beautiful cities in the world. But then again, constraints and reality hit me hard… really hard.

I got derailed.

I do not know what to do actually. I am not sure how this will take shape, especially if my status here is uncertain.

Uncertainty coupled with being alone in a foreign land. Lovely.

Before I can think of anything else, I caught a glimpse of the Big Ben about half a mile away. It was already 15 before 6.

Off I go to work then. I’ll just have to pwn my upcoming term break.

Thursday, 4 November 2010

Cold Platform

22:29 train to London Marylebone.... Drat. I still have to wait 20 minutes.

Since Central line trains are severely delayed and will be terminating at White City, I have to walk across the flyover just to get to the National rail platform.

I sat at the bench on the platform waiting for the Chiltern train. God, that Black Brit was talking very loudly on the phone. I can hear what he was saying even though he's two platforms away.

15 minutes... Hell I'm freezing. Why the heck was the waiting room closed? Didn't they expect that some bloke will travel to central London at this time?

Apparently not, I guess.

10 minutes. Damn it. Wind's getting stronger. I took out my phone and took some vain shots.

Great for killing time, I mumbled.

I think I was too busy adjusting the phone's angle, since I was utterly shocked when I heard a human voice just a few feet away from me.

""Scuse me mate, is this goin' to the City?"

I tried not to show that I was stunned, but apparently, it didn't work 'cause he apologised right after.

Studying his expression, he seems a bit lost. This 5'9" 20-ish lad with above average features just looked at me. I can see bewilderment and confusion in his eyes.

"Yes it is." I quickly replied. He might suspect I'm looking at him very intently. Well, there is a good reason though. I can't stop myself from looking at his blue gray eyes.

He sat down the opposite end of the bench I was sitting in.

7 minutes left. Faster train... God knows if his handsome bloke belongs to a gang or something.

"Stupid strike, innit? I have to wait 20 mins for the next Central line train. So I bet this will be faster."

I nodded, but didn't expound anymore. Yes, there will be a Tube strike starting tonight and it will end tomorrow evening. It's been going on for two months, and it concerns some unions who oppose job cuts within the Transport for London.

Lucky me I don't have classes tomorrow... Unlucky for the normal commuters though.

"Goin' to a party in central?" The lad asked.

"No, I live in the southeast so I have to take another train there."

"Wow, that's far mate... So what brings you here?" He said this with his eyes fixed on mine. Tsk... I can feel my heart beating a bit faster.

"I work here. Kinda ironic isn't it?"

"Yeah it is... but you do what you have to do... with unemployment soaring, you have to be thankful that you have work, mate."

Hmmm, interesting. He's more clever than I thought. Not to come up as arrogant, but I rarely get conversations like these.

"Agree. You goin' to party?" I asked. That's what Brit boys do usually... party, party and more party.

"No, I'm going home actually. I live in Havering."

My eyes widened. "That's farther than my place, mate. It's like the other side of London altogether!"

"Yeah, but my girlfriend lives here, so I need to do what I have to do." He said it with a mixture of disappointment and delight.

Girlfriend, eh? Bummer. Oh well. Not as if I care. But why do I seem to care. I just met him like 5 minutes ago.

I looked at my watch. 22:30.... Where the bloody hell is the train?

I then looked at the electronic noticeboard. Expected time: 22:45.

Oh dear. 15 minutes more. I started to feel uncomfortable with my surroundings. I just want to be alone.

"Delayed... this is rubbish." the lad muttered.

"Well, you might as well take the Central line," I said. Not that I was pushing him away, but the sooner I'm alone, the better. Talk about being a loner.

"Well no worries, I'm fine here. But how 'bout you? I'll just keep you company."

Good thing the lights on the platform were dim, or else he might see my cheeks that have the potential to scream: "I'm blushing!"

"Nah, I'm fine!" But as soon as I said that, my teeth chattered. Oh great.

"You're cold! Come sit beside me then."

I hesitated. But after a few seconds, I slowly inched myself closer... Without warning, he put his right arm across my shoulder. God, what is breathing. Didn't inhale or exhale for a couple of seconds.

And then, my heart stopped when I felt a knife edge piercing at my jumper and he uttered the next few words that just got me paralysed.

"This is a hold up mate... Give me your phone and wallet."


I quickly glanced at the direction where the sound came from.

It was the train, apparently.

I looked around. No Brit lad. No knife. Nothing. It was just the train, the platform, and me.

"Damn, it was just a dream," I muttered, as I hopped on the train.

Tuesday, 2 November 2010

Best Kept Secret?

It was another cold night. Gene, Art, and I were in my house studying for next day’s exam. Oh how I hate accounting.

I decided to pump up the atmosphere by playing some music in my iTunes.

Even after munching some biscuits and drinking some tea, there still isn’t anything going in my head. But then, “The Best Kept Secret” played in my iTunes. Oh dear, but I’m pretty sure none of my friends know what this song’s about.

“I love that song.”

I froze. I looked at Art. He looked at me. Huh? I mean, having knowledge in this song means something.

“What’s that song?” Gene asked.

“Best Kept Secret,” I replied.

“Oh I don’t know that song,” she said. Thank heavens. But Art? I’ve been sensing something’s off ever since the day I first met him, but he just keeps on blabbing about girls and their hot curves, so I dismissed the fact that he’s like me. Or maybe I am such an assuming person that every person who listens to Bare songs is gay. Fine then, I’ll take the latter reasoning. Let’s just leave it at that.

But then again, fate kept on fooling around with me. “Role of a Lifetime” suddenly played. I am pretty sure that it was on shuffle mode.

Then I saw it. Art glanced at me again… I saw it from my peripheral vision. He didn’t say a word, nor did I. We just let Peter’s voice resonate in my room.

As things couldn’t get any worse, “Bare” played after a few more songs. I checked my iTunes discreetly. It was in shuffle mode alright.... in the Recently Added playlist. Oh boy.

I can’t take his piercing glances anymore. It’s either I am already bare in front of Art or he’s afraid that I am thinking the same thing about him. So, what is it?!

Should I say something? Should I text him about my ridiculous song choices?

“Hey guys, how do we solve problem #2?” our other friend said suddenly.

Thank God, you are a saviour. I need not say anything. I don’t want to risk this. Maybe Art’s a West End fan. Oh wait, There isn’t a theatre in London that plays Bare. It’s on the other side of the Atlantic Ocean… Broadway.

“Josh? We have to go… it’s already 10…” said Gene. Seemed I was dozing off for a while.

I ushered them at the bus stop nearest to my place, then gave clear instructions on how to get back to central London from Catford.

“Just text me if you guys are lost ok?” I said, as they stepped on to the Bus 47 service to Shoreditch.

Walking back to my place, I kept on thinking about what happened earlier.

Knowing that my gaydar sucks big time, I have to ask myself… Is Art really one of us?