Friday, December 09, 2005

Weird Scenes Inside the Gold Mine

Love Street

Angeles City, Philippines. October, 1975 2:20 a.m.

The street below is dead quiet, even though it's the main drag just outside the gate of Clark AB. It’s long past curfew; the bars closed over two hours ago and there are no people in the street, none whatsoever. Curfew. Martial law.

The air is warm and humid, just under 80 degrees. My body has a light sheen of sweat, but it's a clean sweat with a faint odor of hotel-bathroom Ivory. There’s a half-moon overhead, obscured more often than not by fast moving low clouds. It will rain twice before I go back inside.

This is the second-story balcony of the Happy Chicks Bar, a small space with three chairs, a couple of low tables and room for four people, if you push it. The balcony’s enclosed by a low wooden railing that’s about waist-level, there’s a sloping roof overhead. There are lights out here, but they’re not on…moonlight is all we have. The woman and I are the only people on the balcony at this hour.

We’re also buck-naked.

I’m in a papa-san chair, the cotton-cushioned rattan chairs that are everywhere here. The chairs are large enough for close friends to sit comfortably together, and so we are. I’m semi-reclining, legs crossed, feet stretched out and resting on the balcony railing. She’s on her side, facing me, one leg underneath my legs, the other bent and lying over my upper legs. Her head is nestled on my shoulder, her arm lies on my chest. I adjust my position to nuzzle her hair momentarily, then drain the San Miguel I brought out with me. We've been out here for perhaps 20 minutes.

“You want another one beer?”


She disentangles herself, gets up, wraps a towel around her slight body, and disappears through the French doors into the dark hallway. Three minutes later she’s back with a tray holding my beer, a coke, an ashtray, and our smokes. I take my feet off the rail as she lights two cigarettes and hands one to me. I move over, turning on my side as she drops the towel on the side table and climbs back into the chair, placing the ashtray between us. She sits there, cross-legged, smoking, slowly looking me up and down. Every so often she reaches out and lightly, ever-so-lightly, touches my chest, my arm. Our eyes meet when she does that. We smile.

We’re mostly silent; her English isn’t too good, my Pilipino is non-existent. But we communicate... oh my, yes... we DO communicate. At least an hour goes by, punctuated by occasional smokes, light touches, and caresses.

“We go back my room?”

I smile and nod.

She puts the empties, the ashtray and our smokes on the tray, re-wraps herself in the towel, picks up the tray with one hand and takes my hand with the other. I follow her back inside and down the hallway to her room.

There’s light in the sky before we sleep.

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