That Day

I stare out the right backseat window as we navigate the vehicle and pedestrian filled streets of Manila. It’s raining here too. I think about all that has happened today. It’s been another long day.
“Where to, sir?” My driver’s voice interrupts my thoughts. “Straight home?”

I look at the man seated in the driver’s seat. He’s a good man. Not perfect, but good. Young, hardworking, expecting a child, in love, he’s a blessed man where it really counts. It’s the thought of people like him, their families, their needs and dreams that urges me to work harder, to prevent failure, to make a larger contribution.

“Rockwell. Let’s have dinner.”
Content with my instructions I allow myself to drift back to hours earlier, staring out another drizzle spotted window…

I like watching the raindrops slide across the glass and disappear into each other. Too much of my life is repelled when it collides. It’s nice to see something coalesce. None of them are bumping on this particularly fast train though. They’re all sliding in the same direction past my line of vision to who knows where, just like they did on the flight coming here. This train will take me to Kowloon; from there I’ll take the bus to the Prince, and cross the street to our gold / bronze glassed office in Harbor Center. Then the meeting will begin. It will take up much of the day, but it will be worth it because we’re discussing important things. They’re important because they’re about business. And business brings money. And money is important. We’ll talk about money, how much we’re making, or how much we’re not making to be more accurate, to be even more truthful, how much we’re losing. Then we’ll talk about how we can make more, rather, how not to lose anymore. We’ll take a break for a light lunch of salad and cheese at the same restaurant in the same club we’ve familiarized ourselves with, and we’ll settle everything with a cup of tea, or coffee, or a cappuccino depending on what one feels like having. Then we’ll all separate for an hour, use the toilet, freshen up, buy more coffee, or green tea in my case, and reconvene at the small boardroom of the office.

“Sir? What was that?” Again Non’s voice sends me back to the present.

“Huh? I didn’t say anything. Did I?”

“Oh, sorry. I thought you were saying something.”

“Oh ok. No, no, I wasn’t saying anything.”

He’s very attentive. I like that. He’s a good man. He shares the name of a saint, St. Non or Nonnita. That’s got to be a plus. And it gets better. St. Non is traditionally known as the mother of St. David. I’ve learned to appreciate these coincidences. A friend once told me she liked to think of coincidences as little steps on a path bringing people closer. She had that brightness that people have when they think they’re saying something profound. That glow quickly disappeared when I told her she was right, car crashes are basically two cars coinciding.
“Why do you have to ruin everything???”

“Everything? That’s a lot of things to ruin.”
She hasn’t emailed in a while. Which is probably better for me. I’m having a hard enough time with my current inbox. She did write some great letters. Some too long I broke them down to read in parts. Some sooo long I gave them to my secretary to prepare summaries. I like bullet points. They’re easier to remember. When I first heard the term “bullet points” I thought about my professor aiming a gun at my head firing bullets named integrals, Keynes, Cuneiform, and fiscal policy.

We finished early today. One of the privileges of working with older people is that they know when to stop. There’s work, but there’s also family, and music, and painting, and health, and adventure, and food, and technology, and lots and lots of books, and mystery, and romance, yes, that too. Of course that’s not always the case, but hopefully age and experience teach us what’s important before we run out of time to enjoy them. It’s a fact that people usually know better when more of their life is behind them rather than before. Earlier at lunch my partner and I had an interesting exchange related to this:
“Gregory, I’m at a stage where my friends are getting married. I need to prepare for that possibility.”

“David, I’m at a stage where my friends are dying. I need to prepare for that certainty.”
I laughed at his remark. I realized he wasn’t joking. I pretended to cough.
I asked him about what he believed would happen to him when he died. Did he believe in heaven? In hell? I don’t know how I get away with these questions, but I do, so I keep asking. In essence he said that he didn’t believe in the after-life. That we died and only continue to exist in the lives of our children and the people we have contributed to, through our relationships, and through our accomplishments. I was sad to hear his answer. Not so much because we disagree but more because of the implications of his belief when in light of what I believe. I believe in one God and that His Son, Jesus, is the way, and that by accepting His forgiveness and turning to Him we can enjoy eternity with Him. But this, I believe, is the only way as written in his word, and not to live by it is to miss out on saving grace. So I said a prayer in my head that God would bless him and meet him in a way only God can, because I realized I had grown to love him as a mentor and as a comrade in the not so peaceful world of international business.

“Sir. Do you ever think about getting married?”

“What? Married? Yes, of course. Everyone does at some point.”

“But you don’t want to yet?”

“I can’t yet. Can’t afford it.”

“Neither can I. But we can afford what we want to afford. But that’s also because I don’t date models. Haha!”

“Very funny…I don’t date. I just have lunches and dinners.”
I thought to myself, “She could be a model. She’s striking and tall and slim. But she’d rather take pictures, which are plain at best and usually epileptic in my opinion. And she’d rather be reading a book – which was exactly what she was doing when I found her sitting on a bench in Kowloon Park.

Tell Me A Story

She asked me to tell her a story. She wanted something romantic. So I told her of a girl, and a boy, an evil ninja clan, a beautiful alien from Venus, an old leper, a cat lady who lived in a house that smelled of pigeon poop, and a lot of falling leaves. I don’t think the story was very good, but she seemed to like it. She told me later that she loved all my stories. She was biased. She has always been. But I love her for being so.

She asked me why everyone but the leper dies in the story. I told her I wanted something realistic. She said that nothing with an alien from Venus would ever be realistic. She got me again. She was always the smarter one. Well, no, I’m smarter. I just don’t like having to explain myself all the time.

“Why can’t the boy and the girl live?” she asked.

“Why do you have to ask so many questions?” I answered.

“But why?” she tried again.

“They just don’t.”

“You’re so boring! Do you know what my favorite story is?”

“No.”

“Do you want to know?”

“Do you want my honest answer or a nice to hear answer?”

“Your honest answer.”

“Of course I want to know.”

“Really?”

“Honestly, no. That was the nice to hear answer.”

“I hate you. Why not?”

“Ok, just hurry up and tell me.”

“It’s Little Women. Have you read that?”

“Yes, I think so, in a dream. I was in man hell reading it while this huge five hundred pound lady was plucking my leg hair with her nasty fingernails.”

“I really hate you now.”

She’ll hate me until she realizes I used all the shampoo – then she’ll hate me even more. I’ll run to the store to buy her some and get some flowers on the way back. That will take about fifteen minutes. The conversation earlier was probably two minutes. She’ll hate me from the end of the conversation to the time she sees the flowers. She’ll pretend she still hates me for about another one to two minutes. The whole exercise will be less than twenty minutes. I could have used the twenty minutes on the Ab-Flex and gotten as much out of it. Of course I know that’s not true. But sometimes it’s nice to think females waste your time.

A Thought in the Emergency Room

I watch a man care for his vomiting wife. True love is strengthened by suffering and perfected by pain.

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