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The Door that Jackson Bought (Manila, Philippines) I got an SMS while sleeping late at the Renaissance Hotel, “Do you want to meet for lunch? My customer appointment cancelled.” I punched back, “Sure. What time?” “An early lunch. 11:30.” I looked at the hotel clock it was already 11. “Sure.” And I jumped up and hurried to the shower. Going as fast I could, I still arrived at Greenbelt 3 late. She was waiting in front of Nuvo. She looked a little impatient. “Why are you late? What were you doing?” I smiled, “I was sleeping in late. It is your birthday but I am the one on holiday.” Just then her phone rang. “Yes?” Pause. And then she looked at me and motioned with her eyes that we should start walking to find a restaurant. Because it was Friday lunch time – the restaurants were starting to fill up quickly. “No.” She answered back as we started moving forward in unison. “I am with another customer right now, I can’t.” And she winked at me. “Tourism Board.” She answered and then she started speaking in Tagalog. Suddenly, she just hung up her mobile and she was quiet as if she was mad. “What’s wrong?” “I got a technical consultant who is lazy. I have asked him to do a proof of concept for me – and he is refusing. But he is the one who can do it. He says he won’t do it if I am not there.” “You should be flattered.” She stopped and looked me in the face. “I don’t date Filipino.” “I am not saying date him – just consider it a compliment.”

She blew out a breath. Then she just stopped. “Where do you want to eat?” “How about the Italian restaurant?” She didn’t say no or yes – she just started walking again. I followed quickly. And as we approached outside – one of the tables was being vacated – Sophia just sat down at it as the bus boy ran forward and started cleaning it off. Sophia then stuck her hand up to flag down a waitress. When one got eye contact, she mouthed, “Menu please?” And then she went back to looking at her mobile phone. Without looking up she added, “I got two sales this week. One of them is not even mine, but my co-worker but the customer’s CFO won’t sign it unless it’s under my name. So my co-worker made a deal – I will put it under my name if he will give me small percentage of the sale.” She then looked up and saw the passion of her job in her eyes. I smiled and laughed. Sophia – the old Sophia – returned. “What?” And she smiled too. “What are you laughing about?” “You.” And just then the waitress showed up and apologized. She then gave us the menus – giving me my menu first. She then told me about the specials – never looking at Sophia. Sophia didn’t look at the waitress either. When the waitress went quiet, Sophia gave her selection in a monotone voice. “Spaghetti bolognaise and ice tea.” The waitress wrote it down quickly. The waitress then looked up and smiled sweetly at me. “I will take the Ravioli.” I said. “Very good, sir.” And she wrote it down. “And also an ice tea.” Then Sophia spoke up, “And can you give us our orders quickly – I have another appointment in forty-five minutes.” The waitress answered, “Yes, ma’m.” And hurried off. Then Sophia and I sat there staring at each other. “So? Why were you laughing at me?” “You are a woman me.” “Huh?” “Usually I am the one on the mobile phone. I am the one on the phone – complaining about my job. We have switched roles. You are a woman version of me.”

“No, that’s not true. You just never paid any attention or gave me credit for my job. You were too wrapped up in your own world.” I digested what she said as they brought bread to the table for us to snack on. She watched my eyes. “Are you going to write this on soulparking?” “Maybe.” I smiled. “Well if you do – can you stop writing about me as if I was a bitch. You compliment everyone else when you write about them – except me.” I was shocked. “What are you talking about? Some of the most beautiful stuff I have written has been about you.” “Well, recently though, you have been writing about me in a negative way. I don’t want people to think there is something wrong with us.” I was quiet. “Look, I promise I am not doing that intentionally. Or maybe you are wrongly reading into what I am writing.” “I read it. I know what you are saying. I am just asking you to write something nice about me.” Just then the sun peeked through and highlighted her – as if she suddenly became a beautiful angel. But just as quickly, a cloud passed and the sun was gone – and she returned to just being a woman who was menstruating. I laughed at myself and my thoughts. “Okay, fair enough. But remember – when we started dating – I told you that I would write about you.” “But you don’t even use my real name.” “I am trying to protect your identity.” “You sure you not ashamed of me?” I blew out a breath. “Of course not.” And then the ice teas arrived and she and we took a long sip through our straws. We stared each other down. “You never told me what the Hindu priest said about your destiny and our future.” I went back to my straw and pulled more tea through it. “Well, he said it was my destiny. My future to decide.”

“So what he told you was that bad?” I shook my head. “No of course not.” Her phone chirped as if an SMS arrived. But she didn’t look down. “So tell me. What did he say?” “Look I didn’t have to tell you that I met with him.” “But you did – so you opened that door yourself. And I want to know what he said.” Just then her phone rang – and she kept watching me – ignoring it ringing. Then she looked down and saw who it was and answered. “I told you I am at another customer site – I can’t come back to the office right now!” Sophia said impatiently. She then started listening and rolling her eyes. I let out a relieved breath. The door to that conversation had closed at the right time. But then suddenly, the sun was back behind where she was sitting and the way it projected against her - she now looked like an angel – in business woman’s clothes.

Saturday night, we had sushi for dinner and drank a bottle of wine. I had hoped to treat her to a romantic birthday dinner – but every night she had something come up for her job – and we had to postpone. So now I was trying to make up for lost time. And when dinner and our conversation was over, we went up one more floor to where it had all started for us – Ice Bar. We sat outside and our favorite waitress, Momma, hurried outside to meet us. She hugged us both. Her and Sophia said something loudly in Tagalog and laughed. Momma looked at me, “You want a…?” And she raised her arm and flexed her bicep and pointed to it. That was the sign for, “Red Bull and vodka.” I mimicked her and pointed to my own bicep. “Yes, definitely.” And then Momma made the letter C with her hand for Sophia. But then she spoke, “Vodka Cranberry, ma’m?” Sophia smiled and nodded. It was three Red Bull Vodkas and two Vodka Cranberries later that we found ourselves on the dance floor. Momma kept the refills coming.

And in the corner of my eye, I saw a group of five men in white military uniforms enter and take a booth near the door. They were not American nor where they Filipino. I guessed they were Italian sailors. They were staring at Sophia pretty hard. I didn’t let it bother me I just had another Red Bull and Vodka. Finally, Sophia and I were the only ones on the dance floor and the whole club was watching us. And in the middle of a move, I felt someone touch my shoulder. I turned and it was one of the white Navy guys – the other four were standing in line behind him. “Hey man,” he started with a heavy accent, “you have such a beautiful girlfriend.” I smiled. “Thanks man. I know.” And he looked at Sophia again. And then he turned back to me. “Can we have a picture of her?” “Sure,” I shrugged. The Navy guy turned to one of his buddies and asked for the camera. And then he turned to me, “Can you take the picture?” “Of course!” I said. And then I took the camera and there Sophia was in the middle of them – and I snapped them all smiles. I took a second one just to be safe. The Navy guy took the camera looked at it and smiled. “Wow. Thanks great picture.” He then paused as the music blared around us. “Hey, can you take another?” I wanted to get to back to dancing but I nodded. “Sure, no problem.” He handed me the camera again. All the Navy guys surrounded Sophia and I snapped a shot – and then a second shot. I handed it back to them. They were all smiles and said something not in English to each other. And then another one of them turned to me, “Can we get a picture with all of us?” I laughed. “Sure.” And then one of the Navy guys took the camera and stood in front of us – then the Navy guys surrounded both Sophia and I. I put my hand around Sophia’s waist. That’s when I felt the first Navy guy – who had wanted the first two earlier pictures – reach his arm around Sophia and put his hand just under the overhang of her breasts. I got angry but I held it back for a second or two. But then suddenly, I felt his hand move up and tighten around her breast.

I turned just as the flash went off and slammed my fist against his cheek. It took him off guard and I remembered watching the smile on his face vanish and he stumbled off of his feet. The other Navy guy beside me – was shocked and was about to swing at me – that’s when I spit my gum in his eye – and popped him under his chin. The Navy camera guy then started running towards me and I just side stepped him and he slid to his knees. That’s when the bouncer pushed through to me and grabbed me behind the neck and pinned my arms behind me – but with my hands flailing out on the sides. He then began to drag me outside. That’s when the fourth Navy guy started he take a cheap shot – but I was able to get off a punch and he snapped back. The final Navy guy launched at me – and I took my flailing hands and shoved him as hard as I could against the glass door – he twirled and hit it head first and the glass door made a gigantic pop and it exploded into a million shards. Everyone in the club did a gasp and those standing and sitting near the door scattered. That’s when the bouncer with more force pushed me completely outside – bracing me completely so I couldn’t move at all. Two Greenbelt guards showed up. I went limp and said, “Look, I am calm. I am calm. I promise. I am okay now.” The bouncer said roughly, “Don’t fuck with me.” “I am not. I am okay.” I said – trying to sound composed. But the bouncer gripped me harder and started moving me out towards the railing – he then let me go suddenly – and grunted, “Sit down.” I took a seat at a table by the railing. I saw the whole club looking outside at me. I saw the Navy guys dusting themselves off. One of the Navy guys started moving fast outside – and the bouncer caught him. Then the Navy guy said something in English to him and looked in my direction. The bouncer lifted his hand – blocking his view from seeing me. Then the Navy guy said something else – and then held out his hand for the bouncer to shake. I made him saying, “Hey man, I did nothing wrong. Something is wrong with him.” Sophia came out. And as she was coming out – one of the Navy guys tried to approach her – she shoved him out of her way and came to me. She was quiet at first. The Greenbelt guards left my side and went up to the bouncer and started talking. Some guy who had been in the club earlier came up to me and said, “Now is your time to run man. If you run away, you won’t have to pay for the door.”

I laughed. “I broke the door. I should pay for it.” That’s when Sophia erupted. “Yeah, you broke the fucking door! What is wrong with you? We were having a great time! Why do you always have to fuck it up?” She then launched in a run towards me. The guy who had told me to run grabbed her and held her back. She shoved him off. “Get your fucking hands off of me!” “Calm down.” He said. I tried to smile. “Yeah, babe, don’t worry. Just calm down.” She went quiet but she was fuming. She then erupted again, “You always fuck up a beautiful night.” That’s when the manager of Ice Bar came out. She had a disappointed look about her. “Hey, what happened?” “I am sorry.” I said genuinely. “I thought they were being disrespectful to Sophia.” “Okay,” she paused. “But you know you got to pay for the door.” I nodded. “I understand.” She nodded back and squeezed my shoulder. “You are a good customer.” And with that she went back inside. The other waitresses and the clean up crew were buzzing around the door – sweeping fast – trying to sweep up all the glass pieces. All those around the door had moved deeper into the bar and were staring outside at me – accusingly. The Navy guys had assembled outside to smoke and have a staring contest with me. Sophia sat in the chair beside me – but her arms were crossed and she wasn’t speaking. Finally, the manager returned and she held the bill out for me in a leather bound holder with the American Express logo on it. I stood, took it gently, and opened it. She took a flashlight and highlighted the bill. The total amount was twelve thousand pesos – ten thousand being the cost of the door - she had already taken my personal credit card which I had given them to start a tab - and had charged it. She had made a mark where I should sign. I looked up at her and nodded. And she handed me the pen. I signed quickly. She took a copy of the bill and wrapped my credit card in it – then handed it back. “I am so sorry.” I said.

“I know you didn’t mean to,” she said and smiled. And then I turned and walked away – alone. I didn’t wait for Sophia. I thought to myself that if the Navy guys wanted an opportunity to talk to Sophia – I was going to give it to them. She didn’t want to talk to me anyway right now. So I made a slow amble back to the Renaissance Hotel. And the further I moved away from Ice Bar – the less people looked at me – and then I realized finally – the people that passed me – didn’t know what I had just done. That’s when I finally took a breath. And then I started trembling – the adrenaline had worn off. When I got into the lobby of the hotel, I sat in one of the chairs to sit and watch people – and see if Sophia was behind me. I watched a lot of people – mostly drunk – mostly foreigners – some with one or two local women with them heading to the elevators. Heading back to their rooms. I sat there – feeling completely alone. That’s when I heard the click-clack-click-clack of Sophia’s shoes against the hotel floor. I turned and there she was – walking with a stern face and moving fast toward the bank of elevators. I stood up quickly and intercepted her as she pushed the up button. “Hey,” I said trying to smile. She said nothing and wouldn’t look me in the eyes. The elevator door opened and she walked in quickly. I followed. We went up without speaking. Finally, when the elevator doors opened to our floor – she pushed out immediately – I followed. Again, we didn’t speak. At the door of our room – she extracted her room key and shoved inside – letting the door swing back into my face. “Why are you mad at me?” I said loudly when I was in the room. Sophia reached across to the bed stand and grabbed it all and threw it – everything went flying. “Why did you embarrass me like that? Why did you have to ruin a beautiful night?” And she started crying. “That guy had no right to touch you like that!”

“Touch me like what? He didn’t touch me in anyway?” “He grabbed your breast!” She screamed. “He didn’t touch me!” “He did – I saw him and felt him!” “Fuck you! You always want to ruin everything!” I tried to reach out and hold her. She pushed me away. “Why do you want to ruin everything?” She repeated. “You know I can defend myself. I don’t need you!” I was taken back. “Oh you don’t need me?” “I don’t need you!” I went quiet. “Well next time, I will let them gang rape you.” I saw it before I felt it. I saw the rage build up in her eyes and saw her fist form and she swung back and popped me hard in the face – and I heard the crunch of it against my nose. Then I felt something warm running out of it. That’s when I grabbed her hands to stop her from hitting me. We struggled and we fell onto the bed. “You want to hit me? Huh? You want to hit me?” And I let go of her hands and pushed my face in front of her. She drew back – and hit me two more times. One made contact with my cheek and the other made contact with my bottom lip – and I felt my lip swell up quickly and felt something warm running down my chin and onto my neck. Then I saw a red spot plop on her forehead – as it dropped from my face. I saw her face contort as she saw the damage. “Hit me!” I yelled. “Go ahead and hit me again!” She wilted and turned her face to the bed and started crying. “You still love her, don’t you?” I moved back and sat on the edge of the bed. “Who are you talking about?” “Her. You know who I am talking about. You still love her.” She whimpered out. “Where did this come from?” Sophia just kept crying. “Just tell me if you love her.”

“Is this what this is about?” She looked at me. “Is that what this is about?” she repeated. “No, those guys touched you inappropriately.” “What did the priest tell you?” she said suddenly seriously. “Oh my god.” I said and left the bed and went to go and sit on the couch. “The priest mentioned her – didn’t he? He mentioned both of us. Right? That’s why you haven’t told me what he said.” “I should have never told you I was going to do that.” “He mentioned her. And you didn’t like the results.” I was quiet. “No.” But I said nothing more. “You opened this door. Now go to her. Leave me. Go on through that door together.” And she started crying. “Fuck you,” she said in a gasp. “No, I just bought a door for you. It’s the door that Jackson bought. And I did that for you.” She looked at me bewildered. “So you refer to yourself in third person now? You really are fucked up.” “No, I am just…” I put my face in my hands and I winced and took my face out of my hands and saw the blood on my palms. I crumpled on the couch – and finally – my head was spinning – and so I laid down. Then I curled up in a fetus position putting my back to the room – and closed my eyes – trying to figure out what to think. Then I focused on trying to figure out how to feel. But all I felt was my face throbbing. Then in early in the morning just before the dawn, I felt her touch me. I rolled over and looked at her. She didn’t say anything – her eyes were swollen from crying and she leaned down on me and gently kissed my mouth. It hurt. She noticed that I flinched – then she leaned down and kissed my forehead. Then she crawled onto top of me - and she kissed my neck. She then started unbuttoning my shirt and kissed my shoulder blades. She pulled it off me – and saw the purple bruise on my shoulder from the fight earlier – and she kissed that. “I hate you,” she said softly and smiled wickedly.

“I think my face knows it,” I said. “Well you told me to hit you.” “I didn’t think you would do it.” She was quiet for a moment. “Are you going to write about this too?” “Why wouldn’t I?” “Why do you write about our private fights? To make yourself look good and me look like a bad girlfriend?” “No,” and I tasted the dried blood in my mouth. “I write it down to figure me out.” “You are easy to figure out.” I tried to smile. “Really? I am?” She smiled back. “Yes.” She paused for effect. “You are an asshole.” And we both laughed until my face stretched a little far and hurt. I grunted. Sophia leaned down and softly kissed my face again. “I will make sure I write that down.” I said.

Written by GS Jackson, © 2009 LOL Entertainment Group, LLC (USA) Limited (HKG)

The Door that Jackson Bought (Manila)