There are hushed whispers inside their compound on the complaint of rising electric bills in the entire house as Bam consumed most of it from her latest hobby: the 50-inch TV screen binge watching activity which ran on all of her free time. Some of the others are joking about lobbying a virtual petition on Facebook to have her pay 90% of the bills.
She did it on weekends, evenings after work, and sometimes even the wee hours of the morning. When she was not watching, she was working. Sometimes, she thinks peeing time is a waste because it takes a minute off her favorite show. She got wind of her compound companions’ vendetta when she tiptoed by the door of her landlady’s office. The next day, she wrote a fat check amounting to Php 10,000 and it extinguished the mutiny flat in its face.
Back to regular programming… Certainly she was irked that they did not just approach her about it.
This morning, she woke up with the remote control on her hand. She opened her eyes and it was a bleary view for a few moments. She saw the teevo still on with the familiar face of a blue-eyed, fake lawyer character that she absolutely adored. This drama is getting old, though. She took one last glance at his blue eyes and switched the TV off regretfully to attend to adult matters, namely: brushing her teeth, washing her face, and preparing breakfast.
Oh, she also had to get dressed. It’s going to be overtime Manic Monday for her. Her manager just told her that the KPIs were reaching the gates of Hades. Greek references about hell from her boss definitely means that she’ll have to say goodbye to that very much planned fairy tale TV show marathon tomorrow night. She decided to concentrate on adult prep things while she still can.
For preps, it was just salted tuna straight off a can. The apartment was tiny, unkempt, and barely filled. It only had three major features: her single bed, her bean, and the large TV. All the rest of the items are purely for necessity, including the incredibly austere dipper-dominated bathroom, 10-square-meter joint kitchen and dining space, and a very lonely-looking black mat by the front door. The studio type was perfect for her needs.
Once in a blue moon, she had a guest and the neighboring apartment renters were not so discreet in gossiping about it. But 99% of the time, she was happily satiated watching her favorite characters make love on the screen, almost as if there was a menage a trois in her very bed when they make fake love.
She looked out at the window as she stabbed the tuna with her fork and placed it in her mouth like bullets adroitly being fed to the barrel of a gun. Pulling at the drawers with her left hand and opening the fridge with her foot, she sighed as she saw that her stock of food is running out on both. She’d have to literally drag her butt to the convenience store. The last time she went out for non-work reasons was 6 weeks ago and she did not miss any of the fresh air; she almost had a heart attack hearing a biker’s warning device. She is no longer used to the outside world and the urban noise even as she stares at it from her window during breakfast.
A new startle came when the phone rang midway in her tuna stabbing ritual. She sighed, thought of running to the bathroom but grabbed the handset out of guilt. “Hello?”
“Bam! Hellooooooo! I miss you.” Bam smiled in spite of her initial annoyance. She knew who this was: Natalie, her sister.
“Hey Nat! Sorry, I was really busy with work so I was not able to catch up with you.” she managed and stared at the TV sheepishly as she twirled the phone cord with her fingers. She kind of missed her family, after all. Bam imagined her sister sitting beside the phone and curled up on the floor with her huge smile and dimpled face. They never looked alike and both reveled in each other’s strengths. Nat had the charm and admirers that will make her perfect for almost anything; at the moment, Bam had the medals and the kickass job in crunching data and doing field work for a variety of local products.
“Well I am fine. I am glad to catch you before work. Are you okay? Is this a bad time?” Nat said in an all familiar tone.
Bam liked this game. She held her breath and stayed silent. She looked at the wall clock at the top of the door and counted inwardly to herself: 5, 4, 3, 2, 1…
“Hello? You’re doing that counting thing again, aren’t you?” Nat cackled but it was clearly an uncomfortable laugh on the other end of the line.
“Okay shoot, what is it this time Nat?” Bam asked. She tried not to sigh but ended up rolling her eyes.
“I kind of need extra money for a project.” Natalie said carefully. As she said it, she was looking at her favorite artist’s upcoming concerts and its dwindling patron ticket availability.
Bam googled the artist at the same moment she heard the word project. The tone gave Nat away. “She’s on tour. You don’t have to lie about it. You know that.” Bam said, hurt slowly permeating in her voice. She sat by the kitchen-dining table. This call is going to take a while and traffic will wreak havoc on her later as a punishment, so she might as well be kind to her legs.
Nat stuttered “Well, a-are you sure?”
“Yeah, I am. You are her biggest fan. But promise to study well, okay?” She smiled as she swiped the phone; she got an email message that she successfully made the fund transfer to her sister’s bank account.
“Yeah, I swear!” Nat said.
There was an awkward silence. They both knew that they have to talk about another thing and the concert ticket was the least of their concerns.
Bam thought of her favorite cliffhanger moments on TV shows she has watched and decided to be brave enough to break this silence.
“Soooo, how are things at home?” Bam said.
“Same old, same old…” Nat trailed off, seemingly transported to another world. “You know, I am kind of itching to click this reserve ticket button…”
Bam did let her off easy this time. “Don’t do that, please tell me more.”
“Uh, well, everything’s still the same but not quite since you moved out. I know you had to. When I grow up, I would have to.” Nat continued, “I am just floating in the middle of the fights. I have the ultra cool earphones you gave me last Christmas. They’ve stopped throwing the plates at each other. That’s a start. But they keep screaming at who pays for what and have resorted to spilling water on each other during meals. Buy me a raincoat next Christmas?” she laughed.
Bam chuckled at the dark humor Nat has developed.
“But I am holding out, Bam. I am fine and you paid for the last electric bill. That kind of shut them up for 10 days and bought me some quiet time during midterms. My final exam is next month so, can I sleep over?”
“Sure please come over, I need you here. I paid these bastards an additional 10,000 for my awesome TV so yes, you can sleep over any goddam time you want.” Bam said. She knew her school was 2 hours away but it’s better and more conducive for study.
“Oh noooo you did not! But how are things at work? Didn’t you mention that your officemates are giving you a hard time lately? I hesitated on asking about extra cash cause you said last time that you hated them and you wanted a new job.” Nat probed, but regretted the words as soon as they came out of her mouth.
It was true. Bam thought. But we always have what we needed, not necessarily what we wanted.
She mouthed the words but said another thing completely in keeping with the role of a good sister: “Well, I have to do my job. They can step up their game if needed. I am not supposed to budge just because I daunt people who don’t perform.” Despite the firm voice, Bam gripped the phone for strength and fought back tears. If this were a TV show, this would be the moment that they start playing a cheesy friendship or sister song like Power of Two.
“I’ll believe it when I see it! I know you’re just saying that so I won’t feel bad about the concert ticket favor. So… when are you coming home again?” Natalie asked, nay, pleaded. Her labored asthmatic breaths thickly hung on the line between them.
“I am not sure, really. I have to do something for work, so I will have to call you back,” she says as calmly as she could possibly make out. “But I will send more. We need tickets for two to that concert because I am joining you this time.”
“Wow! Yey!!! You’re so cool!”
“Yeah..I know. Sorry I had to leave you there. I’ll come and get you sometime, when I can. I am barely able to swim for myself.” She looked at the crucifix and thanked her lucky stars that her voice did not break when she said it.
“I miss you sis!” Natalie said.
“I miss you, too.” Bam said, and she meant it from the bottom of her heart. “Catch you again when work clears up, Natty,” Bam managed to say and promptly hung up the phone.
She stood by the phone for a while and checked her phone. Her last transaction was a fund transfer and the landlady’s check due to her arrogance is due in two weeks. She made another phone call to the bank and her account balance is just enough for a salsa dip. It’s four days away from pay day.
An email suddenly went through her inbox. This time, it was an invitation for a moonlighting job of making TV show reviews. Her eyes lit up and clicked ‘Confirm’ on the screen.
She rushed in her bathroom, got dressed, and grabbed her keys as she stepped out and joined the corporate world.
Traffic was a bitch that Monday. She walked back like a zombie to her apartment. The keys almost fell to the floor as she tried to make her way in.
She made a list on her black Moleskine of Fall 2015’s upcoming TV shows, got her unfinished box of potato chips on the chair, and slunk back at the beanie bag for the next marathon of a political thriller. Last season’s killing spree was a bad idea; she hopes to be sucked away into this new season without issues.
As she watched, she was scrolling her chat window for a virtual interview for her second job. As her favorite kind politician in the TV show fell to the ground on her big screen, tears fell from her eyes. She looked down at her phone screen which told her that she got the TV night job. She smiled in spite of her tears and drafted an outline for her review of tonight’s episode.
Note: Fiction 🙂