Short Fiction: A Hunger of a different Kind
by Jopy Arnaldo
“I’m hungry.” I declared.
“Me too.” she said. “I’m really, really hungry.”
I invited Elle to eat after coming to the mutual conclusion that we were both starving and that we would both prefer to be anywhere else but home, due to its effect on our sanity and the toxicity level of simply doing nothing in the small enclosed space we call our rooms.
We had dinner at the Breakfast Club.
I noticed she was in a skirt. She’s always in shorts or skirts. I’ve only seen her in jeans once and it looked quite odd. Not that she looked weird in pants, but rather, when you’ve gotten used to looking at a person in a specific way, from a distinct dutch’d angle, whenever that person tries something new or out of the ordinary or whatever and breaks the straight line he or she is on, it always jars you.
Sometimes though, that person can do something so out of the ordinary or un-insert person’s name here- that you can almost hear the universe snap, to signify the new and the unexpected, like a whole new reality aligning itself with the old one.
We had spent the better part of an hour simply talking. She was smoking as we chatted away. I resisted the temptation to ask for a cigarette. It wasn’t that I was a smoker or anything, not that I was hooked on the stuff, it’s just that I wanted to smoke every now and then. It was a hunger that came over me from time to time. A guilty, dirty kind of hunger. The same kind of feeling, I imagine, because someone like me would never do anything of the sort because I’m such a gosh darn good guy, that washes over someone after he’s cheated on his girlfriend, or lied to his parents to get money or stolen something from a close friend.
Our conversation covered a broad spectrum of topics; from music we should listen to (I mentioned Sondre Lerche, she talked about Broken Social Scene in Manila), to films we should watch (Apparently I’ve been missing out on half my life because I’ve yet to watch a single Paul Thomas Anderson film), to gigs we should go to (There’s this really good Jazz Band that plays every Monday near Anonas, apparently).
Rob Gordon once said it’s not what you’re like, but rather it’s what you like that clearly defines who a person is. From what she liked, I came to the conclusion that Elle was most definitely someone of interest.
“Can I ask you a weird question that I don’t usually ask most girls, but hey, that’s how I am, but I don’t really mean any harm, so yeah?”
“Okay. Go lang.”
“Do you masturbate?”
“Wala lang. I just thought I’d ask. You don’t have to answer if you don’t want to.”
“No, it’s okay.” she said. “Yeah, I do. A lot of girls do naman, I think.”
“Even in the Philippines?”
“I think so?”
“I like using water more than my fingers sometimes. The bidet? It’s a better orgasm.”
We talked about people we knew, people we didn’t, people who sucked, people who were awesome, bad people and good people. Of course whenever we’d talk about other people, it would almost always be in relation to us for we were the center of our conversation’s world.
How we hated someone. How we found that person’s story awesome. How we found someone hot. How we found someone horrible. How we found someone annoying. How we found this person far too stuck up.
“I really don’t like Anna.”
“Why?” I said.
“I find her annoying. She so touchy and the bad kind of malandi. The other day, she was asking for hugs from everyone and did that little pout and god I was just so annoyed with her.”
“I know everyone loves her and stuff, but I get it. I do. She’s so whiny all the fucking time. I try to take her in small doses din. I get less annoyed.”
“I try to take a lot of people in small doses. I like them better that way.”
I smiled. “I should try that.”
We, we, we, we, we, was in reality, I, I, I, I, I under the pretense of shared experiences and opinions. Although sometimes, once or twice, the we, was genuine. That’s more than I can say for most people. I believe that counts for something.
Our conversation drifted into more personal matters, as some long exchanges between two people are prone to do. At first we talked about our families. The simple stuff. The easy stuff you can share on a paper for English class. And then, as these things go, it got heavier and heavier.
“When was the last time you spoke to your dad?” she asked me.
I shrugged. “Last year?”
“How long was he with the other woman?”
“Seven years ata, give or take. Funny thing is, I have the sneaking suspicion I might have, like, another brother out there. Its totally possible.”
It really was.
“The last time I spoke to my dad was four years ago na ata.” she said. “I didn’t even want to talk to him at the time.”
Wheels were turning and light was bending somewhere in the universe or in the back of my head. There wasn’t much difference between the two.
It was a sensitive topic for both of us. It was too dark for me to take a good look at her face, but I didn’t need to. I could tell talking about this made something crawl underneath her skin. There was something crawling underneath mine as well. This wasn’t the type of conversation one would have had with just about anybody. This wasn’t a conversation that had to be earned though, that you have to break through well placed emotional walls for. We just started talking about it because we knew the other would understand. If not knew, at the very least we hoped against hope the other would.
Talking about these kind of things left people open and vulnerable. It left people raw, uncooked and open season for flies. No one liked feeling that way, right? I mean that’s why we put up walls.
I used to be able to talk to my girlfriend like this. These days, real conversations with her were becoming harder and harder to come by.
We started wondering why we were with the people we were with. If you asked us why, we could give you any number of reasons. Because of how they make us feel, because of how they treat us, because they were such great people and we were so lucky to have them.
I liked her oddities, sometimes I liked her stubbornness and I was fond of how, when she smiled, I would see her teeth and I would always be amazed at how white and straight they were.
Elle liked the way he would play with her hands, or how he would make her feel the good kind of uncomfortable by simply staring at her, and how he could name all the kinds of monkeys in the world.
With that being said, we wondered why we were with them. It wasn’t anything existential or whatever, it was just we were both in this time and place where, as much as we speculated, tried putting ourselves in their position or reasoned out in our heads, we couldn’t quite understand – couldn’t quite get - our significant others. There was no way of understanding them anymore.
When you stop being able to identify with or understand another person, especially one you have a deep romantic and emotional connection with, that’s a bad sign, right? Does that mean the relationship was dying? Does that signal for a break? Maybe we were overthinking and all couples go through this but never talk about it
Joel Barish, in the closing minutes of the Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, listened to himself ask the question: “How can you spend that much time with someone, only to find out she’s a stranger?”
Elle and I couldn’t quite figure it, or our “others”, out, so we dropped the topic and let silence envelop us for a brief, scant moment.
We let it seep in.
I gave in and asked for a cigarette. After a moment’s hesitation, she gave me one. And then the secrets started pouring out.
I told her about the time I kissed my best friend’s girlfriend.
“We were out and having coffee and she was really close and she looked at me and asked me if it was OK and, even with the full knowledge of the consequences, I said ‘Yes.’ and kissed her back.”
She told me about the time when her brother hit her.
“I don’t know. We were fighting over something stupid and it escalated and he hit me. I cried so hard then. I didn’t cry because he hit me and it hurt, I cried because he hit me and it hurt.”
I told her about my secret dreams of people around me. The dark ones, the twisted ones, the weird ones.
“I dreamt about you once. It was the end of the world and we were paired up (because everyone was paired up) and we were tasked to figure out how to save the world. Crazy diba? Anyway, there we were, solving things and the world starts ending. We failed so ayun the world was ending. I didn’t want to die just like that, so I turn to you and I ask you to kiss me. You said you haven’t had your first kiss yet, so you don’t let me. And then you ask me if I’m cool with licking your pussy instead. I say okay and you start unbuckling your belt and slipping out of your pants.”
She told me her greatest fantasies; the sick ones, the hard ones.
“I know people can see my panties sometimes when I’m sitting down or lying down or whatever. I caught you staring once. Sometimes… I don’t mind. I think I actually like it. I like it when people watch, sometimes. I like the thrill.”
I’ve never told anyone that before, wasn’t just what we were thinking, it was what we were doing.
Like trading cards, we exchanged a secret for a secret, a truth for a truth, bound by the other, confident in the fact that we were never going to tell anyone what we told each other because we both had cards in our hands we could use or dangle over the other.
It was liberating.
At that point, everything was laid bare. We told each other anything and everything, and we accepted each other’s words, no matter the weight behind them. We stripped ourselves of everything we wanted to get off our backs, off our chests and hearts and minds for the longest time now. And the thing was, we enjoyed taking it all in. I took in everything she threw at me and vice versa and it felt good. We consumed everything of the other, that great hunger we’ve been hiding away for so long finally being addressed.
I could feel the angles changing. It’s been changing the entire night.
“You know the E.T. thing where they touch fingers?”
“Yeah? What about it?” she said.
“If we do that here, we call it align right?”
“Yeah. Align. Tama. Why?”
“I know it’s related to Sprite or 7 up ata.”
“I think? You don’t remember?”
“Hmmm….” I pointed my finger at her. “Align?”
Her finger touched mine. “Align.”
I kissed her.
“Do you want a hand job?”
I looked around us. “Here?”
And that was that.
“Okay.” I said.
And then after all the music, films, books, stories, thoughts, ideas and secrets, we consumed everything else of each other.
We were so hungry that night.