Second Chance – Chapter One
“Perhaps you know someone whose heart clutches onto the bittersweet memory of the one who got away.” ― Sebastian Cole
Author’s Note. I feel so blessed that three special ladies, despite their very busy schedules, can still find the time to critique and proofread my work. My profuse thanks to Ms Alpha Grace, Ms Liza and Ms Dianne. To my dear readers, please don’t be shy to comment or hit the like button.
Year 1993. Mid-winter month of August. Auckland.
Eduard frowned as the clatter of ceramic plates and stainless steel cutlery impinged on his consciousness. Then he winced as someone slammed the dishwasher door shut. He was slowly waking up to a massive hangover. Opening his bloodshot eyes, he could feel the strong rays of the sun on his wide chest. He was lying on the long maroon-coloured worn-out suede sofa in the lounge. He was so drunk last night, he never made it to his bedroom, collapsing instead on the three-seater that cramped his length.
Aching in so many places, he groaned as he tried to get up. Last night, like most nights in the last year, he happily got pissed with his Filipino drinking buddies. Someone was celebrating one’s birthday and he tagged along. If truth be told, he really did not need any excuse to get roaring drunk. He usually manages alone. It was just less lonely when he has company.
When he got back from almost a year-long Californian stint a few months ago, his Pinoy friends seemed glad to see him again. To welcome him back, they celebrated the occasion with booze. There seemed to be an occasion to celebrate most days of the week. And each time, the favourite topic of conversation were the Pinay burikaks or ‘loose Filipina women’ living in Auckland. They would regale each other of the conquests they made through the years and compare notes. These shared stories of sexcapades would become subjects of ribald jokes. Amidst the boisterous laughter, Eduard merely smiled as he continued to drink, content to let others talk, unwilling to contribute.
Personally, he really did not like it when this particular topic comes up during their drinking sessions. Despite being a womaniser, he does not discuss his sex life with anyone. His obvious reticence, however, did not stop these guys from trying to coax him to ‘spill the beans’. Eduard frequently got teased because he was known as ‘the Aucklander Stud’ with conquests rumoured to include Filipinas, Thai and New Zealand European girls. Like previous nights, he merely laughed off their teasing, never confirming anything.
Despite the fact that Eduard was never the ‘kiss and tell’ type, identities of his sexual conquests have made the rounds in the local grapevine, particularly, the female counterpart of the grapevine. His landlady who hails from Cebu would take note of the girls who would come and spend the night in his room. During mah-jong sessions she attends, she would gossip about his colourful personal life to her amigas, many of whom would lasciviously regard him. These cougar-type women were the ones responsible for dubbing him with the notorious title.
The Aucklander Stud. He hated that title. It made him feel like a four-legged animal being advertised for sexual services. It was funny the first time he heard it but after a time the humour began to pall. Last night, he was grimacing inwardly each time someone mentions it. But then again, there were many other things that were making him grimace lately. As his drinking buddies were griping about last night, Pinoy expatriates had to adjust in so many levels to cope with living in New Zealand.
Except for the number of months he lived in California with his maternal aunt, he has been living in Auckland for six years total, having arrived in 1987. Despite turning 28 years last July, Eduard somehow feels old and jaded. His feeling was a huge contrast from when he first set foot on foreign soil. He was only twenty-two summers then—young, eager, and dreaming of carving a much better life in the very green landscape of New Zealand, which has always been referred to by the indigenous Māori population as ‘Aotearoa, the land of the long white cloud’.
Indeed, his first glimpse of New Zealand was very picturesque as his plane started to descend. It was a veritable postcard view of shimmering blue waters surrounding large land masses of lush vegetation. Further inland, the expansive greenery can be seen speckled with creamy white balls of fluff and spotty brown shapes. It was a subtropical paradise offering crisp, clean air and cooler weather conditions.
Nevertheless, after a few months of getting acclimatised, his enthusiasm for New Zealand also cooled down. He found realities fell short of his expectations. Firstly, the creamy white balls of fluff turned out to be sheep while the spotted brown shapes were milking cows. And the sheep and cow population were higher than the human population which was just a drop in comparison to a densely-populated Philippines. In the 1980s, home entertainment were two television stations which aired programs in that strong English-like accent. All the malls were closed at 5pm and were not open on weekends. For someone who grew up in Manila, Auckland was just too damned quiet!
Secondly, he was not armed with a university degree so he was unable to get a good paying job. It was his own fault for he did not pay much attention to his studies. Despite having excelled academically, especially in math, Eduard was not able to finish his industrial engineering degree.
Eduard’s younger years were tumultuous, to put it mildly. He had done well in primary school but lacked the focus to maintain his grades. He was easily distracted by video games and would usually cut classes to go to the mall arcade. He loved being in the company of same-aged boys until he hit puberty. Then, his attention was mainly fixated on the fairer sex. That period was like an uphill battle against his own raging sexual hormones.
He started very innocently enough, noticing girls and asking out very attractive teens of the same age. To his own detriment, however, his testosterone levels would hit the roof and turn him into a fresh teenager. Hence, he often had disastrous social encounters with the opposite sex.
At first, his dad was amused at his antics. When he could see that his son was getting socially inept due to sexual frustration, he rectified the matter by bringing his teenaged son to a night club where GROs could be ‘taken out’. His virginity was taken at age 14 by a very pretty and very experienced 19-year old femme fatale. Needless to say, Eduard was a very enthusiastic learner.
Whether this was a wise move on his dad’s part was highly debatable. But the fact remained that at age 15, Eduard got Helene, his high school sweetheart, pregnant. It was a huge scandal in the school campus for his mother was part of the faculty team. Together with his father’s support, Eduard actually approached the girl’s father with the intention of doing the right thing and offered marriage. His dad, feeling partially responsible, was willing to support Eduard and his young family until Eduard finishes his tertiary studies. Due to false sense of pride, Helene’s father disdainfully declined stating they will continue to take care of their daughter and unborn grandchild. Eduard’s father felt slighted for their offer of marriage was thrown back at their faces.
“Lalake ang anak ko. Hindi ko hawak ang bukas,” his father uttered cryptically in a very calm voice during that visit.
Despite this, they were able to negotiate for Eduard to regularly see Helene and their newborn son at the beginning. But his ‘hilaw na biyenan’ viewed him as an incompetent and unfit parent. They forbade him to touch his baby. Frustrated, he and Helene would be constantly fighting over this issue. No one else was caring for the baby except for Helene’s parents. One afternoon after classes, he visited Helene and the baby. But was forbidden to kiss his own son. Not known for having a cool temperament, Eduard exploded and all hell broke loose. As a result, he walked out of Helene’s house vowing never to set foot inside their house ever again.
And he never did.
Less than a year later, he received the news that Helene gave birth to their second child. Another boy. He saw his few-days old son in the hospital but left after a few minutes. He had no wish to see Helene or her parents. Eduard’s dad, while not liking the situation, remained quietly supportive in the background.
His dad. He sorely missed him. It was Eduard’s father’s death anniversary yesterday. All day yesterday, he was waiting for a phone call from his mother and his younger brothers anticipating a small get-together. No one called. In their very busy lives it seemed no one in his family even spared a thought for Eduard’s father.
While his drinking buddies were boisterously laughing around him, he was missing his father and was trying to drown the emotion each time he threw the amber coloured Jim Beam down his throat. Growing up, Eduard had always been close to his father while he always clashed with his mother. To his sorrow, his father died in year 1982 when he was just 17. And without his father’s guiding hand, Eduard’s life was like a boat drifting on a swiftly flowing river without a paddle.
His mother, grieving the very sudden death of her husband sought comfort elsewhere, particularly in the arms of another man who would be Eduard’s stepfather not long after. This was another tragedy. While there was already pre-existing wide gap between Eduard and his mother, her marriage less than a year after her first husband’s death made matters much worse. Eduard felt betrayed and was very bitter. It came to a point where he almost hated his mother and could not even manage a civil conversation with her . In his young mind, he had also lost his mother to an unscrupulous man who only had his eye on the main chance.
His stepfather. The man was a sore subject. Someone had mentioned the man’s name last night but his friends quickly changed the topic. It was common knowledge that Eduard and his stepfather do not see eye to eye, to put it mildly.
Allan, his stepfather, was good-looking in a different way from his dad. And from what he could gather, this Allan character neither had any degree nor high-paying job. When Allan married his mother, he started to live in their home! The same home that Eduard’s recently deceased father built for his family!
In his young mind, that move was adding insult to injury! And he made his opinion clear on the matter every waking moment. He had challenged his stepfather’s presence and authority over himself and his younger brothers. Afterwards, he would usually bear the brunt of his mother’s beating with hatred in his eyes. His life was hell so he made his mother’s married life to the ‘usurper’ a living hell as well. In the end, his mother opted to go overseas to work. Her new husband, who had often boasted that he does not need to go overseas to earn good money, quickly followed his wife to New Zealand.
How bloody ironic!
At the time of his father’s death, his three younger brothers were still in high school and elementary. Practically abandoned by his mother, Eduard, as the eldest child, was suddenly feeling the pressure of looking after his younger siblings. He had managed to finish high school but his degree studies was a different matter. They were in financial straits despite the fact that their maternal grandfather has been helping them at that time. Their budget simply wasn’t enough to put enough food on the table, let alone fund for his tuition fees.
Eduard shook his head at the flood of memories, wincing as he felt jolts of pain inside his heavy head. He recalled those very difficult years before he left the Philippines. Untrained for anything, he was doing odd jobs earning him a small stipend. Besides his siblings, he also had his own young family to look after.
His young family.
While he was mainly burdened with financial problems, they were nothing compared to the bitterness he felt whenever he remembers the circumstances wherein he lost his own young family. He misses his two young sons. Not long after breaking off with Helene, he travelled to the provinces on a business errand for his mother. That was when he met a very voluptuous dusky female who returned the strong attraction.
Rich, very liberated, and experienced way beyond her 18 years, Tiffany quickly turned their brief introduction into a full-blown sexual relationship in less than 24 hours. When his mother found out, she tried to warn him but Eduard was past caring. Here was someone who was giving him all the attention and care he was craving. For that, he was not willing to break it off with Tiffany. She eventually got pregnant and they decided to elope, much to his mother’s chagrin. They lived as a de facto couple until he went overseas. Tiffany was to follow him to New Zealand as soon as he gets settled and earning enough to be able to support her and their two boys.
Well, she did follow him after over a year but her reasons for following him was so different from what he imagined. When she arrived in Auckland, he could detect a difference in their relationship. He and Tiffany already had two sons and he got blindsided with what she admitted. When he learnt of the full sordid story, he could not take it in. For a spell, he went a bit crazy and had to put a great distance between himself and Tiffany. That was when he went home to the Philippines in year 1990 for a break. He needed breathing space and time to think. Needless to say, it was the beginning of the end of their relationship.
Still, the end of the relationship should not stop a father from seeing his sons. It is deplorable that New Zealand laws seem to favour only women’s rights in general. The mother almost automatically gets custody of the children regardless of the root cause of the separation of the couple.
Eduard had to admit that he was partially to blame. When drunk, he had manhandled and slapped Tiffany on several occasions because he could not forget what she did. He thought he could forgive her to keep his family intact. But he thought wrong. As he quickly realised, there were some wounds that go so deep that they fester within one’s soul. Wounds that hurt unbearably that only alcohol can numb it. And when the alcohol effects wear off, the pain unbearably throbs anew.
Eduard finally dragged himself away from the lounge into his own bedroom where he stripped before going to his ensuite toilet and shower. He winced as his 172-centimetre tall naked frame stepped into the cubicle underneath the hot shower. The running water felt good against his skin. He worked up a lather over his brawny arms which were still deeply tanned despite the fact that they are still officially in winter. Working outdoors in recent years has given him a darker complexion than his naturally very fair skin which can still be spied on his torso and pelvic areas.
Strong rivulets of water ran soothingly over very wide shoulders and muscular hairy chest. While his torso normally tapers down to a flat stomach, these days he sports around an almost undetectable paunch which he has acquired recently due to frequent heavy drinking. He realised he needed to buckle down and do sit-ups and push-ups again if he wanted to get rid of the ‘excess baggage’ around his middle.
After drying himself, he put a comb through his thick wavy dark brown hair, interspersed with gray which started to appear since his teens. Indented with an almost indistinguishable cleft, his strong square jaw would always acquire that five-o clock shadow that many women find very sexy. This morning, he considered the dark stubble reflected in the mirror but could not be bothered to shave.
His great, great grandfather was a full-blooded Spaniard which accounts for his features particularly, his eyes – thick curly-lashed and Spanish light brown. His paternal uncles and father’s close friends often exclaim that he looks so much like his deceased father. When one looks at their pictures taken at the same ages, one would indeed say that they are photographs of the same person.
To those who never met his father, they would say that say his face was a cross between the Filipino actors Christopher de Leon and Rudy Fernandez. Normally sporting a trimmed moustache and a lopsided smile, Eduard was considered a looker, like most males in his family. And like most males in his family, he has been breaking female hearts since he was fifteen.
At the moment, however, the heartbreaker had more practical concerns on his mind. With his taxi’s vehicle registration due for renewal, he needed to book his Ford Falcon for an appointment with his mechanic. The vehicle needed to be checked for safety and compliance before it can be issued with a COF or certificate of fitness prior to registration.
Unfortunately for him, after a night’s binge drinking, he was still nursing a massive headache while suffering from a worsening heartburn. He rummaged through the medicine cabinet for antacids but could not find any. With much disgust, he found that he was also out of paracetamol as he threw the empty box into the trash bin. He needed to sort himself out before he is able to attend to his car’s requirements.
Eduard gritted his teeth as he pulled on his faded 501 jeans and black Hanes V-neck T-shirt. Shrugging on a leather bomber-style jacket, he grabbed his car keys with the intention of driving to the grocery to buy the non-prescription medication he needed. A blast of cold air welcomed him as he stepped outside, prompting him to zip up his jacket up to his neck. On his way out, his Cebuana landlady hollered out to him from the elevated front porch. He was already down the steps beside his Ford Falcon taxi which was parked on the paved driveway.
Violet, his landlady, was a petite very fair-skinned woman in her late 30s who has been divorced from her New Zealand European husband. Arriving in Auckland about the same time as him, she quickly hooked up with a local in order to legalise her stay. Despite having two children together, she quickly booted her ageing husband out the door after a few years. She had a string of lovers since then. And was probably on the lookout for another one.
“Edu!” she leaned over the baluster, her body only scantily wrapped in a bath towel.
“O, bakit?” Eduard asked with a frown between his bushy brows. His landlady has been giving him come-hither looks ever since he started boarding under her roof. He thought it would be alright for him to stay in her house since she has another boarder and two of her half-cast children staying with her. However, she seems to keep on finding alone times with him when the other boarder was at work and her kids were at school during daytime. He was starting to feel uneasy.
“Si Roxanne dumaan dito kahapon . Hinahanap ka. May date daw kayo kahapon pero hindi mo siya sinipot,” she recounted.
Roxanne was a beautiful commercial model born to a Filipina mother and German father. They have been introduced years ago but Eduard could not remember her. They only hooked up together when he arrived back from the States a few months prior.
The night they got reacquainted, Eduard had been driving his taxi cab for almost ten hours for it was a typical busy Friday night. New Zealanders, or more commonly referred to as ‘Kiwis’ have a pub culture wherein people of legal drinking age, would go to bars at sundown and drink until they are retching or barely standing. Regrettably, there have been so many drink-related road accidents that resulted with high death tolls in the last decade. To address this, the New Zealand police has been cracking down and going heavy on people driving under the influence of alcohol.
Besides the usual television and newsprint ads, Eduard would normally see very large billboards of graphically depicted road accidents with the sign “IF YOU DRINK AND THEN DRIVE, YOU’RE A BLOODY IDIOT’. Hence, party groups were encouraged to nominate designated drivers who are served complimentary non-alcoholic drinks at bars. But with everyone wanting to drink, taxi cabs were the common solution and were therefore in high demand during Friday and Saturday nights.
This had worked very well for Eduard who bought a taxi franchise and a late model Ford Falcon when he returned from the United States. He was doing well which prompted him to buy another taxi franchise which he had been leasing out to another Pacific islander. Eduard did not work every night but would choose busy nights to work long hours. He would still be on the road if not for the last passenger he picked up from Stamford Plaza. When he saw that his client could barely stand on his feet, he was already mentally debating whether to refuse him. In the end, he brought him home but not before the drunk passenger vomited in his taxi cab. The client paid him extra for soiling the backseat but Eduard was no longer in the mood to work after the incident. Trying vainly to hold his breath, he quickly brought his taxi cab to a car wash where he paid the attendant a hundred dollars just to clean his taxi cab.
Still disgusted with what happened, he went home afterwards to Violet’s place and saw that her cronies were still playing mah-jong in the lounge. He was tired and hungry and Roxanne, one of Violet’s friends, kindly offered him her homecooking. Roxanne sinuously got up from the table and joined him in the kitchen. They chatted while Eduard quickly recognised that the beautiful woman was openly flirting with him, even blatantly admitting that she has had a crush on him for years. Single and lonely, he lapped up the undivided attention she was showering him.
Undivided! What a bunch of baloney!
They were dating for almost a month and have been visiting her at home when he happened to overhear Violet and her cronies discussing his ‘affair’ with Roxanne. At first, he could not understand the sly looks that he was getting from her friends until he realised that Roxanne has a New Zealand European live-in boyfriend! Roxanne has been living with her white boyfriend for a couple of years before hooking up with Eduard! And she continued living with said boyfriend while seeing him! Eduard even met the poor guy one time and Roxanne had the temerity to introduce them. Eduard assumed that the guy was just one of Roxanne’s flatmates.
Labelling that as a misassumption was such a gross understatement! He felt like a jackass for poaching on another male’s territory! But what did that make of Roxanne?
When he confronted the woman with his discovery, Roxanne merely laughed. She said that he has no cause for complaints for they were just having ‘fun’. Due to the clandestine nature of their relationship, Roxanne said that she found it more exciting. Reluctantly, he continued on with the affair even as his conscience was bothering him big time. Hence, his repeated attempts to break it off with Roxanne who was not taking the hint at all. When he stopped going to her place, she would visit him and go straight to his room. As a warm-blooded male, he would naturally succumb to her feminine wiles.
“Wala kaming usapan ng kaibigan mo,” he denied wryly.
“Manonood daw kayo ng sine kahapon. Umoo ka daw sa kanya.” Violet informed him.
Eduard vaguely remembered the last conversation he had with Roxanne. He probably agreed to whatever she was saying just to get rid of her. Regardless of whatever he said or promised, he is staying away from her. He does not want to be confronted by an outraged, cuckolded boyfriend and be forced to defend himself. Getting battered and bruised over a horny bitch like Roxanne was definitely not worth it.
“Sabihin mo sa kanya, manood siyang mag-isa niya. Break na kami,” he informed his landlady.
“Alam ba niya na break na kayo?” Violet retorted with a flirty tone.
“Sinabihan ko na siya. Dense lang ‘yang kaibigan mo.” Eduard said before sliding behind the wheel of his car and starting the engine, effectively ending the conversation.
Roxanne was not really dense. In actuality, she was just very vain. She has been spoilt rotten by men who eagerly did her bidding and was unused to someone she could not manipulate. She probably just could not believe that Eduard would initiate the end of their ‘relationship’, if it can be called that. The half German beauty , in all likelihood, was not used to being dumped for she has been doing the callous dumping all her beautiful young life. Roxanne was simply not liking the taste of her own medicine.
Dismissing the woman from his mind, Eduard reversed his navy blue Ford Falcon. He could still see Violet leaning over the baluster rail, regarding him speculatively. And the uneasy feeling was back in his gut. He really needed to find an alternative accommodation.
Eduard navigated the streets of South Auckland, passing houses that have been steadily deteriorating through the years. He could still remember when the community was slowly being filled with brand new weather-board and tile-roofed houses. Most of his neighbours were always busy landscaping their front garden. That did not last long for when Asian and Pacific immigrants started flocking to the area, most New Zealand Europeans started selling their house to move outside South Auckland. Currently, his neighbourhood was like a Pacific-Asian ghetto.
Personally, Eduard had no problem living in the area. His mother and stepfather built their first house in South Auckland and have been residing there since. Eduard lived his first few years with them before moving around Auckland. He stayed near the Business District for a couple of years but decided to come back to the area. Most of his Filipino friends were still scattered around South Auckland. Fresh produce can be bought cheaply from the Otara flea market every Saturday morning. House rent is still relatively cheap in comparison to the rest of Auckland. And practically right on his doorstep was the Auckland International Airport where he picks up many passengers who travel to Auckland on short business trips. Besides, he finds the people living in the area very down to earth, if a little rough around the edges.
As Eduard drove towards the village shops, he noticed that the plant nursery where he first worked was being bulldozed to make way for another subdivision. He remembered his initial difficulty finding a suitable job when he first arrived in Auckland and was pleased when he got a casual position at the plant nursery. There he grew baby plants from seeds, grafted fruit bearing trees and did topiary work on leafy shrubs. He was paid youth rates for he did not have any corresponding work background nor training.
Nonetheless, he was thankful for that job allowed him to send money home to Tiffany and their kids. Besides, he liked the nature of the job but he was getting sick often due to the fact that he worked mainly outdoors or in a greenhouse. In both places, working temperatures can go really cold, especially in winter. To make matters worse, he did not have a car and could not afford to buy one at the onset. He cut a lonely figure walking several kilometres to and fro work. And for someone not fully acclimatised yet, it was asking for trouble. It was no wonder he went down with bronchopneumonia. So, despite the offer of apprenticeship and a full time job, Eduard declined.
His next job was as an upholsterer in a furniture manufacturing company. He tried to learn and has already shown marked improvement when he got laid off. New Zealand was going into recession and poor sales have forced many small businesses to fold up. Eventually, that furniture factory also closed down.
Meanwhile, Eduard was already working in a rest home as a caregiver. The money was better and there were plenty of opportunities for overtime. He helped in the kitchen and was mainly assisting the elderly with activities of daily living. It was there he met and befriended a Tongan part-timer named Viliami. This friend was a jolly, same-aged chap who worked full-time at a printing and packaging plant.
When a job opening came up, his friend referred him. It was a multi-million dollar corporation which handled packaging products to many local and international factories based in New Zealand. There, he got assigned to the printing department working directly under a Pacific islander. Pallets of flat corrugated board boxes would come to them for mass label printing before they get bundled ready for shipping.
It was sheer hard work. He would be alertly standing by the large printing press feeding the cardboards at one end. These freshly printed boxes would get automatically stacked at the other end, ready for bundling. Then, when the ink would be running out, he would run to the supply room and be back carrying two heavy buckets of ink weighing 20 kilos each. Even in the middle of the winter season, he would be perspiring all throughout his shift. No wonder he was getting so buffed and brawny!
Eduard actually did not mind the work. He sort of enjoyed it even. Where else can you get a complete workout while getting paid? But he was working under another Pacific islander who sat on his ass when operating the printing press while barking orders at him all the time.
Perhaps cultural differences had a lot to answer for in this instance. In any case, Eduard hated the way his supervisor would crook his finger when calling him or the way he spoke which was always peppered with f-words. Eduard had already made his objections verbally clear on two occasions but his supervisor dismissed what he said. Clearly, the 6-feet-4-inch-tall hulking Pacific islander did not feel threatened with Eduard’s smaller physique. Eduard’s nostrils would flare at the condescending tone but would bite his tongue and carry on with the job. He did until the day he found out about Tiffany’s betrayal while they were physically separated. He was very upset and in no mental state to work but went anyway. He was positioned at his usual work station when his supervisor barked another order with profanity.
Eduard responded by wordlessly closing the gap between them. The next second, he heard bone cracking as his closed right fist connected with his supervisor’s left jaw. He was throwing a second punch but his opponent was no longer upright. The big guy had crumpled down from his elevated seat and was unconscious at Eduard’s feet. With heaving breaths, Eduard slowly calmed down from the rage and realised the enormity of what he had done. There were two other people who witnessed what happened, gawking at him from a safe distance. He remembered slowly turning and going towards the locker area. He slipped off his white canvass overalls and non-slip boots, shrugged on his jacket and crosstrainers before walking out. He left his ID card at the security-manned exit gate before tersely declaring his intention of going home.
For two weeks, he brooded at home and waited for the police to pick him up. He was half-expecting, half-anticipating to be deported back to the Philippines. They never came. Eduard assumed that his supervisor was just too ashamed to admit what had happened. If likened to a boxing fight, it would be a gross mismatch between a heavyweight fighter versus a middleweight fighter. To think that an Asian, particularly a Filipino, had put him to sleep with just one punch. But then again, that was not boxing. It was street fighting which Eduard just knows too well.
Eduard shook his head at himself. Things could have easily turned nasty for him. At that time, he was on self-destruct mode. His mother recognised this and encouraged him to go home to the Philippines and have a break. He followed her advice and that was when he met another morena beauty with a feisty personality.
Sighing, he tried to dismiss her features from his head. It was no use dwelling again on the ‘might-have-beens’. Besides, she would have found out about his personal circumstances by now. And would undoubtedly be hating his guts.
Eduard parked his taxi cab in front of the New World Supermarket in Clendon Shopping Centre. As he entered the automatic doors, he noticed an elderly Caucasian gentleman in front of the flower section located on the right side of the stainless steel turnstile. Precariously propped on a cane, he was trying to bend down to pick up a bunch of red roses from a bucket situated on the lowest level of a three-tiered dais.
“Would you like me to get a bunch of roses for you, sir?” Eduard offered to the elder who was obviously having difficulty bending down.
“Oh, would you please?” the gentleman smiled up at him gratefully. “I need the reddest bunch of roses. They are my wife’s favourite.”
“You have one lucky wife, sir” he quipped handing the gentleman the red rose bunch.
“Ahhh, you have to ask her if she feels lucky to have me. But I am certainly lucky to have her beside me for the last 47 years,” exclaimed the elderly gentleman, who despite his advanced years still has that twinkle in his blue eyes.
“Wow, 47 years, huh? Your girl must be something else. I am interested to meet her” Eduard grinned at the elderly gentleman.
“I don’t know if I should introduce her to a handsome young buck like you,” the leathery freckled-face of the old man wrinkled in a mock frown. “You just might steal her away from me!”
One gnarled finger was waving in front of Eduard’s face, a gesture to warn him off in jest. Eduard laughingly denied the accusation.
“Better to be safe than sorry, young man,” the elderly man laughed at him. “Why do you think she stayed with me all these years? I simply did not let her have any opportunity to have other options!”
Eduard was still chuckling when he separated from the old gentleman inside the grocery.
The elderly gentleman was a typical New Zealander in terms of temperament. The locals were generally very friendly and would happily chat with complete strangers at the drop of a hat. If someone was in dire straits, they would gladly lend a hand or call for help. New Zealanders were also very honest. In one instance, he dropped his wallet inside a video store. He never realised his wallet was missing until he got a phone call from one of the staff requesting him to pick up his personal belonging. How often do you hear that happening in Manila?
Living in New Zealand also showed him that if he works hard, he could get ahead in life. He had seen his mother and stepfather’s financial progress, having been able to buy a family home and cars in the space of one year. His mother was also able to sponsor all her children’s residency in a matter of months. For that, despite their differences, he would be eternally grateful.
Eduard briskly walked towards the vitamins and over-the-counter medication section to pick up a packet of antacids. He always had a heartburn after binge drinking sessions. For his headache, he grabbed paracetamol and a fast acting ibuprofen. En route, he passed through the confectionery aisle when he noticed new flavours of Cadbury chocolate bars. He was partial to chocolates, particularly this brand.
This is her favourite brand of chocolates, too. But you know that.
Eduard smiled as he remembered giving her a huge block-size chocolate together with a box of three long-stemmed roses. Her dark brown eyes had rounded with delight and then her expression fell before declaring that she cannot accept gifts from him, reminding him that he was not allowed to court her. He ignored what she said and left the roses and chocolates with her. After that day, he kept on bringing boxed three long-stemmed roses and a huge Cadbury chocolate block everyday until they parted ways.
Bending down, he picked up a ‘fruit and nut’ flavour which was her favourite. There were dozens of other variations which were not available in the Philippines. He wondered how she would react if he brings all the other flavours for her. But of course, he would not have that opportunity again.
Of all the women he had met, it was just ironic that he vividly remembers the one that he never bedded. He smiled at the thought of the last time he saw her standing at the airport, wearing her beige and brown corporate uniform waving him off. Before he said their good-byes, he dared ask for a farewell kiss. He had been looking at her lips when he uttered his request.
Confused, her morena features became flushed. She tried to say something at first and then pressed her lips together. Wordlessly, she raised her right hand for a handshake instead while her dark brown eyes expressed the non-verbal apology. With a sad smile, he took her soft hand and kissed the knuckles of her right hand. Then he lifted his head to look at her beautiful features, taking his fill. Then he noticed that her eyes had gone misty. It was then that he felt a resonating heaviness weighing down his heart. Within an amazingly short period of time, she had meant a damned lot to him than all the other women he had relationships with. But he had no right to want her. He had no right to ruin her life. Circumstances dictated that she just remain in his memory.
A sweet memory to make him smile and regret that he met her at the wrong time.
Eduard was still smiling sadly as he got through the automatic glass doors. He sauntered up to his car and slid behind the wheel. He maneuvered the Ford Falcon out of the parking space. As he passed by the front of the supermarket, he noticed the elderly man with a cane, sitting on a wooden bench. Beside him was an elderly lady, breathing in the scent of a bunch of red roses.
Some people were just lucky to find a lasting relationship, he thought.
Eduard mentally admonished himself for getting maudlin. He was no longer drunk so he has no more excuse. It was all water under the bridge. He needed to move on.
As he approached the lights, he noticed his oil gauge’s needle was inching towards the red zone, indicating low level of oil. He had the same problem a few days ago and rectified the matter by topping up with a litre of engine oil. He pulled a very deep sigh, silently anticipating engine problems.
With his taxi as his bread and butter, Eduard has no choice but look into the matter right away. He turned left at the fork and headed towards Manukau City Central and proceeded to the industrial part of town. He was bringing his car to his mechanic so that the problem can be diagnosed and estimated for parts and labour.
Whatever mechanical or electrical problem his Ford Falcon has, it can be fixed. If only matters of the heart can be as easily fixed, then he would not feel like he was living in limbo.