My father found me weird when I was 17 years old. I stayed home and do nothing but read Charles Dickens’ book. He wondered why I don’t hang out with boys my age. A neighbor teased my father: “How come, Jessie locked up himself. Is he an “in-between”?
My father got worried. He had four daughters. He didn’t want me to be his fifth.
One night, he said, “Get a break from your books and join me to watch Fistorama, a boxing TV show at Mang Apiong Acuna’s house.”
Mang Apiong was the first to have the black-and-white TV set in Riles. As expected, even the boring amateur boxing show has shown late at night, people with odorous breath and day-old fart, stay glued.
Noticeable among the crowd was this one cute girl. She got a well-sculptured neck, smooth and fair with coiled locks on her nape.
When the final images of Lupang Hinirang ended and the TV’s screen swarmed with moths, people bolted out.
I rushed out and waited outside for my father. Then, I saw him talking to this cute girl. From the distance, the girl gave me furtive glances, with a restrained giggle.
“So, what do you think of Elvie?” my father asked while walking back home.
“Who’s Elvie?” I said.
“The girl I was talking to.”
“Oh. We’re a TV junkie, but she’s worse. She’s a TV freak. Imagine, she stayed late for that men’s show,” I said.
“Isn’t she cute?” My father asked. I didn’t answer.
Elvie became our neighbor. She and my sister Elsie had a bond. They loved exchanging movie gossips. I hated hearing them talking trash. Elvie rooted for the Love Team of Vi & Bot — Vilma Santos and Edgar Mortiz; while my sister went gaga over Guy & Pip — Nora Aunor and Tirso Cruz III tandem.
Visiting our house turned out to be Elvie’s routine. I got conscious. It forced me to get hygienic. Since then my father wore a mischievous glint in his eyes.
The “Young Love” movie which starred the Guy & Pip and Vi & Bot tandem had its Christmas opening at the Life Theater in Manila with personal appearances. Dying to go, Elvie and my sister conspired to convince our parents. My father agreed with a condition that I chaperoned them.
Just in time, my cousin who lived in Manila visited us. She tucked us with her the night before the movie opening on Christmas day.
My cousin gave us a room to rest. My sister went out to wash panties. Elvie and I were left alone.
She sat on the sofa opposite me. My heart thudded. She read Kislap Magazine which banners the headline – “Nora Aunor Hindi Tunay na Anak ni Mamay Belen”. Then, on the bottom half, it screamed: “Vi and Bot Love Team, Subok na Matatag”.
I quivered. I stood up, brought the chair beside her, pretended to read the corny article. Her hair smelled Camay soap. The musky fragrance of her skin wafted through my nostril. The Eagle has landed! I planted a kiss on her left cheek. The magazine flew out. She’s expecting it, but she had to react. She slapped me. Not hard enough. It felt sweet.
Along Quezon Boulevard, at Paterno Street, where the Life Theatre is, we thronged ourselves to a sea of people covering the entire street. At 10:00 am, we were able to buy our tickets. The show was supposed to start at 12:00 noon.
Hiding from my sister, I dared to hold Elvie’s hand; to which she didn’t object.
Loud screaming announced the arrival of Vi and Bot. My sister got disappointed. Guy and Pip didn’t show up.
The theatre’s iron gate plunged down. The crowd shoved us to the gate. We saw Vi and Bot being escorted. The stars smiled, waved, and blew kisses. When Elvie saw them, she tap-danced to a record running at crazy speeds. She screamed Vi and Bot’s name without letting up.
Suddenly, she stopped. She asked me where my hands are. Puzzled why she asked that when at the time I clammed the iron gate.
“Someone is taking my panties off,” Elvie complained.
“What!” I swung my head around. All I saw were a sea of heads. Elvie must have been hallucinating with excitement. Considering people were tightly packed, how one could get her panties to pass through her feet…
When we got home, my father sensed magic transpired between Elvie and myself. I assumed it erased his doubts about me.