The airport bus stopped outside the gleaming eyesore of the market place, the new Hotel City Garden. The cassocked figure of the old priest was one of the last off. I watched from the open window of the Physiotherapy Center as he stepped slowly down and stood still, as if to savor this triumph of physical activity.
The warm , early morning air carried a vague odor of rotting garbage and benzine fumes. Tuk-tuks and a multi-coloured jeepney bus lined up waiting for custom. From somewhere down below, a lone staccato voice barked an undecipherable message.
Romulo had managed to catch the early flight from Manila. He looked up towards me. In his mind, I knew he saw not the white medical coat I wore, but my naked breasts and the triangle of pubic hair into which he had so many times thrust his cock.
He gave no sign of recognition but turned away, fetched his luggage from the hold, and set off across the market place pulling it behind him, the wheels clickety-clicking on the cobblestones. He trudged past Robinson’s department store with the incurious air of someone who has been here dozens of times, past the arched doorways and iron balconies of the colonial style Farmacia building, past the scarred gray baroque of the Church of the Immaculate Conception, and turned the corner, out of sight.
I closed the window.
An hour later, Czarina arrived. She was a girl who wore a perpetual look of amusement as if she were listening to a funny story, but funny stories had not played a big part in her 22 years. She was not married. Her boyfriends came and went. She has been pregnant twice, and twice the foetus aborted—spontaneous discharges caused, doctors said, by something called a cervix constriction.
She spent her working day limping between the narrow rows of formica tables of the Café Roces, carrying plates of barbequed chicken and steamed rice to mostly male customers who brushed their hands against her thighs as she passed. Many customers were from out of town, often frequenters of establishments in the blazing neon universe of the Calle Arroceros, just one block away. One regular was the portly owner of the Happy Go Go bar in Quezon City and, rumor had it, of similar establishments elsewhere. His presence in town was heralded by his blood red Porsche Cayman parked outside.
Two years earlier Czarina was on a motorcycle being ridden at speed by a young man when a cow wandered on to the road. The motorcycle swerved out of control, hit a fence and pitched the two of them down an embankment where they landed Kurtköy Escort in bushes. The rider suffered bruises and shock, but Czarina could not move. The surgeons pinned the pieces of her hip together but she was left with a limp. The motorcycle rider visited her once after the accident, but never again. He did not want a girl who limped.
Czarina came to me for physiotherapy. Although the exercises helped her, the massages I gave her were of doubtful value. But she liked to talk to me—and listen. I consoled her that her spontaneous abortions were a blessing, that too many other girls bore children, were abandoned by the fathers and trapped in life-sapping struggles for survival.
I tried as subtly as I could to suggest that waiting for a dream prince to turn up at the café was futile.
One morning as Czarina lay naked on her stomach and I massaged her shoulders, I suggested she find a priest. She did not immediately answer.
“As a partner,” I added as I caressed her neck and worked gently down her back.
I lubricated her bottom, delicately fingering the long scars left by the surgeons’ knife. I parted her buttocks and allowed a tiny river of oil to run down between them. Czarina gave a little shiver.
She turned over. My hands ran over her breasts and her dark nipples. Her eyes were half slits. I felt her excitement. We did not talk. I caressed her inner thighs and felt her whole body stiffen. I persisted. Then she relented and let me to push her legs apart. With one hand I caressed her forehead and, with the fingers of my other hand, played over her pussy.
When Czarina was ready, I pushed inside.
A good priest could be reliable, pleasant company, I told her. And erotic. Many carried condoms around with them. Many girls had chosen this route, I said.
“It is not ideal, but it is a solution,” I said. “You can find one yourself, or can go through the system. The second option is better—and easier.”
“Like you?” she said softly.
“Exactly,” I said.
I had once been married. I had daughter. Somehow I had raised her without a husband. I had been Romulo’s girl for twenty years—that is, when he was in town. I did not know what he did when he was back at his base in Manila, and did not ask. If Romulo had ever had worries of conscience about his lifestyle, he never showed it. But it was he who enabled me to come through the early, hard years.
For Czarina, Romulo was the key. This morning she would meet Romulo.
I ushered Romulo and Czarina to Maltepe Escort an empty room and left them alone. Half an hour later, Czarina left and Romulo made a long phone call.
Then he showered and lay naked on his front on my massage table. I applied a hot towel to his neck and shoulder muscles, felt the tautness there, and dug my fingers in to loosen it. I poured on oil on to his back. We exchanged pleasantries just as we had done for twenty years.
The only sound was the hum of air conditioner as I worked his back, bottom and legs. He turned over and his cock was half erect. I took one of his arms, and as I massaged the shoulder and biceps, I felt his fingers beneath my white coat, rubbing my inner thighs. The familiar surging feeling washed through me. I used both hands to unbutton my coat and let it fall to the floor to reveal my nakedness. His fingers played my pussy and his cock was now fully erect. I paused for a moment to role a condom onto it.
Romulo was breathing hard. I walked to his other side and massaged the other arm, moved my hand onto his belly. I waited until sensing that the moment was right, then climbed on to the table, straddled him and used two fingers to guide his cock into my vagina. I began moving. As the cool air from the air conditioning unit brushed my face, I slowly increased the pace until I was a riding a steed, thundering across the tundra. . .
What happened in the Café Roces that afternoon I only later pieced together. A male westerner aged about 30, dressed in jeans and grey T-shirt, sat alone at a table facing the street. His name was Leo. He was in town for the priests’ convocation.
The café was not busy. Leo was served by a young waitress with long eye lashes who limped, as if she had hurt her ankle. But what Leo noticed most was her smile. He could not stop himself looking at her and, when he did look, she caught his glance before looking shyly away. She brought coffee to him and lingered at his table.
Czarina thought he was handsome in a rugged way, with large jaw, close-cropped hair, and piercing blue eyes.
Leo became excited, but he was also nervous. Years before, when he was on a break from the seminary, he travelled to another town in another country where met a young man who was accompanied by two girls. As the four walked along the promenade, one of the girls took Leo’s hand. He should have pulled away but didn’t. That night he dreamed of the girl. He never saw her again, but years later the same girl continued to wing back Tuzla Escort to him in the stillness of the night and, whenever she did, the devils swooped on him and tormented him until daybreak brought relief.
That night after seeing Czarina at the Café Roces, Leo dreamed of her, and those same devils again descended on him. The next day Leo visited the Café Roces again. He and Czarina talked for longer this time. Leo saw it in her eyes: she was imploring him. . .
They met at a discreet location. Czarina told me afterwards that amid the rustling of clothes being discarded, there was an awkwardness about him. She pulled him on to the bed, and guided his hands to caress her naked breasts. She rolled a condom on to his cock. He came quickly and, although she felt a rush of happiness, she also felt unsatisfied.
Both fell silent, but he clung tightly to her, and told her something of his life, and about his feelings on first seeing her at the cafe. Czarina listened attentively, understanding some of what he said. She cradled his head and kissed his forehead.
She ran her hands down his stomach and felt his cock growing again. She reached for another condom. The air con was not working properly and the room was warm and their bodies gleamed with perspiration. Again, she did the leading, spreading her legs wide and taking his hand to her breasts, across her belly and down to her pussy.
“My pussy,” she whispered. “For you.”
Leo needed to leave before midnight. For a long time, they stood at the door, arms around each other, both reluctant to let go.
The next day, Leo did not come to the Café Loces. Czarina decided he must have been too busy. The day after that he did not come, either.
The wedding took place six months later at the little Santa Teresita chapel. Czarina looked happy enough. The groom was a westerner, a fat man with a head of thinning hair dyed black and pulled back into a pony tail, and a stud in one ear. He was at least 20 years older than Czarina. His name was Alan, and he was said to own the Happy Go Go bar in Quezon City. His blood red Porsche Cayman was parked outside.
At the reception relatives and friends of Czarina mixed amiably with Alan’s friends and everyone was having a nice time until about 11 pm when the atmosphere suddenly deteriorated. Two of Alan’s friends started fighting. Alan went to break it up, and got a bloody nose for his trouble. When his new bride, blinking back tears, tried to wipe the blood off, he pushed her roughly away.
The next day, Alan and his friends left town, together with Czarina.
That all happened eighteen months ago. I have not seen her since. Once she sent me a long, rambling email that said nothing at all. I suppose, in a way, that was positive.