I had at least an hour to kill while a technician repaired my phone. I figured I’ll get the massage I’ve promised myself for some time now. After the stress of wondering about my HIV status, I could use some pampering to relax.
There was only the middle-aged masseuse when I entered the massage parlor. I looked at their list of services and asked what the “Body Mind Harmony Massage” was. It sounded so esoteric. It turned out to be a combination of Thai, Shiatsu, and Swedish message.
Okay, I’m game.
The masseuse played a recording of tropical bird sounds as ambient sound during the massage session. I didn’t know if that helped me relax, especially since the recording included occasional squawks and (this surprised me the first time it burst out) an elephant trumpet which interrupted the chirruping of various birds.
But lying on a massage bed by itself was already relaxing. I was too tall for it, my feet dangling a few inches from the end of the bed. I decided I want to have one made for me, with a customized face hole so I can sleep on it with my face down. I also realized that aside from lying there and thinking, I was also narrating that exact moment in my head. The habit of dictating to my inner blog never really goes away.
The masseuse was okay, if a little uneven in how she did the massage. She was rather chatty too, which I appreciated, describing which parts of my limbs were tense.
I asked how she learned to massage professionally. She said it was from a livelihood program by the Binays, then she took a proficiency exam as TESDA. She told me of another proficiency exam from the Department of Health which cost twenty thousand pesos and includes several months of review classes.
I already expected some pain as she eased some of my knotted muscles. While I didn’t have a high threshold for pain, I do have a relatively high tolerance for it. She was amused when she found out that I was also ticklish. Several times, I was squirming while she rubbed by thigh, and again while she was massaging my neck.
“Eh di malakas yung ‘ords’ mo,” she teased me.
Ords? What the fuck is ‘ords’? I honestly didn’t know so I asked what she meant.
“Sexual ords,” she clarified. Ah… sexual urge. That got me laughing, and not because of the charming mispronunciation. “Yun ang sabi nila. Syempre, kayo lang pwede magsabi nun.”
She also asked about my wife (“Wala po akong asawa.”) or girlfriend (“Hahaha, wala din po.”). Oh, wow. Was the masseuse flirting with me? That was fun. I couldn’t shatter the woman’s assumption by admitting that I play for the other team.
It was a pleasant session, all in all. I figured I will return again after a month or so. I asked for the masseuse’s name before I left.
“Vicky,” she answered. “Vicky Belo,” she added with a slight emphasis, her face deadpan.
A friend whom I sometimes sleep with admitted to me that he was found to be reactive in a recent HIV test. We’ve been hanging out (and occasionally sleeping with) each other for several months now. Aside from being worried about himself, my friend was also worried about me, apologizing several times after he broke the news. He said he wouldn’t be able to forgive himself if I was infected because of him.
I appreciated my friend’s concern and told him he shouldn’t be apologizing to me. I haven’t been tested in a while, the last was way before I met him. What I didn’t tell him that time was how I was more worried that it might have been me who infected him. While I have been practicing safer sex for several years now, that was not always the case. One never knows if some nasty surprise from one’s past will suddenly make an appearance now.
It’s no secret among many of my friends that I have had multiple sexual partners. Hell, a lot of those sexual partners eventually became my friends. I was not looking forward to breaking bad news to them and passing the worry that they might have been exposed to HIV risk because of me, however slight the possibility was. It wasn’t really rational, but my mind was beginning to panic.
It was early in the morning when I went to the testing center. I decided to go alone, preferring to have a moment alone should I turn out to be reactive. The counselor pleasantly did the usual routine interview, asking about my personal history.
“…and how many men have you slept with?” he asked at one point.
“Oh, wow.” I forgot one gets asked this question. After a moment’s though, I gave a (probably conservative) estimate: “Fifty?”
“That’s still not a lot,” he chided.
After my blood was extracted, I went to the waiting area, took out a book, and pretended to read calmly while waiting for the result. When the counselor called me back, he asked how the waiting was and commented that I looked pretty confident about what the result would be. I simply smiled back and shrugged noncommittally. While I seemed to be nonchalant with the whole thing, in my head I was anything but.
The result came back as non-reactive.
That took a huge weight off my mind. I am not a statistic. I haven’t been putting other people at risk. Most importantly, I can assure my friend that he has nothing to worry about me.
I was nodding off to sleep while still using my phone. From my peripheral vision, I can see what I thought was my raised left pinky. But was it my left pinky? I couldn’t feel myself extending that finger. Have I lost some sensation in my hand?
The initial panic cleared my mind and helped me focus: It was my toes photobombing my brain. I thought my toes were my pinky. As absurd as it was, I could not stop myself feeling relieved that it was merely a moment of temporary brain-buffering.
Last night, I found myself playing familiar songs from years ago. One of them was Barenaked Ladies’s “Call and Answer“.
I once sang that song in a karaoke. It’s a relatively easy song to sing, even though it required a wide range. I told friends at that time that the song had a story for me, but I didn’t tell them what the story was.
I posted a summary of that story.
Naaalala ko 'yung time na habang nakikinig ako sa "Call and Answer" ng Barenaked Ladies, tapos bigla akong humagulgol ng iyak.
— Tech Support Monkey (@crazyangelblue) July 6, 2014
Two tweets about that song, then I went back to work and eventually fell asleep on my station. Several replies to those tweets followed, including some from my favorite guy-stalker.
It got me back into thinking why I was remembering that particular period of my life. And then I remembered it was around this date six years ago (I initially misremembered it as seven and on July 7th) when Daryl and I broke up, on our third anniversary.
I’ve long ago accepted the end of that relationship. Daryl and I remained friends. Looking at the things I wrote from that period, I realized how much I changed from 6 years ago; and how much I didn’t change.
A lot of things I wrote six years ago no longer hold true. But how I saw and regarded our relationship remained unchanged.
Let’s see. Six years from now, I might be doing this nostalgia trip again. And I will rediscover this post and, hopefully, have a good laugh at myself and the things I thought I was very sure of.
My mother, in her usual tone of absent-minded concern, asked if the frozen longganisa will be adequately cooked when placed in the microwave.
“Sure,” I said.
Of course, she didn’t believe me, commenting how it’s unsafe to eat undercooked meat. I told her how microwave cooks food from the inside out, so it doesn’t matter if the food was frozen.
I overcooked the sausage. My mother was amazed to see what was a fat tube of meat shriveled to half its size.
So in the end, it was no longer longganisa. The meat was dry and too deep-fried, it was a sausage-shaped chicharon that sprung out of my plate when I cut it with a spoon.