Beer under moonlight.

The entire conversation was obviously a way of stalling before sex.

We only knew each other through a few online conversations: greetings, perfunctory small talk, and mild flirting. We really didn’t know each other until we met in person.

“Kwento ka naman,” he told me as we started our beer.

“What do you want to know?” I asked him. “Magtanong ka.”

“You’re the host. You should be the one entertaining your guest.”

We are trying to out-smartass the other, in between sharing where we’ve been within the country and outside. He is, not surprisingly, more well-travelled than me.

He disliked my hair when I removed my bun.

“Bakit ka nagpapahaba ng buhok; hindi naman sa’yo bagay.”

I laughed it off. I was in a good mood. Otherwise, I would’ve told him to go home after we finished our beer.

We carefully avoided identifying where we work. The first time I asked him what his job was, he answered that he’s a janitor.

Eventually we felt comfortable enough to share more personal information. Or he did. Despite his insistence that I tell him about myself, he let me ask him about himself.

He had a wife. He has two kids with different moms. He first tried sleeping with men after he and his wife separated. He never had a boyfriend. He’s not yet ready for another relationship, but he’s open to settling with a guy if the guy was compatible with him.

No, I won’t be dating this guy. He’s brash, a little arrogant, a little too macho. But he also’s a bit of a softy inside. Not my type for a boyfriend. Until the end, he waited that I make the first move.

He kissed well and was not self-conscious about it. Oh well. I’ll forget his snide remarks.

Harmony, Ords, and Vicky Belo.

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.

massage

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.

Confronting a shadow.

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.

HIV test

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.

The ‘Webs and all them haters.

Technology writer Mike Elgan posted a short essay in Google+ on the comment culture of various social networking sites, particularly the emerging culture in Google+:

Comment culture is determined partly by the structure of the network, and partly by the prevailing demographic. But it’s also determined, in part, by deliberate effort on the part of the community.

So far, the general commenting “vibe” on Google+ has been awesome. But this could change, as the community grows. It’s up to us pioneers to set the tone, and shape the culture.

I believe the key is how we all handle criticism, which is an under-appreciated skill, in my opinion.

Elgan raised several good points on harsh or negative criticism and how one could handle them:

When someone criticizes you or something you care about publicly online, ask yourself: Is the comment disrespectful in some way? Is it a personal attack, rather than a disagreement with an idea? If so, you may be tempted to 1) attack the person back; or 2) defend yourself.

But most of the time, the best way to deal with disrespectful posts is to ignore them. By responding to them, you may bring a lot more attention to them, which in fact may be what the critic is after in the first place. By responding to respectful comments, and ignoring disrespectful ones, you can drown the bad ones in a river of constructive and interesting conversation.

Respectful disagreement is another matter. If someone strongly disagrees with your idea, or comment, without attacking you personally or being nasty about it, it’s a good idea to respectfully engage in a debate about the ideas in question. Or not. It’s your choice.

I’m a big believer in acknowledging good argumentation and valid points, as well as admitting when I was wrong — which is often. It’s easy to be embarrassed by being proved wrong in public, but I’ve found that people respect you more if you admit it rather than trying to win the argument by refusing to admit it.

Here’s my most surprising bit of advice: When someone disrespects you in private — say, a note that’s private to just you on Google+ or Gmail — the best response is a respectful reply. I’d say 90% of the hate mail I’ve responded to respectfully and without negativity caused a 180 on the part of the hate mailer.

The items he outlined could apply to any online forum and could be a reference to basic communications class. What with how how everyone seems to be eager to join in the pervasive social media, many people seem to forget how to act like decent, respectful people, instead degenerating into hordes of Internet trolls.

Read the rest of his post here.

If I wasn’t running late, I would have paid more attention to the cab driver’s story.

“What a waste,” he confided a minute after I got in. “A woman asked me if he could bring her to Pasay.” The driver refused; he was nearly done with his shift and was about to head back to Cubao.

And it was a beautiful woman, he said, still reliving the conversation. The girl was young and a little round. While we were hurtling along EDSA, he gestured how her buttocks jiggled when she walked.

The driver, on the other hand, was old and tired-looking. He looked like the type who’d go drinking all night when not driving, and was the rowdiest drunk guy when he had downed a few bottles.

“And she fluttered her eyes at me,” he confided to me. “As if that kind of flirting would change my mind!”

Just about that time, the cab radio started playing “Bakit” by Imelda Papin, with it’s familiar chorus: “Kung liligaya ka sa piling ng iba?” The song sounded very apt for that man.

“You weren’t born yet when that song came out,” he told me, obviously assuming I was younger than my actual age. “They used to play that in the provinces. People would dance to this song, wearing flared pants.” These were the stories I heard from the mother, while growing up.

I wanted to humor the driver and tell him I still wear flared pants, but I was in a hurry and I’m still tired from the trip back from Baguio to Manila that afternoon.