Working as a Waitress in a Cocktail Bar…

7 Apr

We left Marinduque the other morning, the third sailing of the day so crowded that the girls selling arrowroot cookies and purple yam pastillas have to balance on the metal edging the wrong side of the balustrades, that children wriggle between your legs in quest of plastic chairs, that the Pulis struggle to keep order in the queue that circles the sandy roundabout at Balanacan port.

And I think again of Rosalie, our landlady at the guesthouse, and the husband that Klaus believed she killed, whose picture, framed in silver, sits between crucifix and holy water, contemplating you as you move up the stairs.

“You know,” she says to me, in the restaurant, late enough in the evening for Klaus and one of his fellow superannuated sex tourists to be long ago unconscious. “I was a cook in a resort when I met him. Just a cook.”

Her eyes widen, remembering the poverty she lived in. As we look out over the bay, and the submerged ruins where several thousand Pinoys and Pinays drowned when a ferry went belly-up some years ago, her story’s pure American Pie.

“And the owner, he said to me, because he knew I had a boyfriend, he said, ‘This man needs a guide. He is here for three months, and he needs a guide.'”

I nod, encouragingly. You wouldn’t cross Rosalie, but I like her. “‘Just a guide,’ he says. ‘No sex.’ He said he couldn’t trust another Pilipina with him. Only me.”

They got together. The season ended. The boyfriend too. And Rosalie the realist thought that that was that. “And then,” she says, still marvelling as she reminisces, “The next year, there he was. And he came back, and back.”

And here she is. And he, beyond the grave, in the castle he built for her, still her knight in shining armour. And Klaus, I guess, however tarnished, is Rose’s too.

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