Bottle Me Up #2: Pink

June 2017

 

Every single person on the beach is facing west ward.

I used to prefer sunrises to sunsets. Sunrises were orange, blue, and yellow. I used to greet them while driving to work. I grew up in a household of early risers, which was more because of necessity than virtue. We lived 20km away from the city. That may not seem very much, but Manila practically invented traffic jams. I loved greeting the sunrise on the road while listening to morning radio. It made me feel productive, alert, alive.

Everything changed when I tried to make it in the BPO industry. You know how some people say certain places changed them? For me it was jobs. Jobs changed me. My life was completely turned upside down, having lived nearly 3 years in the shade. I only ever saw the early afternoon sun on the way to work. I’d leave the office in the wee hours of the morning. I didn’t see the sunrise for 3 years. This is by no means an exaggeration.

It was during that same period that I developed a very personal relationship with sunsets. For one thing, the sun always seemed to set during my cigarette breaks. At around 6pm, I’d feel pangs of hunger for lunch (or a normal person’s dinner). I’d grab my cup of coffee, a pack of cigarettes, and the nearest friend. There was a balcony on the building rooftop, and it was the perfect place to watch the sky go from blue to pink to orange, to darkness.

Those cigarettes saved me, I used to say. I’d chain smoke while thinking about my task list (manifest) and mild melancholy (latent). I was 26 and everyone else’s life seemed to move at a frenetic pace. Except me, I felt. The only thing that was accelerating at that point was probably my career (and my lung’s steady deterioration). It was bitterly wonderful.

My friend V and I loved our breaks. She shared quick stories of heartbreak in between stick number 1& 2; I’d comment in between number 3 & 4. This was our routine. We’d sit there sucking on those sticks of death, sipping warm vending machine coffee from our tumblers. Sometimes we’d laugh, sometimes we won’t say anything at all. Sometimes we’d try on each other’s shoes. It was like a having a sleepover for a snack.

That was my favorite time of day. Just me and a friend, with some coffee and a couple (or 6) smokes. I’d stare at the city skyline against the pink sky. My 15-minute reprieve always smelled like caffeine and cigarettes. I’d stomp out my stick, sigh heavily, and go back to work.

That was probably not what Otis Redding had in mind when he sang about Coffee and Cigarettes.

***

Today, the sky put on a spectacular show.

I’m sitting on a lounge chair with a watermelon shake in one hand. The sky is streaked glorious shades of pink, orange, and purple. It is impossible to ignore. Behind me, young Korean tourists are boisterously recounting the previous evening’s debaucheries (or so I imagine, they were gesticulating emphatically) . The designated cover band is performing Michael Jackson’s Ill Be There. There is a lingering taste of choriburger and avocado in my mouth. I want to take it all in.

Gone are the cigarettes that were my constant lifeline (ironic, seeing that they were killing me). I don’t have to drive at sunrise anymore, and neither am I relying on 15-minute breaks to keep my sanity intact. I live a quieter (if less exciting) life now, peppered with quiet weekends with my husband and my cats. It’s a peaceful lull in between life phases.

My husband laughs as he watches me take photo after photo of the sky. “Aren’t you tired of taking sunset photos? Let’s have dinner.” He reaches for my hand.

Pink is the color of my energy.

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