Oh, But We’ve Looked into Bookstores

Jakarta, 12 September 2005

Written under Miss Sassy (9)

One Sunday Cate and I went to a new bookstore in the downtown mall. The idea of touring a well-lit, expansive floor, full of books, with serene ambiance and a cozy inside café, was worth braving the mall weekend frenzy.

Later I bumped into Cate in the travel book section, looking extremely cheery. Yes, she loves traveling, but she can’t be that excited just perusing travel books. Intrigued, I asked why. Cate frantically pointed to the other end of the alley. You gotta check that out, she whispered animatedly. I peeked, almost strained my neck, before finally saw what got Cate so thrilled.

 

It’s a chiseledly-cheekboned, deep-dark-eyed face, wearing sporty clothes showing serious biceps, deltoids, and a hint of six-pack abs. Sweet Lord, I breathlessly concurred, you don’t see that in a bookstore everyday.

Just as I was telling Cate to stop gushing, he turned around and caught us red-handed eyeing him. Oops. I dragged Cate away instantly.

I thought we’d successfully buried ourselves in the Japanese manga section when I saw him just two shelves away, glancing over. We continuously moved around until finally, in the music book section, I saw him walking straight towards me.

So you’re a musician, his first sentence was, with a lilt of Latin accent. No, I answered defiantly, but I like looking at music notes. His smiling, knowing eyes got me off-guard, and I started laughing. The rest is blurred– before I knew it, we started seeing each other.

Oooh, those beautiful first days of a blooming relationship! The first SMS, first late-night call, first ice-cream-on-a-hot-day date, first I-miss-you exchange.  My corporate world didn’t exactly match his life as a pro athlete, but we found common ground on football, Latin dances, and caipirinha. He got to learn more about Jakarta, while I got to practice my 3rd language. Everything was blissful. Until that phone call.

The call came via my cell on a particularly dreaded afternoon when I had sales projection and new PR campaign to finish. The woman on the other side of the line addressed me with the nickname Mr. Caipirinha had given me, then introducing herself as.… Mrs. Caipirinha. She said she saw my number on her husband’s cell as the one most frequently called. Big oops.

I took a deep breath. I tried explaining that I had absolutely no idea about the existence of a missus here, and that I’d definitely raise this issue with Mr. Caipirinha once he’s back in town after injury check-up in the neighboring country. Oh but I exist, came her reply, alongside our 11-month son. And by the way, she continued, he’s not in a neighboring country but here in town visiting us. Big, huuuge oops.

We continued talking, and to my surprise, in such a civilized manner of a grown woman to another. She told me her story, I told her mine. At the end she said that although she didn’t know me, I sounded like a nice person, and it’d be up to me to continue seeing her husband or not, because after all it was I who lived in the same city with her husband and not her. She realized she was powerless to stop us.

I never claimed of being a saint, but I always value the sanctity of marriage. I vowed to confront Mr. Caipirinha once he returned.

He never did.

Instead Mrs. Caipirinha called again, and to my horror, this time to my direct office line, which she claimed to have found on my business card in his wallet. She went on lamenting about the loneliness of a friendless foreign housewife with out-of-town irresponsible husband. Before I could say anything, she announced that her dear hubby had just risen from nap and now actually standing in front of her, wondering who she was talking to. As if on cue, a baby started to wail in the background. It got too creepy for me. I told her to stop calling me, and hang up.

Look, lady, I’m sorry. I’m sorry I didn’t know that he was married. I’m sorry you got tricked the way I almost did. I’m sorry he’s neglecting your well-being and your son’s rearing. I’m sorry that the dashing Mr. Caipirinha turned into an evil Mr. Piranha this early in your marriage. But I can’t help you more than my sincere promise to never resume contact with him anymore. You need to stop getting me involved more than I already have myself, and instead should focus on resolving the issues with your husband and making decisions for you and your child.

And for you wiseguys out there who’d love to advise Cate and me to ditch bars and frequent bookstores instead, here’s a news flash: We DID look into bookstores. But false notes remain false, regardless whether they come through a jukebox or a music book.    

Published on The Sunday Jakarta Post, Lifebites column (pg.6), 15/1/06.

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