We awoke the next day, wondering at the marvel of it all. I was truly mindful of the my totally new experience, and the new ‘me’. It’s not obvious what Carmen was mindful of, but she kept reminding me it was many years since her husband had died and no boyfriends. I smiled at her. My gap wasn’t so long, but the recently failed loss was fresh and tender. I was truly grateful for her.
‘What shall we do after breakfast?’ I asked her. She eyed me knowingly and said, bed? Or something like that.
I said we didn’t want to wear ourselves out the first day. She said, ‘you very strong’. I smiled, I thought the Trazadone must be good for something after all.
Carmen is a stylish and beautiful woman. Obviously there was good DNA but she took great pains in morning maintenance. Her skin was surprisingly white for a Filipina and even though she lathered on skin whitening cream, I knew from other signs she was fair complexioned. She took her time, she seemed to enjoy these morning feminine rituals. And she had no shyness in my watching the magic happen. She brought a large beach bag of her stuff and as the days passed I marvelled at all the stuff that appeared out of that bag.
It was Christmas in Manila and there was a brand new fully decorated five story shopping mall just across the street from the hotel. Her eyes brightened and for once I was not in dread of the pending expenses I was about to incur: my pensions and investments were generating generous, if not enormous, cash flow and I had really no one else now to spend it on.
On our first day we mainly explored the Podium Mall. We knew there would likely be return trips. There was another much larger Mega Mall just two more blocks down the street but we liked this modern one. Thankfully she tires easily (might be the stylish platform shoes, or was it something else? I had noticed she took pills at breakfast for hypertension, but what were those other potions she took?)
I surprised myself by buying three pairs of shorts (size 36, to show off my new figure) and three shirts.
‘What do you need Carmen?’ I asked innocently enough. New glasses she said. I gulped a bit but I had noticed the glasses she wore were cutting into her cheeks and I wasn’t fond of the style. So we entered the stylish Tokyo Eyewear Store. Two young salesmen, a female clerk, an optometrist and two other touring ladies attended to her. I picked out a style I liked with large frameless lens that didn’t obscure her features, and another pair with nice definition in blue. She disappeared into the evaluation room with the optometrist while the others served me Japanese tea. She came back out and proceeded to try on every other pair of glasses in the store. The young salesmen were not surprised. I guess with women it’s like buying shoes, I said. One of the sales clerks said, she’s still looking for the wow factor. What do you think of these she said? They were the first pair I had picked out!
So she bought them. She then produced her senior’s card and saved me 6000 Pesos!
Dinner that night was sushi at the Nikkei Japanese restaurant in The Podium. Everyone had warned me about this third world country, as Mexico City, to avoid the water, ice cubes and fresh fruits and vegetables. But our hotel assured us they had their own water filtration system, and I had brushed my teeth and swallowed my meds with it. Hikkei seemed a classy place and I decided, consistent with my new-found life view, to throw caution to the wind and trust that the Dukoral I had taken would ward off the foreign flora and fauna. (Now there’s a classic cultural appropriation, who was the foreigner here?). Seemed to work. Or maybe it was the saki.