December 3, 2018
I booked a GrabShare to the office at 11 a.m. The only other passenger was a medical student who sat in front and listened to music quietly on his earphones. I did the same, putting on “When He Sees Me” from the Waitress soundtrack, which I’d been playing on repeat ever since I saw it staged the weekend before. Manila is always in gridlock, but the traffic was particularly bad today, as I’d gone out during the window when cargo trucks were allowed on the main roads.
I arrived at the office at the data consultancy firm where I work in time for one of our newfound traditions: A game of Paydro—the local equivalent of HQTrivia—over lunch. Over several iterations, we worked out a system that ensured that at least one of the five of us in our office who played would make it to the end, and get at least a share of the game’s pot, which normally ranges from around P20,000 to P200,000 ($400-$4,000). Most of us managed to make it to the end that day, winning P180 ($4) each for our trouble.
After the game, we had to do a tedious data mining assignment. As there wasn’t a set deadline for the output, we took our time, and each of us took several breaks over the day. One of my co-workers spent hers watching skincare videos on YouTube. Another played Star Wars: Galaxy of Heroes on his phone.
During one of my breaks, I answered Sporcle quizzes about Oscar nominees, and was disappointed at myself for forgetting Melissa Leo won for The Fighter. I also skimmed a few e-mails I received from LinkedIn. I’d set up an alert for job openings to keep my options open, but nothing caught my eye. At around 4 p.m., I updated an Excel spreadsheet where I’d been keeping track of all the year-end lists of 2018’s best television shows, for an aggregation project I do every year. In the background, I listened to “She Used to Be Mine” on loop, as I was in the mood for something somber.
We called it a day around 7 p.m., and the number of people at the office began to winnow. The few of us still there, whether due to inertia or the exorbitant Grab prices during rush hour, decided to get some dinner at a lechon—a roast pig place
—at the mall near our office. After dinner, I was about to book a ride home, but my father texted me, reminding me that the national men’s basketball team had a FIBA game today that I couldn’t miss, so I stayed at the mall to watch.
We were playing Iran that night, and the game was tight throughout the second half. The Philippines ended up losing; the visitors were simply too big and too good. One of my officemates who’d stuck around and watched the game gushed about our point guard’s nifty lay-up to take the lead at one point, saying he reminded him of Kyrie Irving, or the other way around, and I agreed.
I booked a Grab home at 9:30 p.m., boarding a Mitsubishi Adventure that was so full I had to sit at the very back, where the seats faced each other. Staring out the back window instead of the ones on the side, I was a bit disoriented by the road home, the same one I’d been taking for the past year and change. My office is inside a mall complex that was now lit up in Christmas colors, and in the stark red and green lights of the season, it looked both colder and more alive.
One of the passengers up front got off soon after, and the driver let me move so the starts and stops of the commute would make me less nauseous. With “It Only Takes a Taste” blaring in my earphones on repeat, I stared at the cityscape unfurling: the same old store fronts and street signs. Somewhere along the way, we passed by an accident. My driver shook his head.
I arrived home at around 11 p.m. Entering the foyer, I saw that my mother had put up our old plastic Christmas tree, now lit up red and green with a newly-bought star on top. My two dogs ran to greet me, scratching against the wooden door. I rubbed the fur on their heads and dragged myself upstairs and into the shower.
Afterwards, I went to my room and spent a few hours working on my year-end list for 2018’s best films. I went to bed, eventually falling asleep to “You Matter to Me” playing in the background, as Drew Gehling’s voice crooned: “Simple and plain and not much to ask from somebody.”