It was 12 midnight and I was at our Makati office pounding away on the internet when I got a “page” ( pre-yahoo messenger, this meant an instant message sent by one user to another within the same ISP- Internet Service Provider). And all it said was “Hi Mon, how are you?”. I was surprised since I never liked the idea of paging and did not even know user- “omni”. It turned out that omni or Mariel was actually paging my good friend Mon Ser who at one time used my internet account to page some users on the net probably expecting to lure young, nubile women ( just kidding, Mon). It turned out too that Mariel had just received her computer from repairs that day and was thus offline for quite sometime. She had merely wanted to test the machine. What happened next was probably cooked up in heaven, because we ( Mariel and me) both will not be able to explain to this day why it just happened.
I said to her that “this is not Mon and I am Bong and Mon is away on a business trip to Jakarta. She said why on Earth was I at the office working at past 12 midnight. Well I said I was actually in the office licking my wounds because of a love relationship gone bad that day. Mariel being probably maternal as she can be started to console me. I instantly poured my heart out to a complete stranger and told all. (My daughter Sam will probably shriek in horror and say “eeew” at this confessional but this was the way it really happened). Mariel even then, did not try to preach, she just listened to my heartaches and rants with the patience of Mother Teresa. So that pages or online chats turned into emails that turned into long phone calls. A few months hence, on a lark I took a chance and sent her this email: ” you were once a bleep on the screen, now you’re a bleep in my heart”. I guess that sealed it because after a few more dogged attempts, Mariel agreed to meet me for the very first time.
Mariel of course being aware of internet fiends in the lurk, was also very cautious. At this point, while she had indeed shared with me her interests, hobbies, dreams and other life concepts, she had left out giving me any personal data such as, her last name, address, mobile number etc. And she thought it best for us to meet in full public view at 3 ‘o clock in the afternoon at Gourmet’s Cafe at SM Megamall. But… not until she finishes with her MBA final exams. (You know the recurring theme with Mariel is that she will start on something new only after making sure to complete any pending task. As such, she has learned to stick to important priorities at the expense of hedonistic pursuits. Of course, you can look at the opposite end of that spectrum and find old bohemian me).
On that day in May, having prepped her by asking her to watch out for a Keannu Reeves lookalike (it’s about the hair thing in “Matrix” the movie), I was able to get her to give me her cellphone number just in case I got lost. Fiendishly, I had planned to dial her mobile number from afar, look first and check if I liked what I saw, and make a great escape if I did not. Necessarily, I executed my plan with the precision of Seal Team Six.
I programmed the cellphone number for speed dial, I looked casually at the menu from outside “Gourmet’s Cafe” and secretly dialed the number. From the corner of my eye I saw someone waving at me. I looked and there was my Mariel. She asked if I was Bong. And as I approached sheepishly, she told me that she knew that I was the one calling and that was why, she wasn’t answering. I was floored, surprised, frozen in shame. For I was caught. Mariel was indeed more than a match for me. I had once thought that I was the best at the game. And there was this one person who conquered me “in style”.
And someone with a high sense of style, was also what best described Mariel. Aside from always being impeccably dressed and groomed, Mariel showed class inside and out. For she never once talked to me again about any of any of my online revelations during our married life. Never once did she use any of what I had told her before. Even at the height of our little arguments. She had real style. She was a decent person. But most of all, she had truly loved me very much. She took me warts and all for the frog that I was and turned me into her “prince”.
Mariel, my princess, I miss you now and love you so much. One day we will meet again and will never be apart forever.