He slowly drove the flat iron on the length of the trousers and the fabric stretched to an impeccable flatness and smoothness. He set the temperature of the appliance to maximum and pressed it against the edges to form a perfect crease, a straight line that makes the drape look firm when worn. Satisfied, he clipped the black formal garment to a hanger and wiped his sweaty brow with the back of his hand. Whew! His body absorbed the heat!
Julio gazed at the pile of clothing on the small table – three more pairs of pants plus four long-sleeved shirts of plain colors. He was doing it again. His move to his new office in McKinley gave him the feel of being back to the corporate world where HR policies dictate the code of dress that employees are expected to comply with. He never liked ironing; it numbed his hands and caused his veins to protrude. When was the last time he did it? He couldn’t remember. What he now knows is that there is a new addition to his Sunday night routine, and he could not rely on anybody to do it for himself. Clearly, being independent has a price to pay.
In front of the mirror after few hours, Julio stood uncomfortably while watching himself. His new haircut gave him a clean look. However, the long-sleeved shirt that was tucked in the waistband made him feel tight and the leather lace up shoes at the end of the cuffs felt heavy on his feet. He preferred casual shirts and jeans…and running shoes, outfits he had been accustomed to for almost three years. His new appearance gave him a feeling of detachment from the world he felt very comfortable at. If he is in the province, people will think he is rich. Shallow judgment, he thought. Julio smiled weakly when he closed the door behind him.
Change! Is he afraid or excited?
He just celebrated his third job anniversary a day after his birthday. Then it came. His managers let him go. It must be a post-birthday gift, something he wished and prayed hard enough. But why did it seem that he was not happy on the second day of his new job?
He turned right to the South road; it was no longer Panay Avenue, Sgt. Esguerra Street, or Quezon Avenue. He felt a pang of pain at the thought of comparing them. South Road is far more interesting with the sights of luxurious cars parked on the left side and modern, high-rise buildings adoring the horizon.
As he reached the bend after approximately half kilometer, he could hear the sharp sound of hammers, of iron saws cutting through the metals, of the gravel and sand being prepared in the concrete mixer. High on the floors of crisscrossing scaffoldings, the men in green reflector vests smiled at pedestrians passing by.
“Good evening Sir! Please watch out for falling debris,” one of the men cried.
Sir. How Julio hated that address! Ongoing constructions were everywhere and he wondered if there would still be open spaces left by the time his future children would ask him to play outdoors. Commercial development was so fast that in another day or two, this construction site would give rise to another magnificent architecture that everybody would be admiring at, and the workers would vanish like people forgotten after death.
Science Hub is a corporate center where four towers boast of the names of companies at the top. His company’s name was not among them, not yet. He recently learned that tenants who occupy the most number of floors in the towers get their names displayed on the facade, beautifully enough to be seen at a distance, especially at night when they dominate the skyline. The guards regarded Julio with a courteous smile as he passed through the security arch that activated with a loud, piercing sound. The six capacious elevators were functioning busily. When he stepped inside, he became more conscious. He could not avoid looking at his reflections on the four glossy mirrored-walls. Awkward moment.
It was quarter before 8:00 PM when he arrived at the sixth floor. He had a few minutes to relax. He went to the pantry and walked towards the direction of the vendo machine. All hot drinks were labeled FREE. That was new! With the prices of commodities rising unpredictably nowadays, who would not delight on things that are given for free? He took a cup of mocha and settled at the end of the long table with high silver chairs. The pantry was very spacious, even bigger than the modest unit he was solely renting. There were couches at one side like those he see in the KFC dining area, billiards table in the middle, and two soccer tables on the adjacent sides. New office, something that should at least cheer him up.
Julio looked out through the transparent glass panels. He could imagine how Christian Grey did the same while waiting for Anastasia to come in to interview him. He leered, no Anastasia would ever enter the classroom. There would only be a trainer who would be overloading his restless mind with too much information. Below, tiny shadows of people were moving with agility, chasing after time along the sidewalks illuminated by lampposts. There were no PUVs plying from and to the deserted roads, only private cars and metered cabs.
Julio was trying to reconcile himself with the sights before him. This is my new world.
Inside his head, he heard again that familiar voice.
The voice that wants him to stay where he is. The voice that holds him back from change. The voice that resists taking risks. The voice that urges him to fall in love again with his comfort zone. The voice of the status quo.
Julio heard the voice right, and he let it cry out loud until it grew tired and dissipated like a morning dew under a warm sunshine.