Julio was in the middle of Chapter 7 when he saw the green LED flashing on his Blackberry. He placed the bookmark on Haruki Murakami’s “1Q84” and closed the book. He picked up the smartphone, unlocked the homescreen, and swiped right to the message hub. There was an email from the recruitment staff of a publishing company headquartered in London. He instantly recognized it just by looking at the company logo. He couldn’t remember if he directly applied to the position mentioned or the staff just found his resume’ in Jobstreet.
He scanned the message – position title, job description, basic qualifications, work location. It looked suitable to him. It was basically an invitation for an interview. At the bottom it read, Visit our office today at 1PM. Today was Monday, half past eleven in the morning. He could still make it if the infamous traffic in C5, MRT, or EDSA would cooperate. It’s worth giving a try, he whispered.
His last meal was last night at around eight o’clock. Julio felt hungry. He didn’t eat a decent meal since breakfast and lunch except for three hard-boiled eggs, cookies, and chocolate milk. He put the electric kettle to boil and prepared two sandwiches of wheat bread and peanut butter. He had no time to cook. This meal would suffice for now and he couldn’t afford to go out with an empty stomach.
Julio was about to finish his last bite of the sandwich when he caught a glimpse of the black mat on the floor beside the sink. Written on it was the word “Welcome.” No exclamation point. Just plain “Welcome.” He smiled bitterly at recalling the purpose of putting it there. Aside from its use of protecting the floor from water spills and cushioning any glasswares from breaking when he accidentally drops them, it was also meant to welcome a trusted guest he met in person for the first time – someone who did not stay for long, someone who walked away – something that went against the original plan. Welcome Julio…welcome back to your new life.
Julio rose from his seat. He shook his head to dispel the memories of a short-lived relationship that he thought was more than mere friendship. There was a strange quietness in his unit. Ahhh! It was because he stopped listening to love songs that were aired in Remember Someone Today, a program on his favorite FM radio station. His modest abode used to be filled with beautiful music at these hours. Obviously, he did not want to remember someone today, not until his shattered world becomes whole again.
He took off his clothes and threw them on the bed. This was another gesture that was uncharacteristic of him. Usually, he folds his used clothes carefully and set them aside. He lost his sense of being organized and meticulous. Who cares? I live here alone anyway and I’ll never welcome anybody in here again. He grabbed the towel and entered the bathroom to do a quick shower.
Julio stared at his naked reflection in the full-length mirror. He cupped one side of his face and his palm felt the bones on his cheek and jaw. His face lacked flesh. He turned on one side and traced his jaw line with an index finger. His face had now revealed a prominent square shape, far from the rounded form on his old pictures that exuded vitality and strength. As he inspected himself from top to toes, his body looked slimmer and smaller. It looked as if his over-all physique had shrunk.
Julio shut his eyes tightly and hoped that the vision before him would change. Gently, he raised his eyelids. Still, he didn’t delight in what he saw. He combed his hair with his fingers and was soothed by the fragrance of the herbal shampoo that clung to his fingers. His hair was the only part he considered alive and healthy. It was black, soft, and shiny. It has grown thicker and longer, which suggests that it was more than a month overdue from being cut, but it perfectly matched his hollow visage.
He suffered terribly…in soul and in flesh.
At quarter before 1:00 PM, he arrived at the office. He approached the reception and said shortly, “Hi, applicant.” The woman gave him a cursory look and asked him to log on the sheet.
“Please accomplish this form and attach your resume’,” the receptionist said, “submit to me when you’re done.” She has done everything mechanically, as if she has been tired and sicked doing the same job again and again. I can so relate with you, Julio uttered the words in silence.
Julio took the form and settled on a seat near the elevator. He started writing on the paper, an ordinary form that requires the applicant’s demographics like name, address, birthday, citizenship, references, and so on. He paused at a field that asked for his Civil Status. Of course he is Single, but there is a modifier that he wanted to attach to being Single, something to negate any stereotypes that society is giving to people who are Single, either by choice or by some playful twist of fate. Julio looked at the other applicants who were busy filling out their forms. Then, he lowered his head to conceal a smile he could not suppressed, and in that remaining blank field he wrote in uppercase letters:
SINGLE AND HAPPY.
Did Julio get the job? Please continue reading.
Please walk me through your work experiences. What do you do during your free time? Do you work better in a team or as an individual? Tell me a situation where you demonstrated an excellent work under pressure. What is your ideal work environment? What will you do if a team member is negatively affecting the performance of your team? Tell me a situation when your work has been criticized and how did you handle it? What is customer service for you? How do you retain customers? How do you win them back?
Julio answered each question with as much patience and enthusiasm as he could. These were similar or related questions he has been repeatedly hearing in the past interviews. If only he could record his answers and play them when a relevant question was asked, he would definitely do it.
“All right, I’ll discuss your application with my head,” the interviewer said after he disclosed his expected salary. “Please wait at the lobby until I call you again, this is a one-day hiring process,” she concluded.
After an hour, the interviewer called Julio. “This is the letter from my head,” she said and handed a folded, stapled piece of small paper. “We’ll just call you,” she smiled and called the next applicant for interview. Julio picked up the cues. Without opening the letter, he tucked it in the chest pocket of his long-sleeved shirt and walked into the elevator to exit the office.
A slight rain poured when he emerged from the Paseo de Roxas underpass. The vehicles along Ayala Avenue and the corporate people on its sidewalk have started to thicken in preparation for the rush hour traffic. The letter was still in his pocket, folded and unread. This kind of letter would no longer break his heart, nor would it make him cry. He had been used to it.
When he reached the waiting shed, he produced the letter from his pocket. He carefully removed the staple wire so as not to prick his fingers. He read the block letter. The content was very generic. His name was handwritten on the line beside the salutation.
Thank your for your interest…We appreciate your time and effort…We have considered your credentials, experiences, etc…After careful consideration, we regret to inform you that….
With his hand damped by a mixture of rain and sweat, he crumpled the letter and threw it in the nearby thrash bin. He smiled. He could think of only one reason why he was not hired.