By Kath C. Eustaquio-Derla
When I was in publishing, I created a mood board the size of my entire bedroom wall. I bought back issues of magazines, tore out pages that inspired me, and posted them on my wall. Some people call it a mood board. My mother called it kalat.
I have this nasty habit of starting small projects—so small it's almost amazing how I manage to lose focus after only a few days. Take that mood board project for example. One day, I got so bored and irritated that I tore down the pages from my wall and burned them.
Kalat pala ha. One of my mother's plants caught fire. I threw that away too. And yet, despite the fleeting emotions, there are two things that continue to survive my flickering addictions: coffee and Archie comic books.
I got my first batch of Archie comic books when I was six years old, a parting gift from my cousins Allan and Pepper a day before they migrated to the U.S. Sure, I was a bit too young to be reading about teenage angst and boy troubles but I sure loved those characters, especially the feisty and spoiled Veronica Lodge. I must have already spent a small fortune on those comic books, which I continue to buy to this day. Even Johnny would take me to a bookstore monthly, ask me to get 1,000 peso worth of Archie comic books, and pay for it. The tradition started during our first month anniversary when he asked me what I wanted as gifts.
And this is why I had to do a double-take when I passed by this small bookstore in Makati one sunny weekday morning.
Unlike other commercialized bookstores, this one is partly hidden. In fact, I almost missed it if not for the 50% off sale sign they have for back issues of Archie comic books. I ease down the narrow and rickety stairs leading to the smallest bookstore I have seen in Makati. The place smells of old books and I love it. I ask the cashier where they keep the loot and he points me to one corner where the glorious stacks are located. The place is really small and there's a tall guy in a short, white polo blocking my way.
“Excuse me,” I say. He takes one look and quickly steps aside to let me pass.
My resting bitch face has its perks, most of the time. I only have thirty minutes before the parade. You see, part of my job as a PR girl includes handling the pre- and post-coronation activities of local beauty queens. One of our girls recently won in an international competition and made my life difficult, starting with a parade along Ayala Avenue in Makati under the heat of the afternoon sun. If I die of heatstroke, I want to be reincarnated as a beauty queen. I thought. Ma-experience ko man lang na sumakay ng pink na float at hindi maglakad habang nauusukan ng tambutso.
There are only a few comic books left with the 50% off price tag and since I'm the kind who judges a comic book by its cover art, I grab all the nice-looking ones I can find.
“Miss, lahat ba yan bibilhin mo?” I hear someone behind me ask. It's the tall guy who was blocking my path a while ago. We are both standing in line at the cashier.
“Oo, bakit?” I reply with the slightest hint of mockery.
“Puwede ba akong makipag-swap?” he asks coolly. “Puro Betty & Veronica na kasi naiwan e. Pinakyaw mo na lahat ng Archie and Jughead covers.”
“Ito nalang sa iyo yung mga pambabae,” he adds when I fail to respond in a timely manner and places two Betty & Veronica covers in front of me, the ones I did not get because I hate the new cover art.
Hindi pa nagsisimula yung parade, umabot na sa ulo ko yung init ng araw. His statement sounds incredibly brash and slightly sexist. I catch myself responding with an even more sexist statement before I can stop it, “E mukha ka namang mahilig sa mga pambabae, puwede na yan sa iyo!”
The small bookstore feels even more suffocating when the verbal bomb flew out of my mouth and landed between us. Even the cashier looks like he wants to dash out of the store before I can open my mouth and puke out more. I pay for my comics as fast as the cashier can open his register and dash out of the hole-in-the-wall bookstore in record speed.
I honestly thought that at 27 years old I would be more patient with people. But no. It seems like I never aged a day since I turned 23 and threw a tantrum at the restaurant my then boyfriend took me to. In my defense, the table cloth was filthy and the house water was not even filtered. At 27, I am still a ticking time bomb that detonates over the simplest things.
I have this nasty habit of starting small things I can't finish. And yes, this includes small, senseless misfits.
Read Chapter 5: Comic Stealers
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Kath C. Eustaquio-Derla is a journalism graduate from the University of Santo Tomas in Manila, Philippines. She wrote Bedroom Blog by Veronica, a relationship blog for Cosmopolitan Philippines from 2009 to 2011, which covers most of her single dating life. In 2015, she published her first book Before I Do. She’s passionate about coffee, red wine, books and Mad Men. She stopped collecting hearts when she got married in 2013 and went back to collecting Archie Comics ever since. Send the author a tweet @kceustaquio.
Edits: Paula Bianca Abiog
Before I Do
Philippine Copyright © 2015 by Katherine C. Eustaquio-Derla
Disclaimer: This book is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places and incidents are products of the author’s imagination and are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual events, places or persons, living or dead is entirely coincidental. Image from Pexels.com.
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