The first time I met Zee, I had a cup of melting Baskin Robbins ice cream on each of my hand. I figured that if we had any awkward silence at all, it would be over our mouths full, filled with dessert.
Mine was strawberry cheesecake, my favourite, and the other, one intended for him, was the chocolate chip cookie dough because I thought he’d like cookies, chocolates, and ice cream crammed in a single course.
It was too late to re-think anything.
I tried not to, as I shake off all sort of antsy emotions welling up. All roads lead to this.
It was the kind of afternoon where it was too impossibly hot outside. I woke up to a phone call saying he had landed. It was 10 am.
“I thought we were going to have some ‘late lunch’?”, I said, my voice cracking and groggy.
“Well, I’m still going to Uber.”, he justified.
I took the phone off my ear, glanced at the watch, and made some quick calculation. “Even if it took you 2 hours, which you won’t, that would be about 12 noon. That’s not late lunch, that’s lunch.”
I started panicking, which is hard to do, mind you, being in deep sleep just a few minutes before.
“Take your time.” He calmly told me.
I suppose I did just that because 3 hours later, a carmaggedon of at least four vehicular accidents in the highway I traversed, cursing my luck in vain, starving and desperate, I have finally only just arrived.
It was a blur the moment I opened the glass door of the donuts shop, and by the time I was standing in front of him, fervently hoping I did not commit any mistake in identity, instead of reaching out my hand to shake his, I extended towards his open palm a cold cup of delicious ice cream, and smiled.
It wasn’t too long after that when we couldn’t shut up even if we tried.
I’m embarrassingly unaware of current events. Yes, I confess, there are times where I slept too late and fought against strangers on the internet over an issue I was passionate about, but these days aren’t any one of those.
Every day was like a Sunday morning stroll in Makati for me. I liked it that way.
It started after a shameful bout of self-pity and some Bridget Jones-worthy proceedings, extending for at least a couple of days, I was emotionally high and messaging a friend, another member of the tribe, the person I call S. If life was a movie, I guarantee Tina Turner would be playing in the background. I felt really awful for my trading mistakes but he was patient, as sweet as the first honey of summer. Telling me that all I needed was a break and that I should probably enjoy myself for now.
So I did. I convinced myself that I had to take care of myself first.
I couldn’t spit out any of these around Zee. He always tried more than I did whenever I was giving up. Most of the time, he listened to my lamentations and then would quickly decide to forget all about it, pretending he didn’t hear anything, cracking a joke once in a while to make me laugh. He’d carry on, and I trudge along behind him. I don’t know where he got his patience, because mine was used up by Manila’s traffic and devilishly reckless drivers– which has improved, by the way, what ever miracle they used seems to have worked.
So on another day, a few weeks after we first met, I was standing in front of another glass door, late again. I didn’t even have any ice cream on my person this time.
I was carrying my laptop with me, pink and at the verge of an eventual breakdown from 5 years of abuse. I entered the Korean cafe along Carlos Palanca, the first wash of air-conditioned air providing instant relief. The wind chimes announced my arrival. A few people turned their heads, but he didn’t. He was tucked in a corner, already prepared, too absorbed to even notice.
I was making my way towards him when he saw me. He stood up and asked me to sit down. Already in the middle of trading, the music wafting over the atmosphere, I sat perpendicular next to him, ready to apologize.
“This is really good.”, he suddenly started, smiling and shoving something cool in my hand. “I bought an entire box.”
It was ice cream.
He was drinking a tall glass of mango juice while furiously clicking at his laptop. He has jet black hair, hopelessly alive on their own, no matter how much he tries to run his fingers across it at any particular time of the day. He wore a black shirt, some generic dark blue jeans, and his favourite tattered shoes he lugged around from weeks of traveling and living on his backpack.
He didn’t look anything like the curious no name character he was known for, and though I should have known this by now, it still caught me off guard every time he was more of a 20-something adult, prone to bad decisions, missing toiletries, and oversleeping. I enjoyed it.
We joked for months before that we have to make a super play trade. It was only fitting that we walk that way. He was flitting through his browser, enjoying his ice cream, watching the ticker and clicking– endlessly clicking– something somewhere.
“So…” I started. “Teach me?”
“Syempre.” He smiled back.
We started with looking at the top gainers and losers, giving only a few significant ones the attention. That’s when we saw WEB.
WEB looked clear as daylight, I began charting in front of him, feeling anxious. I’ve been his bastard for a year now, it would be embarrassing to miss out.
It was a very basic application of the system. The candles were all sitting on top of 20 MA and 50 Ma was comfortably below. The 100 MA was very near, poised to do a ZS. The RSI were at bullish levels.
“This looks good.”, I cheered.
“Good? Mmm… It looks very, very good.” He replied.
I sipped on my juice innocently while watching him. One second later, I understood what was going on, and I started frantically buying my own shares.
He tried to fight his sleep off as we cruised through the night.
My radio was busted, there was nothing but the sound of wind howling as I stepped on the gas 100 kmph trying to get him home as fast as I can. He was tired yet he wouldn’t admit it.
I looked at him, his hair a mess again, his breathing deep and slow, chest rising and falling against the seat belt. We were so different from each other, and yet so alike.
Zee had his principles set on stone. He lived a quiet life away from the city. His childhood was so raw and innocent. Life must be spinning for someone who never even thought he would become who he became. His test was the power he was given. I shudder at the thought of what could have happened if it was someone else.
Instead, he sent kids to school and hesitated to squander what he made on designer clothes.
The red light flickered before it turned green, glowing on his face. How peaceful. How much do I owe this man? Yet he never asked for anything. Not a single thing. No indecent proposals even, which I kept getting everywhere else. Not even to mentor my own bastards.
It’s been a year since I told him of my ambition, and ever since then he never gave up on me.
The city lights looked so beautiful that night.
It was starting to rain.
I was beginning to get lost.
I decided to slow down. One day, I realize, I have to let him go, because if I don’t, he won’t.
He already did enough—more than enough— to help. I cannot remain helpless, I need to stand on my own two feet. I need to show him that after everything was done, that it was all worth it. All those late nights of teaching, all the times he prayed for me too, all the times he tried to protect me.
It will all be worth it.
There would be another soul, dying to live again, regaining the stars in her eyes. There will be much laughter. There will be no more trouble to be free barred by the realities of the rat race.
I’ll repay you, I thought while I looked at him one more time. One day, you’ll see. It will all be worth it with me.
This journey is long, this story winding. People have watched us to see how far Zee could push a normal, generic, non-financial girl climb the exhausting mountains of her dreams. He never for one second stopped believing in me.
Even when I made mistakes after mistakes
I will get there, but I will not let you worry about me any longer, because you already have for a whole year now, and that is more than I could ask from anyone– Especially for a man who trusted me even before he knew me.
It could have been easy to just let me slip away. He didn’t have to take any of us in, he didn’t have to push when I was giving up but he did, and he carried my burden as if it was his own.
He stirred now, half-awake, smiling. “Are we there yet?”. His voice traveled the small space between us.
I looked at him and smiled.
I made 60% on that WEB trade. It did turn out to be a super play after all. Sold most of my position, leaving only 1/3 behind.
The calm before the hurricane turned the land.