Wallace stopped drinking the day he almost caused an accident. Almost. And he had vouched to never touch any source of alcohol again. He had kept up his determination regardless of how down he felt–or how low his life managed to reach. Even when he and Yvonne broke up. But now he was sitting at a bar, going back on his words, wallowing himself in the poison.
“Liars,” He mumbled. He was not talking about Yvonne. Or Tammy. Or anyone he’d come to know. He was not beating himself up either. He was just cursing at whoever said that drinking could make one forget. He came to the conclusion that whoever had made those stupid phrases up must be the ones who wanted to sell more alcohol. A great slogan indeed. It had sucked everyone in since the beginning of time. Or was it since wine came into existence?
“Hey, buddy, you okay?” Someone asked from several seats over.
He turned to see a guy trying to balance his drunk buddy. “None of your business.” His voice was slurring but he did not care. His vision was almost dancing. He did not care either.
“If you want, I can drive you home,” The guy continued.
“I don’t need you.” He waved his hand for emphasis. “I don’t need anyone.”
“Watch it.” The guy reached out his other hand to steady Wallace. “I don’t want to interfere but if you’re drunk like this and you drive later, you’re going to kill someone.”
“I’m not drunk!” Wallace bellowed, shrugging the nosy guy off. “I just want to clear my sorrows away, okay?”
As if that was some kind of cue, the nosy guy’s buddy reached his hand over and displayed a ‘thumbs-up’ sign toward Wallace. “Let’s cheer to that!”
Wallace laughed. “Good.”
They did a clink of their bottles and downed the substance again.
“That’s enough,” The nosy guy interfered. “I’m taking you both home and that’s final.”
“I want to clear my sorrow away,” His friend rambled. “You said you would let me.”
“I told you only a little, not like this.”
“No…a little is not enough to…drain my sorrow away.”
“Come on, Mitch. We’re leaving.”
Jiro did not want to argue with his friend any further. He handed the waiter some bills and led his friend out of the bar. They made it to the car before Mitch had a vomiting episode. Lucky that they were not inside yet or Jiro would have to face some consequences later. He finally was able to set Mitch in the backseat and helped Mitch buckle up. Mitch was almost out cold by then. Jiro made sure he was only drunk–and not showing any additional symptoms before he locked the car again. He returned to the bar to find Wallace still sitting there drinking. It looked like Wallace had finished the last bottle and had ordered a new one.
“Come on, buddy,” Jiro urged, knowing he could not ignore Wallace while Wallace was in that state. Though they were strangers, Jiro felt he had an obligation to carry out and answer to the public. It was for everyone’s safety after all.
“I’m not going anywhere with you,” Wallace snapped, brushing Jiro away from him.
Jiro did not care. He reached for his wallet and paid the waiter before rushing Wallace to the door. He did not want Mitch to wander off if Mitch was waking up again.
“Get in,” Jiro directed, opening the car door.
“Where are you taking me?” Wallace asked, still fighting with Jiro. “I don’t know you…”
Jiro grabbed Wallace and steered him in time so he was throwing up on the pavement instead. After the vomiting episodes, Jiro pushed Wallace into the passenger side and circled around to get in. He knew it was impossible to get directions so he would have to take them both to his house. Letting Mitch roam around his own house was too much of a risk. He was suddenly glad he had his own house so his parents wouldn’t freak out. And he would never have to explain. Upon pulling out, he heard some music coming from Wallace’s side. He parked again and reached for Wallace’s pocket, retrieving the cell phone.
“Hello?” Jiro answered.
“You’re not Wallace,” A girl’s voice said.
“What happened to Wallace?”
“He’s…uh…drunk right now.”
“Drunk?” She sounded like she did not believe him.
“Yes.” He sounded offended. He had every right to. He was doing a good deed and being scolded? “Are you family? I can drop him off at your place then.”
“Uh…” Silence. “Okay.”
Jiro asked for her address and hung up.
About an hour later, Jiro was at the location. He saw a girl waiting for him outside. She was wearing sweats and had her hair tied up. She did not say anything except helped him get Wallace inside.
“Thanks,” She finally said when they managed to get Wallace to lay on the sofa. “Sorry about that…” She gestured toward Wallace’s direction. “He never drank before.” There was a nervous smile. “At least not since I know him.”
“It’s okay,” Jiro said. “I just want to make sure he doesn’t drive and end up hurting himself and others.”
“You’re very considerate then.” The girl’s smile finally showed traces of sincerity. Her face no longer wrinkling like before.
Jiro looked outside at the ajar door. “I better get going. I need to take care of another drunk man.”
She walked with him to the door.
“I’m Cyndi Wang, by the way,” She said as he turned to leave.
He turned around to face her again, smiling sheepishly. “Jiro Wang.” He reached for her hand. “Who would forget about introducing themselves on the first meeting, right?”
“We did,” Cyndi joked, letting go of his hand finally. “So much for a first meeting.”
Jiro shrugged. “You can never predict the future.” He looked past Cyndi into the house. “Take good care of your boyfriend. He’s going to have a major hungover tomorrow.” And he was off.
“He’s not my boyfriend!” Cyndi yelled after his disappearing back.
And that had made Jiro smile as he was walking the rest of the way to his car. Though he had no idea why.
Cyndi never expected to find Wallace drunk. Nor did she expect to be the one taking care of him at such a time. Idiot, she cursed him silently as she was placing a cold cloth on his forehead. She was just calling him to check up on him when Angela had called her to ask. Like the Chang siblings had thought she and Wallace had to go to some function or meeting for the company. And she was glad that she had volunteered to call him for them–instead of letting Angela do so. With how things were with him lately, she did not want Angela to find out that he was at one of his girls’ house at the moment. Who would think that he went and got himself drunk?
“Rong Rong,” Wallace murmured as he felt Cyndi’s hand brushing his forehead briefly.
“Idiot,” Cyndi said out loud.
He reached out to grab her hand at that time. She slapped his hand away and adjusted the cloth again. He attempted to sit up and grabbed her again. She shoved him back, not caring if she had used too much force. It might send some senses into him. Even if that was just her wishful thinking.
“Are you ignoring me too?” Wallace mumbled, his hand still grasping at the empty space in front of him.
“Stop it!” Cyndi scolded, pushing him away like before.
He finally succeeded and pulled her toward him. She lost her balance and ended up in his arms. She could feel the rough material of his coat against her face. Trying harder, she shoved her elbow at his sides. He let go and she was able to regain herself. She could not get up yet but she scooted to a corner of the sofa, not allowing him another chance to grab at her.
“Rong Rong…” Wallace called out again.
“I’m not her!” Cyndi shouted, beyond frustrated. “You’re a stupid idiot!”
Wallace had given up on pulling her to him. He was lying at an angle. His feet were now on the floor and his head was resting on the armrest with his hands at his sides. “That’s right…I’m a stupid idiot…”
Cyndi wished he had contradicted her because that would mean she could yell at him some more. Yet he was agreeing with her?
“Why was I so dumb?” He continued. “Why couldn’t I see it? You were right…”
Then Cyndi knew. He still thought she was Tammy. That was why he bothered pouring out his soul. Her anger rose again.
“Yvonne had her reasons…she…”
“She’s your past! Angela’s the one you should care about now.”
“That’s what Yvonne told me. That’s what she said…”
“How could she be so forgiving? How could she only think for others…”
Cyndi was about to attack again but she was shocked into silence. He was actually beating himself up. She got up from her place and grabbed his hands.
“Stop it!” She yelled out. “It won’t help if you just dwell on your past. Do you get it?”
Wallace relaxed then. But he was still mumbling something about being dumb. She ignored it, helping him lie on the sofa again. She had to replace the cloth and turned off the light. She had enough. She went to her room and locked the door.
The next morning, Wallace woke up to an excruciatingly painful headache. It was inevitable. He knew it too well to complain. The only thing he was surprised about was his surroundings. His vision swam slightly. He tapped his head and closed his eyes again. Waiting for the spinning to stop and opened his eyes once more.
Then he realized Cyndi was sitting across the room from him.
“Ling Ling!” He called out. He did not care that she was sleeping. He had wanted to get to the bottom of it.
She stirred and opened her eyes, straightening up from her place.
“Why am I here?”
She scoffed. “A good question. Why didn’t you call the others yesterday?” She got up from her seat and walked toward him. “Or better yet, why didn’t you come?”
Wallace rubbed his forehead, trying to remember. He was too out of it to recall anything. Soon, her words were buzzing in his ears. Then he remembered. Or could recollect some bits and pieces. Oh shoot, he thought. He turned to Cyndi. “I wasn’t talking to Tammy last night. It was you.”
“Huh!” Cyndi retorted. “That was what I told you since you opened your big mouth.”
He bit on his teeth, trying not to take it out on her. After all, she did look after him all night. Was it? He cleared his throat. “I’m sorry.”
“Too late for that now.”
“Angela should be the one you’re apologizing to now.”
“I know. But could you stop yelling at me when you don’t know the whole story?”
“Should I even listen to your excuses?”
“Do you know how much Yvonne sacrificed to help me?”
Cyndi looked away. She was apparently still mad and was restraining herself from lashing out again.
“The years Yvonne and I dated, we kept getting into senseless fights,” Wallace continued on–with or without Cyndi’s agreement to listen. “I finally found out she was with some guy when she told me she was working. I didn’t believe her. She never told me exactly what her job was but she always told me to trust her. I did not care to listen, thinking she was just messing with me. I thought she was setting up a game or a trap so I could keep falling into it. I didn’t want to end our relationship at first, wanting to be patient. But it was hard. Finding out she was with another guy pushed it. We broke up after a fight. It was until recently…or more like yesterday that I found out she’s just like the team who had been helping me these past weeks. She’s a private investigator. She doesn’t want to disclose the information to me years ago because she did not want to blow her cover. And I always thought she was the despicable one…but I was the despicable one, thinking that I was all that.”
“It’s still not fair to Angela,” Cyndi said, her eyes on him again. She was determined to defend her friend.
“I know.” He got up then. “I just want you to know that you can hate me, but you can’t hate Yvonne for my mistakes. She had suffered enough already.”
Cyndi scoffed. “She chose to be a private investigator. No one forced her to.”
“Stop watching too much of those television dramas, Ling Ling.” He did not mean it in a mocking way. “Life is not all about love. Every one of us has dreams we want to fulfill. And you did not listen to Nic either when he wanted you to quit working for me. So how could you expect others to do the same?”
“No, it’s not. It’s still about choices we have to make.”
Wallace left after that, making sure he had his cell phone with him. Cyndi stared after him, not saying anything more. She couldn’t. Or more like she did not know how. She was still thinking about what he said.
© Monday, March 7th, 2011
Posted: Friday, April 1st, 2011