Excerpt of the Week: Cada Veces

This one is for Mina, to whom I owe a possible characterization of a nice guy who really, truly needs to prove his “nice guy”-ness to everyone in order to redeem himself. And for Helen, who adores both the sassy Sabrina and the flamingly articulate Rhobelle. (Yes, Rhobelle is a guy.) 

I am actually revising this right now, and I’m also tying up loose ends (so to speak) to make sure that this story will be publishable someday. 

Here’s how the scene works: Sabrina, the aforementioned sassy protagonist, has treated all five of her classmates from Celeste Ballesteros’ class to a night of caffeine and cheesecakes at the nearby Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf. All five of them have gotten their drafts back, and all five of those drafts have been red-inked to death by La Professora. In the middle of it all, Luis – the aforementioned “nice guy” – begins to rant about the “bad boys” who end up with the girls he likes. Let’s see how Sabrina and Rhobelle tests Luis against his own theory, with help from the uber-geeky Kim and the quiet, virgin-eared Char. 

WARNING: This passage contains explicit language that might end up getting toned down upon publication. Consider yourselves warned. 

(Copyright 2012 by Stella Torres. This entry is protected by a Creative Commons License for non-commercial use with attribution.) 


Luis took a long time to think about what to say next. “I think that’s what Ma’m was trying to tell me with this paper,” he said.

“Why?” Sabrina asked. “What did she say?”

He shrugged. “I wrote this paper about a girl.”

“The one who got away,” Rhobelle answered.

“How would you know?” asked Luis.

Rhobelle let out a loud snort. “Please. You straight men. Always writing about the girl you should’ve been with by now if you didn’t fuck it up yourselves.”

“A common theme,” Kim added. “A very human sentiment. Everyone has an opportunity that got away from them.”

“Anyway,” Luis explained. “I have a terrible history with girls, to be honest. All of the girls I’ve ever courted or dated seem to end up with bad boys.”

“Wait, wait, wait.” That sentiment resonated with Sabrina. “Define bad boy.”

Her words seemed to have struck a chord with Luis as well. “You guys are beginning to sound like Ma’m Celeste.”

“Come on,” Char pressed on. “We’re curious.”

Luis continued to speak. “The first time it happened, it was in third grade. I had a crush on this girl Ana, but she had this crush on this guy named Erwin who liked to bully me after school by taking away my pencils and laughing at me for being skinny.”

“I’m sorry,” Rhobelle interrupted. “That’s not a bad boy, that’s a douchebag.”

“Okay, so maybe that guy was a douche,” Luis admitted. ” But then there was this girl named Sharmaine, who I courted for a long time. I was a gentleman towards her, always bringing her flowers and chocolates and those sorts of things. I went to her house so often that her parents knew me by name, to the point where they would bring out juice and biscuits for me. And what does she do? She turns me down, only to say yes to this guy named Jeric who was the most popular guy in school.”

“Was he also a bully?” Kim asked.

“No, but he was courting two other girls at the same time, and he cheated on Sharmaine even after he got her pregnant.”

Rhobelle shook his head. “Douchebag.”

Sabrina, for her part, was getting annoyed. “Okay, Rhobelle, so how do you define a bad boy, then?”

Rhobelle did not take a long time to contemplate the answer. “Here’s the thing about bad boys: They’re the guys who make you feel good about yourselves. They don’t always open the door for you, but he radiates excitement and adventure and testosterone. In other words, sex on a stick.”

Sounds like somebody she used to know, Sabrina thought to herself. Or thought she knew.

“But I try to be a nice guy, Rhobelle,” Luis explained. “I listen to them. I pay attention to the books they like, the music they like…”

 “Take it from a beki who knows,” said Rhobelle to Luis. “It’s possible for a so-called bad boy to be an intellectual. One of my boyfriends was a philosophy major from La Salle. He wore leather jackets and ripped jeans – and, God, he had the most delicious abs – but he was really smart, and we would talk for hours about Buddhism and contemplative meditation. Of course, he looked like Derek fucking Ramsay in tiny shorts, but he had a way of talking to me that really turned me on, like, putang-ina, I want to have sex with you.”

“But that’s my problem!” Luis insisted. “They all want to have sex with them! It’s all sex, sex, sex!”

Sabrina decided to intervene in this conversation.

“Here’s the problem, Luis. You’re looking at this from the perspective of a guy who thinks that all women will reject you because they choose to be with the guy who are not the gentleman that you are, knowing that all of them will end up getting treated in a less-than-gentlemanly manner. And you know this because all of your exes have ended up with the same type of sexy, adventurous, charismatic, yet less-than-gentlemanly type of guy.”

“They are the same guy, Sabrina,” Luis protested.

Kim rolled her eyes.

“Don’t tell me you’ve never had a boyfriend, Kim,” Rhobelle said to her.

“Of course I have,” Kim answered. “Broke it off with him because he told me that Frank Miller was better than Alan Moore.”

Da who?” exclaimed Rhobelle.

“Comic book guys,” Sabrina answered. “At least as far as I know because I attended an Alan Moore event at National to get one of his comic books signed for my brother.”

“That was Mark Millar,” replied Kim with a shake of her wavy hair. “But you know what? I don’t regret being with my boyfriend, and I don’t regret not being with my boyfriend. Even in the parallel world, we would still be in the same relationship, having that same argument, and we would both still be unhappy. The more you get to know a person, the more you understand why you weren’t meant to be.”

“Wow, ang lalim,” Char replied.

Luis wasn’t having it. “But I’ve tried to get to know all of the girls I’ve courted and dated. I’ve tried to get to know their favorite music, movies…”

“All right, then,” Sabrina interjected. “That girl you wrote about. What was her favorite book?”

The Alchemist, by Paulo Coelho.”

“Can you quote The Alchemist for us, then?” challenged Sabrina.

The four of them waited while Luis tried to come up with an answer. “Um… ah…”

“This proves my point,” Sabrina answered. “Okay, here’s another question: What was your theme song with this girl?”

“Easy,” Luis answered. “U2. ‘With or Without You.’ This song came up while we were looking at CDs together in Odyssey.”

“Did she say that she liked that song?” asked Char.

“Umm… she said that she remembers me whenever she hears that song.” he replied.

“So?” Kim let out a hearty laugh. “My ex told his friends that he hears the ‘Imperial March’ from Star Wars whenever he thinks of me.”

“Um, that doesn’t sound like a good memory,” Rhobelle answered.

“But back to Luis,” Sabrina continued. “I wrote about my ex, too, and when I was with him I used to listen to a lot of alternative music – Red Hot Chili Peppers, Jane’s Addiction, that sort of thing. Everyone thought we were going to get along well because we shared that… but now, I can’t listen to those bands anymore without thinking, Shit, what kind of douchebag music is this?”

“Douchebag music,” Kim mused. “Sounds like a Terry Pratchett rip-off.”

That statement gave Luis a way to cut in. “Was he a bad boy too?”

“Terry Pratchett? Hell no!” Kim replied. “Sabrina’s ex, on the other hand…”

Sabrina gulped. “He… it was the ’90s, Luis. The first time I met him, he was wearing an Emporio Armani blazer with Armani jeans and an Armani T-shirt – without the logo, of course.”

“Bad boy,” Luis pointed out.

“Not exactly.” Sabrina knew how she was going to counter this argument. “He made sure that we saw the Armani logo everywhere.”

“Douche!” Rhobelle cried out.

It was good to finally have a beki in her corner, Sabrina thought. “And, you know, he introduced himself like this: ‘Hello, my name is Armand.’ And he would point to the logos and say, ‘Armand, as in Armani. You see? Armani, Armani, Armani.’ “

“Fine,” Luis answered, throwing his hands up in the air. “Douchebag. And you still fell for him.”

Sabrina stared back at him defiantly. “I was 17, Luis. Sue me.”

A tense silence fell over the table as Luis pulled out his paper.

“Tell you what, Sabrina,” he said to her. “I dare you to exchange papers with me.”

Sabrina put down her dessert fork. “Why in the name of Celeste Ballesteros would you want to do that?”

“Like I said. You read my paper, I read yours. Then I’ll tell you if you dated a bad boy.”

“And I can tell you that you’re a doormat who gets dumped by douchebags,” Sabrina replied. “Am I reading this correctly?”

“Yes.” he answered.

“Fine.” Sabrina pulled out her draft, and placed it in front of Luis. “Anything you want to add?”

Rhobelle rolled his eyes. “Luis,” he said, “if you’re right, you totally owe her a date.”

“Kuya Rhobelle!” Char yelped.

“Why not?” exclaimed Rhobelle. “That’s the least he could do. Any date. Lunch date, dinner date, coffee date. Wag lang motel date, or I’ll kill both of you.”

“And what if I’m right?” asked Sabrina.

“Make libre again,” Char answered. “Buy a whole box of Krispy Kreme donuts for Luis and his office mates. With pink icing and matching sprinkles.”

“Or cupcakes,” Kim suggested. “Super girly red velvet cupcakes in a pastel-colored box tied up with matching ribbons.”

“Ha!” Sabrina exclaimed. “I know the owner of the bakery that makes the best red velvet cupcakes in Metro Manila. What do you say, Luis?”

Luis shrugged. “All right, then. Deal?”

“Deal,” replied Sabrina.

She would never say it out loud, but Sabrina could not wait to see the look on Luis’ face as soon as that box of cupcakes gets delivered to his office. 

Love, Stella

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Stella Torres

is the author of the adult contemporary romances Save the Cake, Crushingly Close, and Nine Years Away, as well as the short story “Be Creative” in the anthology Kids These Days: Stories from Luna East Vol. 1.

In her previous life, she has worked in public relations, taught English as a second language, and even attended graduate school (twice!). She has lived in Indonesia, Honolulu, and Quezon City before moving back to her hometown of Los Banos, a few hours’ drive (with traffic) from the heart of Manila.

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