Ken slammed the door of his car shut before he stomped his way to the elevator, making his back to his condominium unit. He could feel the black cloud forming in his head. He couldn’t think, the words of his professor resounded in his mind. Are you sure you want to be a lawyer, Mr. Velasco? I think your intelligence can only go so far as being a hairdresser in the parlor like most of your kind.
“PUTANGINA!” Barry heard someone yell and a door slamming shut. He scrambled off his bed and found papers being thrown from the second floor to their living room. “Putang ina. Sino ba nagsabi na maglaw ako?” Ken threw more of his readings down the floor. Next were the pens, highlighters, and pencils he had obsessively bought every beginning of the month. “Punyeta. Ang tanga tanga ko din naman!”
He grabbed hold of his laptop. “KEN!” Barry yelled. He was somewhat used to this kind of scenario after living with Ken for almost a year. The first time it happened was 3 days after he moved in. Ken was having his final exams soon and he was getting pressured. He had a habit of throwing his readings and books against hard surfaces and cursing at the top of his lungs to show how frustrated he was. “Laptop mo yan!” Barry said quickly. Ken looked at him, and he didn’t seem all that bothered. “Kailangan mo yan!” Barry knew Ken can easily buy a new one but that would waste a lot more of his study time. Barry climbed up and snatched the laptop out of his hands. “Ano bang problema?”
Ken was still in his school clothes, he looked down the railings and saw his bag among the casualties of his rampage. “Sorry, ang sama lang ng araw ko.” He buried his face in his hands. He was not going to cry. He was stronger than this. He faced more discriminating professors, Attorney Cruz wasn’t the first asshole to undermine his intelligence because of his sexual orientation. “Hay nako.” He grabbed hold of another pile of readings and threw it over the railings. “Putang ina, matapon na nga lahat yan. Ayoko na maglaw. Magddrop out na ko. Magqquit na ko!”
“Ilang beses mo na sinabi yan, di mo pa rin ginagawa.” Barry started picking his things up. “Kalma ka lang.”
Ken heaved a sigh and frowned at his roommate. “Baka ngayon sseryosohin ko na.” He grumbled. “Alam mo ba sinabi sakin ni Sir Cruz?” Ken asked. “He asked me if I really wanted to be a lawyer, kasi with my intelligence daw, di daw ako tatagal sa profession. Ugh. Kairita talaga yun.”
“Grabe naman manlait yang prof mo.” Barry placed the things he could gather on the table. “Okay ka lang?”
“Gusto ko na magdrop out.” Ken told him seriously. “Ayoko na. Gusto ko nalang maging professional homebody.”
Barry looked at him, his eyebrow quirked up. He looked at the readings on the table and then the railings. “Gusto mo kumain? Di mo pa naman kailangan mag-aral diba?” He asked as he patted his pockets to make sure his phone and his wallet were still there. “Tara?”
“Marami na kong freetime kasi magddrop out na ko.” Ken told him again. He stood up and grabbed his phones from the bed. “Wallet ko…”
“Tignan ko sa bag mo?” Barry suggested. “Magbihis ka muna tapos check ko kung na sa bag mo.”
Ken was stunned at how attentive Barry was to him, a part of him wanted to snap at him because he was acting like Ken was someone to be pitied, and Ken does not want pity from him but a part of him wanted and needed the comfort Barry was offering. “Barry.” He called, the man looked at him, a tentative smile on his face. “Thank you.” A genuine smile replaced it before he made thumbs up gestures at him. “Mabilis lang ako, wait lang.” Barry disappeared down the stairs and Ken hurriedly changed into something more comfortable.
Once he came down, Barry had stacked the papers on the table. They weren’t organized but he’ll deal with it later. “San mo gusto kumain?”
“Gusto ko ng comfort food.” Ken told him honestly. “Gusto ko magpig out, yun ang gusto ko.”
“Gusto mo magTagaytay?” Barry asked him with a smile. “Parang gusto ko ng bulalo.”
“Barry, malapit na mag-11. Anong oras na tayo makakauwi?”
“Weekend bukas. Wala ka naman classes diba?” Barry asked him. “Kuha ka ng jacket.”
Ken wanted to protest but did he really? He pushed his hair back before he ran up the stairs and grabbed the first hoodie he could get his hands on. He came back down as he put it on. “Tara na?”
“Nasayo pa pala yan?” Barry asked and Ken frowned at him. He pointed at him and he looked down and realized he was wearing one of Barry's hoodies. “I mean, okay lang naman, go lang.”
“Sorry. Papalaba ko nalang ulit.” Ken told him as he pushed the sleeves up.
“Uuwi ka ba bukas sa QC?” Barry asked him. Ken shrugged. “Gusto mo sumama kila Lino sa Sunday? Birthday kasi ni Maggie.”
“Are you asking me out on a date?” Ken asked. Barry spluttered for a moment, shifting between saying no and panicking. Ken laughed. “Joke lang! Ito naman!” He shook his head. “Gusto ata nila Chari and Jacky magbonding kami. Kailangan ko ng pamper day bago ako mag-aral ulit.”
Barry gave him an amused smirk. They got on the elevator to go to the basement parking. “Car ko nalang gamitin natin.” He said once they got off the elevator. “Okay lang ba?” Barry always asks this, even though the answer was always the same except when it involved Lino.
“Kenneth Velasco.” They heard someone call. Ken almost felt the whole world around him stop. “Dito ka pala nakatira.”
Ken took deep breath and turned to look at his professor. “Sir Cruz.” Ken smiled. “Opo, kayo rin po?”
“Ken, we’re not inside the classroom anymore. You can call me Anthony.” The man smirked as he leaned against his car. “Boyfriend mo?” He asked. “Siguro bago palang kayo since based on the feedback from your previous professors, magaling ka daw, imagine my disappointment ng makita ko you were too good to be true. Mr. Grande is the only student worth teaching in your class, honestly speaking.”
Ken felt like they were still inside the classroom, and there were moments that felt like all their professors didn’t just own their attention in school, but their whole lives, this is one of those moments. “Sir…” Ken began to speak but the man held his hand up.
“Look, Ken, I know the term just barely started pero I’ll be frank with you, I don’t think you have what it takes.”
“Parang sumosobra naman ata kayo.” Ken turned to look at Barry who has apparently come up behind him. He wrapped a hand around his wrist. He wanted to stop him from speaking again but Barry wasn’t looking at him and he was ignoring Ken’s hand on his. “Sabi nyo nga diba, kakasimula palang ng semester nyo, parang hindi naman tama na ijudge nyo yung student nyo because of one or two bad recits.”
“I wasn’t aware you were part of this conversation.” Atty. Cruz smirked. He turned back to Ken. “You can’t even stand up for yourself with people talking down on you, how can you defend your clients in court if you can’t even do it for yourself?”
That was the last straw. “Attorney Cruz, I wasn’t aware that you were keen on having your students talk back at you.” Ken pushed Barry back behind him. “And in life, I have learned to look at the situation with a level-head and determine when to fight and when to let people make an ass out of themselves. You may believe what you want to believe about me, or my personal life but I know I will be a lawyer.”
Atty. Cruz looked at him with an eyebrow quirked up. Ken felt like he made a mistake because what if this made things worse than it already has? A moment or two passed and Atty. Cruz grinned at him. “Alright, that’s the feistiness I was looking for. I hope you can bring that in our meetings, Mr. Velasco. I don’t need students who are afraid to stand up to me. I need students who have what it takes to stare their enemies down.”
“I also appreciate that you did not take me up on my offer to call me by my name.” Atty. Cruz hummed. “Anyway, I won’t apologize for talking down at you, most of your batchmates are overconfident imbeciles.” He told him. “I do believe that you all deserve to be knocked down a few notches, or even from the ladder you have deluded yourself you've already climbed. Have a good night, Mr. Velasco. I'll see you on Monday.” He pushed himself off his car and moved towards the elevator bank.
Ken finally let out the breath he was holding, and looked at Barry who was still frowning at the direction his professor went. “Hey, okay ka?”
Barry looked at him with a scowl. Ken was sure that it wasn’t meant for him. “Ako pa tinanong mo nyan, hindi naman ako yung ininsulto nung mokong na yun.” Barry shook his head and crossed his arms over his chest. “Gusto mo pa umalis?” Barry asked him.
Ken bit his lip and nodded. “Oh my god. Ayoko na lumabas ng condo next time, what if neighbour pala natin sya?”
“Parang masarap uminom ngayon.” Barry pulled his phone out. “Gusto mo ayain si Lino para may magdrive satin?”
“Ang user mo rin, no.”
Barry laughed and shook his head. “Gusto mo mag-isa uminom? Okay lang naman.”
“Ayoko nga, baka itake advantage mo yung drunk heart ko.” Ken joked as he pulled his own phone out to inform Marky about the new information he found out about Atty. Cruz. Once the message he sent, he pushed Barry towards the car. “Dali, ayain mo na si Lino.”
Lino was half asleep when someone burst through the doors of his room and pulled him up to a sitting position. Once he was properly awake, he saw Barry rummaging through his closet while Ken sat on his bed, ever glued on his phone. “Ba? Ken? Anong ginagawa nyo dito?”
“Punta tayo sa Tagaytay.” Ken answered as he looked up from his phone for a moment. “Nagpaalam na kami kay Nanay Dolor.”
“Anong oras na?” Lino asked.
Ken’s eyes narrowed at the screen. “Almost 12, kaya bilisan mo na, bangon na, Lino.” Ken said as he pushed himself up. He slipped the phone inside his pocket and turned his attention towards Lino. “Nagccrave si Barry ng Bulalo.”
“Pumunta kayo sa Bulalohan.” Lino snapped. “Bakit sa Tagaytay pa?”
Ken huffed as he gave Lino one last push before the man finally stood up. “Kasi masarap ang bulalo pag malamig! Dali na, Lino.”
“Ayos din kayo magdate, no? Lakas ng trip nyo. Kailangan nyo pa talaga ng third wheel.” Lino raked a hand through his hair and grabbed the jacket and shirt Barry handed him. “Oo na, lumabas mo muna kayo, magbibihis na ko.”
“Di kami nagdadate!” Barry snapped as he was pushed out of the room by Lino.
“Oi, ang ingay mo.” Ken chastised as he settled on one of the chairs outside Lino’s room. “Natutulog na sila Nanay.”
Barry grimaced before sitting next to Ken. Ken was still on his phone. “Sino ba katext mo at kanina ka pa sa kotse? May pangiti-ngiti ka pa.”
“Ahh, sinabi ko kasi kay Marky na same kami ni Atty. Cruz ng condo building.” Ken said as he grinned at another message on the phone. Barry’s eyebrows furrowed. He crossed his arms over his chest and scowled. Marky. “Malapit lang din satin yung condo nya e, na sa may starbucks daw sya nag-aaral.” Ken told him. “Pag uwi natin, baka sumunod ako dun, gusto mo din sumama?”
Barry shook his head. “Wag na, baka makasira pa ko sa date nyo.” Barry muttered as he got up again. “Lino, oi, ang tagal mo magbihis.”
Ken opened his mouth to respond to the comment but Barry already had his back turned to him.
Lino stepped out, a little more presentable than he was a few minutes earlier. Lino looked at them with a quirked eyebrow. There was a tension there that wasn’t there moments earlier. Lino had a feeling he knew why. Ken was still on his phone, a smile on his face, totally unaware of the sour expression on his best friend’s face. Lino tilted his head and grinned. “Bakit ang sungit mo, Ba?” Lino teased.
“Ewan ko sayo, ang tagal mo.” Barry muttered. “May study date pa si Ken mamaya.”
Lino turned to Ken. “Uy! Di yun date ah!” Ken protested as he got up. “O, ready ka na?”
Lino took over driving. Ken was in the passenger seat while Barry sat in the back seat. Lino looked through the rear-view mirror and he could see his best friend stealing glances at Ken’s phone. “Ken, sino kadate mo mamaya?” Lino asked, ignoring the look Barry was giving him.
“Di nga date yun.” Ken said exasperatedly. “Mag-aaral lang kami nung classmate ko pag uwi.”
“SInong classmate yan?” Lino asked, stealing a glance at their friend. “Bakit ang sama ng mukha mo, Ba?”
“Magdrive ka na nga lang, Lino.” Barry barked. “Baka mamiss pa ni Ken yung date nya kasama si Marky.”
“Marky.” Lino repeated. He didn’t miss how Barry almost spit the name out.
“Barry.” Ken sighed heavily as he turned to his roommate. “Di nga date yun. Nag-aya lang naman kasi sya mag-aral. Inaya din kita diba?”
“Ako di mo ko inaya.” Lino pipped in. Ken gave him a look, silently telling him not to join in.
“Istorbo lang ako dun.” Lino wanted to laugh but he bit it back. “Bakit di nalang natin sya sinama ngayon? Para masimulan nyo na.”
“Ken, wag mo muna pansinin si Barry.” Lino used his free hand to make Ken face forward. “Nagseselos lang yan. Tignan mo, pawis na pawis yung ilong o.” Lino nodded at the rear-view mirror. Barry covered his nose and looked out the window. “Uy! Seloso!”
“Ihuhulog kita sa bangin e.” Barry threatened.
Lino snorted. “Buti na lang ako yung nagddrive.” Ken’s phone lit up and Lino took this opportunity to grab it and put it in his pocket. Ken made a grab for it but Lino pushed him away. “Wag ka magulo, Ken. Nagddrive ako.”
“Phone ko muna.”
“Bonding natin to.” Lino shook his head. “Mamaya na yang si Marky, ha. No phones tonight. Ba, akin na phone mo, ako yung magkekeep ng mga phone natin.” Barry rolled his eyes but still handed his phone to Lino. Ken settled in his seat. “Okay, so, bakit bigla tayo may roadtrip?”
Ken sighed, shaking his head. “Sobrang sama lang talaga ng araw ko, tapos sabi ni Barry kumain daw tapos yun, napunta sa Tagaytay.” Ken directed a smile at Barry. The man was still pouting but Lino could see the corner of his mouth tugging up. “Tapos Nakita namin yung prof ko sa parking lot. Dios Mio, akala ko kakain na ko ng lupa.”
“Ito ba yung prof mo na pinag-iinitan ka?” Lino asked.
“Lahat naman kami binibitay ng mga prof.” Ken said grimly. “Itong prof lang na to yung medyo mainit ang dugo sa amin, di lang sa akin. Di ko naman alam kung bakit.” He shook his head, he crossed his arms over his chest. “Pero nung Nakita nya kami kanina, mabait naman sya.”
“Mabait pa sya sa lagay na yun?” Barry asked. “Feel ko na sa classroom tayo kanina e.”
“Uy, di pa ko nagtthank you sa pag sagot kanina sa kanya.” Ken turned to Barry again. “Di mo naman kailangan gawin yun.”
“Ayoko naman na wala akong gawin, halos ipanglampaso ka na nya sa sahig kanina e.” Barry told him. “First time ko nga Makita na wala syang masabi e.” Barry joked. He finally leaned forward and wrapped an arm around Ken’s headrest. “Nasan na tayo?”
“Grabe ka sakin.” Ken pouted as he faced forward once again. Barry nudged him a little, his grin widening when Ken turned to look at him. Lino watched as Ken rolled his eyes but the tension in his shoulders slowly disappeared, as did Barry’s. “Di ko alam kung nasan na tayo, na kay Lino phone ko.” Ken told him. “Pero malapit na siguro tayo.”
“Pano kayo napunta dito?” Lino asked them. “Ang layo sa bayan.”
“Ahh, ang dami kasing tao nun sa mga resto sa bayan pati dun sa main road.” Barry explained. “Gutom na kami, tapos kailangan din ni Ken ng tahimik na place para mag-aral.” Barry looked around. “Tsong, parem muna ng phone. Baka maligaw tayo.”
Lino handed his phone back to him. “Ano ginawa mo dun? Pinanood sya mag-aral?”
“Hindi, nag-trabaho din sya, pero nangungulit din.” Ken answered for Barry. “Buti nga di sya nabobore pag sinasamahan nya ko e.”
“Di man ako nag-aaral ng law katulad ni Marky, kaya naman kita samahan mag-aral, no.” Barry answered as he handed Lino back his phone. “Tsong, kaliwa tayo sa susunod na intersection.” Ken leaned against Barry’s arm, drawing the latter’s attention back to him. “O, ano?”
Ken shook his head and relaxed against Barry’s arm. Lino knew Barry wouldn’t dislodge their friend from there, especially seeing the wary glint in his eyes. They drove in relative silence, he cast a glance at them and found Ken asleep while Barry was close behind him. Lino was a nice guy but there were times, like now, when he knew he was being used. “UY!” Lino said loudly with the honk of the horn. “Gising!”
“Ano?” Barry asked, his eyes shooting open. “BAKIT?”
“Walang hiya kayo e, kaya nyo ko sinama para may driver no?” Lino rolled his eyes as Ken leaned back against Barry’s arm. “Bawal matulog.” It didn’t take long for them to arrive at the restaurant which was by some miracle is still open and already attending to some patrons. “Alam mo para tayong na sa horror movie.” Lino told them. Ken and Barry looked at him. Lino grinned at them. “Alam nyo yun? Yung kainan na in the middle of nowhere, tapos may mga tao kahit lagpas 12 am na.”
“Lino! Wag kang ganyan!” Ken told him.
“Tapos hindi na nakakaalis yung mga taong pumunta dyan.” Lino continued, ignoring Ken’s whining. “Kasi sila yung ginagamit na sahog.”
“Iwan ka namin dito e.” Barry told Lino as they stopped. The eeriness of the situation was getting to them, Lino knew. Barry had a hand on Ken’s shoulder while Ken was fidgeting in his seat. “Gutom na ko.”
“Tara na.” Lino said as he turned towards the door and found a man standing there. He yelped, jumping out of his seat and into Ken’s space. Ken screeched, slapping Lino’s shoulder to lock the door again. When they realized that it was just the attendant of the restaurant. Lino wiped his face with his hand before he settled on the driver seat again. “Manong, papatayin mo kami sa takot, alam mo ba yun?”
“Nasobrahan po ata kayo ng kape, sir.” The guard grinned, clearly amused with their reaction. “Paparada po kayo?”
“Pwede nyo gawin gimik yang pag takot, Kuya.” Ken told him seriously, he looked at Barry who was still a little shaken by what happened.
The guard directed them to one of the parking spaces and once they’ve parked, all of them were reluctant to leave the car. “Langya naman kasi tsong, kailangan mo talaga manakot?” Barry groaned. “Parang ayoko na lumabas tuloy.”
“Tinulugan nyo ko e.” Lino sounded amused but his reluctance in exiting the car betrayed him. “Bakit di pa kayo lumalabas?”
After being subjected to another scare by the guard, they came out and headed to the restaurant. Ken took the liberty of ordering for them. To say that he ordered a lot was an understatement. They practically ordered everything off the menu. The pair assured him that the food there was better than most restaurants… and he remembered his story from earlier. He wanted to repeat the story again, but Ken was already picking up a conversation that died in the car earlier. Lino can let go of a prank when he needed to.
They had a quiet meal, well, as quiet as it can be when Ken was involved. Barry was practically giggling in his arm by the end of the meal. Lino had to admit that a part of him had been worried about how everything between his best friend and Ken would unfold. He was worried that it would twist Barry’s world upside down but he should have known better, he should have had higher expectations of Ken.
Ken pushed, and he practically drags Barry by the ear and Barry does the same with Ken. There were moments that Barry would come in their office, fuming, telling Lino about the frustrations he had about Ken, especially about his habit of leaving his things all of over their place… but there were more days that Barry would arrive at the office with a small smile on his face that made his eyes shine the brightest Lino has ever seen. Sometimes he wanted to shake Barry and show him the real score between them, but he can’t really rush it. Barry can realize it on his own, he had to do it on his own.