Sunday, 27 January 2013

my friend, Jose


Jose greets me with his beaming braces-filled toothy smile and glistening chinky eyes as I walk in the HSBC Recovery and Fraud department, plopping my purse and lunch bag on my desk, directly across from his.  It’s a Monday and I’m dreading another week of drudge and angry negligent clients.

“The hell are you happy about, asshole?” I growl at him.

His grin widens.  “Oooh.  Somebody did not get cock this weekend!” saying it like a whispered song and simultaneously points both his index fingers at me. 

This encapsulates my friendship with Jose.  It was the mid-90's.  We were both hired by the bank at the same time and assigned to the same post, which we both hated but valued it as an essential foot in the door.  We immediately realized we had the same penchant for dark, perverted humor and instantly became buddies.

In an organization that had stiff, conservative culture, we acted like kindergarten playmates, talking to each other with obscene language like fraternity brothers.  We were relentless with our banter.  As he endlessly teased me about my weight and my breasts, I repeatedly made racist comments about his Chinese heritage.   These vulgarities never fazed us though.  It was for comic effect, for our own demented kind of amusement.

Over lunch, we would openly talk about sex and unsuspecting co-workers we would gladly do it with.  It was a vile and immature game that never grew old with us.  Whatever disgusting topic we talked about, we always ended up bursting in uncontrollable laughter.  Our friends were privy to this crude behavior that was the ironic basis of our respect and fondness for each other.

“We should get drunk and get stoned at my house this weekend.”  He suggested one Friday. 

Neither of us had weed nor alcohol when I got to his place.  We both weren't potheads nor big drinkers, and I just assumed that he had the goods since he did the invite. Bastard. We ended up ordering pizza with Diet Coke, watching Pretty Woman on his laser disc player (!!). Some rock 'n roll night.

As we discussed Vivian’s black leatherette boots in the opening scene of the movie, our conversation somehow segued to countries Jose said he wanted to visit as a single man.  He began talking about his family, career plans he intended to pursue and a girl at work that he secretly liked but he was too shy to make the first move.  It was a great opening for a solid insult, but I kept my mouth shut and listened. 

I confided to him boyfriend problems I was embarrassed to tell my girlfriends.  We talked about marriage, our parents and our opposing views on religion.  We acted like co-dependent friends comforting each other as we revealed our fears and life concerns minus our usual profanities and put downs.  Oddly enough, without being drunk nor high, we let each other see our human side.

We were our usual crass selves as soon as we got back to work. Within months, we eventually moved to different departments, but we remained very good friends and kept out-smarting each other with our lewd jokes and insults when we saw each other at social events or even business meetings.

Jose eventually found the courage to ask the girl out and after a few years of dating, they were engaged.  And he and I found time to get together again and talk over dinner.

Bebsy:  You honestly think I’ll ever be married?
Jose:    I don't think I want to see you settled down. The world needs to 
experience you. If you do, tho, it has to be someone who makes you laugh, Bebs.  Make sure he has your sense of humor. Because his penis will eventually wilt and die.  And in the end, all you’ll have is humor.
Bebsy:  Well your penis is already wilted and dead.  And you're not funny.  You have to let Lyn go.

Jose:    You know what I really want to see?  You with children.  Oh God.  Those poor kids... I wonder how you'll be when you're 40?  You'll probably be all crafty and shit.
Bebsy:  Ugh.  I don’t want to reach 40.  That’s seriously old.  And I don’t think I’ll have kids. I'll be a God awful mother!
Jose:    Yah. Motherhood? Not for you, man.  And yes. I’d hate to be friggin' 40. 

I flew back to Manila for my birthday last March, 14 years after that conversation with Jose.  I had not been in touch with him since because of his refusal to join the Facebook bandwagon, but we knew how each other was doing through common friends. He would always say that he was happy to know I'm alive and well.

He missed my birthday celebration because of an out of town business trip but vowed that we would see each other this year as he was very keen on meeting the kind of children I’ve raised and needed to verify that my husband, is in fact, not a figment of my imagination. 

Jose died last week.  While driving home, he was shot in the chest by a business rival. Chinese mafia related.  He would’ve been 40 next year. 

I received the news through a friend 2 days ago.  I stared at my phone in shock and struggled to process her text message. As I write this, I still find it difficult to accept that I will no longer see him, waste time with crude, immature talk and prove to him that I actually turned out to be a not-so-bad mother.

Our friend Dax sent a message bearing the same news. It began with a greeting that was achingly familiar. “Capoool!!!
rest in peace, my sweet.

I turned off my phone and wept.  


  1. Shit. Did not expect that ending. I am sorry for your loss. Seemed like an awesome friend.

  2. Oh Bebs. Sorry to hear this. You were funny together tho.
    The weed night is classic.

  3. So sad naman. Friends like that are hard to find. You're lucky you have special memories of him. Stay happy.

  4. WOW. I didn't expect that. I thought the ending was ... he is now my lifelong partner. OR something nice like that.
    Sorry for your loss.