Southern Pacific Review Editorial Services

Monday, June 19, 2017

Listen to me Jestin

by
Liezel Pichay
Friday night was supposed to be the best of all nights. Normally, after work on Friday, I would go straight up to the roof-deck of our old boarding house with a case of ice cold beer, celebrating that I had survived another burdened week. But tonight, I went straight to my crappy unit.

"Ssh--t!" I cursed my terrible headache for giving me a hard time to unlock this rusty doorknob.

"Hey, Mr. Executive Secretary, what're you doing here?" The voice came from behind me. "I went up to the roof--thought to drink with you." It was Bibo, the guy rooming next door. Although his high-pitched voice pierced my aching skull more, I was thankful for his presence.

"Good you're here, Bibo. Don't you have medicine for my terrible headache?"

"Hah, overstressed again? Yep, I've got any kind of drug. Of course, I have that."

Bibo was a part-time delivery man in a pharmacy--and a part-time kleptomaniac. He rushed into his room and came back in a hurry, giving me paracetamol tablets in a foil bubble pack.

"Here."

"Thanks." I plucked out two tablets and tried to swallow them right away.

"Okay, keep that whole foil. I'll put it on your credit, anyway." He grinned.

"Yeah, I'll pay tomorrow." Finally, the door clicked open. I was choking, so I rushed into my room towards the fridge for some water.

"Okay, don't overdose yourself, Jestin boy!" Bibo chuckled and then he slammed the door.

I just removed my necktie and shoes, and threw myself on the sofa bed, not bothering to turn on the light. As I closed my eyes, I couldn't stop thinking about the stressful events at work. I couldn't erase my boss's acidic face from my mind. His hoarse voice that was shouting "fool," "stupid," "idiot," and many more harsh terms kept echoing in my ears.

I had been his secretary for almost five years. Yes, that obese, old man had been tormenting me since I was twenty. Okay, he was the boss, right! But that didn't give him a license to treat me like a doormat. I admit, I made mistakes--who didn't?

Good, the medicine was beginning to take effect; I fell asleep.

I dreamed about a sea of faces--faces of the people who scarred my soul. They were mocking me. Their laughter was getting louder as their faces gradually disappeared in darkness, but their monstrous eyes were left visible. I saw myself standing in the midst of the surveying eyes. The laughs were still in the air. I clamped my hands onto my ears, but the noise was increasing its volume, nearly deafening as though my eardrums were about to explode. I squeezed my eyes tight.

“Jestin!” My eyes opened wide instantly as I heard Boss’s powerful voice in the air. “You, stupid man! Show your face when I’m talking to you!”

But I didn’t move. Not even a single blink.

“Jestin!”

I didn’t know exactly where his voice coming from. I didn’t want to know. Yeah, I didn’t want to know!

“Jestin!” His hoarse voice was much louder now. “I told you to do as I say, but you can’t do it my way because you’re a dumbhead.”
No. I shook my head.

“Yes, that’s what you are, a dumbhead.”

I shook my head.

“DUMBHEAD--!”

“NO, I’M NOT!” I woke up gasping. It took awhile before I rose from the bed and turned on the ceiling light. My wall clock said it was eleven in the evening. Instead of returning to sleep, I turned on the TV. The channel was airing a late night talk show, and the host was interviewing a numerologist; the two of them were discussing an issue that grabbed my attention.

The numerologist said, "One's name reflects one's personality, destiny, or fate."

Was it true? But I didn't blame my name for my fate. I always loved my name; my grandfather gave it to me. I guessed many people treated me badly because of my physical features. They tagged me as "weird guy" because I was a very lanky, pale man. My eyes were big and dark--with black bags under my eyes that were present since birth. My hair was so frizzy that only ounces of styling gel could tame it. My features were unusual for them, and they judged me for that. I hated those people--proud people who acted like they were superior to everyone else, and my boss was the greatest offender among them.

Monday was the worst day for me because it was the start of a stressful week at work. But things changed a bit when I heard a familiar sweet voice greeting me, "Good morning, Jestin."

Even without looking, I knew it was Pam, my boss's daughter. Today was her first day on the job in our office.

"Good morning," I said as I lifted my eyes off the computer screen to glance at her. But I didn't just glance; I stared at Pam as she came closer. She looked different in her office suit--I had never noticed before that she was lovely. Her long, dark hair was clipped neatly, revealing her pretty face. I couldn't criticize any part of her face. From her big eyes with long lashes and fine nose, to her rosy cheeks and pouty lips--the young lady I had known since she was sixteen had turned into a woman.

"I came here because I feel a little nervous, you know." She sat on the visitor's chair in front of my file-loaded desk.

A little nervous? Boy, why do I feel the same in her presence now?

"Jestin, are you with me?"

I blinked twice. "Y-yes."

"Am I disturbing you? I'm sorry, but I need someone who'll make me feel better. You're the only friend I have here."

"Yes. I mean, of course you're not disturbing me, Miss Pam. I always have time for you."

Our friendship had started through phone calls. No, we weren't phone-pals. When she made calls to the office for her dad, I was the one who entertained her because my boss was too busy for sweet calls. "Jestin, tell Dad to watch my recital today. I'd love to see him there with Mom." or, "It's my birthday, I wish Dad would come home early. Please remind him, Jess." My boss, her father had missed many such events over the years.

"Miss Pam?" She raised a brow at me. "When did you start addressing me like I'm your spinster teacher, huh?" Her casual tone made me forget about this strange feeling building inside of me, for a while at least.

"Because starting today, you're one of 'The Bosses,' Miss Pamela."

"Oh, is that so? Well, if you won't refrain from addressing me that way, I'll fire you."

I shrugged. "Your dad won't let his employees call our bosses without a 'Sir' or 'Ma'am' or 'Miss' attached to their names."

"He won't hear us here, you know. And besides, why should I care about his made-up rules? He thinks he's God; he manipulates and treats people like robots!"

I agree!

"I really don't feel I belong here," she continued. "Jess, why can't Dad understand what I like?" She crossed her arms, leaning back on the chair.

"Music is my real calling; recital is my life, not business." She sighed.

"Oh, don't think that way, Pam. You belong here; this is your company, remember?" I said. "And this company is your responsibility because nobody but you will replace your dad, sooner or later." I hoped sooner; I preferred to work for Pam over her horrible father.

There was a moment of silence before she asked, "Do you think I can be as good as my dad?"

Good? Oh yes, she meant good in money-making. "You can be good in this business, Pam. You just need to focus like the way you do when you're playing the piano. You'll see, things won't get out of tune; just do your best. I believe you can."

Pam smiled at me. "Thanks. After all these years, you never fail to cheer me up." She nodded. "You're right, Jess." She rose from the chair. "I'll try my best," she told me, smiling so sweetly, before she left my station.

I wished Pam would be interested in business. I couldn't wait to see her replacing my heartless employer.

Weeks later, I received a call from my brother Jerome, updating me about our grandfather's health. The last time I saw Grandpa was before I moved to this city and got a job. He was seventy-one then, and now he was nearly seventy-six. My brother and I grew up in our grandfather's care because our parents abandoned us after they separated. I was ten years old then, and Jerome was three. One of the main reasons why I worked hard was to support Grandpa's medication. He and Jerome were my only family, and for their sake, I would do anything.

"Lately, he's always asking for you, bro." I could sense Jerome's sadness from the other end. "Grandpa's very weak now. You need to see him before it's too late."

I talked to my boss about it, but he refused to listen.

"Sir, but you haven't given me a vacation since you hired me." I tried to reason out.

He glared up at me, reclining to his swivel chair. "Excuse me? Don't you have two days off every weekend?"

"Yes. But sir, traveling back and forth would spend two days already."

"Well, that's not my problem anymore." He leaned forward, busying himself with the papers on his desk again.

"Sir, my hometown is too far from this city, and my point is..."

"I don't need to hear your point." He put down the papers he was scanning and gave me his full attention. "If you want a leave from work, then leave for good. Now, if you think your job is important to you, then go back to your desk and don't bother me anymore."

"But please, I beg you, sir."

Boss sighed impatiently. "Aren't you listening, Jestin, or are you just lacking up here?" His index finger tapped against his own temple. "Do you want to get fired?"

"No, sir."

"Then go back to your post." He gestured his hand towards the door, shooing me away.

"Sir..."

"Get out!"

My feet were heavy as I stepped out of his office. I felt abused, and I was tired of being in this situation. It was my fault why people repeatedly treated me like this; I allowed them to abuse my tolerance. From now on, I promised myself, I wouldn't let anybody treat me like a doormat again. Whoever tried to hurt me, I would try to hurt them back. And if those who had caused me pain in the past ever crossed my path again, I would inflict vengeance on them, too.

Later, Boss would stay in the office penthouse overnight. Well, tonight was the right time for revenge. I didn't know how, but I was planning to scare him to death. Although that got me to wondering if there was still something that could scare him.

After my over-time, I pretended to go home but I just hid myself in the storeroom and waited for three agonizingly long hours to pass by. It was worth the wait, though; I wouldn't be working with him for much longer.

When my watch went off at midnight, I slipped down the stairwell, heading for the basement to switch off the main power. As I crept past the parking area, I heard a raised voice. I was surprised--not at my boss's arrogant tone, which I recognized instantly, but at his presence. I hid myself among the parked service cars and peeked out to know who my boss was cursing at. I saw the annoyed face of the night-shift security guard with him. This was normal to my boss, anyway. He liked to check in at every post, any time he wanted, to find fault with employees. Always oblivious, he would say fiery words that could burn up one's temper.

Three cars away, I watched as the guard pulled the gun from his holster impatiently.

Bang!

My heartbeat skipped. He was stunned, facing the gun. The fear that the guard painted on the face of my boss satisfied me. His death was what I desired. However, I felt my heart, knocking so loudly at my conscience. When the guard positioned himself to press the trigger, someone inside of me was screaming and was forcing me to run towards the guard.

No, I won't!

To my surprise, my feet did the opposite, and I just found myself dashing in their direction. I tried to seize the guard's armed hand as I got closer to him. We struggled. He was stronger, but my unexpected appearance gave me an advantage. I knocked the gun from his hands. He lobbed a punch.

Bang!

Three security guards were already standing behind him. He fell kneeling on the ground, clutching at his bleeding leg.

The guard was arrested when the policemen came. And I? I became the hero of my villain.

"Tell me, you planned saving me tonight, didn't you?" the boss asked as I escorted him towards the elevator.

"Sir?"

"You connived with that guard; you told him to act killing me and then from nowhere you'll appear to 'save' me."

"Sir, no.."

"I tell you, Jestin, you can't bail that guard out of the jail. So, better confess now."

"I didn't, sir. I didn't even know this could happen tonight."

"Stop denying it! You asked for a vacation leave earlier today, and all of a sudden this kind of incident occurred tonight. If it wasn't your plan, then why are you here?"

"S-sir? I'm..." I couldn't tell him about my "come what may" foiled plan. I wouldn't! "I'm working overnight," I answered with a calm voice. "I'm trying to finish my paperwork in advance, so that when you approve my vacation leave, I would be ready."

"I'm not buying that alibi, Jestin. You know very well that I rarely change my decision." He walked into the elevator. "You can't leave, do you hear me? Forget about seeing your grandfather and don't ever ask for that rubbish again," he said, before the elevator door shut between us.

Why did I save such a monster!

My cell phone vibrated in my chest pocket; I took it out and saw Jerome's name on its screen.

"Hello. How's everything there?"

"H-hello, Jestin..."

Fear struck me when I heard his broken voice. "Hey, what's going on? What's the problem?"

"It's Grandpa..." He paused for a moment of silence.

"Jerome?"

He didn't answer, and then all I could hear were his sobs.

"Hey, don't scare me like that. Grandpa's fine, right? Tell him I'll be there soon, okay?"

"Jestin..."

"Tell him I really miss him, and we'll see each other soon."

"No, bro. He's..."

"What no! Can't you hear me? I said I miss Grandpa, and we'll see each other soon; tell him--"

"Jestin, he's gone."

The boarding house welcomed me with darkness. It was past three after midnight, and everyone else was still sleeping. I walked deliberately along the corridor--no light but no stumbling; my feet had memorized the way to the staircase. The steps creaked as I went up. I walked past through the second floor, heading for the roof-deck. Cold wind blew against my skin as I opened the iron door. I walked toward the right side railing and sat on the wooden bench like riding on a saddle. The night sky had no stars, and the moon had hidden behind the clouds--it was the gloomiest view I had ever seen.

I heard approaching steps, so I turned my head and saw a shadowy figure of a man who came out to the deck: lean man with spiky hair--I recognized it was Bibo. I was curious why he was here, but I wasn't in the mood to call him--he would notice me later, anyway. He walked straight for the bench at the other side of the deck, opposite to mine. I was wrong; he didn't notice me because he sat facing the railing and his back to me. I walked towards him; he was busy with something in his hands.

"What's that?"

He rose like a lightning from the bench and turned around to see me.

"You scared the hell out of me! Why're you here, Jestin boy?" He tried to hide the thing in his hand behind him.

"What's that thing you're hiding from me?"

"Nothing. Why're you here? It's not weekend yet, why're you here?"

"I just like the cold air." I didn't feel like talking about problems now. "And you?"

He sat back on the bench; I did too.

I heard his long sigh. "D'you want to know the truth?" I didn't answer, but he continued talking anyway. "I'm here to kill myself." He showed the bottled pills in his hand.

I snatched it from him to take a closer look--the label confirmed it was a poison.

"Boy, I didn't know you have a suicidal tendency; that isn't very like you, Bibo."

"Isn't very like me?" He chortled. "Why, what's 'very like me'?"

"When did you turn to be so dramatic? That's not the Bibo I've known for years."

"Sudden odd things could happen to the least you expect it, Jestin boy. Like insanity, for example."

"Right, insanity. You want to die while others want to live. That's wasting your life; that's insanity."

"My life has no value; how it could be wasted then?" He tried to snatch back the bottle, but I clamped hard on it and swung my hand away from him.

"I already had enough drama tonight, Bibo. Do you know that? First, I saved the person I want to die, and then I lost the person I want to live. And what's next? You want me to watch you kill yourself? No. Enough of the drama." I put the bottle in my pocket. "Come on," I patted his shoulder, "you're just tired; better rest it out with a sound sleep." I stood from the bench and walked towards the iron door. I stopped and turned around, waiting for him.

Bibo stood wearily, stretching his arms upward. "I owe you one tonight, Jestin boy!" he said sluggishly as he walked towards me.
I gave him a nod to let him know I accepted his "thanks". Then, we went downstairs with only the sound of our footsteps being heard in darkness.

I rushed into the office the next day because I woke up late. I strode into my station and saw Pam sitting in front of my desk. She rose from the chair, smiling as I approached her. "Good morning," I said. The next seconds, I was busy sorting the files needed for today.

"I heard from the security what had happened last night, Jestin. Did you get hurt?"

"No. I'm okay..." I was stopped by the thoughts of Grandpa--I wasn't okay.

"You look ill, Jess. Are you sick? I think you should see Dr. Billy; he's in our clinic now, and maybe you just go home after and have some rest."

"Thanks... don't worry about me." I tried to be lively. "Don't clutter your mind with other stuff. Remember, this is the day you've worked hard for." I looked at my watch. "Oh, it's almost time for your meeting." I gave her a cheering smile. "Good luck, Pam. Be sure to close the deal with our new client."

"Thanks. I'll do my best."

The boss was in good mood because the deal was closed. I thought it was the right time to open up my concern.

"Sir, about the vacation leave..."

"We're finished with that, Jestin..."

"Sir, please. My grandfather has passed away."

He sighed, slowly swinging left and right on his chair, thinking. "Then... send money to your brother. He can take care of your grandfather's funeral alone."

"Sir? You don't understand."

"It's you who can't understand, Jestin. We're too busy this month--so many new clients, so many opportunities. I need you here." He paused. "You can't be successful in life if you prioritize your feelings over your career, and that's what you don't understand."

I was paralyzed. My senses were dulled. The next moment, two of my boss's corporate colleagues were already in his office. He shook hands with them. They congratulated him for the closed deal. He was so proud of himself, claiming the honor that was for Pam. I was disgusted! His smile and laughter turned fiendish to me; he was rejoicing while I was grieving inside.

"Jestin, get us a drink."

My feet automatically brought me into the pantry, and my hands had their own will to fill three long-neck glasses with the red wine. Suddenly, bitter tears reached my lips. My hand slipped inside my waist pocket, searching for a handkerchief but touched a small bottle instead. I pulled it out and saw that it was Bibo's poison still in my pocket. My gaze fell upon the wine--something went into my mind, and I just found myself dropping a poison pill in one of the glasses.

I served the wine to them in his office, and I personally offered the poisoned wine to my boss. I had to make sure it went to my intended target.

"Cheers!" my boss said, as I watched him raise his glass.

My heart was throbbing so wildly against my chest, my wit was scolding me, and my conscience was pleading me to stop my boss from drinking it. But I kept a tight rein on my agitated senses. Nothing would change my mind this time.

"Cheers!" the men answered and they got ready to make a toast.

In a few seconds, I would be a real criminal. I just ignored thinking about its consequences on my part. My primary concern for now was his retribution: my revenge. And to witness the fall of my villain would be my reward.

Their glasses clinked, and if anyone had looked at me right then, they would have seen the light of triumph that had sparked in my eyes. The toast was done.!

"I should be a part of this celebration."

Everybody stopped. My excitement disappeared. The four of us spun towards the door to see the owner of that voice. It was Pam.

"Of course, my dear daughter," my boss answered as she came in.

Dear daughter? What a hypocrite!

"Jestin," my boss snapped, "don't just stand there. Get another glass."

I responded immediately. I went into the pantry to fill another one for Pam. When I came back, my eyes widened in terror; Pam's father had given her his glass.

My boss took the new glass from the tray.

"Cheers!" Pam raised the poisoned glass of wine.

My heartbeat pounded harder and louder in my chest.

"Cheers!" the others echoed.

My wit was in chaos, and my conscience was confused. The retribution seemed to strike back at the avenger.

This is wrong!

Their glasses clinked. My breathing was suspended. Everybody brought their glasses up to drink their wine.

No!

I was horrified to see Pam's glass near her lips.

I must do something!

The empty tray fell from my hand, crashing to the ground with a muted clang.

"Pam, wait!" I reached her side, pushing her glass away. It slipped from her grip, and the lethal wine splattered as the glass shattered on the blue carpeted floor.

"What's that for, dim-witted idiot?" boss rebuked. "And what did you call her?"

"S-sorry..." I meekly glanced at the guests then I turned to face Pam. "Miss Pam, I'm sorry. I thought I saw a... mosquito--flew into your wine."

It was the only thing I could think of.

"Stupid!" My boss's fat cheeks reddened. "No need to break a glass just to let her know. It's a shame to have a..." He shook his head. "Oh, where's your brain?"

Pam was standing in front of me, so I just took a deep breath, closed my eyes, and put my hands inside the pockets of my slacks to hide my clenched fists.

"Gentlemen, sorry about that," he said before he led his guests outside. The door was shut behind him.

Pam stayed in the office with me. She contacted our maintenance department through the intercom.

"Thanks,” I told her, sighing as I brushed my hair with my fidgety fingers.

Pam walked up to me. "Listen to me, Jestin." Her right hand touched the side of my face, and I couldn't meet her gaze. "Never mind what Dad said, because to me, you're really the best. Cheer up, Jess!" She surprised me by stamping a kiss on my cheek. "Thanks for being so patient with Dad," she whispered in my ear. I felt goose bumps. My conscience needled me inside.

I was motionless until Pam stepped out of the office.

"Listen to me, Jestin." It kept on echoing inside my head. I could hear the sweetness in her voice; the tone that was filled with empathy.

"Listen to me, Jestin." I could still hear it, and I could feel her soft palm touching my face.

"Listen to me, Jestin." I could still hear it... and I imagined how she pressed a warm kiss to my cheek. Yes, the owner of that sweet voice--she even thanked me...

"Listen to me, Jestin."

...and I almost killed her? I almost killed Pam!

"Listen to me, Jestin."

It was enough--I didn't intend to get worse than those people I hated!

"Listen to me, Jestin."

Yes, I wouldn't try doing such horrible mistake again. For Pam... I'd rather be a doormat again.

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