By Raoul Suarez

A journal entry from December 15, 2020.

Dear Diary,

I went to Jollibee today just to get myself a nice old sundae. It has been a while since I had one.

An old man was standing behind me. He must be in his 70s or late 60s. I don’t really know. I’m just making an assumption based on his appearance. I could be wrong too. He could be a thousand years old for all I know.

I offered to let him go first. He politely refused and just told me to keep my place in the queue. He then asked me what I was buying. I told him I was going to get some ice cream. I didn’t use the word sundae. Ice cream happens to be a more universal term that boomers can easily understand. Without me asking, he said he was buying a Chickenjoy with some macaroni soup. I just nodded and told him that it is a good choice for a value meal. I was feeling a little trippy so I jokingly asked him if he liked ice cream.

“Ahhh namit man na ang ice cream nga chocolate na bala pero sa sunod lang galing ah.”

I ordered two sundaes for takeout. I then occupied a vacant table and proceeded to open what I bought. The old man was done with his order too. He was looking for a place to sit while carrying his food tray. I called his attention and asked him to sit with me. He nodded in agreement.

He slowly put the food tray on the table and I told him I was in a rush and I couldn’t stay long; but if he had the time and would like to eat in reverse, like dessert first before the main course, we could both eat our ice cream together. I gave him the other sundae I bought and he graciously accepted it. He took it with both hands and then he slowly removed the lid.

He said it has been a while since he had one. It made me wonder if he had diabetes or if he did not have enough money to get himself a sundae.  A plaguing illness or the lack of funds would have been the safest assumption. There was no other reason why someone would not get a sundae if he or she isn’t sick or lacking the resources to buy one, given that the old man had a liking for such. I was wrong about both.

He finished his drink and smilingly told me that today was his wedding anniversary. But his wife has been gone for over a decade. They both liked ice cream and they would eat it together. He did not order ice cream today. It wasn’t because he did not have the money. He said it just felt a little sad to eat it alone. He has been eating alone at this Jollibee branch for a couple of years now during their anniversary after she was gone.

I got bummed out and did not know what to say. I was expecting something else. Like maybe he would talk about the pandemic or how technology is hard to use. Or maybe he would tell me about his struggles with social media or mobile banking. I was expecting maybe he’d even talk about the war or the Martial Law era. I was wrong. I did not expect to be caught in this sort of conversation.

The situation felt sad and awkward at the same time. I did not know what to say. I just blurted out something like, “Akon ya asawa dugay pa gid ni s’ya guro ‘ya mapatay. Daw hunit bala.”

He scratched his head and asked in amusement as to why I wanted that to happen, and I replied that I was just kidding. He told me stories about how he met his wife. What school they went to. How hard it was back then to communicate with others and now technology has made everything a little convenient. We had a good laugh. I finished my sundae and stood up to leave. The old man stood up too and he gave me a hard pat on the shoulder.

“Salamat gid ah. Merry Christmas sa imo.”

That’s what he said. That’s it. No other chummy words or whatever. It was enough to make a grown man cry. But I’m an old boy. I don’t know how to cry. Not on the outside. No. It felt sad and warm and you can even add other words that can describe all sorts of strong feelings as far as your word bank can stretch.

I just got home. I reminded myself to write this down, but I just realized that I forgot to ask for his name. I always forget that part. I suck at that. Well. Maybe next year. If I don’t die a horrible death or if that Jollibee branch doesn’t go bankrupt. I’ll try again.