It is dark outside the windows of the yellow cab from Ninoy Aquino airport to the Makati district in Manila. I usually have to stay one night here before catching the flight to Dumaguete early in the morning. This time I did not find a room in the hotel where I usually to stay. So I browsed the web to look for a different one and found this London Inn.
The traffic is not too bad today but we still proceed slowly. I take my mobile phone out of the bag and dial my wife number. ‘Hi’, I say. ‘Yes. Arrived, The trip was not too long. How are things home?’, I ask. I hear it is all ok. The week when I was away went fast also for her and the girls. Good. In the back of my mind I always send a thank you as every time I leave I hope they will be safe and nothing bad will happen while I am away. It is just a split second, but it is in me every time I leave and come back.
‘I am in the taxi. No, I do not go to the usual hotel because it was fully booked. I go to a new one I found in the internet. Yes, tomorrow I will be there at 8 in the morning. Bye. Ciao’.
I look through the windscreen. We are in a queue. I see that the taxi driver is looking at me through the mirror. ‘First time in Manila?’. ‘No’, I say, ‘I often stop here on my way to Dumaguete’. ‘Many bars where you are staying, you know’, he says, ‘do you need a girl?’ he asks looking at me in the mirror with eyes checking if I am the right kind of customer.
‘I just spoke with my wife on the phone, so not interested thank you.’ I reply. ‘Your wife Filipino?” , he asks in the same way as all the taxi drivers I met so far in this town. ‘No, she is from Europe. We are both from Europe. I come from Italy. She comes from Finland.’ ‘Ok sir, sorry for asking’, he replies. ‘No problem. No problem’. ‘Do you have kids,?’ he asks as to change subject. ‘Yes’, two daughters. Five and three years old. And you?. ‘I have also two daughters, six and four. Almost the same age as yours.’
I look outside again and think about the offer and wonder how much would a woman actually cost. I can see he glances at me now and then as the car moves still slowly. ‘How much would on night be?’ I ask. he looks in the mirror with the hopeful expression of recognizing the change of mind which many customer may have had in his taxi before. ‘One night is 4000 Pesos’, he says. I make a quick calculation, about 85 USD. He may get 50% or more of that. So not much left for the girl. ‘You never been with a Filipino woman, sir?’. ‘No, I did not’, I reply. ‘They are very good. Young. Beautiful. You will like.’ ‘And what about the hotel, can they come to my room?’, I ask. ‘No problem with hotel, sirs’ They just come up to your room’.
‘So what about two girls. How much would it be with two girls’?, I ask. He makes a quick calculation and says 6000 Pesos, kind of one and half person in the end. As he mention the price we enter the red lights district where my hotel is located. Bars have pink or red flashing neon light signs saying: Flamingo, Domino, Le Club, etc. Girls with super mini skirts sitting on high chairs, legs crossed, and impossible high hills. Young girls dressed in simple tops, long smooth black hairs falling on their small shoulders and back. I think about the girls my taxi driver may call, sitting somewhere looking at a TV programme. Answering the phone. Asking if the I, the customer, am a foreigner, young? old? Whether the price is the same as usual. The address of the hotel. Putting a condom in the bag. Getting dressed. Make up. Leaving a small room apartment to come to my hotel. Reach it by car. Meeting the taxi driver downstairs. receiving the agreed money and entering the hotel lobby. Taking the lift up to the 21st floor. Both girls not saying a word but looking at each other maybe wondering who will open them the door. Walking the long corridor to the door of my room. Stopping in front of it and hesitating few seconds looking at each other before ringing the bell. ‘Hi’, I say when I open the door with a the embarrassed smile that always accompany this words with strangers. ‘Hi’, they say together . ‘Please come in’, and they walk in screening the room.
The taxi stops and my thoughts with it. A man in a hotel uniform opens the door of the cab, ‘Welcome to the London Inn, sir’. I see the lobby of the hotel. Lights on. People sitting in the lobby somebody talking at the reception. The taxi driver tells me it is 350 Pesos for the ride and I hand him 400. ‘Thank you’, I say. ‘thank you, sir,’, he smiles. I step out of the taxi, feel the humid heat of Makati, and walk into the lobby.
The next morning it is very early when I leave to the airport. A new taxi is here to pick me up. The clubs and bars are closing. Soon will be day break. As I enter the taxi, I look up at the back of one club on the other side of the street. A girls hurries down a a metal stair from a back yard door. She wears a simple t-shirt with a girlish Kitty print on it, cotton bermuda and flip flops. Her long black hairs are still wet.
As the taxi leaves in the direction of EDSA and the airport, I think how young she looks in her day time clothes. Tonight she will be back in the high hill shoes and mini skirt and I wonder whether she can split her life in the same way she does with her clothes.