“Bye mom!” Pepper put on his shoes and walked out of the door.

“Where are you going anyway?” his mom asked.

“There. Somewhere” he replied before finally going down the stairs to the resort’s lobby.

“Good morning sir!” greeted the lady receptionist. “Breakfast will be ready at the dining hall in about thirty minutes,” she added.

“Thanks. I’d be out awhile though,” he replied and forced a smile. He passed by a number of guests at the lounge taking pictures probably to be posted later in Facebook or Instagram. He scanned the stack of magazines at the coffee table, grabbed the newest of Free Press, and headed out. It was most likely not allowed to be taken out of the lobby but Pepper knew no one would care.

Pepper just got back from Australia. He covered the hostage situation that hit the world news last December and stayed there for a couple of write-ups. Before that he had been country hopping a lot covering different news worthy events across the globe for his agency. On Christmas eve he came to his empty hotel room, called his mom, and cried a lot. He said he was just sad.

He reached the beach with the unread magazine in his hand. The place looked pretty much deserted as most of the tourists were still probably in their rooms. He sat on the sand just far enough from the water so as not to be reached by the waves and opened the magazine. He scanned the contents and found the one he was looking for. He pulled out his mobile phone and started typing a message for Sam. “It’s out dear. Reading it now.” He knew it would take long before she returns his message so he put back his phone in his pocket and read on.

Sam was in Washington but still contributing to the local publication. Her parents asked her to fly to US after her breakup with Orange. Months later she sent Pepper a message that she landed a gig at The Atlantic. A gig, that was what they called it. That was their sorry attempt to make their job a different kind of cool. As far as they knew, they liked their job nevertheless. It was just that all the traveling and strangers could get to you sometimes and make you feel kind of depressed.

Depression. Pepper did not want to admit it at first. His friends envied him because of his job. He only had himself to mind. People thought he can do whatever he wanted and he thought so too. But last September, during a hard earned vacation leave, a family in Italy took him in at their place through Airbnb. While having breakfast with them, Pepper realized how lonely his life was. He carried this thought with him until that night he called his mom. While everybody seemed to have moved on with their lives, Pepper realized he somewhat lost everybody he knew since he started his career in journalism. He knew the world news but not the latest event at home. He knew people of different nationalities and walks of life but he never really made any real connection with them. They didn’t know him. He exchanged messages with Sam once in a while though.

Pepper got up. He stared at the vastness of the sea and took a deep breath. He then looked down at his shoes. He realized it was the same pair of walking shoes he wore while covering the protest in London and the other one in Hong Kong and in the others that came before them. “Why am I even wearing shoes anyway?” He asked himself. He took off his shoes and threw them one by one into the water.  “I am Paulo Pietro Patricio!” he exclaimed. “I don’t care if that’s the strangest name you’ve heard, but I’ll be back! I’ll come back and fucking win!”

Behind him, his mom was smiling. -aB


Featured Image by: ~Thathatchick

Pepper is one of the characters in the screenplay called Kuwentong Sinigang written in 2008 for the event Digi-Pelikula sa Manila, a film festival hosted by the Dept. of Physical Sciences and Mathematics, University of the Philippines Manila. This is the second of the spin-off stories which started with Ryan.

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