bargaining at the dirt mall.

it was a long flight, but finally, she arrived at ninoy aquino international. she brought gifts, pasalubongs, for family and friends, and they stayed at shangri-la, or maybe it was sofitel. some place nice where the bathrooms actually had seats and toilet paper readily available. she spent her days shopping at malls, good ones like rockwell and green belt, ok ones like mall of asia (moa) and trinoma, and even dirt ones like 168 and green hills. she went sightseeing: cavite, tagaytay, antipolo, baguio. she took pictures with scenic landscapes behind her, and she posted these pictures to facebook to show everyone what a good time she was having.

she bought herself bags and beautiful white dresses and went to church on weekends. for the people back home, she bought them small things, shirts and jeepneys and men in barrels. she'd eat sushi at sugi, salad at zuni, pasta at la nuova, seafood at dampa. she hit the bike and ran the treadmill and swam in the hotel pool to counterbalance the fat intake. she rode the cab and didn't speak english because the driver would up the charge if he knew she was a foreigner. as if he couldn't already tell.

lighter than most, she stuck out. men would look at her and smile, and she'd always have to have someone else - a relative or friend - with her. her aunt refused to let her be alone with the driver. when she went out, someone would always warn her to watch her camera, make sure her money was in a safe place. she wanted to ride a motorcycle or a jeepney or tricycle by herself, but it was out of the question. she couldn't go to clubs where there had been a recent fight or shooting.

and then she was at the dirt mall, green hills. she was just looking at bags, maybe asking the price, bargaining with the saleslady. "hi, ma'am." magkano ito? "one-five, ma'am." she was wearing a white backless dress. her hair was a crown of braids tied into a ponytail. she was probably twenty-two, twenty-three. maybe older, maybe younger, it was hard to tell.

she didn't buy the bag, or whatever it was she was looking at. she just walked the other way, and that was that.

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