they just pocket it.


outside the comedy bar punchline, my nephew handed me the january 2010 fhm.
"do you know what that is, uncle?"
"yes," i said, "i think so."
"it's a men's magazine," he said, smiling.
my niece and i laughed.

i was in the business center, where i am now. it was the day after my birthday. i was twenty-seven. the woman who worked there had always been nice to me. she greeted me and gave me usernames and passwords to sign onto the internet. she was much nicer than the other girl who always asked for my room number as though i didn't come in here every damn day.

"miss," i said, "do you have facebook?"
"yes, sir."
"can i add you as a friend?"
"yes." she laughed, and then she wrote down her name on a small piece of paper: jonelyn kok.
"thanks."
once she added me, i immediately checked her status: engaged.

i had to leave the comedy bar early because my uncle wanted to go to the dirt mall, 168, really early in the morning. 6:30 a.m. he texted me while i was watching gay filipinos talk about stinky vaginas and the ampatuan family. my uncle was driving down queson ave., my dad riding shotgun, me in the backseat. we drove past some streetwalkers.

"sorry, girls," my uncle said, "maybe next time."

i looked back, as i'd never seen an actual streetwalker in real life. i've only seen them in movies and cop shows. the thing was, though, they didn't look like streetwalkers. they wore shorts and t-shirts and looked like normal girls.

"you know, it didn't used to be like this," my uncle said. "this used to be a good area back in the day." we drove past some dilapidated buildings, garage doors with graffiti, streets with major humps and cracks everywhere. i thought about how the city probably was beautiful once, as i'd seen in old footage on youtube. the streets weren't all fucked up, and there weren't squatters everywhere.

my uncle was watching the news.

"where does all the money come from?" i asked.
"what?"
"well, all these people want to run for office because that's where they get the money, right? but where does the money actually come from?" certainly it didn't come from buko juice and sisig.
"from all over," he said. "it's what they're supposed to use to build more schools, fix the streets, renovate old buildings. but they just pocket it."

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