The posh hotel was quite impressive, I should've worn shoes instead of rubber slippers. The coffee did not taste burned (well, at least the first cup didn't) and the sandwich came with a tiny umbrella.
"We need your brain." All 8 or 9 or 10 of them said in perfect unison. What? "We need some stuff in your brain for this things we're working on." What is this thing you're working on? "A beauty pageant." (Cue: Yanni music fades in).
A beauty pageant. I paused for a while (Yanni music up), wolfing down my 300-peso snack and thinking why I didn't order a 500-peso lunch instead like everybody else, it was past lunch afterall. Sure, what's in it for me? "Nothing." Nothing. Sounds fair. But wait, this stuff you want... from my brain... you're just borrowing it, right? I mean, it's my stuff afterall. "Er... yeah." (Music crossfades from Yanni to Mike Francis' "Lovely Day").
So that night with a sterilized ice pick, a cuticle remover, a teaspoon and a plastic bag with ziplock, I picked my brain. They were nice people, and they were nice about it, so the pain was worth it (which wasn't much anyway), although it wasn't easy picking through the rubbish inside my head. Some brain stuff kept splashing on the heap of bond paper on my desk - I'll use them later for something. I carefully placed them inside the ziplock bag and went to bed, dreaming about tiny umbrellas and fog machines with pine-scented oil.
The next day, I hand over the ziplock bag to them (there were more of them, actually their numbers kept growing as we kept on having more meetings). This time I ordered for something in between a snack and a lunch - tapsilog here is served here without a free bowl of soup like every other tapsilog place does, but that's ok.
"Hmmm, nice stuff," said one while sniffing the bag. Another opened the bag and dipped his finger in it and licked his finger, "would you have something in there to salt this stuff a bit?" You mean right here, right now? "Uh-huh." Good thing I brought that faux Swiss knife I won in a Christmas raffle. So right there, while everyone was enjoying either their grilled prawns or Caesar's salad or minestrone, I picked my brain. I added a bit of this and that into the ziplock bag and the bag was passed around and everybody dipped their fingers into the bag and then everybody licked their fingers and in perfect unison, they said, "Hmmmm, this is good. Take two bottles of freshly ground pepper and we'll call you in the morning."
I left feeling quite dizzy.
They didn't call the next morning, but two mornings after. They wanted another meeting, and they wanted me to bring them more of that brain stuff. Like Clarisse Starling, I trustingly and blindly obeyed.
This brain picking makes me hungry, and I was hungry on that third meeting, so I ordered something two notches classier than the soup-less tapsilog platter.
As they passed around the new batch of stuff around, and just as I was picming through the extenders in my goulash, I heard them say, "there's one more thing we need."
"Yup, we'll pay you."
"Your brain stuff's good, we're sure you heart's fine too, so name your price."
You do understand that if you take my heart I'll die, right?
Really. So here's the deal, I can give you a taste of my heart and let's take it from there. But bear in mind that I will never allow you to take all my heart away from me, you may use if for your... er... pageant, but it must always remain inside me, ok?
In perfect unison, "ok." I forgot to cue the music for this scene.
We have 10 lunches after that, and on the 11th one which came after a breakfast, we stared at each other for hours until it was time for dinner and I was about to roder something only to find out that they've alreay ordered something for me. Pink salmon.
"Your heart's too expensive."
I almost choked on the salmon I just put in my mouth. Speaking with my mouth full of fish, I said that I wasn't selling my heart, I was merely letting them use it.
"But using it entails costs for us that we find too prohibitive, the equivalent cost of 6 luncheon meetings mean so much to us you know. And besides, we were just wondering if you'd actually sell your heart to us, but you won't, though renting it is fine with us too since we wouldn't need it anymore after the pageant and after we've taken our curtain calls."
I take a sip straight out of the Coke Light can. So what now?
"Actually, we don't really need a heart, all we need is an extra pair of hands... how much are those?"
They're not for sale.
I left in such a haste that I forgot to retrieve the brain stuff in that ziplock bag. But that's ok, there's more where that came from.