Ice Breaker

Monday, September 04, 2017


There was a rumbling sound and it wasn't the engine. It started with a few deep notes, like a bassist tuning his instrument. Uncertain. Timid. Later on, as if the bassist had finally found the right key, the notes blossomed into a complete musical scale. Full and rich, my spine throbbed. My mouth twitched involuntarily. My guts had sounded the alarm. It was lunchtime in there and they weren't getting any food. "Wait," I told them, for here in the real world, there was one more place to go before we eat.

We arrived at our destination a few minutes past twelve. When it was time for us to get off of the vehicle, I almost chuckled at how reluctant we all were to leave the comforts of the air-conditioning. Yet the expanse of green, manicured grass ultimately won, persuading us to brave the thick, arid air.

I stepped out and my eyes watered from the heat. Everything looked sharp; their clarity oppressive. It was high noon here in the Tarlac Recreational Park and the sun blared mightily.

My guts were in "snooze" mode and, much like a real-life alarm and along with the heat, I ignored it. We were ringed by green. It was a green that was different from what you find in wild places. Here was a green that has known, has been cared for by, men.  The grass that covered the vast property was neat and had a polished look about it. It sloped towards an oval running track where a group of teenagers were racing amongst themselves. On the other side of the slope, the green stopped to make way for a silvery lake. Along its seams were acacia trees and stone picnic tables. On the far end, a horse was quenching its thirst. The scene was very bucolic. It was a stark contrast to the water park not far from it. 
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Seeing what looked like a complex set of slides, my companions headed for the swimming pools. We were like moths to a flame.

As we followed the sound of the karaoke slicing through the noon airwaves, I was reminded again of how hot it was. There's a running joke among some of my friends that because of the way I dress, I've become immune to temperatures. I'll be wearing an off-shoulder top while everybody else has on a jacket. They'll be shivering while I'll show more of my skin. People will be annoyed by the heat and I'll just be shrugging my bare shoulders. I'll be sweating, of course, but who doesn't? I've long accepted the fact that the only thing I can do about the weather is endure it. Yet this time, being on the brink of a horrible sunburn, I couldn't help myself.

"God, it's hot," I said to no one in particular. 

I heard a chuckle. I turned around and saw Monica nodding in agreement. 

"I just didn't want to complain," she admitted. 

I snorted. "Not complaining. Just stating an observation."

More laughter. This time, Claire and Allandale joined in.

The pools did not cool us down, though. Taking pictures of it did not have the same effect as being in it, turned out. So we fled to the van after a few more photos, collectively sighing as a blast of freon air hit our faces. Even my stomach stopped grumbling. 
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I'm still not sure how I feel about small talks. But that mundane exchange about the weather delighted me. And not just because it made me forget about the melanoma-causing heat, but because it helped dissipate the gossamer veil of awkwardness that shrouded our group. If I were to point a moment in which our group's dynamic began, that would be it. Up until then, we all seemed to be tiptoeing around each other, gauging how to handle our different quirks. We were careful with our jokes, ridiculously tactful, but after that, everything felt more organic. Unforced. Comfortable. Truly, what better way to break the ice than with a little heat?

Storytime is a series of  stories about my most memorable travel experiences. Read more here.

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