Mei Lia and I used to take her father’s green and white Corvair panel van, the kind with an awning that stretches over the doors, to the spring. We’d watch the river swirl along the red clay sandstone as it rippled its way north to the San Juan. She sunned her smooth olive skin; laughed and splashed water while I chased her around the bus, and we’d end up in the creek kissing.
We got married in a traditional Filipino wedding. All her relatives came. A few of the local townspeople acted on my behalf. Bud Claypool agreed to be my best man. We struck a solid chord. Or, so I thought.
He often invited me to his house and proudly showed off his vintage blues records. Even Angela, his wife, always the perfect hostess, served us beers late into the evening without a complaint. She seemed to share her husband’s interests. Soon it became obvious how much she wanted to share those interests. She took a liking to me, and Bud didn’t seem too happy with it. He couldn’t help see how readily she sat next to me, laughing and joking, giving me attention she should show him. Ever since that first night at the diner, I tried to ignore the flirting. I told myself, it’s nothing, it’ll pass.
The wedding was great. Some musicians I put together for pool parties played at the reception. Mei Lia looked gorgeous in her puff-sleeved gown. When she smiled, her face lit up like a child’s. Her proud uncles and aunts cried throughout the ceremony. Her nanay held on to tatay, blushed with joy.
Her kin danced and laughed and sang the songs of their ancestors. They fed me foods I never experienced like balut, a fertilized egg cracked open to find a cooked embryo inside; San Miguel beer, octopus and squid with piles of rice; pancit, a stick noodle dish with lechon, chicken, shrimp, cabbage and lots of soy sauce. It was a day of palm trees waving in a tropical breeze, soft music from a gut string guitar and the smell of the sea, salt and sand.
My head spun with expectation. Her Uncle Mindoi performed the ceremony. He spoke only tagalog, so Mei Lia’s brother, Lorenzo, prompted me with an elbow jab when my turn came for the “I do’s.”