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The Tale of the Choose One or None at All Genie

Note: This was originally posted on April 26, 2018 at an old site of mine.

I got to know her because of the persistence of her friends. She just came from a relationship which ended badly after almost a decade, and her friends were anxious to find her a suitable date, especially that she was to take the bar examinations. Three friends, all from different circles in her social network, gave my name to her as a possible date. She later told me that that could not have been coincidence; perhaps the universe conspired to point her direction to me. Of course, I considered that as bull; I dare say if I investigated further, there would be that just one or two friends who are members of these alleged different circles in her social network, and he or she or them was responsible for giving her the idea that I was a suitable date.

In any case, she added me on Facebook, and I, eligible bachelor at that time, was not one to pass up on a gorgeous lady with a beautiful profile photo and 40+ mutual friends. I mean, what could I lose?

To make the long story short, we had our first date – at her expense. It was her treat, because she finished law school. I tried to foot half of the bill, but she would not have none of it. Fine. I was thinking that would be the last and final date – I might as well order the most expensive food on the menu. Turned out they were not available, so I ordered the second most expensive one.

That night, I got to know her. The ambition in her eyes, the confidence in her speech, the awkward laugh she emitted while I tell him crazy stuff half of which did not really happen but which I don’t care because I was thinking she would not reply to me the next day anyway, and I have to block her on Facebook.

But the blocking did not occur, nor the casual dates stop. As the date for the bar examinations approached, I helped her stay into a routine of study. I fixed her calendar for her. I guided her through issues that seem to bog down most law students, but which, according to the Lex Pareto book, would be less likely to be asked. I made new mnemonics for her. I organized her notes. I sent her off at the airport one month before the first Sunday, telling her that I would be there during the last Sunday of the examinations, hugging and kissing and checking her in at Victoria Court, if at all she would have the energy to make love after two grueling months of bar review and examinations. She gently reminded me that she had not yet said yes to me.

On Thursday night before the last Sunday, we talked for more than an hour on the phone, mostly on what happens if the demurrer to evidence is denied – after almost an hour, I was finally able to convince her that as a practicing criminal law attorney, I do know that it depends on whether there was proper leave of court or not. We ended our conversation with my promise to fly to Manila on Sunday afternoon, so I could join her that night. She hinted that a night at Victoria Court might be too much for her for our first intimate night together, but her hotel room at the Manila Bay was fine. I did not need to watch my stash of porn that night.

In retrospect, choosing the early afternoon flight schedule to Manila was just plain crazy. Philippine budget carriers are notorious for being delayed. And it did happen. At 5:00 P.M., last Sunday of the bar examinations, I was still at the Mactan Cebu International Airport. She had finished her legal ethics exam at 4:00 P.M., and she could not wait to kiss me – but I was still in Cebu. I tried explaining to her that according to the airlines, we might be able to fly at 5:45, which means that I would be in Pasay City by around 7:00 P.M. She was clearly upset. She hung up the phone, and refused to answer my calls afterwards. By 5:30, the airline announced that the next possible schedule is 6:15. I tried calling and texting her with no luck; apparently she had barred my calls and was ignoring my messages. Her Facebook was deactivated. As she did not come from the same college of law where I graduated, I had no way of contacting the bar operations committee to check on her.

At 6:00 P.M., the airline announced that it was completely canceling our flight, and we have the options of being rebooked within the next x number of days or have our tickets reimbursed.

In my anger, I walked all the way from the domestic terminal to outside airport grounds. Never mind that once outside, eager habal-habal drivers were trying to convince me to take a ride. Potential holduppers roamed the street outside the airport grounds – I did not care. I was frustrated and angry. They could pick a fight with me if they want. I just lost a chance of a lifetime to be with a girl whose ambition, wit and confidence I have known for the last six months she was in Cebu, and I don’t freaking care about petty criminals who are going to die once Duterte gets to them anyway.

I was even kicking the sidewalk, egging it to fight me. Which was really stupid if you think about it now, but not so much when you are burning with anger and frustration inside.

And then it happened. I kicked a bottle which was unlike any other bottle I have seen before. Well, technically, I only kicked its top portion. I did not even realize it was a bottle until I focused my cellphone’s flash light on it. With my interest piqued, with nothing to do, and a two-month sexual frustration completely overrunning my system, I did not know what came into me, but I bent down, and started removing the soil around the bottle, until I was able to completely free it. Just then, a police car came by, and slowed down, perhaps wanting to see what a grown man is doing bending down on a dark sidewalk towards an international airport. I quickly put the bottle inside my bag and walk casually towards the jeepney terminal in front of a nearby mall.

At home, I opened an Emperador Light and poured a half-glass, followed by another half-glass, until I was able to consume half of a liter. I had no chaser – lukewarm water was enough. I tried calling her and now her cellphone was out of coverage area. Her Facebook account was still deactivated. I tried contacting our mutual friends through Facebook, but half of them was offline, and those who were online could not contact her outside Facebook or would not tell me if they had contacted her.

With nothing to do, I focused my attention on the bottle I recovered from the sidewalk. I cleaned it up and tried to look what was inside. It was not transparent, but there seemed to be something inside. The cork was in an elaborate lock which I initially could not figure out, but which released easily after some more shots of Empe. After the lock was released and I was able to get hold of the cork, it was a simple matter of pulling it out and letting whatever was inside.

I could not believe my own two eyes. Out of nowhere (although, obviously, it came from the bottle, duh), a genie appeared.

I was not so sure if I was dreaming or just plain drunk, but I do remember that genies, once released from captivity in a bottle, will grant you three wishes, so I immediately took charge of the situation.

“I am your master, and you owe me three wishes because I was the one who released you from captivity,” I said.

“Not so fast, Oh Thin One,” it said. “I am not a member of the class of genies you know from childhood. I am of the class known as Choose One or None at All Genies, and I can only grant you one wish from the two most desired by your heart, and the wish you choose shall be so, but the wish you do not choose shall not be so. Or you could choose neither, and we are just wasting both our time.”

What the actual f*ck, I told myself. Of all the lucky things that could happen to me, I was able to release a genie, but of all the bad things that could happen in that situation, I released a one-wish genie limited to the most coveted wishes in my heart, and worse, if I choose one wish, the other wish would not come true.

“But the reduced number of wishes is amply compensated by my power to tell you what your heart truly firstly and secondly desires, Oh Thin One. A great number of genie finders ask for things their hearts do not truly desire, wasting a chance to forever improve their lives. Also, it is useless hiding your thoughts from me, because I could read your mind,” it said.

Wow, I told myself. A one-wish genie who could read minds.

“Not only read minds, Oh Thin One, but also read hearts. If you so want, I can tell you what your heart truly desires right now, and if you so want, I shall make it real.”

Oh yeah, I told myself. It was now fast becoming a monologue of the genie, with only him speaking, and I was only thinking my thoughts for him to read.

“I am not speaking as well, Oh Thin One. I am impressing upon your mind my thoughts.”

Whatever, just grant me my wish.

“Shall it be what your heart most truly desires, Oh Thin One, or what your heart most truly desires secondly?”

What is my first desire?

“That she who is in Manila right now and in your thought as well shall pass the bar examinations.”

And what is my second desire?

“That she shall fall in love with you.”

You mean to say I must choose one of these things?

“I am a Choose One or None at All Genie, Oh Thin One. You may opt not to choose either. Maybe it would be both that she passes the bar examinations AND she falls in love with you, but I would not bet on it.”

You could read the future, do you?

“No, I could not, Oh Thin One. The future is still being created as we speak. But between a choice of an assured future and a future which may not occur, what would you choose, Oh Thin One?”

I will choose an assured future.

“Precisely. Shall it be that she pass the bar examinations, or that she falls in love with you, or shall we leave either to pure chance?”

Give me some time to think.

“You have exactly 59 seconds.”

Holy sh*t. A genie with a time limit for decisions.

“I have my appointments, Oh Thin One. We also have rubrics and metrics and performance appraisals at the end of centuries.”

What the heck.

“You have 37 seconds.”

Fine. Make sure she’ll pass the bar examinations.

“Is that your final answer?”

Yes.

“Then it shall be so, Oh Thin One. She shall pass the bar examinations.”

Will she fall in love with me?

“You have chosen, Oh Thin One. Your choice shall take effect the moment the Supreme Court announces the list of successful examinees. Her name shall be there. But from then on, whatever you would do to try to win her heart would be useless, because the universe will conspire against it, as much as the universe has conspired to make her pass the bar examinations. You have made a choice, Oh Thin One. Good bye.”

***

I woke up the next day with a pain which extended from the top of my head to the bottom of my neck. I was thinking that I must have been dreaming about the genie, but whatever doubt I had that I was actually talking to a genie the previous night was erased when I saw the now open genie bottle, and the writing on the wall: “I was here. – Choose One or None at All Genie”. (I tried taking a picture of it, but everytime the image was saved, the words were replaced with blocks formed into the word “CENSORED”.)

In any case, my most immediate concern was winning her back. Somehow, I was able to get in contact with a fellow lawyer who was on the faculty of her school. He gave me the contact number of the person in charge of the bar operations, and, somehow, I was able to talk to her. I had profuse apologies. All she would say was “Oh ah. Oh ah.” which made me think she would have wanted “Oh ahs” the previous night, only that I was not there to help her.

Two days later she returned to Cebu. I swallowed all my pride and got the biggest bouquet of flowers I could afford after appearing in court for a known drug personality in southern Cebu, and met her at the airport. If you know where to look, there are still copies of the videos taken that time, with such captions as “Stupid boyfriend ignored by girlfriend at airport” or “He tried wooing her again, but she would not have any of it.”

Still the same, I pursued her. I sent flowers, chocolates and love letters to her office, initially by my messenger, later by my paralegal, but they kept getting stopped by the guards upon her order, so I asked a group of those petty criminals I represent pro bono to do the job. They held the two guards at gun point, tied them up, and one of them went to her office and gently placed upon her table the flowers, chocolates and love letters. I asked that guy how he made her accept those things, if he pointed a gun at her. “Ah no, Attorney, I just told her you would not live long anyway, she might as well accept those things from you,” he answered.

After that, she sent me an SMS. “Thanks for these things.”

“Everything for you, my love.”

“Thanks again.”

“Are you free tonight? There’s that nice bar at Harold’s Hotel and their margarita is cheap.”

“I’m sorry, I’m swamped with work. I have to finish these five reports to the bosses in Manila.”

“How about tomorrow night?”

“We are going to met the leaders of the informal settlers at our purchased site in Lapu-Lapu City starting at 4:00 P.M. tomorrow. As usual, you can expect the negotiations to continue well into the night. Sorry.”

“Are you trying to say if they’ll negotiate early, you are free to have dinner with me? Somewhere in Lapu-Lapu?”

“Sure, but don’t count on those people negotiating early. This is our sixth conference.”

The next day the negotiations ended at 4:30 P.M. The informal settlers agreed to leave their dwellings within five days and acknowledged receipt of PHP 30,000.00 per dwelling, in checks, as compensation. By Monday of the following week, her company’s bulldozers had already flattened the land.

That night we stayed at the Mactan Beach Club until it closed. She was resting on my shoulder and was talking about how the leaders of the squatters suddenly realized they have no legal reason to continue fighting the demolition. She was clearly tired. Within a few minutes, she was snoozing. I was hugging her. I did not notice the leader of my criminal gang trying to call me. It was only the next day that I noticed his SMS telling me: “Boss, we released their wives and children because the Lapu-Lapu City PNP was already all over the place.”

***

The next four months was a bliss. I stayed with her at her provincial residence during the Christmas break. She introduced me to her family. They were proud that the boyfriend of their daughter is a lawyer. I told them they would be prouder come March the next year – they’ll have a lawyer of their own blood. Her parents tried downplaying their excitement of such prospect. She told me I should not give her parents such expectations. I told her that as sure as the sun rises in the east, her name will be in the list of successful examinees when it is released by the Supreme Court. She asked me where I obtained such confidence. Oh, if only I could tell her what I sacrificed for it!

January came. We completed the nine novena masses of the Sto. Niño. I thanked the Child Jesus for the opportunity to be with her. The smell of her hair as we were crowded in the basilica reminded me of how good life had been to me. The stink of streetside sewer just a few blocks away brought me back to the realization that all good things would come to pass.

We joined the Sinulog street party (before Tommy O shut it down), got drunk, and made love in a hotel room which turned out to be the next one to ours. (The liberated couple who paid for the room did not mind our presence although we profusely apologized after we realized our mistake. I just hope they did not take a video of us doing the act. Frankly speaking, we were too drunk to know what we were doing.)

Life was good, and love was blooming. I had known half of her officemates, and they were egging me to propose to her during Valentines’ Day. In fact, they really set it up. Truth be told, I was tempted to really propose her to marry me. I know that she would have no choice but to say yes. But I love her too much to keep her in a marriage where she does not love her partner. I know that the Choose One or None at All Genie would make good on its responsibility. After all, I was the one who released it after I don’t know how many centuries of being imprisoned in a bottle. She will pass the bar examination, but in exchange, I will forever lose of my chance of making her fall in love with me. Keeping her in a marriage where she does not love me, and would only be forced to go through the motions, is not in accord with loving her. I’d rather see her happy in the arms of another, where she would feel loved and where she would have her beloved, than be selfish and keep her in a marriage she considers loveless. I have known too many of that in my annulment of marriage cases.

Thus, it was a huge letdown for her officemates when instead of being on my knees and asking her hand in marriage (as they expected), at 3:15 P.M., February 14, office day but who cares, she’s one of the bosses in the Visayas, I told her that I love her, and because I love her, I respect her choices, and when the time comes and she’s already a lawyer and she thinks that I am not enough for her, I am willing to let go and let her be happy.

March came and with it came the bar examination results. The night before I was with her. I know it was my last night with her, but I did not try to make love with her. I know she was too anxious to enjoy any of it anyway. I was just there, assuring her. She was fall of doubts. She was talking whether she answered properly the second question in criminal law. Or whether she gave the right form in remedial law. I simply told her whatever her answers were, they could not be changed now, and, anyway, the examiners had already graded her notebooks, and they’ve made a decision to make her pass. “How do you know that?” she asked me. “In the same manner that I know that I love you,” I answered.

“Will you still love me if I fail the bar examinations?”

“You will not fail the bar examinations.”

“But let us say I will fail the bar examinations?”

“I don’t love you because you are a law graduate or that you would be qualified to be lawyer by tomorrow. I love you for who you are.”

“Oh, so sweet.” She kissed me on the lips afterwards, a long, sensual kiss, the last sensual kiss we would ever have.

“Hey, I have a question,” I asked her. “If let us say, you are made to choose between I passing the bar examinations or I falling for you, which one would you choose?”

“I would obviously choose you passing the bar. It would be very easy to fall for me.” And then she emitted that awkward laugh which I first heard during our first date, and I know that this would be the last time I would ever hear of it.

“But let us say you have to choose. I pass the bar and don’t fall in love you. Or I fall in love you but fail the bar. No both passing the bar and falling for you. Like choose one, or none at all. What would you choose?”

“Is that a trick question?” she asked.

“Maybe yes, maybe no.”

“I think I will chose you passing the bar. That’s your happiness. Since I love you, I would wish for your happiness. Maybe I will have a role to play in that happiness; maybe no. But it is your happiness.” She said this looking straight at my eyes. It was at that moment that I realize the reason we had been very happy in the last few months is because we were kindred spirits, and had the same idea of what it is to love and to lose oneself in that love.

She wanted to kiss me some more, but I simply hugged her. In the ground outside her room, the outline of the Choose One or None at All Genie appeared, but I know it was just a phantasm, and although I was not drunk, I was imagining things.

“Will I pass the bar examinations?” she asked, her face in my chest.

“Yes, you already did,” I said.

“You are always so sure of that.”

“Because I never doubted you.”

“Thank you. There were times I doubted myself, but you pushed me on. Whatever happens tomorrow, I will always love you.”

“And I will always love you too.”

***

The next day the results came out. Now she’s married to a businessman.

Note: This is a work of fiction. Any similarity to any person, living or dead, is purely coincidental.

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