After two years of being away, the first time I entered JD Bake shop again on E. Lopez Street, I immediately looked for that familiar face behind the cash register.
I first saw her, in that same place, behind the cash register, six years ago when I was still a college freshman visiting my sister who was then studying in the city. My sister brought me to the place to have lunch as it was one of the least expensive places to eat for students like us. That moment I saw her I knew that there is something exceptional about her.
There is nothing special about her appearance. She looks unremarkable, if not altogether plain, if she stands side by side younger and prettier girls who are also working at JD as waitresses.
In an ordinary day, there are, at most, ten women who stand behind the counter, serve food, and wait for the customers at JD. These ten women are divided into two groups, those assigned in the ground floor and the level above it. She is assigned, in the upper floor. Most of these girls are unmarried, in their mid- or late twenties. They flirt around, walk a bit seductively, and give their male customers meaningful smiles. But not Melanie.
She seemed to be uninterested in this mundane pursuit for flings. I suspect she is married but I could not gather even a slight courage to inquire about her personal life. Although she looks like a caricature of an overwhelmed, overworked-underpaid Filipino worker, there is that air of dignity in her character, that sense of pride that will send anyone pitying her for the boring work she has, to shame.
She doesn’t look in the eyes when she asks for two-peso loose coins in exchange of giving you a 20-peso bill for your change. She doesn’t smile. And whenever she speaks, she makes use of her flat, monotone, unaccented, but slightly nasal Hiligaynon.
As it appears, she’s the oldest and the most experienced of the girls. At times, I heard her giving tips to the younger waitresses how to do things faster and more efficiently.
I know that I do not figure in her universe. Although I regularly eat at the place, I’ve never seen her, not even once, looking to my direction, or unwittingly looking at me in the eyes. Our paths never converged except for those brief moments when I stand in front of her to hand her my money, and she asking for loose two-peso coins so she could give me a twenty-peso bill for my change.
But she seems to play a role in my life more than being a cashier of the diner I always go to. Soon I’ll find out. There are people who touch our lives without them being aware of it. There are those who silently do what they are supposed to do but inadvertently doing more. Melanie is one of those.
The next time you happen to pass by JD on E.Lopez Street in Lapaz, look for a girl whose name is Melanie. Who knows, she’ll make you see things differently this time?
I saw this in the net, and love it. It’s entitled ‘Procrastination’. Speaks for me.