Boracay Beach, Philippines Blog Seven.
I’m walking along the Strip one day, and a man just sort of appears beside me. It happens so naturally that I’m not caught off-guard, and the next thing you know we’ve walked several beach blocks together.
He tells me he’s a rug dealer but, with his accent, it sounds like drug dealer. (Later, when I get to know him more, I’m not sure I actually heard him wrong.)
He’s touchy feely and has rug- (thug-?) beating meaty hands that constantly graze my shoulder, hip, and hair, and make me adjust my I(heart)BoracayPhilipinnes satchel to a more secure placement.
But he laughs a lot and is charming. And alarming. I followed you, he says with a twinkle in his eye.
I halt. From my blog?? I immediately think he’s followed me here to the Philippines from a faraway place. I’m paranoid, yes, but I have also had stalkers—but that’s another story.
His eyebrows frown over intense hazel eyes (dreamy eyes), and I can tell he doesn’t know what I’m talking about—or he’s a really good actor/serial killer.
From Alice [a hotel], he says and waves back from where we’ve come.
Oh. I squint at him evaluating his sincerity.
I follow you for maybe two, three minutes. I thought you were lady-boy.
I’m stunned silent, but my face shouts: What the ??
He continues: So, I went ahead to see your face.
My face is still contorted into a WTF?! expression.
(Much later I learn that this is actually a slick pick-up line aimed as a compliment since apparently some of the could’ve-fooled-me lady-boys are damn attractive. Uh, sure.)
I can’t articulate his name after he sounds it out slowly five times so he finally says, Ali. Call me Ali.
Ali Babba it is, I think but say, I can remember that.
We spend a couple hours getting to know each other. He lives in Florida, travels a lot (to sell rugs, raised eyebrow), has a young child, is twice divorced and wants to be rich.
And he’s Muslim. Significance: he doesn’t believe in bacon. Sacrilege!
We discuss it.
Well, I can’t be your wife, Ali, because I love bacon, I joke.
You would give up this bacon for love, he suggests.
No. No, I actually wouldn’t, I retort.
He laughs as though I’ve made another joke.
We end up eating lunch together and then go elsewhere for cheesecake. It’s been a couple hours, and I’m exhausted by his company, not because he isn’t interesting—he is—but I’m an introvert and require twenty-three hours a day of alone time. At least.
Against his protests, I bid him adieu and refuse to give him my contact info. I’m socially tapped out here, folks. I go home and nap for an hour to recover.
The next day I avoid the Strip just in case I run into him, and he sucks another three hours out of my life. I stay home that night as well. (I’m not kidding; people drain me. I have no idea how I sold real estate for twenty years. Honestly.)
Blue Eyes texts me two days later, Coming to Nigis?
Who’s there? I reply.
He’s not here. I’d told Blue Eyes about Ali Babba. Plus he just knows me.
See you in a bit!
Shortly after I arrive at Nigis, yep, Ali Babba shows up. But he has a cute Russian woman-child on his arm. She looks about twenty-years old, though as with Bitty (see previous Boracay blog), I find out she’s actually thirty-years old.
When Ali Babba enters Nigis, he’s caught off guard—obviously not expecting to see me there. He awkwardly glances between me and his Russian nymphette, and I take the opportunity to have some fun.
I jump up and greet them with a big smile, Hello! You must join us. I drag two chairs through the sand floor to our table and position them so Russia will be seated next to me and Ali Babba will be seated next to Blue Eyes.
We don’t want to intrude, Ali says as Russia says, Oh, you knows each other?
Old friends! I say with mischief and indicate the chair beside me, Sit sit.
The conversation flows with relative ease after this, and I take extra care to chat with the strongly accented and limited English beauty while Ali Babba and Blue Eyes talk rugs and commerce.
Babba and Russia interact like long-time lovers. I am amused and relieved.
And then she leans toward me and tells me in her broken English and with accompanying hand gestures that she’s unsure about Florida and rugs, and she’s not over her ex-husband. It doesn’t even occur to her that the truly odd thing is that she just met this Ali Babba man yesterday.
Meanwhile, Ali Babba is showing Blue Eyes a series of selfies of him and his sweetheart on his iPhone.
I chuckle out loud to myself several times throughout our group interaction because it’s all way too comical even for me.
What? Ali Babba says, What? What so funny?
But the only one who doesn’t know why it’s all so damn funny is cute little Russia, who probably chalks it up to a language barrier.
A couple days later, Ali Babba and I run into each again. It’s rather impossible not to here. There’s one Strip where most of the tourist activity occurs.
Where’s your girlfriend? I ask grinning.
What? What? You are my first choice, he says, and we both laugh at the absurdity.
We go for lunch together and continue our conversation on bacon. He’s an apt salesman ordering the same drink as I do (in sales, sameness translates into trust) while he tries to sell me on his anti-pork persuasion. It’s obvious he is here in Boracay shopping for Wife #3.
Ali, I love bacon. My favourite food is bacon-wrapped-bacon! Besides, I visited a farm once, and the damn hog tried to eat my running shoe—while I was still in it! Damn near drew blood. I’m serious. So I ate his cousin. Just kidding. But after that I gave up my bacon-eating guilt.
If you love me, you would give [it] up, he half-jokes.
I guess that should tell you something.
I order a burger with bacon to prove my point.
Really? He says appearing crushed. Why you do this? You not like this before.
Before what? I’ve known the man all of a few hours!
Ali. I like you. You’re a funny, engaging guy, but I’m not interested in dating you or casual sex.
He perks up, and I read this to mean that he thinks I’m looking for something more serious.
I continue, Or marriage.
He deflates momentarily then tries another angle. I need someone to help me with my business. I want to be biggest in country. I came out of nothing. I build up where I am. When I go home [to Turkey], they [family, others] see what I accomplish, but I want be biggest, the best. I cannot do [this] alone. You call customer, make appointment, I make sale, you get bonus. These are only good rugs, thirty forty sixty thousand [dollars]. You call from wherever you want. You want live Florida, you come. I have nice house—
I interrupt him: South of France.
He pauses his pitch to look at me, France?
Okay, make home in France, call customer from there, if you want go Florida, you come. Or, yes, maybe we live New Jersey first—he shrugs nonchalantly—hub for rugs distribution, I need be close for now. We build up business then live France. France, Italy, Spain. Turkey. You will like Turkey—
I interrupt again, That’s the ‘assumptive close.’ You’re using the assumptive close on me. I laugh. Okay, carry on.
He doesn’t miss a beat. He laughs and brushes a few strands of my hair off my shoulder: See? You are smart woman. And funny, yes. Beautiful like lady-boy and smart for business. I think my business need you.
His smile is mischievous yet charming and coy, and I must admit that, though the flattery is blatant, it is effective. But despite his bedroom eyes (and hairy man-chest), there is already a New Jersey shipping container full of dealbreakers:
He told me he wants to start another family. (I don’t want the one he’s already got. Dependent stepchildren: dealbreaker.)
He wants to be rich and live the American Dream. (Been there, done that—in Canada, but same deal—got the [name-brand] t-shirt, and overpriced shoes, to prove it.)
As much as I love fine silk Turkish rugs, I don’t want to sell them or ever work that hard again at something I’m not passionate about.
He slouches. (You think I jest? Refer to my blog about dealmakers.)
One day I’m at Nigis with Blue Eyes and a female (Filipino/a?) friend of Blue Eyes, Filipinette. Ali Babba shows up and joins us.
He tries to persuade me yet again about his fine qualities and the life I could have—only the best for my woman—perhaps with the hope of support from “rational” Filipinette.
I get tough-love with him and tell him the dealbreakers. (Except the slouching part, which not only seems shallow but can be easily adjusted, because I don’t need him thinking he can work his way through my list of no-ways.)
You know that old saying, “Bros before hos”? Well, Filipina females don’t have the same motto. Filipinette totally “threw me under the bus,” which is another saying they’re unfamiliar with.
She plays with my hair as she says, Those things don’t matter. It is about how you feel. Her eyes twinkle between Ali and me in a way that is supposed to encourage me to let go of my ashtray-deep objections toward him.
She either thinks I’m denying my true feelings, or she can’t understand how a woman wouldn’t want to be with an obviously good catch. (Good catch = a man who is interested and who is or wants to be wealthy).
He is equally confused by this: Why do you argue like this? I offer good life.
Oy. Or ayayayay. Or just shit damn faaack.
Look, I say, money is great, and you’re a great guy, but it doesn’t mean that much to me. The money. I dated a man worth many millions, and he wasn’t the one. I dated a man worth less than nothing, financially, and he wasn’t the one. I’d rather be alone. You’re not ‘the one’ Ali Babba. Sorry.
They both look at me like I’m insane.
But Filipinette is right. It is about the feeling. When you have that feeling, that feeling of this is just so right, it doesn’t matter if he’s got money or no money, kids or no kids, rugs or no rugs. You. Just. Know. I just know.
And I know it’s not him.
What have I (re)learned? Honesty is the best policy. “Trust me. *wink*”
Homework: Be honest with self. Trust me.