One Sunday

It was the first Sunday of March when we decided to meet again. 

We met at Payathai Station at Bangkok Sky Train (BTS). It connects the BTS to the Airport Link. There was a small coffee shop at the Station. This was the most comfortable place to meet because we did not have to brave the traffic of Bangkok at 5 in the afternoon.

There were many people leaving and coming. All of them were wearing masks. The security staff holding an alcohol spray stood at the entrance asking everyone to open their palms.

‘Open, open.’

So, I opened my palms and he sprayed alcohol on it. So, am I safe from the virus then?

I read the message – ‘Be there in 10 minutes.’

We sat on the sofa together, in one of the coffee shops that dotted Bangkok City. We were so close. Our arms touched, but we never held hands. Not even once. I held my cup of coffee and you held your teacup. Probably, to not let go of our hands.

Who says that the touch of a hand could change the future?

You were telling me again about your life. You were waiting for me to disagree. But I just listened. I wanted to hear your voice in the real world, in real-time. Not in apps.

“When I went back home to the UK, I did some volunteering to teach ESL (English as Second Language) to refugees,” you said. Your voice trailed off.

You said, they were from Afghanistan, Iraq. They are displaced peoples with bleak future.

“Quite lucky, eh. Us. Here.” I said.

“Yes,” you agreed.

I felt good that you heeded my advice to join volunteer groups. But of course, you never mentioned that. I know you wouldn’t. You were still the proud man-boy I used to know. How could you admit that you, a perfect white man would take an advice from a colored woman like me? But we were in a different place. Far from our own comfort zones. We were both strangers in the sea of people who look like me. Not like you.

We sat there for the longest time. People came and gone in a few minutes. We did not bother. We created a space for the two of us. In between the time that separated, and still separates us.

I was looking at you. You were so close to me. I wanted to embrace and kiss you. I did it in my mind. Your soft blond hair, reminding me of cornflakes. Milk and honey-colored hair! You looked so pale.  I laughed at the thought. You looked at me and smiled; without the teeth exposing.

Your eyes changed its colors again; from blue-green, to gray. Like the ocean that once separated us. I was drowning again.

We just sat there. Side by side. I saw us in an invisible mirror. A picture-perfect in contrast. Dark and white. Pale and dark. Tall and short.

My coffee cup was cold. You changed it with a teacup. We drunk that red tea, punctuated by delicious silence.

Time never stood still.

Outside, it was already dusk. The Bangkok Train Sky (BTS) that connects the airport link was filled with people going home; getting lost; finding someone; saying goodbyes.

We stood up and left the coffee shop. We were the last to leave. You have learned something from me. You left a tip for the young woman who served us. She clasped her hand in a gesture of thanks. Maybe she wondered where we would go next.

We walked towards the BTS. Amid the rushing crowd, we took off our masks, embraced and kissed.

The loudspeaker was in full-blast – Wash your hands! Protect yourself from COVID-19.

 We walked on our separate ways. I did not look back. I know I already lost you.


Eunice Barbara C. Novio is a Thailand-based freelance journalist. She has been an EFL (English as Foreign Language) lecturer at Vongchavalitkul University in Nakhon Ratchasima since 2014. Her poems are published in the Philippines Graphic, Sunday Times Magazine, Dimes Show Review, Blue Mountain Arts, and elsewhere. Her first collection of poetry translated into Thai language, O Matter was published in Thailand in February 2020. Alongside, she writes for Inquirer.net, and her articles have also appeared on the Asia Focus segment of Bangkok Post, Asia Times, America Media, and The Nation. She currently sits as one of the Editorial Advisory Board of Media Asia. She is a two-time Plaridel Award winner of Philippine American Press Club for feature/profile stories.

2077

Across the scorching sky, Ernest Baron was flying on his X-11 jet hoverboard, headed to the Balamban Zone, where he’d been assigned to oversee. Below him spread miles of drylands and parched-brown hills.

He checked with his U-GPS watch monitor and descended. He spotted the small patch of green, where Barangay Bayong was. Upon landing, his hoverboard coughed, hissed, let out a cloud of steam.

“Fold,” Ernest commanded his hoverboard. When it didn’t, he kicked it; the machine beeped, folded itself small enough to be carried by hand. He was taking off his helmet when the residents came to greet him.

The vicious beating of the sun and the hot wind had cracked their skin and cooked their clothes stiff. Pairs of red eyes loomed from under their sombreros. They were all smiling at Ernest. They shook his gloved hands, embraced him, thanked him for helping them grow their trees, plants, and crops again.

“My pleasure, glad things are going well,” said Ernest, adding they should take good care of the water system. “After that, we can start raising chickens and rabbits.” He waved them good luck as they headed down their farms.

The nipa hut classroom sat at the foothill. As he entered the hut, around thirty children boomed: “Good morning, Teacher Ernest! How are you today?”

“I’m fine, thank you!” He sat at the desk in front. “Anyone want to tell me what day it is?”

The class answered altogether: “Today’s Monday, June 6, 2077!”

“Correct! Ready for a quiz! Each question is worth five points, and”—raising his folded hoverboard—“a free ride to who gets all the right answers…shh! Everybody will have their chance! Don’t worry!” From his watch launched a hologram. Ernest began calling:

“Juan Adlawon, what’s the capital of the country?”

“Cebu, sir!” shouted the child in the front row.

“Correct!” Then: “Clara Campado, how many islands are there in the Philippines?”

A child from the back row shouted, “4,565 islands, sir!”

He smiled at the giggling children and went on with the quiz…

Ernest felt it was a good day. He stepped on his hoverboard to report back to Cebu HQ and waved goodbye to the residents. Soaring in the late afternoon sky, he could see the climbing waters crashing wildly against the coastline. He picked up speed and his hoverboard shrieked, leaving a long trail of black smoke in the sky.


Nicolo Nasol, born and raised in Cebu City, currently working as a freelance writer and editor.

Conscious, Carolina

There it was. It was that faint tune. The tune of a song playing on a jukebox from the back room in a dingy bar within the ghost town of a dream. The mysterious sound meandered through Edmund’s head while he lied wide awake during the early hours of the morning—the hours of the morning that probably shouldn’t be called the morning.

Football season was over now and Edmund was alone for a while. He hadn’t even left the house in possibly a week, and his phone might as well have been cast into oblivion. He’d come to the conclusion that he liked it that way and hated it at the same time. And that protruding facial scruff—he was definitely aware of it. But it wasn’t a fashion statement.

He rolled out of bed, and clumsily trudged down the stairs. His weight against the creaking wood was bearish. He slipped his undersized slippers onto his feet, and stepped out onto the backyard patio. The air was stagnant and the ground was slightly damp from a prior polka-dotted drizzle of rain. Edmund gazed out at the world. The cityscape and the sky seemed to have traded places. One was filled with a sprawling concentration of stars, and the other was black and empty.

Edmund lowered his eyelids and slowly inhaled and exhaled. He placed his fingers on his temples and felt the beats of his pulses align. There were pains that he couldn’t remember if he’d ever experienced before or not. Maybe that’s just how things were supposed to feel.

As the sound in his head grew louder and clearer, Edmund opened his eyes and looked over at his neighbor’s silhouette and wondered if he, too, was hearing the same tune.


Zach Murphy is a writer of Hawaiian and Filipino descent. His stories appear in Adelaide Literary Magazine, Mystery Tribune, Ghost City Review, Emerge Literary Journal, Door = Jar, Levitate, Yellow Medicine Review, The Bitchin’ Kitsch, Crêpe & Penn, WINK, Drunk Monkeys, and Ellipsis Zine. He lives with his wonderful wife Kelly in St. Paul, Minnesota.

A Fair Amount of Ghosts

He plays the trumpet brilliantly on the corner of Grand and Victoria. He doesn’t look like he’s from this era. He’s impeccably dressed, from his crisply fitting suit to his smooth fedora hat. There aren’t many folks that can pull that off. He’s cooler than the freezer aisle on a sweltering summer day. He performs the type of yearning melodies that give you the goosebumps. I’ve never seen anyone put any money into his basket.

There’s a formidable stone house that sits atop Fairmount Hill. It’s been for sale for as long as I can remember. The crooked post sinks deeper into the soil with each passing year. It isn’t a place to live in. It’s a place to dwell in. There’s a dusty rocking chair on the front porch. It’s always rocking. Always rocking. I’m not sure if the chair is occupied by an old soul or if it’s just the wind. Maybe it’s both. I guess the wind is an old soul.

This town is full of posters for Missing Cats. There’s one for a sweet, fluffy Maine Coon named “Bear.” He’s been gone for a while now. I’ve searched through every alleyway, under every porch, and inside of every bush for him. Sometimes I think I see him out of the corner of my eye. But then he’s not there. The rain has pretty much washed away the tattered posters. If he ever turns up, I worry that the posters will be missing.

I met the love of my life in Irvine Park, near the gloriously spouting water fountain, beneath the serene umbrella of oak trees. We spent a small piece of eternity there together. We talked about whether or not the world was coming to an end soon, and if all of our memories will be diminished along with it. After we said our goodbyes and she walked off into the distance, I never saw her again. So I left my heart in Irvine Park.



Zach Murphy is a writer of Hawaiian and Filipino descent. His stories appear in Adelaide Literary Magazine, Mystery Tribune, Ghost City Review, Emerge Literary Journal, Door = Jar, Levitate, Yellow Medicine Review, The Bitchin’ Kitsch, Crêpe & Penn, WINK, Drunk Monkeys, and Ellipsis Zine. He lives with his wonderful wife Kelly in St. Paul, Minnesota.

Foxes and Coyotes

The tulips grew apart from each other that Spring. The ground cracked and crumbled in ways that I’d never seen before.

I watched the foxes and the coyotes battle all Summer on Cesar Chavez Boulevard, where the blood would leave permanent stains on the concrete. The reckless packs would flash their teeth, mark their territories, and steal more than just scraps.

Me, I was a squirrel. I was small. But I was agile. I hustled from sun up until sundown at a frenetic pace. I always minded my own business and stuck to my own path. I didn’t want to get involved with the vicious nature of pack mentality.

My best friend was a squirrel, too. We grew up around the same nest. We used to climb trees, chase tails, and break soggy bread together. We’d walk the wires between safety and danger. And when we got too deep into the mess, we’d get out just in time. Growing up, I always wondered if we would live long enough to die from old age, or if the environment and its elements would get to us first.

That Fall, my best friend got caught up with the foxes and the coyotes. Now he’s gone.

The foxes and the coyotes lied low in the Winter. Me, I trotted across the frozen ground and desperately hoped I’d see my best friend’s footprints once again.



Zach Murphy is a writer of Hawaiian and Filipino descent. His stories appear in Adelaide Literary Magazine, Mystery Tribune, Ghost City Review, Emerge Literary Journal, Door = Jar, Levitate, Yellow Medicine Review, The Bitchin’ Kitsch, Crêpe & Penn, WINK, Drunk Monkeys, and Ellipsis Zine. He lives with his wonderful wife Kelly in St. Paul, Minnesota.