A TEXT message from fellow reporter Gwen interrupted my two-hour futile attempts to drift off to dreamland. The luminous hands of my bedside clock pointed to 3:15 a.m.
I groped for my cellphone in the dark.
“Raqs, di ko katulog oi, perting inita akong lawas lami kaayo iambak sa swimming pool (I can’t sleep. I feel so hot if only I could jump into a swimming pool),” Gwen’s message read.
I sent her an immediately reply with one word: “Mayra (You deserved that).”
I exactly understood and mirrored her feelings. I blamed it on the 18 seeds of durian each of us consumed the night before.
I challenged Gwen to a wager to eat as much durian as we could manage. I proposed a one-on-one or a seed-for-seed battle and whoever gives up must pay for the durian, otherwise, we’ll split the bill fifty-fifty.
She took up the challenge and off we went to Magsaysay durian park. With zest, we started with durian number one, savoring the creamy golden pulp with relish. After just a few minutes, durian No. 1 was reduced to a pile of scraped seeds and peelings.
We started with durian No. 2 with as much gusto, inserting conversation in between mouthfuls. Determined not to loose the wager, I shifted to using three fingers instead of my usual two fingers, then four and finally five fingers.
When durian No. 3 was opened, I started to have difficulty breathing. I felt that my face was being pulled in all directions and my temperature seemed to rise to 42 degrees but I tried to hide it from Gwen but when I glanced
at her, I was relieved to see that her face too, was starting to turn red, and she was reduced to picking and pecking on her durian pulp.
I pretended to eat with the same enthusiasm but if the truth was to be told, I wanted to vomit. I monitored the pile of durian seeds whose pulp I’ve devoured, watching the pile grow higher as my body went weaker. I started to eye the remaining durian with disgust and hopelessness but I was determined to win.
Only my pride kept me from giving up.
Silently, I looked around for the vagabond boys that we shooed away earlier while we were starting to eat durian No. 1. They surely could help us consume it fast so that we’ll get it over with, but they’ve evaporated.
As a child, I have always thought that only the rich could afford to buy durian, which some regarded as the “king of fruits”; the fruit with a controversial smell and fetches a very high price.
I’ve hungrily watched rich customers of a nearby fruitstand devour durian with such relish that their eyes would roll and only the whites would show. I vowed that I would eat as many durian fruits as I would when I grew up rich.
Those were a child’s dreams. Now that the child has grown up — alas, not rich — she has realized that eating durian was not such a grand dream after all.
I started to sweat profusely. I was thankful for the sleeveless shirt I wore.
“The durian vendors should monitor customers who eat too much and advise them to take medicol or aspilets because they know better,” I told Gwen, and she readily agreed.
Gwen must have been determined to win as much as I did, because in the end, we both won. We split the bill in half.
As soon as I boarded a jeepney for SM where I was to meet my buddy Sol, rain fell in torrents. I was soaked to the skin when I alighted from the jeep.
As a result, a developed a fever overnight, all because I didn’t want to lose the wager. I learned too late that some things are not worth betting for.