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CHAPTER TWO: DEAD AIR (Scene 1)
Do you see her comin’ around this way,
trying to find the right road to take
Changing her mind, losing her sense of direction
wishing she’d be back home to stay…
THE song filled the booth as Maya clicked on the speaker so she could cue the next song on her playlist. Thank goodness for the graveyard shift, she needed not say much on the air. A mention of the songs and artists here, an announcement or live greeting there, a news report between songs, some public service announcements. Other than those, it was an all-music program, a complete remedy against listeners who would otherwise make long on-air greetings.
Maya did not hate people. On the contrary! But on evenings like this, she would rather keep them at bay, preferably keeping communication strictly online as she logged on, using the computer beside her, to their station’s website and blogs for any song requests and occasional greetings. No wonder she never made it to the Top Ten Favorite DJ list.
It was a practical way for her to make a living. Being a radio DJ even for just three times a week was the perfect job for Maya. Music was always therapeutic for her. If anyone should ask her what things in her bag she would never go without, that would include her iPOD and, perhaps, an Alanis Morissette song. Alanis made her alive when she was not in the mood, at least, the younger Alanis. More significantly, just hearing Alanis lash out always lessened any anger she felt at the moment. But she would listen to show tunes, too, why not? There was a time when she saw every Broadway show there was.
Letting the headset hang on her neck, Maya tried not to be entangled with its cord as she reached over the media console for the old vinyl record lying on the long table in front. It was a single, a seven-inch record with a large hole in the middle, running at 45 rotations per minute. It was a disappointing thought that not a lot of the youth of modern times had ever seen an actual 45, much less, touched one. Quite a pity. Compact discs were easier to play, for sure, but old vinyl records had longer life span and played with much better quality.
With modern technology, though, it had become easier to play music with a few clicks, making CDs practically obsolete as well. DWZS still did maintain turntables, at least. Maya could play old songs she loved. Once in a while, she would play cassettes when the mood would strike her.
Crying in the dark, she doesn’t see
the light to guide her back home,
taking chances on her own
And if she could turn back the time,
she’d be there, she’d be there
The song continued as Maya prepared Phil Collins’ Another Day in Paradise. She had just finished putting the 45 on cue when the phone behind her rang.
Maya picked up the receiver then said, “Did you know that the gramophone, more commonly known as vinyl record, replaced the phonograph back in the 1900s? It’s usually made of polyvinyl chloride or PVC, thus the name. There are different sizes, but the most common are the 45s with the donut holes that run at 45 RPM, and the LPs that run at 33-and-one-third RPM. They were used again for a time because of club DJs who treated them horrendously by repeated scratching. PVC is said to be plastic poison, though, so I guess, it’s ‘yey!’ for the environment…Hi, Santi.”
She could tell her friend was smiling at the other end of the line. “Trivia Girl is now a psychic! You never fail to amaze me,” Santi kidded with mock amusement.
“It’s simple, really. You’re too predictable. Who else would call me here at this time of hour? And not even using cellphone?”
“I’m supposed to surprise you. Cellphones have caller IDs.”
“You forget, before cellphones, landlines were first with caller IDs. What makes you think this landline isn’t telling me there’s a mad scientist talking to me right now?” Maya asked, poised to click on the turntable and fade in-fade out volumes on the console. Number one rule in broadcasting: No Dead Air.
“You forget, I’ve visited you there countless times and the phone does not have—Oh! Ho, ho, ho!” Santi reacted upon hearing the segue of songs. It was a perfect segue but Maya knew he meant something else. “What is with you tonight? Why the sad songs?”
Maya heaved a big sigh. “Senti lang. There’s a theme going on—miserable women longing to be back home…”
“Wait. Did something happen today?” Santi asked, turning serious.
She could just imagine his very worried face, a picture she had seen so many times, knowing she was mostly the reason behind it. She slapped her own forehead. Why did she even have to dampen their moods?
She tried to explain. “It’s just…things were coming back to me. It made me want to go back to the old times again,…before everything happened.” There was a catch in her throat when she said this. She could not believe that after all this time, the past still held so much power over her. Tried as she could to live for the moment and deny herself the luxury of reminiscing, it was too impossible to not do otherwise.
“Tell me you did not go to a session with your psychiatrist again.”
“Okay. I did not go to a session with my psychiatrist again.”
“But you did, didn’t you?”
“But I did.”
“I told you, QUIT going to my uncle! He won’t be of much help to you. You’re just an experiment to him.”
“A successful experiment. And to tell you frankly, he’s a very nice young man. Alright, don’t wince. Forget I said ‘young’. But you have to admit he’s quite nice.”
“Granted that he is. I’m just saying that like psychology, his field is not what we call an ‘exact science’.”
“But I want answers, Santi! Your so-called ‘exact science’ has not exactly done anything to explain more about me and show me my past. Besides, knowing what you now know, do you honestly believe there is actually an exact science to explain everything in this world? Your uncle’s non-exact, crazy science has done more to help me, to tell you frankly.”
Maya could tell Santi was stomped. But only temporarily. “Well, I don’t see why you go through it, that’s all. It just reminds you of the unpleasant past over and over.”
“Not everything!…Not everything was unpleasant, Santi. Why are you even saying that?”
Santi did not reply. She could now imagine him closing his eyes and shaking his head in disbelief.
Oh, dear. What drama. Maya hated drama. The world already had too much drama. She herself had experienced too much of it already to last a lifetime, and she did not intend to add more if she could help it. If she were meant to live many, many years more, then she was not about to let it run her life. How did they say it in English? Oh, yes. ‘To hell with it!’
Maya took Santi’s silence as an opportunity to change the topic conveniently. “Anyway, did you get to see the body that I told you to see?” she asked. Then as a joke, “And no, I don’t mean body shots of me in bikini posted in my blog.”
This time, she could feel Santi warming up to her again. He hated drama as well. “I’m your friend and you haven’t told me about it? Since when did you even have a blog?”
“A-ha! So you would want to see me in bikini if I had a blog!” she laughed, glad to stir the conversation back into happier tones.
She did intend to talk to him about the corpse. If anyone could help her identify the kind of assailants, it would be Santi. It was one of those rare times that science could help explain something ‘unexplainable’, something that went beyond the realm of what was considered normal. Before they met, ‘unexplainable’ was far from his world.
Coming from a well-known rich clan, Dr. Santi Rivas was able to study in the best schools in and out of the country. However, he was not one to sit down and take things for granted. Instead, he had ambition and he wanted to learn. He was Boy Genius. Of course, his family wanted him to take over their business, but the path he chose was one less traveled. No wonder they called him Sancho Jr., to stress that he was as weird and stubborn as his uncle. They called him that especially to make him feel guilty when they tried to drill in his head the importance of keeping the family business intact.
But intelligent and persevering, young Santi soon obtained a doctorate in forensic anthropology, with training and internship at the Federal Bureau of Investigation and, particularly, the Smithsonian Institution tucked under his belt. His family would not admit it, but they were proud of him, no matter how they tried to hide it. Still, they would much prefer it if he chose to continue the family business himself.
“Not to spoil your illusion of being the next Miss Bikini,” Santi replied, “but can I just say that you have GOT to stop bringing dead bodies to funeral homes and sending me to investigate! You don’t want that to ruin your spotless reputation. What would your fans say?”
“What fans? And would you rather I sent bodies to your lab?” Maya said testily, though she knew what his answer would be.
“And have the very bureau I work for investigating me? No, thank you. As for your original question, no, I have not seen it yet. I got stuck in the lab all evening. I was not even able to check emails so I have not read your initial findings. I’ll go down there tomorrow instead. Can they hold off embalming after lunch?”
“No, do it earlier.”
“I’ll buy you coffee,” Maya bribed. Coffee was both their passion—brewed, granulated, three-in-one, you name it. He would not pass a good conversation over coffee, would he? But she crossed her fingers, just in case.
There was a long pause at the other end then she heard his resigned sigh. “You drive a hard bargain, Ms. de Alano. Seven it is. I will expect my coffee date. Can I have a donut to go with the coffee?”
“Yes sir, Dr. Santi Rivas, sir! Donut it is! In-cidentally, did you know that a 45 has a donut hole?”
“I didn’t, until a little over five minutes ago when you answered my call.”
“Eight minutes. And I know that you know, but I just had to ask because I was just about to tell you how donut holes came to be…”
*RPM – Rotations Per Minute
*LPs – long-playing vinyl record albums
*“Senti lang”– “Just being sentimental,” with the word “sentimental” shortened. Filipinos are fond of recreating English words like that to use in everyday lingo