Alessandro Conti served cheese that stank in a compound populated by depressed yuppies. During his prime, he opened his restaurant that became popular for risotto cooked with bone marrow and pasta with generous servings of crab fat. His wife, Roberta, lived on a bizarre diet of truffled sea salts, porchetta, mayonnaise, and caramelized sugar—she drank less than a glass of water every day and indulged in espresso shots every hour, a glass of wine in the evening. Roberta, who grew up to 365 pounds, died in 2004 after developing various unnamed diseases. Roberto kept her body until it deteriorated, enough for him to sweep parts of her away with a broom and a pan. Three years later, he swept the last pieces of her, bones and teeth.
Across Alessandro’s restaurant is a bar whose waitresses have this uncanny fixation of consorting with other women. The owner itself, loved by the bar’s patrons and affectionately called Maeve, has lived with a girl ten years younger than herself. Together, they shared a bed, food, alcohol, clothes, and even syringes. On a very hot day sometime in 2007, during the twenty second birthday of her lover, Maeve wore a red leather jacket, which she refused to take off for as long as she lived. Maeve was found dead October of the same year, in her Cubao apartment that faintly smelled of iron and decay. The Postal Service played on the background. The jacket was forcefully torn off except the left sleeve that adhered to her arm so severely; it would tear what’s left of her flesh if anyone dared to remove it.
Kevin opened his first café when he was 26. He dreamt of a place populated by artists—poets, sculptors, and filmmakers—a piece of heaven where people talked about aesthetics and literary criticism, where they engaged in debates about the interpretation of art in a society that is unwelcoming of shock value. One year later, the café went bankrupt, and he busied himself with filmmaking. That day in 2007, he was screening a film in another café adjacent to Alessandro Conti’s when a man approached him and whispered, “B film.” Six hours later, Kevin sat still in his single-bedroom condominium in Greenhills, pondering about his life, drinking Jack on the rocks, trying to breach the known limits of one’s blood alcohol content. He woke up the next day, around 4:00 pm, sensing a deep lacuna. He wished the bed could eat him alive.
Guarding the pay lounge within the compound is Peter. He charges the guests five pesos if they need to pee, ten if they need to shit, zero if some vain woman simply wanted to use the mirror, and zero, still, for people who are nearly blind and badly in need of some space to puke. Beside him sat the sullen vendor named Boy, who charges three pesos for one stick of cigarette and twenty five for a pack of ten sticks. On typically slow nights like Monday’s, they would talk about recent purchases. Boy recently bought an iPod without a charger from a neighbor at the price of four thousand pesos. He paid in cash. The following week, on a hot day in 2007, Peter bragged about a laptop, which he bought on installment for twelve thousand pesos. When Peter arrived home that night, he immediately proceeded to his cabinet to get an eight year old Compaq Presario. He played pinball and Minesweeper. His child had been missing for the past two weeks.
Remy’s thrift shop, called The Cellar, was situated near the exit of the compound populated by depressed yuppies. She has read every single book displayed in her store from the superficial works of Sophie Kinsella, the papers of Soren Kierkegaard, to the secrets of the Kremlin, except for one book by Ivan Pavlov. One Saturday afternoon in 2007, a woman, 35 years of age walked into the shop. She sifted through several titles, smiled occasionally, and smelled the pages with much pleasure, before finally bringing a book to the counter. It was, of course, Pavlov. That night, Remy unboxed several vinyl records, chose The Eagles, and listened to it using a phonograph. She lit a cigarette, smoked up to half of it, and threw what’s left to her pile of books, until a hefty amount of smoke rose from the volumes. She walked towards the door and locked it the same way she locks the door every night.
To this day, only the ruins of the compound remain—of course, along with stories of the strange people who used to work there.