"Chestnuts roasting on an open fire…" The soothing voice of Nat King Cole echoed throughout the streets of Manila. Many, either lovers or families, walked side by side with smiles on their faces. They say the jubilant atmosphere of Christmas is infectious, where people would eat lavish food and exchange gifts, but for Frank, Christmas is a day where he could find a gig with good pay.
Many enthusiasts or those who are frequent in jazz bars around Manila call him Old man Frank; a nickname for someone who sings like Frank Sinatra and a voice similar to his. Today, Frank was hired to sing in a Christmas party organized for the old in a hotel.
Standing at the stage, Frank felt invincible, he signaled at the pianist to start. "Have yourself a merry little Christmas." He watched as the couples dance to his rhythm, staring at one another with love and a calm passion. Indescribable loneliness filled Frank's heart, though as a professional singer, he must continue and sing without flaw. That's life, Frank comforted himself.
Some old women who sat on their chairs, alone without partners, gazed at Frank like fans during the '60s. "Still got the charm, Frank." The pianist, Mark, his old-time friend teased while they were taking a break. A grin that implies something, and Frank knew what it was.
"Pick one, and we'd do it like old times." Frank laughed, looking around the group of single women. He remembered the time where Mark would pick someone, and he'd go court that girl's friend. Once successful, he'd suggest to the lady for a double date, to bring the girl picked by Mark while he comes with Mark.
Mark muttered nostalgically, "Indeed, like old times, Frank."
Tonight, however, Frank failed to court the friend of the lady Mark has fancied. "It's been a long time since I've been ignored by such a beautiful lady!" Frank joked in front of the audience, garnering laughter from everyone even the lady herself, "Well, at least let me dedicate this song for the lady who rejected Old Frank." He bowed and started singing amidst the applause of the crowd. "I've got you under —"
Two men walked along the streets of Intramuros, Manila — a walled area with a history of a few centuries. Although night, the streets were bright and decorated by stars or Parol; a Filipino ornamental lantern used during the Christmas season.
My idea of a perfect Christmas
Is to spend time with you
In a party or a dinner would do
"Fuck! It's Jose Mari Chan again." Mark cussed, flicking the cigarette with his fingers to the canal at the sides of the street. "You've got a better voice than him, and you deserve better than a fifty-dollar pay."
Frank, with eyes closed, inhaling the smoke from the cigarette while calmly listening to Jose Mari Chan, a renowned Filipino singer, who became much renowned due to his songs being played every Christmas in almost every Filipino household. When the song ended, Frank turned his head to the side and said, "It's just luck and opportunity, Mark, something I don't have."
Mark looked downcast when he heard his friend's self-deprecating words, he sighed and comforted. "If only we weren't born in this country."
Frank said the words he'd use to comfort himself, words from a song of his idol. "That's life, and we can't deny it." He joked, "At least, we didn't roll ourselves in a ball and die, right?"
"Right!" Mark nodded and understanding the irony in Frank's words, he stopped walking, a second later, he burst into laughter. Realizing that Frank had already walked far ahead, he accelerated his pace to catch up and placed his arm around Frank's shoulders. "I'm glad to have met you, brother." He said warmly, Frank was like a family to him, and he was like a family to Frank.
"Me too," Frank muttered, a moment later, the sound of gunfire rang in his ears and his world seemed to have turned bleak when he laid his eyes on Mark's face. He felt as if his eardrums were pierced, and a hot-like feeling overwhelmed his chest. He kept on staring at Mark while both their bodies fell weakly on the ground. "Mark…" He called, reaching out his right hand to tug Mark's clothes. "Come on, talk to me…" His eyes swelled and tears started to pour out.
Frank cried until his last breath.