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Excerpt: Welcome to Envy Park

July 21, 2014 - - No comments

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When I first met her, during registration day on our first year at college, I thought we’d be at each other’s throats. We were both only children, academic achievers from our respective high schools, vying for recognition in the same business management program. Sometimes she got the lucky break, and sometimes I did, but when we met to compare notes I was always happy for her.
But I would just never do some things the way Roxie would. We were just wired differently.
“Your parents haven’t been here?” she asked. “I thought they’d be over every weekend, knowing your mom.”
“They’ve been here. Just not a lot. They discovered a social life now that they’re sort of in retirement. It doesn’t involve me.”
“Are you okay with that?”
It was an adjustment, but one I welcomed. “Yeah, for now. I guess I got used to the once-a-year face-to-face thing. It’s great when I know I’m here for Christmas, because it’s all good stuff. But the rest…”
Roxie nodded. “It’s a stage. Your parents want to continue treating you like a kid, but you’re not a kid. They’ll get it eventually. Or your mom will. But you have to be around to make it happen.”
“No, it doesn’t work that way with them. I have to prove myself somewhere else.”
“I’m not like you,” Roxie said. “I stay put. I have roots. I work it out where I am.”
“Living in another country is going to open your mind to everything, Roxie. I think everyone should try it.”
She was sitting on my living room floor, barefoot, scarf off, drinking her passion fruit margarita from a jam jar, my attempt at being shabby chic. “You don’t realize what would happen to my career if I just suddenly took off now. I get out, and I won’t be able to just pick up where I left off. I can’t afford to Eat Pray Love myself out of this funk.”
I was lying flat on the sofa just behind her, and I could see that the pitcher on the coffee table needed refilling. But I didn’t move an inch. “Well maybe you don’t want to go back to the same career.”
“I have a huge payment on the condo coming up. Can’t think about that.”
“When do you get to move into that by the way?”
“Next month, I think, if I’m lucky.”
Roxie and I were an interesting study in parallel lives, if anyone bothered to look. I packed up and left Manila, as so many others did, and at the time it seemed like the only smart thing to do, if you wanted to get ahead. My hometown (if you could call a city of 12 million people “hometown”) felt too cramped and crazy. Roxie stayed, because it was her nature to thrive in cramped and crazy.
Five years later, and what did we have?
“Well you have this,” Roxie said, waving an arm toward my ceiling.
“And you’re getting your own place soon.”
“And you helped your parents with expenses and stuff.”
“You did too.”
“We had that New York trip.”
Yes, that was excellent, I agreed.
“We don’t have cars,” Roxie added.
“We don’t drive. But we can afford it if we wanted to.”
“We don’t have kids.”
“Yeah, we don’t have that.”
“I’d settle for a date on Saturday.”
“Well, I’ve cursed you, so no.”
“So let me recap. You left. I stayed. Now, we both have some money, helped out our families, went on a cool trip, bought ourselves apartments. But our social lives are still limited to you and me and a margarita pitcher.”
“Huh. It kind of sounds like we’re even,” I said.
Were we? Maybe it was the tequila buzz, but I really did think that I had come out ahead. Surely the lessons in independence that leaving home provided a person counted for something. Counted for more, at least, in terms of emotional growth, and maturity, because those years were the most difficult and humbling of my life so far.
“No we’re not even,” Roxie said, giggling. “I have a job. You don’t.”
She had to refill the margarita pitcher all by herself then, I told her.

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Mina V. Esguerra writes contemporary romance, young adult, and new adult novellas. Through her blog Publishing in Pajamas (minavesguerra.com), she documents her experiments in publishing.
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