The characters in this story are inspired by the novel’s beloved characters Elizabeth Bennet and Fitzwilliam Darcy.
It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a wife.
But it is different now in the 21st century. It has been said that a single and successful man, usually but not entirely, in his mid-thirties, is probably either ignoring the deadline of his bachelorhood or is gay.
Kulay laughed at this statement when she first heard it. And yet, she couldn’t help but consider it an ironic fact. It seemed like the straight male specie is starting to dwindle in numbers, and for single ladies like herself, she couldn’t help but feel threatened.
At least that’s how the art exhibit was making her feel at the moment. The art exhibit’s theme The Tagalized 19th Century Literature was all about adding certain Filipino elements in the famed 19th century classic literature pieces. The first painting that greeted the visitors was a depiction of two men who were easily recognized as Sherlock Holmes and Dr John Watson, sharing a kiss.
“Oh, my . . .” she muttered to herself. She stared at the artwork with great dread. She could not believe an artist would do this. And did the homosexual act pictured in the two famed characters supposed to be the ‘tagalized’ trait of the artwork? She couldn’t help but look away with anger. The characters are just two of her favourites in English literature. She looked at her colleagues, one of whom was also a great fan of the duo. Her friend looked at her, too, mouthing a curse.
Kulay approached the label and read the details inscribed there.
“The Science of Deduction and Attraction by Santi Morales, Mixed Media,” it was Dean who read it aloud for all five of them to hear. It was the same friend muttering profanities earlier.
“How dare he,” was all she said. It was only then that she realized that all six of them shared the same sentiments, only that one of them, Maria, recovered easily from her shock and started receiving the artwork with good humour which unsurprisingly affected them all.
“Okay, that’s a blast to begin with,” said Liz, in between giggles. Mayi agreed with her, and they both shared a high five. The two of them followed by Maria started moving along.
“I shall try my best to forget this artwork, same with how Holmes tried to forget about the solar system,” Kulay said gravely. Dean laughed and agreed with her while Rina, who knew too well of her disposition and beliefs, pulled her away from the controversial artwork.
All six of them, plus another one who was running late, managed an independent website that published the online magazines Booklat, Stereo-Type, and Síning, all of which were started when they were in college. Though they worked full-time jobs in different fields—Mayi owned a bookstore; Liz was an art director for an advertising agency; Maria was a freelance writer and a photographer; Rina was an art instructor at a university; Dean was a freelance artist and designer; Kulay was a writer and researcher for a publishing house; and, Gelo was a technical writer and a musician—they actively worked in this website and published the magazines that became one of the most popular and reliable sources of information that discuss about literature, music, and the arts.
All seven of them were the publishers of the Brown Paper Media. Each one, however, actively and amicably took on the three vital editorial positions through voting: the managing editor, associate editor, and the layout artist. In Booklat, Mayi took on the helm along with Kulay and Liz. In Stereo-Type, Maria lead Rina and Gelo. In Síning, Kulay managed the magazine along with Liz and Dean. Everything seemed to be going well for everyone.
It was one of their privileges as media, receiving invitations from several events that may be featured in their online magazines. They regularly visited art galleries, attended book fairs, seminars, talks, conventions, concerts, shows, and other events in the Filipino art scene, literary scene, and music scene. Not always all of them though, understandably because they kept regular jobs or commissioned works. Invitations were usually sent a month before the event. They particularly requested this to different organizers, so they could include it in their schedules as early as possible. An event would become one’s beat when the date would sit well on his or her schedule. But of course, they made sure that at least two of them are in an event to stand as the interviewer and the photographer. Here, they usually relied on each other’s schedule to see who was available to attend the said event.
If only one could make it, or someone would arrive but not on time, or if worse comes to worst, none of them could be present at an event, they have an entire list of on-call interns to stand in for them. However, they tried not to always resort to this last solution, so as not to tarnish any relations they have made with their contacts.
This gallery visit was their first big invitation this year. It’s a good thing that all six of them—the seventh was late, as expected—managed to attend the opening of this gallery where they have several artist friends who have their own artworks included in the exhibit. They saw other artists they know, many of whom were regularly featured in the Síning magazine.
The familiar faces of their artist friends and acquaintances made Kulay forget the foul start. It was also comforting to see that the rest of the artworks, although sometimes as equally controversial as the first one, weren’t that disagreeable. They even found some of the other artworks funny and enlightening.
Kulay was walking around the gallery with Rina as they went from one artwork to another. When an old friend of Rina’s approached them, Kulay excused herself and left them to their enjoyment. She saw Dean and Maria laughing with Gelo—finally he has arrived—along with three other artist friends. Liz was taking pictures while Mayi interviewed a small group of artists. Tonight’s event was Liz and Mayi’s beat.
Kulay proceeded with the tour. There was still one exhibit piece she had not seen. There was a smile on her face as she paced through the last partition of the gallery. She was fascinated with what she had just recently seen, an installation art of a horse carriage mashed up with the jeepney. The title was Giddy Jeepney by Kitty Alcaraz, an artist regularly featured in Síning. There was a brief explanation below the label that it particularly focused on the carriages of the 19th century that were almost omnipresent in all the literary pieces during that time. Kulay liked the simplicity and the frankness of the idea. She even thought it would be a perfect vehicle for tourists roaming around Manila.
She reached the end of the gallery, and as she turned, she saw a huge painting leaning on the wall; its height exceeding hers. It was the only painting that was not hung.
She was immediately drawn to the scene depicted in the painting. The man and the woman in it were familiar to her, and she was sure she knew who they are.
The painting showed a man and a woman facing each other, both in their 19th century clothing, but their background were the sleepy field of the countryside and an expensive and expansive estate of a town, or locally known as hacienda.
The dress of the female character on the left was simple and bore slight elegance—its style is reminiscent of the 19th century English dress— but she possessed that confidence that is known to Kulay. Her background showed the quiet field with a simple bungalow, a distinct ilustrado home of the 19th century Filipinas. She held a book in her left hand, pressed on her stomach, and a quill and a sheet of parchment paper on her right; she wore a sincere smile on her face with her eyes fixed on the man’s.
The man on the right was exuding with authority. He was wearing a gentleman’s suit which made him stand out despite the grandiose mansion shown in his background. He held a top hat on his right hand, pressed on his stomach; he had thick eyebrows and a frown on his lips. But his eyes betrayed all that was initially obvious, for their gaze was soft and was full of affection, as he longingly gazed back at the woman.
“Lizzy and Mr Darcy,” Kulay gasped. She just finished reading the novel and watching the movie and the TV series a few weeks ago. Her admiration for the classic literature was undoubtedly as great as her Sherlock Holmes favourite, and it even placed her Jane Eyre fascination in the second place.
“This looks really good!” Mayi exclaimed. This made Kulay snapped back to reality, popping the thought balloon she had earlier while she fancied over her ‘fangirling’ of Pride and Prejudice.
“Oh, is it Mr Darcy?” It was Liz who was also a fan of the novel. She immediately took a couple of shots on the painting.
“You seem to be enjoying this particular piece, Kulay,” Maria said as she approached her, bumping her with her elbow as to tease her. Kulay grinned widely and nodded.
“Of course, she raves over this in Twitter and Facebook. And in fairness, it’s nicely depicted here.” Rina added, winking at the two of them.
“Thank goodness it is nicely depicted!” Kulay finally spoke. “I shall be happy to meet and shake hands with the artist of this lovely piece,” she added and peered on the side to read its label. It was entitled Pride and Prejudice and Its Peculiarities by Keith Jacinto, Oil on Canvas.”
The rest of her companion walked on, returning to the centre of the gallery hall, but Kulay opted to stay a bit longer in front of the painting. She tried to memorize the details that her camera will never be able to capture and give the justice into. She also took a picture of the label.
“Thank heavens for this piece,” she sighed happily, concluding with the thought that although it was not the best in the exhibit, it was her favourite piece.
After staying at the gallery for almost two hours, Mayi finally declared that she’s satisfied with the details she got for her story. Liz declared ditto. Their early attendance at the event had been fruitfully rewarded. Now that the event’s time was at its peak, the venue was flocked with media and more guests. Almost all the hosts and organizers of the event were occupied with the attention from the media. They managed to wave goodbye to their friends, who helplessly waved back while they entertained their interviewers.
As they approached the main door of the gallery, three artists called on Mayi and Liz. They exchanged kisses on the cheeks as Liz briefly introduced the rest of them to the artists. Kulay, who almost missed the introduction because she just came from the ladies’ room, opted to stay behind everyone. She busied herself with fixing her bag when Dean tapped her,
“Kulay, that’s Santi Morales,” Dean said and pointed with his mouth on one of the three artists, particularly at the lean guy wearing a grey sweatshirt.
Of course he looked gay, Kulay thought. She looked at Dean and rolled her eyes as her reply. They sniggered at this exchange of looks. She actually though Dean was cringing.
They started walking towards the door and smiled and waved back to the three artists who tried to reach out to them. One of them managed to reach Dean and Maria who were in front of Kulay. Seeing that she was left with no choice but to shake hands with the ‘disagreeable’ Santi Morales, she reluctantly raised her hand as he looked on to her when, out of nowhere, a guy from her left reached out instead to shake her hand. She was taken aback.
“Thank you,” the guy said quietly. He looked serious, not even a smile accompanied his short speech.
Kulay easily recovered from her shock and replied, “Thank you, too,” with a smile, and then let go of each other’s hands. When she looked on to her right, she saw that Santi Morales was already thanking other guests, like nothing happened.
“Oh, where’s Kulay?” she heard Gelo asked.
“I’m here!” she waved. When she turned to look at the guy again, she saw him walking towards the centre of the gallery. She curiously looked on, shrugged her thoughts, and ran towards her friends.
“Kulay, do you know who that guy in black was?” Liz asked while they were walking towards the parking lot. Kulay replied no, she didn’t. “Well, he only shook hands with you,” she said teasingly. Everyone hinted on this and started teasing her. She tried to ignore their teasing and told them that they might be wrong, but the rest of the group said that it was true, one even seemed to carefully recall what happened.
“Do you guys know him? Is he even a part of the event?” Gelo asked in an annoyed tone.
“Oh, he probably is. We need to know that dashingly mysterious man,” Mayi replied with a big smile on her face.
“He’s handsome indeed but looked arrogant,” Rina stressed amidst the teasing.
“But he shook hands with Kulay, and only with Kulay,” Maria reiterated, “Reminds me of someone,” she added and winked at Kulay.
Kulay somehow read her thoughts and laughed. She smiled at Maria and said,“So, did I just shake hands with the modern Mr Darcy?” Kulay said jokingly. They all seemed to agree with her.