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Dream: Almost a love story

I dreamt that I needed to buy a new phone battery because my current one already felt like half an orange. I took it out and got ready to go to the mall, mask and all. I placed my now-dead phone and the battery inside a resealable plastic bag, and then put it in a leather bag with my leather wallet. Then I got on a bus.

Suddenly, I was in San Francisco, as if the bus had entered a portal and exited in the US. We were about to arrive at the bus stop. The bus paused, and a girl hurriedly stepped out. Then the bus moved again--slowly driving down a dozen or so huge steps that led to the water.

This was a usual stop in San Francisco, I gathered. I dropped my leather bag through the window on the third step. I signaled to a woman watching the bus to please get my bag. She picked it up and gave me a thumbs up sign.

The final stop was submerged in knee-deep water. I waded back to where the woman was to get my bag. We made small talk and it turned out she was with a group of family and friends planning a trip to Manila the following week because they needed to get in touch with a Russian man. Among them was the man's best friend from his childhood: Tony Shahloub, dressed as Monk, now single.

I asked about their friendship, and he told me that his Russian friend had saved his life. There was something like a gang war in their teens, and some other fights. The Russian friend was also funny, and that helped shape Tony's brand of comedy.

I was actually treated to a Stand by Me type of flashback in sepia. Like a dream within a dream.

When I said goodbye to the group, Tony grabbed my hand gently and asked if he could look me up in Manila. He said he found me nice and charming, and would I want to perhaps join him as he went around. He had a feeling about me, he said. "Can you meet me somewhere?" he asked, both confident and shy.

I considered his age (66) but realized that I had hung on to every word he said and that talking to him was the most fascinating thing that had ever happened to me. He was funny and witty and he made my mind come alive with interest. I could love him, I thought.

I said I would give him my number, but we both didn't have phones. He handed me a Pilot tech pen and an old glossy receipt. If you love pens like me, you know that those two don't go well together! I couldn't seem to write my correct number. I have a lot of 8s but when I wrote them down, they either looked like 6s or 9s.

I told Tony I had some paper in my bag and took out a pad of 1/4 sheets of paper. But then the tech pen wouldn't work. And I misspelled my name. He talked as I tried to write, each attempt with increasing panic. He told me how his Russian friend had ended up in Manila, and how he was now ill and alone and wanted to see him.

They hadn't been in touch for years, so there was a lot of catching up to do. I found an old pen in my bag and started writing with it: my full name and phone number. I attempted a hundred times, I think, but didn't get it right. When finally I was able to write it down, our conversation had become so engrossing I forgot to hand it over.

And suddenly, I was back in Manila. In Southmall, where people weren't wearing masks and I had to go through a crowd to get my phone battery. I still held in my hand the piece of paper for Tony. But I seemed to have traveled not just in place but also in time. It was a week later, and Tony had arrived in Manila.

There was a radio playing loudly an interview with him: It was his first time to visit, he was saying, and now he understood why his Russian friend had stayed. "There is magic in this place," he said, "and it makes me feel more alive than I have ever felt." He was sad he had to leave.

I looked at the piece of paper in my hand and kicked myself mentally for not remembering to give it to him. How could he find me now? He wasn't that big of a celebrity here that he would be easy to stalk. He was back in San Francisco when I finally got in touch with him.

"I'll come back to visit you," he said. But we didn't say when.

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