She slept at the balcony on the banig that Andres laid down for her. He had given her the mat the night after the fire burnt their house down. Earlier that morning, he came to her and gave her money to buy merienda at the store. He had this light aura around him and smiled generously as he had the night he offered his place for Minda’s family. Her mother, Manang Leticia, did the housework for Andres who lived alone in his house near the river.
The river had a stench because of the garbage that the people dumped into it regularly. Minda could hear the wet rustling as pailfuls of dried leaves, candy wrappers, and bottles are thrown on it. The river swelled as the trash mounted and created pools of stagnant water. She smelled them from the balcony and she buried her face in the pillow that had Andres’s hair gel scent on it.
She lay there even as the clouds turned dark. The rain thudded on the roof. She tossed and turned. There was too much noise in Andres’s place. She wished this rain had come that night when a big fire ate up their house. The fire left her nothing except a maleta of old clothes. She put her hands on her stomach, then on her ears. She heard the water flow. The rain grew stronger, along with the sound of the coming flood.
She sat up. The texture of the mat marked on her skin. She did not like Andres the way he undid his pants before her when her parents were not there. She felt her stomach swelling. She covered her nose when she smelled the garbage again. She imagined the things floating there. It was dirty and she was afraid to ever step foot on it.
She stood and looked over the balcony to the river. She did not like the noise here, not even the smell of this place. The tears welled up in her eyes and she felt like shouting.
April Paramio is a senior writing student at UP Mindanao.