Jonel felt his heart drop when he saw the aircraft. It loomed before him, like an enormous bullet at rest, its engines humming loudly. Other passengers had queued up on the wheeled, steel staircase, oblivious to his face which bore an expression of panic. It was his first time to fly.
His friend Christian came up to him and said: “Jonel is scared now,” tapping him on the shoulder. “Don’t worry. We all had the same feeling the first time we boarded a plane. But of course that was a very long time ago.”
He could only smile at what he thought was both an insult and consolation. At least he was not as ignorant as those who had stopped midflight of the staircase to have their photos taken. As though reading his mind, Christian nudged him to look at a twentysomething guy smiling at a camera held by an elderly man.
“Probably his father,” Mike, Christian’s partner, commented. “Look at the pride on his mother’s face.” The mother, bespectacled and clad in floral-printed blouse, wore a big grin. Jonel could imagine her eyes brimming with tears behind her glasses. Then, as if they hadn’t held up the queue long enough, the trio asked another passenger to take a picture of all three of them.
“Why don’t they pose near those big fans so they can get sucked right in and end their misery,” Christian said.
“They’re called propellers,” Mike volunteered the information.
Christian looked at him, and said: “Smartass.”
Continue reading Traveling
She turned from the open window to the man sprawled across the bamboo bed, observing his nakedness and stillness, which reminded her of a corpse. She stared at his slightly parted lips, from which, a long time ago, affection was uttered, and from which, recently, came words of contempt and abuse. She looked at his brown skin, which she used to bathe with kisses in their sweaty and sultry lovemaking; at the coal-black mass of hair on his armpits, against which she snuggled when they lay spent, exhilarated; and at his chest rising and falling in cadence with his round abdomen. It was at his chest where her eyes stopped because from inside, she knew his heart beat, no longer for her but for the mere mechanism of it, just a muscle pumping blood to his veins, and pumping faster whenever his temper flared. She also knew that the same heart had already weakened upon seeing the pubic hair across his navel; it was caked with blood. On his groin, right above the sagging scrotum, was a bright red stump, from which there were rivulets of blood coursing down the side of his buttocks and the inside of his thighs.
Continue reading Hermana and Her Man
You have been very busy preparing for tonight. It is the last day of the year, and you have been on a holiday rush, along with others, who are milling about in the mall, jostling one another in the supermarket. You decide to tag me along so that you can have someone to carry the bags of groceries, which are enough to last for a week. I suspect that all of them are for tonight; you’re the type who welcomes the New Year lavishly. Have you checked our purchases? Have you noticed the seemingly countless round fruits in Styrofoam and All-wrap bearing their weight in my hand? As we ford through the crowd, I try to keep close to you, lest I get lost and won’t be able to make it home with you tonight. (Walking the distance between the mall and our house is out of the question; it would be too far. And I can’t call you up on a cellphone—you simply refuse to give me one although I have always said that I’m old enough to have one.) I can already imagine myself—while we hurry through the throng of the holiday-fevered shoppers—being alone in the huge mall, crying, like how a child would, looking for you, running through the maze of people, beset with fear that will last until the stroke of midnight. I don’t want to spend the rest of my year wailing. It’s one of the countless things you have taught me—to welcome the New Year with happiness.
Continue reading New Year’s Eve
He was acting strange around the house lately, my father. Often I would find him peering through the jalousies. As though in participation (or probably in some unfathomable sympathy) the whole world would fall quiet—the occasional barking of the neighbors’ dogs, the sound of children playing, and the gurgling noise of tricycles, all would suddenly wane.
Bare-chested and potbellied, he would pace around the house, anxious, then later, he would sit in front of the TV, switching channels as swiftly as the tube could accommodate. Mamang would sit beside him at night and complain of getting dizzy from the bright flashes of channels being changed now and then. At daytime, as Mamang left for work, he’d usually settle on a basketball game. Though jobless since the day I learned fathers ought to have a job no matter what, he wasn’t like this. He used to go around the village without a shirt on, meddling on other people’s lives, influencing other husbands to emulate him.
“It’s my job,” he had boasted at dinner when asked by Mamang, “I am the king of Cabantian, and I have to constantly oversee the status of my kingdom,” to which Mamang just rolled her eyes and sighed.
So much for being the invincible king, I thought after noticing his unusual behavior for the past two days.
Continue reading The King of Cabantian
It’s About Time You Meet Her
You knew her though, or someone you knew of. We were all aware of her existence that, like wallpapers, we never really took notice. Hers was a familiar face in the crowd with that look of desperation crawling right into you. Her face caked with pustules that nobody dared to touch. Her body looked so thin, her skin tightly embracing her bones. She didn’t possess those black-rimmed glasses and buck teeth (though she had one missing on the upper mouth); she didn’t have braces that completed the criteria for everyday geeks. Her mother barely covered the basics; another strain on their budget was certainly out of the question.
Continue reading Magdalena and Scenes of Chronic Poverty