Thursday, May 24, 2007
OF HOOLA HOOPS AND PINWHEELS
12” x 16”
acrylic on canvas
“I feel stupid”, I grumbled to Inday as I slipped the candy-striped, Christmas-ey hoola hoop around my waist.
“Okay lang yan. Just put it around your waist and make circular motions so it’d spin. Like this,” and she spun around her hoop like a seasoned pro that she is.
After a few tries with the candy-striped hoola hoop, I finally managed to do some decent twirls with it.
“Wow, so this is how Deni Terio felt when he’s shaking his thing on TV!” I whooped in exhilaration.
Inday was my playmate, an only child of working parents who she lives with at the farthest door in an apartment block beside our house. On weekend mornings she’ll be standing in front of our gate bearing toys with her, like that day she brought a box of miniature kitchen set.
“Let’s play house. I’ll be the nanay, you’ll be the tatay,” she proudly announced.
“Who’ll play the baby?” I asked.
“Oh,” she paused to think and ran off back home. When she appeared, she had with her the biggest doll I have ever seen. It was, to my young eyes, monstrously big – bigger than either of us. She pulled a string on its back and it yelped “I want milk”. I had to blink and ask her if it’s alive because I sure am not going to feed it.
There was a time too when water guns shaped like TV cartoon characters were the rave in our street. Every kid had to have one. Mine was in the shape of Robin and my brother’s gun was Popeye. We’d all have loads of fun with it, playing cowboy and shooting water at each other. It was one of those afternoons when my brother and I were playing shootouts with the other kids in our street when Inday tapped me on the shoulder while I was hiding behind a bush.
“Psst, I want to join. Let’s trade guns. I like your Robin. You use my Olive. It has a stronger spurt” she said as she was pushing her gun towards me.
“But it’s an Olive. Who wants an Olive?” I complained. (Her gun was shaped like Olive Oyl. There was somehow an unwritten rule that boys only use male TV cartoon character-shaped guns and hers is, well, aside from being Olive Oyl, was also quite ugly.)
“But it has a very strong spurt and you can beat anyone with it. Come on, give me your Robin,” she demanded.
“No,” I held my ground.
Then she grabbed hold of my shoulder and she began to shake me. When I turned around, I saw beads of perspiration forming on her forehead, her lips started to curl and she began to cry shrilly into my face.
“Alright, alright! Give me Olive!” and I grudgingly gave her my Robin. With one swift movement of her forearm, she wiped the sweat and tears from her face, leapt from the bush with my gun and walloped like a crazed Indian out to make her kill.
That afternoon, I committed mass murder with Olive. I left all my opponents all wet and I was left high and dry. Inday approached me with a wide grin and my Robin held to her side. “I told you it has a strong spurt,” she proudly proclaimed. “Here’s your Robin,” and held my gun towards me.
With a devilish grin drawn on my face, I pointed Olive at her and spurted her several times with her own gun. She stood there for a while stunned. Slowly, her lips started to curl, beads of sweat formed on her shoulders and she gave out such a loud, shrill cry that the doves flew from their roost, the neighborhood dogs barked and lizards fell from the houses’ eaves.
“I hate you! I hate you!” and she ran off with my Robin. Inday’s Olive sure did make a powerful spurt.
It was a summer when salagubangs can be bought for fifty centavos at the talipapa a few blocks away. Every morning we’d run off to this manang who’d be selling it in a basket cage there. My brother, the other boys and I would carefully take our pick of these shiny-shelled insects. We’d pick our insect according to our personal preferences. Some would pick out the biggest. Others would pick out the ones that flap its wings most, while I would always pick out the ones with the brightest color. But no matter who prefers what, each of us would take one back gleefully to our neighborhood.
Back in our street, we’d tie our salagubangs with colored strings around their necks and spend the whole morning playing with them. We’d either have salagubang fights. Salagubang races. Salagubang tricks. A whole bunch of salagubang what-have-you’s that we could think of. And by mid-morning, we’d tire of our little insect friends. Some would put it in jars and give them names to keep as pets but would eventually end up dead the next day in its jar-coffin. But most of us, we’ll just let it go, let it fly off and live its insect life.
Inday appeared one day in front our gate bearing a big round jar that once held mayonnaise. In it was full of these crawling shiny-shelled salagubangs.
“Look at what I have. Ate Do bought all of these for me,” she proudly proclaimed.
“Wow, that’s a lot. Let me have one,” I pleaded.
“No!” and she held the jar back. “It is mine and you can only look,” she announced as she held the glass jar filled with those nice, shiny salagubangs tightly to her chest.
My brother came out of our house and saw her with the jar. He too asked her if he could have one and she vehemently turned him down. Soon enough, the other boys in the street heard that Inday has a jarful of these little living toys that a small crowd of our playmates started to gather in front of our house to marvel at her possession.
“Please let us have one,” asked Ronald.
“Yeah, you can be the bangka in our patintero,” offered Bubuy.
“You can have my Annie-Annie stickers if I can have that green one,” bribed Lengleng.
“No. No. NO!” she solidly refused all offers with her chin high and haughty like a princess. At that moment, she knew she has everything going for her. With her refusal she also delighted at the sullen pallor that descended on our faces.
“You know what, I hear from Tita Bong that they fry salagubangs in oil and eat them in the province,” my brother chirped with a gleam in his eyes.
“I bet they taste good. You want to try one of those?” Ronald piped in.
“I wonder how those salagubangs taste like with catsup?” Lengleng added as she licked her lips with her tongue.
Every one of us was now agreeing how tasty Inday’s salagubangs would be. By now, Inday was shaking her head in disgust at what she hears.
“No one’s eating my sslagubangs. NO ONE!” she protested with one arm around the jar and the other trying to shield her ear.
“Eat! Eat! Eat!” chanted everyone. She was slowly stepping back away from our small group of salagubang-hungry fiends, holding her jar of living treasures to her chest and turning her face from us when she slipped on the edge of the sidewalk canal in front of our house. She fell on the smelly, murky water in the sidewalk canal, dropped her jarful of salagubangs that it shattered and scattered all the insects unto the street.
Everyone of us became silent – stunned silence – the kind of silence before the storm.
Without a warning, Inday gave out her trademark shrill cry, waved her arms all around and stood up like lightning. She ran home in a freaky dervish, arms flailing all over and her dress reeking of the smell of the canal water. From a distance, we could all hear the loud banging of their apartment door and her shrill cry was now muffled by the walls of their home.
“Who want some salagubang?” declared Ronald with a gleeful yell.
We all helped ourselves to Inday’s scattered insects, played our games and by mid-morning, our street was filled with flying salagubangs.
By late afternoon of that day, Inday was happily playing bangka in our patintero.
“Do you know how to make pinwheels?” asked Inday when we got tired of our hoola hoping around.
“Uh-huh. Why?” I asked.
“Let’s make some. I have some pieces of art paper and some barbecue sticks,” she commanded as she handed me the colored papers to make these pinwheels.
Staring at the pinwheels we did, it was a sight to see. We sat on the floor and we watched with enchantment at the different spinning colors stuck on sticks.
She suddenly stood, placed her hands to her waist and hollered at me “Hold the pinwheels and do the hoola hoop”.
I could only grunt at the silliness of holding a pinwheel and spinning the candy-colored hoop around my waist.
“This is for what you owe me when you shot me with my water gun. Hah!” she proudly exclaimed with her hands held to her sides.
Come to think of it, I thought, she never even did return my Robin.
Tuesday, May 22, 2007
BLUE MEN SMOKING
18” x 24”
acrylic on canvas
He walks past him, gives him a stare, and beckons him more with his lips that slightly curl into a smile. The other guy stares back and stops in his tracks. He looks around trying to see if there are other men along that narrow, cold, dark hallway that smells of old, damp carpets and cheap air freshener. He could have been wrong in thinking that this guy was actually looking at him and not at another.
“The reason men go into bathhouses is for sex, nothing more”, Bobby announced.
The guy comes close, but stops just a foot away from him. He glances back looking at the big white clock hanging on the wall - 11:35 pm. He leans back on the wall of the dark hallway, placing his arms to his sides. Then he turns around to him, gives him a hard lustful stare and slowly inch-by-inch reaches his hand to touch the other’s thigh beneath the wrapped towel. Cold, sweaty palms touched his skin. It sends a ripple of pleasure into his body.
“Marami dito mga may-asawa tulad ko. Alam mo na, ito lang naman ang safe na lugar para sa ganito eh (Many of us here are married just like me. This is the only safe place for something like this)”, Carl Arvin quipped while staring into the ceiling of that windowless room.
“You have a room?” he whispers into the other guy’s ear. The other guy shows him his key and moves his brow to follow him. They follow each other down a maze of dark, narrow hallways punctuated on each side by small numbered doors. Into one of these doors, the other guy slips a key in and it opens to a small windowless room with one cot, one drawer, one exhaust fan and one hook to hang clothes. It has one small blue bulb that spreads its light like ink into all corners of the room. The moment the other guy locks the door, he grabs hold of his towel, pulls it off and buries his face into the other guy’s thighs.
“I have never been into one. What does it look like? Are the men who go there gorgeous? I am scared with what might happen inside and yet at the same time I am excited. Is it clean? Do you think we could go there one time now that I am free from my lover? Let’s check it out”, Tristan told me on yahoo messenger with the eagerness one has for ice cream.
They both fell on the bed, both sweat-stained on their brows. A few seconds passes by and they could only hear their hard, heavy breathing slowly calming down. “I have to go now and clean up,” said the other guy as he was sitting up and reaching for his towel. “Okay,” whispers the guy lying on the bed, “I have some cigarettes and I’ll smoke for a while”. The other guy turns around and asks, “Is it okay if I can have a stick?” “Sure,” says the guys lying on the bed. He stands up and takes a pack of marlboro lights from his pants hanging on the hook. He gives the other guy a stick and lights it with his black zippo. He takes one for himself and inhaled deeply. They sit there on the small bed in the blue light that envelopes them. Naked, they let the smoke rise from their cigarettes not uttering nor exchanging any words between them.
“You know what the strange part is when you have been into that place? You always end up feeling more alone than before”, Edwin remarked in between puffs of his cigarette.
Author’s note: I live just a few meters away from the country’s oldest standing bathhouse. It has been in operation for more than 25 years. It’s like Eat Bulaga. But unlike that show, it isn’t as well-known from Aparri to Jolo.
BALUT AT YOSI
13” x 9.5”
pen and ink on paper
“Magkano po ang balot?,” asked a scraggly teenager.
“Magkano ba ang bili mo ng balut?,” I asked him.
“Ha? Ah eh, di ko po alam. Kaya nga po ako nagtatanong eh” he retorted.
“Okay na ba sa iyo ang sampung piso?”
“Sige po. Isa lang po.”
And that night I made my first sale of balut.
“Manong pabili ng isang Champion,” a young female with very tight white shorts clinging to her privates like camel toes squealed in her high-pitched voice as she handed me her two pesos.
“Heto oh,” said I as I handed her cigarette.
“Sukli ko po.”
“1.25 lang po benta ni manang nito eh.”
“Heto oh, sensya na. Iniwan niya lang sa akin itong paninda niya eh.”
I wonder what’s taking Manang too long. She said that she’ll just check on her nephew who’s been making a lot of drunken noise. It’s been more than an hour and it’s starting to feel like ages sitting here at this street corner selling her eggs and cigarettes. I have already gone through four baluts (one more and I think I’ll feel a shooting pain up the back of my head from too much cholesterol from these eggs) and enough exhaust fumes from the passing jeeps that can guarantee my much earlier entrance into that world beyond.
“Hoy, putangina mo bakla. Nakakita ka lang ng lalaki bibilhin mo na agad ang itlog niya. Magkano balut mo kuya?”, chirped the oldest of the two transvestites standing before me.
“Saan na si Manang? At kelan pa siya nagkaron ng maton na tindero? Ay, ang dakota naman ng mga batu-bato mo papa,” the younger of the two flashed her (or his) curled lashes as I handed them their balut. “Baka kailangan mo ng babae sa buhay mo eh libreng-libre ako. Pwede mo akong gamitin kasama ng mga balut mo.”
“Hoy gaga. Heto na ang jeep pa-Malibay. Sakay na tayo. Daliii!,” shouted the other to her companion and pulled her by the arm towards the waiting jeep.
“Bye papa. Bukas ha? Bibili ulit ako ng balut mo. Hihihi…” she waved and I waved back.
“Salamat sa pagbantay ng tinda ko ha? Sensya na rin at pinauwi ko na lang si Junee at lasing na lasing na eh. Baka kung ano pa ang gawin ng batang yun”, says Manang as she wiped the sweat from her brow.
“Okay lang Manang. Dyan na rin ho yung nabenta kanina. Kumuha na rin ako ng balut at yosi. Heto ho ang bayad” I offered her my payment for the eggs and cigarettes I took.
“Naku, huwag na. Neks taym ka lang magbayad. Ako nga dapat magpasalamat eh.”
“Oh sige po. Uwi na ako. Good night Manang”
I looked to see if there were any oncoming jeeps and then crossed the street towards the gate of my apartment. I slipped my key, opened my gate and closed it behind me. As I was putting on the latch to secure it from the inside, I felt a slight tingling at the back of my neck. Damn, I knew it. I took one too many baluts sitting at that corner.
I think I’ll skip eating eggs for a while.
Tuesday, May 15, 2007
pen and ink on paper
13" x 9.5"
Driving With My Brother
… 5:45 p.m.
… my brother’s car
… waiting for the traffic light to turn green at that new development called Serendra
““Im going to kill you! I swear I’m going to kill you!” you kept on saying when you were chasing me down the street back then”, my brother was reminding me of the time when I did chase him several blocks down the old neighborhood. “…and all that for a stupid slipper that we keep on confusing for the other.”
“Come to think of it, I never did care for those slippers. I walked barefoot inside our house anyway”, I admitted. “Pretty dumb things we did and say when we were kids huh?”
“But you’re dumber.”
“Nope you’re dumbest.”
“You remember those afternoons when we’d be stuck in the room doing nothing. Then I’d put you on my knees and you’d pretend like you’re on a rocket ship. You called yourself – The Rocketman”, I reminisced.
“Well I remember that big old closet with mom’s clothes in the bedroom. Kuya used to scare us with those monster-in-the-closet stories.”
“And we used to hide under the bedsheets and we’d fall asleep both scared. Hehehe… you were always snotty.”
“You snore like a horse.”
“You always kick me with your foot in your sleep. I’d wake up with it in my face every morning and it’s the most sour-smelling thing I’ve known. ”
“Your fart smells like a dead animal.”
“You remember those afternoons when we’d tie the bedsheets around our necks and pretend like they’re capes? We’d mess around with mother’s lipstick and I’d put on some red and pretend like I’m Dracula. You’d pretend like… well, I don’t want to go there.”, and he gave me that “eyebrows-are-raised” kind of look.
“I DID?? I was thinking of that when I was a kid and you knew?” my eyes were so wide I couldn’t believe what he said.
“Come on tol. You had that “I’m the Queen of Sheba” attitude with that red cape and lipstick”, he stifled a laugh while releasing the brakes when the light turned green.
“Those were the times huh?”
“Yeah, they sure were.”
…and we were silent in our own thoughts as the car turned into the parking lot.
Saturday, May 12, 2007
48” x 48”
acrylic on canvas
This painting is the second version of a smaller piece of the same title. The first one is now hanging in the office of a podiatrist somewhere in Los Angeles.
1. Sex as Politics
“Come on pare. How can it be political? It’s all about the sensuality of massage like what I did with the first one. It’s all about sex, sex, sex… or the prelude to it”, said I to Jun as he was staring into the finished piece during a hot and humid afternoon where you can easily fry an egg on the hood of car.
“You have a funny way of looking into what you yourself have done. It is political hiding behind the veneer of a sensual act”, quipped Jun.
“Political? The only thing political I can easily identify with are those candidates parading like circus freaks everyday along Libertad. Now THAT’S political – circus politics.”
“Hay naku pare, look. I like the way you positioned the two figures behind the one in the lower foreground. The woman holds the hand of the man as if signifying she holds more the third guy than the other man does. The other guy is groping his back trying to find a sensual spot to tickle him, to find his weakness which he’d later on use to his advantage.. And the way they look out of the canvas, it’s as if they’re saying, “we’re in this game - this game where I take something out of the other to feed my own interest”. And it’s the man on the lower bottom who seems to be the source of whatever the other two wants.”
“But it’s a threesome of naked individuals.”
“And sex IS politics. Women and men use it not just for pleasure or procreation. It is used as a tool to get something from another. It’s a power play. It is the same way you described the politicians parading as circus freaks. These politicians along your street do it to entertain the people. Once the people get entertained, the politicians are remembered and they get their votes. They give something (the parading politicians) and they get something in return (the votes). It’s the same thing with sex. You give something, you take something.”
“Hmm, that’s an interesting thought. Oh by the way, you should see it in the semi-darkness. The eyes glow. It freaks me out at night when I close the lights. It’s like having three pairs of eyes staring back at me, teasing.”
2. Tissue Paper
“Tito Dan, why didn’t they simply use the red towel”, I heard Wiggy ask from the other end of the room while I was busy looking for some money to buy Andok’s chicken for him and his brother Deus.
“Huh? What were you saying” I lifted my head to look at him.
“I said why didn’t they simply use the red towel?”
“Who are you referring to?” I asked a bit bewildered.
“This big painting here of the three naked people and the guy with the exposed toto”, he said while pointing his lips to Masaje. His arms akimbo like a seasoned art critic, it was only then I spotted him intently looking at the piece.
“Why, what do you think?”, I finally found some money and now had my attention towards him.
“Well, I think they’re wasting too much tissue paper. They should have simply used the red towel.”
And Deus piped-in while watching Nanny Mcphee, “Yeah, we have these big white towels we use after we take a bath. It’s stupid to use tissue paper instead of towels.”
It was only then that I realized that I can never get more biting criticisms than from my two small critics.
Note: the word “toto” is what my two nephews use to describe the penis. Their parents forbid the use of Tagalog words for genitalia in their household. But being as they are, the two boys have found creative substitutes.
Friday, May 11, 2007
BABAE SA PIER
24” x 35”
acrylic on canvas
This work is based on an old picture postcard of turn-of-the-century women who were workhorses at the pier. They carried heavy sacks on their heads from the dock to the ship.The postcard pictured women who worked hard with loads on their heads, and yet wore beautiful sayas reminiscent of those times. I wondered how their lives were.
And here, I chose to tell the story of another woman.
Our mother was Superwoman. At the drop of a pin, she can change the whole set-up of our house in a day. She’ll move cabinets ten times heavier than her, move around furniture, change the color of the house, replant the whole garden and still have time to cook dinner for her boys.
There were times, my brothers and I would be staring at our house after school and wonder if it is the same house we left from that morning. Many an afternoons, I’d come running into the door and I’ll trip over a furniture that wasn’t there that morning. It’s like every day for my mother is a Let’s-Change-The-House Day.
I remember one hot afternoon of my fourteenth year, my mother asked me to climb the tree to cut some overhanging branches. “You’d have to cut it NOW because it gets in the way of the laundry line”, she barked. “I’ll do it later when I’m done here”, I yelled from my room. But I never did budge from my bed until it was time for dinner. I walked out of the room and didn’t see any food on the table. My younger gave me a hungry, knowing look and said, “She’s up in the tree in the yard. Since you won’t cut the branch, we won’t have dinner.” That night, I went home to bed with ant bites on my arms and legs, a few small cuts from a stubborn tree and an aching back… but I did have my dinner and a mother who’s still thinking of other ideas to do around the house.
As Superwoman, she also had a super temper. She was strict with us when it comes to finishing our food. “I SAID EAT!” was her famous battle cry at the table, and we’d grudgingly oblige. “Not one morsel should be left of the food I cooked for you. You’re lucky you’re not like one of those children who don’t have food to eat… blah-blah-blah…” Our ears would ring of her litany while in our minds we thought that we’re like slaves being forced-fed for fattening and be placed later on in the house of the gingerbread witch. But of course, there never was a witch, only our mother who made sure we finished our food.
She once caught our older brother smoking with some of his friends in the basketball court near our house. She calmly and sweetly asked him to come home as if there’s a cake waiting for him. But my brother knew the scent of the angry dragon when he sees it. I was in my room when I heard my mother lock the main door behind them. In an instant all hell broke loose. My mother never spoke a work and I dare not go out of my room. I heard whacks, some thuds, a whipping sound and my brother whimpering and promising never to do it again. A few minutes later, my brother came into the room, shaken and cheeks tear-stained. He went straight into the corner, sat and silently cried. I approached him and asked, “Masakit?” (Does it hurt?)
A few days ago, my mother was sitting in her bed watching her favorite soap after one of her usual long and busy days.
“Son, did I raise you well?”
“Aside from the fact that you made me climb trees like a monkey so you can stretch your laundry… hmmm, I’d say overall, it’s been okay.”
“If we were only a bit more well-off back then, I would like to give you and your brothers something more. I would like to have given you a better chance in life, better food, better toys…”
“Oh shush Mamu. You’re our mother, and you and Tatay gave everything we needed. It’s enough for us.”
Saturday, May 5, 2007
THE BOYS IN MY MIND
33.5 X 24.5 cm
pen and ink on acid-free paper
“Hello”, the gruff voice of a young teenager answered at the other end of the line.
“Who’s this?” I asked.
“Wiggy? Is that really you?”
“Yes it’s me Tito Dan.”
“Goodness, you sound very different. You sound grown.”
“I’ll get Daddy.”
He’s eleven and a half years old and already he sounds different and grown. It was only a couple of years back when he and his younger brother Deus would jump me by surprise from behind the door every time I go inside my brother’s apartment. Though, I am a big and strong person, it can take its toll on my back to have two urchins clinging on to me like two wriggling chimpanzees
“Nirarayuma ako kay Zach pag nagpapakarga siya sa likod ko.” (I’m getting arthritic whenever hangs on to my back.) I once heard him complain of his baby brother.
I smiled. Now it’s his turn to have a small chimp cling on to him.
“TITO SHREEEK!”, shrieked my ten-year old nephew Deus.
“Will you quit screaming into my ear? You can speak in a normal tone you know.”
“You promised the Game Boy Advance II. Have you already bought it?”
“It’s still a month away from Christmas. I promised you’ll get it on that day, did I not?”
“Yeah, but did you remember? I want a black one with casing. Get the Advance II because it has a much better colored screen. It has better graphics, better sounds. And get me those games like Harry Potter or Superfriends edition, or you can get the WWF wrestling games or Super Mario.”
“Yes Tito Shrek?”
“Quit calling me Tito SHREK and you’ll get your Gameboy Advance II – a day before Christmas.”
“Yes, Tito Dan”, and I saw a sweet cherub-like smile flash on my nephew’s face.
A week after Christmas, my brother called to tell me that Deus has already reached level four on The Fantastic 4 game on his brand new black Gameboy Advance II with its sleek black casing.
“Cool”, I gladly remarked.
A few minutes later, I received a text message from Deus and it read, ”Thank you so much for the Gameboy Advance II. I truly enjoy it. You’re cool TITO SHREK.”
I have been doing a series of little bald fat boys and so far, I have done more than thirty of these small works. Some of them are small paintings while the others are pen and ink drawings on paper – all of these were inspired by a little child. His name is Zachary.
A little bundle of one year of padded flesh that trundles along the floor like a drunken Japanese midget every time he hears his favorite purple dinosaur’s tune, Zach, as we fondly call him, carries more attention upon him than a firecracker popping early in the morning. He laughs. He giggles. He wiggles his buttocks with wanton delight, making us adults around him prod him more in his antics. He’s simply adorably cute as all babies are.
One time, my brother’s wife was berating Zach’s older brother dues for a mischief he’s done. Being badgered by his mother, the latter was avoiding her gaze and turned the other way. Zach, with legs spread apart like a sumo wrestler stepping into the ring, walked towards his brother, turned Deus’ face towards him, pointed his finger at him and started to berate him in his baby googly talk. At that moment, a mother’s anger turned into laughter.
The day I gave my brother two of the paintings of the bald fat boys was the day that Zach knew who inspired the works.
“Tol, tignan mo si Zach.” (Bro, look at Zach), said my brother as he pointed towards his son trudging towards the hanging works.
“Kanina pa niya ginagawa yan. Hinahalikan niya mga painting mo nung mga batang kalbo. Hehehe, alam nga niyang siya yun” (He keeps on doing that.. He kisses the paintings of the bald boys. He knows they’re him.)
Zach gingerly reached up to the hanging paintings, touched them and kissed the image.
Wednesday, May 2, 2007
11" x 17"
pen and ink on acid-free paper
MAN ON A RED BIKE
36" x 36"
acrylic on canvas
I finally finished the painting based on the drawing "Bisikleta". I repost its story here.
"Dariuuuss!!" yells Vicky again from downstairs at the clinic. It seems like this morning she's much more "hyper" than usual, and if I were to liken her voice to anything, I'd say it's like a tidal wave of shrillness. Once she opens her mouth to release that first shrill wave, it will travel, at first clap, up along the vent that my flat shares with the clinic downstairs, making its way through my laundry hanging from a makeshift pole that I've never managed to change into something more decent like a real laundry wash wire or something like that, through my piles of boards and canvasses, and a folded-up table that have seen better days, and into my eardrum which like a rude awakening would slap me into attention and full wakeful-ness. Her voice is my morning coffee.
"Vicks, wala na naming tubig?" (Vicks, no water again?) I look down the vent and spy on Darius working the valves of the motor that brings water to both my flat and the clinic.
"Meron na. Maya-maya aakyat na rin yan. Okay na." (There will be in a while. It's okay now.) How re-assuring to here that from Darius. At least now I know I can have my morning shower again.
In a few minutes, I've done my morning rituals, brushed my teeth, put on some newly pressed clothes and thought I'd go down to the clinic to catch the day's gossip at the clinic for a while before I begin my work day.
When I opened my gate to the street, I see a small bike, must be of some child's I suppose. It had one of those red alloy bodies I see around in the streets, an unusual silver-colored bell that I don't see anymore in modern bikes and a pair of bright green wheels. I thought to myself that if I'd ride that bike, I'd be like a circus act – like one of those big clowns riding a kiddie bike and then doing stunts on it. My thoughts were disturbed when Darius stepped out of the clinic, "Good morning", and gave one of his usual quiet smiles. "May tubig ka na sa itaas? (You already have water upstairs?) "Meron na. Thanks."
My hands were on the door handle of the clinic when I saw Darius unhitch the chain link of the small bike. He put it upright, rode on it, looked to his left to check the passing vehicles and gingerly pedaled his way down the street.
As he slowly rolled off down the street, I heard circus music in my mind.