Tuesday, May 22, 2007
BLUE MEN SMOKING
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.