It must have been near midnight when I got out of the jeepney to walk from
I noticed that there are hardly any people out tonight. Strange. I find it odd, even for this strip of the city to be devoid of souls scurrying about. I passed by several of the usual makeshift eateries lining the street and they were closed, not doing business tonight. The benches and tables that would usually sit some of the men hauling meat to the market nearby were stacked up on the grey walls. Neither was there any meat truck parked along the road. I only saw a lone dog scratching for scraps on the heaped up trash beside a dimming lamp post. Even the old man who’d be sleeping right now on his folded up boxes in front of Ablaza Pawnshop was not in his usual “bedspace”.
It’s still a good 40 meters until I reach my place and I already felt the first drop of rain on my face. It’s about to pour. I quicken my steps almost at a jog. Then in the dark I saw a dark figure holding a broomstick in front of my gate as I was nearing it.
It was Mang Bhoy.
“Hey Mang Bhoy. Good evening. A storm’s coming and you’re still out?” I greeted him as I got nearer.
“Yeah. Just heading back to the office to give back my broom. You just got home? Gimmick huh?” he asked.
“Nah. Work. Good thing I got here right on time before the rain poured,” I replied. There was a loud thunderclap and a strong gust of wind blew that almost took off Mang Bhoy’s wide brimmed. Just then, a bright flash of lightning tore through the night sky and I saw as bright as day something emblazoned on his shirt. It’s the familiar silhouette of Mickey Mouse.
“Hey man. I love your shirt. Mickey Mouse. I bet it’s your son’s,” I cracked a joke at his rather cute shirt.
“Yeah, it is. I had to do my laundry today and none of my shirts were dry so I borrowed this from my son,” he exclaimed as he pointed at Mickey Mouse. “In turn I had to wash my rubber shoes so he can use them tomorrow for his basketball tryouts at school.” It was only then that I noticed he was wiggling the toes on his naked feet.
There was another flash of lightning and he saw me staring at his rather grimy feet. “It’s going to rain. Whatever dirt’s in my feet will be washed off anyway,” he said as if he read my thoughts. I just smiled back.
I turned around to put my keys into my lock when inspiration hit me. I called behind to Mang Bhoy and said, “Hey, Mang Bhoy. I think I have another pair of shoes I don’t use. Maybe we have the same size. Could you wait a while?” I told him.
I hurriedly went inside my door and made it up to the stairs. Halfway through the third floor of my place I heard a loud downpour crashing on the roof. It sounded like it was some giant’s water bucket with its whole content being tipped above me. The rain finally came.
I rummaged through my broom closet, hauling out half of its contents. After a few more seconds of digging, I finally found them. It’s an old pair of Adidas that haven’t seen the light of day for a long time and which I only used for half a dozen times before I placed it in the farthest corner of the closet.
I hurriedly went down the stairs bearing the shoes. It was already pouring outside and Mang Bhoy was already standing beneath the gate’s awning to keep himself dry.
In that dark rainy night, I saw how his face lit up when he got hold of the shoes. “This is too much. Thank you. Thank you,” he said.
“It’s okay. I don’t use them anyway,” I told him. When I was about to close to the gate, he beckoned me.
“Uhm, brod,” he said.
“Yeah,” I said.
“Maybe you might have a spare umbrella too that you’re not using."
He smiled sheepishly.
Artwork part of "STORIES FROM MY WINDOW" exhibit on May 11, 2006 at KAIDA Gallery.