Tuesday, February 20, 2007


"Hehehehe... Hehehehe..." It was a high-pitched laughter that made the hairs on my arms stand on end when I heard it from below my stairs just outside of the iron door. I stopped in my tracks before unhitching the lock listening if it was just the malevolent wind that carried the sound to my ears. Or maybe it was simply my imagination running amuck, having spent the night in a cold, wet room with not even a single light bulb working. Or perhaps it was the rainfall making its dancing prattle heard over the din of an occasional jeep or tricycle passing by.

With a noisy bang and a thud, I opened the gate. I poked my head outside cautiously into the cold, grey, wet and windy morning. I don't spy any of the usual "cart people" that would park their mobile homes the night before near my doorway. In fact there was no one on the sidewalk at all. "Hehehehe...", I heard that laughter again. I looked to my left and there "it" was. Huddled almost unrecognizably on a pile of soggy newspapers and corrugated boards was a dark brown figure of something like - a human. I looked more closely and "it" began to move. It was a boy - a boy of no more than fifteen.

With big wild eyes, his hair wet and curly, he was naked to the bone. He looked at me and for a brief moment our eyes locked. Then I realized it wasn't me he was looking at, he was looking through me.

"Hehehehe..." he laughs again. I saw his fingers holding and twisting a piece of chord on his chest. Then his hand moved on to his shoulder to something which the chord seems to be attached to something on his back. It was a pair of white-feathered wings.

I have seen these kinds of wings before. I remember seeing them on children playing angels during Easter when they were used by priests to re-enact the moving of the veil from the Mater Dolorosa marking the end of the virgin's mourning. But unlike the clean white feathers worn by these "angels", this young boy's wings were sullied. Wet from the rain, some of the feathers were already clinging to his back. He pulled himself up, knelt on the pavement on top of his mass of soggy lumps of papers and corrugated boards, and taking the wings by his hands he started to wipe the feathers one-by-one, picking the mud and dirt.

I stood there watching the whole time as he carefully did this cleaning. A few moments into this chore, he stopped and looked at his wings. Satisfied perhaps with what he's done, he crossed his arms and started to shiver from the cold of a sudden gust of strong wind and rain that pelted his thin brown naked body. Like a rude awakening from a dream, I too felt the sudden cold.

I closed the gate and rushed inside thinking I should get something for this child to warm and dry him in this cold morning. I would eventually cajole him to come inside, warm some soup left over from last night and perhaps ask him from where he comes from, his folks, where he lives. From a pile in an upstairs room I took a thick newly washed sheet, enough to tempt anyone to wrap himself in. I also took a piece of bread to perhaps, at least, to nudge him to eat. With this booty in hand, I went downstairs again to fetch the child from the cold.

A few steps from my gate, I heard the howling of the wind like a deep angry moan. The sudden thrash of the rain was already loudly hitting my closed gate like a million tiny drumbeats of miniscule warlords trying to invade the warmth of my shelter. I opened my gate and again poked my head outside. I don't see the child from his perch. I looked on the other side of the doorway and neither was he there. I walked beyond my gate thinking perhaps he went further down the pavement. I could see him no more. Strangely too, on this normally busy street, not a single soul was in sight.

I walked back to my door, back to the embrace of my own home. I passed by the spot where the boy has left the remains of the newspapers and the soggy corrugated boards he knelt on. And amongst the heap, as the pouring water from a roof spout was slowly washing away the soggy pieces of paper lumps into the canal, I spot a few wet feathers from his wings shaking in the wind.

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