Saturday, April 26, 2008


Quiapo Church. The man next to me has a purple shirt barely covering his entire gut; my standard white is drenched over my slimmer frame. Beads of sweat drop like tears from above my eyes. From the side entrances, the sun dares me to come back out; I resist, my calves burning enough as it is.

I take out my rosary, the 1 I always keep in my right pocket. I had heard someone I admired did so too; my religious affiliation gives the practice some sort of legitimacy.

I’m on my 14th or so Hail Mary; am interrupted by the opening proceedings of the noontime mass. Everyone stands, save for a few elderly folks scattered here & there. I remain seated; try to finish the rosary before the start of the would-be distracting homily.

I had been walking around all morning. From the LRT station, I footed the many blocks leading to Divisoria, stutter-stepping at each intersection where vehicles show little care for a limping kid. On some blocks, I duck & contort my body; construction materials were being unloaded from trucks.

168 was a bit too overwhelming. Too many shops; didn’t know where to begin. I’m not a good shopper, save for when I absolutely know what I’m going to buy & from where; I’m a guy. Fifteen minutes & I was out of there; I had cooled off enough in the AC.

Reverted back to the original plan: Quiapo. Why? Clearing of the mind. I’ve done this a few times over the past couple of years. The area’s dissonance helps drown out the internal howling.

Refusing to retrace my steps to Recto, I got lost. Was in Chinatown, but I didn’t know where to proceed. I circled around the same block twice unintentionally. Familiar signs called for my approaching, only for me to find out that all the signs in the area are alike—red & yellow—w/ many shops having similar names.

I thought I was close to the place Vince took us for a beer & stuffed squid a couple of months ago. I remembered it was near a bridge over an estero. I walked over. Wrong bridge. Different estero. I took another turn.

I finally saw the LRT line & the mess of jeepneys, tindahans, & crowds underneath it. It looked familiar. Carriedo. A sign by the stairs to the station confirmed this. I knew where I was going, my mind free of grids, parallels, & the retracing of wrong steps.

I started walking to get lost on many levels. For an hour & 45 minutes, I was. But when I found my way again, I returned to a familiar place—where stalls led to the proper buildings, signs read the right names, & the mind was free from the confusion of physical direction, but now vulnerable to the kind of internal waywardness I was trying to escape.

The thoughts aren’t really profound, rather petty irritants. Worry blurs into paranoia: J-O-B (Will I find 1? Will the pay be enough? What’s enough?), a pending notarization (Will the attorney be around tomorrow?), cedula renewal (Where’s the barangay office anyway?), Sagada escape plans (Will we make it? Is she happy? How can I make her so?).

By the time anyone reads this, it would’ve been a few days after Quiapo, a day after my father’s 54th birthday, w/c means I would’ve already gotten drunk, & would’ve either avoided confrontation or would’ve gone after him again.

Evenings w/ Dad have gotten a lot less eventful, w/c is a good thing. We had already reached screaming obscenities at each other, debating silly political issues, & even worse, what we believed, w/c is often too disparate for Dad’s comfort.

The other night, we talked about things still silly, but things that wouldn’t raise arguments. (Yes, Music and Lyrics is a terrible movie. Yes, Will Smith was good in The Pursuit of Happyness. No, I haven’t seen Mr. Trinidad’s car in a long time either; yes, he probably sold it.)

No talk of being jobless; he gets that I want a break. He occasionally prods about where I’m at mentally. He doesn’t do that much, but he knows he has to occasionally, to sound interested. We’ve cried over this before.

Sometimes I lie awake, moisture building up in my eyes. (This is when I hold her the tightest.) Then sometime later in the day, in some common area of the house, I’d see Dad, my tears now dry. I acknowledge his presence, but I don’t say a thing. It’s easier this way—his way & mine no longer crossing.


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