Contrast

My niece Lee could not even talk yet the last time I saw her, two years ago. After picking me up at the airport, her dad drives to her playschool where she’s in the middle of “nap time.” He speaks to her teacher and goes into her classroom, carries her out, and has her half-closed eyes meet my face. “This is your Tita Pia,” he says. Within five minutes we are playing, she is hugging me and calling me her best friend, and I am in heaven.

It was my constant failure: Committing to put cookies in my bag so I would always have something for children begging in the streets, yet hardly ever actually doing it. So there I was, stopped at an intersection, and once again a boy knocks on my window. I could only mouth, “Sorry, wala” and avoid his pleading eyes. The light turned green and I drove off, heart heavy, knowing that I could have given, done so much. “Next time,” I muttered, but I myself felt the hollowness of my words.

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Scars

I watched as she scanned her legs with hunched brows, seeming to study every inch and pore, caressing one and then the other, ignoring me and the ocean before us.

“Are you looking for something there?” I stopped mid-chuckle when she met my eyes and I saw the seriousness in hers.

“I had stripes, diagonal lines, about a dozen of them, right…here, I think?” and with her left forefinger she drew on her right shin. “I can’t believe I’ve lost them. I’m not even a hundred percent sure now that it was on this leg.”

She continued to tell me how she got those now-begone scars: She was eight, she tripped while running and her shin rammed against the pavement, scraping the skin in such as manner that she ended up with a dozen stripes.

“The worst part was when I got home. Did I mention I was playing with my childhood crush? Oh my goodness. I was with this boy, this neighbor that I really liked, and he accompanied me home after that mishap. And, good heavens, he had to watch as my mom, who had no mercy on me, treated my leg with alcohol, and I bawled like a cow being electrocuted!”

“Oh, poor thing!” I exclaimed, though we were both laughing then. I was trying to form a picture of the weeping eight-year-old version of her in my head.

“I liked those scars, you know?” she said. “Looking at them always reminded me of that story, brought me back to happy days. I mean, that moment was actually terrible, but those days, that summer, I remember quite well how I was just…happy. I mean, to be a child, you know what I mean, right? Wouldn’t you give anything to go back in time?”

“Nah, I didn’t have you back then.”

“Aww.” She rolled her eyes and made a gagging sound, and I knew that was as far as I could go. That is, until the next opportunity comes.

 


A possible snippet for my WIP 🙂

The Guard*

He has eleven hours and forty-six minutes in his hands.

Eleven hours and forty-six minutes left, and he has already paced around the restaurant. Twice.

So much time to kill, but with what? As far as he knows he is only allowed to people-watch, or else stare purposelessly out into space.

Eleven hours and forty-five minutes.

What’s there to defend? The baked mac? There must be a couple thousand pesos at most in the cash register. He has often caught himself questioning, if only in his head, why it’s become standard procedure for even small restaurants to hire security personnel. During peak hours he tries to make himself useful, bussing tables. Once in a while a harried customer trying to find someplace to sit grants him a nod of appreciation, but most times he just gets a nonplussed look or a giggle. A “bus-guard,” and a “guard-in-waiting,” he’s been called. The rest of the day he preoccupies himself with daydreaming, brows pulled down together and eyes squinting in feigned alertness and intense concentration. There really isn’t anything else to do, though he’s never saying that out loud.

He shakes his head almost imperceptibly. “Gotta stop these nonsense thoughts about purpose. This feeds my family, pays the bills. Don’t need any more purpose than that to keep me at my post.”


*Resurrecting this character vignette-in-progress. Still needs a lot of work; I wonder where he will take me 🙂

 

A to Z Challenge: Jealous Janet (very late post for April 12)

atoz-J

St. Thomas Academy High School Class of ’96 – Homecoming Reunion
Celebrating 20 years of greatness

Janet headed straight for the bar after having freed herself from that Cathy character. For the life of her, Janet had no recollection whatsoever of having known anyone named Cathy in high school, but she’d kept insisting they were friends! Goodness!

Poor Karen, Janet thought, shaking her head. Cathy had been firmly holding on to Karen’s arm when Janet pulled away and made her quick escape, mumbling vaguely about her tummy being upset.

Halfway across the hall Janet caught sight of Freddie, leaning on a wall, looking back at her. She began to smile but realized as she got close that he was eyeing somebody else. She looked behind her and saw Melanie, chatting away with her usual sidekicks. Some things haven’t changed. Janet took another look at Freddie and felt just a tiny bit sorry for him. He did not age very well. His hair was probably his one remaining asset.

How could you still be into her? Freddie and Melanie had probably been together all of two months in junior year, but he had pined for her all the rest of their high school days. Janet had seen it all. She had been pining for Fred, but he’d hardly ever even looked at her.

Janet decided to approach Fred. She silently stood beside him, and it took minutes before he turned to her and gave her a vague, unrecognizing but polite smile. Then he promptly turned his attention to Melanie.

“The picture hasn’t changed much, huh? Me, looking at you, looking at her.”

Freddie frowned and turned to her again, his eyebrows scrunched. “I think I remember you. Um, Janice?”

“Janet. Never mind. I’ll leave you be.”

She walked away as fast as she could.

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#atozchallenge

A to Z Challenge: Immaculate Isabelle (very late post for April 11)

atoz-I

St. Thomas Academy High School Class of ’96 – Homecoming Reunion
Celebrating 20 years of greatness

Leo saw her entering the hall, radiant as ever in her white dress. Isabelle floated in the midst of the chattering, shrieking, hugging mass of bodies around her, smiling earnestly yet reservedly at her old classmates.

“Quit staring. Your eyes look just about ready to fall off and roll on the floor.” Paul was chuckling.

Leo continued to watch her with a dreamy expression. “You know how it was, man.”

“You know she never got married, right? Apparently no one could meet her standards. Not that I have to tell you.” 

Leo kept silent, choosing not to address Paul’s mocking tone. It still stung him though, the memories of having been turned down repeatedly. She’d just preferred “to focus on school.” She never did have a boyfriend, but back then, and even now, she always just seemed…happily pristine, somehow.

“I never did get her. And I don’t think I’ll ever understand. I mean, who walks like that? Damn, she’s still awesome.” Leo couldn’t keep from blurting his admiration.

Paul’s chuckle turned into a guffaw. “Man, you need a drink! Just drown your decades-old sorrows in gin.” He dragged Leo to the bar.

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#atozchallenge