Monday, November 9, 2009

Ang Pangahas na Si Pepe Rodriguez

by Dustin Edward D. Celestino

I. Ang Tiktik

Mamamatay na yata ako pero wala akong ibang maisip kung hindi, “Puta, ang supot ng last words ko.” Ang huli ko kasing sinabi, “tanga.” Kung sinuman ang bumaril sa akin, tanga ‘yun. Pero hindi ito ang bagay na dapat pinag-iisipan ko. Hindi na mahalaga iyon. Kapag lumabas na ang katotohanan, kapag alam na ng lahat ang nangyari, malamang patay na’ko. Iba na lang ang pag-iisipan ko.

Gusto ko sanang ipaalam sa dalawang “medical professional” kung anumang misteryo ang maaaring bumabalot sa aking pagkabaril. Kaya lang kapag nagsasalita ako, walang boses na lumalabas. Mga tunog lang na maihahambing sa tunog ng pagmumumog matapos mag-toothbrush. Siguro umakyat na ang dugo mula sa aking katawan papunta sa lalamunan. Tanging hiling ko lang, sana tumigil na ‘tong dalawang “medical professional” sa kasisigaw.

Buddy, ang pulso! Humihina ang pulso!

Tangina, tingnan mo ‘yun! ‘Yung ganiyang fluid galing sa atay yan!
Ang mga taong nabaril, dapat relaxed para ‘wag tumakbo ang pulso at maubos ang dugo. Pero paano ka naman mag-rerelax kung may dalawang bobong pinag-uusapan ang “fluid” ng atay mo?

Totoo pala ‘yung sinasabi ng mga taong may “near-death experience.” Ang mga alaala, sasayaw at mag cha-chacha sa isip at memorya. Pero hindi ang mga alaala nung kabataan. Kalokohan ‘yun. Ang isip naka-focus, nakakapit, nananalig sa kung anumang makabuluhang imahen na maaaring maging simbolo ng buhay. Kakapit ang ulirat sa mga nananatiling hibla ng naghihingalong hininga. Nakakapit ako sa aking atay, ang atay kong maaaring pinadilaw na’t pinatigas ng daan-daang bote ng alak. Daan-daang lagok ng alak na marahil ang huli’y ‘yung nilagok ko kanina – mga latak mula sa beer na binili kagabi. Nakakapit ako sa isang pangalan, Pepe Rodriguez. Kung anumang misteryo ang maaaring bumabalot sa aking pagkakabaril, may kinalaman itong lahat kay Pepe Rodriguez.

Kagabi, pakiramdam ko’y gumapang ang buwan papalapit sa mundo. Mainit ang hangin noon. Malambot at mabango ang katawan ni Cara. Sa lugar na iyon, kulob sa loob ng bahay, nakatago sa kubli ng gabi habang nakasilip ang buwan sa bintana na parang mata ni Bathala, naramdaman ko ang katahimikan. Pakiramdam ko, malinis ako. At alam ko nang mga sandaling iyon na matagal akong magiging maligaya hangga’t hindi ko naaalala ang dati kong trabaho.

Magdamag kaming nagpagulong-gulong sa kama at naligo sa halik at haplos ng isa’t isa. Parang isang mahabang eksena mula sa isang pelikula kung saan ang mga gumanap na artista ay nagkakantutan sa totoong buhay. Pagdating ng umaga, kumain kami ng almusal. Pandesal. Butter. Kasi ‘yun lang ang meron. Habang kumakain kami, nagsusulat si Cara sa isang notebook na pink. Medyo kinabahan ako kasi pakiramdam ko sinusulat niya ang pros and cons ng table manners ko. Titingin siya sa akin tapos magsusulat sa notebook. Tinanong ko siya tungkol dito. Ang sabi ni Cara, “Wala ito. Kasama sa trabaho ko. Nagsusulat ako ng kwento.”

Pagkatapos mag almusal, bumalik kami sa kama at itinuloy ang romansa. Mga alas dose, bumangon siya at sinabing kailangan na niyang maligo. Ininom ko ang mga natitirang latak mula sa mga bote ng beer na ininom namin kagabi. ‘Yun na siguro ang mga huling patak ng alak na dadapo sa dila, panlasa, lalamunan, at alaala ko. “Kailangan ko nang umalis. Late na ako. Baka may mga nag-aantay nang client.” Hindi pa rin ako sigurado kung ano ang trabaho ni Cara. Hindi kami nag-uusap tungkol sa trabaho. Naisip ko, mas magandang ganun. Ayokong pag-usapan ang mga trabaho.

Nagbihis si Cara. Sleeveless at maikling palda. Umikot-ikot at nagmodel-model. “Okey ba?” tanong niya. “Oo. Maganda. Dito ka na lang. Tumawag ka na lang sa boss mo, sabihin mo may sakit ka,” sabi ko. Sinabi niya na hindi raw puwede kasi bago pa lang siya sa trabaho. Sinabi niya rin na puwede akong manatili sa apartment niya basta hindi ko pakikialamanan ang mga gamit niya. “Bakit ko naman pakikialamanan ang mga gamit mo?” tanong ko. Biro lang daw. Tumawa na lang ako kahit alam kong hindi siya nagbibiro nung sinabi niya iyon. Wala naman akong gagawin kaya humilata na lang ako. Dalawang linggo na akong walang trabaho. Hindi naman ako natanggal o nag-resign. Basta tumigil na lang ako.

Buddy, tinamaan din ‘yung spleen! Pero, bakit may black?

Marrow yan. Tinamaan din yata ‘yung spine.

Oo, alam ko madami akong tama. Kailangan ba talagang ipaalala sa taong namamatay na namamatay siya? Hindi yata tama iyon. Pero, sabi nga ng dalawang “medical professional,” sa spleen at sa spine nga tumagos ang pangalawang bala. Mga importanteng bahagi ng katawan ito. ‘yung spleen ko ang nagsasala at nag-iipon ng dugo ko. Ang spine naman, sa tagalog ay gulugod o espina, ang highway ng nervous system. Sa loob noon ay may marrow, sa tagalog, ubod. Ito ‘yung black na sinasabi nila. Bakit ko alam ‘to eh hindi naman ako doktor? Kasi matagal din akong umali-aligid sa ospital. Madami akong natutunan mula sa mga “medical professional” tulad ng dalawang nagsisisigaw ngayon. Ang nakakatawa rito, noong sinilip nila ‘yung tama ng bala malapit sa gulugod ko, akala ko makikita nila kulay luntian. ‘Yun daw kasi ang kulay ng ubod ng mga gahaman sa pera – mukhang halaman ang ubod.

Nahihilo ako. Pakiramdam ko’y isang lasing na hinulog sa karagatan ng gin. Pilit na lumalangoy. Kumakapit sa buhay. Nananalig sa mga simbolo at imahen ng mga nananatiling hibla ng naghihingalong hininga. Luntian man ang ubod at dilaw man ang atay, kakapit ako rito, sa aking natitirang pagkatao. At kung yumaon man ngayong gabi, mayroon pa ring nangyaring maganda: mananatili akong malinis sa alaala ni Cara, at hindi niya malalaman ang aking mga kasalanan. Hindi na darating ang araw na kailangan ko ipagtapat sa kaniya na dati akong espiya, o kung tawagi’y tiktik. Hindi parang James Bond. Hindi naman ako nagtrabaho para sa gobyerno. Dati akong pribadong imbestigador. Hindi rin parang si Mike Enriquez. Wala naman akong hinuhuling abusado. Ang ginagawa ko lang, inaalam kung sino’ng nanonorotot at nagtataksil sa nagbabayad sa akin. Mga babae’t lalaki na nagbabayad nang malaki para malaman kung may ibang kinakantot ang mga asawa nila. Madalas meron. Minsan naman, ang kailangan ko lang gawin ay sabihin sa kanila ang hindi nila kayang sabihin sa mga sarili. Kagaya nung isang babaeng asawa ng congressman. Sinabi niya bumili ‘yung asawa niya ng bestidang hindi kasya sa mataba niyang katawan. “Ano sa tingin mo ibig sabihin noon? Pakiramdam ko may ginagawang hindi maganda ang asawa mo,” sabi ko. Natanggap niya kaagad. Siyempre, alam niya na para sa ibang babae ‘yun kasi ang anak nila lalaki. At kung bakla man ‘yun, hindi naman siguro siya ibibili ng isang machong pulitikong ama ng bestida. Bukod doon, pulitiko ang asawa niya at alam naman ng lahat na ang mga pulitiko, tarantado.

Madaming tao ang nagtataksil sa mga kasintahan nila. Kundi man sila ang nagtataksil, nagdududa sila na ang kasintahan ang nagtataksil. Kung meron mang nagtataksil o wala, ang sigurado, may kikitain ako. Hanggang may mga taksil sa mundo, hindi ako mauubusan ng pera. Para akong doktor o mortisyano. Kasi, ang pagtataksil ay tiyak. Hindi nawawala sa uso. Parang sipon o ubo. Parang kamatayan. Lalago at magiging matagumpay ang negosyo ko. Pinaghandaan ko na nga ito eh. Noong nakaraang buwan napag-isipan ko na kailangan ko ng junior private investigator. Taga-ayos ng papeles, taga-record ng mga kaso. Nagpalagay ako ng advertisement sa diyaryo. Makalipas ang isang linggo, bumili ako ng diyaryo para makita kung ano ang itsura ng advertisement ko. Ang balita sa front page, murder at suicide.

Ang mga biktima ay sina Moses at Jenny Hontiveros. ‘yung lalaki, si Moses, kliyente ko. May asawa siyang maganda. Bata. Mga beinte anyos lang siguro si Jenny. Si Moses ang nagbabayad ng tuition ni Jenny, mga uniporme, board review classes, at kung anu-ano pang gastos sa kursong nursing. Si Moses pumunta sa opisina ko at sinabing, “Parang medyo distant siya eh. Kapag sinusubukan ko siyang kausapin umiinit ang ulo niya at sinasabing pagod siya sa duty sa ospital at sa mga review classes. Sinasabi niya na kung marunong akong makiramdam, hindi ko siya kukulitin at hahayaang magpahinga. Sinasabi niya lang palagi, ‘Ano? Gusto mong mag-usap, Moses? Ayokong mag-usap. Ang gusto ko, magpahinga.’ Concerned lang naman ako para sa asawa ko.” Walang kinalaman sa pag-uusap ang “concern” ni Moses. Sa palagay ko, ang talagang “concern” niya, ayaw magpakantot ng asawa niya. Ito siguro ang totoong palaging sinasabi ni Jenny: “Ano? Gusto mong mag-sex, Moses? Ayokong mag-sex. Ang gusto ko, magpahinga.” Hindi ka naman magbabayad ng P12,000 para malaman kung bakit ayaw “makipag-usap” ng asawa mo, diba?

Nag-imbestiga ako. Makalipas lang ang ilang araw may naipakita na kong ebidensiya ng kataksilan ng asawa ni Moses. Pinakita ko kay Moses ang video ng asawa niya na isinusubo ang ari ng isang doctor. Nakaluhod siya sa harap nito, hawak ang mahabang buhok para huwag makasagabal sa ginagawang pagsubo. Labas pasok ang ari ng doktor sa bibig ng asawa ni Moses. Hindi ko na sinubukang magpahiwatig ng pakikiramay kay Moses. Ano naman ang puwede mong sabihin sa isang lalaking nakita ang asawa niyang isinusubo ang ari ng ibang lalaki? Wala. Nang makita ni Moses ang ginagawa ng asawa niya sa video, bumigay ang mga tuhod niya’t napaupo siya sa sahig. Umiyak siya. Tahimik nung una, tapos naging hagulgol. Matapos ang ilang minuto, tumayo si Moses, nagpasalamat sa akin, nagpaalam, lumabas ng aking opisina, bumili ng baril, umuwi, binaril ang asawa, at binaril ang sarili. Nakita ko siya sa unang pahina ng diyaryo. ‘yung advertisement ko nasa pang-apat na pahina. Okey naman ‘yung ad. Walang mali sa spelling. Bukas, baka ako naman ang nasa diyaryo.

Sa puso yata, Buddy! Sa puso!

Hindi ko alam kung paano ayusin ‘to. Humingi tayo ng saklolo!

Ayon sa dalawang “medical professional,” ang pangatlong bala ay tumama sa puso ko. Pero, daplis lang siguro, kasi kung sapul na sapul talaga, malamang kanina pa ako patay. Buhay pa naman ako eh, broken hearted nga lang. Gets mo? Kung yumaon man ngayong gabi, mayroon pa ring nangyaring maganda. Hindi na darating ang araw na makikita ko ang kasintahan kong sumusubo ng ari ng ibang lalaki. At hindi pagkakakitaan ninuman ang aking hinagpis. Hindi kagaya ng sinapit ni Moses. Ano kaya ang puwedeng mangyari kung sinabi ko kay Moses na walang ginagawang masama ang asawa niya? Ano kaya kung ang footage na ipinakita ko ay hindi ang pagsubo niya ng ari ng doktor kundi ang pag-aalaga niya sa mga bata’t matatandang may sakit? Siguro mas maganda ang naging kapalaran ng dalawa. Baka nakapagtapos si Jenny. Tapos nakapag-abroad sila. Tapos nagkapamilya. Tapos naging maligaya. Pero wala na lahat ‘yun. Dahil sa isang video.

Moses, patas na tayo. Maganda rin sana ang kapalaran namin ni Cara. Low-profile lang. Simple. Magtatalik kami sa gabi. Sa umaga, papasok kami sa trabaho. Magkikita kami sa bahay pagkatapos. Manonood kami ng mga pirated DVD habang naghahapunan. Tatawa kasi nakakatawa ang palabas. Magsusulat-sulat si Cara sa pink na notebook na lagi niyang dala. Tapos guguluhin ko ang pagsusulat niya. Maghaharutan kami. Magkikilitian. Maglalandian. Tapos magtatalik ulit kami. At hindi sisikat ang araw nang hindi kami magkasama.

Hindi na mangyayari lahat iyon kasi nga nabaril na ako, at ang pagkakabaril ko ay may kinalaman kay Pepe Rodriguez. Kaninang umaga, bago ako mabaril, naiwanan ni Cara ang notebook niyang pink. Naaalala ko pa. Naligo siya. Uminom ako ng latak ng alak. Nagbihis siya, nagmodel-model, humalik sa akin, at sinabing huwag ko pakialamanan ang mga gamit niya.

Naiwan ni Cara ang notebook niya sa kama. Na-intriga ako sa kung anumang mga kuwento ang nakasulat doon kaya’t binasa ko ang ilang pahina habang naglalakad patungo sa pila ng tricycle kung saan puwede kong ibigay kay Cara ang naiwang notebook. Ang ikinagulat ko, hindi mga kuwento ang nakasulat sa notebook. Mga obserbasyon ang nakasulat. Mga record ng imbestigasyon. Meron siyang tini-tiktikan. At sino namn ang tini-tiktikan ni Cara?

Nakasulat sa isang entry: Jan 13 – Umalis na si Pepe sa bar. Isang karaoke bar sa Fairview – Tikyo’s. Namumula ang mukha niya. Mukhang lasing na lasing siya. May kasama siyang magandang babae.

Sa ibang pahina, nakita ko ‘to: Jan 14 – Mag-isang nag-celebrate si Pepe ng birthday. Wala siyang kasama kundi ang aso niyang ang pangalan ay “Prince.” Loner siguro siya. Napansin ko na may scar siya sa kilay. Dahil dito mukha siyang goons. Pero kung hindi dahil dito baka mukha siyang babae kasi ang payat-payat niya. Nakakapagtaka kung paano siyang nakagagawa ng violent crimes, eh mukha naman siyang mabait.

Heto pa: Jan 16 – Nag-ahit si Pepe. Baka ginagawa niya ito para mag-disguise sa mga pulis. Siguro may ginawa na naman siyang masama.

Ito ang pinaka nakapagtataka – una kaming nagkita ni Cara sa Tikyo’s noong January 13 at lasing nga ako noon. At totoo na ang aso ko lamang ang kasama ko noong birthday ko. At nag-ahit din ako dahil sinabi ni Cara na nakititinik ang bigote ko kapag hinahalikan ko ang ari niya. Kagabi lang ‘yun. Pepe rito, Pepe roon. Hindi naman Pepe ang pangalan ko. Ang pangalan ko Brian Moya. Pero mahigit dalawampung pahina na ang nakasulat sa notebook niya at lahat iyon tungkol saakin. Bakit niya ginagawa ito?

Puwede kong itanong sa kaniya ito pagbalik niya mula sa trabaho. Pero baka pag-awayan namin. Itatanong ko, “Bakit ka nagsusulat tungkol sa akin?” Sasabihin niya, “Bakit ka nakkialam sa gamit ko?” Tapos naisip ko baka maghiwalay kami dahil dito. Eh puwede ko namang malaman ang mga sagot ng hindi tinatanong sa kaniya. Imbestegador naman ako, diba? Sinundan ko siya. Nakarating kami sa dati kong opisina. Ang opisinang iniwan ko. Ang opisina kung saan humagulgol si Moses bago barilin ang asawa at ang sarili. Bakit nagpupunta rito si Cara? Kung anuman ang dahilan, hindi na importanteng pag-usapan. Sandali na lang ang nalalabing panahon ko sa mundo. Kung anumang misteryo ang bumabalot sa pagpunta ni Cara sa dati kong opisina, madidiskubre din. Kapag lumabas na ang katotohanan, pag alam na ng lahat ang nangyari, malamang patay na ko. Iba na lang ang pag-iisipan ko.

Ang gusto ko, si Cara ang huling imahe sa isip ko bago ito’y tuluyan nang makalimot at maglaho. Si Cara. Malambot at makinis ang kanyang katawan. Mabango ang balat. Amoy mansanas o pandan. Nananalig ako sa mga simbolo at imahe ng mga nananatiling hibla ng naghihingalong hininga. Nakakapit ako sa amoy ng balat ni Cara, sa tunog ng kainyang ungol, sa magandang mukha, sa magandang katawan, sa malalaking suso, sa leeg at hita, sa kaniyang laway, sa kaniyang dila. Nakakapit ako sa imahe ng langit dito sa lupa.

II. Ang Kabit

Ang bastos talaga ng bibig ni Mr. Garcia! Grabe! Sinabi ba naman niya, “Si Pepe Rodriguez ang kutsarita ng tamod na dapat nilunok na lang ng nanay niya.” Kahit gaano kasama ang isang tao, hindi niya dapat masabihan ng ganun. Kadiri! Hello?
Sinabi ni Mr. Garcia na si Pepe Rodriguez daw masamang tao. Sinabi ni Mr. Garcia madami na daw ginawang katarantaduhan si Pepe at ang unang assignment ko raw ay hanapin siya? Hello? Okey ka lang?

Bukod doon, madami pa akong problema. ‘Yung mga disconnection notice, ‘yung camera-phone na nakasangla at malapit na ma-remata, at kung ano ang kakainin ko.Hindi ko talaga dapat binili ‘yung high heels na red last week tsaka ‘yung magandang skirt, kahit mukha akong mapayat pag suot ko ‘yun. Pero, on the other hand, kung hindi ko isinuot ang masikip na dress na nabili ko, baka hindi ako ang junior investigadora na kinuha ni Mr. Garcia. Kasi hindi naman talaga ako qualified. Wala akong alam sa investigating. Malakas ang radar ko sa current tsismis, at expert ang social skills ko sa pag-harvest ng neighborhood intriga. Pero sa paghanap ng mga nagtatagong goons, hindi talaga ako fabulous. Ano ba itong pinasok ko? Well, I didn’t have a choice naman. Kasi ang dami nang bills tapos ‘yung ex-boyfriend kong, take note, politician, hindi na ako sinusustntuhan kasi nga nahuli na kami ng wife niya.

Paano ba ko naging imbestigadora? One morning, I was telling my neighbor Elsa na ang hirap talaga makahanap ng work kasi puro college-college ang gusto ng employers. Buti na lang may nakitang advertisement si Elsa sa newspaper:

Wanted: Junior Private Investigator
Male or Female. 21-35 years old.
Hard Working. Organized. Well-informed. Computer Literate.
No experience required. High School
Graduates welcome to apply.

Sabi ko, “Perfect!” I’m female, 24 years old, at walang experience with detective work. Pumunta kaagad ako sa address na nakalagay suot ang pinaka-attractive na damit. ‘Yung talagang nakaka-flatter sa curves ko. Halos tumulo ang laway ni Mr. Garcia nung nakita niya ako. Tanggap agad ang lola mo! Pero, seryoso, kalokohan ‘tong trabahong ‘to kasi mali talagang mag-spy on other people. Dati nanonood ako ng Cheaters, ‘yung show sa cable, sa ETC yata. Basta, ito ‘yung show na may mga guys or girls na papasundan sa isang private investigator ‘yung mga loved-ones nila to catch them cheating. Grabe! Todo to the max ang scandalous public away matapos mabisto ang mga manloloko! Sira talaga ang relationship. Hindi ko ma-imagine myself doing that to other people. Minsan naman hindi nila talaga love ‘yung mga ka-affair nila. Kahit nakikipag-sex sila sa iba, I’m sure, deep inside, mahal pa rin nila ‘yung partners nila. For example, ‘yung dati kong boyfriend na politician. Hindi naman kagandahan ang asawa niya, mataba na masungit pa. Pero hindi niya maiwan even for me. Pero ibang kuwento na yan eh. Ang totoong problema ay ang trabaho kong parang walang pinatutunguhan.

Tuesday nung nakuha ko ‘yung imbstegadora position, at Friday nung nakasakay ako sa MRT papunta sa office at wala pa rin akong alam tungkol kay Pepe Rodriguez. Sasabihin na naman ni Mr. Garcia, “O Cara, may nahanap ka na bang lead? Ano na nalalaman mo so far?” Tapos, as usual, smile lang ang sagot ko. Pero seryoso, hindi totoo si Pepe Rodriguez. Nag-google na ako ng name niya and hinanap ko na siya sa Friendster, Multiply, at Facebook tapos wala pa rin. Anong klaseng tao ang walang Friendster? Hello? May tao bang walang Friendster profile? Bukod dito, tinawagan ko rin ang dating friends ko from the bar kung saan ako nag-work bago ako binigyan ng apartment ng ex-boyfriend kong, take note, politician. Sinabi ko sa friends ko na humingi sila ng favor sa mga regulars nilang pulis at sabihin sa mga pulis na i-check kung meron bang baranggay or criminal record si Pepe Rodriguez. Sinabi nila wala naman daw. Walang criminal record. Anong klaseng criminal ang walang criminal record? ‘Yun ang pinag-iisipan ko sa MRT. ‘Yung mga contradicting inconsistencies. Dapat may magsabi sa Mr. Garcia na yan na hindi lahat ng magandang babae, walang isip.

Nagkaroon ako ng realization: Possible kaya na imbento lang ni Mr. Garcia si Pepe Rodriguez at, ang totoo, palamuti lang ako sa office niya? Alam ko naman na natanggap lang ako kasi maganda ako. Alam ko naman na hindi ako sineseryoso ng mga tao. May nagsabi nga sa aking customer sa club before, “Alam mo ang malas mo?” Tapos nung tinanong ko kung bakit. Ang sabi niya, “Masyado kang maganda. Maraming lalaking mambobola, manloloko, magbabayad, at magsisinungaling para matikman ka.” Hello? Gawin daw akong ulam! Gusto ko sabihin sa buong mundo: Don’t judge a book by it’s cover. Hindi dahil maganda ako, wala akong isip. Hello? Behind my beauty is my brains. ‘Yung mga nakakakita ng Friendster profile ko, kilala talaga ako. Alam nila na kasama sa hobbies and interests ko ang “reading novels.” Hello? Ilan ang kilala mong nagbabasa ng novels? People can’t see beyond my looks. Ever since na lang ang binabayaran sa akin ng employers ‘yung looks ko. Okey lang sana kung regular ‘yung suweldo. Pero hindi eh. Commission system. Ang sabi ni Mr. Garcia sa akin, “Bibigyan kita ng transpo allowance na P100 a day, at P1000 bawat item ng evidence or lead na makakatulong sa imbestigasyon natin.”

Nung hapon din na ‘yun, sa MRT, tinanong ko ang sarili ko, “Paano akong magkakaroon ng commission kung wala akong mahahanap na evidence or lead kasi wala naman talagang Pepe Rodriguez?” And then, nagkaroon ulit ako ng realization: Baka ito nga ang plano ni Mr. Garcia. Plano niya sigurong papuntahin ako sa opisina niya, titigan, pagpantasyahan, at hawak-hawakan tapos bayaran ng P100? Hello? Mas mura pa sa isang ladies drink ‘yun!

Pero, I have my pride. Hindi na ako babalik sa pagiging Guest Relations Officer. I have other talents besides my beautiful body parts. Lahat ng ito naisip ko sa MRT. At kahit na masikip at kadiri, kasi may mga lalaking lumalapit at humihinga ng malalim, inaamoy ako, at ikinikiskis ang mga harap nila sa likod ko, nakapag-isip pa rin ako ng mga realizations. That only goes to show that I can work under pressure. At hindi ako papayag na paglaruan at pagtripan ng bastos na Mr. Garcia na yan. Hello? Asa pa siya. Hindi ako makikipag-sex sa kaniya, kung ‘yun ang motive niya sa pag-hire sa akin. Not for anything less than P10,000! And if ever nangyari ‘yun, na nag-offer siya ng P10,000 at pumayag nga ako, hihiga lang ako sa kama na parang nalantang halaman para hindi siya mag-enjoy!

Ganun nga ang sitwasyon: Wala akong money, tapos masikip sa MRT, tapos mainit, tapos nahihilo na ko, tapos nahihirapan ako mag-balance kasi nakatayo ako and I’m in high heels, tapos my mga dumidikit at umaamoy pa sa akin, tapos ‘yung boss ko pa manloloko yata. Sobrang stressed na ko. And then, may lalaking tumayo at sinabing, “Miss, ikaw na dito sa puwesto ko.” Pero hindi niya ako tinitigan, at hindi rin niya sinubukang makipagkilala. Hindi niya rin ako inamoy o hinawakan pag daan ko. Tumayo lang siya sa harap ko. Nakayuko lang siya, tapos ‘yung buhok niya nakatakip sa mga mata niya. Ang makikita lang, ‘yung bigote niya. Matagal na siguro siyang hindi nag-ahit. Tapos nung hinawi niya ‘yung buhok niya, nakita ko may scar siya sa kilay. Mukha siyang matapang. Kung totoo si Pepe Rodriguez, naisip ko, ganito siguro ang itsura niya.

Pagdating ng Quezon Ave. station ng MRT, bumaba na ako kasi papunta nga ako sa old friends ko sa bar kung saan dati akong nagta-trabaho. Gumewang-gewang din siya palabas. Mukhang nakainom. Pagbaba sa MRT, naglakad ako papunta sa pila ng jeep. Pumila rin siya. Habang nasa jeep, pumikit siya at nagpahinga. Nagulat ako nang pumara siya kung saan ako bababa. Pareho yata kami ng pupuntahan. Pumasok din siya sa Tikyo’s at umupo sa isang madilim na sulok. Doon, tinanong ko ulit ang mga dati kong amiga, si Katja tsaka si Anna, kung meron bang balita tungkol kay Pepe Rodriguez. Wala pa rin daw. Umupo na lang ako kasama nila at nakipag-kwentuhan habang umiinom. ‘Yung lalaking nakita ko sa MRT, umiinom din. Pero, tuwing lalapit ang floor manager para mag-alok ng babae, tinatanggihan niya. Buong gabi, umiinom lang siya mag-isa. Nasa sulok lang siya, nakatalikod sa stage kung saan nagsasayaw ang mga entertainers. Na-intriga talaga sa lalaking ‘yun, kaya nang medyo nahihilo na ako, napalapit ako sa kanya. Parang déjà vu. Ganito kasi ang trabaho ko dati. Medyo sanay pa ako. Sabi ko, “Hi.” Mahinhin. Friendly. Ganon talaga sa umpisa, lalo na kung mahiyain ang customer. Pero bago pa ako makapagpakilala, nagsalita siya kaagad –

“Miss, alam ko kung saan ‘to pupunta. Sa tulong ng mahiwagang alak, lokohin natin ang mga sarili natin na may maaaring mamagitan sa atin. Pero, maniwala ka sa sasabihin ko. Magkarelasyon man tayo, at sabihin man natin sa isa’t-isa na habang buhay tayo magmamahalan, darating ang araw na pagtataksilan kita at pagtataksilan mo rin ako. At kundi man tayo magtaksil sa isa’t-isa, sigurado pagbibintangan kita ng pagtataksil, at pagbibintangan mo rin ako ng pagtataksil. Lalala ito ng lalala, hanggang sa umabot sa puntong kung sino-sinong mga tarantado na ang inuutusan natin para pagmanmanan ang isa’t-isa, tapos may madidiskubre tayo tungkol sa isa’t-isa na sana’y hindi na lang natin nadiskubre tungkol sa isa’t isa, tapos iisipin natin na sana hindi na lang nangyari ang gabi ng pagkikita, na naging pagkakataon para uminom at malasing ng magkasama, na naging dahilan para gawin, makakahiligan, makakaadikan, at makakasanayan, ang pagkakantutan, hanggang mapunta na nga ang nakahiligan, nakaadikan, at nakasanayan sa isang relasyong isang araw ay pagmumulan ng poot, galit, at mga masasamang ala-ala na dadalhin at pagsisisihan magpakailanman.”
Noong sinabi niya ‘yun, nagkaroon ulit ako ng realization: Ito na yata ang pinaka-honest na lalaki sa buong mundo. Alam ko, nang sandaling iyon, kaya kong mahalin ang lalaking iyon. Ganito kasi talaga nahahanap ang true love. Minsan talaga, pag suwerte, biglang lilitaw ang lalaki para sayo sa mga oras at lugar na hindi mo inaasahan. May matinding emosyon na bumalot sa akin at naramdaman ko na kailangan ko sabihin sa kaniya ang tungkol sa destiny. Pero hindi ko pa nasasabi sa kaniya ang kailangan masabi, nakatulog na siya sa kalasingan.

Nang malapit na magsara ang bar, kinuha ko ang wallet niya at binayaran ang bill niya, pati na rin ang bill ko. Kasi diba pag first date ang lalaki naman talaga ang nagbabayad? Nakita ko ang SSS I.D. niya. Nakalagay rito: Brian Moya / 33-9622530-0 / January 14, 1978

Tama ako. Destined talaga kami para sa isa’t-isa. Capricorn siya. Taurus naman ako. Pag tiningnan sa online compatibility meter ang compatibility rating namin, 10/10! Perfect score. Birthday niya pala ngayon. Kawawa naman siya. Walang nakakakilala sa kaniya, kaya’t dinala ko na lang siya sa apartment ko. Ngayong gabi, ang prinsesa ang magliligtas sa prinsipe. Hindi naman ako malandi o pakawalang babae. Naawa lang talaga ako sa kaniya kasi birthday niya, tapos mag-isa lang siya, tapos lasing pa siya. Nagpatulong ako sa driver ng taxi dalhin siya sa sofa. Buti na lang mabait si manong. Binigyan ko na lang siya ng tip.

Naglabas ako ng maliit na palanggana ng maligamgam na tubig at isang bimpo. Nilagyan ko ng konting rubbing alcohol ang tubig. Ibinabad ko ang bimpo, piniga, at ipinahid sa mukha ni Brian. Hinubad ko ang suot niyang polo, sapatos, medyas, at pantalon… Pero walang malisya ‘yun. May friend ako dati sa club na nag-aaral ng nursing. Ang sabi niya, puwede raw mamatay kapag nagsuka ang isang tao habang natutulog. Kasi ‘yung suka pupunta sa baga at puwedeng ikalunod. Sinabi niya rin sa akin na para bumaba ang pagkalasing, puwede kong punasan ng basang bimpo ang mga maiinit na parte ng katawan – ang mukha, leeg, kili-kili, at ‘yung… ahem… malapit sa groin area. Kaya ‘yun nga ang ginawa ko. Nakaluhod ako sa tabi ng sofa pinupunasan ang maiinit na bahagi ng katawan ni Brian.

Nagustuhan niya yata nung pinunasan ko ng basang bimpo ang groin area niya. Palalim nang palalim ang paghinga niya. Medyo kinilig ako nang konti. At nung dahan-dahan niyang minulat ang mga mata niya at tumingin sa akin habang pinupunasan ko ng basang bimpo ang tumitigas niyang… ahem… pagkalalaki, sumuko na ako sa pagnanasa.
Hindi ako puta, ha? Marami rin akong nainom nung gabing ‘yun, tapos may lalaking humihinga ng malalim at nakatitig sa akin habang ang kamay ko ay nasa tumitigas niyang pagkalalaki. Hello? Siyempre, kahit papaano, maaapektuhan ako. Pero, in fairness, hindi ako ang nagsimula. Umupo siya. Kinuha niya ang bimpo mula sa kamay ko, inilubog muli sa maligamgam na tubig, hinawakan ako sa buhok, at ipinahid ang bimpo sa mukha, leeg, at sa boobs ko. Medyo kadiri nang konti kasi galing na sa groin area niya ‘yung bimpo, pero may alcohol naman ‘yung tubig kaya siguro patay na ‘yung germs bago niya ipahid ‘yung bimpo sa mukha ko.

Grabe talaga. Tumayo siya at inilapit ang mukha ko sa matigas niyang… ahem… pagkalalaki. Naramdaman ko ang gigil niya sa paghatak niya sa buhok ko. Ibinuka ko ang bibig at ipinasok niya ang kanyang ari. Hawak pa rin ang aking buhok, paulit-ulit niyang inilabas at ipinasok ito hanggang sa siya’y labasan. At nang labasan, hinigpitan niya lalo ang pagkakasabunot sa buhok ko, tumingin siya sa mga mata ko, at sinabing, “Lunukin mo.”

Siyempre, naisip ko, Hello? Bakit ko gagawin ‘yun? Hindi ko maipaliwanag kung bakit niya ipinagawa sa akin ‘yun. Pero hindi ko rin maipaliwanag kung bakit nung sinabi niya ‘yun, dumaan sa isip ko saglit ang sinabi ni Mr. Garcia – “Si Pepe Rodriguez ang kutsarita ng tamod na dapat nilunok na lang ng nanay niya” – at sobrang natawa ako. Kung puwede lang humalakhak habang may ari sa bibig, siguro nagawa ko ito.
Ang dumi ng pakiramdam ko pagkatapos. Pakiramdam ko’y nagamit ako. Nadungisan. Nabastos. Nababoy. Pero may bahagi sa pagkatao kong nag-enjoy. Masama. Malaswa. Alam kong mali, at hindi ko dapat ikatuwa, pero ang sarap.

Siya nga si Pepe Rodriguez. Ang dakilang bastardong pusakal. Ang pinakahayop sa mga hayop. Ang pinakababoy sa mga baboy. Bayolente. Bastos. Salbahe. Inconsiderate. Hindi pa niya alam ang pangalan ko, ipinalulunok na niya ang semilya niya sa akin. Ito nga ang pangahas na si Pepe Rodriguez – magulo ang buhok, makapal ang bigote, at may tahi sa kilay.

Pagkagising ko wala na siya. Nag-iwan lang ng sulat at contact number sa lamesa, “Salamat – Brian (09062788435).” Hindi pa rin mawala sa isip ko si Brian. Nagpunta ako sa computer shop para i-google ang pangalan niya. Meron pala siyang Friendster account. Tuwang-tuwa ako sa sense of humor niya kasi ang nakalagay sa hobbies and interests niya, “Drinking. Uminom. Mag-jakol.” Astig talaga siya. Wala siyang pakialam sa magiging opinyon ng mga makakabasa sa profile niya. Kaonti lang din ang mga litrato. Merong ilang litrato ng aso. Ayon sa research ko, ang pangalan ng aso, “Prince.”

Pagdating sa office, sinabi ko kay Mr. Garcia na nahanap ko na si Pepe Rodriguez – “May tahi siya sa kilay, medyo magulo ang buhok, payat, may bigote. Nakita ko siya sa Tikyo’s KTV and bar. Nalasing siya doon at umuwi na may kasamang babaeng maganda na sa palagay ko karelasyon niya.”

Siyempre, ako ang sinasabi kong magandang babae. Pero, hindi ko sinabi kay Mr. Garcia ‘yun. Mukhang gulat na gulat si Mr. Garcia. After ilang minutes, sinabi niya, “Good work. Pero next time dapat may physical evidence o kaya mga litrato ni Pepe.” Binigay niya ang commission ko. Nakabawi din ako sa manloloko.

Kinabukasan, kumuha ako ng pekeng evidence. Nanghiram ako ng panty mula sa sampayan ng neighbor kong si Elsa. Kinolekta ko rin ang mga panty na naiwan ni Katja at Anna dati sa apartment ko nung mga panahong nakikitulog pa sila roon. Kumuha rin ako ng sarili kong panty. Sinabi ko kay Mr. Garcia na parte ito ng collection ni Pepe Rodriguez ng mga panty na ninakaw niya mula sa mga babaeng inabuso niya. Kinuha ito ni Mr. Garcia at inilublob sa isang solution, tapos ay pinailawan ng violet na ilaw. Sobrang scientific ng ginawa niya, akala ko mabubuking ako. Pero sabi niya, “Good work!” tapos binigyan niya ulit ako ng commission. Sobrang effective ng naisip kong paraan kumita. Ang kailangan ko na lang, picture. Tinubos ko mula sa sanlaan ang phone ko na may camera at finally, natawagan ko na rin si Brian at naimbita lumabas.
Matapos ang tatlong araw, nagkita ulit kami ni Brian. Niyakap ko kaagad siya. Mukha naman siyang masayang nakita ako. Kumuha ako ng madaming litrato. Ang sabi ko sa kaniya, pang-Friendster. After 30 minutes, sinabi ni Brian na sa apartment ko na lang daw kami mag-date. Bumili na lang daw kami ng alak para mas matipid.

Nung gabing ‘yun, nag-sex ulit kami. Pumatong sa akin si Brian at mabilis akong… ahem… pinaligaya. Marahas. Pakiramdam ko’y ginagahasa ako ng isang lalaking sabog sa shabu. Mahapdi. Nasaktan din ako nang sipsipin niya ang balat sa leeg ko. Para akong sinakmal ng hayop. Sigurado, pasa ito kinabukasan. Pero nakaramdam ako ng matinding takot at pagnanasa. Lalo na ng itali ako ni Brian sa kama gamit ang sinturon niya at kainin ang aking… ahem… pagkababae. At naramdaman ko na mahal niya rin ako, kasi nang napansin niyang naluluha na ako sa hapdi ng pagkakatinik ko sa bigote niya, tumayo pa talaga siya at nag-ahit bago ituloy ang… ahem… pag-kain.

Kinabukasan, habang nag-aalmusal. Nagsulat akong muli ng mga notes sa pink na notebook tungkol sa maaari kong i-report kay Mr. Garcia. Madami ng laman ‘yun. ‘Yung mga na-research ko sa internet tungkol kay Brian, nandoon din lahat. Pagdating sa office, ipinakita ko kay Mr. Garcia ang picture ni Brian mula sa camera-phone ko at sinabing iyon si Pepe Rodriguez. Ginatungan ko pa ng mga kuwento kung paano niya abusuhin ang mga babaeng dinadala niya sa apartment niya. Sinabi ko, “Pinipilit niyang ipalunok ang… semen niya. Kapag hindi sumunod ang babae itinatali niya ito at pinarurusahan.” Hindi ko alam kung bakit, pero nanginig ang boses ko habang sinasabi ito kay Mr. Garcia.

Namutla ang mga labi ni Mr. Garcia. Tumahimik siya ng matagal. Tapos, bigla siyang nagtanong, “Paano mo naman nalaman lahat ng ito?” Patay. Ano ngayon ang sasabihin ko? Nataranta talaga ako. Matagal akong natulala. Napalingon ako sa hiya. Aamin na sana ako sa panlilinlang na ginawa ko nang biglang itanong ni Mr. Garcia, “Sinaktan ka rin ba niya?” Nakita niya siguro ang pasang iniwan ng halik ni Brian sa leeg ko. Siyempre, todo acting ang lola mo. Umiyak ako kunyari. Nakapagtataka nga eh, kasi, hindi naman mababaw ang luha ko, pero napaiyak talaga ako. Iyak ako ng iyak. Alam kong hindi naman ako inabuso ni Brian, pero ayaw tumigil ng mga luha ko. Napaiyak din si Mr. Garcia. Sinabi niya, “Kung alam ko lang na ganito ang mangyayari… Ipapupulis natin yang Pepe na yan. Ibigay mo sa akin ang mga litrato. Ipapahanap ko sa mga pulis iyang hayop na yan!”

Medyo sumobra yata ang acting. Natauhan ako. “Huwag po. Ako na po ang bahala,” sabi ko. Nagpumilit pa rin siya. “Kailangan maparusahan ang gumawa ng karahasan sa iyo, Cara.” Nataranta na talaga ako. Hindi ko na alam ang gagawin ko kaya’t tumakbo na lang ako.

Hindi ko alam kung paano aayusin ang gulong nagawa ko kaya’t nagpunta muna ako sa Ever Gotesco at naglakad-lakad sa mall habang iniisip ang solusyon. Paano ko aaminin kay Brian o kay Mr. Garcia ang kuwentong ito?

Napagdesis’yunan kong sabihin kay Brian ang nangyari. Pero pagdating ko sa apartment, ang daming tao. Hinarang kaagad ako ng mga pulis. Wag daw akong lumapit sa crime scene. Nabaril daw si Brian. Ang daming dugo sa kalsada. Nanginginig pa ako nang tumawag ako kay Mr. Garcia. Sabi ko, “Jacob! Nabaril si Brian! ‘Yung boyfriend ko, si Brian Moya, binaril! Hindi ko alam ang gagawin ko. Tulungan mo ako. Hindi ko alam ang gagawin ko. Ang sabi ni Mr. Garcia, “Siguro si Pepe Rodriguez ang gumawa niyan! Ang pangahas na si Pepe Rodriguez!”

III. Ang Mga Detalye ng Krimen

Ikalawa ng Enero nang tignan ni Jacob Garcia ang puwesto kung saan siya balak magtayo ng opisina. Sabi ng may-ari, ang dati raw nangungupahan sa puwesto ay isang Mr. Moya, pribadong imbestegador na bigla na lamang tumigil sa pagpunta sa opisina. Kailangan pang linisin ang opisina. Maraming kalat ng kung anu-anong papeles. Si Jacob ay isang tagasuri ng tubig. Naatasan siyang suriin ang kalinisan ng tubig na ibinebenta sa mga water station sa lunsod ng Quezon. Pinadadalhan siya ng mga sample ng tubig sa opisina, at trabaho niyang suriin kung ligtas itong inumin.

Ika-apat ng Enero nang malinis ang opisina. Wala pa masyadong ginagawa sa trabaho kaya’t umupo muna siya sa harap ng computer at nag-download ng porno. Nagambala ang ginagawa niya nang may kumatok sa pinto ng opisina. Tiningnan niya ang kalendaryo at nalamang wala namang dapat dumating sa opisina nang araw na iyon. Binuksan niya ang pinto at may nakitang babae. “Good afternoon, Sir. I’m an applicant for the junior private investegator position advertised in the paper,” sabi ng babae.

Nagtaka si Jacob kasi hindi naman siya nag-advertise tungkol sa job opening na sinasabi ng babae. Baka advertisement ‘yun ni Mr. Moya, sinabi niya sa sarili. Pero dahil sa sobrang inip, naisipan niyang wala namang mawawala kung mag-interview siya ng magandang babae. Hindi naman talaga kagandahan ang dalaga - bilog ang mukha, payat, at makapal ang kilay. Pinapasok niya ang babae at inimbitahang umupo sa silya sa harap ng lamesa niya. “So, what makes you qualified for the job?” tanong ni Jacob. “I have experience in investigation because of my background in investigative journalism. I believe that I’m a good candidate for the position,” sabi ng babae. Naaliw si Jacob sa ginagawa niya. Ang sumunod niyang tanong, “How far would you go to get this job?” Habang sa isip, sinasabi, Handa ka bang tumihaya at bumukaka para sa trabaho?

Naramdaman ng babae ang hindi magandang tono sa boses ni Jacob. Tumayo ito at umalis. Ilang babae rin ang dumating at umalis matapos paglaruan ni Jacob Garcia sa mga interview niya. Nakagiliwan ni Jacob ang bagong pampalipas-oras. Naghanda pa nga si Jacob ng mga tanong para sa mga aplikante. Pero hindi siya handa para kay Cara.
Enero diyes nang dumating si Cara sa opisina ni Jacob. Hawak ni Jacob ang ari niya ng oras na iyon habang tumitingin sa internet ng mga malalaswang litrato. Hindi kumatok si Cara. Buti na lamang at nakatago sa ilalim ng lamesa ang ginagawa ni Jacob. Binuksan ni Cara ang pintuan at kumembot-kembot papunta sa lamesa ni Jacob. Pagpasok ni Cara, nag-amoy papaya soap ang buong opisina. Bago pa man maitanong ni Jacob kung ano ang kailangan ni Cara, napakalapit na ng dalaga. Sa lapit ni Cara, nang sabihin niyang, “Sir, gusto kong maging junior imbestegadora,” ramdam ni Jacob ang hininga ni Cara sa labi niya. Napanganga si Jacob at napahinga ng malalim na parang gahaman sa hangin matikman lang ang mainit na hininga ni Cara. Ang sikip ng suot ng dalaga. Nang sumulyap si Jacob sa ilalim ng blusa ni Cara, sa namumutok na dibdib ni Cara, napansin niyang nakasilip sa gilid ng bra ni Cara ang gilid ng utong ng dalaga. Tumama ito na parang lintik sa kamalayan ni Jacob at tuluyan na siyang nilabasan. Napadasal si Jacob ng pasasalamat, Salamat at ako’y nabiyayaan ng isang imaheng puwede kong pag-batian habang pinapatay ang inip sa buong maghapong pagtatrabaho.

“Sige, magsimula ka na bukas.” Hindi niya ito sinadyang sabihin. Nadala lamang si Jacob ng matinding emosyon. Anong magagawa niya? Sasabihin ang totoo? “Isang pagkakamali ito, miss. Pero handa akong suwelduhan ka, makita lang kita araw-araw. Kasi walang halaga ng pera ang makakatapat sa binubuhay mong pangarap – ang pangako ng kaligayahang nakasaad sa guhit na inukit ng pagkaka-ipit ng laman ng dalawa mong malaking suso – parang tulang inukit ng santo sa bato.” Ito ang katotohanang hindi dapat malaman ni Cara kung nais ituloy ni Jacob ang kaniyang pantasya.
Nang makita niya pa lang si Cara, alam na niyang ito ang tipo ng babae na dapat, minsan man lamang sa buhay niya, ay matikman. Kahit na manloko, manlinlang, at mang-uto. “Wow! Salamat po, sir! Ang bait niyo po pala. Ito nga po pala ‘yung bio-data ko. Cara nga po pala ang pangalan ko,” sabi ni Cara.

Para may maipagawa kay Cara, napag-desis’yunan ni Jacob na mag-imbento ng isang taong ipahahanap niya. Ito si Pepe Rodriguez. “Si Pepe Rodriguez, dati pa pinaghahahanap ng mga awtoridad. Abusado ‘tong tarantadong ito. Sobrang sama niya sa babae. Manyakis. Madami na siyang naging biktima. Siya ang kutsarita ng tamod na dapat nilunok na lang ng nanay niya.” Napagkasunduan ni Jacob at Cara na transpo allowance muna ang ibibigay kay Cara. Pagnakahanap na siya ng mga detalyeng makakatulong sa pagkakadakip ni Pepe, magkakaroon siya ng kumisyon. Alam ni Jacob na walang pag-asang makahanap ng Pepe Rodriguez si Cara. Mga ilang araw din siyang magpapabalik-balik sa opisina para sa maliit na halaga.

Ika-14 ng Enero nang sabihin ni Cara na nahanap na niya si Pepe. Inilarawan ni Cara si Pepe at inilahad din kung saan niya ito natagpuan. Nagulat si Jacob. Nang una’y hindi siya naniwala. Pero nang ipakita ni Cara ang notebook kung saan nakalahad ang maraming detalye ukol sa katauhan ni Pepe, nagduda siya sa sarili. Hindi kayang isipin ng magandang dalaga lahat ng ito. Wala siyang nagawa kundi ang ibigay ang ipinangakong kumisyon sa dalaga at bigyan ito ng mas mahirap na pagsubok. Sinabi ni Jacob kay Cara, “Sa susunod, kumuha ka ng physical evidence, o kaya kumuha ka ng litrato.”

Sumunod na araw lang may dalang iba’t-ibang sukat ng panty si Cara. Kinailangang magpanggap ni Jacob na isa siyang totoong imbestegador. Naglagay siya ng rubber gloves. Kumuha siya ng sample ng tubig at nagkunwaring kemikal ito. Nilagyan ng tubig na kunwaring kemikal ang isang panty at itinapat sa ultra-violet lamp na gamit sa panunuri ng tubig. Napangiti si Cara sa ginagawa ni Jacob. “Ang galing mo naman, may high-tech tools ka pa,” sabi ni Cara. Nakaramdam si Jacob ng kaligayahan. Pakiramdam niya’y napalapit siya ng isang hakbang patungo sa inaasam-asam na pagtingin ng dalaga. Nag-isip pa siya ng ibang paraan para magpasikat kay Cara. Dahan-dahan niyang nakalilimutan na hindi siya imbestegador. Matapos ang panunuri ng mga panty, sinabi niya kay Cara (hindi pa rin siya tuluyang nakukumbinse na totoo nga si Pepe Rodriguez), “Kailangan ko ng litrato ni Pepe. Kumuha ka ng litrato ni Pepe. Good work!”

Ika-15 ng Enero nang nagdala ng baril sa opisina si Jacob para ipakita kay Cara. “Wow! Ang laki naman ng baril mo,” sabi ni Cara. Pakiramdam ni Jacob, ang iniisip ni Cara habang pinupuri nito ang kalakihan ng baril niya, Naku! Ang laki pala ng ari mo. Dahan-dahan lang ha? Pero, pakiramdam niya lang iyon.
Ika-16 ng Enero nang ipakita ni Cara ang mga litrato ni Pepe Rodriguez. Paano kaya nakalapit ng ganito kalapit si Cara kay Pepe? Tanong ni Jacob sa sarili. “Ano ang alam mong ginagawa ni Pepe sa mga babae?” tanong ni Jacob. Sumagot naman si Cara, “Pinipilit niyang ipalunok ang… semen niya. Kapag hindi sumunod ang babae itinatali niya ito at pinarurusahan.” Nanginig ang boses ni Cara na para bang may gumulat sa kaniya. Mas lalong nag-alala si Jacob. Pakiramdam niya na dahil sa mga inutos niya kay Cara, naging biktima ang dalaga ng karahasan ni Pepe Rodriguez. “Paano mo naman nalaman lahat ng ito?” tanong ni Jacob. Natulala lang si Cara na parang may karahasang pilit na binabaon sa limot. Lumingon ang dalaga palayo upang itinago ang paparating na mga luha mula sa mata. At sa paglingon niya, sumilip ang ebidensiya ng hirap at sakit na pinag-daanan. Ang iniwang marka ng halik ng demonyo. Simpula ng sariwang sugat. “Sinaktan ka rin ba niya?” tanong ni Jacob. Nagsimulang umiyak si Cara. Napaiyak din si Jacob. “Kung alam ko lang na ganito ang mangyayari… Ipapupulis natin yang Pepe na yan. Ibigay mo sa akin ang mga litrato. Ipapahanap ko sa mga pulis iyang hayop na yan!” sabi ni Jacob. “Huwag po. Ako na po ang bahala,” sabi ni Cara.

“Kailangan maparusahan ang gumawa ng karahasan sa iyo, Cara,” sabi ni Jacob. Biglang tumakbo palabas si Cara. Trauma. Takot na takot siya sa nang-abuso sa kaniya. Kawawa naman. Sabi ni Jacob sa sarili. Nanatili siya sa opisina na puno ng pagsisisi. Matpos ang ilang minuto, may kumatok sa pintuan. Pagbukas niya ng pinto, halos maihi siya sa kaba. Putang ina, nangyayari ba ‘to? Tanong ni Jacob sa sarili. Si Pepe Rodriguez, ang tao sa litratong ipinakita sa kaniya ni Cara nasa opisina niya. “Dito ba nagtatrabaho si Cara?” tanong ni Pepe. Putang ina! Nalaman niya yatang nagsumbong si Cara at gusto niyang patayin! ang iniisip ni Jacob habang sinasabi ang, “Sino po sila?” “Ako si Brian,” sabi ni Pepe. Sinungaling. Kilala kita. Ikaw si Pepe! Putangina mo! ang iniisip ni Jacob habang sinasabi ang, “Walang Cara na nagtatrabaho rito.”

“Hindi ka nagsasabi ng totoo. Bakit ka nagsisinungaling? Bakit ako tinitiktikan ni Cara?” tanong ni Pepe. Nanigas si Jacob. Wala siyang magawa. Takot na takot siya. Hindi siya makasagot. Nakatatak sa isip niya ang baril na nasa drawer ng lamesa. “Malalaman ko rin kung bakit,” tuloy ni Pepe, “At mananagot ka sa akin. Kung ayaw mong sabihin, ako na lang ang magtatanong kay Cara.” Tumalikod si Pepe at umalis. Dali-daling kumaripas si Jacob sa paghahanap ng bio-data ni Cara. Alam na niya ang mangyayari. Pupuntahan ni Pepe si Cara sa bahay at papatayin. At lahat ng ito ay dahil sa kaniya.

Isang oras nang nasa harap ni Jacob ang baril na puwede niyang gamitin para ipag-tanggol si Cara, ang bio-data kung saan nakalahad ang address ni Cara, at ang telepono na maaari niyang gamitin para tumawag ng pulis. Hindi siya makapag-desisyon sa gagawin. Kapag tumawag siya ng pulis, mareresolba ang sitwasyon at pasasalamatan siya ni Cara, pero mas pasasalamatan ni Cara ang mga pulis na nagligtas sa kaniya at maaaring mapa-ibig siya ng isa sa mga rito. Ito ang nag-udyok kay Jacob na pumunta mag-isa sa bahay ni Cara.

Ipinarada niya ang kotse sa harap ng apartmeent at kumatok siya sa pinto. Laking gulat niya nang ang nagbukas ng pinto ay ang pangahas na si Pepe Rodriguez! Nataranta si Jacob. Hinugot ang baril at pinaputukan sa tiyan ang inaakalang si Pepe Rodriguez nga. Bumagsak ang lalaki. Binaril niya ulit ito. Sa tiyan ulit. Tumagos sa likod. Tumama sa gulugod. Lumpo ang lalaki. Buhay pa rin. Naghihingalo. Hirap na hirap. Kinuha niya ang wallet ng inaakalang si Pepe Rodriguez para palabasin sa mga awtoridad na pagnanakaw ang motibo. Habang papalayo siya sinabi ni Pepe, “Tapusin mo ang sinimulan mo. Pahihirapan mo lang ako pag hindi mo ito tinapos.” Itinutok niya ang baril sa ulo ng lalaki. Hindi niya kaya. Itinutok niya na lamang sa dibdib para barilin ang puso. Pumikit siya at ipinuok ang baril. Dumaplis lang sa puso. Buhay pa rin si Pepe. May mga babaeng nakarinig at nagsisigaw. Tumakbo si Jacob. Bago siya makaalis sumigaw si Pepe, “Tanga!”

Nagmaneho si Jacob palayo. Hanggang maubos ang kalsada o gasolina. Kung anuman ang mauna. Kailangan niyang lumayo. Tumunog ang telepono. Si Cara. Nabaril daw ang boyfriend niya na si Brian Moya. Tiningnan ni Jacob ang wallet na nakuha. Sa loob nito may SSS I.D. Ang nakasulat: Brian Moya / 33-9622530-0 / January 14, 1978. Kung ang katotohanan ay isang bulalakaw, kung saan man tatama iyon, doon maihahambing ang nararamdaman ni Jacob. Kapag ang tadhana pala ang nagbiro, hindi nakakatawa. Itinuloy na lang ni Jacob ang biro ng tadhana at sinabi kay Cara, “Siguro si Pepe Rodriguez ang gumawa niyan! Ang pangahas na si Pepe Rodriguez!”

Sunday, November 8, 2009

The Five Peso Coin

By J. Luna

“ …And Jesus called a child unto him…”

Matthew 18:2

********************

You have a five-peso coin in your hand. This is enough, you thought, to buy candies or cheese snacks. This is already a valuable piece of treasure to a child.

********************

You know her mom. At times you run errands for her. Sometimes you pick her up from school when mom is busy. You are efficient with your task. Mommy is grateful.

********************

You replace the five-peso coin in your pocket. Your pocket is full of coins. You grope through it and took out a peso coin and two twenty-five cent pieces. You walk towards the sari-sari store and bought a cigarette. The girl goes to the box where she keeps the cigarettes. She bends down and you get a spectacular view of her breasts. You get a hard-on. She hands you the cigarette and you ask for a lighter. She hands you a box of matches instead. You get a whiff of her delicately perfumed wrists. You think she is a nice lay. You light your cigarette, then you return the match box to her. Don’t forget to say thank you. Smile. She smiles back. You walked away, puffing at your cigarette. You have a terrific hard-on. You pause. You remember the five-peso coin.

********************

You carry her school bag. You have to keep up with her pace, so as not to lose her from your sight. Mom will get pretty damn sore if you lose her. She is mommy’s little angel. You take the fifteen-minute walk to her house. The school is too near to waste “special” fare for the tricycle. She tells you she needs to pee. She can’t hold it any longer. You guided her to the corner of the street where she can be concealed by the trashcan. She squats. You got a view of her panties hanging on to her ankles. You heard the tinny winny trickle on the pavement. You tried to block your mind from dirty thoughts, but you felt a strange sensation- damn, you shouldn’t get a hard-on from a peeing kid, you thought, but you feel your donger bulging in your pants. You feel someone shrugging at your arms. You wake up from your reverie. You walk her home. Mommy is waiting at the door. She smiles, and says thank you, as you hand her the kid and the bag. You say, you’re welcome. She hands you a shiny ten-peso bit. You thank her then you hurry off. You feel the need to jerk-off.

***********************

You entered your dank smelling, and cramped room. You looked for tabloids. You opened them one by one, looking for pictures of naked women, half-naked women, women in thong underwear, women in bikinis----You cannot find any. You threw the papers on the floor. Disgruntled, and disgusted, the papers suck!, You thought. You opened your fly to expose your prick. You tried to think of lewd images. But all that enter your mind is the faint trickle of pee on the pavement. And the panties on her ankles with cartoon designs. The Power Puff Girls.

***********************

You suddenly feel your legs stretch and strain as your abdomen heaves to your release. Man-juice explodes and scatters on your pubes, and all over your belly. You give in to the ecstasy---go whore!! Suck it!!! I’m spreading jizz all over your face. Bitch!! The frenzy passes. Back to reality—back to your dank, smelly room. You grab a dirty shirt, and wipe away the juice. You throw the shirt on the floor. The masculine scent of Chlorox bleach mixing with the sour stench of midday sweat and jock itch. -----tiptaptiptap said the peepee on the concrete.

***********************

You take a long drag on your cigarette as you cross the corner. The sound of coins jangling in your pockets, and an erection you can’t conceal as it struggles against the tightness of your jeans. You walk on… Then you hear the sound of children chanting:

..Nanay, Tatay gusto kong tinapay……

***********************

She looks like her sister, the hot kolehiyala, the thought races to your brain. Before she went to Manila to study, she was the object of every Dong and Totoy’s fantasy. Remember, you used to show-off your basketball playing skills every time she passes by. She’s a hot little snob. Who cares? You spent your drinking sessions talking about the cunt’s nice ass, her long black hair, her chinita eyes, and her red lips. Boy’s talks. Dammit, the kid looks like her sister. You take another puff. You watch her from a distance..

……..ate, kuya gusto kong kape……….

************************

“ It’s really nice of you to do me this favor,” Mommy says.

You smile looking at the ten-peso coin she handed to you.

“ The times are dangerous. It is unsafe to let my daughter walk home alone. And, I don’t trust these tricycle drivers. Remember what happened to Kris?”, she pauses.

You answer, “ Yeah, Kris. Old Bebang’s niece. They say it’s a tricycle driver who did it to her. Poor Kris.”

“ Such a nice kid,” she says.

“ Lots of maniacs around. They won’t even leave the kids alone.” She continues.

“Yeah”, you reply. Then you smile.

“ Gotta go,”,you say, then you wave byebye. She waves and smiles as she closes the door. You hurry off. She must have looked pretty in her teens. Then you try to imagine how her bush looks like. You shrug off the thought, then you walked away.

***********************

……lahat ng gusto ko ay susun-

You walk your way to the bunch of seven-year old runts, who are playing their stupid game. You take a final drag at your cigarette, then you throw it away. You take the five-peso coin out of your pocket. Then you approach her.

***********************

You hear the trickle of peepee on the pavement. You see her nice cute butt, slightly concealed by the raised school uniform as she squats, nice cute panties hanging on to her ankles.

***********************

She looks at you with a queer, questioning look.

“ Your mom asked me to give you this,” you show her the coin. Her eyes shimmer.

“ If you will come with me,”, she tries to grab the coin, but you put it back into your pocket.

“ Unfair!!”, she says.

“ Lets go, ” you said, then you lead the way.

~ 30

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Imports

by Carljoe Javier

Kaps the kapre walked through the main entrance of SM North and into a rush of filtered, air-conditioned air. No matter how many times I go in and out of here I’ll never get used to this kind of breeze, he thought to himself as he put his arms up to allow the guard to frisk him.

The guard looked up at the gigantic Kaps and smirked. He ran his hands across Kaps’s back, moved lower. The kapre huffed at him, dismayed by the formality. Then Kaps jumped up in surprise as the guard cupped his butt.

Nobody had ever touched him like that before. The nerve of that human, if he knew what I could do to him, Kaps grumbled to himself. No, there’s not much I can do to him. It’s their world now, paved over mine. He tried to calm himself, live with it, live with the things that happened and let things happen as they did, as they always did and always would since humans had taken the world for their own. Resignation still couldn’t erase the idea orbiting his head: that guard just grabbed and squeezed a chunk of my big mythological ass.

As was his nature, he pulled out his pack of tobacco for a smoke. Then he remembered the No Smoking signs all around and put the pack back into his pocket.

A couple of uncouth youths had started following him when he was getting ready to light up and he noticed them trailing. He looked back at them and had to admit that in the centuries he had been interacting with humans, these kids had to rank among the most absurdly dressed. Screaming bright shirts draped over dark skin, pants so big that they would have fit him, shorts so long they might as well have been pants, bandana, upside-down sun visor, backwards cap. No wonder he could walk through the mall without being noticed much; some humans looked more outlandish than mythological creatures. What did humans call this ill ilk of theirs? Jologs. Sounds awful, like the Lord Melu putting a curse on you.

He caught their talk, some of which was about him. It wasn’t hard since they were rowdy and loud and acted as if they were the only people around. He wished he could set his old friend Tikboy the tikbalang on them so that they would get lost somewhere. These were the kind of people that made co-habitation with the human race so hard, people who made it more appealing to leave this land and go to the brighter regions.

“Let’s just follow him a while. See where he goes.”

“Okay. ‘tol, check out my new phone. It’s got a camera. Let’s take a picture of that guy.”

“Tama. Go take it. Hey, where did you get your phone? Okay a chong.”

“This?” Chong said as he was setting the phone’s camera to take a picture of Kaps from behind. “GSM, ‘to ‘tol. Galing sa magnanakaw,” he said with a smile.

“Ayos. You have to take me where you got that. My 3310 isn’t cool anymore. Where have I seen this guy before? I know I saw him on TV or something, I just can’t remember.”

“A big black guy like that; has to be a basketball player.”

“Right, chong, I think he’s the new import for San Miguel.”

“Yeah. Hey did you see that beer commercial with Patricia Javier’s boobs?”

He couldn’t stand much more of their talk so he swerved away, turning from the mall’s main aisle into the department store. He walked through the men’s clothing section, then passed by the men’s accessories. Gold lighters glinted at him, like a blink from a pretty girl on the other side of the bar. But he knew they weren’t blinking at him, they were probably blinking at the guy behind him.

He walked past, watched as a man in a long-sleeved shirt and tie came over to hold the lighters. I can look at them, Kaps thought, but I can never take anything home. Wanting to feel better, he headed to the middle of the department store, to the record bar. Music soothes the savage mythological creature.

When he got there Kaps shook from the clatter crashing from the speakers. The sales ladies were having a good time, swaying to the euro-pop beat and squawking to each other. They were playing one of those Christmas carol remix tapes. He wondered why Christmas was starting earlier each year.
He and his kind had been scheduled for celebration only during late October. Not one of his relatives had been featured on Magandang Gabi Bayan and the people were already preparing for some other holiday. He thought of the self-help books he had seen the other day he was roaming around, wondered if it could help him feel better if he read about nurturing his self-esteem in this modern age, or finding a sense of himself.
Sense, senses, seeing the sun rise through the tobacco smoke atop his tree. These were the things that could make him feel better. But his tree was gone and there was enough smoke up in the air to block out the sun. It was like he’d lost his senses since he couldn’t use them the same way anymore. He could rarely feel the earth.

His thoughts were attacked by a crash, some mad animal ravaging a splash cymbal, then the sounds multiplied. He reeled from what sounded like all the animals in a forest had decided to go on a noise barrage.

After a few seconds it ceased and he could think again. The megamix had segued. He didn’t know what had a more ear-splitting pitch, the sales ladies’ shrill screeches or the doomp doomp doomp of the Mambo No. 5 beat playing with chipmunk-like vocals. It sang: “A little bit of Prancer all night long/ A little bit of Blitzen by my side/ A little bit of Donner’s all I need.” He thought it was sick when his cousin Jun had tried dating a tikbalang, but this was too much.

A headache set in, the urge to smoke and clear things up. He headed for the rear entrance facing the car park, and there started smoking his tobacco. Cars drove by, clucking and crowing like a flock of chickens disturbed. He took in deep breaths, losing himself in the rhythm of inhale, hold, exhale. There were no cars or mall or euro-pop Christmas bestiality. Only the important things remained: him and his homegrown tobacco.

He didn’t actually grow the tobacco anymore. His tree and the land that he haunted around it had been plowed away and the mall built over. When that happened his magic had been taken from him. He was lucky that his brother who moved to one of the brighter realms had sent him an enchanted tobacco pouch that conjured up his smokes.

After a few puffs he went back into the mall. He let himself be frisked again, and this time went by without incident. He placed his pouch in his back pocket and started walking around again.

Feeling hungry, he headed to the food court. He checked out all the stalls. Then he walked around and checked them again. Everything seemed so appealing and he still couldn’t pick what he wanted.

He thought meat. He missed having something bloody. Then he remembered again what his brother had written in his letter about staying away from raw meat because they found all kinds of nasty things in them. He thought of all those nasty things crawling around in the meat, like maggots that you couldn’t see.

It was because of that letter that he tried to quit eating meat. He’d gone on a vegetarian diet, but after a few days missed the feeling of chewing on flesh too much. He just felt it was different, it fulfilled something in him to be chewing on some dead animal, even though he hadn’t had the pleasure of hunting it down and killing it himself.

Besides, he’d convinced himself, they’d been eating that raw meat for centuries, and the worst they got was a case of kapre LBM. It didn’t matter to him whatever was crawling around in there. He needed meat.

He could taste the crackle of the oil and feel the meat slapping against the grill a couple of stalls away. He hustled over, fast as his long legs could take him, and salivated over the red meat turning brown.

At first the woman working the stall looked at him as if asking, “Have you got money to pay for this?” because Kaps could barely keep his mouth closed as he looked at the long ribs crackling, bright bones turning brown as the fires licked them.

He stood there in front of her, and because he’d made no big movements or did nothing to draw attention to himself, she seemed to have forgotten that he was even there. It was almost as if he could disappear if he stood long enough in front of certain people.

He grabbed a rib off the grill, juggled it until it cooled, then tore the flesh away, his teeth scraping against the bones until they had turned white again.

He sat back and had a smoke. He felt happy to have the smoke, but as he puffed and watched the smoke sway and squiggle in the air in front of him he remembered the pale moonlight that the smoke used to dance in, the breeze that blew away the ashes at the end of his fat cigar, the quiet clatter of the forest that he had power over.

His eyes were glazed over, staring at the past, until he crashed back into the present when one of the jologs tailing him earlier came by and grabbed his pouch. In the half-second that his mind made the time jump and his eyes had to get used to the pale not of moonlight but of antiseptic fluorescent, the thief had made enough distance to be out of reach of Kaps’s long arms.

The thief made a break for the escalators but Kaps caught up with him, his long legs taking strides that no man could outrun. He grabbed the boy and threw him against the escalator. The sharp, serrated edges of the escalator steps scraped the kid’s face.

Kaps grabbed his pouch and got onto the escalator. As it ascended he climbed up to the step where the boy had slumped over. When the boy saw him he tried to scramble up the stairs but Kaps struck him with a backhand against the side of the head and the boy slammed against the escalator’s rail.
Kaps grabbed him by the collar and threw him out onto the floor. Kaps got off the escalator and looked up.
The boy, lying on the ground, covered his head waiting for another blow. He looked up when it didn’t come, wondering how his luck had turned so quick.

Kaps couldn’t stop staring at the Christmas tree. It towered over him, a monument of mockery directed at him. He felt himself shrinking, losing his essence as it was taken by the Christmas tree.

His tree: plowed over and replaced. This monstrosity, artificial and alien, had taken its place. He forgot about the thief, forgot about his pouch, forgot himself, as he stared it.

With Kaps distracted the thief crawled away and made a run for the nearest exit, alerting security guards about a large, dark, hairy man that looked like a foreigner that had assaulted him.

The rage that had filled Kaps when that guard had grabbed him, when he remembered his tree, when that punk had tried to steal his pouch, all came to a head as he stared at the Christmas tree. He wasn’t even aware that he was slobbering like a dog, hunched over in some primitive stance ready to pounce. He roared, then charged at the symbol of his world’s end.

He lunged at it, but couldn’t shake the deeply set foundation. He thrashed at the branches, but the plastic just swung back and forth and smacked against his face. Then he felt the thwack of a security guard’s stick on the back of his head.
He held his neck and crumpled on the floor. He rolled, trying to evade the next blow. He looked up to see the guard that had harassed him when he came in.

“So, you think you foreigners can get away with things like this, huh?”

A boot crashed into his ribs and he lost his breath. He felt himself fading, the loss of self and the physical weakness wearing him away. It took so much to maintain his form, and now all that energy was seeping away, the kicks and blows taking him apart. He watched as the last of his magic was destroyed.

The guard punched Kaps in the face, leaving him bloody and beaten. Then he walked away. He didn’t even notice that he had trampled and crushed the pouch, and that the pouch was now gone.

Monday, October 5, 2009

Cleanser

by Marguerite Alcazaren de Leon

Jhoy’s note looked salty. Translucent, grey-purple paper ruled with dark purple ink, like a sliver of my grandmother’s veined calf. Torn from a worn, cheap notepad. It didn’t look dirty to me, exactly. It looked salty, just as the dull yellow brine in the jars of Jhoy’s stall looked salty, the brine that kept all those shriveled smidgens of strangeness in suspension. All those wrinkled brown things that may or may not have been seahorse heads, lizard tails, worms. The jars were sealed tight with rubber bands, but the essence of their contents must have seeped into the paper somehow. The note looked salty, like I didn’t have to smell or taste it to know that it was.

I sat cross-legged on my bed and read the note. The instructions had been scribbled down beforehand to make for a quick transaction. I remembered how each page of Jhoy’s notepad was filled with the same set of words.

mamayang gabi di maghahapunan
9 p.m. 2 cytotec (inom) 2 pahilab (inom)
tulog
11 p.m. 2 cytotec (pasok sa pwerta) 2 pahilab (inom)
tulog
bukas maga paggising
5 a.m. 2 cytotec (inom) 2 pahilab (inom)
bawal maasim malamig

The pills were wrapped in a salty-looking yellow flyer for some housing development. They cost 2,000 pesos all in all, half of my week’s allowance. Six huge Cytotec tablets in printed silver packets and six tiny blank tablets in an unmarked plastic pouch. Jhoy said the tiny ones were for cleaning out the uterus. So that I wouldn’t have to let some other woman do it manually, she said. I didn’t even know that my uterus would need cleaning after. I would have to believe her. The Cytotec, at least, I knew were meant for stomach ulcers and just so happened to kill fetuses on the side. I got that from the Ask Yahoo! Health and Wellness section. They have a resident doctor who answers all your questions.

I looked at the wall clock. 8:57. The last thing I ate was a stick of fishballs for lunch, before the FX ride home from Quiapo. Perfectly pedestrian. I smoothed out the towel underneath me, fluffed my pillows, poured some bottled water into a glass, set my cellphone alarm to 11 and looked at the wall clock. 8:58. I snapped open two Cytotec packets and shook out two cleansers. The Cytotec were smooth, Mentos-like. The cleansers reminded me of that chalk they used for cockroaches. I swallowed them one by one with some water. The Cytotec didn’t taste like anything, but the cleansers left a metallic-salty aftertaste, like they had been in the palm of an FX driver all day, absorbing the zest of change. Not like I had ever licked the palm of an FX driver, but that’s probably what those people taste like, if ever. I lay down, sniffing my fingers. Chalky, salty.

There was a knock on the door. I kept flat on my back.

“It’s open.”

My grandmother entered.

“Good evening, lola.”

“Good evening, Consuelo.”

She shuffled over, her diaper crackling beneath the quilted gold dressing gown, and sat at the foot of my bed. Crackle, crackle.

“How was your day, Consuelo?”

“It was okay. And yours?”

“I sent Gerry out for DVDs this morning,” she replied in her deep, regal tone. “We have Reservoir Dogs and Battle Royale 2.”

“We already have Reservoir Dogs, lola.”

“We do? It’s alright, hija. An extra copy.”

We had extra copies of a lot of films. American Psycho. Saving Private Ryan. Texas Chainsaw Massacre. Cannibal Holocaust. Ichi the Killer. American History X. Taxi Driver. Silence of the Lambs. We based our purchases on movie-vault.com’s growing list of The Most Violent Films of All Time, which my grandmother had asked me to search for. She and I coped through bloodshed. The films reminded us to always be on our guard. We needed to see people dying dreadful deaths, scenes that would lodge right into our brains from a classic, upside-down gunshot in the mouth. That was how my parents died two years ago. A killing spree at the Shangri-La Plaza parking lot, where innocent shoppers were shot and hacked at by Chinoy teens high on coke and Scarface. It’s not like the guards at the ticket booth check the passengers’ jackets.

Gerry was our sixth driver since their death, so he wouldn’t have known which titles we had. My grandmother kept changing the help as a safety precaution. They must not grow on us, she said. Her father was a governor slain for collaborating with the Japs. She had relinquished prayer after that, focusing instead on increasing her inheritance by being a Sampaguita soap spokesmodel. She wanted to be rich enough to forget, but that never stopped her from being on her toes all the time. One of the toughest, most prudent women I knew. And the most poised.

“Your day was okay?” She shifted a bit closer to me, keeping her back perfectly straight, clutching onto the comforter for balance. “How was it okay?”

“I went out.”

“I know. I didn’t see you at lunch. Did Clarissa pick you up? Did you two have dance class today? Did you tell me you were going somewhere?”

“I forgot to. I’m sorry.”

“At least you’re with Clarissa. Senator Punzalan still insists on a bodyguard for her?”

“Yes, lola.” The bodyguard’s name was Polo. Short for Policarpio. Clarissa finds the name embarrassing, but I think it has its charm. “But I went out alone.”

“You did?” My grandmother’s voice rose. “What were you thinking? Where did you go?
Did you go to the mall on your own? Why didn’t you text Gerry? Why didn’t you tell me?”

“I went to Quiapo,” I replied calmly. “To buy abortion pills.”

An astounding blankness swept over my grandmother’s face. The look Travis Bickle wore when he pointed his fingers to his skull like a pistol and went, bssshhh.

“For whom?” she managed to ask, her lips barely moving. “For Clarissa?”

“For myself, lola.”

“For yourself?”

“Yes, lola. I’m pregnant,” I answered, grinning. “Isn’t it great?”

My grandmother continued to stare at me.

“I’ve been having sex with Clarissa’s bodyguard,” I explained. “His name is Polo. He’s 36, very muscular and has a moustache. It tickles when he sucks on my nipples. I think he’s a good fuck, although he is my first so I wouldn’t really know. The first time we did it was at Iñigo Fajardo’s party, because Iñigo paid the drivers and bodyguards one-five each to drink with us. That was the first time I got drunk, lola. I really liked being drunk. It’s the greatest feeling, when you’re drunk. We did it in the garage. On the floor. We made it a regular thing. Sometimes in the Explorer after dance class, while Clarissa’s still in the shower. Sometimes at the Victoria Court on Canley, when you think I’m out for coffee. His cock gets really hard, lola, and it’s just no fun with a condom. I don’t love him, though, and I don’t want this baby.”

I paused for some air. My grandmother’s face remained blank. Her body was perfectly still. I threw her the biggest, warmest smile and resumed.

“I’ll only tell him if the pills don’t work. Been good at handling it on my own, so far. Did a lot of research. If you Google “find abortion pills in Philippines,” the most popular results are on Quiapo and Cytotec. Mostly message threads. Girls helping each other. Where in Quiapo, how to buy the pills, stuff like that. There’s some negative stuff in them too, like on girls almost dying from Cytotec, but that’s because they took too much or took it too late. I’m only two months pregnant, and you know I’m good with instructions, so you don’t have to worry. And I learned that they use Cytotec for abortions all the time in the States. It’s legal in a lot of countries. It was worth a shot, you know? Right?”

I waited for my grandmother to respond. A teeny nod, a few quick blinks, any itty-bitty twitch of recognition, anything. She was static. I kept going.

“So I took an FX to Quiapo. There’s a lot of them outside our village, right? Got down at the church. The stalls were there by the steps, selling weird things in jars and weird dried plants just like the message threads said. Didn’t have to ask for the pills. A woman from one of the stalls got up and pretended to walk past me, and she just said ‘gamot’ while looking at the church. Like in a spy movie. I nodded and we walked back to her stall, which looked exactly like all the other stalls, so I bet the other women were jealous. The woman’s name is Jhoy. With an H. She has bad skin but she’s very nice. She gave me the pills, a note with instructions and her cellphone number in case I had questions. After that, I walked around for a bit. The church is smaller than I thought and doesn’t look very special. There are palm readers by the square in front of the church, and people selling flowers and rosaries. There’s a tiangge in every side street. Hordes of people. They sell underwear on the sidewalk, lola. And DVDs. I browsed through them but they were mostly new movies and porn. I could have gotten some porn, but I wanted something we could share. Got tired after a while, so I took an FX home.”

My grandmother blinked, yet it was most likely because no one could keep their eyes open that long. A salty tang quickly filled the air. She placed her hands on her lap and shifted a bit on the bed. Squish, squish.

“Did I do a good job, lola?”

“A good job,” my grandmother said very slowly. She blinked again, clearing up the flat glaze in her eyes. “What do you mean?”

“The sex, the pregnancy, Quiapo, this abortion. You could call it field work, lola. The real deal. Have I made you proud?”

“Oh. Yes.” Her head moved up and down, like a nod. “That was a good story. You made up good details. ”

“I didn’t make them up.”

“We should do this regularly. It will be good for us. Have one ready by tomorrow night.”

“I wasn’t telling you a story.” I patted the towel underneath me and pointed to the pills on the bedside table. “Look, lola, I’m getting rid of a baby.”

My grandmother’s eyes fell on the pills. She smiled. I took out Jhoy’s note and held it out to her.

“Read this. Jhoy gave me instructions. The next step’s at eleven.”

“Props,” she mumbled without looking at the note. “How nice. Good night, Consuelo.”

She stood up, back straight and chin up as always, and headed towards the door. The tang thinned out as she left the room.

Sighing, I looked at the wall clock. 9:12. I folded my hands over my belly, closed my eyes and told myself to be patient with her.

+++

INT. SHANGRI-LA PLAZA PARKING LOT – NIGHT

CONSUELO, 17, lies flat on her back in an empty parking slot. She opens her eyes.

Blood-drenched corpses are strewn across the lot, some disemboweled, some with eyes gouged out, some with heads blown apart, all holding on to plastic shopping bags.

Consuelo gasps in pain. She sits up, clutching her belly. A large, dark figure waddles up to her from the winding exit ramp. It is a GIANT SALT SHAKER mascot with plastic eyes, smiling plastic lips, gloved hands and giant red boots. It stops right in front of her. She looks up, squinting at its silhouette framed in stark fluorescent light.

GIANT SALT SHAKER
You told her.

CONSUELO
She doesn’t believe me yet. I’ll give her time.

GIANT SALT SHAKER
You shouldn’t have told her.

CONSUELO
Why not?

GIANT SALT SHAKER
If she does believe you, she’ll stop you from doing it.

Consuelo stands up slowly and walks around the lot, examining each corpse. The giant salt shaker follows her, nudging the corpses with his boot. Consuelo stops at two bodies piled on top of each other. The one on top is of a woman in a brown silk dress and heels, the one underneath of a man in a dark blue polo, black slacks and black leather shoes. Their heads have been blown off. Consuelo squats beside them.

GIANT SALT SHAKER
(continuing)
She’s the enemy.

CONSUELO
(going through the corpses’ shopping bags)
She’s on my side.

GIANT SALT SHAKER
She won’t let you get rid of it.

CONSUELO
(flinging bloodied department store tissue paper out of the bags)
Of course she will! What are you talking about?

GIANT SALT SHAKER
She doesn’t think the way you do.

CONSUELO
Yes, she does.

GIANT SALT SHAKER
Nope. No.

Consuelo pulls a newborn baby out of one bag. The baby, covered in blood and thick, white mucus, writhes in her hands. Its wails echo across the lot. Consuelo flings it over her shoulder, and it crashes against the windshield of an Explorer. The lot is quiet again. Consuelo continues rifling through the bags.

GIANT SALT SHAKER
What are you looking for?

Consuelo pulls another baby out of a bag and flings it away. She continues fishing babies out and throwing them away, a pile of dead babies growing on the Explorer’s hood, the air punctuated by screams and silence. She stops and winces.

CONSUELO
(rubbing her belly)
Wait, wait. I think it’s here.

Consuelo takes all her clothes off and sits splay-legged on the floor. She rubs her belly harder and harder, her expression growing more and more pained. A shiny silver knob slowly pokes out of her cunt. It is the top of an ordinary salt shaker. The shaker’s entire shaft begins sliding in and out of her, very slowly at first, and then gradually quickening in pace until salt grains start sprinkling out onto the concrete. Consuelo’s grimace fades. She moans in pleasure.

GIANT SALT SHAKER
You’re weird.

+++

I woke up to a rooster’s crowing. My cellphone alarm, rising in volume at every crow. I fumbled for the phone, shut it up and opened my eyes. My grandmother was standing over me, squinting at the print on one Cytotec packet through her gold-rimmed reading glasses. I still kept flat on my back. My belly felt heavy and pulsed with a slight, constant pain.

“See, lola?” I said with a smile. “I told you. Everything is real.”

“I couldn’t sleep. I hoped you’d be awake. Do you want to watch Schindler’s List? I made popcorn.”

“You don’t want to watch the next step?”

“Of what?”

“Of the abortion,” I replied patiently.

“Oh, yes. That. Alright, I can play the grandmother.” She chuckled. “I can get shocked and start praying for God to forgive you.”

“Lola, this isn’t a scene,” I told her firmly. “Everything I told you really happened.”

“Before we start the play,” she said. “I have to ask. Where did you get this printed?” She held up the Cytotec packet to the light. “It’s very well-made.”

“Lola, I didn’t.” My voice was much louder now, and I uttered each syllable as slowly and clearly as I could. “They’re real.”

My grandmother snapped the packet open and slipped the pill onto the palm of her hand. She looked at the pill with the purest wonder, like a hen would at the smallest, smoothest, whitest egg in her nest. She rolled it around in her fingertips.

“Oh, it’s a mint,” she declared.

“No. It’s for killing babies, lola.” A sense of urgency and annoyance was building up in me, mingling with the ache in my belly. “I bought them in Quiapo, like I said. From a woman named Jhoy. With an H.”

“I love mints.”

She held the pill up to her full, crinkled lips. I sat up a bit.

“Lola, no.”

She popped the pill.

There was nothing like it, when my body switched to automatic.

I shot out of bed and tackled my grandmother onto the carpet. Pinning her shoulders down with my knees, I jammed my left hand into her mouth while my right grabbed her cheek and yanked it to the side for more room. My fingers jabbed at every warm, wet inch of the cavity, poking the insides of her cheeks, prodding her loosening dentures, stabbing the slick, rutted underside of her tongue. No pill.

When I thrust my hand out, she started making this hollow, jagged sound, like a bad impression of TV static. The pill had lodged in her throat. I thrust my hand in again, slipping my finger down as far as it could go, crooking it again and again once I felt a tiny, hard curve. It wouldn’t budge, and my grandmother’s writhing was making it hard for me to latch onto it. I pulled my hand out and gripped my chin in thought. Fresh saliva coated my jaw and dribbled down my arm in gobs. My grandmother continued to writhe beneath me.

My glass of water waited on the bedside table. I grabbed it, smashed it against the table’s hard wood and chose the largest, sharpest shard. Like all crucial weapons in movies, the shard glinted with great promise. My knees dug into my grandmother’s shoulder blades with extra force. She was probably screaming, but it came out a long, strained wheeze. I sliced down the length of her papery throat. Blood burst out, streams of ruby seeping into the gold satin of her dressing gown like a hurried sunset. The pill, now a shiny red cherry, was at the base of the wound, snuggled against layers of gummy, deep scarlet murk. I fished it out of the folds of frayed flesh and looked at the wall clock. 11:07. The smarting in my belly told me to hurry. I glanced at Jhoy’s note resting on the comforter.

11 p.m. 2 cytotec (pasok sa pwerta) 2 pahilab (inom)

I slipped my panties off and splayed my legs wide open. The blood coating the pill would make for good lubricant. I pushed the pill into my cunt as far back as it could go, until I was sure it was nestled into the warmest part of my cavity for optimum utility. Suddenly, the image of Polo’s cock ramming me came to mind. I repeated the process with another Cytotec pill and shook out two cleansers. Their chalky, white exterior turned pink and gluey from my dripping, red fingers.

I dry-swallowed them and licked my lips. Extra-extra-salty.

I stared at my grandmother’s corpse. Her dressing gown was flung open, blood from her gashed neck slowly coursing down the small, pruny flabs of her breasts, down her stomach sprinkled with raisin-like moles, leaching into her bunched-up plastic diaper. The diaper blushed.
The whole room reeked of blood. The whole room was salty. An air of menace and misery, of everything my grandmother and I tried our best to value. It was frightening. Fragrant. I loved how the saltiness shot fiercely up my nose at every breath, how it stung my eyes with such ruthlessness. I placed a hand proudly over my sore belly and smiled at my grandmother’s corpse.

My grandmother had always been on my side. This was all a test. She wanted to see if I would do the right thing, if I knew what to do in matters of life or death.

“Did I do a good job, lola?” I asked, slipping back into bed. “Have I made you proud?” I set the cellphone alarm to 5, pulled the comforter over me and closed my eyes.

Silence means yes.

Penitence

by El Diablo Rojo

Before Rolando Hernandez could even work up a good, dignified protest, they had scrambled into his cramped apartment in San Jose and seized him, gagging him with a dirty pink bandanna. Now they carried him, whimpering and confused, out of his room. Rolando tried to twist his head around to break his mouth free and give the biggest scream of his life but (oh, fuck) their hands were surprisingly firm and strong, despite their nails colored a ridiculous deep red, some electric blue. The intruders stuffed the bandana back into his mouth with brutal force and bound his arms behind him with rope.

As they carried him out of his room, all four of them in their silly-looking micro mini shorts and heavily made up faces, he saw the various posters thumb tacked onto the thin walls. Various posters of women scantily dressed, some downright naked, with come-hither messages on the lower middle portion like Be My Dreamboy and Let Me Make It Up To You Tonight, lined the wall nearest to his door, and on the floor, in haphazard piles, lay the cheap, dirty magazines (both straight and gay) he had been collecting since he had first discovered the self-induced pleasures of masturbatory fantasies.

Rolando hung like a limp noodle between his abductors. And for the first time in his life, Rolando was suddenly sick with fear. He had had a couple of beers earlier that evening, sure, but he knew he wasn’t drunk so he shouldn’t have any problems tackling this bunch of sickos. Yet when he tried to struggle, kicking his legs, he found his efforts to be in vain. He couldn’t even move his arms. This is so wrong, so dead wrong. This is my room, my space. And they grabbed me. Coño vos nana! This can’t be! I’m a man! What’s fucking wrong with Zamboanga that something like this could happen!

A voice then spoke in the darkness, serious. “Buenas noches, Lando. We’ve come to take you away from the dreariness of your room so we could have a little fun.” The owner of the voice loosened Rolando’s buttoned down shirt and belt and undid his jeans. “You like that, si?”

Another one piped in, rich and full of mockery. “Oh, si. Lando sure likes to have fun. Fun. Fun. Fun. That’s what Rolando’s all about. In fact, I’ve noticed lately that he’s had too much fun.” The person casually laughed and with one quick movement slapped Rolando hard across the face. Someone else shoved a hand into his boxers and pinched his cock and balls. Rolando yelped in pain, gritting his teeth. Everybody laughed as they carried Rolando down the stairs of the building.

He was thrown in a rather ungainly fashion into the back of a pink Honda Civic, and his abductors scampered in around him, digging their knees into his groin, their hands splayed across his open chest. He was sweating profusely now, and despite the seriousness of his situation, he found himself becoming hard. He tried turning on his side so his tumescence wouldn’t show. The car lurched away from the curb, and then the voices were talking, and the bandanna that had been stuffed into his mouth came away so he could lick his chaffed lips and look at them with quivering eyes.
“W-where are you taking me, mga punyeta!” he gasped. He looked down. Yep. His cock was still rock hard. And it was showing, its dark purplish head peeking out of his red boxers.

“Lando, Lando. You naughty, naughty hombre.” The leader of the group said, looking at his groin, head shaking in pure disapproval.

“What do you want from me?” cried Rolando.

“Don’t pretend not to know what we want, Lando dear.”

“Go to hell, you fuck! Let me go!”

The car rushed down a bumpy road in the dark. The moon wasn’t in the sky, and only a few stars scattered themselves about in the black sky.

“I didn’t do anything wrong. I know all of you! Cocksucking bitches! Whores! You’re going to kill me!” Rolando screamed.

“Oh don’t be such a drama queen, Lando!” said one of them, a Zsa Zsa Padilla clone, patting his cheeks rather affectionately. “We wouldn’t even dream of doing that.”
“We won’t. I swear by my implants,” said another to the one leaning against one of the windows, the one looking like Cher, with gold tassels, puckered lips, the works.
“I swear by my botoxed cheekbones, we won’t,” Cher assured him.

Both of them grinned mischievously at Rolando. Their smiling faces reminded him of a cartoon he saw once when he had been a kid, one that involved a rather nubile blonde girl getting lost in a magical land. He remembered that bulbous cat, materializing out of nowhere, leering at the poor girl, its wide orange mouth displaying a monstrous grin. Zsa Zsa and Cher both looked like that now.

He wanted to kick in those disgusting, painted faces, but he found himself feeling very very cold. For a thought suddenly came unbidden, one that in that very instant began to grow and take up the rest of the space in his head.

“If this is about that ugly fat-ass Nora—"

His kidnappers (should you still call them kidnappers even when the victim is more than thirteen years old?) all gasped at the mention of their friend’s name. One of them, this time a bad imitation of Alice Dixon during her Dyesebel days and who was silent since the ride had started, spoke. “Don’t you ever insult that precious, precious name! You don’t even have any respect for the dead!”

Rolando shrugged his shoulders. “I have nothing to do with that stupid Nora’s death.”
Alice Dixon suddenly swung a fist right smack into Rolando’s face. It landed on his right cheek, stinging him.

“W-what the f-fuck! What did I do? What did I do? You assholes, you good-for-nothing putas! Just you wait till I get out of these ropes! Just you wait, you goddamn, ball-licking pussies!” Rolando raved, spittle flying from his open mouth.
Zsa Zsa pulled on Rolando’s hair, hard. Rolando screamed and his eyes burned, filling them with tears. And something else, something that looked like rage, now swirled in their pools.

“You are guilty, Lando. We saw the note. We know the reason why Nora did what she did. Poor wretch. She loved you, Lando. She loved you,” the leader said from the driver’s seat.

“And now, you have to pay for what you did.”

Rolando shook his head, shook it for all its worth. “No! No! I didn’t do anything! Please believe me! I didn’t do anything to—“

Cher shoved the bandanna back into Rolando’s screaming mouth. “Oh, shut your trap!
Really now! Are we there yet? This animal is giving me a headache.”

Cher looked out of the window and stared at the scenery. They had already gone past the foothills of Barangay Pasonanca. Now, the car zoomed around a curve and began its slow ascent up Abong-Abong Mountain where fourteen crosses marked the uneven road, all the way up to the cruz mayor which stood sun-bleached and proud, overlooking the city. Tomorrow was Maundy Thursday, and people would flock to this holy site, lighting their candles and wishing that the burdens of climbing up, doing the way of the cross as a form of penitence, would be enough to cleanse them of their grievous sins. Rolando didn’t know it yet, but he was going to be the first one to do it among all of them.

“I hope no one’s up there,” said the leader, a frown crossing her hairy face.

“It’s way past twelve midnight, Kayla,” Cher said. “I’m sure no one’s about. I hear the place is kind of spooky.”

“Yes,” Zsa Zsa confirmed. “No one would dare stay up there at this time of night.”
Soon after, they arrived. Kayla parked the car near a waiting shed, a few meters away from the cruz mayor. They hauled Rolando out of the car. By now, both his jeans and his boxers were way down, around his ankles. Kiss and teeth marks were all over his thighs, groin and on the flat of his stomach. On his broad, rippling chest, a crude message had been written with red lipstick: He is the Sacrifice.

All four of the abductors then carried him to the cruz mayor. Rolando felt tired, though his eyes were open wide. He didn’t struggle as they undid the rope and retied his arms around the cross. He stood there, swaying, a prisoner for all of them to see.

The four let out a whoop of joy and gave each other a high-five. The leader took out a cigarette from her breast pocket and lit it.

“So, Lando,” she began in between puffs. “Do you now confess?”

“I difnt kno whartf yorf talkling abouft!” Rolando tried to scream.

“Sister, wait. Let me just take the bandanna off his mouth.” Cher walked up to where Rolando stood and for the second time pulled the piece of cloth away. Before she left him, Cher stood on her toes and brushed her pink-colored lips on Rolando’s.

“Sayang, Lando. Tu muy gwapo era. Handsome, true, but what a heartless brute.”

“You bitch!” Rolando spat at her. It hit Cher in the eye, and he laughed, laughed so hard.

Cher only stared at him with her cold eyes and went back to the group. Then they all began to say some things.

“Confess now, Lando. Because of you, Nora is dead.”

“Nora had been good to you, Lando. Gave you your every whim.”
Even when she had none to give.”

“You know she had that operation. All of us in the group did. She had no money left.”

“Still, you insisted. Cellphones. A digital camera. Lifetime membership at the gym.”

“She had nothing left.”

“So you left her.”

“She hung herself! It’s not my fault!” Rolando screamed.

“It’s because of you she did it!” Kayla shot back, hurling her cigarette at his naked chest.

Rolando laughed. “She deserved it. The bitch was so stupid. So she killed herself. Is it my fault that your kind lusts after me?”

“You ingrate! You selfish oaf!” cried Zsa Zsa, biting her lips.

“The likes of us should get rid of you!”

“No longer will gay men take to straight, stupid guys like you!”

“Murderer!”

“User!”

“Short dick!”

“Enough talking!” the leader shouted. “Let’s begin.”

And so the four of them began to take off their ballerina shoes. Then, they slowly took off their tops—cherry pink, ocean blue, melon green, earthy brown—and their tight stone-washed jeans. Then their panties. They unloosened their long, black hair from their ponytails, shook them and let the night breeze do the rest. Pretty soon, all four of them stood naked.

Rolando stared at them. He stared at them really hard. Stared at their faces, and then at their humungous boobs which he knew couldn’t be real. And he stared at the area where their dicks used to be; only now there were no ding-a-lings there asking

“How’s it hanging, Juan?” Just precisely cut, vertical slits that passed for pussies.

But that wasn’t the worst part. Oh no. Not by a long shot. For in the four transvestites’ hands were all sorts of dildos, some unbelievably thick. Others came in odd shapes and hues. Kayla was holding an electric pink one. She was twirling it like it was a baton.

Horrors. Horrors.

Rolando shivered.

“Someone’s going to be realllyyyy sore tomorrowwww!” Zsa Zsa said in a sing-song voice.

And somehow, standing there with his pants and boxers down, the four of them slowly approaching him with menace and lust in their eyes, Rolando did not for a moment doubt what he had heard to be false.