Friday, September 16, 2011

I and I and I

[Last part of "The Messiahs" series]

IT IS TRUE: there is no freedom behind walls of concrete and curtains of iron. The taste of liberty can never be had in that melting pot of sin and crime, only the flavor of a thousand verdicts rationed daily like a grand banquet for the inmates. It is a sick habitat, a blot on this earth where the culpable call upon their heaven, a charity too remote for the eyes to find while they search and squeeze the sky for the last ounce of pardon. It is where prayers for divine mercy desperately seek the consoling voice of a mute idol, hoping that god will finally speak the language of miracles like a hush, a whisper of comfort for the paltry ears. Some do not mind if they do not understand that most arresting of all tongues. It is enough that hope is at hand, more or less, despite the guiltless riot of flesh with flesh and the unholy union of metal and mortal wounds.

The strong ones are beyond human. Their will is left unscathed by the same truncheons that pummel their skin. Mortals as they are, they have become their own primitive gods. Their spirits are as inflated and infinite as the zeitgeist that permeates the world beyond the barbed fence surrounding their little patch of soil, like a pot for a forest. It is as if they have caused the twilight of all legends and despots and the simultaneous genesis of their own. They have the whole universe in their hands, it seems, even if the only term most of them have served all their life is prison.

Guilt was never mine to feel, atonement most of all. I simply desired happiness, so I sliced father’s lips from his face and ate them. But the explanation, the only defense I had, did not inspire belief before the courts of law. The prosecution tried to prove that I was a murderer, and prove they did. Justice was paid at the price of an injustice. It took a while before I was able to finally accept my misfortune. When she was still alive, Anne helped remind me of who I am. By sixty, I was a free man. Forty years of isolation is enough forced penance for every misplaced abomination. Truth be told, I did not kill father. He was his own executioner.

I KILLED MY SELF so that I can finally have the sleep I have never had before. I have grown tired of living my arid life, deserted by many and remembered by none, always chasing the tail of happiness by indulging in nightly blitzkriegs downtown, ever unmindful of the odds of getting caught in flagrante delicto. Sometimes I scare my self. An opportunity gone awry and a victim gone berserk would have certainly chimed the final note in my dance with death and immortality. But not once did any of it happen. I continued saving souls, like a minister offering salvation right inside those little pockets of heaven on earth. With my cleaver as my wife (or maybe it was I who was her husband), the city—the only home we have known—is where we search happiness and cut it at its apex so that it will remain as it is for eternity. The dying voice of the victim, neck slit open while begging for life, becomes a serene song on infinite playback, purging the dullness of these automatons, these strangers standing helpless at the gore before their feet. They call themselves human beings, churning fancy but false praises if only to assert their superiority somewhere at the back of their mind but fold once they face death for the first time. They will never be the same again. Perhaps, the gift of aristocracy is its own curse.

I have seen the face of death many times. The things that I did while I was still alive have nothing to do with any one person’s death. But I wanted James to think otherwise. James will have thought otherwise, that I saved souls not in the name of my father and of my son but in the name of this insanity I have inherited from an incestuous affair. He is predictable. I have his life outlined like a sketch that will fail to interest people, women most of all. Half of what fiction is may be based on a given reality. But let us not forget that there are more than a hundred realities out there. James will never know which ones I chose. He never asked. I will never give him the answer, anyway, because I killed my self. I am already dead.

James was not of my flesh and blood, but every bit of who he has become was a Messiah all the same. I can see father in him although James never saw father in his self, the only reason being that their genes had nothing in common. I who was as dead as a corpse inside my mother’s womb, I who was as alive as a newborn at the casket, except that I had no lips: I was buried close to where father lay, and it is where the mound is.

BECAUSE I LOVED HER TOO MUCH, and because she shared the same measure of passion as I did—perhaps more—my sister and I eloped. It was never easy. Our parents were dead: father died barely three weeks after mother did. Having no immediate relatives in that forsaken town a hundred miles from the first scent of concrete, we were left to look after one another before our teen years were over. What little income we had from the meat stall, the small and only business our family owned, easily went down the drain. We sold almost everything just to cover the burial expenses. With barely a few personal properties left, we ventured farther from our province and closer to the cities, until one day we found ourselves living the urban life at a very urban cost. We have lived here ever since.

I worked as a butcher at a young age. The smell of fresh meat at the market by dawn is invigorating, better than the aroma of coffee a hundred times over. Chopping flesh into several slices feels like singing a song’s reprise with as much familiarity as one can have for practicing a routine religiously. Blood, that most scarlet and most sacred of all fluids known to humanity, would be smeared over each table, as if the sight is an unpleasant reminder of a spectacle where hundreds of virgins have been unceremoniously sacrificed before a hundred altars. Every now and then, I still suffer wounds from accidental cuts. There are lines of scars on my skin but I do not mind. The cleaver is sharp, and it must be so.

Raising Alfred on my own was a challenge. One can only imagine how terribly difficult this world can further become without women. I never expected Frieda to die so sudden. Five months into her pregnancy and she said something I have never forgotten ever since. “Albert,” she whispered as we lay in bed waiting for the silence of the summer night to lull us to sleep, “I do not want to have this child born.” She must have seen it coming. I did not. Alfred’s birth two months early was Frieda’s death five minutes after. People will say that our child is the fruit of our mortal sin, but I rather see him as the seed of my love. Or perhaps all of us were right. Alfred is the seed of my love sown on the wrong womb.

Part 1 | 2| 3 | 4 | 5