Thursday, April 5, 2012

Goat in the Shell

[Last part of the "Sketches of Kitsch" series]

LOOKING BACK, life in prison was never that bad. I have managed to hold on to my soap tight and refuse to bend over just to pick it up every time it falls on the floor. Danny, that poor fellow from down south who was convicted of raping a goat — But Billy was asking for it! he would say before sliding into the sheets of his concrete bed, the cold hard floor, not knowing that it isn’t really a crime to take a goat from behind after milking it in the middle of the rice field in front of his deaf landlord — he dropped the soap many times, picked it up with both hands each chance he had, and he never walked the same way again. He said he loved it even if it might make a cripple out of him one of these days, and he would not hesitate to drop all bars of soap in the world and get on both knees first thing in the morning for his breakfast. My legs shall be my crutches, he once said while taking a bath with the rest of the inmates, and dropped his soap with much enthusiasm his smile revealed the tartars on his teeth while the early sunlight shone on his dark gums. In a way, I miss Danny. Fuck the police! he cried out loud. The chief was not pleased at the sight of his wide open ass and shot him three times from behind with his service firearm, the blood shooting out of his manhole like a geyser and turning the yellowish tiles on the bathroom floor into a sea of crimson until his lifeless body was hauled into a bag and brought somewhere I do not know. I reckon it must be a place where there is no soap. But life in prison was never that bad, and now that freedom is mine the world is officially my oyster. Or perhaps soon.

“Jesus Christ, Robert, shoot the fucking soldiers!”

“Christ, yes! Yes! What was I thinking?” Of course, I was thinking of my mother but I couldn’t tell Frank the truth when I should be aiming at the soldiers and shooting them down with my rifle even if we were outnumbered ten to one. I often wonder about mother ever since I was sent to jail for raping a prostitute in our slum. Say it, say it, I commanded, and she whimpered Oh god oh god before laughing and kicking me on the groins and running away with her panties down to find help. My mother never said a word after the conviction, and to this day I still contemplate about what she has been doing with her life, or whether she is still alive at all, living in our house, that heap of garbage, graced day and night by Lito Lapid’s splendid mustache.

“Move left! Move left!” Frank shouted. We moved left, fifteen of us, and sought refuge inside a tea shop, the sweltering noon raging outside as the bullets continued to fly in our direction, breaking the glass windows and turning them into a thousand shards. I wanted to have myself a nice cold glass of tea with some fancy name but I turned the thought down because nobody drinks tea as a pretense of sulking in bourgeois comfort right smack in the middle of a heavy gunfight when the country is busy with its bloody revolution. I peered at a hole by the chair I used as a shield and saw the armed men from a distance of a hundred meters or so, lining up into a squad as they began their slow approach to where we were. At that moment, I thought of the thousand other prisoners in every jail in the country suddenly released from authoritarian captivity and given guns to fire against all symbols of the state: policemen, soldiers, politicians, and just about anything that moves and is part of the government payroll. My first casualty was the prison chief who shot Danny in the asshole. Suck my cock! I screamed at his ears before I stepped on his face with my boots and shot him on his forehead. And then I said, as if in prayer, In memory of Danny and the goat that was the ultimate cause of his misery and joy in jail, the empty shells of my bullets shall count the ways in which vengeance shall be yours. And then I laughed so hard I could not help but fart.

“Move out! Take the back door!” Frank commanded, and in a minute we scurried like rats being chased by a bunch of pussies out of the tea shop, into the street, close to the bend in the highway. Back door, I mumbled, and the image of Danny on his knees flashed before my eyes. There was a sudden silence, an unexpected ceasefire. But it was momentary. There was a gunshot, and another shot, and then another, and then six or seven more. “There! There!” I screamed, and all fifteen of us made our way to where I pointed at. Right across the street was the coffee shop and the lady who just fainted on the floor, her red stilettos failing to save her from whatever it was that she was afraid of.

I kicked the bolted door open and hurried inside. It wasn’t the best garrison in the eastern world or the best room to have coffee while being in the middle of an insurrection. Otherwise you might easily die at the cost of an overrated Frappuccino.

“Shit, there are more of them coming!”


“Left side!”

Three military trucks full of heavily armed soldiers stopped and deployed a battalion. One of them ran toward where we were — a willing martyr who forgot to wear his brain, I thought — and fired at will. I aimed my rifle at him, an easy target, and pulled the trigger once, twice, thrice, son of a bitch the gun won’t fire! Then I felt a stinging pain in my head. When I woke up, my professor was staring at me with that crude grimace on his face. He was clutching his fan with much force I can see the veins pulsating against the skin of his left arm.

“David you idiot, time’s up and you aren’t even halfway done with your exam!”

Shit, I fell asleep and couldn’t even win an insurrection, I thought.

“Did you forget to wear your brain again?” Professor Arthur had that furious look. At that moment, I just wanted to vanish and die at the cost of an overrated Frappuccino. But I decided to get out of the room and accept my fate; Applied Physics isn’t my cup of tea, and my cup of tea will never have pearls and milk on it.

I took a jeepney ride. I had to walk the rest of the mile for up ahead there was a military checkpoint and the sound of bullets being fired from afar echoed and rippled in the air.

Part 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Life in the City of Gods

[Part 4 of the "Sketches of Kitsch" series]

THERE IS NOT MUCH to see on this side of the country except the face of poverty — grim, like the wrinkled folds around the eyes of the senile resigned to their fate, earnestly praying for the emissary of death to fetch them in haste in their final bid to die with little dignity and a wooden coffin for their graves — and how almost a decade of the iron hand of the city mayor merely nursed the flurry of violence, drawing out blood and tears from those who know nothing more than the cryptic affliction they call survival, or whatever it is that turns sickly but pious folks into suburban mercenaries waging their personal wars against hunger, they who pierce the flesh of the unfortunate women and men with their knives until the victims breathe their last, their emaciated limbs left to commune with the elements in the dead of the night, the river nearby their transitory tomb from where the perennial troubadours of these filthy waters would retrieve their idle bodies later as if they were floating markers for wayward boats that find their way in this forgotten territory by some stroke of misfortune, modest vessels colliding against these buoys made of carcass and maggots and flies, the petty sailors fishing them out with nets and poles, their arms akimbo as they leer at them, triumphant as though they have just had the day’s worth of their harvest long before the sun could meet the eastern horizon in such an unholy place where the people are their own gods. Sacrilege is the least of their worries. They have the rest of their lives and innumerable sins to burn in this hellhole.

I used to live in a house, if one may call it a house, a few feet behind the thick walls of the largest shopping mall in the city. My girlfriend, my former girlfriend to be specific, called it a heap of garbage one day and never returned. The only thing that makes that heap of garbage stand on the ground is my mother’s nightly prayer in front of the makeshift altar of cardboard, tin cans, and Lito Lapid’s movie poster where his mustache glimmers like a beacon amidst foggy terrain and goons clad in leather jacket. As far as I can remember, my mother was never religious, except on two occasions. The first was when I was still a little boy, probably four, and I heard mother calling out oh god oh god in the middle of the night while father was on top of her pumping like a jackhammer, or some kind of machine that groans and moans, runs out of fuel after thirty minutes, and tells you you can now open your eyes son as if it was the last sentence that must be said before going to bed. The second was that day when the demolition men began to hammer their way through the overgrowth of perhaps more cardboard than they have ever seen in their life. My mother and I were lucky enough to escape with our clothes intact and luckier still to be able to return later in the evening when the police were long gone, the rubble the only reminder that they ever set foot there, and when our neighbors were slowly rebuilding their paper houses using rusty nails and tapes and whatever adhesive they had, except their precious rugby. In our place, nobody really uses it for anything except for sniffing. One of our neighbors once said god made the world in seven days and was kind enough to create rugby for our insatiable nostrils. When mother and I found the spot on the muddy ground where our house used to struggle in a limbo, there was not much left, save for Lito Lapid’s poster, the only inheritance left by my father before twenty stabs took him away two years ago. The poster was on the ground, wet and muddy, and yet Lito Lapid’s mustache seemed to have defied all that atrocity, as if it was invulnerable to any kind of shaving blade. By the following day, we had our miserable house nailed back to its original position as though nothing happened, only that our house looked more miserable than before. That day, too, mother learned to pray the rosary in front of Lito Lapid whose face, perhaps, is the spitting image of god. He intones salvation upon her. I can tell by the way she wipes it day and night with my old underwear, the only thing that reminds me of the demolition.

There was a job at a construction site and I was barely thirteen. Take it, my mother said. I did, and for the next four months my mother and I had something warm to put on our plate, no longer the occasional restaurant leftovers and the usual shellfish I hack off the submerged stones by the pier. Those were good days. I could eat whatever I want, and I only wanted sardines, those headless mackerels that have no one else to blame but their selves for squeezing themselves inside a small can of red soup when there is a whole ocean out there waiting for them. By the time the building was more than halfway done, I got into a fight with one of the workers. I wanted to put holes in his head with the iron rod but it was a good thing that the others were able to separate us and tell us that we can take our fight outside because they still needed the iron rod. That was the last day I was hired, and the warm mackerels soon stopped filling our plates. Maybe they have finally grown their heads and are now in the ocean.

One very late night I was taking a brief stroll in one of the alleys that led to the innards of the slum where I live. I was on my way home and the beer tasted as good as the other nights. A little ahead I saw a woman. By the time I was in front of her, I took her by the hand, that nameless prostitute, and I had her naked in less than a minute. Say it, say it, I ordered her, the tip of my ice pick against her luscious neck, my prick on her thigh, and she did. Oh god oh god, she whimpered like a prisoner in full submission, cowering in a dark corner where I was fucking her the way my father fucked my mother. But she laughed, and laughed, and laughed some more. That day on, I learned the meaning of erection, and what prison feels like when you can barely afford a lawyer to defend you for your lust.

Part 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5