Tuesday, March 25, 2014

This Hut on the Hill

Two bamboo chairs. Dusty. Broken. A wooden table between, like a defiant obstruction that arms and fingers need to negotiate. But there are no arms. There are no fingers. Not anymore. There is a flask and it hosts the flavor of inebriation, golden, and any moment now it will taste like a violent objection to sobriety, as if it is a sin, a liquid crime that glides down your throat, to your stomach, then up the brain where guilt is the punishment to be had. Here is where the truth must be known: the cure is its own poison, and I will take it.

Four walls. Four barren walls to inscribe an absence. Because something is missing. Gone long ago. Lost to nowhere. But twenty years can happen in the blink of an eye, and this state of nothingness can become its own presence. It does now. A weak substitute, but an alternative nonetheless. I wish I can hold these memories with my hands.

The sound of the rustling leaves by the window escorts the early nightfall. The room is not quite like one because it is a hole. A void. A vacuum at the heart of the universe. The last of the sunlight impales the shadows, to no avail. The door, ajar, creaks, like a whisper constrained by its own voice, speaking in tongues, a forgotten language, a secret invocation to a mystery as ancient as time.

The old and tattered curtains sway and momentarily part in deference to the wind, revealing the stony trek along the slope where the grass is no longer green. There are no hurried steps from tender feet. No sacks of bigas piled after a day of milling. No stacks of firewood after having been dried under the sun. No fresh laundry in the clothesline. None but the rocks spread in a stretch toward the flatland below, a place where for many summers there were children playing until age robbed them of their innocence. Like their fathers and mothers and their elders before them, they had to go, too.

The grumbling in the distance announces the promise of rain. Slow. Steady. And sure. The sky will bleed like a wound. The earth will receive the offering because it has no other choice. Like yesterday, and the days before, as it has always been. And when the clouds have finally unloaded themselves to the ground by way of a trillion fragile drops, the disheveled nipa roof will find no rest and the clay floor will nourish itself with the sustenance that water brings. Until then, everything is to remain dry. Arid. Like most unfulfilled wishes.

In a corner, the broken kerosene lamp remains unlit. The blackened wick thirsts for the fire that will bless it with life and death. It is getting darker. There is no moon. There are no stars.

I take a swig from the flask. Then another. And another.

Long ago, this was home. Now, it is just a house on the hill, a hut with a humble awning where once upon a forgotten time a young dreamer with hands outstretched and feet on a chair tried to reach the stars as though they were fireflies flirting with the darkness, his eyes nascent with wonder at the sight, wondering at how such cosmic infinity can mean little to nothing in the course of our mortal lives. Here we are on this earth. Sometimes without a family.

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