Thursday, October 27, 2011

Visions Sans Sketches

[Part 3 of the "Daemons" series]

“THIS ONE IS the Infant Jesus,” Clara said as she held the sketch in front of her and Father Pio, her hand stretched high enough as though she levied her pride with it. Little streaks of moonlight poured through the fissures of the wooden windows, the tapers of white light skirting the shadows on the tiled floor like luminous sticks poking the amorphous darkness. The diffused incandescence from the lampshade caused the charcoal dusts to shimmer bleakly. Clara looked at Father Pio, her breaths caught between an air of calm and anxiety as her free hand tugged the linen sheets of her bed.

“That looks, well, nice enough,” he lied. The priest could only wager a nonchalant smile as he brushed her hair with his fingers, his confusion clawing away his steady mind, not knowing if he should take a longer look at the caricature or simply turn a blind eye at it. Her drawing betrayed his expectations about her innocence at the age of fifteen, for the picture was symbolic of a species of irreverence, the type that he has yet to completely rebuke by giving it a name. If the image resembled anything, it had almost nothing to do with the little Messiah. Amid the orgy of lines, the child she drew gripped its massive penis dangling between its legs, the scrotum having folds aplenty like the draperies of a drawn curtain.

“I learned that religion is a giant phallus clutched by the hand of God,” she said, eager to solicit a response from him.

“I can clearly see your point.” His smile was gone, in its place an emerging grimace. “But who told you that?”

“Some guy did. He also told me that religion nurtures feudalism and patriarchy, whichever comes first.”

Not another bastard of the great unwashed, he thought. “Who is he?” he insisted, his voice a pitch higher than his casual baritone.

“Felix. He’s the guy who owns the art gallery near school.” Clara set the sketch aside in a pile together with the small stack of caricatures on her bedside table. “Are you mad at him?” she said as she pulled the blanket to her chest, the tone of her voice plush with sympathy.

“No.” Father Pio kissed her on the forehead, his lips dried by age and countless litanies that usually fell on deaf ears and forlorn consciences, dredging what little piety is left in the gutter of their lives. “It’s time for you to rest, my child. Sleep, for you still need to rise early tomorrow for your exam.” He mumbled a short prayer — Clara prayed with him, her hands clasped like a dutiful nun — before he turned out the lights and shut the door. After several hours into the night, Clara still could not sleep. Father Pio, too, had the same predicament. But a few minutes before three in the early morning, they finally had their taste of slumber.

The day before he first set foot in my gallery, Father Pio and I met in a dream. It was not my dream alone, nor was it solely his. There were no two separate dreams, one the adjunct of the other. There was only one, and it was ours.

“Felix!” he called out several times. His tone was either boisterous or just plain angry. My spirit came to possess the self portrait I drew several years back. I spoke through it as if it was my phantom, a fitting mouthpiece for someone who could easily pass as a spare Christ had it not been for my very Filipino nose.

“You must be Father Pio,” I said, my voice drawing him closer to where I was. “Clara told me plenty of stories about you.” He further stepped closer, his pace gentle but resolute, white smoke trailing his steps, until he was only two feet in front. The Dominican shot a look of doubt, realizing a little too late that I am my own art. The frame is my bone and the paper is my skin. I smelled the scent of incense.

“You have to stop poisoning Clara’s innocence,” he said. “Your propaganda is not helping either her or your cause. I suggest that you just keep it to your self.”

“A priest is the hand of God that clutches religion as if it’s a giant phallus on full erection,” I said without any pretense of guilt. Admonition was much to be desired. “Did you like the idiom? I guess not,” I asked without waiting for his answer. I did not know if I made sense. I was held captive by the scent of incense pushing through my charcoal nostrils.

“Your heresy won’t save you!”

“Molested children silenced by the church orthodoxy, vows of celibacy gone awry, reproductive health notions as Jurassic as Adam and Eve — I’m afraid your messianic offers have no real use. The healer has trouble healing its self.”

Father Pio grabbed the frame, his frail hands defying the limits of its own strength, and lifted the portrait as though it had the weight of paper. He swung his arm and hurled the portrait. For a while, I was airborne. I felt weightless until I broke into several pieces. The crash on the floor had no sound.

“You don’t throw away the entire basket of apples just because of a few rotten ones,” he said before he vanished in the thick incense smoke.

I thought the dream was to happen again when Father Pio made his first actual visit to the gallery one Thursday afternoon. But instead of running amok, he simply walked inside, viewed the paintings and sketches on display, and left without saying a word.

Part 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5

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