Wednesday, February 15, 2006

On the Graveyard Shift

It's one o'clock in the morning.
Inside downtown Davao's Clickerz' internet cafe, a strong lemony scent wafts through the air. A lanky guy wipes a rag next to this computer as somebody raises the volume of a curious music playing from an invisible soundbox. The beat is playful and a bit too loud.
A group of dark-clad youngsters smelling of beer are crowding the counter. They are a noisy lot. Their stance and their presence is threatening. They keep passing by my computer, casting hostile glances at my direction. Some of them are standing right behind my back, as if asking me to leave. I can feel them reading what I'm writing here.
It's one fifteen now. I keep resisting the urge to go home in the comfort of bed. I feel so lost it looks like I could no longer find my way home. I'm stuck here in this place crawling with drug addicts, rugby boys and young people losing their way to the crazy whims of the world.
The Roman Catholic Church has a name for it. Purgatory. Urrrgggh. Even their music is boisterously loud. Their lyrics do not make any sense to me. All I hear is a repetitive chugchugging of drums. I'm shaking. The air conditioning is so cold. These people around me never seem to get tired. The bluish lights near the entrance makes me think it's five o'clock in the morning but it's still two o'clock yet. Five more long hours to go before daylight and the streets of Davao become habitable again.
Maybe, I'll have to go to the sea.

Wednesday, February 01, 2006

The Spy in my Pillow

I can feel a pair of eyes snooping in my room as I was writing this. I saw the dark shape of a head, sticking through the door I was facing as I typed on the keyboard. Several seconds later, the same head materialized through the window to my left, as if its owner wanted to find out what was happening to me, what I was writing here and why. I can feel the piercing pair of eyes as if it were a thermometer, trying to gauge how hot or how cold my room was. Or, more likely it was a barometer trying to tell whether a storm was coming. Was it my temperature he was trying to measure? Was it my storm he was bracing against?

Who was this snooper? Why won’t he come up to me and face things squarely?
I was seeing him only through the peripheral vision of my eyes. But the way he tilted his head to avoid the light and the way the light caught the pair of spectacles he was wearing, the way it sculpted his forehead and his face as he tried to read my face-all were too familiar. I turned around to meet his gaze-perhaps, to ask what was he doing peeping in my room like that, making me feel I was kind of a lunatic---but just as swiftly, he was gone.
Instead, I found myself in my room looking out to another grilled set of windows in our living room, which in turn was also looking out to the busy highway outside.
The blue curtain in my window was tucked away sideways to the left to accommodate the view--but looking out from here, all I saw were the holes of the granite fence walls showing glimpses of jeepneys scrambling along the McArthur highway.
Over an hour ago, the rain was pouring in a tumult down the house. The noise was almost unbearable when the waters slammed down the galvanized iron roofing above our heads. I had stood by that window, watching the last pair of kaimito and coconut trees, swaying across the street littered with small stores and brightly-painted commercial buildings. A kind of a thin, grayish haze seemed to hover over our part of Matina highway. This part of the highway closely approached the intersection just a few houses away, where one curve of the road leads to the SM city mall in Ecoland while another one straight ahead leads to NCCC mall and further down to the old downtown street of Claveria.
The haze and the gray skies were giving me a stifled, oppressed feeling. I blurted this out loud and someone had disagreed. He straightened the pair of spectacles he was wearing, peered at me very closely and said it was the date. February hung ominously over our house, he said, because the day when I was most susceptible to extreme mood swings was getting near. He was talking to me. He said I was sick. He had his own way of seeing things.
Hearing him, I felt sick and tired. The familiar suffocating feeling swept over me.
Then, suddenly, the rain had stopped. He had rushed outside to do his work in some café while I sat here in my room, before the heavenly white screen of my computer monitor. It was the only space in my entire universe where I can be free.
Now, the light in the sky was back. I looked up to see a gleam of white light to the West. I still had an hour before dark and it felt like eternity. I began typing away.