a story written by Mr. Ramuel Mendoza Raagas (CAL 1992-97204)

on August 14, 2001 for the Creative Writing  110 MHX (Realistic Mode Short Fiction) Class

Moderated by Dr. Jose Yap Dalisay, Jr.


The patriot-named streets were black, but not with ladies¡¯ dresses. Ferdie Co and Tactus Retocar were muttering in one side. Tactus, unlike a society columnist, was all of one voice be it with common birds or in his ephemeral stint on TV (Tactus might as well have been a game show contestant). There were no celebrities around.

It took some time before a squid balls cart could be detected. This, perhaps not so much for profit, parked by the numerous but incompletely-casted mock Rocketeer white legs resting on common couches, all revealed by the now-swung open glass door which had a tint the quality of many a Filipino-driven car¡¯s window. Two un-uniformed men crack a jibe at the legs of three sharp-dressed men.

Across that joint, which had its signboards no longer lit up lady-bright, was the other, more historicized joint in which Ferdie Co had smoked a joint hours ago. It was one of the fine beer joints (actually the eldest noted) which atypically had not housed a unit of American Standard (nefas!). Tonight it was so cold, too much so even for a lizard.

A man ate noodles with roast duck flesh which was as spittable as queer liver.

Could this be the place whereabouts his mother had finished medicine? Was not this place better off under Martial Law? This cloudy September night, there was no moon to mirror the Circle whereupon were planted everbrown limbs. Was there now no Anita Pamintuan (to teach letters) or, before Aunt Cory Aquino¡¯s days, ********** (to lend the shirt of another name to that tongue-fried chatterbox, who had slain¡¦ afar) to provide a genuine brightness in lieu of the fluorescent lamp posts under which no one  now reads, not the least a president-to-be?

The eating man noticed some of the duck brown bone bits which seemed as bitable as liver. He just set them on the ash-tray like sungka chips.

Gone were the horn honks of bicycle-boarded pimps from 1995 (The music and underlying percussion of which he had foregone for the Community of Solidarity.). Tonight there were bikers, silenced by Fierra-dispatched cops.

The man is so happy to be drinking so much tea. Its warm diluteness needed no fruit or honey to make it inviting. He frowned back from one brief trip to the American Standard to see cartoons on the TV display instead of the silk he didn¡¯t demandingly glue his eyes on upon his first attention.

The eyes of cloth-bound nipples are best-recalled from high school days, but the contrived shot that was served to him became a proxy for tonight¡¯s lack of Chinese smiles or even tender cheeks, for that matter.

Two cups later, his inspection for the display¡¯s corner watermark proved positive despite his bewilderment at solid colours within unelementary shapes. He was about to relight his paused cigarette when reality surfaced again on screen. He zapped his focus to the waiter¡¯s slacks-tucked palms and viewed the TV again, which gave him a yin-yang of the 4-bit and 32-bit coloured worlds.

He was about to turn up his ears, as if they were hearing aid-manageable, but he just snapped back to his soup upon noting the fighting-dull prosody of a screen-confined car chase.

For not leaving a tip, the man got quite a decent, cordial farewell bid.

He walked past Ferdie and Tactus who knew his face and limp (and not much more) even as they took a break last summer at Alaminos. The two wanted to be heard, but not spoken to.

The man eyed a building to the left and proceeded to walk through district-bound roads under construction. He pulled off to a shop unit which was a goalee¡¯s kick away from the midnight-silenced mall.

¡°New manager, same services--- just like a beerhouse,¡± the man thought. He rented a machine and started playing Minesweeper. He was so consumed by it, albeit not sweating all the while within the place¡¯s comfort, that he shot up almost half of a 238 ml canned juice¡¯s contents. The rest could have been used to put out cigarette buts, except that smoking was not allowed under the new proprietorship. The crushed pear juice tasted friendly and relieving, although not erotic to the man¡¯s taste.

Where to sleep? Rooms there are, more available than whores, a thousand pesos a piece. Home itself is not a hundred pesos away, but even without traffic, he had not the patience. And is there no transient space in the student¡¯s quarters? So transient that checking in beyond 10 p.m. is non-negotiable in the darkness-shut inlet in which he had enjoyed meal-cheap lodging two summers ago occasionally after reporting out of his Ermita office. There is a building, friendly to bar examinees. Its package of hours was best signed up around noon.

How can these streets be so safe and so¡¦

All the grunts marking every other corner do not bother to light up a torch of violent gropes.

¡°Is it only with me that it¡¯s this way?¡± the man thought so.

He is greeted by yet another security guard for the night. Once more a friendly query, as if he were the protagonist of some investigative video game.

The man approaches the stairs, but takes advantage of the elevator instead. This particular elevator is one of those rotten ones yet it never snaps to a desired conclusion.

The man walks the corridors as if he were re-exercising a fire drill. There is the door with the right number and a glass eye below that.

The man lies down. The floor is cold and his shirt is short-sleeved. Lying down, he not so much wants a blanket as the motion of unshirting himself.

The door opens. A girl squeaks with a vaginal voice. She feels so glad to have a room-mate just a tug away. The two see the man¡¯s gel-set hair, a fat sporty sign pen clipped to his breast pocket.

The two close the door. One reaches for the handle of the phone, which now serves as good as an intercon. The guard asks questions to the speaking girl, whom he knows by name and course. The girl gets jumpy within the bounds of assurance.

The guard himself goes up the stairs as if he were munching on a piece of bread all the while. He knows that a scream from the far side will get to his ears, so he proceeds unequipped. Anyway, the girl has no walkie-talkie to match his, nor does he have a cellular phone, although the girl had mistook his Nextel walkie-talkie for a big-grip handy phone when she had first gotten to know of his serving their building.

The guard gets to where he¡¯s supposed to, and there¡¯s even no need to knock, nor even the touch the man. The guard takes his time. ¡°Sir, get up. It¡¯s morning already. The sun¡¯s out.¡±

Were the man able to hear the guard¡¯s words he would have perhaps employed him as a domestic wake-up catalyst way back in his Project 7 residence. The latter man¡¯s ineffectuality apparent, our main man went on sleeping without even dreaming.

Last week, the guard got to roll a human calf with a side of his shoe--- even managing to get more ensuing motion out of it than his caloric input to the task (Talk about cost-efficiency.)---, but that was on the side walk, and he was only eager for such a motion for want of a bootblack.

Right now, the guard was not just up to it, having failed to warm up with gin, rock salt and citrus marbles the night before: his habit with a colleage from the previous shift when things got bustling in that district (i.e., other people¡¯s parties).

Eventually, the man rose, without even exuding any conspicuous smell.

¡°Where¡¯s my pen?¡±

The guard reached out to him.

¡°No, this is not it. I had it snug on my shirt.¡±

¡°Just look around here. Maybe it¡¯s just off to the side.¡±

The man did just that.

¡°Sorry, sir. You can¡¯t sleep here.¡±

The man settled on the lobby sofa, in which prolonged sitting was more allowed than bivouacking in the tiles.

The man walked off into a shop. There were more customers than attendants. He went straight to the sink. He was more into the faucet than the mirror, which he studied for its pinpointing of pustule-like morning stars on the corners of his red-webbed eyes. He ten retreated to the shop area proper, and exchanged greetings with one of the staff, who cocked a bit to the side, presenting him with just what he wanted.

The man dialed up the two girls¡¯ room-mate--- the one he knew among them eight. It was this one who caught the other end by the third ring. She acknowledged his call, but not that item she had given him six Christmases ago.