The jeepney stopped; he got off first. She took his hand as she stepped her shoes on the rung and the pavement. In her mind she isn't sure if she took his hand out of affection. Instantly they disappeared among the multitude re-emerging at the queue at the mall gate before security guards inspecting women's shoulder bags and frisking men from waist to calves before they were allowed in. From there they proceeded to the movie ticket booth.
Inside the theater, their eyes adjusted to the darkness. All their eyes could see is the screen scrolling up the end credits.
A shadow approached from the opposite direction. It puts it hand in its jeans pocket and kept it there. As they came within reach of the shadow, the hand thrusts hard a glinting thing into his chest. She didn't notice anything until his hand loosened on hers as he dropped to the floor.
"Oh my Godddddddd!" she screamed. Her voice echoed like it was shouted to a cliff. Moments later, the screen went blank and the lights were turned on while the shadow casually walked to the door. The momentary opening of the door allowed the noise out but not enough to be noticed by the people outside as the closer sprung shut the both-side swinging door again.
The outside lights revealed the face of the shadow -- a girl, lanky from being thin. But that was all the details the lights could provide. She was not fleeing; the crowd was enough a refuge that escape wasn’t necessary. She quickly joined the other people and was gone to a pedestrian lane wanting to cross the highway. She stood there to wait and thoughts different from what the eyes can see came flooding. The highway was a river and the cars were giant boulders carried by a flood. At the other side of the river were children playing in its cliff bank. One child, too young to be naughty and naked from the waist down, was sitting at the edge of the cliff. He dangled his feet almost touching the water. His penis rested on the sand as he sat. Some grits of sand adhered to the moist end of his uncircumcised penis as he stood to jump into the water. He buried his toe among rocks in the water and kicked his feet into the air to the direction of the other side of the river. He buries his toe again and the boy transformed into a carabao calf and his right toe the mouth of a dugong grazing underwater weeds. As the calf moved away, a Japanese-looking man with gray beard and mustache and sideburns superimposed the vision. He was cutting reeds at the foot of a bridge. The other side of the river was houses of all-bamboo materials. Men were drinking the other day’s tuba, a prelude to a party of an unknown celebration. The carabao calf re-appeared, went near them and got knocked in the forehead with a big rock by the drinking men. They drained the beast of its blood from the nostrils into their drinks instead of cutting a slit in the neck. The boy emerged from the body of the dead beast the way a phoenix would from the ashes. His eyes looked around but without looking at the drinking men. His eyes wandered to where a thin dog is being chained to a bamboo chair like it had stolen fire. The dog's left hind leg is free to allow it to raise it when urinating. The mind of mix up thoughts segued to reality. Her hands were still hidden in her jeans pocket. And then she joined the crowd that crossed the highway.
Back inside the theater, the coagulated blood remained on the floor when they carried the stabbed man out of the theater and out of the mall into a taxi to a nearby hospital. It tells the history of the past few minutes. When the giant screen darkened for the next screening, feet trampled it. As the taxi sped away blinking lights to indicate emergency, she struggled back to her senses to look back at the recent past.
"You’ve the idea why I called you here?" the professor asked.
"No, not at all," she lied.
"Look at this." He opened he pouch and brought out the content. She looked without saying anything. "How can you mistake this for your answer to the exam? One page is not enough to satisfy my questions in the exam, not even 15 or 20 pages. How can you mistake this letter to be your answer to the exam?"
"I've put the wrong paper."
"Alright, I want you to comeback within two days. Show it to me; bring it to me -- the answer to the exam that you mistakenly mailed to your parents. Exam time is not the time to write letters to parents, I might forgive you. Come back within two days."
She folded the paper on which she copied the test questions pretending to be answering and secretly put in her jeans pocket. After submitting her sealed manila envelope she went straight to the university post office and then to the provincial library. The university library closes a week before the final exam. More than a week later, home for the semestral vacation, she herself received the pouch from the letter carrier.
"So what's your decision? He's old -- nearly twice as old?"
"I'm thinking of accepting."
"I'm not giving you up to him – or to anybody."
"Only for a while, I'll come back to you."
"No!" she said angrily.
"We will still be seeing each other."
"I can't share you with anybody."
"There's nothing I can do."
"There is, if you really want to. I want you to say no."
"I'm not coming back to this university just for that one subject alone."
"I spent so much on you."
The word changed the atmosphere from quarrel to fight although their voices were controlled.
"I told you I will still be seeing you. You're the reason I neglected that subject so I had to cheat."
"I said I'm not giving you up to him."
"I said there is nothing I can do."
"There is something I will do."
"Then do it! But what is it?"
"You'll know when I’ve done it."
There is a moment of silence and exchange of looks. Their voices toned down to soft conversation.
"You'll be in jail."
"I'm not going to jail."
"The law will be after you."
"They law will have nobody to run after. Don't worry about me. I care more about losing you than the loss of my..."
She kept the finisher word unsaid. It doesn't exist anyway as far as they are concerned. She was several paces leaving her behind when the final parting word that needed to be said was to be said loud to be clearly heard.
"Where will I find you?"
"You know where to find me."
He was almost twice older -- such a kind of relationship as that of Joseph and Mary was probably the best known one. Michael and Catherine picked up the idea but they failed to get the trend moving. And on her part, she detested the idea, only she didn't have a choice. But now her heart melted for the dying man. The warmth of his blood that flowed and dried on her blouse and on her undies and belly skin, the man’s dying moments spent in her arms, somehow ate up a space in her heart. And now she wished the murder did not take place.
A pair of feet approached the house, a barung-barong by city word. Nobody is home save for the child -- a boy, and a dog, curled near the open door. The path on which the feet walked seemed trodden only by the owner of the house whose husband died when the child in her womb. He died for the movement and she accepted the loss without bitterness. And now that her husband is gone and the movement is in a sense dormant or totally dead, the path had become less and less walked.
Here the clouds aren't merely for the eyes to see. It's also for the hand to touch as it lingers low until late mornings. Arecas abound and while evaporation was not yet strong its millions of tiny flowers perfumed the morning breeze. Unlike the ilang-ilang, no spirit maker has yet patented the areca scent. As the feet stepped on the dry areca frond heaping on the path, it sent signal like a trip wire to the sleeping dog. He began to bark guessingly and instantly his barking voice added colors to silence. As the approaching feet emerged from the fog, he added loudness to his barking intent in keeping the intruder at bay. He bared his fang growling ready to attack.
"Osmond, Osmond! You're still alive after all these years. And who is this angel? Ah yes, you were in your Mama's body when your Papa died. Where is your mama?" she asked like the child is capable of giving her the information she needed.
Osmond stopped barking as soon as his name was called. His canine sense of smell didn’t send signal to the brain any scent of this intruder’s fear and his mine went rushing through memories to check why this intruder knows him by name. And the he recognized her smell and Osmond began to wag his tail. She kneeled to him and held the dog in the ear with both hands almost kissing him. And then he led her to the child's mother in the broke. She was about finished with the dishes when they arrived.
"Babes!" she called.
"So you're the one being barked."
"Yeah, I was."
"You have come back. Is there still reason to come back?"
"I just missed this place. Is there still reason for you to stay here?"
"I cannot leave this place yet."
"You still with that solar light NGO?"
"Yes, that's why I'm still here. But what really happened? I know you won’t come here for that reason alone -- missing this place."
Babes looked at her in the eyes demanding confession.
"I've killed a man."
"Is there still reason to kill?"
"It's not in the name of the movement."
"So what is it?"
"What about Fear."
"She went out with another man -- a man."
"Do we accept that kind of killing?"
"We don't, but maybe we can blame it to the movement."
"You want to get away with your crime using the movement?"
"We've gotten away so many times."
"Yes, but that was different. We did not do that for our own selves. We did that for the country. They were not personal enemies. We did that for what we fought for."
"Ok, alright. But I'm not giving myself up. If the authorities find me and arrest me, I'll give myself up -- without a fight."
There was a long moments of silence, each trying to find a word to say and what to decide. Osmond who was lying near them stood up and began to rub his body on Babe's legs as though to beg to allowed her to stay. She touched him in the head and Osmond steadied to be touched some more. He whined and barked then touched his paw on her. Her hand accepted his paw.
"You think that's fair enough for Fear?"
"How can that be fair or unfair for Fear?"
"She's a girl."
"She might have fallen in love with the man you killed."
They looked at each other long each struggling to find words to say. Babes got up after sitting long before the spring. She felt the blood in her shins and soles creeping back to circulation. She picked up the pail loaded with washed dishes of the morning meal and began to walk the path towards the hut. The lanky girl walked behind. They walked in silence still finding for words to say like every word had been said.
Osmond went rushing through their legs to the direction of the hut and to the heaped dry frond by the path and began barking at a figure emerging in the mist.
--- e n d ---