Superficial (1) (Fiction)

 

 

 

Goodness, what time is it?

I reached for my mobile phone, that also serves as the alarm clock for my everyday activities. Not that I have much to do these days. But it never hurt to keep the habit of waking up early and do more.

Not today, though. Forgot to set it last night. The sun is already up, threatening to melt the black top laid new outside my landlord’s house, of which I am a tenant, with the rent due sometime soon. Made it to the common sink all tenants use and washed my face with water already warm from the heat. Eyes felt puffy. The beginnings of stubble easily discernible on my fingertips, as my brain registers the fact that I am awake and I have to do something today.

What was it?

Dried my hands and face on the towel hanging by the veranda, still clueless of just what it was I was supposed to be doing. Filled the electric pot with warm water from the tap to boil. Barefooted and with dirt accumulated from last night’s dust settlings, took a few steps to the bathroom and relieved myself of the previous night’s caffeine consumption, noticing the grime from my bare feet on the wet floor. To use the bowl would require a lot of water because the flush is broke, so I aim for the drain and pour water around it, and the mud like dirt on the floor.

My Toshiba left on all night managed to finish the virus scan last. Thank fully, I have kept this laptop working even if the joint is about to lose it’s integrity, as I look for new emails.

No. No new job offers today. Drying my feet and legs with the tee I took off this morning, wet with perspiration and now also with slight stains of dirt. It’ll come off if I wash it, I assured myself, and threw it right smack into the clothes bin, and sat on my black monoblock chair, and lit a cigarette, the first of many, for the day, while browsing for news.

Ah.

There was supposed to be a call yesterday that didn’t come. I’m supposed to submit the drawings I did and get the balance payments. Sadly, I think they have no money, so play the waiting game.

But no, that was not why I had to get up early today.

The water boiled and I pull the plug, and made myself coffee. Hot as it is, I savor the smell and taste. Took a few puffs of smoke and tried to do some stretches. The usual ambulant vendors with pushcarts and baskets are already doing some good business outside with vegetables and fruits. I coul hear the guy selling watermelons, with his well modulated voice yell “PAHKWARYN!” over and over.

I’m hungry.

Not really, but something in my head says I have to have food today.

Got a fresh tee from the closet, took a second look and changed my shorts too. Because I noticed the sticky stuff that dried on the crotch on the one I was wearing. Remnants of last nights solitary sexual gratifications. One does that as the only relief for being alone in this city. I tell that to myself so I don’t mess around. Not anymore.

Quick look at the mirror and I went down the stairs, out the gate and walked to my favorite food stand. Favorite, because the manang there let me eat and pay later.

Which is what I’m about to do now since my wallet hardly has anything in it, just receipts and Pera Padala forms, and my coin purse is protesting that I can’t even fill it up with money. Macaroni soup, two servings for Php24, rice, meat and vegetables for about Php55 and I promised to pay her after I get my money from clients, lying through my teeth because as of today, I still don’t have anything to collect, just a finished project from the client whose finances are only a bit more flexible from mine.

After dodging jeepneys picking up passengers on the street, I made it back to my room on the second floor.

And what was it really that I am supposed to do today?

My coffee’s still warm, and I think I’ll just have the macaroni soup for now. The rest I will have for lunch. fervently hoping it would not spoil in this heat. The sky, so blue promises a day of unrelenting sunshine, that will surely burn the social networks with status posting of “Ang inet!” complete with hashtags and photo attachments, I smiled.

A soft wind managed to lift some feathers left by birds I caught playing by the veranda. And I could see pigeons way up.

Then it hit me.

I wa supposed to meet with a potential client for a storyboard job.

Goodness, what time is it?

8:22am.

Still enough time for a quick bath, and be in Sta.Mesa by 10am.

Okay.

Move you old fart. Time’s a-wasting.

(To Be Continued)

Postscript on Father’s Day

I could be coming home to a home with my daughters scrambling for a hug or a kiss, or my wife smiling with promises of a delicious dinner waiting at the table. It’s what fathers, stereotyped providers that we are, were led to believe, the whole happy family trip our teachers and catechist seem to have hammered into our innocent minds back then – the unmoving, immovable, strong pillar that keeps the house standing through fire and rain. Well, maybe not fire, but rain, flood and storms.

The rock.

The superhero.

Instead, I open the door into my third floor apartment, what nowadays get categorized as studio-type, dark, with a hint of stale cigarette smoke, leftover clothes from the weekend washing that didn’t make it to the estimated time and detergent considerations, and here I am, 400 kilometers from my wife and daughters, renting space, no one to welcome me home but a small mouse stealing bits and morsels from my trash bin.

The things we endure to make a living.

Postscript on Father's Day

Most of the time I spent thinking is when I come back to this matchbox of mine, after I put the water to boil, and linger by the kitchen sink while I read the days text messages on my mobile phone. But I had to smile, from the greetings my three angels sent, greeting me Happy Father’s Day last Sunday.

I am a father.

But how can that be? How can I be a father to my daughters if  my works keeps me in the city, and they are growing, fast and furious, beautiful and intelligent, while I’m away. How can I be a husband  when I don’t get to kiss them goodnight? Is that what a father has come to? Earning barely enough to pay for the bills, for new shoes, school supplies, food on the table. This is very much like going abroad and just work till my back breaks so I can send some home.

Is this what a father is supposed to be?

I never knew my father. That is, literally I don’t know him. Oh. I know his name and how my mother and father met, and why I have this music bug ringing in my ear. But that is all. I often look at his portrait when I was young, a tall, handsome man in starched white uniform, holding a trombone. I may even imagined him as Rogelio Dela Rosa, suave in his slick, swept back hair with a cowlick neatly dangling on his forehead, carving and shaping wooden blocks into jumping horses and “last suppers”, madonna and child, football figures and trophies. I secretly thought, well maybe my dad is that good-looking, maybe also had girls swooning, you know, stuff you thought up as a teenager.

Mythos. Stories. Maybe even fiction.

But my father died of  liver cirrhosis when I was two years old, hence what I know about him is really just third hand information, from my brothers, from my mother, from relatives. I have never seen him in the full light of day. Never spent some time playing around with the trombone. We have never had an argument. He never had the chance of hitting me low on the gut If I ever did something that might have roused his anger. I will never know how he would have handled any of the bad things I’ve done, the triumph of having been to the  provincial meet at Quiz Bee, or maybe we could have shared a beer or two for some man to man talk.

I’m chasing a ghost.

I do not, for the life of me, know what or how it is to be a father. I do not know my father.

No behavioral pattern to follow. No discipline measures to emulate. Nothing to copy.

Sipping my coffee, I often wondered what could be if my Ama and Ina were still alive today. I could use  some thoughts on raising a family. Not that I’m bungling all the time, but sure could use some  info. Of course, I could be entirely off the mark. An uncle once hinted that he knew my father to be short of temper. Maybe that liver gave out because, well, usually it was from too much alcohol.

Too many maybes. Too many nevers. A whole lot of  guessing.

And as I try to relax a bit and sit in front of my laptop, I’m still guessing at what to do next. Draw some more? Maybe. Write? Guess so.  Will it rain hard tomorrow? Hope the kids get to school dry and on time. Will I find some quick solution to this financial rut I’m in? I hope so.

But then again, when I feel a bit unnerved by what’s happening, there’s this vestigial hand that often slaps me sober and asks –

‘What would Father do?”

A Father’s Journey

I know this guy as a happy-go-lucky-devil -may-care sort of man. And the man knows his way around. Met him at the start of my new job, which is where I currently work.  We used to share a bus ride on my way home when I was still tethered to my Mandaluyong habitat. Knowing his fun-loving ways, I never took Ian for a serious person, just someone who’s always looking for a weekend trip, or an adventure somewhere.

But time and again, I am always looking for the depth in another man’s soul, the thing that makes another human being interesting. Sure enough, I was right. Beneath that facade of beach bum, and skin art enthusiasm, lies a hard man able to face anything in life. This man, Ian, bears the burden of his child heart ailment, and carries it around with a grain of salt. Always with a smile for everyone he meets, we used to work  the 2am to 10am shift and always, we could be giggling like schoolgirls at a frat party. But his heart must have been breaking like glass every time he sees his child suffering. A father, no doubt about it.

Two strong individuals

At the hospital, after Star's heart procedure and Ian, the proud father of the brave little girl.

Continue reading