She was one of those aspiring movie stars I met in a smoky bar after-hours. It was just temporary, she said, working graveyard shifts for some offshore company paying premium for local support. She was celebrating, skipped work, liberating herself for the occasion. She bought me two rounds of Jim Beam and a platter of chicken wings, I guess, to warrant the intent. I wanted to believe her, rooted for her even. But there was something in the way she held that drink that betrayed her. I decided not to pursue it, I didn’t want to ruin the night. Instead, I found my fingers plodding the crucifix tattoo she had on her chest. It was her lucky charm, she claimed. It had worked so well that, she thought it was what got her the part more than her acting talent.
“The audition didn’t even last half an hour. We went filming shortly after. I guess it sort of attracts sordid men.” It was an indie film, the type that doesn’t roll credits at the end.
“One of the cool girls had this and so I thought I should get one myself. Thinking about it now, it feels like living in somebody else’s dream. You know? I don’t remember much of that life anymore, or why this tattoo? I mean, I don’t even pray.”
“Maybe the deed is beginning to pay off.” I said sincerely.
And as if hearing nothing, she kept on dragging her cigarette, until it finally burned her cracked lips.
Drunk Men Don’t Sleep
We passed around the bottle as we did with the stories we shared that night — crude tales of old men, of the scarred and the beaten, of those who carry saddlebags under their eyes, the sleepless. Besides, drunken men do not sleep, at least not the weary ones. It was a sultry night. We buried the smell of our mixed sweat with the stench of cigarette smoke and our incessant laughter. We fought off the coming of the day, we all wanted to stay, recluse, in the night. We hid in our own lies caught between our teeth. In those minced words. We lurked, like gawking vultures in the dark for any leftovers. Waiting, ever long, sleepless like a steady patch of a cloud on a windless night.
It was New Year’s. Everything was still. Quiet. Tranquil.
It was more than what I deserved, but I took it anyway.
“Hey, bud.” The Mulberry plant began.
I turned to the door but there was no one.
“Hey, bud. Are you there?” It was only then when I realized that it was talking to its actual bud.
Again, I turned to the doorway and minded my own.
I reclaimed the quiet and sat on the stillness of the brand new day.
They stood along the roadside where the rest of the crowd had also gathered. The child perched upon the shoulders of his old man, cheering on beautifully embellished motorcades reeling past them with colorful balloons strapped at the corners.
Everybody was waiting for the sixty-foot marionettes to come. And when they appeared, they couldn’t believe what they were actually witnessing. It was nothing they’ve seen before.
The giants glided over the water, at the great lake by the ravine.
The town police stood between the onlookers and the mechanical beings made mostly of wood. There were only iron barricades and nylon ropes to keep the crowd at bay. The crowd broke loose, lurched forward into the lake to welcome the gods. While high-ranking officials cavorted with off-duty prostitutes and bootleggers became the day’s official suppliers of folly — the acolytes of Dionysus.