Amateurs

 

Public Ward

The hospital beds were lined up evenly as if parked cars. All of the patients were facing eastward towards the direction of the morning sun, it’d be good for us, the nurses kept on saying. Next to me, was a middle-aged man struggling with his breakfast which he sipped through a plastic straw. His undivided attention, life’s worth of training dedicated to that simple pursuit. I heard that he used to be well-known, used to play overseas some years ago before a career-ending incident. Looking around, a grim thought suddenly dawned on me — the inevitable truth that we are all heading down the same corridor. Our shadows will catch on eventually. The patients looked the same in those gowns they made us wear. All of our collective backstories, identities, and even passions, were mere incidental trivial matters for the time being.

 

 

Old Movies

We went back to her apartment and rewatched some of the old movies she had on CDs. As usual, traffic was so bad that we missed the screening of the weekend premiere. “But that’s okay,” she said while reliving those perfect lines from that perfect screenplay. A million times over and yet, I still saw those tears rolling over her cheeks at the exact queues — it was like a magic trick. I snuck a peek to look at her in the dark; her face enveloped in the light of the TV monitor. And at that moment, I could not help but feel that I was being taken. It felt as if I was swallowed up and being washed away, in the foams of a great wave. It was definitely magic.

 

 

Amateurs

Two amateur robbers were squatting in the dark.

“John, I don’t think I could get through this.” one of the robbers said hesitantly.

As if hearing nothing, John (not his real name) wiped off the sweat under his ski-mask and just continued working on the fence with the wire cutters.

“I’m sorry, but I’m bailing out.” The fearful robber jumped off the wall but hurt his ankle when he landed. He missed the thicket. Bellowing in pain, he lay on his back holding the injured leg with both hands.

There were barking dogs that can be heard in the distance.

John abandoned his attempt to break in and helped the friend up.

While fleeing farther away from the scene, the friend apologized sincerely while limping.

“I should shoot you, you know?”

“I know. I’m sorry I let you down.”

“Nah, I guess it’s a sign. Let’s face it, we’re not cut out for this sort of thing. At least we learned something tonight.”

“Yeah? Like what exactly?”

“That we should enter politics instead.”

 

 

Drive

A buddy and I liked to drive around town and have our usual aimless conversations. He’s one of those kids who live in those affluent subdivisions with really high walls you’d mistake for a fortress. For the life of me, I still don’t know how we ended up as friends. I suppose it didn’t matter to him, or maybe, having me around was a novelty for his kind. No matter, I was just glad to have him around during those years, I even thought that I was helping him. I showed him the real world while he helped me escape it — a paradoxical symbiosis of a sort.

If we could, we’d exchange lives. We both thought we’d rub each other out.

Maybe, I just liked driving around in shiny cars I only saw on TV. He tried to explain things to me but I could not catch on. Maybe, I got lost in the haze. Maybe, he was too. We just drove on, agreed that we would stay on that stretch in silence instead. The way was dark, but at least we had those four feet of headlights to guide us through into the night.

Drunk Men Don’t Sleep

 

Indie Film

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.

 

 

Mulberry Plant

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.

 

 

Marionettes

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.