Ginger Ale Rain 

He had his legs crossed while resting his jaw on his palm, listening to the amplified pulse of the rain on the thin iron sheets of the roof above him. There he sat with a cat in front of a barbershop sign – which was hand painted on a window glass- while they both waited out the pluvial weather.

This companion snuggled against his feet, supposing for warmth. Playfully making its acquaintance, it had little trouble conveying its mind to him, unaware of the passing automobiles a few paces away.

He envied its relentlessness to dismiss hesitation, above all its innocence.  Little by little, a sudden urge dawned onto him to make a sketch of the feline, or maybe taking him home should he be stray.

He admired the distinct patterns of its fur – elaborate and it appeared warm – they were the color of ginger however sometimes it changes into amber when the sun is setting low.

While his was a little ashen above the ears, he thought of having a trim but hesitated.  His hair resembled the patches on a gloomy monsoon sky such as what can be seen on that day.

With complete abandon, he sets aside the idea.

Some twenty minutes had passed, the rain let up, and he started moving again.  Soon, the soles of his boots found its way crunching against the gravel walkway of the crematorium of the community parish.

These days she would have probably liked to wander about the provinces on shuttles somewhere.  He can imagine her peering at the world outside the window.  The thatches of the hut houses would be brown and crisp, scattered at the footsteps of the isosceles mountain backdrop.  The clouds scudding across the powder blue skies, as high as they could while the sunbeams appear to be just fair, intermittently peeping through the etched leaves and tree branches warming up the scenery.

There will be no more motion sickness, lack of sleep and heartburns.

He wanted to tell her how wonderfully the children have grown and how the other day they asked about what bellybuttons are for.

On his way home, standing on the train being a little taller than an average person, he looked around the crowns of the passengers and it reminded him of a landscape of hay swallowed in the somber nighttime during summer.

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Retired Suitcases

The kitchen door swung open and the prism made it home through.  As his wrinkled eyes welcomed the dawn, old cigars from the drawer case were lined up on the tabletop as if a celebration called for it, as if yesterday has left behind its shape.  During those days newspapers were treated like they were still part of breakfast, of over-easy-peppered sunny side ups and black coffee while smoked salmon and VCRs kept the night intact.

Retired suit cases filled the closet and the clock was silent and still. The mailbox was hollow, and the words were deep seated  somewhere far away.

But the stream was endless, and the pictures were always as clear as day. The possibilities never eluded him, as if miracles do happen all the time.  He would always go back holding onto a piece paper, to a promise across a long stretch of an attempt to dream only to find the morning at the end of it.  A slow erratic pace, but a rediscovery is always almost a certainty.

And when sleep is out of reach, the dents and the dimples on the other side of the bed keep him company. He tells himself, that nights do end and some things last. After all, the universe allows a little indifference in its lifetime.

For it is not sentimental he would always think? Just sheer contemplations of the complicated human heart.  It beats to resonate across the end corners and the clutters, cruising the seas and highway intersections to the point of absolution or tragedy.  The years that went by were reduced to mere flashes and pixelated photographs. They are no longer numbers but the very accumulation of delightful shared experiences.

How can one be grateful without despair? Suffering concludes pretenses, and it clears the way for contentment. For sure he recognizes what was once there.  The shadows of the past let him remember that he can never make accord with time. He steals therefore, a thief between the paradoxes.

But what does it mean really?  Whose answer may trigger either sober inspirations or bitter ending catastrophes. Pardon the blunt demeanor, but the ink is blotted, and the pen is starting to skip.

I wish to taste all the good from a honeycomb. To weather the skies.

Retired.

Under the kindness of the dark

The pictures rolled past by me suddenly like some distant, familiar memory that kept on coming back only they were not mine to take.  An inkling of white foam now forms at the corner of my lip as I drowsed.  I must have dreamt some good dreams then.

Under the blanket of the deep black night, it arrived to me that my body felt quite differently.  As if lifted and cured of its illnesses, it hardly felt any pain, relieved of its mortal weight and protracted weariness after not sleeping for years.

The wipers thud swinging back and forth like clockwork while the rain pelted the pane relentless like splatted kamikaze pilots.  The howls of the wind seep through my ears, taking me while I sank in the backseat of the car with my knees held a little too close to my chest.  My half opened eyes leveled with the chrome window sill as they pried into the gush of the rain.

A million and one headlights drew towards us in the highways.  Lights brighten up wide upon each approach as if a production line of salutation and courtesy.

She sang along soundlessly with the song that came out of the FM radio.  She had her face on, of faint rose petal red, evenly toned on her cheekbones and a bit heavier on her lips.  Her black laced eyes were crawling over their lids like beautiful insects in the night.

Behind the glass the world was colorful, and opaque, and imageless.

Studded with red hexagon lights, golden circles and pulsars of bright greens, they lined up neatly at the same time blurted in random.  There was poetry in chaos after all.

Residues of droplets obscured the view on all sides.  It was of another universe.

The seats smelt of cheap pine car freshener, lazily covering the stench of uncleaned upholstery.

She leaned against my left shoulder and pressed her face against it, as if lifeless.

She must have had preferred the smell of cigarette smoke on my sleeves, it felt safe.

And in that moment I could almost tell her everything and more.

Then it would not matter how terribly things went.

She cradled a thermos for coffee, for the light of the sun and the little things left forgotten.

So we may never have to close these wandering eyes anymore.

Not anymore.

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Erratum

She slid inside a half dark room, where grimy portraits of her dead and almost dead relatives hung.  Her family has a strong affinity with spirituality that she always thought this accustom was over the top eerie. As she sidled through the narrow gap in stealth like a sly cat, a familiar whiff of old books climbed into her nostrils letting the sensation immediately calm her down.

Hunched over the gentle stream of city lights was the moon that appeared to be like a half inserted coin in the sky.  Long strands of thin-after-rain-clouds rippled across, while an aero plane cuts through the waves skillfully like a zipper opening. She lay on her side against the linoleum floor under the heft of indifference. For a moment she has chosen to be holed up inside her delicate shell, cut off from lucid reality that requires any human interaction.

Friends gathered outside waiting to greet her merrily. The relatives appalled her, let alone the godparents who endlessly find pleasure in dispensing unsolicited life advices and religious blessings.

As if co existing universes delineated by a partition, the study was concealed in the veil of melancholic conniving shadows, with only just a couple of dim lamps lit the corners. While everyone in the other room was bursting with sheer joy and intoxicated laughter, showering in the glint of tinsels, embellishing pearl necklaces, and strung up smiles.

Surprisingly in her world, the poignant stillness of the quiet night was immensely deafening. It was the anthem she was looking for, all along.  Her gaze was tentative, hopping from one constellation to another, across the glittered night canvas, as she is now beginning to feel saintly and light.

She drowsed a little but began contemplating within a fleeting thought. But it had become trite, so as her body wearing down. She reached for her glass and took a sip.

The drink was bland, almost tasteless.  “Of course, this was from the other side after all” she concluded.

Staggering, she stood up and rested her forehead against the pane. She relished how sublime the evening was as she also counted how many satellites crossed over her. And just across the willow trees, boats bounced in rhythmic motion above the waters, occasionally slapping against the dock. And in the faraway distance to the west, she tried to make out the outlines of the highways and train lines. She did all these, taking her time filling in the void.

Then suddenly, like how bad news always comes unannounced, the heavy timber door swung open bringing in from behind an intruder in its shapeless form.

The body was made of noise filled with obnoxious chuckles and music under the clad of cigar smoke and flattery.

A silhouette figure of a man beckoned her to join them, gently closing the varnished wooden door behind him as he steps into her world.

Quiet resumes its reign.

She unwraps a gum from her jacket and placed it insider her mouth. A fruity flavor exploded and a protracted stretch of infinity cascaded between them.

“I think I’m going to stay here for a while” She discerned finally.

Photo by: LJ Jumig

The Wanton Club

They ended up sitting around at the corner table under the collage of 11×14 black and white photographs taken in random, but the pictures were more ornamental than art.  The corrosive sea salt carried from the ocean nearby, turned the wooden panels on the walls bleak yet somehow complimented the rustic ambiance the place was going for.  And from time to time, a cool heavy wind wafted outside, chasing away the sultry remainders of the afternoon sun.  There was an idle sort of atmosphere in the motorways, making its way through the open windows of the establishment.  On the background was the occasional thin clanking sound of coins dropping from the insides of a pay telephone and there were thick drizzles throbbing against the rubber canopy roof spread out over the restaurant door, suggesting that the hard rain will arrive anytime soon.

The place was in a residential area, standing between the surrounding towering trees that grow around the vicinity. Invariably there were just quite a few customers who went there.  The tall windows were locked shut, but usually left open when the rain is out, to entice people to swing by for a meal or a night cap.  The wooden ceiling fan slowly spun above the patrons, suspended in the center of the room. The four friends ordered wanton soup as always.

As they waited, they can’t help but to pay an occasional glance to the direction of the runny window pane.

The pluvial night sky was a usual sight especially during this season. No reported storm was coming in though.  None of them spoke after the ceremonial chatter and catching up, the four of them fell silent, lost in their own thoughts but it was not the kind that was thick and indifferent. It was a natural thing for longtime friends, especially since they have discoursed about everything going on with their lives to the point that there was nothing to talk about anymore at the moment.  It was not a pact or something they have imposed as a rule between them. It’s just that they can’t seem to keep any secrets from each other.

There were even fewer guests that night.  There was an overweight guy mulling over a saucy steak with a beer mug at the bar area and a couple tourists with their nine year old daughter quietly having dinner.   The guy at the bar was used to be a professional swimmer. He was supposed to compete in a regional tournament, but during an uneventful twist of fate some years ago, on the eve of the qualifiers after practice, he was caught in a car accident causing a severe and permanent injury on his right shoulder.  This has prevented him to compete ever since.  He works as a life guard at the nearby beach and occasionally coaches aspiring children.

The couple was relatively young, still in their twenties. They met during a party in an island in the south.   Life was tough, and so good money was hard to earn.  Consequentially the husband worked longer hours and even did double shifts if it need be, that it gotten to a point that the two hardly spoke to each other.  This trip was supposed to be their chance to fix whatever was left broken.

I rolled up my sleeves and peered through a nearly empty beer glass tilting it a bit sideways.  The beads were all over its cold sweaty surface as I gently wiped them off using my fingertips.  And through the glass I see the reflection of my friends blended in the low stream of light dawning softly onto its body causing the images to distort.  The only thing that remained unchanged was the hot soup filled with sodium, which we were about to devour.

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The Night Express

It was by this time that the thick evening sky has completely draped the entire city as if a giant palm has cupped the world to a close. With only a part of the moon slightly showing between the bisecting portions of the clouds, other than that it was an odd dark night comparing to the others.  While a cool drowsy breeze from the direction of the sea was gently wafting onto my skin, I pulled the collar closer to the nape while walking around back to the side of the building where employees go to smoke. I had no complaints; it was the next best thing to anything counted as a good desert, capping a well-deserved late night meal after a long tiring shift at work.  I work nights during the weekends, probably- subconsciously happy about it, as there were not much people there and it is a lot tranquil and I could play music without putting my earphones on.  I did not mind the short strolls around the retired empty streets of the business district whenever I need to; in fact I like it better as it is now, than how they are during the day when rushing pedestrians on auto pilot crowded the streets like fire ants on a mission while the sidewalks flooded by real estate agents and other sorts of company representatives handing out brochures that people don’t really read about.

The lamp posts gleam with a faint orangery hue that made everyone walking under them looked a little better than they should be. It was some sort of an emboss to add a thrilling texture to the characters from a movie. Add a little mystery to an ordinary story and it will be worth telling.

This is why I like nights better.  Think about it, people are a bit more honest at night than they truly are during the day. Ever wonder why it always seems easier to confess a feeling to a lover at night? Or why the conscience is always there lurking wide awake during the wee hours of the dark?

I struck a match to light a cigarette, and puffed out a train of smoke to the ground. A gloomy looking guy in his Pink Floyd shirt appears from the corner where the brighter side of the building was.  It was an old friend that I haven’t spoken with for a long while.  We used to go home together when taking off from work but he got transferred to another department which meant he also had to work on a different shift.  The only time we get to see each other is during the weekends when I get to work on the same shift as he is. But even that prevented us to talk since we hang out with different set of friends which we both don’t really like, or too busy with our work assignments that time did not allow us to.  At first I thought it was to be a complete drag, being on your own, but it was what it was and I got along quite well with solitude eventually.

We did not need words nor do anything to express that we were glad to see each other after some time.  It was an implied understanding between two longtime friends.  We practically grew up together.

I could not tell what, if it was age or the night itself that diluted us to be this glum.  We used to be a lot louder when we were in college.  We were in our late twenties now, and we should not be acting this way, at the very least not yet.

“Remember the time when I used to work as a delivery guy for a fast food chain during summer some years ago?”  He laid his back flat against the concrete wall beside the stainless ashtray while staring at the towering condominium columns which stood two blocks away from where we were.  They were like in competition among themselves.

“You’d be surprised how many of those people up there are placing orders every night.” He followed.

“I don’t know what exactly, either they just like to stay up late, or they live reverse lives like we do. But it’s quite strange just the same; the phones ring off the hook for delivery orders. There was a time that we had to hire extra night riders just to cope up with the demand” He says,  as he reached for the pack of cigarettes in his pocket and lit one.

There was a strange sullen look on his face for a moment, and he quickly gave out a huge laugh finally breaking the silence and threw a soft punch on my left arm.

“Glad you are still there inside that shell, how’s everything back home, how is she?” I responded.

“You know we are not the type who talks about this stuff right?”  He replied cracking a half smile.

“Right.” I affirmed.

“But do you reckon that people just simply like your food? “  Returning to where he left off.

“Uh-uh, I don’t think it was that at all.” Shaking his head.

“Did you know that there was a study that we may be physiologically programmed to eat cookies at night?”

“So are we like monsters after dusk?” I asked smiling.

“Sort of.”  He flicked the burnt butt towards the direction of the bin and fell silent for a while.

“Hmm, interesting, but aren’t we all?”  I asked aimlessly.

The dark of the night seemed to have added a colder heavy temperature as we stood there.

I placed both hands together while holding the almost done cigarette and we started walking.

We crossed the road where the PED XING sign hangs over the island of the intersecting streets.

As we were threading on midway, a fast single delivery motorcycle zipped on by behind us.

Night Express

Cold Planked Boxes of Ernest

Remember the ones you left behind, the dead with their faces during the last moments you saw them speak. How could you possibly bring them back with you? What means did you have if there were any? It was such a cruel thing not being able to give what they truly deserved, as their voices fill your head in your sleep as you lie there on the dirt. You wonder what were those they prayed for?  To believe in the war is different from rooting for the deeds that come along with it.  It was necessary to take someone’s life but one should not believe in it.  I phoned the commander and asked him to wait until the sun reaches above the scalp.  But damn the politics that helped oiled the gears which led us here.  Fool is to believe that all are selfless.   I was once proud and naive, for the flags I heeded to represent.  I was an urged rock that was given life, to be heavy and still as I am also numb.

Friend is when I speak out loud to myself.  It has been groomed unconsciously that it now turns into a living grieving habit.  Yes it is normal that you have thoughts brewing to the point of discussion or a mere debate with yourself. But it should only stay within an inaudible state and not to be uttered for others to hear.  The mouth is for conversations that require a pair of ears other than yours.  And so it is unusual to speak that way.

But how does one take control in the most piercing moments when the scorching sun strikes you back hard and when it turned the tracks of your tears into mere salt on your cheeks.  When you only have the barrel of the gun to depend on, when all of your brothers are motionless around you and you chose to crawl towards the one you are closest with. You see him drowning in his own spoils and blood. You are to willingly stick your fingers into the bullet holes just to convince any of them to accompany you even with just a hurtful moan.  You’d hope to be as faithful as your resolve.  The residues of these days is a stench that will never go away.  You rely on the handgun hoping it will not fly off when the time for shooting has come.  When it is already time to give up the bullet that will carry your message across, that the time for writing novels must be set aside for now.  It is not because you were left with no other choice. It was the circumstance presented at your feet.   You knew this was not the end, but you were also sure you could be absolutely wrong.

And you’d tell yourself, that the time for grieving is not now.  You will have plenty of that hereafter.  Nor is this the place to do it.  The dead must be respectfully cleansed.  The dried up mud and blood must be washed off to reveal the chivalry and truth of their souls.  But most of all, as a final act of selflessness, for the families’ sake and the love ones who waited, as one is sure that they will not have the stomach to witness the remnants of the horrors of their fate.   So your body must be cleansed.  Your battle uniform must be replaced.

And so you had it done, for them, always for them.