“We must stop,” declared Terry, and he promptly sat on the curb. I remained on my feet.
We’ve been walking for over two hours now. We began in Lahug and now we’ve just entered the mouth of the South Road Properties.
The streets were bare and wet. It had rained hard earlier that night. Some of the lamp posts were lit, so it wasn’t totally dark. The sea was visible from where I was standing.
“I’m so tired,” Terry said.
He retched and threw up on the ground. I looked away.
“Where are we?” he asked, wiping his mouth with his arm.
“We’ve just entered the coastal road,” I answered.
“What?” he said, shaking his head.
“This was your idea, remember?” I said.
“We should have taken the highway. We would’ve caught a cab and we’d be home by now.”
“I suggested that but you wouldn’t listen. You are so hard-headed.”
I looked back and I could see a pair of headlights in the distance.
“You were harping on and on about wanting to see the sea,” I said. “Well, here we are. Happy now?”
“That was an hour ago. Now I hate the sea. I hate all this walking.”
“You’re such a cry baby.”
The headlights were nearer now and I could see that it was a taxi. I raised my hand and stuck up my thumb, but the taxi did not stop.
“I want to go home,” Terry said.
“Then we better keep on moving. We can’t turn back now,” I said.
“I’m so tired.”
“Stop complaining, will you? Let’s go.”
He helped himself up and we resumed our walk. We were walking more slowly now and the sea breeze was blowing through us. I hugged myself and rubbed my shoulders.
Some of the alcohol’s effect on me were beginning to wane and I was walking more steadily. Terry was still tipsy. Occasionally he veered off the road and walked on the rocky path.
We walked over the bridge and we could see the shanties below us. Some of the lights from the wooden windows were on. The sea was calm.
Next to the shanties were the factories, warehouses, and oil tanks. On top of one large building were huge orange letters that spelled the name of its owner.
On the horizon, I could see the mountains, and the lights that were clumped together along their slopes were shimmering like stars.
We heard the sound of a motorbike not too far away. It passed us by so fast that I did not have the time to raise my hand.
We stopped at the foot of the bridge and rested. A few cars sped by every now and then, but none of them paid us any attention.
“Can you give me some of your water?” I asked Terry.
“No, this is all I have left,” he said.
“Just give it to me. We’ll have a better chance of getting picked up if we washed the paint off our faces.”
He handed me his bottle and I took a few sips. I was so thirsty. I poured a little water on my palm and washed my face with it, then I took out my handkerchief and rubbed it against my face.
“Hey, leave some for me,” he said.
I gave him back his bottle and he washed his face with what’s left of the water. Then he rubbed his face against his sleeves.
We sat down on the curb for a while and waited. I stared ahead at the dark sea across the road. The light from the lamp post across the street was flickering.
“I’m so tired,” he said.
“Will you shut up already? This is all your fault,” I said.
“All my fault? All my fault?”
“Yes. This is all your fault and you know it.”
In a few minutes another car appeared on the road. Terry and I both jumped to our feet at the same time and he waved his arms frantically up in the air.
I pulled his arms down. “Stop that! You’re acting like you’re drunk.”
“But we are drunk.”
“Yes, but you don’t have to announce it. Do you want to walk all the way to Talisay?”
The car slowed down and stopped in front of us. It turned out that the driver was a woman. She was middle-aged and she was wearing a pair of old-fashioned glasses.
She lowered the window a little and called out to us, “Where are you boys headed?” An elderly man was in the front seat beside her, his head bowed down.
“Talisay, ma’am,” I answered.
“You’re in luck. Hop in,” she said.
We opened the door ecstatically and settled ourselves at the back of the car.
The car pulled off the side of the road slowly and the lady drove at a careful pace.
“What are you two doing out here at this hour?” she asked.
“We came from the city, ma’am. We couldn’t find any taxis or jeepneys so we walked all the way from Lahug,” I answered.
“All the way from Lahug? My, how far that is!”
“Yes.” I sighed in relief. “Thank you so much for taking us.”
Terry was lying back on the seat. He was smiling. He closed his eyes slowly.
“What were you doing in the city?” she asked.
“We went to see the parade,” I answered.
“Oh, the parade. Right. How was it?”
“It was nice.”
“Did you had fun?”
“Yes, ma’am. We had fun.” I glanced at Terry. His eyes were still closed and his mouth was now open.
“Did you see the parade on TV, ma’am?” I asked.
“Oh, no,” she answered. “We have no time for such things. Right, father?” She laughed. “We are always busy at the inn. We have an inn in Mandaue. We have no servants, so I have to do all the work myself. My father here is ill, so he can’t help out much. But he’s always with me. He always accompanies me wherever I go. That for me is more than enough.”
Outside it began to drizzle. She closed the windows and turned on the wipers. The wipers made sharp mechanical sounds. I tried to close my eyes and cock my head back on the seat so I could sleep.
There was a smell in the air. It was sweet and bitter at the same time, almost like almonds. I glanced at Terry and he was still sleeping.
“When I was your age my parents never let me stay out late. Especially not this late. Right, father?” She laughed. “We always had to go home before six, or else. I remember one time my cousin Georgina and I went to Danao to visit her fiance, and we got home at around nine, and boy, was my mother furious! Do you still remember that, father?” She laughed again. “She was Chinese, my mother, and she was a very strict woman. She slapped me in the face and pulled on my hair and called me a whore. Then she turned me out of the house. My father had to fetch me the following day from my cousin’s house, but I didn’t want to go home.”
“I’m sorry to hear that, ma’am,” I said, but my voice sounded weak.
“That’s okay. That was a long, long time ago.” She turned to her father and murmured. “I know, father. I know mother loves me. I know that. I know she only wanted what’s best for me. I know that.” She patted her father on the knee.
“What are your names?” she asked.
“My name’s Jerry, ma’am. And this is my brother, Terry,” I answered.
“Jerry and Terry.” She laughed. “How funny. He’s not much of a talker is he, your brother?”
“No, ma’am. He’s asleep.”
She began humming a tune. I closed my eyes again and tried to breathe through my mouth. The smell was making me nauseous.
“So, where are you boys headed?” she asked.
I opened my eyes. “Ma’am?”
“Where are you boys headed?” she repeated.
“To Talisay, ma’am,” I answered.
“What are you two doing out here at this hour?”
I looked at her reflection in the rear view mirror. “Like I said, we came from the city, ma’am. We couldn’t find any jeepneys or taxis so we walked all the way from Lahug to SRP, where you saw us.”
“All the way from Lahug? My, how far that is! What were you doing in the city?”
I glanced at Terry who was starting to snore.
“What were you doing in the city?” she repeated.
“To see the parade, ma’am,” I said, reluctantly.
“Oh, the parade! How was it? Did you had fun?”
The car slowed down as we exited the SRP and entered the main highway. The traffic lights were blinking red and the streets were empty. She turned left.
“We didn’t get to see the parade, even on TV. We’re always busy, aren’t we, father?” She laughed. “We have an inn in Mandaue, you see, and I do all the work because we have no servants. I would be all alone if not for my father. Good thing he’s always with me. He keeps me company all the time.” She turned to her father and smiled.
“Ma’am, we’re getting off at the next block,” I said.
“Is that where you boys live?” she asked.
“Yes,” I answered. I shook Terry’s arm. “Terry. Terry,” I said in a low voice. “We’re almost here.”
“Why don’t you boys stop over to our house for a while? It’s not very far from here, you know. We’ll have suman and tsokolate. It’s almost dawn, anyway.”
“Thanks, ma’am, but we have to go home.” I shook Terry’s shoulder. “Terry, wake up. Terry. We’re almost here.”
“I’m sure your parents can spare you for a few more hours. You’re already late, aren’t you?”
“They’re expecting us, ma’am.”
“No, they aren’t.” She laughed a shrill kind of laugh. “They’re asleep. I’m sure they wouldn’t mind you visiting the house of a new friend. We’re friends, aren’t we?”
“Yes, ma’am,” I said, my voice a little shaky.
“I’m glad. We all need friends.”
“Please stop here, ma’am. This is our block.”
“Our house is not very far from here. Only a few more kilometers and we’ll be there. We’ll have bibingka and puto maya and kape and you boys can sit with my father. I’m sure he’ll love your company.”
“Please, ma’am, stop!” I exclaimed.
She stepped on the brakes sharply and the elderly man fell forward. His face slammed into the dashboard and his head rolled off his shoulders. But his posture remained the same. His back was still straight, his hands were still on his knees, and his legs were still pressed together. He was as stiff as a chair.
“Father! Father!” she screamed. She unbuckled her seat belt and grabbed her father by his waist and arms and pulled him back into his seat. Then she reached down his father’s seat, picked up his head, and stuck it back between his shoulders, like it was a piece of Lego block. “Father! Are you alright?” Then she turned abruptly to me and I saw more clearly her tired, old, bony face. “Look what you made me do. Look what you made me do!” she hollered. “You naughty child,” she hissed. “You naughty, ungrateful little brat.”
Quickly I pulled the door handle but the door wouldn’t open. “Terry!” I shouted. “Terry!” I pushed and pulled him and shook his shoulders and slapped his face, but he wouldn’t move. “Terry, wake up! Terry, wake up! Terry, you have to wake up!”