Martina by the Window

Martina had been leaning by the window of their house for some time now, her elbows resting on the wooden sill, one hand supporting her chin. She did not notice Alonso, who was standing down below. She did not notice him for he was well hidden behind the rose bushes in the garden. But from his vantage point, he could see her very clearly. She always wore baro’t saya, but it differed in color and beadwork according to what day of the week it was. Today was a Tuesday, so her blouse had a purple hue. The pattern of the beadwork was floral. Tomorrow, the color will be cream and gold, and the pattern will be circular. Yes, he can see her clearly, even from that great distance, for he has perfect eyesight. He could see her earrings very well. He could see her necklace, too. Her neck was white. He could see her jaw and wrists. Her bracelet was new.

Alonso had prepared for this very day for months now, practicing in front of the mirror the songs he was going to sing to her. But try as he might, he couldn’t move away from the rose bushes. His feet seemed fastened to the ground. His knees felt weak and frozen. And his voice escaped him altogether. How was he ever going to pull this off? But there was no turning back now, and he must do it soon, for the sun was setting, and Martina had begun to close the Capiz windows.

Finally, he jumped from the bushes and in his excitement dropped and tripped over his guitar. He fell facedown into the gravel.

Martina gasped.

He stood up casually as if tripping over guitars was a normal, everyday thing with him, dusted off his Barong Tagalog, took out his comb, smoothened his thickly-pomaded hair, picked up his instrument, struck a strong and decided chord, and prefaced his song by declaring in a solemn and formal tone, “O, Martina Santiago de Soledad, you have haunted me long enough with your beauty! If I will not unburden myself with this song right now, I will surely and irreversibly go insane. Thus, señorita…”

And so he sang his song. It was the first of eight, followed by eight more poems, and one very long monologue. It started with just one audience, Martina, and when it was all over, the whole neighborhood was watching. Suffice it to say, it changed both their lives forever.


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