Nang Makausap ko si Morten

Maulap dito sa aking mundo.

Naexperience mo na bang magpunta sa gubat bago magbukang liwayway– yung oras na pinalilibutan ng hamog ang buong paligid? Yung wala kang makikita na kahit ano dahil nababalutan ng usok ang bawat lugar? Ganyan ang mundo ko. Kahit liwanag na galing sa langit ay hindi kayang pasukin ang kapal ng ulap na bumabalot sa buong paligid.

Mahilig akong tumambay sa matataas na lugar. Tulad nga ng sabi ko, mausok ang mundo ko at wala na akong takot sa kahit ano dahil pinalalabo ng ulap ang kahindik-hindik na pagkalula ng isang mataas na tanawin– sa ganitong paraan ko natutunan mahalin ang usok.

Pero kanina lang, eh, lumiwanag ang mundo ko. Isipin mo na lang na hinawi ng hangin ang ulap at nakita ko pansamantala kung gaano kaganda ang bawat istruktura ng matataas na gusali at asul na alapaap. Parang natunaw na yelo ang usok. Parang sine sa pelikula. Parang hindi kapani-paniwala.

Ilang segundo lang ‘yon at binalot muli ng usok ang mundo ko.

Ganito ang nangyayari kapag may isang tao na nagsisindi ng kandila sa puntod ko. Ako nga pala si Morten at namatay ako ilang dekada na rin ang dumaan.  Sa ngayon, nagbago ang plano ko. Pupunta muna ako sa libingan ko para makipagkwentuhan sa ibang manlalakbay.

Paano ba yan, maligayang undas na lang para sa’yo.

I Love You, Paolo

I’m not really a fan. No sir, not me. I love celebrity heartthrobs as much as I would love undergoing appendectomy minus the anaesthesia and with the surgeon using only a spoon and a hairpin for the procedure. Besides, my “loyalty” was with the other network, despite owing nothing from it or loathing anything from the one he’s affiliated with. I’m not really a big fan of television, but somehow, there’s this association I feel with the opposite network.

But still, there are always these situations that would make one win the heart of another by the magic they create, or at least help create.

It is not my objective to be his promoter, but since, like the title says, I am in love with him, I could not resist not writing this, and so I would have to change his name so as to keep the mystery but not the magic.

How could I describe her despair? At 26, she has lost a breast to cancer, and the doctor within me is telling me that there’s really not much hope. She would be leaving soon, and how else could I bring comfort to someone who, while I could empathize with, I could never truly understand the pain?

I would proudly address myself as “Doctor,” but what power does it hold to a disease with poor prognosis? What else is the purpose of being a “healer” if the person you really care for could not be healed? I wanted to believe in miracles – or the possibility of a misdiagnosis (and I was ready to forgive without resorting to a lawsuit) – but somehow, these are just fairy tales that would only lead to further despair.

She tried hard not to cry – not because she’s strong (but she really is), but because doing so would cause her difficulty of breathing, especially after making the life-changing decision to have her breast removed as part of her treatment. I have been comforting her in the best way I could. Of course, I really didn’t know how to. That was the time I was also struggling on my faith and having doubt about my vocation – especially with the thought that I would be losing a very good friend soon.

I would try to offer her anything – any food, any thing, any comfort, any conversation – just to make her feel better, and while she would assure me that she was better, somehow I sense that her mind is in a much deeper thought than the superficiality of my wittiest jokes. She would laugh at them like she would always would, but after doing so she would go back to her thoughts, and in turn, break my heart again and again.

I offered to buy dinner, as she had been complaining how much the hospital food lack taste. I came from duty then, and I didn’t want to be inconvenienced by the nurses in their nearby station to ask for help regarding another insertion (whether IV or Foley) or discharge summary so I took off my blazer and went to the hospital’s food court.

There was a small commotion going on, and, curious, I had to check to see for myself.

There he was.

There were about three or four ladies who were practically swarming him like locusts on a rice paddy. They were all eager to be photographed with him as if doing so would make them the coolest people in the world. They were trying their best not to scream, as after all, this was a decently-run, high-brow hospital, and not a public market for doing so.

I shook my head as I looked at them.

And then it hit me.

My friend and I would often talk about our crushes, and, of course, I would bring up this model who I have been claiming as my “true love,” just to be always on the safe side of things. She, on the other hand, would reply Paolo’s name, also just to be on the safe side. Of course, our conversation would dry up after that, as we would end up changing topics instead of conversing about nonsense things like what was really happening between us. I would, once in a while, mention how ugly Paolo is, to which she would playfully argue with me that I was just insecure. I would arrogantly reply to her that beside me, her “beloved” Paolo would look like a houseboy or a bodyguard. She would tell me that he would, because I would look like a water container or a Rottweiler beside him. I would then feign anger, losing the argument as I would always do, but hearing her laugh at me and feeling her embrace on my arm, I know that I love losing against her.

I straightened my clothes, and I started walking towards him. I felt my heart beat hard against my chest. It felt like I was approaching a long-time crush, finally summoning every fibre of strength to speak.

I extended a hand towards him and greeted him. “Hey, Paolo.” He was civil enough to take it and reply, “Oy, pare.”  Quickly lightly gripping it and taking my hand off, I finally spoke my mind, “Can I take a picture of us, if it’s all right?”

He looked at me, as if hesitant about my request, but trying to mask it with the coolness of his charming smile. It was perfectly understandable: that was the point that he was being rumoured as having been seen with another man in a hotel, and being asked by another man for a picture together would seem awkward. It was the point in which I wish I could have melted. Or at least not have made the move in the first place.

It was somehow a good thing a patient’s relative recognized me and greeted me with “doctor.”

“You’re a doctor,” he asked, as if hoping to segue from my request into a shallow conversation.

“Yes,” I replied. I took a deep breath before finally telling him my purpose. “A very good friend of mine is confined in the 8th floor. Well, she’s got a crush on you…”

He smiled, probably having heard the line so many times already but perhaps pretending to be flattered to have heard it anyway. He listened to me intently.

“Well, I said I’m much better looking than you and she disagrees with me. I thought if I could get a photograph of us I could prove it to her.”

He laughed. Of course I knew I was lying, but maybe he admired the spunkiness of my approach and novelty of my purpose.

He asked a companion (I didn’t even notice that he had anyone with him that time), who took a picture of us using my phone’s camera. After that he motioned his companion for something and he was given a glossy picture of himself. He took a pen and wrote in the back of the picture.

He smiled as he gave me the picture as he was finally whisked by his companions away. From the distance, I waved a goodbye to him as he looked at his fans (now including me) and also waved a goodbye.

I looked at the autographed picture and found that he wrote there: “Your boyfriend is much better looking than me.”

When I returned to my friend’s room, I was half-running, half-leaping. I showed her the picture and she laughed at me – the first time I heard her laugh again without restraint, and she told me how much she admired my nerve in making Paolo write something like that. (Of course, I had to convince her that Paolo actually was in the hospital and it was something that I had not made up. My account had to be corroborated by another visitor of hers who saw him as she was coming to the hospital).

I didn’t tell her about the photograph until I had it developed. When she got it, she laughed at me and told me how thick my face really is.

“But you’ve got to admit: I am much better looking than Paolo. He conceded to that.”

“No, he’s still much better looking than you,” she said without taking her eyes from the picture, but she smiled as she finally looked at me. “But, yes, I’ve got to admit: I love you more than I love him.”

And I also got to admit: like her, I have also fallen in love with Paolo.

P.S.: I didn’t write this ;] This is by Dr. Rey Ef Regidor, a doctor friend slash co-writer in our online magazine. Well, I have nothing much to say about Doc Rey–but one thing, and that is he is always mistaken as a priest by kids in the streets. ;]

Intentionally Left Blank Title

Mahigpit ang kapit ni Igor sa agimat na nahati sa dalawa nang sakmalin siya ng mga matatalas na pangil galing sa isang nilalang na nababalutan ng balat na katulad ng sa ahas. Nagtataglay ito ng matatalas na kuko. Ang katawan ay kinumutan ng kamangha-manghang kaliskis na naglalaro sa kulay ng berde at asul. At mayroon itong mababangis na mata. Mga matang gutom sa dugo at laman-loob.  Mga matang kasalukuyang nakatitig sa kanya. 

Itinapon niya ang bertud sa kanyang likuran at nagwika ng isang dasal. At dahan-dahang binalot ng anino ng buwan ang parte ng gubat na kinalulugmukan niya. Gayunpaman, alam niyang hindi siya maililigtas ng panalangin kaya itinutok niya ang balisong sa kanyang kanang dibdib dahil ipinangako niya sa sarili na hindi makukuha ng kahit sinong halimaw ang isang bagay na hinahangad nito mula sa kanya. Sapagkat noong bata pa man siya ay napagdesisyunan na niya na ang kanyang puso ay kainlanma’y hindi magiging pulutan ng isang lamanlupa. Maaaring makuha nito ang kanyang bituka, ang kanyang atay, o ang kanyang apdo. Ngunit hindi ang kanyang tumitibok na puso.   

Tinitigan niya ang mga mata ng reptilya– at nalaman niyang pursigido ang halimaw nang inabante nito ang kanang paa bilang hudyat para sa susunod nitong pagsalakay. Hinigpitan niya ang kapit sa patalim at hindi na nagawang kumurap nang sumugod ang reptilya patungo sa kanya. 

At tumilapon siyang muli. 

Sa huling pagkakataon ay ngumiti si Igor at nagkaroon ng kislap ang kanyang mga mata dahil mamamatay siya na natuklasan ang misteryo ng gubat. Ngunit may panghihinayang dahil hindi na niya magagawa pang ikwento ang mga ito sa kanyang mga kaibigan. 

Pinalalabo man ng sarili niyang dugo ang kanyang paningin ay malinaw pa rin kay Igor ang desisyon na mamatay sa sarili niyang mga kamay. 

At itinurok na niya ang punyal sa kanyang dibdib.

 

Nagbalik gunita ang mga pangyayari ng kanyang kamusmusan. Matagal nang ipinagbabawal ng kanilang tribu na pasukin ang mapanganib na gubat dahil sa isang alamat tungkol sa mga asuwang na naninirahan dito. Simula nang siya ay magkaisip, ito na ang kwento ng mga matatanda na nakagisnan niya sa kanilang barrio.

At malinaw pa sa kanyang memorya ang araw nang may matagpuan na mga bangkay sa nasabing gubat. Mga bangkay na kasapi ng kanilang barrio. Mga miyembro ng kanilang tribu na itinuturing na pinakamalalakas at pinakamatatalino sa larangan nang pagtugis sa mga mababangis na hayop. Ngunit pinatay ang mga ito. Hiwa ang dibdib at walang itinirang lamanloob. Ang utak ay nilamutak. At ang dugo ay hinigop. 

Pitong taong gulang siya noon.  At alam niyang hindi pangkaraniwang hayop ang naengkwentro ng kanyang mga katribu noong gabi nang ang mga ito ay napaslang.

   

Tumingin si Igor sa buwan. 

Narinig niya ang mabilis na yapak ng halimaw. Papalakas nang papalakas. Papalapit nang papalapit. At ang tanging nagawa ni Igor ay sulyapan ang perpektong hugis ng buwan na may kakaibang liwanag.

At sa huling pagkakataon ay nalungkot siya sapagkat dadalhin niya sa hukay ang mga kwento ng pakikipagsapalaran ng kanyang huling gabi sa mahiwagang gubat. – KATAPUSAN

 

TAPOS NA PERO KUNG AYAW MO PANG MAMATAY SI IGOR, AYOS LANG.

 

Pumikit siya at naramdaman ang sunggab ng reptilya. Ang mga pangil nito ay tumagos sa kanyang balikat, ang mga kuko nito ay pumailalim sa kanyang dibdib, ang buntot nito ay pumulupot sa kanyang katawan. Tatlong segundo sa ganitong sitwasyon at ang tanging hinihintay na lamang ni Igor ay ang kanyang kamatayan.

Ibinaling ng halimaw ang mga pangil nito sa kanyang leeg. Pinatagas ang dugo. At sinipsip. Ngunit sa mga oras na’to ay wala nang maramdaman si Igor. Ni hapdi ng kanyang mga sugat ay di man lamang niya alintana. Namanhid na ang kanyang katawan– marahil dahil na rin sa kanyang napipintong kamatayan.  

Ngunit mataas na temperatura ang kanyang naramdaman nang muling dumaloy ang kanyang dugo na nagmumula sa kanyang puso. Binalot siya ng kakaibang init na hindi kayang pawiin ng tubig o lamig. At kakaibang apoy na nanggagaling sa loob ng kanyang kaibuturan ang umagos sa kanyang buong katawan. 

At pinakawalan siya ng reptilya.

Minulat ni Igor ang kanyang mga mata at ang bilog na buwan ang una niyang nasilayan. Naisip niyang ito ang tamang pagkakataon para kitilin ang sariling buhay kaya pinulot niyang muli ang balisong.

Ngunit kakaibang kamay ang kumuha nito.

Mga kamay na nababalutan ng balahibo na katulad ng sa lobo. Pinagmasdan niya ang kanyang kanang kamay at nakita niya ang sariling repleksyon sa talim ng balisong. Balbas-sarado ng balahibo ang kanyang mukha, dalawang pangil, at mga mata na gaya ng sa aso. 

Hindi niya alam kung magugulat siya o matatakot. Pero isa lang ang nasisigurado niya. Hindi siya pwedeng sumuko sa mga oras na’to. Tama, hindi pa siya pwedeng mamatay dahil may mga istorya pa siyang dapat ikwento sa mga kaibigan.