Wednesday, July 8, 2009
Remembering Home II
Time doesn’t exist with the sights that passed along M. Jalandoni St. Yet when the cathedral’s giant bell tolls, the afternoon reverie stops. Somberly, the coming of the evening is announced with the Angelus. Passersby would all come to an abrupt stop, some bowing their heads, others clasping their hands in prayer. It gets quiet, and even the mongrel dogs scattered about cease with their relentless sniffing. Slowly, as the bell counted one to six, darkness took over. The miserable street lights are turned on, and the shadows come out to play.
At night, a certain gloom pervades throughout the corridors and spaces; and the lamps seem timid with their light. The decorative carvings of vines and fan-like anahaw leaves that hang from the ceiling give the illusion of some sinister forest. The shiny burgundy narra floors take on a more darker hue, like a river of blood.
As the night advances, the house grows quieter; and my imagination gets wilder. The ceilings seem higher, the shadows more immanent, and the sporadic sounds seem more deliberate. I start remembering the ghost stories yaya told me, the ones I found scary but loved to listen to anyway. There is the tale of the old man without a face sitting atop our staircase, the invisible visitor who rattled the maid’s quarters’ doorknob, the single footprint found in the basement office, the heavy footsteps heard walking across the kitchen roof, the full-sized mirror in the sala that is said to show your reflection and a demon behind you at midnight. And there is the huge balete tree in the garden said to be home to malevolent dwarves.
All alone in my room, I was too small for a bed I thought safe to be by the open window. The lonely nightlight from my neighbor’s backdoor was too weak in stopping the darkness from creeping in on me. The blanket I covered myself with, even in such humidity, eventually became unbearable as my stiff body began breaking into a cold sweat. I would shut my eyes tightly and pretend to sleep; and try to think of other things, but darker, more frightening thoughts would prevail.
As I count more stories and scary images instead of sheep, the crickets slowly play their eerie symphony to a hush. The stillness of the night begins to ease with the blowing of the cool morning breeze. The leaves of the mango trees outside rustle, while the ceiling creaks as the winds go about my house, as if driving all the night’s malevolence away. As I look out the window, what was once the blackness is now a vast sheet of purple melting into yellow. The stars are still out, but I know it is already morning. Somewhere in the neighborhood, a rooster crows, followed by the thunder of a passing jeepney in the street. Iloilo is slowly awakening, while I, tired from all my mind adventures during the night, begin to relish the comforts of my blanket and my broad bed. All the familiar noises—the helpers scrubbing the floors, doors opening and closing, footsteps of family members—lull me to sleep.