Visiting the Dead
Gracia Perdiguerra, 042406
Midday. Lerma is an ellipsis; a short distance to renew a license
expired for months. An invitation to tour the rat hole. An attempt
to walk around: the way around. The taxi driver knows the way to
Malacanan. Arlegui, near TIP, a little left and a little right, is
never right. Everybody poses a direction. Pointing endlessly at a
narrow strip, I lose my way as I come near it.
Lerma shows the way to your heart, Manila. For years, I forget you.
You are as dead as your ancestors. Despicable. Your smell reminds me
of the dead; it penetrates every inch of my body. I want to vomit. I
thought I flushed you down the gutter of Pandacan; washed the stench
in San Andres; scrubbed that I bleed and none of Luneta’s lights
ever trace the kiss. Sordid. Don’t you touch my hand when I walk
past Sta. Ana Bridge, or, caress me from friction, the trolleys in
Sta. Mesa. No. Don’t remind me how you almost raped me while I
escaped your rusty train.
I heaved. Mendiola. It’s always the same. I have to find other
alleys just to get to you. I have to squirt through the traffic,
bodies, metals, teargasâ€”smoke, sweat, stone. But, you’ll push me
away, far from Malacanang. I’d run back to UE, for comfort. And
you’d follow me there; lash me. The island’s still there, my feet
bore the dent. There it ran and ran till I found a home at Isetann.
It’s cool there. I’ll change my shirt, wash up, and pretend, I was
never part of your drama. Mendiola, you are such a telenovela.
Wobbly knees take the jeepney. Board the next cab at the foot of the
bridge. Cringed. I see my body decomposing, bloated, and floating at
the river. Why did you frame my body? Hanging, it changes as the
color of the night. I have to leave. But, I have to see you. 5
SM replaces Isetann. I see you walking. I hear you talking. I feel
the warm evening inside the air-conditioned mall. Bodies. Souls.
Moving. Here. There. Past you. Past me. Who are we running away
from? I touch you, through you, and wondered. Am I or are you dead?