When I was a young boy, I constantly longed for a happy family: a complete one. Thoughts of unknown happiness occupied my head daily. I always wondered what it felt like to call someone my dad—especially when he was nothing more than a name.
It was a nice day at the beginning of spring, and the sky was at its true color, though I wasn’t able to go outside and play. What could be worse than owning a pair of lungs that sucked at being what they were made for? Besides, I didn’t have any friends at that time. I wasn’t even sure if my neighbors knew about my existence.
I was learning to read that summer with the guidance of Nana. I would read the words slowly one-by-one, but I would do it perfectly. That was until I got bored, and some silly thought got into my mind. Then, I stood up, wandered and looked for something—for someone.
“Saan ka pupunta, Apo?” Nana asked where I was going calmly. I neglected her as if I didn’t hear anything. Like there was no one in the house other than me.
I kept wandering. I looked for Mom.
She wasn’t home.
I came back to the room I left. Everything was the same as I left them earlier. “Nana, nasaan po si mama?” I asked Nana where Mom was.
“She’s at work,” she sounded out with wonder. “Bakit? May kailangan ka?” She asked me if I needed something.
“No. Nothing. I’m okay,” silence filled the room after.
The silence was earsplitting.
I knew she wasn’t going to be home until nine at night. It had always been like that, longer than I could recall. She left the house at five in the daybreak and came home at nine at night. I wasn’t even sure if she actually had time to spend with me. Well, sometimes she stayed at home on Sundays, but she locked herself in her room doing paperwork. She merely came out when it was time to eat.
It suddenly came to me. I eventually decided to ask what I always wanted to ask.
I finally cracked the silence, “Nana, do you know what happened to Dad?”
Mystery filled the room.
I saw her reaction. It was a face of a worried woman—her eyes widened, tears welled, and her forehead puckered.
She blinked as fast as she could so her tears didn’t run down her face. I believed she thought it was a pragmatic decision not to express her emotional side in front of a six-year-old child. She didn’t quite know what to say.
“Hindi ko alam kung ako ang dapat mag-sabi sayo,” she said it quite fast as she blinked faster. I caught her lips trembling as her voice cracked.
I wanted to ask why she wouldn’t tell me. Then, it made me realize that it may be the best for me not to know what happened, or how things took place. Perhaps it was meant for me not to know. Perhaps I shouldn’t mind it. Maybe I should mind my own business. But then again, my father is my business. Right? I pondered over this for a while, but in the end, I let it go and continued to read instead.
I was alone in my room watching cartoons. I had set my mind to that one, single thought I had earlier: my father. It haunted me that whole day. Then, apparently, Nana called me to go downstairs, but I heard nothing.
“Khalid!” she shouted once again. “Come down here.”
I hurriedly came downstairs, for the thought I was in trouble. I almost tumbled my way down.
“Kakain na tayo ng hapunan,” she said with a smile placed on her face. “Your favorite food.” I smiled back. Nana made Adobo and steamed rice. I sat down and started to eat dinner.
Neither one of us tried to talk. I, thinking about what happened to Dad. She, wondering why I wanted to know what happened to Dad. The sound of silverware clinking with the plates and crickets chirping were the only things we could hear.
Shortly, we finished eating. I went back upstairs. I brushed my teeth, cleaned myself, changed clothes, and was set for the night.
I got back to my room and turned on my television. My mind was still set thinking about my dad.
Switched TV station.
Thought about dad.
Switched TV station.
Thought about dad.
It went on like that for a good thirty minutes.
Finally, I changed over to this teenager station and there were half-naked young men and women in a pond. I paused the show as one of the young men emerged from the pond, soaking wet. His white boxers were hugging every muscle on his thick, muscular thighs as the water dripped off of his well-toned body. As I felt a stirring in my loins, I wanted to take in and remember every inch of that body, framed by the soaked garment. I messily assembled an apology to myself as I feigned disgust and averted my eyes from the young man’s half-naked form—I unpaused the TV show and changed the channel. Though, I felt something in me. I forgot about my dad momentarily. My heart was pounding fast. It was unusual. It was my first time to feel this way. I felt like someone was tickling my tummy, and I heard giggles coming out of my mouth. I smirked.
I knew I had to ask Nana, so I ran back downstairs. I found her doing the dishes. The clinking of plates, and spoons, and forks, and glasses were really loud and irritating.
“Nana, I was watching this TV show, and a boy likes another boy. Is that bad?” I asked her with a guilt and ignorance tattooed in my expression.
“They are called queers, honey,” she said with a blank face. “Most people don’t accept them, including me,” she withdrew her face from me. “Kasalanan iyun sa Dios.” God forbids them to live.
I didn’t know what the word ‘queer’ meant. It was a hollow word for me.
I didn’t say anything back. I went back upstairs.
I was lying on my bed, and the half-naked boy was still on my mind as I resumed watching cartoons. I heard Nana’s footsteps coming toward my room. She opened the door, I closed my eyes. She was checking on me to see if I were asleep. She turned off the television and went back downstairs.
I sat down by my window and looked down the street. I saw my Mom’s car pulling up. “She came home earlier than usual,” I smiled. Nana hurriedly came out and helped my Mom with the grocery bags she was carrying. They got inside the house, and I heard them chit chatting.
I heard their footsteps coming upstairs, heading to my room. Their voices grew louder and louder, so did their footsteps. I lay down and closed my eyes. It was funny how I was really good at pretending that I was asleep.
They got into my room quietly.
“Tinanong niya kung anong nangyari sa ama niya,” Nana whispered to Mom that I asked about Dad with a worried voice.
“What did you tell him?” I can feel the shock in Mom’s voice.
I could hear them clearly. There was something in their voices I couldn’t explain.
I half-opened my eyes. I saw nothing, but a bright light behind Nana and Mom. I couldn’t tell which one was which. Their shadows were blinding. I closed my eyes.
“Nothing,” Nana’s voice cracked.
“I’m not sure if I should tell him about his dad. I’m not ready to be open to him.”
“Anak mo siya! May karapatan siyang malaman,” Nana whispered furiously. He’s your son! He has the right to know.
My Mom started to exit my room. “He asked about same-sex love earlier,” Nana murmured as she followed Mom.
As they were exiting my room, my Mom said something about queers. It was something hateful, something really hurtful. Their voices became weaker. I could barely hear what they were talking about.
Crickets’ chirping grew louder as the night goes.
The thought of the young man was haunting me. The thought of my dad had been forgotten. I was scared of what I was going through.
I fell asleep.
I was practicing to read properly with the guidance of Nana that day in my room. I was reading the last paragraph of this Disney story, “and they lived happily—,” and as I blinked for a moment everything became white.
The walls. White.
The floor. White.
It was just me sitting on a white chair with an open blank book in my hands. The book’s pages were falling perpetually and rapidly, but the book didn’t look like it was losing pages. The floor was covered with the blank pages of the book.
There was a man in black who was as big as my thumb from afar. He was approaching me. I couldn’t see his face; it was somehow blurred out. He approached my location within a second. I had no idea what had happened. I was not able to move a single muscle in my body. My eyes were wide open when he spoke. “Hello, my son.” I was so shocked I didn’t say anything back. His face was still nothing, but a blur. I could see a smirk on his blurred out face. “How are you?” Everything he said was in Filipino, but I processed the words in English. I talked to him in English.
I stared at him, observing him from head to toe. He looked old, with veins and wrinkled skin on his arms. He was tall, about six-feet-three. The man’s skin was camouflage-like with white-and-tanned spots all over. It looked like he was anorexic.
I finally broke out from my vociferous silence.
“I am impeccable,” I was trying to sound as professional as possible for a six-year-old kid. “How do you do, kind sir?” I somehow managed to smile at him for no reason.
“Do you know who I am?”
“No, sir,” I immediately hoped he was my dad since he called me son. The grin on my face was replaced with a grimace. “Let me be dreaming,” I mumbled.
“You should know who I am, Khalid,” his body size began to shrink. “Queers are forbidden, and a big sin in the eyes of God.”
“How did you—,” my body was paralyzed. His blurred out face quickly became crystal clear before my eyes. His aged body became as young as mine. The spots on his camouflage-like skin were gone. He looked like me. “Let me be dreaming!” I clamorously repeated with my eyes closed. I opened my eyes. The surroundings were different. He was me.
I stood up and ran toward nowhere. I could see ‘me’ everywhere I looked. Duplicated. I saw myself multiplying every second. One second. One million of ‘me.’ Two seconds. Three seconds. Ten millions of ‘me.’ Four seconds. Fifty millions of ‘me.’ Five seconds. Millions. Seconds. Hundreds. Minutes. Thousands. Millions. Hours. Me.
They were all staring at me. I was running faster. Their stares were chasing me. I ran faster toward nowhere, yet their stares were faster. They were inexorably walking toward me. It felt like I was not moving at all.
I was gasping as much air as I could—there was no air. My heart and lungs were failing.
My voice echoed.
Later, I figured out I was surrounded by big mirrors. Everything was made out of mirrors. From left to right, front and back. I was still running on this endless track.
The realization was at its peak. I was chasing myself. I desired to escape from myself. I was the ill old man. I abominated myself.
I screamed once again.
Then, every single mirror exploded—pieces were everywhere. Broken mirrors raining ceaselessly. The sound of falling broken mirrors was blaring. My ears were bleeding.
The floor abruptly vanished. I was falling. The gravity was pulling me down with its greatest power. Every single piece of the broken mirrors was slicing my arms, my legs, my body. I was falling endlessly.
I hit the ground unexpectedly.
I felt bombarded.
The next morning was unexpected; I woke up with deafening chit-chat. I went downstairs and stayed by the stairs hoping for them not to notice me. Thanks to all gods, they didn’t. My mom was home for the day, and it was not Sunday. I was listening to Nana and Mom’s chit-chat. It was about my father.
© 2015, Quiyet Brul