By Leo Padasas
Mico heaved Mimi up the living junk with her knees brushed against the hot steel flooring of the jeepney. White faces with flushed make-up raised eyebrows as she tried to sit between them. Princess-like, she thought. People gave way for her a seat so huge for the little butt in her.
An XL faded blue shirt with murky dirt marks and holes aplenty fit as clothing for her dainty body. She wore nothing below except for a flowered panty. As she sat, she smiled, revealing her plaque-attacked teeth, causing passengers to wince and look away. She looked the usual beggar begging for a few coins in an overpass.
“Bata! May upuan pa dito oh!”
Mico chose to sit at the estribo with his other hand holding the rail. He, too, is as filthy as Mimi.
“Bayad oh! St. Peter lang.”
“Limang piso lang to. Dalawa pa kayo!”
He remained silent, his dangling feet a few inches from the speeding road. People and stone buildings and tall yellow-orange lamps rushed away; cars follow in slow procession. He breathed air flustered with grey smoke from big buses. Passengers: annoyed not awed. The weight of the city drowns the two children quite innocent of what was happening.
Maybe in a few days, they’ll see Mama. Bulacan shouldn’t be far from here, he thought. Bulacan will hug them and they’ll live the life they once enjoyed – the life in a sense you can still call it life.
“Ate, penge pong barya kahit piso lang po. Di pa po kami kumakain ng araw na to.”
“Mimi, tigilan mo na yan.”
His voiced boomed down the jeepney’s hull. Mimi moved towards the yellow garbage can and assumed look of pity. She tugged a blue school skirt.
“Sige na po. Gutom na gutom na kami.”
But Bulacan was neither in signage nor in people’s words. When he tried to ask, he’ll drown with snobs and flinches. Maybe only Papa knows where Bulacan is. Maybe they should go back to their house of brick in Makatee. Maybe Papa shooed his six feet tall baby already – the baby with thick face powder and big bust. Hansel and Gretel left their house in search for home.
“Ate, akin nalang po yung Coke niyo.”
Mimi’s dinky voice was spindles puncturing Mico every syllable it takes. He felt his chest sag, liquid evolving under his eyelids, his nose itchy and watery. He tried to compose himself but hiccups were devils singing merrily under his bony ribs. Buildings ran way.
“Bata. Ito oh. Tama na siguro ‘tong sampu.”
“Di ko po kailangan niyan.”
At least he had water to take a mini-bath – slightly cleansing away soot from his cheeks. The road tried to reach for his rubber slippers.
“Para! Mimi halika na!”
Mimi crawled towards him.
“Dali! Akyat sa likod ko.”
Mimi hugged his brother’s neck and felt her feet leave the ground. They strolled down the sidewalk viewing the new scenario which will present them their new sleeping place for the night.
“Ang bigat mo na.”
“Kuya, sakit ng tiyan ko.”
“Gutom lang yan.”
“Laki kasi ng tiyan ko eh! Di ako nabubusog. Hi-hi!”
Mimi’s lump down her abdomen swelled more than last month. Nights will never be complete without her constant ailing down her pelvis yet Mico insists on an empty stomach. She pees with blood but Mico covers her eyes shut. “May demonyo ang ihi,” he says.
They tried to cross the avenue in front of them. They dodged every speeding metal. Halfway down,
“Ang bigat mo na talaga. Baba ka muna. ‘Di na kita kayang dalhin.”
Mimi tugged on his brother’s hand.
“Ang saya dito sa gitna noh?”
“Kuya, daming kotse.”
He removed his hand from Mimi’s reach.
“Di mo na ako kailangan. Aalagaan ka na niya. Tsaka mahirap sa mundo. Laging may pahirap. Gusto mo pa ba?”
Mico rushed away not wanting to hear anything though her sister’s pleads of Kuya clearly slashes through him. Mico ran and ran until he was quite far. Mico reached the other end yet he didn’t look back and still ran and ran even though his legs won’t carry. Mico ran away.
He’ll search for his Mama with the dying hope he tries to ignite more. He’ll search with his now liquid eyes and evil hiccups. He’ll search and not try to go back anywhere nearer his Papa. He’ll search enduring the hardships world throws at him. He’ll search without having backaches. He’ll search alone.
Mico ran yet he still heard women’s shrieks.