Sunday, October 14, 2012

Strange fellows


We live in a “townhouse” but the residents are not in any way homogenous. IN fact, it’s an interesting mix.

Further up the road, you have people owning two or one and a half units, which simply means that their houses are way bigger than those of the rest.  There are also residents owning fancy vehicles, sometimes, more than one.
Here near the gate, however, there is no illusion of fanciness.

Start from the guard who looks as though he is 80 years old, always asleep and slow to rise when you come home late asking him to open up.

There is the mom-and-pop sari-sari store. They sell the BEST turon (Banana fritters). Ever.  Students of a nearby nursing school flock here during their break.

And then there is the unit to the left of the one directly in front of us. That’s a place I’d call intriguing. There are cardboards  and stray clothes: it looks as though it is in a total state of disarray,

There are lots of kids in there. One of them is a little boy of about four, Dondon, who does nothing but stand outside other people’s gates and give them an imploring look, asking for one peso or food or whatever else.
Some older brothers, Elmo says, are proud of creeping into some of the neighbors’ houses and filching what they could. They call you attention only to flash you their middle finger.  Yesterday I overheard one of them at the store:

Boy: Pabili nga po ng fishball (I'd like to buy some fishball).
The store watcher, who was doing his laundry, stood up and dried himself to go into the store.
Boy: Joke lang. 

Dondon’s  grandmother lives with them. She is always dressed in loose pants and top. When she goes out she carries a plastic bag – what it contains, I cannot even know – and walks really slowly. I heard somebody say she goes out begging.

This grandmother seems at odds with her daughter in law.  I’ve woken up a few times to the sound of them quarreling – over a clothesline, in one instance.

The father, Roger, seems ok enough – just don’t get him drunk or he starts a very public monologue that says everybody is equal – nobody’s rich and nobody’s poor.  On really bad nights, he bashes some bottles of beer. We try to stay out of his way when he's like that.

During one such fit, somebody called the police. They came, indeed, but they did not take Roger away because nobody wanted to file charges.

The one that is most intriguing, however, is the little girl that cries every morning.  It’s not just sobbing, or even loud sobbing. It’s wailing. She does it like clockwork, too – at eleven in the morning, every day. One wonders exactly what happens at that time, and why it merits such loud and protracted weeping.

Sometimes I worry about those children. What chance do they have to make life better for themselves? Then I remember I am just a neighbor…and I will probably be out of here in no time.

And besides, who knows if they themselves are not thinking that we…with our late nights and eclectic music and unlikely visitors, aren’t, ourselves, strange? 

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