2003-02-14 06:02:36 (UTC)

loud whispers

THE place was loud and noisy as usual. Talks over
the "arrests" of the city people was hot on the gossip

I could hardly keep my tears from coming. Paolo placed an
arm around me and guided me to our stall. He began to place
the crops that we would sell on the table while I stood
there, mute and blind.

Conversations floated up but I did not really hear them. I
was busy staring past Paolo's hands, past the tables, past
the floor and down to the earth below. I could tell that
many looked at me and then returned to their loud whispers.
The entire town knew about my romance with Enrique.

"Ate," Paolo said gently. "Try to stop thinking about it.
I'm sure Enrique would be fine."

I nodded, catching the certainty of his un-belief. My heart
continued to knock incessantly at my chest. Enrique is
fine. He always was. He always will be.

A few people came to our stall and Paolo attended to them.
He made up an excuse on why he wasn't at the seminary and
they expressed their sympathy for the both of us.

Some tried to talk to me but I ignored them. I knew that
all they wanted from me were details, more information,
more things to talk about in gatherings. I refused to give
them the satisfaction of creating cheap entertainment from
real happenings.

Suddenly, there was a scream. A cry. And people rushed out
of the market place.

More cries came. Something was happening outside.

"Paolo, what's going on?" I asked, frightened. I clung to
his arm.

Cries and gasps swept over the people outside. Others
craned their necks to see what was heppning, only to reel
in horror.

"Paolo, what's going on?" I shook his arm. "What's going

"I don't know, Ate," he said, grimness etched in his
forehead. "Let's go and find out."

We left our stall and fought our way through the crowd. It
was hot. Bodies touched and sweat mixed. Nobody cared.
Nobody even noticed.

I still held on to Paolo's arm while the crowd continued to
push and jostle. We were able to make it to the middle of
this human swamp.

Several people away from me, women began to wail. Others
tried to run away. Some others only stared, shock written
all over their faces.

"Do you see anything?" I asked my brother, him being the
taller of us both.

He shook his head. "No," he said. "No." He squinted under
the glaring sun.

I craned my neck and stood on tiptoe. I was so short! So

"Tang ina!"

Paolo cussed. His eyes began to water. "Tang ina!"

And then I saw it. A carabao, slowly making its way through
the crowd. Behind it, a cart piled with things. People.
Dead and lifeless bodies.

I saw Chanel and the other girls. Their limp bodies either
naked or half concealed. I saw the other guys. Saw the
other city people. All of them were dead.

And then I saw him. Enrique. His shirt, which was gray, was
now stained with dried blood. His face was turned to us,
his hand hanging down the back of the cart. His eyes were
closed. Bruised and beaten. A hole through his forehead.

That was when the finality of it all settled over me. The
sun, the death, the tears, the crowd; and the cry lodged in
my throat broke free.

"Enrique!" I screamed. "Enrique!!"

"No, Ate no!" I heard Paolo yell for I had managed to fight
my way to the front. To climb onto the cart. To lay on top
of the man I love. Enrique. My love. My life giver.