Thursday, May 11, 2006

Loops and Tangents

“What did he do?” the Guidance Counselor asked my teacher.

My teacher, let’s call her Miss Suni, simply said, “He stabbed his classmate with a pencil. The victim’s bleeding in the clinic.”

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The Guidance Counselor stared at me from head to foot. She stared at the strip of Bandaid on my knee, at my shabby white uniform. She searched my face for remorse. She looked away when she saw nothing there.

The truth was, I hadn’t yet realized the magnitude of my stupidity. I stood there beside an expensive-looking vase that was as tall as me, directly in the air conditioner’s blast. Things felt surreal. One moment, you were just one of those kids copying whatever shit was on the black board, the next moment, you were “special.” All thanks to that kid who sat in the row behind me.

Let’s call the kid Eli. He wasn’t even in my circle of nasty friends, I’d rarely even notice him. But earlier that afternoon, he had this bunch of rubber bands and he was using them to annoy his girl seatmate. When the fun with the girl wore thin, he gazed beyond his horizon and found my ear jutting out of my head right as I sat in the seat before him. Eli probably thought, “Nice ears.”

So what Eli did, he pulled a rubber band and snapped it on my ear.

I was usually a nice kid. Okay, I admit, I loved hanging out with the boys who did nothing but piss off the girls. I loved it when a girl crumbled in tears; it made me strangely feel as if she liked me. The little pricks who were my friends firmly believed that a girl who hated you actually liked you; it was some sort of a secret language. It was how girls communicated to the world, my friends would philosophize; girls spoke a strange, convoluted, and arcane language—exactly why we loved and hated them.

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But how I reacted to Eli’s invasion of my blissful privacy was so typical of my behavior: when he snapped a rubber band on my ear, I just turned to him and glared; I thought my “frightening” scowl was enough. Then I continued writing on my notebook. But Eli happened to be like one of those people who, like Luca Brasi, begged to be killed. So he snapped my ear again, and even laughed out loud like a hyena. The second time he did that, I whirled around and brought down my angry fist on his leg so hard the pain froze his face.

I coldly gazed at him as he began crying. He was holding his leg so delicately and with such shock on his face that you’d think the leg had been lost and he just found it again. As if he was some goddamned Romeo and the leg was his Juliet.

I felt nothing; I knew he’d stop anyway when he’d realize nobody cared about him. Then I continued to write on my pad, only to discover something that stunned me—my pencil’s sharp lead was missing.

I wheeled around. Eli’s leg was all blood, his face was all tears. It flashed in my head: I was holding my pencil when I pummeled his leg with my fist. The truth went through me as terrific as a shotgun blast:

I had indeed stabbed him.

The first thing that hit my head was: Eat the pencil!

Eat the pencil so that there’s no evidence. Then charm them with your naïve smile.

But everything went blinding white. The next thing I remember, I was with Miss Suni and we were walking past classrooms full of kids singing or reciting the alphabet. I caught a whiff of my teacher’s perfume, mentally compared it with my mother’s cologne, and instantly I decided my teacher smelled like a dog. I didn’t care then that she had great boobs and that my height allowed me the privilege of being able to stare directly at her butt; I didn’t know those things, yet.

Miss Suni dragged me to the Guidance Counselor’s office. She had always had a flair for drama, and she proved that by shoving me into the middle of the room and declaring:

This. Kid. Stabbed. His. Classmate.

That stopped everybody’s conversations. All eyes burned at me. I returned the stares. When I realized I was all alone, I melted like a candle and squirmed quietly in a corner, waiting for whatever shit was in store for me.

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Ten million years later, I’d meet Eli on some dusty road. We were then high school seniors, and I barely could remember him. But he walked to me and said, “I haven’t forgotten what you did to me.” And I don’t know, I just stood there; I was probably waiting he’d pull out a pencil and bury it in my chest. But all he did was give me his fiercest, blazing gaze. He walked away.

I was left there wondering about what just happened. I felt empty and confused, as if Eli just took something from me. I felt a powerful urge to chase him and kick the living daylights out of him, just for closure. He must have wanted closure. He couldn’t just let me get away, not like that. You don’t wait ten million years only to say some queer line like, “I haven’t forgotten you.”

I was so sad I wanted to give him the nice things Muhammad Ali gave to Frazier’s face; I wanted to beat him up until he’s angry enough to fight back. Until the dog in him wakes up and bares its fangs.

You don’t let your enemies walk the earth; you destroy them. You destroy them because that’s a favor you do for your friends. Because life teaches us to love and protect our friends and destroy our enemies. You don’t love them both, you don’t hate them both. It’s always about drawing the line somewhere.

He should destroy me; he should close this. Or at least, he should also make me bleed somehow. Just like the old days. But why must I be the one to nudge him on that?

But I swallowed it all and in a small moment, I suddenly decided I should ask for forgiveness. Maybe forgiveness. Maybe after a million years of silence, saying sorry would still work.

Maybe. But then he was already gone. We lived in a small town where you could always find who you were looking for. But on that afternoon, Eli probably made a turn somewhere and vanished. On that afternoon, I scoured the streets looking for him, trying to sense the trail of his ancient anger, but he was gone. I never saw him again.


I’m standing in the corner of the Guidance Counselor’s office, shivering from the air conditioner’s icy blast, awaiting the death sentence.

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Miss Suni’s back with Eli behind her. I see his leg has been bandaged, but he’s walking with a limp. Miss Suni says to me, “I’m letting your mother know about this.”

In my head I’m hating her, telling her “You’re stupid,” promising myself that when I’m big enough and smart enough, I’ll come back and fuck her in the mouth until she remembers everything, even the middle name of Chiquito’s pet monkey. But I actually say nothing; the secret words fester silently in my mouth.

I just ignore them. I peel off the Bandaid on my knee and discover that my old wound has healed. I run my palm on the scar; it feels dry and insignificant. And hopelessly empty.

For similar posts, see Backtracks and Fast-forwards.

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mannysarreal said...

i must admit this is one of your best pieces...

Leon said...

You are so Cruel, man.

Fred Charles said...

Great story. I liked the Luca Brazi reference. I'm going to blog roll you. Great job!

Anele said...

I don't know, but it made me laugh. I'm a wicked, wicked person. And at the end, it was sad. You see the boy had his revenge, didn't you? He left a scar in you that, accept it or not, will never heal. You hurt him, he came back years later making you aware that you hurt him so deeply he never forgot you and guilty (which you couldn't really feel at 1st since you were only a child) and then left without giving you a chance to apologize. He got closure. YOU didn't. So, you'll always remember. That boy is the cruel one.
But well, life is cruel. And that story is a pearl. I really liked it!
Stay well!

monsignor_errol said...

leave the hurt behind, my son. lolz :D i have a story akin to this, only not with pencils, but walis tingting (stick broom, for you non-pinoys out there :P). i threw the thing at a bullying classmate, and the walis tingting protruded on his back like a porcupine's quills. a little blood, yeah, but never got me a reprimand at all though. :D 'twas his fault in the first place, for bullying me, and he'll have more to pay for if school authorities got wind of it. :P

on a side note, i like the ELI reference better. hehehe ;)

john said...

i was bullied as a kid. i went to one of those exclusive catholic all-boys schools, which i realize now are breeding ground for future criminals. it never led to any actual bloodshed though; most of the insults hurled my way were more of the emotional kind. i daresay apologizing means a lot, even if overdue. hope you will find closure someday.

this is a really powerful piece. and some amazing pictures too. did you take them?

you happened by my blog a few months ago. it was only recently that i remembered, when i was poring through my old posts. i linked you--i hope it's okay? please don't stab me. haha

dennis said...

nice blog you have here. i blogrolled this one already.
nice entries! keep 'em coming.

ras tafaria said...

Haha!I had my share also: When i was younger, and not to mention a lot smaller, I used to be taunted by my classmates because of my surname. My last name is Tiamsic and so my classmates prefer to call me Tilamsik instead because they think it's funny. One sunny afternoon in our classroom while I was solemnly scribbling away my thoughts in my journal with my back to the rest of my classmates, one of them was trying to tease me by whispering naughtily "tilamsik" right before my ears. I didn't mind him the first few times but when his taunting grew louder i gave him a straight cut right in his aquiline nose. And yeah his nose bled I thought he was gonna die. Surely enough i was sent to the guidance office and was lectured. How is he now? well he attempted to court me during sophomore year in HS. Sabi ko na eh may crush lang sa akin yun, wehehe.