Untitled by Jose Garcia Villa

 

I will break God’s seamless skull,

And I will break His kissless mouth,

O I’ll break out of His faultless shell

And fall me upon Eve’s gold mouth.

I will pound against His skull,

I will crack it by my force of love:

I’ll be a cyclone gale and spill

Me out of His bounding groove.

I’ll be upon Eve, upon Eve,

Upon Eve and her coasts of love!

I’ll be upon Eve, upon Eve,

Cataract of Adamhood. There would I be

My Lord! there would I rebuild me Thee

There alone find my Finality.

Categories: Uncategorized

Prodigal Season

The small boy and the man stood at the foot of the steps looking up at the tall white house known as Casa Grande. The residence of the general manager of the sugar mill at Medina was built along pseudo-Colonial lines, an old structure—one could see where the edges of the cornices were chipped and painted over—but it was an oldness that was settled and almost benignly condescending. Unlike many old houses where ells and wings sprawled like untidy afterthoughts, Casa Grande had a prim look: it was a great-aunt among houses, never neglected, wearing the air of one who had neatly sidestepped several potentially disastrous marriages to the architecture of convenience. The shutters in the upper-storey windows seemed to borrow their freshly-painted green from the unreal lushness of the lawn, where two rotating sprinklers whipped arcs of fine spray across the Bermuda grass. It was early afternoon, barely past noon, but the yard of the compound rang sporadically with the shouts and sounds of people swimming. From across the lawn an indignant yelp was swiftly followed by a hollow but substantial splash. “Cono!” the same voice spluttered a moment later.”… Un bijo de cabrito ese.” The boy turned and squinted into the sunlight. The blue surface of the swimming pool was broken and churned by several swimmers. The derisive hoots from the small group of young people seemed to be directed toward one young fellow who was now climbing out of the pool. His skinny frame shook with rage, and probably laughter, as he struggled unsuccessfully to heave himself out by his elbows. He finally made it, to the accompaniment of mock encouragement, and ruefully rubbed his reddened abdomen, where an early paunch was beginning to show. A drak girl in a red maillot dangled her legs from the poll’s edge and kicked her feet smugly. “I bet that hurt, no?” “Only my pride,” he snarled. More shrieks and another painful splash. The door of the house opened silently. The little boy felt his father’s hand tighten on his shoulder and he looked up. A dumpy maid in a stiff blue uniform stood I the doorway and blinked down at them. She raised her eyebrows questioningly. The man’s hand withdrew from the boy shoulder and he straightened his back. The girl’s mouth twitched impatiently. “Yes? What is it? What do you want?” she asked, in the dialect. “Mr. Vizconde,” he told her. She hesitated, her hand on the doorjamb. “Mr. Vizconde?” the man repeated. “Your master? Is he in? Perhaps he is taking a nap.” “No. but he is having lunch with some visitors.” “We will wait, then.” She looked curiously at them. “No—wait. I will call him. They’re through eating, anyway.” She turned, leaving the door half-open. The squeak of her rubber pumps receded down the polished narra halfway. Read more…

Categories: Uncategorized

Partial Results

Who is your Lady of Cyberture?

Answer Votes Percent
Miss Mongolia 5,940 25%
Miss South Korea 4,358 18%
Miss Colombia 3,840 16%
Miss Sri Lanka 2,945 12%
Miss Thailand 2,417 10%
Miss Philippines 2,295 9%
Miss South Africa 1,454 6%
Miss Papua New Guinea 727 3%
Miss Angola 91 0%
Miss El Salvador 76 0%
Miss Chile 33 0%
Miss Jamaica 9 0%

Partial, Official Result as of October 6, 2012 – 8:00 a.m

Who is your Lady of Cyberture?

Answer Votes Percent
Miss Mongolia 7,261 23%
Miss Colombia 5,142 16%
Miss South Korea 5,084 16%
Miss Sri Lanka 3,628 12%
Miss Thailand 3,063 10%
Miss Philippines 2,924 9%
Miss South Africa 2,300 7%
Miss El Salvador 980 3%
Miss Papua New Guinea 908 3%
Miss Angola 137 0%
Miss Chile 40 0%
Miss Jamaica 11 0%

Partial, Official Result as of October 8, 2012 – 6:45 a.m

Who is your Lady of Cyberture?

Answer Votes Percent
Miss Mongolia 9,007 23%
Miss Colombia 7,158 18%
Miss South Korea 6,073 15%
Miss South Africa 4,307 11%
Miss Sri Lanka 3,927 10%
Miss Philippines 3,307 8%
Miss Thailand 3,287 8%
Miss El Salvador 1,454 4%
Miss Papua New Guinea 981 2%
Miss Angola 234 1%
Miss Chile 63 0%
Miss Jamaica 19 0%

Partial, Official tally as of October 9, 2012 -6:30 a.m.

Who is your Lady of Cyberture?

Answer Votes Percent
Miss Mongolia 9,869 24%
Miss Colombia 7,186 17%
Miss South Korea 6,254 15%
Miss South Africa 4,509 11%
Miss Sri Lanka 4,064 10%
Miss Philippines 3,307 8%
Miss Thailand 3,292 8%
Miss El Salvador 1,564 4%
Miss Papua New Guinea 983 2%
Miss Angola 238 1%
Miss Chile 63 0%
Miss Jamaica 23 0%

Partial, Official Tally as of October 10, 2012 – 9:00 a.m.

Who is your Lady of Cyberture?

Answer Votes Percent
Miss Mongolia 10,701 25%
Miss Colombia 7,289 17%
Miss South Korea 6,339 15%
Miss South Africa 4,948 12%
Miss Sri Lanka 4,148 10%
Miss Philippines 3,309 8%
Miss Thailand 3,293 8%
Miss El Salvador 1,655 4%
Miss Papua New Guinea 998 2%
Miss Angola 239 1%
Miss Chile 64 0%
Miss Jamaica 24 0%

Partial, Official Tally as of October 11, 2012 – 6:00 a.m

Who is your Lady of Cyberture?

Answer Votes Percent
Miss Mongolia 11,095 25%
Miss Colombia 7,484 17%
Miss South Korea 6,349 14%
Miss South Africa 5,704 13%
Miss Sri Lanka 4,148 9%
Miss Philippines 3,860 9%
Miss Thailand 3,365 7%
Miss El Salvador 1,655 4%
Miss Papua New Guinea 1,000 2%
Miss Angola 250 1%
Miss Chile 64 0%
Miss Jamaica 25 0%

Partial and Official tally as of October 12, 2012 -3:50 p.m.

Who is your Lady of Cyberture?

Answer Votes Percent
Miss Mongolia 11,885 24%
Miss Colombia 7,713 16%
Miss South Africa 6,864 14%
Miss South Korea 6,362 13%
Miss Philippines 4,255 9%
Miss Sri Lanka 4,154 9%
Miss Thailand 3,812 8%
Miss El Salvador 1,890 4%
Miss Papua New Guinea 1,328 3%
Miss Angola 265 1%
Miss Chile 77 0%
Miss Jamaica 26 0%

Partial, Official tally as of October 13, 2012 – 6:00 a.m

Who is your Lady of Cyberture?

Answer Votes Percent
Miss Mongolia 12,101 24%
Miss Colombia 7,717 15%
Miss South Africa 7,544 15%
Miss South Korea 6,517 13%
Miss Philippines 4,320 9%
Miss Sri Lanka 4,157 8%
Miss Thailand 4,035 8%
Miss El Salvador 1,892 4%
Miss Papua New Guinea 1,396 3%
Miss Angola 265 1%
Miss Chile 77 0%
Miss Jamaica 27 0%

Partial and Official tally as of October 15, 2012 – 5:00 a.m

Who is your Lady of Cyberture?

Answer Votes Percent
Miss Mongolia 12,478 22%
Miss South Africa 10,478 19%
Miss Colombia 7,769 14%
Miss South Korea 7,192 13%
Miss Philippines 5,088 9%
Miss Thailand 4,901 9%
Miss Sri Lanka 4,223 8%
Miss El Salvador 2,080 4%
Miss Papua New Guinea 1,468 3%
Miss Angola 266 0%
Miss Chile 93 0%
Miss Jamaica 27 0%

Partial, Official tally as of October 16, 2012 – 5:00 a.m

Who is your Lady of Cyberture?

Answer Votes Percent
Miss Mongolia 12,966 22%
Miss South Africa 11,502 19%
Miss Colombia 8,362 14%
Miss South Korea 7,894 13%
Miss Thailand 5,361 9%
Miss Philippines 5,103 9%
Miss Sri Lanka 4,225 7%
Miss El Salvador 2,080 4%
Miss Papua New Guinea 1,471 2%
Miss Angola 266 0%
Miss Chile 94 0%
Miss Jamaica 31 0%

Partial, Official as of October 17, 2012 – 6:00 a.m

Who is your Lady of Cyberture?

Answer Votes Percent
Miss Mongolia 14,936 23%
Miss South Africa 13,274 21%
Miss Colombia 8,376 13%
Miss South Korea 8,064 13%
Miss Thailand 5,540 9%
Miss Philippines 5,103 8%
Miss Sri Lanka 4,225 7%
Miss El Salvador 2,319 4%
Miss Papua New Guinea 1,471 2%
Miss Angola 266 0%
Miss Chile 95 0%
Miss Jamaica 31 0%

Partial and Official Tally as of October 18, 2012 – 6:00 a.m.

Who is your Lady of Cyberture?

Answer Votes Percent
Miss Mongolia 16,743 24%
Miss South Africa 16,301 23%
Miss Colombia 8,501 12%
Miss South Korea 8,152 12%
Miss Thailand 5,595 8%
Miss Philippines 5,284 8%
Miss Sri Lanka 4,226 6%
Miss El Salvador 2,792 4%
Miss Papua New Guinea 1,471 2%
Miss Angola 272 0%
Miss Chile 98 0%
Miss Jamaica 31 0%

Partial and Official Result as of October 19, 2012 –  9:00 p.m.

Who is your Lady of Cyberture?

Answer Votes Percent
Miss South Africa 22,214 28%
Miss Mongolia 19,873 25%
Miss Colombia 8,874 11%
Miss South Korea 8,494 11%
Miss Thailand 5,944 7%
Miss Philippines 5,332 7%
Miss Sri Lanka 4,227 5%
Miss El Salvador 3,494 4%
Miss Papua New Guinea 1,474 2%
Miss Angola 275 0%
Miss Chile 98 0%
Miss Jamaica 32 0%

Partial and Official tally as of October 22, 22012 -6:00 a.m

Who is your Lady of Cyberture?

Answer Votes Percent
Miss South Africa 27,203 30%
Miss Mongolia 23,324 26%
Miss Colombia 8,875 10%
Miss South Korea 8,499 9%
Miss Thailand 6,400 7%
Miss Philippines 5,334 6%
Miss Sri Lanka 4,230 5%
Miss El Salvador 3,708 4%
Miss Papua New Guinea 1,548 2%
Miss Angola 276 0%
Miss Chile 99 0%
Miss Jamaica 37 0%

Partial Tally as of October 23, 2012 – 6:00 a.m

Who is your Lady of Cyberture?

Answer Votes Percent
Miss South Africa 28,552 31%
Miss Mongolia 24,330 26%
Miss Colombia 8,875 10%
Miss South Korea 8,588 9%
Miss Thailand 6,457 7%
Miss Philippines 5,334 6%
Miss Sri Lanka 4,230 5%
Miss El Salvador 3,820 4%
Miss Papua New Guinea 1,563 2%
Miss Angola 276 0%
Miss Chile 99 0%
Miss Jamaica 37 0%

Partial tally as of October 24, 2102 – 5: 40 a.m.

Who is your Lady of Cyberture?

Answer Votes Percent
Miss South Africa 30,233 31%
Miss Mongolia 26,854 28%
Miss Colombia 8,884 9%
Miss South Korea 8,614 9%
Miss Thailand 6,460 7%
Miss Philippines 5,336 6%
Miss Sri Lanka 4,230 4%
Miss El Salvador 3,832 4%
Miss Papua New Guinea 1,563 2%
Miss Angola 276 0%
Miss Chile 100 0%
Miss Jamaica 38 0%

Partial and Official Tally as of October 25, 2012 – 7:40 a.m

Who is your Lady of Cyberture?

Answer Votes Percent
Miss South Africa 32,541 32%
Miss Mongolia 28,936 29%
Miss Colombia 8,888 9%
Miss South Korea 8,626 9%
Miss Thailand 6,473 6%
Miss Philippines 5,337 5%
Miss Sri Lanka 4,231 4%
Miss El Salvador 3,832 4%
Miss Papua New Guinea 1,578 2%
Miss Angola 277 0%
Miss Chile 101 0%
Miss Jamaica 38 0%

Tally as of October 26, 2012 – 6: 30 a.m

Who is your Lady of Cyberture?

Answer Votes Percent
Miss South Africa 34,744 33%
Miss Mongolia 30,924 29%
Miss Colombia 8,902 8%
Miss South Korea 8,627 8%
Miss Thailand 6,508 6%
Miss Philippines 5,338 5%
Miss Sri Lanka 4,231 4%
Miss El Salvador 3,833 4%
Miss Papua New Guinea 1,581 2%
Miss Angola 310 0%
Miss Chile 102 0%
Miss Jamaica 39 0%

October 27, 2012 – 1:20 p.m

Who is your Lady of Cyberture?

Answer Votes Percent
Miss South Africa 37,730 33%
Miss Mongolia 35,710 32%
Miss Colombia 8,908 8%
Miss South Korea 8,628 8%
Miss Thailand 6,527 6%
Miss Philippines 5,338 5%
Miss Sri Lanka 4,232 4%
Miss El Salvador 3,848 3%
Miss Papua New Guinea 1,581 1%
Miss Angola 310 0%
Miss Chile 102 0%
Miss Jamaica 39 0%

October 30, 2012 – 7:00 a.m

Who is your Lady of Cyberture?

Answer Votes Percent
Miss South Africa 52,153 39%
Miss Mongolia 41,807 31%
Miss Colombia 9,001 7%
Miss South Korea 8,629 6%
Miss Thailand 6,644 5%
Miss Philippines 5,338 4%
Miss Sri Lanka 4,236 3%
Miss El Salvador 3,850 3%
Miss Papua New Guinea 1,595 1%
Miss Angola 311 0%
Miss Chile 102 0%
Miss Jamaica 40 0%

November 2, 2012 – 11:00 a.m

Who is your Lady of Cyberture?

Answer Votes Percent
Miss South Africa 55,029 40%
Miss Mongolia 41,833 31%
Miss Colombia 9,027 7%
Miss South Korea 8,774 6%
Miss Thailand 6,765 5%
Miss Philippines 5,338 4%
Miss Sri Lanka 4,236 3%
Miss El Salvador 3,852 3%
Miss Papua New Guinea 1,595 1%
Miss Angola 311 0%
Miss Chile 102 0%
Miss Jamaica 40 0%

November 3, 2012 – 7:44 p.m.

Who is your Lady of Cyberture?

Answer Votes Percent
Miss South Africa 55,748 41%
Miss Mongolia 41,838 30%
Miss Colombia 9,027 7%
Miss South Korea 8,779 6%
Miss Thailand 6,765 5%
Miss Philippines 5,338 4%
Miss Sri Lanka 4,236 3%
Miss El Salvador 3,852 3%
Miss Papua New Guinea 1,595 1%
Miss Angola 311 0%
Miss Chile 102 0%
Miss Jamaica 40 0%

November 5, 2012 – 9:30 p.m

Who is your Lady of Cyberture?

Answer Votes Percent
Miss South Africa 56,398 41%
Miss Mongolia 42,476 31%
Miss Colombia 9,027 6%
Miss South Korea 8,991 6%
Miss Thailand 6,765 5%
Miss Philippines 5,341 4%
Miss Sri Lanka 4,242 3%
Miss El Salvador 3,852 3%
Miss Papua New Guinea 1,595 1%
Miss Angola 312 0%
Miss Chile 103 0%
Miss Jamaica 40 0%

November 07, 2012 – 8:30 p.m

Who is your Lady of Cyberture?

Answer Votes Percent
Miss South Africa 57,736 41%
Miss Mongolia 42,960 30%
Miss Colombia 9,034 6%
Miss South Korea 8,991 6%
Miss Thailand 6,765 5%
Miss Philippines 5,341 4%
Miss Sri Lanka 4,242 3%
Miss El Salvador 3,852 3%
Miss Papua New Guinea 1,595 1%
Miss Angola 317 0%
Miss Chile 103 0%
Miss Jamaica 41 0%
Categories: Uncategorized

The Will of the River

By my wife’s ancestral home flows a river. For a dozen summers I have visited it, and almost every year I make an effort to trace its course back to its source in the neighboring hills; I do not consider my vacation there complete without doing this. In common with others streams of its kind, our river suffers much from the summer drought. I have seen it so shrunken that fish lay lifeless on the parched sand and gravel of its bed. But this summer I saw something I never had been sufficiently observant in other abnormally dry years, I am sure I could not have failed to notice the same thing earlier.

One morning last April, in company with a student friend and also my elder son, I started out for the hill to spend the day by the rapids and cascades at a place called Intongaban. We followed the course of the river. After we had walked a kilometer or more, I saw that the river had disappeared and its bed was dry. I looked around in wonder because past our little country house below and out toward the sea half a mile or so farther down, the river was flowing clear and steady in its usual summer volume and depth. But where we stood at the moment there was no water to be seen.All about us the wide river bed was hot and dry.

We pursued our way on toward the hill, however, and walking another kilometer we saw the stream again, though it had spread itself so thin it was lost at the edge of the waterless stretch of burning sand and stones. And yet, continuing our way into the hills, we found the river grow deeper and stronger than it was as it passed by our cottage.

To most people, I suppose, there is nothing strange or significant in this. Perhaps they have seen such phenomenon more than once before. To me, however, it was a new experience and it impressed me like all new experiences. To me it was not merely strange, it suggested a spiritual truth.
Flowing down from its cradle in the mountains just as it left the last foothills, the river had been checked by long, forbidding, stretch of scorching sand. I had read of other streams that upon encountering similar obstacles irretrievably lot themselves in sand mud. But Bakong- because that is the name of our river- determined to reach the sea, tunneled its way, so to speak, under its sandy bed, of course choosing the harder and lower stratum beneath, until at last it appeared again, limpid and steady in its march to sea.

And then I thought of human life. I was reminded of many a life that stopped short to its great end just because it lacked the power of will to push through hindrances. But I thought most of all those who, like our river, met with almost insurmountable obstacles but undismayed continued their march, buried in obscurity perhaps but resolutely pushing their way to the sea, to their life’s goal. I thought of men like Galileo, who continued his work long after his sight had failed; of Beethoven, who composed his nobles and sublimest symphonies when he could no longer hear a single note; of Stevenson, who produced some of his greatest works after he was doomed to die of tuberculosis; and of Cecil Rhodes, who was sent to Africa to die of an incurable disease, but before he obeyed the summons carved out an Empire in the Dark Continent. These resolute and sublime souls reminded me of what our river taught me- that if we cannot overcome obstacles, we can under come them.
Another lesson I learned from Bakong is the fact that the river was not merely determined to flow just anywhere; it was determined to reach the sea, to the great end. Many streams manage to surmount barrier they meet along the way, but they come out of obstacles after much labor only to end in a foul and stagnant marsh or lake. How like so many human lives. How like so many people who, in the springtime of their youth and in the summer of their early manhood, showed splendid heroism against frowning odds, determined to overcome those hostiles barriers, only in the autumn of their lives to end in defeat, disgrace, and remorse. On the other hand, think of other lives that, like our river, kept their way even to the end of their course.

Bakong by continuing its march to the sea, kept itself fit for the service of nature and man; and not only that, it expanded its field of usefulness. And does this not suggest that the river of man’s life should be likewise?For if in the face of obstacles it lacks the strength of will to continue keeping itself fit to serve and seeking new opportunities for service, it will ultimately become useless to others.
As I marveled at the power of Bakong to push its way through such a seemingly impassable barrier, I discerned the secret- a secret that has a message for all of us. For Bakong was able to carry on, to continue its watery pilgrimage and reach the immensity and sublimity of the sea only because its source is the vast and lofty mountains. Unless a stream draws its power form a source of sufficient high and magnitude, it cannot do as our river did this summer. It will not have the strength to cut its way through great obstacles and reach the sea at last. Here is one of the marvelous secrets of life, and how many have missed it! Verily, if a man derives his strength and inspiration from a low and feeble source, he will fall to ”arrive.” Unless man draws his power from some source of heavenly altitude, unless the stream of his life issues from a never-failing source, unless, in other words, his soul is fed from heights of infinite power, he may fear that he will not reach the sea. But if his spirit is impelled and nourished by an inexhaustible power from on high, he will, in spite of all obstructions, finish his course, if not in the glory of dazzling achievements, at least in the nobility of a completed task faithfully done.

Categories: Uncategorized

Dead Stars

by Paz Marquez Benitez

Through the open window, the air-steeped outdoors passed into his room, quietly enveloping him, stealing into his very thought. Esperanza, Julia, and the sorry mess he had made of life, the years to come even now beginning to weigh down, to crush, they lost concreteness, diffused into formless melancholy. The tranquil murmur of conversation issued from the brick-tiled Azotea where Don Julian and Carmen were busy puttering away among the rose pots.

“Papa, and when will the ‘long table’ be set?”

“I don’t know yet. Alfredo is not very specific, but I understand Esperanza wants it to be next month.”

Carmen sighed impatiently. “Why he is not a bit more decided, I wonder. He is over thirty, is he not? And still a bachelor! Esperanza must be tired waiting.”

“She does not seem to be in much of a hurry either,” Don Julian nasally commented, while his rose scissors busily snipped away.

“How can a woman be in a hurry when the man does not hurry her?” Carmen returned, pinching off a worm with a careful, somewhat absent air. “Papa, do you remember how much in love he was?”

“In love? With whom?”

“With Esperanza, of course. He has not had another love affair that I know of,” she said with good-natured contempt. “What I mean is that at the beginning he was enthusiastic–flowers, serenades, notes, and things like that–”

Alfredo remembered that period with a wonder not unmixed with shame. That was less than four years ago. He could not understand those months of a great hunger that was not of the body nor yet of the mind, a craving that had seized on him one quiet night when the moon was abroad and under the dappled shadow of the trees in the plaza, man wooed maid. Was he being cheated by life? Love–he seemed to have missed it. Or was the love that others told about a mere fabrication of perfervid imagination, an exaggeration of the commonplace, a glorification of insipid monotonies such as made up his love life? Was love a combination of circumstances, or sheer native capacity of soul? In those days love was, for him, still the eternal puzzle; for love, as he knew it, was a stranger to love as he divined it might be.

Sitting quietly in his room now, he could almost revive the restlessness of those days, the feeling of tumultuous haste, such as he knew so well in his boyhood when something beautiful was going on somewhere and he was trying to get there in time to see. “Hurry, hurry, or you will miss it,” someone had seemed to urge in his ears. So he had avidly seized on the shadow of Love and deluded himself for a long while in the way of humanity from time immemorial. In the meantime, he became very much engaged to Esperanza.

Why would men so mismanage their lives? Greed, he thought, was what ruined so many. Greed–the desire to crowd into a moment all the enjoyment it will hold, to squeeze from the hour all the emotion it will yield. Men commit themselves when but half-meaning to do so, sacrificing possible future fullness of ecstasy to the craving for immediate excitement. Greed–mortgaging the future–forcing the hand of Time, or of Fate.

“What do you think happened?” asked Carmen, pursuing her thought.

“I supposed long-engaged people are like that; warm now, cool tomorrow. I think they are oftener cool than warm. The very fact that an engagement has been allowed to prolong itself argues certain placidity of temperament–or of affection–on the part of either, or both.” Don Julian loved to philosophize. He was talking now with an evident relish in words, his resonant, very nasal voice toned down to monologue pitch. “That phase you were speaking of is natural enough for a beginning. Besides, that, as I see it, was Alfredo’s last race with escaping youth–”

Carmen laughed aloud at the thought of her brother’s perfect physical repose–almost indolence–disturbed in the role suggested by her father’s figurative language.

“A last spurt of hot blood,” finished the old man.

Few certainly would credit Alfredo Salazar with hot blood. Even his friends had amusedly diagnosed his blood as cool and thin, citing incontrovertible evidence. Tall and slender, he moved with an indolent ease that verged on grace. Under straight recalcitrant hair, a thin face with a satisfying breadth of forehead, slow, dreamer’s eyes, and astonishing freshness of lips–indeed Alfredo Salazar’s appearance betokened little of exuberant masculinity; rather a poet with wayward humor, a fastidious artist with keen, clear brain.

He rose and quietly went out of the house. He lingered a moment on the stone steps; then went down the path shaded by immature acacias, through the little tarred gate which he left swinging back and forth, now opening, now closing, on the gravel road bordered along the farther side by Madre cacao hedge in tardy lavender bloom.

The gravel road narrowed as it slanted up to the house on the hill, whose wide, open porches he could glimpse through the heat-shriveled tamarinds in the Martinez yard.

Six weeks ago that house meant nothing to him save that it was the Martinez house, rented and occupied by Judge Del Valle and his family. Six weeks ago Julia Salas meant nothing to him; he did not even know her name; but now–

One evening he had gone “neighboring” with Don Julian; a rare enough occurrence, since he made it a point to avoid all appearance of currying favor with the Judge. This particular evening however, he had allowed himself to be persuaded. “A little mental relaxation now and then is beneficial,” the old man had said. “Besides, a judge’s good will, you know;” the rest of the thought–”is worth a rising young lawyer’s trouble”–Don Julian conveyed through a shrug and a smile that derided his own worldly wisdom.

A young woman had met them at the door. It was evident from the excitement of the Judge’s children that she was a recent and very welcome arrival. In the characteristic Filipino way formal introductions had been omitted–the judge limiting himself to a casual “Ah, ya se conocen?”–with the consequence that Alfredo called her Miss Del Valle throughout the evening.

He was puzzled that she should smile with evident delight every time he addressed her thus. Later Don Julian informed him that she was not the Judge’s sister, as he had supposed, but his sister-in-law, and that her name was Julia Salas. A very dignified rather austere name, he thought. Still, the young lady should have corrected him. As it was, he was greatly embarrassed, and felt that he should explain.

To his apology, she replied, “That is nothing, each time I was about to correct you, but I remembered a similar experience I had once before.”

“Oh,” he drawled out, vastly relieved.

“A man named Manalang–I kept calling him Manalo. After the tenth time or so, the young man rose from his seat and said suddenly, ‘Pardon me, but my name is Manalang, Manalang.’ You know, I never forgave him!”

He laughed with her.

“The best thing to do under the circumstances, I have found out,” she pursued, “is to pretend not to hear, and to let the other person find out his mistake without help.”

“As you did this time. Still, you looked amused every time I–”

“I was thinking of Mr. Manalang.”

Don Julian and his uncommunicative friend, the Judge, were absorbed in a game of chess. The young man had tired of playing appreciative spectator and desultory conversationalist, so he and Julia Salas had gone off to chat in the vine-covered porch. The lone piano in the neighborhood alternately tinkled and banged away as the player’s moods altered. He listened, and wondered irrelevantly if Miss Salas could sing; she had such a charming speaking voice.

He was mildly surprised to note from her appearance that she was unmistakably a sister of the Judge’s wife, although Doña Adela was of a different type altogether. She was small and plump, with wide brown eyes, clearly defined eyebrows, and delicately modeled hips–a pretty woman with the complexion of a baby and the expression of a likable cow. Julia was taller, not so obviously pretty. She had the same eyebrows and lips, but she was much darker, of a smooth rich brown with underlying tones of crimson which heightened the impression she gave of abounding vitality.

On Sunday mornings after mass, father and son would go crunching up the gravel road to the house on the hill. The Judge’s wife invariably offered them beer, which Don Julian enjoyed and Alfredo did not. After a half hour or so, the chessboard would be brought out; then Alfredo and Julia Salas would go out to the porch to chat. She sat in the low hammock and he in a rocking chair and the hours–warm, quiet March hours–sped by. He enjoyed talking with her and it was evident that she liked his company; yet what feeling there was between them was so undisturbed that it seemed a matter of course. Only when Esperanza chanced to ask him indirectly about those visits did some uneasiness creep into his thoughts of the girl next door.

Esperanza had wanted to know if he went straight home after mass. Alfredo suddenly realized that for several Sundays now he had not waited for Esperanza to come out of the church as he had been wont to do. He had been eager to go “neighboring.”

He answered that he went home to work. And, because he was not habitually untruthful, added, “Sometimes I go with Papa to Judge Del Valle’s.”

She dropped the topic. Esperanza was not prone to indulge in unprovoked jealousies. She was a believer in the regenerative virtue of institutions, in their power to regulate feeling as well as conduct. If a man were married, why, of course, he loved his wife; if he were engaged, he could not possibly love another woman.

That half-lie told him what he had not admitted openly to himself, that he was giving Julia Salas something which he was not free to give. He realized that; yet something that would not be denied beckoned imperiously, and he followed on.

It was so easy to forget up there, away from the prying eyes of the world, so easy and so poignantly sweet. The beloved woman, he standing close to her, the shadows around, enfolding.

“Up here I find–something–”

He and Julia Salas stood looking out into the she quiet night. Sensing unwanted intensity, laughed, woman-like, asking, “amusement?”

“No; youth–its spirit–”

“Are you so old?”

“And heart’s desire.”

Was he becoming a poet, or is there a poet lurking in the heart of every man?

“Down there,” he had continued, his voice somewhat indistinct, “the road is too broad, too trodden by feet, too barren of mystery.”

“Down there” beyond the ancient tamarinds lay the road, upturned to the stars. In the darkness the fireflies glimmered, while an errant breeze strayed in from somewhere, bringing elusive, faraway sounds as of voices in a dream.

“Mystery–” she answered lightly, “that is so brief–”

“Not in some,” quickly. “Not in you.”

“You have known me a few weeks; so the mystery.”

“I could study you all my life and still not find it.”

“So long?”

“I should like to.”

Those six weeks were now so swift–seeming in the memory, yet had they been so deep in the living, so charged with compelling power and sweetness. Because neither the past nor the future had relevance or meaning, he lived only the present, day by day, lived it intensely, with such a willful shutting out of fact as astounded him in his calmer moments.

Just before Holy Week, Don Julian invited the judge and his family to spend Sunday afternoon at Tanda where he had a coconut plantation and a house on the beach. Carmen also came with her four energetic children. She and Doña Adela spent most of the time indoors directing the preparation of the merienda and discussing the likeable absurdities of their husbands–how Carmen’s Vicente was so absorbed in his farms that he would not even take time off to accompany her on this visit to her father; how Doña Adela’s Dionisio was the most absentminded of men, sometimes going out without his collar, or with unmatched socks.

After the merienda, Don Julian sauntered off with the judge to show him what a thriving young coconut looked like–”plenty of leaves, close set, rich green”–while the children, convoyed by Julia Salas, found unending entertainment in the rippling sand left by the ebbing tide. They were far down, walking at the edge of the water, indistinctly outlined against the gray of the out-curving beach.

Alfredo left his perch on the bamboo ladder of the house and followed. Here were her footsteps, narrow, arched. He laughed at himself for his black canvas footwear which he removed forthwith and tossed high up on dry sand.

When he came up, she flushed, and then smiled with frank pleasure.

“I hope you are enjoying this,” he said with a questioning inflection.

“Very much. It looks like home to me, except that we do not have such a lovely beach.”

There was a breeze from the water. It blew the hair away from her forehead, and whipped the tucked-up skirt around her straight, slender figure. In the picture was something of eager freedom as of wings poised in flight. The girl had grace, distinction. Her face was not notably pretty; yet she had a tantalizing charm, all the more compelling because it was an inner quality, an achievement of the spirit. The lure was there, of naturalness, of an alert vitality of mind and body, of a thoughtful, sunny temper, and of a piquant perverseness which is sauce to charm.

“The afternoon has seemed very short, hasn’t it?” Then, “This, I think, is the last time–we can visit.”

“The last? Why?”

“Oh, you will be too busy perhaps.”

He noted an evasive quality in the answer.

“Do I seem especially industrious to you?”

“If you are, you never look it.”

“Not perspiring or breathless, as a busy man ought to be.”

“But–”

“Always unhurried, too unhurried, and calm.” She smiled to herself.

“I wish that were true,” he said after a meditative pause.

She waited.

“A man is happier if he is, as you say, calm and placid.”

“Like a carabao in a mud pool,” she retorted perversely

“Who? I?”

“Oh, no!”

“You said I am calm and placid.”

“That is what I think.”

“I used to think so too. Shows how little we know ourselves.”

It was strange to him that he could be wooing thus: with tone and look and covert phrase.

“I should like to see your home town.”

“There is nothing to see–little crooked streets, bunut roofs with ferns growing on them, and sometimes squashes.”

That was the background. It made her seem less detached, less unrelated, yet withal more distant, as if that background claimed her and excluded him.

“Nothing? There is you.”

“Oh, me? But I am here.”

“I will not go, of course, until you are there.”

“Will you come? You will find it dull. There isn’t even one American there!”

“Well–Americans are rather essential to my entertainment.”

She laughed.

“We live on Calle Luz, a little street with trees.”

“Could I find that?”

“If you don’t ask for Miss Del Valle,” she smiled teasingly.

“I’ll inquire about–”

“What?”

“The house of the prettiest girl in the town.”

“There is where you will lose your way.” Then she turned serious. “Now, that is not quite sincere.”

“It is,” he averred slowly, but emphatically.

“I thought you, at least, would not say such things.”

“Pretty–pretty–a foolish word! But there is none other handier I did not mean that quite–”

“Are you withdrawing the compliment?”

“Re-enforcing it, maybe. Something is pretty when it pleases the eye–it is more than that when–”

“If it saddens?” she interrupted hastily.

“Exactly.”

“It must be ugly.”

“Always?”

Toward the west, the sunlight lay on the dimming waters in a broad, glinting streamer of crimsoned gold.

“No, of course you are right.”

“Why did you say this is the last time?” he asked quietly as they turned back.

“I am going home.”

The end of an impossible dream!

“When?” after a long silence.

“Tomorrow. I received a letter from Father and Mother yesterday. They want me to spend Holy Week at home.”

She seemed to be waiting for him to speak. “That is why I said this is the last time.”

“Can’t I come to say good-bye?”

“Oh, you don’t need to!”

“No, but I want to.”

“There is no time.”

The golden streamer was withdrawing, shortening, until it looked no more than a pool far away at the rim of the world. Stillness, a vibrant quiet that affects the senses as does solemn harmony; a peace that is not contentment but a cessation of tumult when all violence of feeling tones down to the wistful serenity of regret. She turned and looked into his face, in her dark eyes a ghost of sunset sadness.

“Home seems so far from here. This is almost like another life.”

“I know. This is Elsewhere, and yet strange enough, I cannot get rid of the old things.”

“Old things?”

“Oh, old things, mistakes, encumbrances, old baggage.” He said it lightly, unwilling to mar the hour. He walked close, his hand sometimes touching hers for one whirling second.

Don Julian’s nasal summons came to them on the wind.

Alfredo gripped the soft hand so near his own. At his touch, the girl turned her face away, but he heard her voice say very low, “Good-bye.”

II

Alfredo Salazar turned to the right where, farther on, the road broadened and entered the heart of the town–heart of Chinese stores sheltered under low-hung roofs, of indolent drug stores and tailor shops, of dingy shoe-repairing establishments, and a cluttered goldsmith’s cubbyhole where a consumptive bent over a magnifying lens; heart of old brick-roofed houses with quaint hand-and-ball knockers on the door; heart of grass-grown plaza reposeful with trees, of ancient church and convento,now circled by swallows gliding in flight as smooth and soft as the afternoon itself. Into the quickly deepening twilight, the voice of the biggest of the church bells kept ringing its insistent summons. Flocking came the devout with their long wax candles, young women in vivid apparel (for this was Holy Thursday and the Lord was still alive), older women in sober black skirts. Came to the young men in droves, elbowing each other under the talisay tree near the church door. The gaily decked rice-paper lanterns were again on display while from the windows of the older houses hung colored glass globes, heirlooms from a day when grasspith wicks floating in coconut oil were the chief lighting device.

Soon a double row of lights emerged from the church and uncoiled down the length of the street like a huge jewelled band studded with glittering clusters where the saints’ platforms were. Above the measured music rose the untutored voices of the choir, steeped in incense and the acrid fumes of burning wax.

The sight of Esperanza and her mother sedately pacing behind Our Lady of Sorrows suddenly destroyed the illusion of continuity and broke up those lines of light into component individuals. Esperanza stiffened self-consciously, tried to look unaware, and could not.

The line moved on.

Suddenly, Alfredo’s slow blood began to beat violently, irregularly. A girl was coming down the line–a girl that was striking, and vividly alive, the woman that could cause violent commotion in his heart, yet had no place in the completed ordering of his life.

Her glance of abstracted devotion fell on him and came to a brief stop.

The line kept moving on, wending its circuitous route away from the church and then back again, where, according to the old proverb, all processions end.

At last Our Lady of Sorrows entered the church, and with her the priest and the choir, whose voices now echoed from the arched ceiling. The bells rang the close of the procession.

A round orange moon, “huge as a winnowing basket,” rose lazily into a clear sky, whitening the iron roofs and dimming the lanterns at the windows. Along the still densely shadowed streets the young women with their rear guard of males loitered and, maybe, took the longest way home.

Toward the end of the row of Chinese stores, he caught up with Julia Salas. The crowd had dispersed into the side streets, leaving Calle Real to those who lived farther out. It was past eight, and Esperanza would be expecting him in a little while: yet the thought did not hurry him as he said “Good evening” and fell into step with the girl.

“I had been thinking all this time that you had gone,” he said in a voice that was both excited and troubled.

“No, my sister asked me to stay until they are ready to go.”

“Oh, is the Judge going?”

“Yes.”

The provincial docket had been cleared, and Judge Del Valle had been assigned elsewhere. As lawyer–and as lover–Alfredo had found that out long before.

“Mr. Salazar,” she broke into his silence, “I wish to congratulate you.”

Her tone told him that she had learned, at last. That was inevitable.

“For what?”

“For your approaching wedding.”

Some explanation was due her, surely. Yet what could he say that would not offend?

“I should have offered congratulations long before, but you know mere visitors are slow about getting the news,” she continued.

He listened not so much to what she said as to the nuances in her voice. He heard nothing to enlighten him, except that she had reverted to the formal tones of early acquaintance. No revelation there; simply the old voice–cool, almost detached from personality, flexible and vibrant, suggesting potentialities of song.

“Are weddings interesting to you?” he finally brought out quietly

“When they are of friends, yes.”

“Would you come if I asked you?”

“When is it going to be?”

“May,” he replied briefly, after a long pause.

“May is the month of happiness they say,” she said, with what seemed to him a shade of irony.

“They say,” slowly, indifferently. “Would you come?”

“Why not?”

“No reason. I am just asking. Then you will?”

“If you will ask me,” she said with disdain.

“Then I ask you.”

“Then I will be there.”

The gravel road laid before them; at the road’s end the lighted windows of the house on the hill. There swept over the spirit of Alfredo Salazar a longing so keen that it was pain, a wish that, that house were his, that all the bewilderments of the present were not, and that this woman by his side were his long wedded wife, returning with him to the peace of home.

“Julita,” he said in his slow, thoughtful manner, “did you ever have to choose between something you wanted to do and something you had to do?”

“No!”

“I thought maybe you had had that experience; then you could understand a man who was in such a situation.”

“You are fortunate,” he pursued when she did not answer.

“Is–is this man sure of what he should do?”

“I don’t know, Julita. Perhaps not. But there is a point where a thing escapes us and rushes downward of its own weight, dragging us along. Then it is foolish to ask whether one will or will not, because it no longer depends on him.”

“But then why–why–” her muffled voice came. “Oh, what do I know? That is his problem after all.”

“Doesn’t it–interest you?”

“Why must it? I–I have to say good-bye, Mr. Salazar; we are at the house.”

Without lifting her eyes she quickly turned and walked away.

Had the final word been said? He wondered. It had. Yet a feeble flutter of hope trembled in his mind though set against that hope were three years of engagement, a very near wedding, perfect understanding between the parents, his own conscience, and Esperanza herself–Esperanza waiting, Esperanza no longer young, Esperanza the efficient, the literal-minded, the intensely acquisitive.

He looked attentively at her where she sat on the sofa, appraisingly, and with a kind of aversion which he tried to control.

She was one of those fortunate women who have the gift of uniformly acceptable appearance. She never surprised one with unexpected homeliness nor with startling reserves of beauty. At home, in church, on the street, she was always herself, a woman past first bloom, light and clear of complexion, spare of arms and of breast, with a slight convexity to thin throat; a woman dressed with self-conscious care, even elegance; a woman distinctly not average.

She was pursuing an indignant relation about something or other, something about Calixta, their note-carrier, Alfredo perceived, so he merely half-listened, understanding imperfectly. At a pause he drawled out to fill in the gap: “Well, what of it?” The remark sounded ruder than he had intended.

“She is not married to him,” Esperanza insisted in her thin, nervously pitched voice. “Besides, she should have thought of us. Nanay practically brought her up. We never thought she would turn out bad.”

What had Calixta done? Homely, middle-aged Calixta?

“You are very positive about her badness,” he commented dryly. Esperanza was always positive.

“But do you approve?”

“Of what?”

“What she did.”

“No,” indifferently.

“Well?”

He was suddenly impelled by a desire to disturb the unvexed orthodoxy of her mind. “All I say is that it is not necessarily wicked.”

“Why shouldn’t it be? You talked like an–immoral man. I did not know that your ideas were like that.”

“My ideas?” he retorted, goaded by a deep, accumulated exasperation. “The only test I wish to apply to conduct is the test of fairness. Am I injuring anybody? No? Then I am justified in my conscience. I am right. Living with a man to whom she is not married–is that it? It may be wrong, and again it may not.”

“She has injured us. She was ungrateful.” Her voice was tight with resentment.

“The trouble with you, Esperanza, is that you are–” he stopped, appalled by the passion in his voice.

“Why do you get angry? I do not understand you at all! I think I know why you have been indifferent to me lately. I am not blind, or deaf; I see and hear what perhaps some are trying to keep from me.” The blood surged into his very eyes and his hearing sharpened to points of acute pain. What would she say next?

“Why don’t you speak out frankly before it is too late? You need not think of me and of what people will say.” Her voice trembled.

Alfredo was suffering as he could not remember ever having suffered before. What people will say–what will they not say? What don’t they say when long engagements are broken almost on the eve of the wedding?

“Yes,” he said hesitatingly, diffidently, as if merely thinking aloud, “one tries to be fair–according to his lights–but it is hard. One would like to be fair to one’s self first. But that is too easy, one does not dare–”

“What do you mean?” she asked with repressed violence. “Whatever my shortcomings, and no doubt they are many in your eyes, I have never gone out of my way, of my place, to find a man.”

Did she mean by this irrelevant remark that he it was who had sought her; or was that a covert attack on Julia Salas?

“Esperanza–” a desperate plea lay in his stumbling words. “If you–suppose I–” Yet how could a mere man word such a plea?

“If you mean you want to take back your word, if you are tired of–why don’t you tell me you are tired of me?” she burst out in a storm of weeping that left him completely shamed and unnerved.

The last word had been said.

III

AS Alfredo Salazar leaned against the boat rail to watch the evening settling over the lake, he wondered if Esperanza would attribute any significance to this trip of his. He was supposed to be in Sta. Cruz whither the case of the People of the Philippine Islands vs. Belina et al had kept him, and there he would have been if Brigida Samuy had not been so important to the defense. He had to find that elusive old woman. That the search was leading him to that particular lake town which was Julia Salas’ home should not disturb him unduly yet he was disturbed to a degree utterly out of proportion to the prosaicalness of his errand. That inner tumult was no surprise to him; in the last eight years he had become used to such occasional storms. He had long realized that he could not forget Julia Salas. Still, he had tried to be content and not to remember too much. The climber of mountains, who has known the back-break, the lonesomeness, and the chill, finds certain restfulness in level paths made easy to his feet. He looks up sometimes from the valley where settles the dusk of evening, but he knows he must not heed the radiant beckoning. Maybe, in time, he would cease even to look up.

He was not unhappy in his marriage. He felt no rebellion: only the calm of capitulation to what he recognized as irresistible forces of circumstance and of character. His life had simply ordered itself; no more struggles, no more stirring up of emotions that got a man nowhere. From his capacity of complete detachment he derived a strange solace. The essential himself, the himself that had its being in the core of his thought, would, he reflected, always be free and alone. When claims encroached too insistently, as sometimes they did, he retreated into the inner fastness, and from that vantage he saw things and people around him as remote and alien, as incidents that did not matter. At such times did Esperanza feel baffled and helpless; he was gentle, even tender, but immeasurably far away, beyond her reach.

Lights were springing into life on the shore. That was the town, a little up-tilted town nestling in the dark greenness of the groves. A snub crested belfry stood beside the ancient church. On the outskirts the evening smudges glowed red through the sinuous mists of smoke that rose and lost themselves in the purple shadows of the hills. There was a young moon which grew slowly luminous as the coral tints in the sky yielded to the darker blues of evening.

The vessel approached the landing quietly, trailing a wake of long golden ripples on the dark water. Peculiar hill inflections came to his ears from the crowd assembled to meet the boat–slow, singing cadences, characteristic of the Laguna lake-shore speech. From where he stood he could not distinguish faces, so he had no way of knowing whether the presidentewas there to meet him or not. Just then a voice shouted.

“Is the abogado there? Abogado!”

“What abogado?” someone irately asked.

That must be the presidente, he thought, and went down to the landing.

It was a policeman, a tall pock-marked individual. The presidente had left with Brigida Samuy–Tandang “Binday”–that noon for Santa Cruz. Señor Salazar’s second letter had arrived late, but the wife had read it and said, “Go and meet the abogado and invite him to our house.”

Alfredo Salazar courteously declined the invitation. He would sleep on board since the boat would leave at four the next morning anyway. So thepresidente had received his first letter? Alfredo did not know because that official had not sent an answer. “Yes,” the policeman replied, “but he could not write because we heard that Tandang Binday was in San Antonio so we went there to find her.”

San Antonio was up in the hills! Good man, the presidente! He, Alfredo, must do something for him. It was not every day that one met with such willingness to help.

Eight o’clock, lugubriously tolled from the bell tower, found the boat settled into a somnolent quiet. A cot had been brought out and spread for him, but it was too bare to be inviting at that hour. It was too early to sleep: he would walk around the town. His heart beat faster as he picked his way to shore over the rafts made fast to sundry piles driven into the water.

How peaceful the town was! Here and there a little tienda was still open, its dim light issuing forlornly through the single window which served as counter. An occasional couple sauntered by, the women’s chinelasmaking scraping sounds. From a distance came the shrill voices of children playing games on the street–tubigan perhaps, or “hawk-and-chicken.” The thought of Julia Salas in that quiet place filled him with a pitying sadness.

How would life seem now if he had married Julia Salas? Had he meant anything to her? That unforgettable red-and-gold afternoon in early April haunted him with a sense of incompleteness as restless as other unlaid ghosts. She had not married–why? Faithfulness, he reflected, was not a conscious effort at regretful memory. It was something unvolitional, maybe a recurrent awareness of irreplaceability. Irrelevant trifles–a cool wind on his forehead, far-away sounds as of voices in a dream–at times moved him to an oddly irresistible impulse to listen as to an insistent, unfinished prayer.

A few inquiries led him to a certain little tree-ceilinged street where the young moon wove indistinct filigrees of fight and shadow. In the gardens the cotton tree threw its angular shadow athwart the low stone wall; and in the cool, stilly midnight the cock’s first call rose in tall, soaring jets of sound. Calle Luz.

Somehow or other, he had known that he would find her house because she would surely be sitting at the window. Where else, before bedtime on a moonlit night? The house was low and the light in the sala behind her threw her head into unmistakable relief. He sensed rather than saw her start of vivid surprise.

“Good evening,” he said, raising his hat.

“Good evening. Oh! Are you in town?”

“On some little business,” he answered with a feeling of painful constraint.

“Won’t you come up?”

He considered. His vague plans had not included this. But Julia Salas had left the window, calling to her mother as she did so. After a while, someone came downstairs with a lighted candle to open the door. At last–he was shaking her hand.

She had not changed much–a little less slender, not so eagerly alive, yet something had gone. He missed it, sitting opposite her, looking thoughtfully into her fine dark eyes. She asked him about the home town, about this and that, in a sober, somewhat meditative tone. He conversed with increasing ease, though with a growing wonder that he should be there at all. He could not take his eyes from her face. What had she lost? Or was the loss his? He felt an impersonal curiosity creeping into his gaze. The girl must have noticed, for her cheek darkened in a blush.

Gently–was it experimentally?–he pressed her hand at parting; but his own felt undisturbed and emotionless. Did she still care? The answer to the question hardly interested him.

The young moon had set, and from the uninviting cot he could see one half of a star-studded sky.

So that was all over.

Why had he obstinately clung to that dream?

So all these years–since when?–he had been seeing the light of dead stars, long extinguished, yet seemingly still in their appointed places in the heavens.

An immense sadness as of loss invaded his spirit, a vast homesickness for some immutable refuge of the heart far away where faded gardens bloom again, and where live on in unchanging freshness, the dear, dead loves of vanished youth.

May Day Eve


By Nick Joaquin

The old people had ordered that the dancing should stop at ten o’clock but it was almost midnight before the carriages came filing up the departing guests, while the girls who were staying were promptly herded upstairs to the bedrooms, the young men gathering around to wish them a good night and lamenting their ascent with mock signs and moaning, proclaiming themselves disconsolate but straightway going off to finish the punch and the brandy though they were quite drunk already and simply bursting with wild spirits, merriment, arrogance and audacity, for they were young bucks newly arrived from Europe; the ball had been in their honor; and they had waltzed and polka-ed and bragged and swaggered and flirted all night and where in no mood to sleep yet–no, caramba, not on this moist tropic eve! not on this mystic May eve! –with the night still young and so seductive that it was madness not to go out, not to go forth—and serenade the neighbors! cried one; and swim in the Pasid! cried another; and gather fireflies! cried a third—whereupon there arose a great clamor for coats and capes, for hats and canes, and they were a couple of street-lamps flickered and a last carriage rattled away upon the cobbles while the blind black houses muttered hush-hush, their tile roofs looming like sinister chessboards against a wile sky murky with clouds, save where an evil young moon prowled about in a corner or where a murderous wind whirled, whistling and whining, smelling now of the sea and now of the summer orchards and wafting unbearable childhood fragrances or ripe guavas to the young men trooping so uproariously down the street that the girls who were desiring upstairs in the bedrooms catered screaming to the windows, crowded giggling at the windows, but were soon sighing amorously over those young men bawling below; over those wicked young men and their handsome apparel, their proud flashing eyes, and their elegant mustaches so black and vivid in the moonlight that the girls were quite ravished with love, and began crying to one another how carefree were men but how awful to be a girl and what a horrid, horrid world it was, till old Anastasia plucked them off by the ear or the pigtail and chases them off to bed—while from up the street came the clackety-clack of the watchman’s boots on the cobble and the clang-clang of his lantern against his knee, and the mighty roll of his great voice booming through the night, “Guardia serno-o-o! A las doce han dado-o-o.

And it was May again, said the old Anastasia. It was the first day of May and witches were abroad in the night, she said–for it was a night of divination, and night of lovers, and those who cared might peer into a mirror and would there behold the face of whoever it was they were fated to marry, said the old Anastasia as she hobble about picking up the piled crinolines and folding up shawls and raking slippers in corner while the girls climbing into four great poster-beds that overwhelmed the room began shrieking with terror, scrambling over each other and imploring the old woman not to frighten them.

“Enough, enough, Anastasia! We want to sleep!”

“Go scare the boys instead, you old witch!”

“She is not a witch, she is a maga. She is a maga. She was born of Christmas Eve!”

“St. Anastasia, virgin and martyr.”

“Huh? Impossible! She has conquered seven husbands! Are you a virgin, Anastasia?”

“No, but I am seven times a martyr because of you girls!”

“Let her prophesy, let her prophesy! Whom will I marry, old gypsy? Come, tell me.”

“You may learn in a mirror if you are not afraid.”

“I am not afraid, I will go,” cried the young cousin Agueda, jumping up in bed.

“Girls, girls—we are making too much noise! My mother will hear and will come and pinch us all. Agueda, lie down! And you Anastasia, I command you to shut your mouth and go away!””Your mother told me to stay here all night, my grand lady!”

“And I will not lie down!” cried the rebellious Agueda, leaping to the floor. “Stay, old woman. Tell me what I have to do.”

“Tell her! Tell her!” chimed the other girls.

The old woman dropped the clothes she had gathered and approached and fixed her eyes on the girl. “You must take a candle,” she instructed, “and go into a room that is dark and that has a mirror in it and you must be alone in the room. Go up to the mirror and close your eyes and shy:

Mirror, mirror, show to me him whose woman I will be. If all goes right, just above your left shoulder will appear the face of the man you will marry.” A silence. Then: “And hat if all does not go right?” asked Agueda. “Ah, then the Lord have mercy on you!” “Why.” “Because you may see–the Devil!”

The girls screamed and clutched one another, shivering. “But what nonsense!” cried Agueda. “This is the year 1847. There are no devil anymore!” Nevertheless she had turned pale. “But where could I go, hugh? Yes, I know! Down to the sala. It has that big mirror and no one is there now.” “No, Agueda, no! It is a mortal sin! You will see the devil!” “I do not care! I am not afraid! I will go!” “Oh, you wicked girl! Oh, you mad girl!” “If you do not come to bed, Agueda, I will call my mother.” “And if you do I will tell her who came to visit you at the convent last March. Come, old woman—give me that candle. I go.” “Oh girls—give me that candle, I go.”

But Agueda had already slipped outside; was already tiptoeing across the hall; her feet bare and her dark hair falling down her shoulders and streaming in the wind as she fled down the stairs, the lighted candle sputtering in one hand while with the other she pulled up her white gown from her ankles. She paused breathless in the doorway to the sala and her heart failed her. She tried to imagine the room filled again with lights, laughter, whirling couples, and the jolly jerky music of the fiddlers. But, oh, it was a dark den, a weird cavern for the windows had been closed and the furniture stacked up against the walls. She crossed herself and stepped inside.

The mirror hung on the wall before her; a big antique mirror with a gold frame carved into leaves and flowers and mysterious curlicues. She saw herself approaching fearfully in it: a small while ghost that the darkness bodied forth—but not willingly, not completely, for her eyes and hair were so dark that the face approaching in the mirror seemed only a mask that floated forward; a bright mask with two holes gaping in it, blown forward by the white cloud of her gown. But when she stood before the mirror she lifted the candle level with her chin and the dead mask bloomed into her living face.

She closed her eyes and whispered the incantation. When she had finished such a terror took hold of her that she felt unable to move, unable to open her eyes and thought she would stand there forever, enchanted. But she heard a step behind her, and a smothered giggle, and instantly opened her eyes.

“And what did you see, Mama? Oh, what was it?” But Dona Agueda had forgotten the little girl on her lap: she was staring pass the curly head nestling at her breast and seeing herself in the big mirror hanging in the room. It was the same room and the same mirror out the face she now saw in it was an old face—a hard, bitter, vengeful face, framed in graying hair, and so sadly altered, so sadly different from that other face like a white mask, that fresh young face like a pure mask than she had brought before this mirror one wild May Day midnight years and years ago…. “But what was it Mama? Oh please go on! What did you see?” Dona Agueda looked down at her daughter but her face did not soften though her eyes filled with tears. “I saw the devil.” she said bitterly. The child blanched. “The devil, Mama? Oh… Oh…” “Yes, my love. I opened my eyes and there in the mirror, smiling at me over my left shoulder, was the face of the devil.” “Oh, my poor little Mama! And were you very frightened?” “You can imagine. And that is why good little girls do not look into mirrors except when their mothers tell them. You must stop this naughty habit, darling, of admiring yourself in every mirror you pass- or you may see something frightful some day.” “But the devil, Mama—what did he look like?” “Well, let me see… he has curly hair and a scar on his cheek—” “Like the scar of Papa?” “Well, yes. But this of the devil was a scar of sin, while that of your Papa is a scar of honor. Or so he says.” “Go on about the devil.” “Well, he had mustaches.” “Like those of Papa?” “Oh, no. Those of your Papa are dirty and graying and smell horribly of tobacco, while these of the devil were very black and elegant–oh, how elegant!” “And did he speak to you, Mama?” “Yes… Yes, he spoke to me,” said Dona Agueda. And bowing her graying head; she wept.

“Charms like yours have no need for a candle, fair one,” he had said, smiling at her in the mirror and stepping back to give her a low mocking bow. She had whirled around and glared at him and he had burst into laughter. “But I remember you!” he cried. “You are Agueda, whom I left a mere infant and came home to find a tremendous beauty, and I danced a waltz with you but you would not give me the polka.” “Let me pass,” she muttered fiercely, for he was barring the way. “But I want to dance the polka with you, fair one,” he said. So they stood before the mirror; their panting breath the only sound in the dark room; the candle shining between them and flinging their shadows to the wall. And young Badoy Montiya (who had crept home very drunk to pass out quietly in bed) suddenly found himself cold sober and very much awake and ready for anything. His eyes sparkled and the scar on his face gleamed scarlet. “Let me pass!” she cried again, in a voice of fury, but he grasped her by the wrist. “No,” he smiled. “Not until we have danced.” “Go to the devil!” “What a temper has my serrana!” “I am not your serrana!” “Whose, then? Someone I know? Someone I have offended grievously? Because you treat me, you treat all my friends like your mortal enemies.” “And why not?” she demanded, jerking her wrist away and flashing her teeth in his face. “Oh, how I detest you, you pompous young men! You go to Europe and you come back elegant lords and we poor girls are too tame to please you. We have no grace like the Parisiennes, we have no fire like the Sevillians, and we have no salt, no salt, no salt! Aie, how you weary me, how you bore me, you fastidious men!” “Come, come—how do you know about us?”

“I was not admiring myself, sir!” “You were admiring the moon perhaps?” “Oh!” she gasped, and burst into tears. The candle dropped from her hand and she covered her face and sobbed piteously. The candle had gone out and they stood in darkness, and young Badoy was conscience-stricken. “Oh, do not cry, little one!” Oh, please forgive me! Please do not cry! But what a brute I am! I was drunk, little one, I was drunk and knew not what I said.” He groped and found her hand and touched it to his lips. She shuddered in her white gown. “Let me go,” she moaned, and tugged feebly. “No. Say you forgive me first. Say you forgive me, Agueda.” But instead she pulled his hand to her mouth and bit it – bit so sharply in the knuckles that he cried with pain and lashed cut with his other hand–lashed out and hit the air, for she was gone, she had fled, and he heard the rustling of her skirts up the stairs as he furiously sucked his bleeding fingers. Cruel thoughts raced through his head: he would go and tell his mother and make her turn the savage girl out of the house–or he would go himself to the girl’s room and drag her out of bed and slap, slap, slap her silly face! But at the same time he was thinking that they were all going to Antipolo in the morning and was already planning how he would maneuver himself into the same boat with her. Oh, he would have his revenge, he would make her pay, that little harlot! She should suffer for this, he thought greedily, licking his bleeding knuckles. But—Judas! He remembered her bare shoulders: gold in her candlelight and delicately furred. He saw the mobile insolence of her neck, and her taut breasts steady in the fluid gown. Son of a Turk, but she was quite enchanting! How could she think she had no fire or grace? And no salt? An arroba she had of it!

“… No lack of salt in the chrism At the moment of thy baptism!” He sang aloud in the dark room and suddenly realized that he had fallen madly in love with her. He ached intensely to see her again—at once! —to touch her hands and her hair; to hear her harsh voice. He ran to the window and flung open the casements and the beauty of the night struck him back like a blow. It was May, it was summer, and he was young—young! —and deliriously in love. Such a happiness welled up within him that the tears spurted from his eyes. But he did not forgive her–no! He would still make her pay, he would still have his revenge, he thought viciously, and kissed his wounded fingers. But what a night it had been! “I will never forge this night! he thought aloud in an awed voice, standing by the window in the dark room, the tears in his eyes and the wind in his hair and his bleeding knuckles pressed to his mouth.

But, alas, the heart forgets; the heart is distracted; and May time passes; summer lends; the storms break over the rot-tipe orchards and the heart grows old; while the hours, the days, the months, and the years pile up and pile up, till the mind becomes too crowded, too confused: dust gathers in it; cobwebs multiply; the walls darken and fall into ruin and decay; the memory perished…and there came a time when Don Badoy Montiya walked home through a May Day midnight without remembering, without even caring to remember; being merely concerned in feeling his way across the street with his cane; his eyes having grown quite dim and his legs uncertain–for he was old; he was over sixty; he was a very stopped and shivered old man with white hair and mustaches coming home from a secret meeting of conspirators; his mind still resounding with the speeches and his patriot heart still exultant as he picked his way up the steps to the front door and inside into the slumbering darkness of the house; wholly unconscious of the May night, till on his way down the hall, chancing to glance into the sala, he shuddered, he stopped, his blood ran cold– for he had seen a face in the mirror there—a ghostly candlelight face with the eyes closed and the lips moving, a face that he suddenly felt he had been there before though it was a full minutes before the lost memory came flowing, came tiding back, so overflooding the actual moment and so swiftly washing away the piled hours and days and months and years that he was left suddenly young again; he was a gay young buck again, lately came from Europe; he had been dancing all night; he was very drunk; he s stepped in the doorway; he saw a face in the dark; he called out…and the lad standing before the mirror (for it was a lad in a night go jumped with fright and almost dropped his candle, but looking around and seeing the old man, laughed out with relief and came running.

“Oh Grandpa, how you frightened me. Don Badoy had turned very pale. “So it was you, you young bandit! And what is all this, hey? What are you doing down here at this hour?” “Nothing, Grandpa. I was only… I am only …” “Yes, you are the great Señor only and how delighted I am to make your acquaintance, Señor Only! But if I break this cane on your head you maga wish you were someone else, Sir!” “It was just foolishness, Grandpa. They told me I would see my wife.”

“Wife? What wife?” “Mine. The boys at school said I would see her if I looked in a mirror tonight and said: Mirror, mirror show to me her whose lover I will be.

Don Badoy cackled ruefully. He took the boy by the hair, pulled him along into the room, sat down on a chair, and drew the boy between his knees. “Now, put your cane down the floor, son, and let us talk this over. So you want your wife already, hey? You want to see her in advance, hey? But so you know that these are wicked games and that wicked boys who play them are in danger of seeing horrors?”

“Well, the boys did warn me I might see a witch instead.”

“Exactly! A witch so horrible you may die of fright. And she will be witch you, she will torture you, she will eat

your heart and drink your blood!”

“Oh, come now Grandpa. This is 1890. There are no witches anymore.”

“Oh-ho, my young Voltaire! And what if I tell you that I myself have seen a witch.

“You? Where?

“Right in this room land right in that mirror,” said the old man, and his playful voice had turned savage.

“When, Grandpa?”

“Not so long ago. When I was a bit older than you. Oh, I was a vain fellow and though I was feeling very sick that night and merely wanted to lie down somewhere and die I could not pass that doorway of course without stopping to see in the mirror what I looked like when dying. But when I poked my head in what should I see in the mirror but…but…”

“The witch?”

“Exactly!”

“And then she bewitch you, Grandpa!”

“She bewitched me and she tortured me. l She ate my heart and drank my blood.” said the old man bitterly.

“Oh, my poor little Grandpa! Why have you never told me! And she very horrible?

“Horrible? God, no— she was the most beautiful creature I have ever seen! Her eyes were somewhat like yours but her hair was like black waters and her golden shoulders were bare. My God, she was enchanting! But I should have known—I should have known even then—the dark and fatal creature she was!”

A silence. Then: “What a horrid mirror this is, Grandpa,” whispered the boy.

“What makes you slay that, hey?”

“Well, you saw this witch in it. And Mama once told me that Grandma once told her that Grandma once saw the devil in this mirror. Was it of the scare that Grandma died?”

Don Badoy started. For a moment he had forgotten that she was dead, that she had perished—the poor Agueda; that they were at peace at last, the two of them, her tired body at rest; her broken body set free at last from the brutal pranks of the earth—from the trap of a May night; from the snare of summer; from the terrible silver nets of the moon. She had been a mere heap of white hair and bones in the end: a whimpering withered consumptive, lashing out with her cruel tongue; her eye like live coals; her face like ashes… Now, nothing— nothing save a name on a stone; save a stone in a graveyard—nothing! was left of the young girl who had flamed so vividly in a mirror one wild May Day midnight, long, long ago.

And remembering how she had sobbed so piteously; remembering how she had bitten his hand and fled and how he had sung aloud in the dark room and surprised his heart in the instant of falling in love: such a grief tore up his throat and eyes that he felt ashamed before the boy; pushed the boy away; stood up and looked out—-looked out upon the medieval shadows of the foul street where a couple of street-lamps flickered and a last carriage was rattling away upon the cobbles, while the blind black houses muttered hush-hush, their tiled roofs looming like sinister chessboards against a wild sky murky with clouds, save where an evil old moon prowled about in a corner or where a murderous wind whirled, whistling and whining, smelling now of the sea and now of the summer orchards and wafting unbearable the window; the bowed old man sobbing so bitterly at the window; the tears streaming down his cheeks and the wind in his hair and one hand pressed to his mouth—while from up the street came the clackety-clack of the watchman’s boots on the cobbles, and the clang-clang of his lantern against his knee, and the mighty roll of his voice booming through the night:

“Guardia sereno-o-o! A las doce han dado-o-o!”

The White Horse of Alih

THE WHITE HORSE OF ALIH

By: Alvarez Enriquez

The story happened on July 4th in a city with a parade of people. It was a happy day for everybody because they are celebrating the big American Holiday. Among the crowd was Alih, a Moro who was then looking for his brother, Omar. That day was intended for them to fulfill their plan. Their plan is to kill these people.

So Alih waited for his brother, he went out of the crown and sat under the Balete tree. While he was sitting and looking at the parade, he remembered his past, his childhood and his growing years where he met the women whom he wished and longed for and he remembered his mission. That is—to kill the people. But people can’t notice them as Moros because they were in disguise.

When he saw a man riding a horse and controlling the crowd, he remembered how much he longed for a horse for himself. He recalled when his brother punished him because he spent his earnings just to ride in a merry – go- round. He wanted to ride on a wooden horse because he saw the girl whom he liked most and her name was Lucy. Lucy was the girl who lived in the reservation area where the Americans live. Moros were not allowed to enter that vicinity. But because he needs to go to school, he cross the river and reached the reservation area. There he saw the first girl he liked. Though, they were not given the chance to see and talk to each other since then.

When he grew up, Omar told him about how the American soldiers killed their father without any reason. Their father was known and respected in their village. With these, Omar taught him to be brave and be able to fight against these people because he believes that only by killing could they wash away their shame. He taught him words to live by and beliefs to be respected and attained.

As he grew into a mature individual, he met another woman named Fermina. Fermina was a beautiful bar maid with a mole near her mouth. He likes her so much but the woman doesn’t like him because of his impertinent manner towards her. He was put to jail for six months because of what he did.

Remembering all of these from his past, he thought of what Omar said about the promise of their prophet to those who are faithful to him. That is to have a white horse ride to heaven and as many hours as the number of infidel heads he could lay before Allah. But when he thought of what their Imam said that white horse, as a reward for killing is an reference conjured by fanatics in their attempt to give reason to their behavior. The prophet never taught them about that because he was man of peace.

 

So back to reality, he continued searching for Omar into the crowd. Soon he saw a float with a girl whom he thought of as Fermina. He went near the float and assisted the girl to go down to the ground. As he was about to hold her completely, Omar came but to his surprise, he was drunk and tipsy! All along, he realized that Omar had been drinking tuba. He knew that Omar was afraid to kill that is why he drink tuba first before he go to the town.

Omar shouted and leap to the street, and then he gets his fatal blade from his pants.

The crowd screamed. Fear and panic seized everyone. Everyone is running and escaping from Omar, even fermina jumped into the ground and run away but she got stocked from a bamboo frame of the float because of her long flowing robe that hooked on the edge of the bamboo frame. She tried to set her free but she saw Omar coming to her swinging his blade. Fermina screamed and screamed because of fear.

The screams struck Alih because he saw that Fermina the girl he was love is in danger and get his blade from his leg immediately and then he leaped to his brother Omar and hit its back by his sharp blade repeatedly. Omar died.

The town spoke out about the strange tragedy for many days after. But nobody had known Alih, and nobody could figure out why he turned against his brother.

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