the boy that was
Hey, kid. Come here. No, don’t run away. I’m no pedophile. I won’t make you drop your pants and fondle your tiny weenie. Please. I just want to talk.
Here, sit beside me. There you go. Ah, your eyes, how could I forget those long lashes, droopy eyelids, and thick brows?
Let me see the scar on the bridge of your nose. Good thing that wooden folding fan struck you at that exact spot. If it had missed by a fraction of an inch, you would’ve ended up with just one eye. Don’t ask me how I knew about this. I just do.
He still has that scar and he still keeps that wooden fan.
What is that you’re holding? Can I see it? A book? You wrote it yourself? That’s wonderful. Choose your own adventure. Oh, so you patterned it after the famous series. Cool. And you have another one? An unfinished detective novel set in Victorian England? Wow. So you really got something out of reading Sherlock Holmes, Hardy Boys, Agatha Christie mysteries, and Poirot novels.
He does dabble in writing, too, albeit not as beautifully as you would have wanted him to. He had written a few short stories and some essays but he’s still struggling to have his works published. Only two, so far, have seen print. The shit that gets published by his office doesn’t count. Oh, shit, don’t say shit. It’s a bad word, OK?
Writing is such a bitch, you know. And he doesn’t know if that’s what he’s cut out to do. He loves the craft. But he doesn’t have the requisite flair.
Do you still paint? I know you turned one whole wall in your parents’ house into your own mini-Louvre. You painted your own version of Mona Lisa and a detail of a Pompeii fresco in watercolor. You even mounted pictures of Venus de Milo, Aphrodite, and the Pièta that you had cut out from glossy art magazines.
He still paints once in a while. He has done a couple of nude paintings and some symbolic subjects in watercolor. One time, he painted a nude Christ crucified against the shadow of a hooded figure. His mom got so shocked when she saw it hanging on his bedroom wall. No, it’s not sacrilege. It has nothing to do with Jesus. It’s more of a social commentary. But you’re too young to understand that, kid. And they’re all too devout to get the message.
He does have his own ‘mini-Louvre’ at the office, within his little blue cubicle whose walls he adorns with his own watercolor attempts. But painting, too, like writing, has eluded him.
He has come face to face, though, with Mona Lisa, Venus de Milo, and the Pièta. And the experience exhilarated him. But that’s as far as he could go.
I am boring you, am I not? I mustn’t talk so much about him. Why don’t you talk about yourself, kid? What are you up to now? What’s keeping you busy? Spanish? You’re learning Spanish? They’ve long abolished that in high school. And you’re not even done with sixth grade. Oh, you’re learning it by yourself? You found your sister’s old Spanish textbook and you are now studying it without anyone’s help? That’s great. You seriously want to become an old-world geek, huh?
Well, no, he doesn’t speak Spanish. He speaks a little French and is now learning German. He just doesn’t know what the heck these languages have to do with his life.
You have this penchant for learning things on your own. I like that. I especially like how you learned to play the piano. You bought piano books and taught yourself how to read notes, practicing with your niece’s toy keyboard. And then, when the notes ventured to the extremities of the musical staves, you drew three octaves of piano keys on a cardboard and practiced there even without hearing how the notes sounded. By the time your family bought you a rusty, second-hand piano, you can already sight-read.
He doesn’t have the time to play the piano anymore. He used to play such fine pieces like the first movement of Beethoven’s Sonata Quasi Una Fantasia or Jim Chappell’s Gone. But not anymore. His piano is now home to roaches, mice, mosquitoes, and Vishnu knows what else.
How he misses those days. Especially the first few weeks after the piano was bought. The original owner was Cookie, a tanned pretty lass that looked too sophisticated for a fifteen-year-old girl. She started frequenting his house after the sale, under the pretense that she missed her piano. Soon, Cookie and he were playing piano duets; chief of them was the irritatingly stale Blue Moon.
They had something going on, he and Cookie. Oh, yes, she admitted it through faintly scented love letters. Allusions to Erik of Gaston Leroux’s The Phantom of the Opera were actually referring to him and no one else. I know it was such a macabre way to refer to your crush. And quite insulting, too. But he took it all in. He actually delighted in them because he had feelings for her. But he found her too aggressive, his teenaged heart was not yet used to the convolutions of flirtations and flings. Oh, but he has grown up since then. He knows better now. He would never pass up such an opportunity again.
How about you, kid? Tell me about your long-time crush, Karen. Oh, come on, loosen up. These things are natural. It’s all right to talk about them. Crushes, relationships, and sex are a part of life. Don’t be too shy. You might be surprised when you see him now. He’s no longer as timid as you are, no longer saddled with masturbatory guilt. Jacking off did not make him blind. So much has changed. He even—oh, I’m sorry. Am I scaring you? Forgive me. Please, don’t cry, kid. There’s no need to. Nobody will bully you. No one would call you a sissy klutz.
And nobody would tease you again for being the only born-again Christian in your class. Guess what, he found a great solution to that. He discarded religion all together! If you ask him about it, he’ll just say “Fuck religion!” Ooops, no, don’t say fuck. You didn’t hear me say fuck. Fuck is a bad word. You can do it later on in life, but don’t say it now, OK? Kids should not go around saying fuck all the time.
You’re scared again. No, he’s not a monster. He just does not believe in those stuff anymore. Things change as one grows up. And gods lose their haloes over time. You’ll understand these things soon.
I bet you’ll get even more scared if I tell you that he almost joined the communist movement up in the boondocks.
What? No. Please don’t leave yet, kid. Me and my big mouth! You shouldn’t get mad at him. He is just following his heart. Please stay. Please.
If you must know, he is very proud of you!
He often tells me how you sang live on a Christian radio station, how your voice was heard by millions all over the country. He cherishes that memory. He once lent his voice to worthy causes too. Like you, he is no stranger to the stage. He just got kicked out from the theater company he joined because he always sings off key.
He also treasures your collection of academic medals. He even added a dozen more to it, though he no longer equates medals with intellectual maturity. He’d rather boast of your matchbox cars and ziggy toy collection. Sometimes, when nobody sees him, he still plays with your toys, desperate to see you again through them. But you never showed up.
You are very special to him, even if you had once wished for him to die after college. Unfortunately, he didn’t die. He is very much alive. And he wants to see you, if you would only let him. I only wish that you give him this chance to meet you. You don’t have to like him. He just needs to connect with you again. Just this one time. He misses you. After this, you can forget about him if you like. Don’t worry; he is as nervous as you are.
So, shall we go see him now?