Friday, March 03, 2006

suicidal flies and armpit hair

One scorching afternoon, when the vacuous air goaded drunk flies to fly right onto window panes to die, I took out my camera and started clicking away at every dusty corner of my room at the boarding house. I'm leaving it this coming April, after a year of enduring harsh sunlight dilating through its large windows everyday. I left my parents' ancestral house roughly two years ago, the very same night I had a quarrel with my brother who was ten years my senior. I raised hell over not finding my old books in their shelf. My dear brother said that he took the liberty of transferring all of them to my sister's house, which is thrice as big as our place, because he needed shelf space for some shit.

I was furious, of course. Books are my only treasures. Basic courtesy dictates that you, at least, inform the owner before you decide to move his stuff somewhere else like exiled political prisoners. Apparently, courtesy was (and still is) something my loving brother does not have much of.

That night ended with me spewing some cusswords and he charging into my room and holding me by the neck, demanding that I repeat the cusswords again in front of our mother (what the hell for? The cusswords were intended for him, not for my mother). If my mother hadn't intervened, we would've ended on the floor, punching and kicking each other. Pretty childish stuff, I know. But the problem between him and me springs from something deeper, something older. It dates back to the days when I was still a kid and he, a bully of a brother. Never mess up with your younger brother or he'll be scarred for life.

That same night, my parents brought me to our other house to spend the night there. A week after, I moved out and found a dormitory near my office. A year after that, I moved in to this boarding house. I've never slept in our ancestral house since then.

But this is not about our house, my brother, or my past hurts. I won't bore you with such shit. This is about the afternoon the drunk flies died on the window panes while I maniacally clicked on my camera. This boarding house stands in the kidney of gloomy Manila, along one of the smaller arteries that branch off from Taft Avenue. In this city where space is a luxury only the very rich can afford, this house's yard is immense. It nurtures four ancient mango trees that regularly shed dry leaves to cover the ground underneath. Every morning, an elderly woman comes out from one of the brown houses to sweep off the leaves.

The house itself, an old, crumbling, wood and stone structure typical of the architectural style of the seventies, is just one of the four identical houses in this yawning yard. Once you enter the gate, you'd feel like you've been thrown a few years back. Its suburban appeal resurrects your grand aunt's idyllic afternoon chats over suman (rice cake) and coconut juice. Too rustic and laid back for someone like me who was born and raised with the fragrance of carbon monoxide clinging on my skin. This place will make you forget that monstrous, smog-choked Taft Avenue lies just a block away.

The reception area of this boarding house is a spartan affair. The cushions reek of cat dung but the red floor is always gleaming, thanks to the ministrations of the maid who sleeps in a cupboard under the stairs (Harry Potter is not the only one who does that, mind you). This is where most of my housemates congregate to watch silly TV shows, especially the girls, who stay glued to the boob tube from sun up till sundown. When they get tired of watching TV, they stand by the front door and shamelessly pluck their armpit hairs with tweezers. I sometimes wonder what the heck did they need to rent a room for when it's so much more comfortable to be a couch potato or pluck one's armpit hair at home (not that I do that).

My room is on the second floor. It's a cool haven at night and a veritable furnace during the day. Next to it is the master's bedroom where our landlord stays with a friend who must've been his fraternity mate in college. Whenever my landlord comes home with a woman, the poor friend sleeps on the floor of the reception area, prey to various crawling and flying insects which are at their naughtiest in the dead of night.

From my window, I have a commanding view of the backyard where my housemates hang their shirts and undies to dry. Just across this yard is a Masonic temple which has intrigued me for so long. Having read books about the origin of Freemansonry, I am naturally curious as to what exactly goes on in that temple, something I wouldn't know unless I become a member. And that doesn't sound too appealing to me.

On Sunday mornings, I hear the twangy band music of an evangelical Christian church just across Taft. Since I usually wake up with a terrible hangover every Sunday, I mistake it as club music and sway mildly to its rhythm. When I start hearing phrases like “Praise Jesus” or “Glory be to God on high,” I get back to my senses and realize the ridiculousness of what I'm doing. And so I get back to bed and sleep three more hours to sober myself up.

Lest you think that all the music in this boarding house only comes from the weirdos next door, let me tell you that we also have some great sounds playing downstairs. During rare moments when the television is off (the girls are in their armpit-hair-plucking sessions, no doubt), the maid comes out of her cupboard under the stairs and plays her small transistor radio full blast. Her impeccable musical taste favors intellectually stimulating novelty songs that extol the virtues of jumbo hotdogs and pasta that goes up and down (god, are they still playing that?). She plays it so loud it would shame a jackhammer. I don't know if it's mere coincidence but she normally plays her radio while I'm in the bathroom. Oh, you can never know how heavenly the feeling is. The music actually aids peristalsis. Defecation has never been that divine.

Too bad I've got to leave this April. My new office is too far now. It's more practical to live at my parents' house. Maybe I would move out again soon. I don't know. I have no definite plans yet. It might be hard to find another place like this one—old, crumbling, and full of suicidal flies who die on windowpanes. Newer houses or apartment buildings lack character, fire, and women who pluck armpit hairs by the front door. But then, who knows? This world is more colorful than we think.
















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29 Comments:

At 7:09 PM, Blogger Abaniko said...

When you're back to your parents' house, make sure you keep your books safely in your room. Unless of course, the brother isn't there anymore. :)

Good luck, dude!

 
At 12:09 AM, Anonymous Maria said...

"he took the liberty of transferring all of them to my sister's house, which is thrice as big as our place, because he needed shelf space for some shit."

Boo.
I totally understand why you were upset by this.

I like the pictures you posted :-)

 
At 12:43 AM, Anonymous Elsa said...

Je comprends très bien aussi que tu te sois échappé (pour ainis dire!) J'aurais été très en colère si on avait touché à mes trésors! grrrr

Sinon c'est super de voir ton chez toi:)
J'espère que tu vas bien.

Elsa

 
At 9:25 AM, Blogger Rob a.k.a Bim said...

awww... is that dorothy reading a book?

 
At 10:55 AM, Blogger Sidney said...

You should really start writing a novel. I experienced enough of the Philippines to recognize the setting...

Wow, going back to your parent's house doesn't look evident to me. Once I left my parents house I enjoyed too much my new found freedom...

 
At 8:41 PM, Anonymous elsa said...

Brillante idée que de te voir écrivain... tu rejoindrais Zola et Brink à la tête de mes auteurs préférés! :))

 
At 11:32 PM, Blogger cruise said...

laki pala bahay nyo.

kung may chance ka at may kakayanan na tumira sa bahay na sarili mo na, try mo. masarap din may total privacy, walang makikialam sa gamit mo :)

 
At 1:11 PM, Blogger basangpanaginip said...

Ah, the pains of growing up: we lament how well the streams of past life has slip, and how the gleamer of newness lack historical gravitas. Such is our lot.

 
At 3:44 PM, Blogger Jules said...

your writing reminds me of the style used by Vince Groyon... :)

c'est parfait :)

 
At 7:42 PM, Blogger rmacapobre said...

je reconnais dori qui j'aime bien!

 
At 12:28 AM, Blogger bing said...

the way the house was described is like eerie to me. but the pictures doesnt actually tell but the place looked old.

maybe the maid has some feelings for you? he he maybe it is deliberate? getting your attention perhaps? ha ha and so that's why defecation is divine ha ha

you must have a very retentive memory, or that bully thing really pissed you off during those times.. he is still your brother, chris..

 
At 1:12 AM, Blogger slim whale said...

abaniko --yup, he's still there. but he won't do it again. i'm sure of that. and i'll lock my room now.

maria -exactly, that's really insensitive of him. but anyway, it's in the past, i'm really so over it now. glad you liked the pics

elsa-- maintenant, je ne permets personne de toucher mes trésors. jamais!

je vais montrer les photos de ma vraiment maison bientôt

je suis désolé, je n'ai pas encore repondu à ton mel. j'essai d'écrire la prochaine semaine.

Je suis heureaux de savoir que tu aimes lire mon blog! Je ne connais pas Brink et Zola, mais j'ai l'impression qu'il soit un honeur pour être avec ces écrivains. merci.

rob--nope, it's Dory reading a book. Dorothy is my doggie. Dory is my fishie. :) i love that fish

sidney--wow, you must've spent quite a long time in the country already!

right, it's kinda weird to live at my parent's place again. but, believe it or not, i miss them! i'm really weird.

writing a novel is one of my dreams but i don't have time to do that yet. maybe i should find time for it.

cruise -- yan yung boarding house. hindi namin bahay yan. bulok na yung lumang bahay namin, as in before WW2 pa sya nandun.

actually, yung "parents' house" na binabanggit ko dito, yun yung new house na kabibili ko lang for my parents. but you're right, mas maganda talaga kung ako lang mag-isa.

basangpanaginip -- there are times, though, that historical baggage pulls me back to my past, thus impeding my progress.

julsitos -- i don't know vince groyon so i'm not sure if this is a compliment or an insult. hehe. but whatever it is, thanks, man. merci.

rmacapobre--tu la connais aussi? j'aime bien Dory car je veux devenir un poisson.

bing--it is old and eerie. especially the staircase. i always have the feeeling that something/someone is always watching me. must be the voyeurs next door.

hey, i've never thought about that. maybe she's sending me a message? hehe. or she's just pissed by the smell of my... oh god, i'm getting gross. (but i am gross)

it was not just about bullying. we've really never had a very good relationship ever since i was young. but, i'm trying to understand him. he has issues, perhaps. even if i hate him, i still love him so much. did i make sense? i just can't stand what he does sometimes but he's still my flesh and blood, and i do love my brother.

now, please excuse me as i puke for a while....

 
At 9:47 AM, Blogger rmacapobre said...

alors, selon le science, nous sommes venu de poisson. je suis venu de la plage le week-end passé. j'ai vu de beaucoup clown fishes et dories ^_^

 
At 5:05 PM, Blogger alphafemme said...

for some insanely weird reason, natakot ako dun sa picture na may pusa. feeling ko witch sya. awoooo dilim pa naman dito haha

 
At 8:21 PM, Blogger slim whale said...

rmacapobre -- tu as la chance! j'éspère que j'ai l'occasion pour y aller aussi.

alpha-femme-- ok lang yun, at least dun ka natakot, hindi sa picture ko in front of the mirror. :)

 
At 8:29 AM, Blogger rmacapobre said...

ton fauteuil (sofa) semble très très vieux. est-il antique? si seulement il pouvait parler .. hehehe .. nous nous demandons, de quoi ils diront ?

 
At 3:41 PM, Blogger slim whale said...

rmacapobre--non, ce n'est pas un fauteuil (armchair), seulement un "couch". ce n'est pas trop vieux aussi. mais son odeur est insupportable, c'est horrible, a cause de la crotte des chats. héhé

 
At 7:16 AM, Blogger Chas Ravndal said...

this post entertained me to the bone. I read it til the end and nice photos too! by the way, got here through basang panaginip's blog.

 
At 7:32 PM, Blogger slim whale said...

Chas-- hey, thanks for splashing in my bowl. i'm glad you liked my shit. hope to see you here again!

 
At 7:47 PM, Blogger Chas Ravndal said...

sureness! I am adding you on my links btw if you dont mind!

 
At 11:48 PM, Blogger Empress Tasha said...

chris, i miss reading these kinds of posts from you. the imagery is so vivid, i don't think you even needed to put pictures. please update more often. brainshit from you and my other favorite bloggers are my anodyne. :)

 
At 12:16 AM, Blogger slim whale said...

CHAS-- not at all! thanks so much.

EMPRESS TASHA --i haven't been shitting much lately. dunno why. constipation maybe. and it's poisoning my system.

glad you like my brainshit. it's such a compliment, coming from you.

 
At 7:42 AM, Blogger Nelson said...

I think I passed that Masonic temple a couple times on Taft--their symbol clearly etched on their wall for the public to see. I didn't realize you lived nearby. ;-)

Woofy last pic, btw. ;-D I'm coming to Manila in July--would you like a quick nudie photo session? ;-D

 
At 11:10 PM, Blogger slim whale said...

nelz--that's the masonic temple i was talkign about. our boarding house is exactly behind it.

nudie photo shoot, wow, sounds enticing! but are you open to shooting skinny, lizard-like guys like me? if you are, then yup, i think i'l like that.

 
At 5:09 PM, Anonymous monmon said...

the post wasn't hilarious, but it left a smile on my face... i dunno why... maybe because i can relate (?)to this hmmm... "Never mess up with your younger brother or he'll be scarred for life."

i had a quarrel with my sister ages ago... i did not hit her... i just threw a can of an unopened corned beef on her face... too bad... she got some really good reflexes...lol

 
At 1:52 PM, Blogger rebel_heart said...

omg i LOVE the pictures!!

 
At 2:12 AM, Blogger pat said...

kind of reminds me of my older brother who gets absolutely pissed off when i say 'p.i. mo' like as if he's being a beacon of morality when he says it's the nastiest curse word i could say to him when it IS intended for him rather than to our own mom. god rest her soul. xxx

 
At 1:51 PM, Anonymous josh said...

luv what u written here saint! i became nostalgic all of a sudden, not dat i lived in similar situations as urs, reminds me of d black & white sampaguita-lvn movies with chichay & d rest of d stars then in semi musical-action-love story genre!

hmmmnnn....

 
At 6:56 PM, Blogger slim whale said...

josh --- last time i checked, the house has already been demolished. the memories are still there, though.

funny this reminded you of lvn movies. i've never actually sat through watching any of those. but it would be interesing, i guess...

funny you keep on calling me "saint." My handle is actually slim whale. but i like saint better.

 

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