About to doze off the fatigue from a long day last Thursday, I remembered one item of information that I wanted to get to my Kuya E. in Bulacan. Wearily, I reached for my cellphone and punched in the message, along with a wish for happy dreams for him and me.
Five minutes later, I got jolted out of light sleep by my text alarm going off. Kuya E. echoed my wish for his happy dreams as he wanted to sleep like a log. He said he had gone biking that day.
I could barely move from the weight of the world pressing down on me, but my mind slipped into a reverie, taking me back more than half a lifetime ago when I'd hang on the back of a motorcycle whizzing up and down the road. And sometimes there was no road, but that did not stop us.
It felt great.
Years ago, I ran around with my brothers and their pals, guys who had this thing about speed on two wheels. Bikes were a common denominator then among my foster brothers who were training for the military and the seminary. I was Terrible Bunso who loved them all like my brothers. Come to think of it, they loved me like a brother, too. They still do, even after I turned into a woman, no thanks to them.
There was Tom and Gil and Jojo, formerly with the PC, probably now with the PNP. And Jun Querol, that funny guy. I remember Primer and Gus and Kutoy Castro. Tootsie Casio? No, he didn't bike.
There was Vanno who really became my brother when he married my sister. There was Jonel who left the seminary but hung around all the time. There's Jag and his brother Joewin, Manny, and Charles. I don't know if these guys are still in clerical robes. I lost touch. There's Spot and Jess, who scandalized the nation and the Roman Catholic Church by getting married on separate occasions some years back.
A week that summer long ago, I played musical chairs on the back of their bikes as our convoy moved from town to town to attend ordinations. That convoy included Fr. Sinforoso "Binggot" Padilla and Fr. Anastacio "Nasty" Gonzales, both hard driving men as their monikers suggested. Off the road, they'd take out their soutanes and serve in the ceremonial ritual that makes a man a priest while I sit it out among the town residents who'd turn up for the occasion. After the feast, my foster brothers would then pack the robes away and we'd be gone again trailing dust.
If memory serves me right, Dodong Oso who went to the Tahanan ng Maboteng, oops, I mean, Mabuting Pastol would join us on occasion. Now, that's another hard driving man. These days, Dodong Bear translates that Force Ten From Navarone energy at fueling his bulldozing tactics to accomplish the monumental tasks of running the Social Action office of the Jaro Parish.
Perched on the back of the bike, I gave in to the exhilaration. When you're traveling seemingly faster than time, you forget inconsequential details like your mortality. And I guess riding with a bunch of saintly, hard driving men gave me the delusion that God too was looking out for me. I was young and stupid and I thought life was to be lived on the back of a speeding bike that changed your scene so fast, okay? Oh, and I thought I
would live forever, too.
Clip the knees like you would when you're on a horse and hang on to the driver's hip pockets. Never put your hands on his shoulder or around his waist. That throws the driver's balance. That's a girl thing to do.
Man, I used to be so good at working out who's coming and how soon he'd get in just by the approaching sound of the bike. Hondas had this throaty growl, almost like a belly rumble. Suzukis sounded like a whiny cricket. And the KDX? It just blew you away.
Just thinking about it made me forget I was tired after all. Adrenaline rush. I bolted out of bed and translated my mental visions to words flying off to Bulacan. My hands scrabbled to find my datebook to check when in the blessed near future I could go there and ride a bike at open throttle. I begged(!) the man to take me biking. Jeez, what was I doing? I never beg! Terrible Bunso was known to do that though, and often.
What was my record? Vanno and I did Janiuay to Jaro, all 29 kilometers of it, in an 8-minute Cinderella-at-midnight run one time.
The message alert comes in again. My heart does a quick flip-flop. Kuya E., deliver me. Pretty please.
"Thrill." It begins dismissively. "We only do it for exercise. I go 50 kph just to drive away unwanted sweat."
Oh, God. I'm so tired and beautiful and my mind is not working right.
My brothers are not hard driving men anymore. Not that way anyway. They are, to my knowledge, solid citizens of the Republic of the Philippines. Like me. Man, how could I forget that?
Oh, but that adrenaline rush took a long time to bleed off. Nightmares featured in my dreams when I eventually got to sleep. There's this bee-yoo-tiful bike and I could not touch it. The guy who owned it was The Punisher, not my brother.
Okay, Paddy Bear. Yes, it does seem that there is such a thing as the gratification-seeking, fantasizing, skulking pest of an id that creeps up and takes over when one is tired and beautiful. Please don't let it turn around and bite me again just to win your points in an intellectual argument. I lose, okay? Rats. Double rats. (Wayward and Fanciful is Gail Ilagan's column for MindaViews, the opinion section of MindaNews. Ilagan teaches Social Justice, Family Sociology, Theories of Socialization and Psychology at the Ateneo de Davao University where she is also the associate editor of Tambara. You may send comments to [email protected]. "Send at the risk of a reply," she says.)