Across the street, the yawning cave leading to the subterranean sections of Luigi Escano's kingdom of everything the heart desires whispered slightly ominous mystery. What goes on in the deep dark gloom, and are there trolls that come out at night?
The misty light from the lamps at the street corners bounced off the gleaming paint of the few cars sparsely parked on the pavement. On my left – three minutes away, faster at bound and sprint – I could see pedestrians as they went past UCCP heading perhaps to Apo View or on to the PTA Gardens. On my right, human traffic flowed the other way, with people in pairs or alone ambling off with a none-too-steady gait to San Pedro along Ilustre or walking away from me to Quirino Avenue.
Nobody paid me a heed. I was a potted plant. I was the fly on the wall.
I got my cellphone and a cigarette. Lighter, too. I wish I had coffee, but one can't have everything.
In the twenty minutes that I sat there, nobody crossed from Apo View to Ilustre. Rarely do I have the vantage point to watch this close the cloak of night unfolding its nocturnal magic, loosening, gathering, absorbing the inhibitions mortals armor themselves with during the day, lending them that urge for gratification denied by light. Close to midnight. Cinderella time. Now or never.
They break from the pack. In pairs now. Or alone. Like me.
They come out at that hour. People who want to live now or never forever.
Rarely do I get to have a downtown city street all to myself to observe them. By now, hubby knows all too well how seductive that is to a social psychologist. Like a bat from hell, he comes careening down the road, screeching to a stop to call out a curt, "Get in."
Illusion shattered. I was not a potted plant. I can't fly. And this was no wall. It's just the darkened windows of a restaurant that before closing knows family celebrations and business meetings over mouth-watering cuisine.
I never argue with this man when he drives like a bat from hell. I got in.
He doesn't say anything, but I read minds. He’s better than most. His mental voice, in hard, grinding staccato ran on to "pedophiles, drug addicts, rapists, muggers, kidnappers, thrill killers, would-be victim asking for it, and whatever made you think you was safe out there?" The last line was actually said out loud.
My hubby is a man of few words. Or maybe he knows better than to use words to argue with me. His displeased silence conveyed his reasonable request for me not to give him a heart attack.
I really was sorry. Well, until the next time, probably.
See, I can't promise not to do it again. I love the streets, its faults and all. It's a milieu that agrees with me where the action unfolds as I predict, or so I think until hubby points out the pedophiles, drug addicts, rapists, muggers, kidnappers, and thrill killers. In years past I would have asked what they had to do with me.
Today, one husband – candidate for heart attack any day, no thanks to me – and two wonderful, beautiful daughters later, and enough experience with pedophiles, drug addicts, rapists, muggers, kidnappers, and thrill killers out there on the streets I love so much, I bite my tongue.
Sometimes I do feel like Paul Moreaux in Robert Cormier's Fade, laboring under the burden of the dubious gift of invisibility, breaking his heart five million ways to Sunday witnessing what people do when they think they are alone or alone together.
I can't bring the world's troubles to my doorstep. Hubby does understand that anyone who deals with social morbidity up close has to detox lest that venom bleeds off into the sanctity of the home. We healers of the wounded psyche ward the morbidity away in the hope that it stays out there, never to reach its icy fingers past the streets and into our homes.
Contain the plague. This is what this is all about. This is what brings me out from the warmth of my daughters' easy laughter and sweet-smelling hair to the darkness of that soul that cries out as the Stygian wings of night descend upon the streets. This is why hubby has to drive like a bat from hell to bring me in to safety.
But sometimes I do wonder why I seek out pathology, when even at downtime I tune in to the Cinderella hour.
I guess I have to detox another way.
(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).