Saturday, April 17, 2010

Chapter 37 - "Ondoy"

Chapter 37 - "Ondoy"

The wet morning felt cold and the chill it sent crawled up my skin. A slight breeze raised the hair up my nape as I stood at the open doorway. I welcomed the sensation as I sipped the freshly cupped brew I nursed between my sleepy palms.  The warmth I held felt a good contrast to the cold dank morning that blurred before me. Only the night before, I was amongst friends enjoying a similar dark liquid whilst storming over a strategy that best suited goals of initiating a new website for Climb Philippines.   Crissie, Ina, Miel, Cali, Alex, Rina and I glowed in orange firelight coming from the lamp that hung over the comfortable corner of the café we huddled in.  The length of the evening extended as we often times shot in and out of topic.  One moment we’re all immersed in one of Cali’s intense explications of web design, which at times found me just playing good listener then to shift abruptly to Alex’s recent epic into the workings of applying for a Helvetian Visa.  Judging by the number of times Greecepops into the discussion; it really became apparent how the consul of the same country’s embassy played Zeus and Alex a mere mortal having the fits over an inconsiderate god. Between considerable intense listening always came bursts of laughter. We always found something funny amidst whatever topic, mostly compliments of sponge diving in Greece. Then there was also the little boy on the outside window darting stares with Rina.  I’m not sure though who stared first but I’m not one to blame a small boy. It was a pleasant and flippant scene though and I too tried coaxing the child into a forced smile. It was a distraction from the sometimes semi-serious flow of discussions but after effortly glimmering the boy to pursing his lips to what I thought was semblance of an up-curving line, I quit and resolved to the obvious that I lacked of Rina’s charms. It seemed either the boy was intently flirting with her or I had as much charisma as a cinder block’s.  I would prefer the former though, after all the boy did what was demanded of him by instinct.

The polished white ceramic slowly burned into my palms.  The instant the heat seared past my awareness, I am once again awakened to a darker foreboding.  The rain continued throughout the previous night.  What helped me slumber also woke me as the spatter of rainfall deafened as they hit the steel sheets of the roof harder in the waking hours.  The big hollow cavity that separated our ceiling from the high pitch of the roof only seemed to drum the rain louder left and right of my brain.  Heavy clouds and not a single silver, an orange, a purple or a blue line hinted the skies as I took my first cup of coffee with me as I sat down for a while in front of the computer.  It has been a bit of a relapse for me to check out what’s up on the world wide web in the mornings to see if anything was amiss. Nothing new, nothing a bit interesting, I logged off and started mulling over what can be done for the day.  It was a Saturday.

Friends texted up for another reunion shortly after I started finishing my second cup of the bittersweet brew. Not a month has passed since we celebrated amongst our Marist brethren a huge drowning in beer and spirits inside the confines of the new gymnasium inside my old Alma Mater. Some failed to make it last time and so they arranged for a part two. A smaller one in scale was the plan but equally tempting all the same. The afternoon also presented an option for me to listen to an appealing lecture on the usage of words and how to weave them into a design that’s both artistic and compelling.  I’ve been inquisitive lately on how much there is to learn of this language and how to entwine rivers of thought into a series of visible and clairvoyant curving lines on paper. And finally Miel’s cousin, Rina, was bound for Londononce again.  There was an open invitation for a send-off bash on her behalf at Miel’s house that night.  Though it sounded more like a family gathering than a party out with friends, I still weighed the thought over.  It might not be for a long time before our paths cross again or none at all.  The latter was a sad thought but such a harsh reality I’ve learned to accept in my travels. 

The hours spent along fast and the rains continued with a heavy spatter on the roof.  Echoing throughout the household, the sound of infinite number of beads hitting steel sheets drowned all sound.  It became more foreboding that the dark weather could go on the entire day.  Water started pooling within the  high walls that enclosed the garden.  There was nothing much to do but wait. The void created by a blank stare outward while leaning onto the doorway with crossed arms to fuel some warmth, helped swell a gut feel that the rain will persist and stay as strong for a few more hours. The few minutes in the insecure position instigated an uprising within my restlessness.  I took off into the rain and started feeling energized as I started soaking in the freezing formula.   It could be compared to downing an energy drink but far better.  None of those bottled energy liquids could ever deliver that same natural rejuvenation.  I always feel the same way somehow when I’m out communing with nature. Either it be climbing on a cliff, struggling with a boulder, swimming in a river … just being outside with the pure elements fuels me I think.  I stretched out my arms and tried to catch as much rain as I could.  My skin felt sensitive to each drop and I felt I could count each raindrop as it touched my bare arms.  I resolved not to though as my mind was preoccupied with images of my youth running and playing around in the rain.  I became mindless of how much my fingers went cold and white as blood drained from them. My blood rushed towards my core to stave off the cold.  Not long then, the smell of citrus rushed into much of my head.  It woke me to another faint realization.  The closer I got to the tree, the more my senses woke.  I picked some of the small fruits that looked like green little globes that hung on the small twiggy branches.  Every time a globe came off to my pull, a piece of a mind puzzle, a memory perhaps or a recollection of something seemed to fall into place. More of the fruit found their way onto my shirt which I folded to a front pouch.  Then just like a fastball coming straight at me, the puzzle became whole.  I began to realize why I get entranced by the citrus smell some women  fashion on their skin.  It hints of fresh citrus flower or crushed lime leaves, a simple whiff of which transports me into a trance that dances me off into childhood.  Whoever thought of that formula was indeed a wise man or woman. It inspires me to wonder however if that person exacted the potion to serve as a dream enhancer to settle anyone back into his youth or to magnify a person’s urge to run wildly into the woods with a better half that wore the perfume. I lingered on the scent with a scant recalling of faces as rain forced my eyes to relapse into small slits.  With the makeshift pouch filled with the calamansi fruit, I took off to leave the tree.  It was a hard enough act that took a bit force of will as I had wanted to prolong my intoxication.  I reasoned that the tree will still be where it would be for longer and it helped ease myself to the breaking loose of the spell.  As the day grew colder I forced myself into coming out of the rain and into the warm rooms of the house. If it weren’t for the sight of my gingerly nurtured callouses on my finger tips turning pruney, white and soft I wouldn’t really dry myself and would have stayed under the open skies for much longer.  My minds eye immediately recalled a certain episode.  “It’s not my turn to wash the dishes, I did that yesterday!”, always thinking of how much to save on callouses, I spoke to  Anthony, not in an unkind way, during one of our climbing trips.  We always took turns putting one over the other as much as we could.  More of the same memory rushed in and forced me into the house.  I’m a climber.  We take care of our hands, skin, and fingers and revere them more than any fair skinned lady would hers. It sounded strange.  I smile at the thought,  believing in the absurdity.

Unrelenting darkness, rain, anxiousness and nothing much to do bored through much of the day, setting a theme that seemed to wallpaper the vista.  The rain hit harder, the wind grew stronger and the water in the garden pooled even higher.  In a few more hours I decided to peer out the tall gates that guarded our home.  Whatever divined me to do so I can not know.  It was perhaps the instinctive smell of something terribly wrong or the curiosity driven by restlessness. The intricate patterns of twisted steel bars lacing  the gate gave no more contrast to the surrounding darkness.  The latch holding the steel door in place sent a wave of cold warning as I held it to open.  Voices from the opposite side were muffled by the rain.  Sounds from the street outside were slightly unfamiliar, foreboding to be accurate.   A rushing river of red and brown greeted my eyes as a wider focus spanned in the open gateway.  I ran my eyes down the length of the main street.  The river was seven meters across and about almost half a foot deep in the nearby shallows.  Turning my head right horrified me as I saw people wading in waist deep water.  None like that ever happened right there where I stood.  I rushed towards the rear gate that cornered the other side of the house.   Brown red water flowed from underneath the gate as I held the latch.  As soon as the scene unfolded across my eyes, shock gripped air out of my lungs. The flooded street on that side of the house creeped faster up the ramp.  The rear gate was higher than the street by at least three feet.  All that height filled with flood water.  A couple was wading waist deep in front of me as I stood there beset by the sight.

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