The first boon of Agua de Mayopelted crashingly in the pavements. It came almost as a shock given the simmer last week of April. Irate passengers, who surprisingly minded the messes despite living here on these sides the rest of their lives, imagined the possibility of slippery roads ahead. Drivers, on the other hand, barked to one of their own; vitriol words that cut through notions of decency or the hospitality that we are known for. Semi-burnt grasses from yesterday’s record-breaking heat,one-inch longer, swayed to the wind’s rhythm. Peeling posters of elections’ past and present, superficial politicking, once so vibrant, with promises and possibilities in printed Technicolor, had faded into the concrete wall, empty words in iridescent fonts.
Inside the parked convertible, Angela was assessing the whole situation with equal parts annoyance and wonder. Her eyes for no apparent reason caught the dense mosses clinging to the sides. And suddenly she was consumed with an itch: she wanted to take some of the bryophytes to be cultivated at home although not really for fancy landscaping. A spur-of-the-moment thing because she loves decision making in a hurry. It will festoon the single Talisay tree on her sister’s property. That she knows for sure.
She was waiting for the rain to stop. The ethereally soft voice of Sarah Mclachlan is playing on the background. It was a song from her favorite movie which she believed was where her mother got her name from. Angel from City of Angels. She replayed scenes with Nicholas Cage over in her head until it became solid, touchable entity. Still, the rain did not slow one bit and what ensued next is the horrendous traffic. Angela remembered a distant memory. Not of traffic but of the rain. The first rain of May is cathartic, miraculous, her grandmother, who believes in such silly things, told her when she was young. It may have therapeutic tendencies, only because of the long, dry spell of summer, she reasoned out. It doesn’t hurt to believe, her grandmother dismissed her, with a flick of the gnarly finger.
After looking for a plastic bag where it will hold the moss that she planned on removing once the downpour stopped, Angela saw a little braveheart of a girl, walking. She was about five years old. She was holding her Raggedy Ann doll, face down, all tattered tiny clothes and tiny shoes and the other hand she is not holding trailed behind her. She was dragging it with what little force she had. Oblivious to the rushing cars, the flying motorcycles, the sinister autos, she kept on walking, almost near the center, unperturbed. She was sobbing, tears mixing with the steady cloudburst. Spits of brown water collected like rivulets after being hit or splashed by a rumbling wheel showered on her unwashed hair, her face splattered with mud.
The child kept on walking on.
Then like sequences from a mother’s nightmare, the child advanced toward the center of the road, tiptoeing as if the place is her sandbox. Her Raggedy Ann doll, caked in mud, slid within her grip. She was no longer crying. If anything, she basked in the horrific, collective stares from people who were holding their breaths far too long. The girl with the five-year-old grime that she could carry badly needed a bath. Looking up into the overcast sky, she stopped midways. She was in a trance as if meditating. At this time, the world seemed to be put on hold. The traffic, the rain, everyone’s subdued conversations.
Then, all the once, the angry blaring of the horns by outraged drivers started jolting in wildfire quick succession. The slap-eyed child looked at their direction pleadingly, as if she could soften the hard, mechanical beasts in front of her. Other passengers who were pissed off by this incorrigible display started shouting at the girl with words so expletives it stung the girl’s eyes to mist. The otherwise quiet county lane, with its occasional traffic and zero accident record, was swathed in angry voices: loud, raucous, scornful.
The child cried.
The drivers cursed.
Some hit the dashboard.
Angela, witnessing it all in the comforts of her car, windows drawn, poised to bring the girl to a safer zone, was stopped from her tracks.
The child sat on the asphalt road, head inserted inside her two folded legs in a fetal position when suddenly like miracles, pure white wings erupted from her shoulder blades: incessant flapping of beautiful, snowflake wings. Heaven’s intricate latticework. Cottony feathers, driven out by the breeze, were scattered far away into different directions.
The child without so much as a glance took flight, turbulence gathering, and graceful.
For that time being, between staggering awe and loss, the child was just a speck of white against the suddenly lapiz lazuli sky. It’s as if the heaven opened its pearly gates. Some street children called for her, but the child is too high to notice a voice registry.
“Some kid, huh,” said a wasted bystander in fatigue to no one in particular. He was puffing a cigar. The red edge bolt like coal.
“Yeah,” said Angela, who had witnessed the peculiarity of it all, thought of her abuela who loved reminding her that such things could happen at least once in a lifetime.
Is this our once in a lifetime? That didn’t just happen, she spoke to herself in quiet disbelief.
Some of the mothers, who hang clothes on the wire, ran and wept leaving clothespins still hanging from the sleeves. Their roused-up, indolent husbands, after siesta, still in their pajamas, were bewildered to see so many cars, motionless at the same time, on the streets where they live. Nobody noticed the Raggedy Ann doll, now camouflaged on the goo, eyes frozen forever and probably broken.
After an hour, whatever happened is drowned with the hustle and bustle. The drivers progressed on their tasks at hand. But the change has descended just as the child ascended. There were candor and affectionate responses. The passengers who might have uttered cusswords to the child earlier were tongue-tied, unable to move, in hysteric paralysis.
Angela went back to her car. As if time stood still, Sarah Mclachlan’s Angelstill played on her stereo. Her heartbeat droned. She closed her eyes a little, and she could hear the strain of a melody, plucked from sheer lightness of being.
She got out of the car, sighing, still thinking of the child.
God bless the child.
She removed the moss.
It burst into feathers.
Ryan L. Faura is an SHS teacher at San Isidro National High School in Antipolo City, Rizal Philippines. His works appeared in Philippine Daily Inquirer, Inquirer.net, Manila Bulletin, ALPAS Journal and Philippines Graphic. His essay ‘From Here to Eternity’ was anthologized in a bestselling book Young Blood Six. He blogs at floraandfaura.wordpress.com