By Conrado A. Macapulay Jr.
“Do you smell something?”
“Smell something like what?” she replied.
“It smells like a dead animal.”
Suddenly, she turned nonchalant, continuing to brush a dirt-free sink while I scorn the foul odor that smothers me.
“Perhaps Quentin Tarantino has rented our neighbor’s abandoned mansion, and Oh! I also see Mr. Pinhead making rounds in there. Hostel merging with Hellraiser, a sure hit to the gores and morbids,” I joked as I watch our neighbor’s weeded backyards.
I turned again to her. Now she is staring at space, as if she was lost.
“I said it smells like a dead animal.”
She put down the scrub and locked herself in the comfort room. Seconds later, the unpleasant odor was completely gone.
“Are you okay?”
“Don’t worry. I’m alright,” she answered.
I thought she only did vomit, but the splash of water inside the comfort room tells me that she is already taking a shower.
I understand. Our parents raised Margaret like a princess. She could not even stand the smell of a fermented fish. She is my exact opposite, and our parents had thought of it ever since they caught me eating up my own shit when I was a toddler.
But ever since I returned home from a petroleum exploration project, she became inconsistent with her vanity.
“So Pare, what’s wrong with the machine?”
“Nothing sort of a really serious problem except that you have to get me a drink because I’m really fucking thirsty,” Paco, my high school classmate and an auto-mechanic.
“Okay, I’ll get you one.”
I broke through our front door, just as Margaret passed me by.
“Hey! You’re done. If I am a meat inspector, I’m going to mark your forehead 99.9% germ-free,” I teased.
“Good thing you’re not!” Margaret glowered at me.
When I left Margaret in the living room, she was staring mad outside. Perhaps she was watching Paco doing his messy stuff.
“Oh no, not again,” I muttered.
Truth is, Margaret does not only hate the scent of grease and machine tools, but also the mere sight of it.
Truth is, we have a heated argument about it a week ago. She banged the main door when I was about to sneak in. “Unless you’re wearing a clean shirt, you can only enter using the backdoor!” her irate pronouncements.
When she let me barged into the house using the main door despite of my ruggedness this time, I thought I was relieved of her. But seconds later, I heard the main door banged again.
“I’m sorry if I disgust you but that’s too much! You’re over-reacting,” I bristled as I gaze through her guilt-ridden eyes. She was somewhat frightened. Margaret ran upstairs and locked herself in her room when Paco called me up.
“Pare, it’s fixed. You can now use it again,” Paco cheered as I hand him a chilled can of cola.
“Did my sister talked to you?” I asked him.
“No. I was alone here rummaging this machine. Why?” Paco said.
“Nothing.” I replied.
“Okay. I’m going to leave. If problems persist, I’m just a text away. Wait, where’s my towel?” Paco asked after emptying the can of cola.
“I will not spend money for facial treatments only to use a filthy cloth,” I answered in defense.
“Of course you’re joking, ha,ha,ha. Anyway it’s only a towel, I have to go,” Paco said.
“Better find it in your tool boxes,” I growled after Paco bid goodbye.
“I’ll cook for lunch!” I told Margaret expressing my initiative to do something which I really missed after living a pseudo-bourgeois independent city lifestyle for years. I scoured for the contents of the freezer, only to find nothing in there.
“I saw some frozen meat in here before I left for a drinking-spree last night. What happened to it?” I asked Margaret. She was astounded.
“Aahm…after you left the house, I felt like two triceratops were doing the mambo on my stomach, so I decided to fry it all. However, I cooked it very bad that I have to dispose it off immediately,” she answered.
“Frugal woman!” I said in a tone completely devoid of mirth. I get my black cap, wear it, and check my wallet in my knapsack.
“Where are you going?”
“I like to cook, but I have to buy the ingredients first.”
“Okay, I’ll go with you!” she zestfully said.
“Are you sure? I’m going to a wet market, iha?” I emphasized.
“Yes I’m sure, and I’m ready.”
It’s weird, but as a Keane song suggests, everybody is changing. My cellphone rang when we are about to leave. It was a call from Iago, another high school best buddy.
“Pare, did I left my eyeglass when I came to see you the other night? It has a black frame with rectangular shades,” he asked.
“I haven’t seen any, but I’ll inform you immediately if I saw it.”
Margaret stared at me, very strangely.
First, there is the shuffling of agitated feet of men carrying heavy loads of frozen marlins. Then, there is a skirmish of thunderous voices to win a potential buyer. I remember when I was a child I used to complain to my mother how these people bump and step on my feet without uttering an apology. And how can I forget this fat lady who, without a word, would splash water as if she is suggesting her customers to take a shower with her fishes. But before I realized it, I already felt that cold water on my cheeks courtesy of a fat lady. Damn it! She was still alive, and she never changed. But it’s forgivable; after all I am in a typical Philippine wet market where respect is not necessary.
But where is Margaret?
She was staring mad to a brawny meat chopper of my age who I must say would qualify as an underwear model. It was Cadoy, whom I traded my spiders when we were kids.
“Are you going to buy?” Cadoy asked my sister who I think was in trance.
I ran to my sister. “Don’t tell me you’re going to brag him because of his messy stuff…” I mordantly asked my sister.
“No, I was thinking of a meal. Just buy a kilo of sirloin for dinuguan,” she requested me. I did. But when Cadoy handed me the goods, she demanded another bag of pork blood.
“And what’s that extra blood for?’
“None of your business!” she said. Then she was in a hurry finding her way out of the filthy place.
A strange clatter woke me from deep slumber. I became increasingly fidgety as the sound grew louder, as if somebody has barged into the house to ransack valuables. I get my baseball bat and headed to the kitchen, where the sound is coming.
As I drew near the kitchen, I heard a woman speaking in a velvety voice. I hid in the kitchen curtain and peeped.
It was Margaret.
“Who would have thought we’ll all be in the same old roof tonight? All of you will never dare to leave me again, yearning for this,” she enthused as she pulls off the strap of her short night gown, which eventually fell on the floor. Then she placed a box in the table just enough to be illuminated by the lamp post outside.
She started revealing its content. First, she took out a black framed eyeglass with rectangular shades.
“I waited you to dance me in the prom night, but you didn’t. Now, you will never have qualms to dance me because tonight, I am the best thing of beauty you could ever have,” Margaret mumbled as she sways her body with the object.
She placed the eyeglass inside the box and frantically took out a towel full of dark grease.
“Aaah, you sweat…very manly. Now you will sweat more for me because I am the best thing of beauty you could ever have,” she said in a fetish tone, squinting in the inanimate object. She rubbed it passionately in her body. Afterwards, she hung it in her shoulders and paused for a moment. Then she opened the refrigerator and took out a plastic bag with pork blood.
“You too are very manly, hard and still, a fortress that will protect me from any surging danger. But we can never be, because you wedded her,” she said, sobbing.
“But tonight, I will be your mistress, for I am the best thing of beauty all of you could ever have,” her breathy voice declared as she pour out the blood of a dead animal all over her.
Feverishly, she reached for other things inside the box, screaming out names which are all familiar to me. She would place the objects in her lips, passionately caressing it in her elbow, chest, between the thighs.
Until she moan.
“Still smell something like a dead animal?” Margaret, brushing a dirt-free sink, asked me the question I dared not to ask this morning.
“We might have purchased a product of a double-dead animal. I disposed the pork blood awhile ago,” she explained, although I’m not asking for it.
“I heard it in the news, and so did you. You’re not apathetic, right?” she asked.
“Yeah,” I answered cheerfully.
The door bell rang. Sluggishly, I opened the door. It was Donnie, our neighbor and Margaret’s high school batchmate.
“Kuya, have you seen my basketball which I accidentally dropped in your backyard early this morning?” the towering teen asked. I looked to Margaret. She returned a biting stare, and then ran towards the bathroom.
(Contribution for Literary folio)