Wednesday, May 23, 2012

A Night in Ayala Road

"The King will reply, 'I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.' -- Matthew 25:40

He tosses some files over the dashboard as he slides into his car. His head aches. But the reports need to be in his boss’s desk by 8 o’clock tomorrow, sharp. He sighs, and starts the engine. Glancing at the car stereo – 9:30PM – he pulls out a cigarette and lights it up, puffing a cloud of smoke. This is going to be a long night, he is saying to himself.

The streets of Cebu City are a little quiet than usual. Perhaps, because it is April, summer vacation or perhaps, because it has rained, although lightly, the whole afternoon. He couldn’t make up his mind nor did it occur to him that it was already late in the evening. He heads to Starbucks in Ayala Mall.

From the mall about twenty minutes later, he takes a left turn to Ayala Road. As he stirs to the middle of the road he grabs a muffin, and takes one big bite. His saliva wells up, his tongue feasts on the familiar taste of chocolate. Down below, his stomach can hardly wait. The aroma of the hot Caffe Latte filled his car.  

Right at the crossing of Juan Luna Ave. going to F. Cabahug St., the traffic light turns red. He stops the car.

He pressed on the stereo tuner button looking for a more upbeat music. He wants to stay awake.  Once I get that promotion, can I only be happy, he is saying to himself as he imagines the things he would buy. He can’t afford to sleep on this job.

Tok-tok-tok! Please give me money, sir. A boy around 8-year old in tattered, soil ridden sleeveless t-shirt knocks on his window. The soil and grease from his unwashed hands leave stamp marks on his just-washed-this-morning window. Since the window is lightly tinted, the boy cups his face using both his hands and pushes it against his window. Both their faces are now only a foot apart separated by the window.

Just my luck! He steals a glance at the boy’s untended face, and then looks straight ahead, hoping the light will turn green soon. Why can’t the city government keep these kids off the streets; they just use the people’s money to gamble or buy drugs. The boy keeps knocking against his window. Without looking at the boy’s face, he waves him off. But the boy persists as if driven by something intolerable. Frowning, he turns to the boy without really seeing his face – Go away! I have no money to give you – without opening his window. 

With head bowed, the boy returns to his place in the street. 

Sensing that the boy is already gone, he looks around to see where he goes. There near the gutter, in a dimly lighted patch of the still wet pavement, the boy squats cradling a little boy, much younger than him, in his small arms. They are alone. The light reflects the tears in the boy’s face as he looks far into the distance. 

He turns his gaze away wondering if he has done the right thing. His eyes suddenly catch the box of muffins in the passenger seat. But before he could act, the traffic light turns green. It’s time to go. Slowly his car moves on.

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