I was walking down the streets of Manila when my phone got snatched. The morning was a weary little orange from all the dust (so they say) and I was carrying a bag of pan de sal in my arm. I was able to escape with my life intact and whole through a little blessing of a pepper spray resting neatly in one of the pockets of my bag. I grabbed it quickly the moment I saw the flash of red eyes and the glint of a knife that slashed through the cloth of my bag, and sprayed it quick much to the irritation of his skin. But, alas, the goon got away with only an inflamed cheek and a phone worth a half a hundred thousand pesos.
I tried looking for my phone through its built-in locator. If I am lucky, somebody might be stupid enough to connect it to a Wi-Fi network without changing its account or reformatting its operating system. The tiny glint of green did not light up as I checked other methods of locating my precious phone; apparently the pepper spray did not do enough damage to eliminate reason altogether in that wretched thief. By the time my parents arrived, I was a wretch myself and told them the story. They only thanked God I was safe.
The pan de sal I bought was beginning to get cold when my yaya, whom I left by the computer to watch out for the locator, made an excited entrance to announce that the green light is now blinking happily. I ran away from the breakfast table, leaving my mom and dad with eggs dangling in the corners of their mouths, to go to my laptop and look at the locator software – only to find that the light was no longer blinking.
I became distraught with frustration and nearly vented it out to my yaya. I grabbed a Snickers from my back pocket and began to eat chocolate.
My yaya told me that the last location where my phone glinted was in a place somewhere in Greenhills. I asked my dad about it; whether we can track it down and get it back. He said no. It was too dangerous for a girl like me.
The ditching of the final hope by my unaffectionate father did nothing short of magnifying my frustrations. That phone was everything to me. It had my contacts in it. My precious text messages. Pictures. Selfies. They could even hack my Facebook and Twitter accounts and post pornographic images on my profile similar to what like-minded goons do to my friends’ timelines. I was reduced to anxiously refreshing my profile page and timeline for the rest of the morning.
Nonetheless, the day passed by without any further damage to my morale, and the following morning I woke up to the sounds of birds chirping in my bedroom window. The carpets were dirty by my late night rummaging of old phones that I have kept and could still be used as an alternative to my old one. I remember the feel of my stolen phone, its sleek contours that stand comfortably between my fingers, its high quality touch screen and sound system that shamed even my old stereo back when I was three years old. I remember touching it like an egg for the first time, careful not to let it fall to its permanent breakage. That evening I dreamt of the device glowing in the dark recesses of my room. I felt the urge to urinate but I was not able to stand. There were straps of golden belts holding me on to my bed, and the blankets felt like snares pinning me down. The glow was still there, and there were ringing from a distance. It floated like a foreboding skull fanning my desire to grasp it and hold it back to my palms. There were nothing else but shadows that prevented me from getting into it. And all it did was keep looking at me.
I ate my breakfast and went out of the house to get to the school bus. The weight of the phone dangling on my pocket did not feel the same at all. Lydia, my bus seatmate, commented on my reversion to the “old school” while she herself rattled her fingers on her brand new phone bought only last week.
“I didn’t know you liked your old phone better”, she said. I told her that I couldn’t stand the new features, that’s why I refrained from using my new one.
“Really?” she raised her eye, perhaps sensing the ugly tang of my lie. She became silent.
The bus rumbled slowly to school and the brief journey did nothing to assuage the horrendous feelings inside me as I held on to my “old school” phone. The bus stumbled upon uneven humps and potholes filled with occasional rainwater from last night’s lightning storm. The passing train above roared, and my thoughts descended to a place of no return and without firmament. The pressing cold in my skin touched me like death. There was distant ringing, vibrating at the sides of my groin. Lightning forked through my skin and my ears perceived a distant screaming.
People were running outside, shouting along the road as the bevy of spirits died one by one inside me. We looked at the trafficked streets of EDSA-Ortigas and saw nothing except the nearby buses and the commotion that the outside event rendered. A few lanes away, I saw a glimpse of a brown child under the fly-over, resting in his weeping mother’s arms. The throng of people surrounding the couple seemed more interested than concerned. A few meters away was a field of whitish stuff with generous streaks of red slathered on the street. A huge city bus is parked nearby the crowd, its passengers restless.
“Serves ’em right,” said our driver. “These lot’ll kill you if you don’t get to ’em first.”
Our bus continued to plod through the busy street. After a few minutes, we finally arrived at the doorstep of our ornately decorated lobby where the rustle of uniforms predominated the still air as more students arrived just in time for the morning assembly. I killed the intervening hour by escaping the line and walking through the open soccer field and settling in a place where the teachers will not see me.
I sat in one of the shaded seats overlooking the entirety of the place. Despite an occasional whistle of a distant gale, my hiding place was perfectly quiet. The morning sun cast long shadows across the space, granting the lit-up grass a soporific orange glow against the grey background. An endless heat emanated from the soil as the last dewdrops of the previous evening began to evaporate and fall.
From a distance, a small child-like figure emerged amid the slowly developing mirage. His brown complexion looked like he had spent the past few years under the mercy of the sun and the city’s asphalt heat. His hair was messy and figure stooped. His injured appearance gave little justice to the deliberateness and confidence of his walk. As the figure drew nearer it became clear that he is going to where I was. Fear seized me by the arm and froze my legs on the spot. I gathered what is left of me to recite a prayer,
Hail Mary full of Grace, the Lord is with thee.
Blessed art thou among women
And blessed is the fruit of thy womb Jesus
The figure halted as if transfixed to an object behind me. I felt his eyes pierce my soul. I heard the cries of a woman from a distance as the figure slowly began to twitch his arms and legs, recommencing his slow journey towards me. Terror paralyzed me once again. My insides churned as the beams of dark shadows in the open field spread like a network of rapidly weaving spider webs. The screaming lady on the other side of the school fence seemed to have gained volume. Her voice reverberated into my ear as I further fell into an inescapable prison of longing and regret.
I prayed, and I prayed for help. I opened my eyes to see, and there was none. [x]