August 15, 2018

Technicolor Winged Horse

Once I had asked my grandfather about my grandmother's weakness and general immobility. He told me that it was indeed because of a disease that afflicted her and that she would not be able to speak so well anymore. What I really wanted to asked him was why she would scream at times into the midnight that everyone in the house would be awaken. What kind of disease would let one scream into the night was the thing I wanted to inquire upon. But as a toddler, I bet there are things that we do not even know how to ask, when vocabulary would not be enough to elucidate our inquiry. Everytime she was attacked by such "disease", Uncle Mameng and the servants would come and help my grandfather calmed her down, to reassure her that everything was all right. She was always murmuring about some person she was afraid of; a one she calls "the jinn".

"There are no jinns. You are just imagining" my grandpa always assured her while she would lay there wide-eyed and trembling. From the looked on her eyes, pity was the natural thing I could feel for her. She was like a child afraid of something.

"I have checked the whole house and there was no Jinn around" my uncle would add to further reassure her.

At times the attacked on her nocturnal sleep would be so serious enough that in the stillness of the dawn, we would packed the necessities and head for the hospital, staying there for nearly a week every time.

At such a young age, my grandmother's predicament affected me so much that I had always hoped then that I was already grown up and be able to help her, wishing earnestly to appease her. Those dreams of flying had made me somehow distant from her, a little bit wary of her and somewhat disturbed that the winged old woman in my dreams somehow looked like her. And yet, I felt so much for her. Besides those were merely dreams.

Once I decided to investigate the cause or causes of the "weakness" of my grandmother. I was relatively confident that I would find some answers however tender my mind at that time. It was in the apartment's bathroom with its yellow darkened light and perpetual wet floor that she had pointed to be the place where she had seen the "jinn". The bathroom had malfunctioning equipment that always had that pungent smell typical of aging lavatories, full of slime and fungi stuck to walls and corners giving it a dark green shadow all over, from the floor to the ceiling. What augments the general dimness was the decision of the household to put a bulb of the weakest power that even at daytime, I would always feel like it was already midnight whenever I enter it. There was desperation written all over it that anyone who went into the toilet would realize immediately that it was a place where the smell would remain even if best efforts to clean it up would be undertaken.

As I relieved myself, I tried to stay longer when the apartment was quiet and everyone was either asleep in the afternoon or were out for work. I examined the ceilings for some clue and stared at the walls for holes and cavities to where the jinn might be hiding. When I convinced myself at that time that there would be no such signs of the unknown being, I stepped back and headed for the door. As I turned my head, suddenly I saw in the corner of my left eye a huge shadow of a man that goes from the floor towards the ceiling, the shape of its head folding into the surface of the ceiling. The hairs at the back of my head stood up and I felt my skin trembled. Despite such apparent terror however, I gathered all of my strength to focus my stare into the wall but the shadow was not there anymore. I went quickly outside and found the afternoon very still as usual.

I went to the garden in the front yard where I usually enjoyed my solitariness when the sun was readying to fall towards sunset and played in the gardens, picking some leaves and mangling some stems. My cousins would be asleep in that hour of the afternoon while I did not developed such habit, allowing me so much time alone to play with whatever my mind could think of. As I put some stones into holes that I have previously dug in the ground, I pondered upon the shadow in the toilet. Was it the shadow of the "jinn"? It was a huge being I thought and the image of the shadow was vivid enough that I was able to surmise that it wore a g-string garment on its body and had a strip of clothe wrapped around its head while its hair was shoulder length, like an ancient warrior. He must have held spears and knives but such things did not appear to me.

I kept on digging holes and putting stones and coins into them and then covering back the holes, ironing out the surface to look as if the soil were never disturbed. Such was the kind of solitary games I played. I have reckoned then so early in my life, when I dug up the stones and coins the day after, that plants and trees could grow from the ground and flowers multiply too; but stones and money would not.

I had perhaps had a very strong desire to tell my grandfather about the shadow but somehow I did not had enough inclination to put them into words while my grandmother kept wailing in the middle of the night every now and then. Then after a while, her predicament eased towards serenity that she just stared and sat in her rocking chair until she died in the hospital one day while I was looking after her. My Aunt Julpa cried first and asked me what have I done that she died. Of course, I did not know what to say but her asking was etched so much into my mind that every now and then I would ask myself if indeed I had done something to hasten her death. But as I child that I was then, the disturbance of Aunt Julpa's inquiry just faded into memory till now that I earnestly attempt to recollect those events so far into my childhood.

There were a lot of card games played while the family was mourning the death of Hadja Dayhana and the smell of brewed coffee permeated as the men would take turns in making the coffin. They were in jest as they kept on putting one up against each other about who is the better carpenter. My father attempted to drive a nail into its rightful place but the rest laughed that Salip Hussin could never become a sharp carpenter. This had somehow eased my apprehensions about Aunt Julpa the day before. Every one was in a light mood that everything must have been all right and done with. Dying in the latest of ages seemed to be most acceptable to all. But when my grandmother was finally rested to the ground, as the men held her body so gently and tucked her into the crevices of the ground, almost everyone was teary eyed and Aunt Julpa was even talking to my dead grandmother while we throw soil to cover the grave, about why she had to leave, about her being not able to come and visit her frequently. How could she talked to a dead person I thought? Would her cries and words be heard and not flow into the rural wind of Taluksangay? This had somehow recuperated the apprehensions I had about her.

There must something in my grandmother that gives spark and liveliness to the house that after she died, there was a gradual silencing of the household and everyone was more incline to frown, more inclined to be introspective that conversations became lesser and us children played lesser games, as if a great lonely shadow was cast over the household. If anybody missed her among the members of the house--including the servants--no one could tell, the least myself. It was the newfound serenity of the surroundings that everyday I had wished that all those who played card games in the mourning of my grandmother would come and played those card games again and again, to make the noise stifle the sadness of the gardens and of the front yards, to fill the air with coffee smell again and of rice cakes. But this was never so. And so in the afternoons, I kept playing in the garden, careful that the traces of stems mangled and flower picked would not be apparent enough less my Aunt Nene would call upon to inquire upon the suspects and then the guilty malefactor, which would be either one of my cousins or me. I went about to pretend that I was like the older men who did the coffin thinking that I might become a good carpenter, unlike my father. It was in sunny days that I loved to play alone in the yards when the air was a little yellowish and everything seemed to glow, like the image of those pictures not developed properly and everything in the picture would be bright yellow. I smelled the air and they were thick that almost I could see the wind swooping by, and caressing my hair so gently. I smelled such air so smoothly they seemed to be delicious, like chicken or chiffon cake thickly covered with butter. In one of those sunny afternoons, I had looked towards the sky and observed the sun. I tried to examine if the sun had come nearer towards the ground that everything looked brighter. And my mind got stoned when suddenly the clouds move so agile that a hole in the sky formed, like a gate opening. And then I saw a very colorful image coming into the center of the hole. What a beautiful kite it was I said that it had the bluest of blue and the greenest of all green. It was a horse with the head of a woman with its hand waving at me. A kite would not do such things I told myself. And the gate in the sky closed and the technicolor horse disappeared.

I wanted to ask my grandfather if kites could stare back and waved at us while in the sky but somehow, I did not ask anymore. It happened in those very early years where my vocabulary was not yet efficient to elucidate every thought I had then.

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