Denis, here's the first part. I don't know what to make of it. My God, the man saved my life. He got me out of the streets, his fucking orphanages get children off the streets. What'll happen when we publish the entire thing? Where is that detective of yours? He has to find something to prove that will fake. That's the only way.
Anyway, read this, will you? I want someone to share my misery. What the hell are you doing vacationing in Saudi anyway? Get back here and fix this.
All my love, Jacob.
PS Reply, damn it, reply. This is my fourth email. I need you.
PPS Wasn't MacGyver's name Angus?
When I was a little boy, I had a pink shirt that had "son" embroidered on it, matching my mother's pink shirt, which had "mom" embroidered on it. I lost my shirt to the same fire I lost my mother to.
They were cut from the same cloth, our shirts, my mother sewed them herself, made the embroiderings herself. I miss my mother. I hate myself for playing with the candles that day.
With our house burned down and my mother buried, my father took me to our province, Iloilo, and buried himself in politics. He left me with my toys, my match sticks. It was only after my father remarried that I started playing with candles again. I was fourteen.
You're probably saying to yourself, what a heartless man. Stupid too, playing with things he knew would hurt. But if my father could learn to love again, I could learn to play again. That was my reasoning then. To put it another way, using words I only learned later, as an adult, I think what I thought then was, maybe I could learn to live again.
After my mother died and my father started ignoring me, I hardly every spoke. In school, whether in the city or in the province, silent kids got beaten up. One particular bully, I think we were twelve, fancying himself a psychologist, told me, as he dunked my head in the toilet bowl, that it was I who wanted to be beaten up. That if I really wanted to, I could, would, should have stopped him already. His was the second house I burned down.
His name was Anthony, and later, when his family had gone bankrupt and his father started working for my father, the mayor, and his mother started fucking my father, the mayor, he would become my best friend.
My burning their house down didn't start them off on the road to poverty. His father gambled away their fortune, including his mother's inheritance. In fact, I think that's why he was so evil back when we were younger. He saw it coming. The end of their power. And he wanted to go down in a blaze of glory, his final days of riches celebrated with bruises and blood.
When his father started working for my father and his mother started fucking my father and we started hanging out, I made Anthony wear shirts. Shirts I myself made. Nothing fancy, certainly no embroideries, but I found him more pleasant in greens and yellows, in nylon rather than cotton. After eight hours of boredom at Diego Silang High School (Anthony got to stay there, at the private school, as part of my father's payment to his parents), we would come over to my house and I would choose his shirt for the night. Costumes, he called them. First resentfully, then later fondly. In the end, with pride.
I wasn't alone, when I burned their ancestral home down. Anthony was there, he let me in, gave me the keys to his parents' bedroom. He said he helped me because his mother whored around. He tied her to the bed while I set up the candles. We were sixteen.
I really didn't want to kill Mrs. Dirlon. But Anthony said it was part of the deal. I got to burn things, he got to kill whores. As I watched the fires light up Mrs. Dirlon's nightgown (it was around four in the afternoon, she didn't wake up because we slipped her some sleeping pills during lunch), I knew I had found my best friend for life. As a child one collects a number of best friends. You're best friends with someone just because he played hopscotch with you. But the mark of an adult is her discovery of a best friend for life. Like my mother, someone I could call partner. As Mrs. Dirlon burst into flames (I think she was an alcoholic), I kissed Anthony on the mouth. He pushed me away, then took my hand and led me out of the house. That night was the first night we made love. He sucked my penis and fingered my vagina. He was my best friend. He and I, we would later fall in love, and love, and make love to other people. But he was my only partner. After my mother and father, he was the one I loved the most.
He would watch me eat, Anthony. He would also watch (when the opportunity presented itself, anyway) as I fucked some other man or woman. He would kill most of them afterwards, the bad ones anyway. The prostitutes and the adulterers. I never could understand his passion for killing. Me, I would rather that my mother and Mrs. Dirlon not died in my fires.
Sometimes, Anthony could not eat unless he beat someone. Sometimes, I would volunteer, but only if he's really hungry, and I've noticed that he'd lost weight.
After high school I studied HRIM at Diego Silang College. Anthony joined his father at my father's private army. I have a picture of him, standing beside my father, flat top hair like Emilio Aguinaldo, making my father's bald head look even balder. By my junior year my father was governor and Anthony's father was dead, a casualty of the elections. (Aunt April, my father’s second wife, cried a river at his funeral.)
Anthony replaced his father as my father's chief of security. He was only nineteen. But then my father liked young people. We were so happy. His career blossomed like a sunflower in summer.
In college I met a girl, a woman, a lady, named Mildred. Her teeth were like a horse's and her face was like the moon with its craters, and she had attitude. I sat beside her in our Chemistry class (don't ask me why HRIM majors take Chemistry, they just do). I was her lab partner, but for the first few weeks she didn't talk to me unless the experiment forced her to. And I was posing as a female that sem!
Then one day she burned my lab gown. She did it, I swear, I never disavow causing a fire I started. She was bored, we had finished our experiment earlier than the others. I went to the comfort room and when I returned I found my classmates and teacher standing around our table. The burning plastic was perfume to my nose. Mildred saw me and rushed to my side, explaining and, I wouldn't have believed it if I didn't hear it myself, apologizing. The ice queen burned my lab gown, and her coldness melted away. At what point she started crying I don't know, but I do know when I started coughing, when our stupid teacher started spraying air-freshener around the room. All those Bunsen burners burning, the idiot. I started coughing, and, fearing for her life, I took Mildred's hand and dragged her out of the laboratory. She was still sobbing and saying sorry and I put a finger on her lips and told her that it wasn't her fault. Fire burns. That is its only reason for being. And then I said she could treat me to lunch and everything would be forgotten. At the canteen I ordered a bowl of soup and an orange, but I didn't eat. After a burning, even a burning I didn't cause, I always felt full. Mildred drank her water but didn't touch her calamari. The canteen, Gabriela's, was empty. It was exactly three in the afternoon. Mildred asked me why I wasn't eating. I asked her the same question. That made her laugh. That started us talking. We talked and laughed and occasionally touched each other's hair.
Then she said, "You know, you're going to kill me," she stared at her calamari, "I don't even know your name. I just always referred to your as my partner. You know, in my head. Like earlier, I said to myself, 'Oh shit, I'm burning my partner's coat!'"
I forked her calamari. "My name is June. No, not a Junior. June, as in the month." My sister's name was July, and my brother was August. But I would tell Mildred about them later, much later.
Mildred liked to eat. And she liked eating in different positions. Once she put a plate of spaghetti on a sofa and knelt. Don't think I'm judging her, though. I'll be the first to admit I'm not perfect.
Besides eating, Mildred liked vomiting. She would vomit all the time: after bus rides, on Iloilo's only roller coaster, before eating. And she would always do it in public. She didn't rush to the comfort room, she just sprayed her rice and bile and half-digested meat on sidewalks, aisles, roller coaster tracks. She wasn't bulimic. Like I said, she vomited before eating, as if making sure there was space in her stomach.
What I really liked about her, though, was the way she sang. She was no singer, no, I'm a better singer. But her voice. When she sang it was as if a vise had trapped her throat and was slowly gripping her to death. I heard no pain, only straining, effort. Like she put her life on the line every time she sang. With her, the videoke room became a battlefield. She was a warrior and the song was victory, and it was there, there, just a centimeter away from her voice's reach. She'd always fail, God how her eyes flared when she cracked bellowing "Don't make me close one more door," but after singing, after the screen told her she got a 79 or a 92, she would always smile her horse's smile. And I would always kiss her. She would bite me with her horse's teeth and I would hold her moon face with my hands.
I remember the first time I introduced her to my father. It was late in the evening, we had been in my room all day, just making love and hanging out. I was showing her my collection of blowtorches when I heard the gates of our mansion open. Beside me by the window, Mildred watched my father's limousine roll in. We rushed into our clothes. She forgot to put her bra on, and my shirt smelt of mens and we rushed down to the living room. My father was walking in with his secretary and a parade of bodyguards headed by Anthony when Mildred and I together sat on the sofa. I had to cough three times and knock over a vase before my father, the important governor, saw Mildred. He dismissed his entourage and I introduced her as my girlfriend. They exchanged pleasantries and he asked if we had eaten dinner. We hadn't and said yes. My father took me aside, told me, "If you fuck her make sure you're protected," said good night to Mildred, and retired to his room.
I asked Mildred not to go home. That was the first night she and I slept together. We were always making love, but the next morning was the first morning I said good morning to her with her beside me on my bed. That day she got murdered. It was a cloudy morning, ten o' clock and the sun was nowhere to be found.
After waking up and finally putting her bra on she ran out of the house, not even bothering with breakfast, not even saying a word to me. Rubbing my eyes on my bed I received her text. She apologized, said that her father was going to kill her.
Her father, I never really met him. He was always sleeping, or away on business, or angry and wouldn't go out of his room, when I visited their house. I knew he had a job, something to do with ears, I guess he was a doctor, and I knew that he had taken care of Mildred all by himself ever since his wife, not her mother (she died delivering Mildred) left him for an American.
I replied with a smiley face, grabbed my towel and went to the comfort room. Reading Michael Moorcock's "Behold the Man" (a story Mildred downloaded from the Internet) I shat. I showered for an hour and when I came back to my room my cellphone had five new messages and eight missed calls. All from an unknown number.
Dressing up I sent Mildred a text message, asking if we could have lunch. I faced my closet and debated my clothing strategy. Ever since we started going out I was posing more frequently as a man. Love can make a person do silly things, like lie, tell the truth, and cry. On that day I chose: a red t-shirt (Che Guevara design), black maong pants, boots (brown), and my smallest diamond earrings. By this time, forty five minutes after my last text message, my cellphone maintaining its oath of silence, I started to get worried. My father had personally killed seven men and two women (as far as I know anyway), and had ordered, once, the burning of an entire village. Maybe Mildred's father was the same--a murderer. Maybe her text message wasn't exaggerating.
I dialed Anthony's number. For problems involving violence, or the threat of violence, I usually got one of my father's body guards. But Mildred was Mildred, so I got Anthony. We argued for a while, he wanted me to call her first, but then after they became poor I always had my way with Anthony. We met at the kitchen (apparently my father was not going out that day), he cooked our lunch (shrimp, God I hate shrimp but I pretended to like it for him), and at about one fifteen we drove out of the mansion in his owner. I drove while Anthony went on his cellphone and dug up information about Mildred's father. The only thing we learned from his sources was that Mr. Montelibano downloaded pornography from the Internet. Now, that may be significant as a psychological clue, but, I had to be honest with myself, who doesn't download pornography from the Internet? Anthony was biting his lower lip by the time we parked in front of #18 Cebu Street, Barangay Davao, Iloilo City.
We found Mildred dead in the living room, blood dry on her neck and face and back. We found her father catatonic in the kitchen. He was a fat man, bloodshot eyes matched shaking hands. We searched the whole house and found a surveillance tape. A kid, he was maybe thirteen--fourteen at the oldest, a kid attacked Mildred with a balisong. Great, I said to myself then, now we have balisongs in Iloilo. Next we'll have mad cow. It was only after the third time I watched that tape, just before Mildred's funeral, that I realized that I loved her, that I love her, and that I will miss her, and I miss her up to now, and I was making jokes and thinking about going abroad, visiting the Great Wall of China maybe, because I didn't want to think about her, that what was probably the best thing that ever happened to me, the best thing that will ever happen to me, was gone. My future was taken away by a thief who didn't even have a present. He was thirteen, fourteen, whatever, and he killed the very first woman, after my mother anyway, whom I loved. My father volunteered to kill him. Anthony wanted to cut off his ears and make him watch it get eaten by our pigs.
I convinced the courts, and Mildred's father after he returned to Earth two months later, not to prosecute. In prison, the kid would've turned into a man, and the man into a beast. He was my first project. I was going to teach him about chemistry, and art, and making home-made rockets, and post-impressionism. I strangled him six months after taking him to live at the mansion. He stole something from my room, something of my mother's, her pink shirt with "mom" embroidered on it. God I was so angry. I told myself then, no, no, you can't blame yourself for this. You tried. Other people are better at this. If you can't doctor them to a civilized level, maybe other people can. That's when I first thought of founding an orphanage.
Before I pitched the idea to my father, who had gotten upset because Anthony refused to bury the kid's body (he just wanted to throw it down the Aklan River), I asked for Mildred's blessing. I visited her grave, and I said, not knowing what to say I said, "My sister's name was July. My brother, August. My father named him that, because he, my father, he was obsessed with MacGyver. And when his daughter was born and my mother didn't want to name her because she wanted to name August James and she said she wasn't interested in naming children anymore, when his daughter was born he named her July, because he didn't know how to spell Julie. And they named me June, my father and mother named me June, because I was born with a vagina and a penis. And I'm telling you all of this because, if you remember, you asked me about them, and I told you it wasn't time for you to know, because because because. And I didn't want you to think I was evil because a fire I started killed my mother and my brother and my sister, because maybe then you wouldn't like me anymore and I just was just so so much in love with you. And I know I didn't tell you that either. And I just wanted you to know that too. And I know that it's been months and I'm such a cunt for ignoring you and trying to run away from you and pretending I could teach someone chemistry and it's because you and I met in Chemistry class and I wanted to remember you without remembering you. And now I'm going let others deal with the children and now I'm just going to start focusing on you."
I knelt in front of her tomb and brought my hotdog sandwich out. "I miss you Dred." I cried and I ate and found a little island of peace in the ocean of chaos that was the world.
Philippines Free Press
January 24, 2009