A Dog’s Life

 

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After a decadent sleep, Babar woke up and stretched languorously on the carpeted floor. Lazily, he walked over to his food bowl. A full plate of shredded boiled chicken meat was waiting for him. He gulped it all down greedily in seconds. He walked around from room to room looking for his owners. They irritated him sometimes by not walking him more often and by not giving him all the tasty food he likes all the time . He hated it that they put him on a strict diet and were too cautious about him getting fat. He was too young to think about all that. He retaliates by biting their feet and hands when he does not get what he wants. He even learned a new trick of barking at them to receive a speedy response to his demands. Grinning, he was pleased to think about how easily he can manipulate them.

The need to relieve his bladder made him restless. Where could his people be? he wondered. Walking towards the front yard he did a double take when he saw the gate. It was wide open. His owners, no where in sight. He hated being cooped up inside the house. This was his chance. He dashed for freedom.

Lifting his right hind leg, he watered the nearest bush with great satisfaction. A female dog saw him and ran excitedly to greet him. After smelling each other front and back, Babar went on his way. It was a Sunday morning and most of the residents in the community were having tea and reading newspapers in their balconies or gardens. A common indolent sight in his neighborhood.

Walking further he came across a white cocker spaniel accompanied by a young pretty girl in shorts and flip flops. The immaculate canine looked too posh he felt shy all of a sudden. He always rushes towards another dog whenever he sees one but at that moment he was overcome with awe at this cotton like apparition . He just stood there mystified. With an arrogant flip of her tail the fluffy dog strutted away. Babar shrugged and walked on.

An old woman in a beige Salwar Kameez suit stopped on her tracks when she saw him. Babar was feeling naughty and thought of scaring the woman even more. He ran towards her as if to jump. The woman shrieked loudly almost shattering his eardrums. He abandoned the idea. The woman muttered invectives towards his owners and with angry steps walked towards the direction of his house. Babar grinned, unconcerned. Not his problem.

His adventurous steps finally led him to the main gate of the housing estate. It was also wide open that day. Should he or shouldn’t he? Excitement tripled the beating of his heart. He has not been outside the gated community by himself before. He decided to go for it. The street was deserted. Before him were long stretches of roads as far as he could see. And only one or two cars passed by with long intervals every now and then. He ran to his heart’s content. He was having so much fun he failed to notice the scenery changing. Gone was the pathway lined with pretty trees and the neatly trimmed bushes. Instead, rotting mangled cars decorated the road. Garbage strewed all around.

Walking slowly now he saw a man and a woman in front of a house made of two blankets tied to a tree forming a tent. The woman wearing a sari clutched a bare bottomed child to her bosom while making tea on a makeshift stove of rocks and woods. Flies buzzing around them. Two slightly older kids were rummaging through a dumpster nearby. Diligently sorting through the trash for any edible scraps they could find. With them was a pack of stray dogs. Babar walked hesitantly towards them. He snipped what they were snipping.  He thought the mutts must be eating something tasty seeing them ate with gusto. He saw an empty packet of milk. He loved milk. His owners always take  the discarded milk packet he steals from the trash away from his mouth when they see him chewing on it. He was about to grab the plastic pack with his mouth when a thin brown dog noticed him.

” Hey you! You selfish bastard! Are you not from inside that place?” He barked, indicating with his nose the row of flats inside the colony. All the dogs were looking at him now, baring their teeth. Babar changed his stance. The hair on his back raised aggressively.

” Look how fat you are! You must be eating all those fancy food. What are you doing here stealing our scrap? We have to fend for ourselves you know! These leftovers are barely enough for all of us.” growled the black mongrel. Walking with deliberate slowness around him with a menacing expression on his face. Babar did not show it but fear was spreading in his limbs. Five dogs with hatred on their faces surrounded him, their postures geared for a fight.

” He must be one of those who even sleeps on his owner’s bed. Look how clean he is. How shiny his fur is.” sneered a white bitch with a patch of black in one eye. They all laughed at him.

Before they could attack him, Babar jumped over the tiniest dog and ran for his life. He didn’t stop running until he was inside the gate of his society. He saw madness on those canines’ eyes. They were going to rip him apart. His heart thundered in his chest.

“Babar!” He heard a familiar comforting voice calling him and he ran towards the source of that maternal sound like a wanderer in the desert seeing a pool of water. He jumped inside the wide open arms of his caretaker. ” You made us so worried. Where did you go? Honey he is over here.” she called out to her husband.

Babar licked the face of his master gratefully when finally his master called him over to him. The master patted his head lovingly. ” I think my boy had learned a very important lesson today.” Babar wagged his tail in agreement.

Sometimes we need a little freedom to make mistakes so we can  value  more the life we are given.

(*Housing estate or gated communities are called colonies or societies around here, well according to my husband.) ©JMKhapra

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Red

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” They should thank the ruthless fate that separated them when their love seemed still to be at its height. They might suffer, but they did suffer in beauty. They were spared the real tragedy of love. “

-Somerset Maugham, Red

“You don’t know that. My ex-boyfriend looks just like you.”

I regretted uttering this inane statement as soon as I saw the expression on his face. I saw a glint of hope in his dark cunning eyes.

I still cannot believe that it only takes muttering those few words for someone to be absolutely obsessed with you.

Fast forward to a couple of months, Cris was in front of me crying, begging for me to love him back. I was enraged. I was in love but not with him. He had done all he can to come in between me and the man I loved.

***
It was raining and I was working late. I left my work station to get a cup of coffee from the vending machine installed at the editor’s lounge .

” You too, huh?” Ryan said softly from behind, startling me.

I smiled, shrugging my shoulders . ” Yeah, my deadline is looming. ”

We took our coffee and sat on the sofa facing a large glass window. The rain outside poured incessantly. We sipped our coffee in a companionable silence.

” I like working in the night. It’s more peaceful to work when half of the employees are not here.”

” Yeah, though I don’t like sleeping during the day. It disorients me.”

Ryan chuckled. ” I don’t even notice the difference.”

My heart skipped a beat seeing his smiling face. He did not smile that often but every time he did, it was a ray of sunshine. I reached out to touch a curly lock that escaped from his ponytail.

” I really find these adorable.” I whispered, smiling a little. He took my hand that was holding the curls and gently pressed it to his lips, looking intently into my eyes.

We tried not to make a sound while inside one of the cubicle in the women’s restroom but I could not suppress my giggles when he showed me his underwear, grinning like a little boy . Printed on his boxer briefs were numerous little yellow round smileys. His whole body shook with silent laughter as he pulled me towards him.

****

I was sitting between Ryan and Cris at the cafeteria. Cris invited himself when he saw Ryan and me on our way there. Ryan was whispering one of his stupid jokes in my ear and I was laughing in spite of myself. Cris hated our happiness. But at the same time he was drawn to it. Cris was in love with our romance.

His jealousy was palpable as he looked at me while I was wiping Ryan’s spoon and fork with a paper napkin.

” Ryan, I spoke to Leo, I told him I want you on my team.”

” Wow, that is great man! Thank you. It is a great opportunity to work with you.” Ryan shook his hand enthusiastically.

I looked at Cris, coldly. He looked back at me, smiling with malice.

***

Cris made sure Ryan and my schedule never synched. If I was working at night he would assign Ryan to a day shift and vice versa. But Cris made sure his own schedules matched with mine.

” I know what you are doing. It will not work.”

” You just need a chance to get to know me more. I will also include you in a bigger project than this one. Besides Ryan is just a pretty face. You can do better.”

” That is none of your business and I am doing well on my own. I don’t need your help.” I retorted, staring furiously at my computer screen.

” But you don’t have to work this hard if you are on my team.”

I looked at him with utmost hatred.

” Don’t force me to leave this job. I will, you know.”

He went pale and left my room without a word.

***
” I’m sorry. You know I needed this opportunity. It’s like a regular income for me. It’s like a two year contract. I don’t have to wait for random assignments anymore. And I can learn a lot from Cris.” Ryan told me over the phone.

It sucks to fall in love with a weak man. Why did I even fall for his charms? He was beautiful, I’d give him that. Lack of sleep could really impair one’s judgement.

” I guess we are not on the same page in this relationship.” I paused. ” Oh, excuse me. We are not in a relationship.”

” I am really sorry, Gia. You know I really like you. I am even in love with you but I really need this.”

” So you do not care that he is obsessed with me? ”

” It’s hard not to.” he said with his usual naughtiness. ” A lot of men around here are envious of me.”

I sighed. I thought I had fallen in love with a man. It was heartbreaking to realize I was in love with a boy.

***

” What is wrong with me? Why not choose me? ”

Though my heart was filled with hatred for Cris, seeing him drunk and sprawled helplessly on the ground, my heart softened a little for him.

” I am not attracted to you. I was just being nice when I said those words. You were feeling so low about yourself.”

” You are so cruel. I was a drowning man. You don’t throw a lifeline like that only to eventually hang me with it. ”

” I’m sorry.”

He grunted and passed out. I called Ryan to help me take Cris home.

” What a memorable christmas party, huh? ”

I shrugged.

” He is really a nice person when you get to know him.”

I was putting on the seat belt but my hand stopped in mid air.

” You’re kidding right? Are you advocating for him now?”

Ryan placed his hand on my knee.

” The poor guy is really in love with you, sweetheart.”

I swatted his hand away.

” You have read Somerset Maugham’s short stories, right? ”

Ryan nodded.

” Have you read his short story, Red? ”

Ryan turned his head to look at me. ” Yes.”

” Cris is Neilson and you are Red.”

I heard Cris mumbled something unintelligible from the backseat. Ryan withdrew his gaze and stared silently at the road in front of him.


“The tragedy of love is not death or separation. How long do you think it would have been before one or other of them ceased to care? Oh, it is dreadfully bitter to look at a woman whom you have loved with all your heart and soul, so that you felt you could not bear to let her out of your sight, and realize that you would not mind if you never saw her again. The tragedy of love is indifference.”

― W. Somerset Maugham, Red

Copyright 2013, JMKhapra

How To Edit A Flashback

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I’m an editor. U-hu. A common reply when people ask me what I do. A video editor. I would elaborate. And again. A-ha. They would hide their confusions by this curt reply. I am prompted to explain. I work for TV. Their eyes would lit up. TV. Finally a word they can relate to. ” For ABS- CBN.” Their eyes would show interest. Really? Is Piolo Pascual gay? I would try not to roll my eyes. I will not reply so they would ask, ” Yes, but what, exactly do you do there?

What exactly do I do? I edit. I cut. I paste. I fast forward. I rewind. I can slow down time. I can freeze a moment. I can play a song while a women jilted by her lover sobs in utter desolation. I can put laughter when a boy trips over a wire. I’m a mini god over the lives of those who inhabit my sequences. That is, when my director leaves me alone. If not he then plays god over me. Continue reading “How To Edit A Flashback”

The Confining Walls Of Our Beliefs

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” I think you should not marry him.” Bonnie said emphatically. I looked at her sadly. She was my last hope. Her opinion being the last sign from which my decision would be based upon. Yes, in days of confusion and indecisions, I too fell in the trap of ” looking for signs ” while contemplating a pertinent problem in want of a solution. Needless to say these signs only led to more confusion and further indecisions.

Bonnie sighed, her face contorted with remembered pain. ” Marriage had not been easy for a Christian woman like me marrying into a family with a different religion.”

We were sitting in her spacious bedroom at that moment but when first I came to her house and was introduced to her in laws I did not sense any tension between them at all. I wondered what she was talking about.

” My father -in-law had beaten my husband black and blue when he insisted on marrying me.” she continued. My eyes widened.

It was unfathomable for me how a grown man can be beaten by his father. But apparently in that country it is quite common.

I met Bonnie when I went for a Sunday mass in a Christian Church in the city. Praying in an empty church has always been my one solace every time my life is caught in a whirlwind. At that time I was in the middle of a milder thunderstorm and like a guardian angel she sat by my side. My face must have been as gloomy as the church interior for she asked, ” What’s bothering you child?” My answer was a quivering sigh. Tears held at bay, brimming at the eyelids where one kind word would send them cascading down my cheeks. She patted my hands and whispered to me that I should meet her after service.

Salty water burst forth like in a broken dam from my eyes when finally I related to her the whole story, sitting in a room at the second floor of the church where she taught Sunday school for children. With a motherly sympathy she told me she will pray for me and my troubles. And she will ponder over the situation and would call me if she has an answer for me. She called after a few days. So there I sat in front of her while she dashed my hopes and dreams over coffee.

Bonnie is a beautiful tall woman from the North. She could easily been an actress or a model in my opinion. She has those perfect cheekbones and soulful light eyes with a curtain of the thickest lashes I’ve ever seen. With her beauty complemented by her tender heart, it was easy to see why her husband fought tooth and nail to keep her. Their relationship endured countless attempts of separation from her husband’s family but without success. They even threatened to disown her husband. But nothing fazed them. Against all odds they wed and are now blessed with three kids.

” I insisted we marry in a Christian church. Afterwards I fought hard to remain Christian. I did not convert. My faith is all I had. It is my choice. The only thing left of my independence . I held on to it.” I could feel the passion she had for her faith very strongly. I wondered If they beat her up for that too. She did not hint on it throughout the conversation but I thought it was more than probable.

” But then came the children.” Pain flitted in her eyes once more.

” Though my husband never asked me to convert, my in-laws of course would never allow my children to be Christians. This is one fight I could never win. I could never get them baptized. That tears at my heart. How will I save them from eternal damnation? I had to sneaked them out of the house when they were babies just so I can take them to the church. To know the Lord.”

She looked intently into my eyes. ” You don’t want that to happen to you.”

I was speechless. I could not answer her. She was right. It will affect the children’s lives most of all. Which belief would the children cling to before they can choose one for themselves? I said goodbye to her with a heavy heart. Still undecided and all the more confused. I walked away dazed with questions in my head . Plunged in deep reflection.

At the heights of love everything seems so carefree, even childlike in its wantonness . So what was I doing in the middle of something so serious, an issue that keeps polarizing nations apart? Whose God is the real God? Or if there is one? And which religion leads to everlasting life? And again if that is even possible? Why should we give up one for another? Why does it keep pulling people apart instead of together? It was all so complicated. Besides the culture barrier, there is religious barriers too. Why do people constantly build walls to keep each other out? Is elitism such an inborn trait? If other religions do not want Christians in their flock, some Christian are not any better in accepting others too. My ardent Christian friends back home gave me stern advice against marrying outside the faith. Frowning at me, I felt the sting of their scorn for beliefs different from theirs. How ironic. Jesus himself right there written in the bible mingled with everybody. He was the coolest dude who does not possess on single elitist bone in his body.

Without an answer to my dilemma I was only left with a conclusion that maybe people do feel safe if they belong to one “CLUB” or the other. And they fear that someone who does not clearly belong to one is dangerous and must be avoided.

©JMKhapra

Temporary Insanity: Junstine’s Heart Breaks

If nothing is sweeter than first love then nothing hurts like the first time a heart gets broken. Though by the time I met Liam’s father my heart had been broken and mended a few times already. The scabs had gotten thicker and thicker that over time it feels nothing more than a dull pain every time a relationship ends.

I still I feel a little pinch in my heart every time I remember Ian, my first love. What a mess it was. It took a few years before I could get over the humiliation I felt after dating him. Looking back now, I am not even sure if we were in any kind of relationship at all.

Come to think of it, Ian was also a product of two races. His mother a young Filipina, worked in Japan as an entertainer and then later on married a Japanese man. These entertainers were called Japayuki, though I think it sort of demeaning to call them that. As I mentioned previously most of the Filipinos were leaving the country at that time and besides being domestic helpers this was the most popular choice of occupation abroad.

Unlike me though being a biracial didn’t affect Ian much for he was popular and was considered good looking. I guess his facial features were still similar to that of a typical Filipino, chinky black eyes and brown skinned. Sometimes I wonder what a native Filipino really looks like. I mean, since Magellan landed in the shores of Cebu, the natives have been inter marrying or having relations with every colonizer who ever step foot in the country. With the Spanish, the Japanese and Americans and even with the Chinese who later migrated there. I do not think any single Filipino has a pure blood in him. No wonder the Philippines itself, like me feels at odds with its neighbors in South East Asia. In terms of religion for example, we are the only majorly Catholic nation in the region.

I guess you can call it a cute meet, how I met Ian. He and his popular friends were playing volleyball in a small yard near the classroom where I was going to that day. I was lost in my thoughts and hugging a couple of thick books when the ball hit me. He came running towards me to apologize and help pick up my books which had fallen on the ground. Our eyes met and I thought sparks flew. Well at least on my side. I could not hide my embarrassment as my otherwise pale cheeks became tomato red. I was speechless and ran towards the room while Ian’s friends laughed and hooted. After that incident every time I pass Ian’s group of friends, they would heckle and tease Ian.

” Uy Ian! si tisay! Go on ask her name! ” Tisay is a slang for the word mestiza meaning a girl of mixed race with one part Filipina.

Ian would then walk beside me and ask me if he can help me carry my books. I was not immune to his charm as he would smile sweetly but I did not know how to respond as I was used to shying away from any unwanted attention. His friends would laugh loudly when again I would run away from them.

Ian was flirtatious with me when he was with his friends but every time I ran into him while he was walking with his girlfriend, Juliet he would pretend not see me. I think now that was the lure that got me entangled in a web. I was in that phase of my young adolescent life where I have already concluded that being a wife is the most boring thing a woman can be. I was then living inside the novel Age of Innocence by Edith Wharton. I was obssesed with Countess Olenska. She was so mysterious, enigmatic compared to May the colorless wife of Newland. Countess Olenska and Newland’s hopeless and unfilled love made me toss and turn a few nights. And in most of my days I day dreamed about them. I begun to think I was Countess Olenska, Ian was Newland and Juliet, was May. In my own twisted mind we were in a love triangle.

It was a few weeks before Prom, I was a junior and Ian was a Senior, when I received a letter from him, handed to me by one of his noisy friends. It was tucked inside of a slum book which he asked me to fill up. Slumbooks were wildly popular then. You have to answers cheesy questions such as ” What is your motto?” or ” What is the name of your crush?” it was a really subtle way of getting someone to reveal which boy or girl they like.

To be continued…

Copyright 2013 JMKhapra

*This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places and incidents either are products of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual events or locales or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.

Temporary Insanity: Justine’s Love Affair With Literature

When you think of yourself as character in a film or in a book how do you cast yourself in the story of your life? Are you the hero? The side kick or the villain? As long as I could remember I have always carried on an aura of a tragic anti hero bent on sabotaging herself until she drinks herself to death or something. Liam provided a climax for my story. Her mother putting the tip of a knife in her throat became the final straw to my then disintegrating life. Spiraling me down to that bottomless abyss where I plunged endlessly into the darkness.

Is the tendency to lean towards a melancholic existence part of my genetic inheritance or is it the kind of books I read which influenced my maudlin moods and disposition? My mother was a reticent woman but not pessimistic. She was a pragmatic woman who cared more about how to survive this life with dignity than indulge in romantic musings about life. I didn’t know my father so I have no way of knowing what the other half of my DNA might be like.

So I blame books. The tales of suffering and tragedies found in those wonderful novels filled my young mind with a skewed perception of life too early. My mother was an English literature teacher and it was her book of poems and short stories which lured me into the seductive and bittersweet world of literature. It started on that fateful day when I had grown tall enough able to reach the high shelf where those precious books were kept.

I opened a page and my life was never the same again. Neglected were my picture books. My Hardy Boys paper backs, even my Nancy Drews. As soon I had read these following verses there was no turning back.

How do I love thee? Let me count the ways.
I love thee to the depth and breadth and height
My soul can reach,

I love thee to the depth and breadth and height and my soul can reach! My God. I thought. To be so passionately in love! This was how I wanted to feel and nothing less. And I didn’t stop there. Being deeply in love was not enough it had to unrequited too. Nothing less than what Cathy and Heathcliff suffered in Wuthering Heights. I also fantasized of being magnanimous on my time of death and this would be the poem I would have send my lover as a farewell:

When I am dead, my dearest,
Sing no sad songs for me;
Plant thou no roses at my head,
Nor shady cypress tree:
Be the green grass above me
With showers and dewdrops wet;
And if thou wilt, remember,
And if thou wilt, forget.

I shall not see the shadows,
I shall not feel the rain;
I shall not hear the nightingale
Sing on, as if in pain:
And dreaming through the twilight
That doth not rise nor set,
Haply I may remember,
And haply may forget.

So you see early on I was set to screw my life.

Copyright 2013 JMKhapra

Poem 1 by Elizabeth Browning
How Do I Love Thee

Poem 2 by Christina Georgina Rossetti
When I am Dead, My Dearest

Temporary Insanity: Justine’s Lonely Childhood

Why do we choose the path we had taken? Why do we become the way we are? Are we truly only “nothing more than the sum of our memories and experiences” as Michael Scott has stated? I did the things I did because of what I became over the years. My childhood had greatly affected Liam’s childhood. What kind of person had I become that I could do such a thing? I would say I became who I was without resistance. I never felt I belong to the world I was born into, so I hid.I retreated.

When I was two years old my mother married a co teacher from the school where she was teaching. Out came three of my step siblings from that union. Of course I looked nothing like them. My step father was a good man though and I was not wanting in love and attention from the parents I came to know but even at a young age I know something was not quite right.

I got a lot of unwanted attention because of the color of my hair and of my eyes which was in that small town unlike anyone else. Although most people were curios about me I didn’t feel I was truly welcome among them. It didn’t help that the teachers who were working for that school on top of the mountain were also living inside the campus. I was already different but also isolated from the lively town below.

After classes were over during my primary years in school, my classmates would be walking down towards their homes in a bustling community at the foot of hill .These afternoon walks at the end of the day at school were very crucial in forming friendship. I missed out in a lot of gossiping, chit chat and fun because I had to stay behind the gates of the school compound where our house was. I often wondered if this was among the reasons why my group of friends never really regarded me as one them. Because of this I became fond of taking solitary afternoon walks in the nearby forest surrounding the school. Since solitude was my only friend I begun to cherish it. Once I would reach home in the early evenings the feeling of being the odd man out only resonates more as I walk towards the dining room where my three siblings, all heads bent over their books were, doing their homework with both of my parents helping them. They always made a lovely picture of the perfect family that I always prefered not to disturb their cozy circle. Retreating to my room, I would sought my favorite book to comfort me in my loneliness and there I escaped to a world where I felt I truly belong.

Copyright 2013 JMKhapra

* once again, this is a work of fiction only.