It had begun to rain.
Tomas cursed softly and jacked up the radio till all he could hear was the sound of the congressmen arguing about who to impeach. He leaned forward and rearranged the stuffed toys, and the Virgin Mary Statuette and his coins on the dashboard, and peered through the windshield to look for passengers.
He spotted her waiting quite peacefully under the shade of an overpass off edsa, waving her hand calmly.
She had long hair and pale skin and a strange sad smile. He pulled over next to her. Her bare arm gleamed briefly in the rainy night, like a knife. Tomas shook his head, wondering where that thought had come from.
She settled in the backseat and said, "Manong, sa Balete Drive po."
He nodded and set the meter and shifted into first gear.
A few minutes later his radio died. He frowned and thumped it but it remained dead.
The traffic was terrible. Tomas peeked briefly in the rearview mirror to see his passenger smiling strangely out the window.
He inched forward, easing his way around a jeep that by rights should have been retired during martial law, and moved forward to the middle lane beside a chauffeur driven Benz. Then they were stuck again.
The silence was getting to him. He glanced in the mirror again and saw that she hadn't moved in the last ten minutes. The rain was beating relentlessly down on the windshield. It reminded him of the leak in his mother's roof that he had promised to repair. With a sigh, he leaned back.
Traffic was better from that point on. He sped through the badly lit streets, looking for a shortcut.
A few blocks later, he glanced at her again. She had moved. This time, she was staring at the spot behind the drivers' seat.
She wasn't moving now, and her strange smile had disappeared into a sad, pitying frown. As if she was listening to somebody sitting beside her.
Uneasily, Tomas frowned but continued to drive in silence. Every now and then he would glance but she kept her position, nodding occasionally from time to time.
Finally, he asked. "May naiwan po ba diyan?" He had had passengers who had left all sorts of things in the backseat, from umbrellas to notebooks to pictures.
Slowly she met his eyes in the mirror. "It's your mother."
He felt a chill run down his spine. "Po?"
"Nanay po ninyo."
It couldn't be. She was crazy, he told himself. His mother was fine, she was at home, she was watching her sari-sari store. It couldn't be.
The passenger smiled, again, sadly.
Then his cell phone began to ring.
Monday, August 22, 2005
It had begun to rain.