It dawns like a day
Of impending doom:
I stand on the cracked second-floor corridor
And stare at the rusty bars
Of the three-decade-old balcony.

A guttural prayer escapes my chapped lips
For I forgot the balm
(forgot to shoplift)
So I bite my dry lower lip
In supplication to a higher power.

My uniform is worn down,
The collar is blackish-brown;
Mama forgot to wash it (again):
The mahjong table takes up
Her laundry hours.

A footfall draws me to reality.
It was him:
A lanky boy of burnt-red skin
And a voice that sometimes squeaks
When he shouts to be fed
During basketball.

Dressed in scuffed brown-leather shoes
And a half-open shirtjack,
He reeks of a citrusy scent
That costs sixtfy-five pesos
A bottle.

He stops by my monobloc
And asks if he could copy our last assignment:
Ten multi-colored graphs in Calculus;
I say no
(I don't know why).

He shrugs and, whistling, walks away
Like everybody had in my
Four years spent in a
Tomb of things
I'd want to forget.

(And so
The toga tassel is turned
From back-left
to front right)

Yet will always remember.

This work is copyright 1997 The Philippine Star and Shirley Siaton-Parabia.
Please do not take, repost or distribute in any form without express written permission.