This is me at 7:15. The house is empty, I know it. I knew it when I opened the gate and made that squeak of wet metal. The plants haven't been trimmed yet, an extra shower on my already rain-wet self. I knew it when I walked up the polished cement path, grey and brooding, gleaming in its wetness. I know it when I look at the door knob. It stares at me like the bum at the side of the road on the way to work. He was rolling cigarette foil. He does that every morning, rolls them up in a trance, his morning ritual. When I'm lucky, he turns his head to the highway-cars, buses, trucks, jeepneys- and catches me. The doorknob tells me he's not him, he's not a he either. That he(or not he) is just a doorknob. I want to turn him (or not him) and open the door. I don't want to get in. I want to look at this house like it wasn't mine, like it was never mine, like I haven't lived in it all my life. The doorknob tells me they've gone, my parents, some church meeting perhaps. It starts to whisper.
Everything loses its silence when he comes. He smells like stray dogs smell. It's a lot stronger now, his smell, it is raining. No Dog! See, he breaks everything- my conversation with the doorknob, the bum's eyes in my memory, the house. I take my keys from my pocket. I flip through them- the one after the room key- as always. I slip it in-a perfect fit-I wish I was a key. Perfect in form, in purpose. I can hear Dog panting. Pretty soon he'll yelp for food. No Dog, I don't have any. In two steps I get in and close the door back, locking it, forgetting everything I thought of outside. It is quiet. The living room lights are on as usual. I stand staring at this old space, angry and lachrymose, everything in a frown. The sunken sala is flooded with 3-inch deep rainwater seeping through the soil, escaping through the cracks on the floor. A small pool surrounded by a concrete seating arrangement, I can feel the dust and the dirt on the cushions. I know they smell like father's hair. Books everywhere, scattered; ma's health guides, vegetarian recipes, bibles all shapes and sizes, all in a mess, shouting at me to fix them, to treat them like books. The ceiling is populated by spiders again, their houses spread all over like little upside-down settlements. The ceiling is heavy, it carries all the weight my mother brings when she sleeps alone, her worries on the bed upstairs or when she's treading on her ancient sewing machine, as if to work her way out of sadness. Even the lights complain, they don't like to be turned on. All they see is this.
I look farther away into the kitchen. There is no life there, no color. And it yet it urges me to lift my foot and start walking deeper into the house. I head for the dining table. I sit on the first chair I reach. This is where I used to eat crab all night or shellfish or mangoes. This is were we all used to laugh, when food smelled like love and smiles were ubiquitous. Six heads moving, chewing, talking, nodding in subtle ecstacy. But that was more than ten years ago. More than ten years after, this space has learned to sleep, even when I break a plate or drop a pot and make the loudest noises, it has never woken up. I march in here with a song sometimes or a big hello to the fridge but I have never disturbed it. The dining room is asleep, I have to accept that. Like when they said Lola was asleep and I saw that she was in a box and wondered why. They said she was asleep and that was it. I have to accept this like I swallowed those three words without chewing them: Lola is asleep.
She went inside the bathroom once when I was still in there, using the toilet. She was visting to have herself checked by a doctor in the city. I had forgotten to lock the door that afternoon, it was four. She smiled at me and put her hand on the wall, the other she used to lift up her duster. She said to me in a grin 'Your Lola is old" and peed standing up. I smiled and thought it was funny. I liked the idea of doing something together with her, even if it wasn't the conventional social activity. Ma gets in the bathroom sometimes, bashes on the door, "ablihi ko dong! di na nako mapugngan!" I unlock the door and she rushes in and grabs the arinola. She sits there right in front of me, both of us seated on our own thrones. She would talk about her toilet habits. On the bathroom door hangs the calendar, I can see it from where I am seated. October. I get up and walk to the door beside it. The door to my room.
I painted the door white when I moved into the only room downstairs. This used to be my parent's room, the biggest. Then it became my brothers' then my sister's family moved in then my brother's family and now that they've all left, it is mine. I've changed it to how a decent room ought to look like. I painted one wall red. Painted the closet white with thick black stylish lines. One yellow wall I covered with packaging tape, the one with "fragile: handle with care" on it. The floor is a matte black and the ceiling a glossy white- a steering wheel light juts out of it alone, windshield-less. Paintings on the walls and occasional decorative and novel objects. I do not remember getting in my room. I realize I have thrown the keys on the red sheets of the bed. I have silenced the keys as well, they've been rattling all the way home since I got off the tricycle. The obligation to change into fresh house clothes must be fulfilled. I first take off my shirt, I drop it on the floor, I take three steps to the closet and look at myself in the mirror. I've done this since I cannot remember, to check if I've gained weight. I 've never seen the difference since. I slip off the belt looking myself in the eye. I take off my pants button by button until they drop. Quickly I take off my boxers. I stare at myself for a time. I search for my phone in one of the pant's pockets. I look at the time. I drop them again, pants and phone- and stare. The rain hasn't stopped still. This is me at 7:15.