7.13.2007

Broken Glass Full (drawn-out pride in a story)

Sorry that I had to post this ah. Yabang ko lang talaga. :P

Broken Glass Full
by Gian Dapul

1 Burning rubber. Everything smelled like burning rubber. And like sulfur. Like rotting eggs. Ardman could remember the old, mottled parish priest from his childhood who screamed from the pulpit that the fires of hell smelled exactly like rotting eggs. Carabao crap. Hell smelled like his mother. Cheap essence of old lady who had done nothing in her years but watch some godforsaken noontime show while she screamed at him to pick up his clothes from the sala floor.

2 “Gerardo Manuelito Villamayor! Pick up your kalat! I don’t want your katarantaduhan here in this house ah! Diyos miyo.”

3 She was like all the other rosary-clutching verse-blabbering gossiping manangs at the parish whose faces had probably killed Christ himself. He remembered a time when he had scandalized the whole lot by spitting in that cup thing where they put the white pieces of whatever. That was fun, he thought. Jesus had probably been crying his eyes out or something then.

4 His eyes. Were they closed? He could’ve sworn they were open. Everything was so bright, after all; blindingly bright, it was – wherever he was. The blatant whiteness reminded him of that old cliché of a light at the end of a – of a tunnel. But of course. The tunnel. That damned tunnel. It was just yesterday, wasn’t it? No lights, no signs, no nothing. How the hell was he supposed to know it narrowed to two lanes halfway through? Viray should have taken his advice and used it for the expansion of the country club. He tried braking and veering to the right, he tried – he really did – but the Chevy simply refused to turn and do where and what he wanted it to. Shit, shit, shit, he had thought, seeing what was once his windshield flying past his head in a million tiny pieces, the front of the car get crushed against the wall like a Coke can, and his PDA fly from his breast pocket and shatter on the floor. He didn’t hear his skull crack as his head pitched forward and hit the steering wheel, because he was just too preoccupied with the screeching of the tires and screaming of metal against glass against cement. And the stinging of burnt rubber. He could never forget that odor permeate the scent of his own blood flowing freely from his nostrils.

5 But where had he gone now? Where was he? Ardman was now pretty sure that his lids were open, so he tried to make something out in the blankness that was seemingly everywhere and everything at once. It was like looking through clear glass that started behind his eyes and went on and on into oblivion. Nothing. Nada. Forever and ever, goddamned Amen. Had he gone blind? His clear blue eyes were too beautiful to be of no use. Was he dead? God forbid. He still wanted to do a lot more with the rest of other people’s pathetic lives.

6 Well, wherever he was, or whatever had happened to him, the smell of sulfur had gone, replaced by the reek of cold cleanliness, if ever cleanliness had a smell. It was antiseptic and disgustingly intoxicating at the same time, like there wasn’t anything alive about the freezing air. It nipped viciously at Ardman’s sense of smell, and he lifted his arm to his –

7 My arm? Where the hell is my arm?!

8 He tried looking down at where he felt the weight of his limbs rest on whatever there was – or was it whatever there wasn’t? – but an arm he could not see. In fact, there wasn’t anything. Only the same empty blankness as everywhere else. He was sure that there was something – he just wasn’t sure if something, somebody was there. But there had to be. Because he was somebody. Oh yes.

9 I graduated BS Management Engineering from the Manila Walter Lawrence University, Class of 1989, also a respected alumni of the Nu Omega Tau brotherhood. I’m the CEO of MT Integrated Systems Development and manager of several Eno-Eni call centers. I’m also Vice President of the Qulan Country Club committee on development, and top player of the only American football team in the Philippines – the Westin All-Stars, Team Elite. And I’m also head honcho adviser to Mayor Viray, goddammit! I should be loved for living! He was somebody, for sure. His résumé-blasting checklist of tough-guy superachievements was the reason why he was known all over the Metro as the “Hard Man Ardman,” the biggest mover and shaker in Mandaluyong.

10 It was hard for him, an athletic jock-type, not being able to budge. He tried. And he tried – he really did. But his body (if ever there was one, he couldn’t see one) stayed as stiff as a board, as stiff as a corpse in a morgue. He tried lifting the weight of what was supposed to be his arm from – was it nothingness? – yet still he could feel no change in position. He screamed in frustration.

11 Aaaaaargh!! I don’t want to be dead!

12 The shout rang out into nothingness and back to his ears – not. Gerardo, his ears as sharp as his mother’s tongue, realized that he had only heard his thoughts bounce back and forth in his skull, and nothing had came out of the orifice that was supposed to boom his rich and deep tenor across the miles of nothing. All he heard was the sound of a low, unbreaking, and heavy hum that might as well have been total silence.

13 beep.

14 His eyes shifted to a fairly silent blip to his left.

15 beep.

16 Gerardo recognized the small sound as one he had heard somewhere on TV or in the movies, and wondered why he hadn’t been hearing it for the past minute or hour or whatever.

17 beep.

18 Of course. He knew he knew that sound – it was like the blipping of those heart monitors that he saw on TV shows. He’d forgotten what they were called, those machines that go *bleeeeeeeeeeeep* and show a flat line when the guy suddenly died, after which the doctors would shock the patient into life again. He found it somewhat funny when the dude they shocked got pushed up by the current.

19 The cold, the beeping and the antiseptic smell would then probably mean he was in a hospital room, on a hospital bed, alive, his vital stats being monitored. He wasn’t dead, then. The question, then, was why everything seemed to be a big blank blanket that wrapped and warped around him and in him, instead of a boring gray and white room. Why he couldn’t lift his limbs or turn his head. Why I can’t open my damned mouth, he said to himself.

20 beep.

21 The low hum of what was probably the air conditioning was broken by the unmistakable sound of a door opening and closing. Ardman could hear the click of the lock as the door was shut tightly and the hum of the AC resumed. Click, clack, click, clack – two pairs of heels against cold tile moved across the unseen room, from one ear to another.

22 “Ano, let’s start?”

23 “Yes, dearie. Patient is Gerardo Manuelito Macario Villamayor. Age 38, male.”

24 What the hell? I’m only 31! What kind of nurses are these two, messing up my age? Ardman began to protest, as the two women continued to rattle off his other stats.

25 “5’10” upon last recorded measurement of height. Looks like he was big, wasn’t he, Ate Marian?”

26 “Hay nako. Man is married to Evansueda Malabanon Villamayor.”

27 “Poor woman. Having to sacrifice so much for a piece of shit.”

28 “She should be a hero - she put up with a worthless, arrogant bastard who thinks his existence is a gift to humans everywhere.”

29 “But I heard she wanted to give up on him before he’d even gotten himself into this mess.”

30 “Well, who can blame her? The whole of Mandaluyong knows just how much of a jerk Villamayor was to generally everyone. I wouldn’t be surprised if at home or in bed he was the machismo asshole he was in public.”

31 “Yeah. ‘Hard Man Ardman.’ Hah. More like ‘Hard-On Moron.’”

32 “I heard he had a drinking problem.”

33 “I heard he had the Mayor’s wife as a mistress.”

34 “I heard he beat his wife.”

35 “I heard he used meth.”

36 Damn them. Talking about me in that way. Bitches. So what if I guzzled a few bottles of beer or had a bit of crystal every now and then? And what is this crap about a mistress?? We just have sex is all. And I only hit Eva because I needed to. Goddammit, they hype these things way too much! Hope they go to hell, they belong in hell, everyone deserves a place down with that red-horned bastard.

37 “Yeah, well, I heard the wife’s coming over later to talk with the doctor.”

38 “Probably to make the final decisions. Five years have passed, after all…”

39 “Anyway, as of today, October 10, 2007, unconscious state has lasted for exactly 6 years, 2 months, and 11 days. Extent of visible physical regression is minimal to moderate due to well-conditioned initial form. Vital signs are fairly stable.”

40 Gerardo’s mind, the only thing left moving, froze in its frantic tracks. He felt a heavy weight press down where his chest was supposed to be, and he choked on his own surprise and anger. Comatose. Comatose. Coma. No wonder everything around him was so… nothing. Blankness and blindness, immobility and inability; he could only hear and smell and think. So he had fallen into the sleep of death for – how long was it again? Six years. More than, even. Damn, damn, damn. What had he missed? What had happened? His businesses? His groups? His country club? His mayor? He had no control, no hold over anything. God, what had happened to his life?! (It had all gone to hell, it all belonged in hell, everything deserved a place down with the devil.)

41 As panicked thoughts ran tired through his head he didn’t notice that the door had opened and clicked closed once more, and a tapping of shoes towards his bed signaled the arrival of another person in the room.

42 “Good afternoon po, Doctor Ramirez.”

43 “Hello Marian. Aida, request the custodians to clean the room. Mrs. Villamayor is coming in a few hours to discuss options.”

44 “Sir, what about the furnishings of the room? The ones she gave last time when she was here.”

45 “It looks horrible. I mean the rooms of Mantabong Med are small, solid, clean, brightly lit and straight-edged. If we add color or design, it’s not going to look decent anymore. Fine, let her have her way. But I mean come on, look at those curtains. Floral? My God. One set only. Oh, and inject the case with morphine to calm the muscles. I need to run a few quick tests before Mrs. Eva gets here.”

46 Ardman heard the clacking of the heels on the floor right next to his life support system and felt the sensation of a small pressure on his arm. The blanketed brightness around him suddenly appeared to settle on him, cover him, choke him and absorb him; and for a minute, a moment, or more he could hear nothing, smell nothing, feel nothing. He remembered his wife had always complained about him not listening, not feeling; it was all nag nag nag until the carabaos came home. Well, he sure showed her that he could feel and make her feel something. And she said that he never listened? Why, her short gasps of surprise and instant squeals were always music to his ears.

47 Damn her. Bitch who never really did what I wanted her to. I had to force her to do the stuff she had to. Who was the one who didn’t listen?

48 Almost as quickly as he had felt choked, he felt his ears prick and warm as the transparency that was everything seemed to expand. A familiar voice then rang in his ear on his right, a sweet but somewhat oily voice that had liquid persuasion blended into it. His wife was discussing with the doctor as the life support system beeped louder this time in the background.

49 “Ah, I’m glad that you used the curtains, Doctor. A little touch of color is needed every now and then. Keeps the room alive, at least.”

50 beep.

51 “Uhm, yes ma’am. Going back…”

52 “Yes, yes, I know. The options. I really don’t think that there’s any chance anymore of anything happening, even with therapy. It’s been drawn out for way too long.”

53 beep.

54 “Ma’am, we do wish to remind you that there is the chance of partial recovery, wherein certain senses and functions return together or one by one – “

55 “Doctor Ramirez, do you know just how long I’ve been waiting? Since I fooled myself into believing that he loved me back in 1997, I’ve been hoping for the moment when he’d actually care about fulfilling a life other than his own, when he’d stop being so selfish.

56 beep.

57 “All those stupid positions and awards and things he boasts about so much? They were worthless to me! All I cared about was trying to change him for the better, to give him respect or let him know what it feels like to love and be loved.

58 beep.

59 “I’ve given up on him already. His life is devoid of any value or point or respect. He is no longer my husband or anything to me.”

60 beep.

61 “So… what now, Evansueda?”

62 “He’ll go to hell. He belongs in hell. He deserves a place down with Satan himself – no, he is Satan himself. I opt to end life support. He didn’t say anything about it anyway. Like he’d say anything about support.”

63 beep.

64 Gerardo heard no more, for he screamed and oathed and cussed against his wife, his mother, the doctor, those two nurses. His “friends” for money, business associates and partners, employees and workers. His mistresses, drug dealers, Mayor Viray. The manangs at the parish, the priests who loved shouting about hell, The bottles of beer and bundles of money; the cars and cellphones and PDAs.

65 He blamed everything on everyone everywhere while he stared out into the zilch, as it teetered and tottered and wrapped about him, entered him, took him, became him. God knows how long or why, but he continued to deny and to deny and to deny that everything was nothing for nothing in nothing because he wouldn’t do something for something. What he had was all shallow and blank and, well, flat.

66 bleeee…

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