Hamid

Stefani J. Alvarez

Philippines

Translated by Alton Melvar M. Dapanas. Original text followed by translation below.

Nakahiga ako sa kama na parang patay na pusa. Nakamasid sa di umaandar na aircon sa kaliwang bahagi ng silid. Kapag taglamig sa Saudi tuwing Disyembre hanggang Pebrero, bumababa ang temperatura hanggang 9 degrees Celsius. Tinapik niya ang aking pisngi. Naramdaman ko ang lamig ng alas-tres ng umaga sa kanyang palad. Saka ko lang siya nilingon nang magsindi siya ng isang joint at inabot sa akin. 

“Are you angry?” Muli niyang tanong sa akin maliban pa sa sunud-sunod niyang text messages kanina bago siya dumating.

Umiling ako. Hinawi ko ang aking buhok. Sinundan niya iyon ng haplos sabay hinuli ang aking palad.

“Malish ya habibi…” Pagso-sorry niya sa paghihintay ko sa buong magdamag sa Bagong Taon. Ikalawang pagkakataon sana na magkasama kami simula nang magkakilala noong nakaraan taon sa Bahrain. 

Hindi dumating si Simo sa mga panahong iyon. Kaya dahil sa galit ko, bigla kong naisipang pumunta sa Bahrain na mag-isa. Bago mag-countdown sa The Harvesters, isang bar sa Crowne Plaza na karamihan ay Pinoy ang naroroon, gayundin Pilipino ang banda at crew, ay nagkakilala kami ni Waleed sa pinakasulok ng nasabing bar. Inalok niya ako ng double shot Bacardi at sa Room 319 ang hantungan ng aming unang pagtatagpo.

Humithit ako at ibinalik sa kanya. Itinaktak niya ang nagbabantang nalalaglag na abo. Isinalaysay niyang nakita ng kaniyang nanay ang ilang joint ng hashish na kanyang dala’t itinago sa kanyang closet. Grounded raw siya kaya hindi na siya basta-basta nakakalabas ng bahay.

“I will go before Fajr.” Pahayag niya na aalis siya bago mag-alas singko ng umaga. Magigising daw ang kanyang ina para sa unang dasal. 

Inilapat niya uli ang kanyang palad sa aking buhok at pinagapang iyon hanggang sa aking batok. Nagtagal ang kanyang palad sa aking noo. Tila nais niyang kapain kung may bakas pa ba ng pilat nang iuntog niya ako sa salansan ng mga libro noong nakaraang linggo. Hindi pa rin maialis sa kanyang isipan nang i-frame up niya ako. Ibinigay niya ang mobile number ko sa kanyang kaibigan. Nakipag-chat sa akin. Ako naman si gaga, nakipag-meet. At ano pa nga ba ang aasahan ko sa kaniyang patibong? Na, siya rin ang may kagagawan.

Bumangon ako’t sinundan pa ng palitan ng paghitit. Nanuot ang aroma ng hashish sa aking ilong, sa aking bunganga, sa aking dibdib. Inipit niya sa ilalim ng carpet sa sala ang ilan pang natitirang joints. Babalikan niya bukas o sa makalawa. Babalikan niya ako. Kahit muling iuntog ako’t basagin ang aking bungo. At para masabi kong…

ito ang pinili kong lason, mahal

para wasakin ang puso kong hangal

*****

Like a dead cat, I lay in bed. Facing the broken air-conditioning on the other side of the room. The temperature here, in Saudi, plummets to nine degrees Celsius every winter, from December until February. He stroked my cheek. In his palm, the cold of three o’clock in the morning. I glanced his way only when he handed me a lit joint. 

“Are you angry?” He pressed once more, a follow-up to the string of text messages he had sent earlier, before he came over.

I shook my head and tried to rearrange my hair. He caressed and clasped my palm.

“Malish, ya habibi…” was his apology for making me wait all night last New Year’s. That should have been our second time being together after we met in Bahrain a year ago. 

Back then, Simo was a no-show. And, owing to my wrath, I went to Bahrain alone, a spur-of-the-moment decision. Ahead of the countdown at The Harvesters, a bar in Crowne Plaza with an all-Filipino hotel crew and live band, frequented mostly by migrant Filipino workers, I bumped into Waleed at a corner of said bar. A double shot of Bacardi was his offer, Room 319 was our tryst.

I sucked the smoke in and puffed it back to him. He dislodged the ash before its impending fall. His mother had discovered the hashish blunts that he herded and hid in his closet. He had been grounded, so he could not just leave the house anymore.

“I will go before Fajr,” he said about his imminent leaving before five the next morning. His mother would wake up for the day’s first prayer.

His palm lingered in my hair once more, running it up to my nape. Then, it remained on my forehead. Probing to see if I still had the scar, a reminder of last week, when he had rammed me against a stack of books. He could not shrug off the time when he had framed me. He had given my mobile number to his friend who had then chatted with me. I, the crazy one, had met up with his friend. And what else could I have expected from this trap? A trap that he himself had set up. 

I got up before another shotgun of weed. The aroma of hashish stabbed through my nose, my mouth, my chest. He stashed away a handful of the unused joints under the carpet in the living room. He would be back tomorrow or the day after. He would be back to me. Even if he hammered my body, even if he cracked my skull. And so I intoned…

this is my choice of poison, darling

to keep my foolish heart on crushing

Stefani J. Alvarez is a Guest Contributor for Panorama.

Alton Melvar M. Dapanas is Assistant Nonfiction Editor at Panorama.