Monday, April 09, 2007

Sketching at the Market Place

The Shrimp Vendor

The woman squatted at the side of the street and looked up to the crowd passing by. Her hands worked to put up her raven hair into a messy bun. She wiped the sweat from her brow with the back of her left hand. The right hand took up a makeshift flyswat and started moving over her dejected-looking shrimps.

"Hipon! Hipon!" She hawked.

"Hipon! Hipon!" She shouted.

An old man stopped in front of her. She turned up her face to the gnarly grandfather who was asking the price of a kilo. She responded with such energy that the man took a step back and shook her head.

Too pricey, the man muttered and walked away.

The shrimp vendor's shoulders sagged. She stared at her puny shrimps. She did not shout anymore.


The Beadmaker

"Which one you want?" he asked me. "This one, this glass!" He held a red stone up to the light. His hands were blue with veins and wrinkly. "Eh, beauty, this!"

He placed the bead on my palm. The glass had gold flecks on it. I looked up to his chinky eyes and saw them glinting. Like the bead.

"Pretty." I said.

He nodded happily. "I made it yesterday. Blow softly is secret of beauty glass beads. I give you 10 for twenty-five pesos, you like?"

I gasped. "So cheap?"

His mouth turned down a little on one corner. "Eh, competition everywhere. Have to stay cheap. Their glass beads made by machine. Whack! There's twenty in one go. Babap! There's one hundred. But you look, they're not beauty like this. Good for necklace."

I saw his pride well up into his eyes. It came from somewhere deep. I nodded. "Yes, that's true. I will take 50 pieces please, ten of each color."

"Ah!" the man exclaimed, extremely pleased. "Buddha bless you!" He was the picture of contentment as he wrapped my items up.

Inside me, hope swelled.


The Barker Boy

While waiting for the Beadmaker to give me my change, I looked outside and saw a boy. He had his shirt tied on his head to act like a hat. His chest was left bare and sweat slid in rivulets down his back. His skin was toffee dark creating a startling contrast with his white teeth. He smiled a lot to the people passing by. He shouted a lot too.

"Oh, Buendia dyan, dito, dito na kayo!" He ushered passengers into the waiting jeepneys. He motioned for five more people to enter the increasingly crowded vehicle. "Kasya pa yan!"

He moved as if he ran on inexhaustible batteries. He was kinetic, personified. His hands did somersaults in the air as he tried to entice people to squeeze into the jeep. His feet moved as if dancing to a complicated jig. Finally, somebody took the last seat. The Barker Boy slapped the side of the stainless steel body of the jeep and announced. "Larga!"

The jeepney driver nodded and handd him five pesos. Barker Boy saluted.

Five pesos. I shook my head, amazed.


The Boy In The Blue Shirt

The sun rose at exactly 11:35 a.m.

That was the time announced by the big clock in front of the plaza when the Boy in the Blue Shirt appeared. I just came out from the Beadmaker's Shop and hope was swelling in my chest like mungo seeds shooting up in hyperspeed. Now here comes the sun to shine on my happy green leaves. He was tall like a narra tree and brown like a cup of mocha frapuccino. He wore Elvis Castello glasses and his hair were spiked up in little exclamation marks. His walk. Was. Fluid.

I wondered if the One was about to meet me after all these years. The thought made me smile involuntarily. He thought I was smiling at him. He raised one eyebrow and averted his gaze.

The mungo plant wilted and died.

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