Module VI.

/*SAIKOW_08 finalizes its automated hygiene procedure, steps out of the washroom wearing only a fabric to cover its reproductive organ. It proceeds to the lavatory to finish up with an oral cleansing. After doing so, it gets dressed, walks out of its shelter. It gets the chance to board a Public Utility Vehicle, it situates itself near the PUV’s exit, and it notices an old woman sitting on the opposite row of seats.*/

Hacking into SAIKOW_08’s mainframe…

Primary Master. Defined. Primary Slave. Defined…

Secondary Master. None. Secondary Slave. None…

Access complete.

CPU opened…

Retreiving information…

Begin internal analysis…

<clear screen>

She sits at the other side of the jeepney, her silver hair pulled back and tied together by a black garter, the type that is sold in sidewalks along with cigarettes, candies, and cheap accessories. She has nothing on her ears except an earring of rashes embedded with tiny pus-filled granules. Her forehead is a vast expanse of light brown skin with off-color spots and little moles near the scalp. Her eyebrows have all fallen off. Her eyes – sunken, tired, and milky – are barely visible beneath her discolored eyelids. There are lines from the edge of those eyes to her temples. Her nose and her cheeks are losing their grip on the skin that covers them. Her lips form a thin, dark line atop a steep chin.

As I am staring at her face, I can’t help but remember my own grandmother. Nanang, as I used to call her, was the first grandmother I ever knew. She stayed in our house long before I was even born, she often told us that she likes staying with us because she felt at home wit us. My mother would always tell me that Nanang was a very spoiled girl. And, the reason for this, in mom’s view, was because Nanang was the youngest in her family and Tatang, my grandfather, treated her like a princess. But, I never noticed that side of nanang when I was with her. To me, she had always been this caring, loving, self-less person. The complete opposite of what mom tells me. If what mom says is true, I wonder if Nanang ever rode a jeepney. Would she look like this old woman I’m seeng now?

She stares out into a kaleidoscope of industrial titans: twisted iron skeletons, concrete monoliths, glass pinnacles. The new-age sun froms a thin line from her right temple down to her chin. Her eyes glimmer amid the thick clouds of smog and debris.

I have to say, this is no place for an old woman. It’s not because she was born in a time when the world was far different from what it is now – Well, partly, maybe – but, it’s because this place is too harsh for her. She’s old and weak and the world is breathing with fumes while the sun has been very harsh since the past decade. Indeed, this is a hellish environment specially for someone so fragile as her. What is she doing here, anyway?

She is wearing a red dress with torn sleeves and irregular prints – some by ketchup, some by chocolate, some by mud. Just below her sagging breasts was an ethnic fabric with red, blue, white, and green prints.

From the torn edges of her dress come out her arms. They are like bamboo sticks covered with a brown plastic. Her left arm stretches skyward, grabbing the railing above. On her left wrist dangles a white bracelet made of ratan rope. Her left hand has protruding green wires. And, on her left ring finger is a dull yellow ring. Her right arm was kept in the shadows but her right hand held a yellow plastic bag.

I wonder where her family is. Does she even have a family, for that matter? If so, what kind of family would let an old woman like her commute and even do groceries? I admit, I can take the entire populace’s desire to destroy the world day by day, but I have to say that they’ve gone too far if they begin to abuse people like this woman. Its people like them that once worked, suffered even, for us. Its people like them who took care of us when we were young and weak. Now, we repay them by letting them do chores? Now, at their given state? When THEY have become weak? I focus on her plastic bag imagining what kind of person would do this.

Inside her plastic bag is a box of powdered milk, cans of corned beef, probably a kilo of rice, two packs of potato chips: An inventory fit for a child?

She strikes the railing with her coins, the jeepney slows down to a full stop, she stretches her arm, hands clenching her fare. Five gruelling seconds pass, not one single person bothers to take her fare. Finally, a young man decides to hand it to the driver for her. She smiles at the man, gets off, and the driver immediately starts the jeepney without checking if the old woman is already on solid ground – I’m thankful she already is.

How could people be so cold? She is a woman. She is a mother. Does time take that reality from women? I don’t think so.

I sit inside this jeepney, staring out into a kaleidoscope of industrial titans: twisted iron skeletons, concrete monoliths, glass pinnacles. The new-age sun froms a thin line from my left temple down to my chin. My eyes glimmer amid the thick clouds of smog and debris. I imagine the old woman arriving home and a child welcoming her.

<clear screen>

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~ by saikow on April 13, 2007.

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