Posted by asm826 on September 17, 2006
Tom wandered slowly up MagSaySay. The carrier and her escorts had been gone for two days. The squadron was gone. The rain and cold had driven everyone off the street. It felt like walking up the midway after the carnival had closed. He moved slowly, taking some of the pictures he had been meaning to catch for weeks.
The Piso exchange, a t-shirt display, the barbeque vendor, one last chance to try to catch and capture the moments on film. A girl stepped out of a doorway, slipped up along side and walked at his pace, hopping the puddles and ducking under the awnings as she followed him up the street.
“Marine, you got a girlfriend?”
“You got a P.I. girl?”
“Come with me, Marine, I show you good time.”
“I can’t, my girl would know.”
“She not know, we go short time.”
Tom stopped and looked the girl. Young, with her hair cut short, she looked pretty, but somehow desperate. Her clothes were American, blue jean shorts, and a revealing top. The high heels looked out of place.
“Do you have your paper?”
She shrugged, “What paper?”
Tom started walking again, “The paper that says you passed your med check this week. The one you have to have to work.”
“I don’t know about this paper.”
Tom dug into his front pocket and came up with a handful of small Piso notes and change, “Look, I know you can’t work this week. I’ve got enough here for you to eat on for days. Do you want it?”
She stamped her foot, “Damn Marine, damn station-dito Marine!”
With that, she turned and pranced back up the sidewalk toward the main gate. Tom smiled, feeling complemented to be mistaken for base personnel. He put the money back in his pocket and walked on.
The man selling balut spoke no English. Tom struggled to explain what he wanted, finally resorting to pantomime. The seller was an older man, and when he finally understood, he grinned, displaying a mouthful of broken and missing teeth. He laughed and nodded, taking Tom’s Pisos and cracking the shell of one of the baluts in his basket.
Tom focused, held his breath and took a picture of the embryo. The seller slurped out the liquid, then bit the balut, crunching the partially formed beak and feet as he chewed. The sulfurous smell of rotten eggs filled the air. Backing up, Tom bowed slightly and waved, then continued up the street.
The smells, Tom thought, that’s what the camera didn’t catch. The frying meat at the street vendors, the wood smoke smell from a thousand cooking fires, the diesel fumes on a hot afternoon, the river, the balut. There were more. Emie’s grandmother’s house smelled of her cooking spices. Emie’s shampoo and perfume, a soft floral smell that was uniquely hers.
He turned into Piso Jimmy’s. The entire rear party was there, and he stopped in the doorway and took a group picture as they raised their beers. Some things could be predicted. He sat and wrote their names. In heavy letters he titled the page “Rear Party, Det Cubi. 1983″. Everyone had their last night plans, most of them involved more drinking and as much entertainment as they could stand. Tom wrote as they talked, unable to say much. After a couple of San Miguels, he shook hands, and left to meet Emie for the last time.