Truth that blinds!
By Jing Villamil
TO some, when it finally got to reveal itself – TRUTH must had been as startlingly clear as the brightness of the sun. But the sudden dark – when one closes one’s eyes to the bright – may be even clearer, more of the right.
They were neighbors before they were husband and wife. And as all things were in a culture much older than ours, it was a gregarious re-union of clans already many-times bound and bonded by traditions, by values their own.
In the beginning, all was well and swell. Between the couple were two years of college, and their combined take-home earnings from temporary employments as promo or sales representatives, shop clerks, househelp, construction worker, and the harvest from the small farm handed down by his parents, and their backyard garden served them sufficiently their daily rice and viand and other expenses.
Until the baby came. And another. And another. Wife, then, had to stay home to breastfeed and care for the growing brood. The husband had to shoulder alone the main earner’s yoke.
Their small, wooden house was astride a backpacker’s dreamy pathway to a popular tourist destination, cogon-choked but a vision delight. The wife opened a sari-sari store offering basic amenities to local and foreign hikers – brewed native coffee, bottled water, cookies, rice cakes and fruits.
One afternoon, this slim, blond foreigner plodded by, saw the store, and decided to relieve her back of her heavy burden. She bought a pack of menthol cigarette, a fistful of hard candies, monay bread, and bottled water. As she was paying out, husband arrived from the farm. He deposited his implements by the door to the store. He was more people-friendly than his wife, more confiident with his English. He was also still brawny, firm of abs and thighs. He greeted the stranger. She greeted him back. They smiled. And soon, they were all chummy. They talked – of the weather, of the view. And of life here, and hers there over the rainbow.
Meanwhile, the wife huffed and puffed as she peeped and listened through the wooden grills of the store. As she furiously turned to walk out to them, she glimpsed herself in the mirror. She saw this dowdy wife, wearing faded duster and too-loose pullovers, hair pulled untidily to the top of her head, worry-frowns ageing prematurely a supposedly still-young face. She peered out to her husband enjoying pleasantries with this dusty pretty hiker, long tanned legs showing between tiny khaki shorts and walk-worn though undeniably expensive brown boots, loose hair in disarray but glowing blindingly gold in the bright sun.
Something unhinged somewhere in the wife’s mind. She picked up the two-by-two she used to block across the door at night. She ran out, she raised her arms, she slammed down the wood hard on the gold. The hiker did not see death coming. The gold sprouted a crack, the crack sprung crimson. She slowly crumbled, her eyes shocked-wide on the husband’s, her lips still frozen in a pretty smile.
From that point, it would be a blanket of flurry to husband and wife. First, the news would be of the disappearance, the search, and the discovery of the body of a missing photojournalist. Then the search and investigation of the probable perpetrator/s of the crime. Then the killer’s confession. For days, network cameras would follow the bent, sorry figure surrendering to the authorities; and finally, being locked behind bars.
The husband would keep mumbling and repeating: “I am so sorry. I did not mean to kill her.”
Meanwhile, the wife and her children were shown in a follow-up story on TV and print. The killer’s wife was furiously beating a path with the handle of a broom through a crowd of media people and curious onlookers. Teka teka! Wait a minute. Zoom back!
That was not a broom handle. That was a two-by-two piece of wood.
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