So, there I was minding my own business, drinking Samurai and crunching on some bland, dry, and crumbly King Flakes when some strange little waif of a girl and what was probably her sister hopped up to the sari-sari store and waved at me with a smile. Wasn’t expecting that at all.
The only thought running through my head was that this girl probably thought she knew me, but her smile stayed bright and honest despite the fact that there was no light of knowing that dawned on her when she realized that she did not recognize me. I was a stranger, a complete stranger, and she realized I was a random blip on her radar.
Hey, maybe she is just genuinely nice.
The sisters wanted fruity mentos, but they only had a peso between them. It was probably the elder sister who was willing to compromise with cheaper lollipops, but the one who smiled at me really wanted the mentos.
I decided to be nice in return.
I told the lady behind the chicken wire and grills, “Hatag lang, dugangan ko lang dos,” and so I did. I tried to be a cool and badass, playing it off by turning away to dispose of the awful crackers and the empty bottle of kidney acid, but when I faced them again the little girl was already giving me the thumbs up sign. She totally invalidated my nonchalance.
I had to smile at that as well, nodding at her ear-to-ear grin.
And so they pranced, like little girls often do, off to wherever it was their folks were while I took the long walk home, sloshing a memory around in my head.
The kids brought an image of my old man back from my subconscious and in such vivid detail. When others speak of their fathers and the myths they build around them, I often hear of stoic strength, knowing silence, and imperious bearing, as if every home was a castle and a father the loving king–scary but comforting, hard but warm.
I don’t share that sentiment. I did when I was knee high, but I was such only for a little while. It’s not how I want to think of him and it probably shows when I meet the fathers of my friends.
When they made my father they didn’t carve him out of rock. They found a tree in the middle of green pastures, cut a branch off the thing, stuck it in good soil in the middle of nowhere, and watched it grow into an old man, bent and walking funny, handing out free lollipops to boisterous and giggling little cretins while feigning annoyance at having to do so since he was supposed to be selling those.
That’s the protocol, I think, when you hand free candy out to children. You’re supposed to pretend you don’t like giving them candy cos it ruins their teeth. That’s fine. I’m fine with it, really. i know my father likes handing out cavities to children. I think he wants to ruin their teeth.
That is my father: old, bent, kind, and walking funny.
That’s the image i keep with me now, not a king, but an old man handing out candy to children. Something to remember, something to look up to, and who knows: maybe that’s who I’m meant to be.