I’m such a loser, aren’t I? I can’t even fight back even when I know I’m in the right. It’s not that easy in my case; I’m half Softy and half Eyeballs, anyways. But–there’s always this big BUT–only in DNA, is what I like to say. The Softy part of me I’ve abhorred most of my life; the Eyeballs part of me, I’m indifferent about it. Being part Softy, I got specific traits like being shy and quiet, stubborn, and very hardheaded. The traits I got from Eyeballs included being bossy, unforgiving, and quick-tempered. Although I got my height from both sides (grandfathers), I got mostly the facial features of Softy, the eyes and mouth mixed in with Eyeballs’ cheekbones and jawline. Even today I refuse to say I look like either of them (they bicker about it) and I just tell them I look like myself.
Eyeballs and I have a love-hate relationship from what I can tell. When me and my siblings were still small, Eyeballs stayed at home for the most part doing all the household chores while Softy was working abroad. I used to be fear-stricken whenever Eyeballs would get mad for not doing our homework before playing or watching TV. Eyeballs ruled with an iron fist. It was very hard to get away with anything, but we did try to get away with things nonetheless. One time, probably before I was about third grade or so, we had moved to our new house. It seemed like a big house to me back then; it had 3 bedrooms but one was converted to a kitchen area, a living area, dining area and of course, a washroom. The washroom was unfinished. So when we needed to have a poo or a pee or have a quick wash, we had to get out of the house, walk for about a minute to get to our old washroom. The little house we used to occupy was destroyed by a typhoon, but the washroom area stood. The floor was cement and one wall was connected to the kitchen sink and counter area made of hollowed blocks put together. With all the other three sides made of wood, it was easy to climb up the wooden parts to get over the cement wall and get out on the other side, onto the sink/counter area. This piece of information was very helpful when me and Fishie got locked in after finishing our wash. “What do we do?” Fishie had asked me. I was pulling at the door and yelling out to anybody who might possibly hear but no one came and the wooden door wouldn’t budge, stuck onto the doorframe like glue. “You’re smaller,” I remember saying, “so you can climb up the wood, get down onto the sink and push open the door from outside.” Fishie looked up, looking like it didn’t really look that high up.
Eventually, after a time of delaying, Fishie finally climbed up. I didn’t want to say this, but we were both butt-naked. We didn’t bring our change of clothes, thinking our house was very close. The towels were a hindrance at that time so Fishie climbed without anything on. Upon reaching the cement wall, I was looking up, admiring how Fishie was so courageous to do such a thing. From where I stood, Fishie suddenly looked very high up. Straddling the cement wall, Fishie looked to the outside where the sink and counter were then she looked back to where I stood. “Go on, then. Just get off and come open the door.” Did I mention how old Fishie was as this point? Let me think, third grade… three years younger… I think Fishie was about six years old. I didn’t know what was going on in her mind back then but I was getting annoyed that she wasn’t moving. “Are you just going to sit there?” I had asked. “I want to get off,” she said. I picked up on the panic in her voice, but I tried to calm her down and not seem scared that she could possibly fall off or be stuck up there forever if she didn’t move any further. “Oh, alright. Get back down here then, and I’ll do it.” I remember seeing her hands gripping the wall in fear. Two eyes started to water and Fishie’s face changed as a loud cry came out. It was my turn to panic. Trying to hush Fishie, I kept saying the same things over and over. “Be quiet! Eyeballs will hear you! Just move and get back down here! I said be quiet! Eyeballs will hear you! Fishie, just move and get back down here! Hurry up!”
Even though I sounded very bossy and demanding, I was turning all kinds of goo inside. I knew my life was over at that moment, that Eyeballs would punish me and I was in big, big, bigger-than-life trouble. I heard people coming closer and I heard Eyeballs. I heard that voice, alarmed and upset, panic-stricken and furious at the same time. “What are you doing up there!” was the demand from outside. I tried to justify what they saw and reason with them all at once. “The door was stuck; it won’t open. We couldn’t get out.” I gave a show of pulling at the door, but it opened. I stared at it for more than a few seconds, stunned at what just happened. I was completely stuck on the fact that it just opened that easily after my pulling and straining earlier. Eyeballs was giving instructions to people on how to get Fishie off the top of the wall and there were some bystanders watching the whole thing from a small distance. I quickly wrapped the towel around me and got out of the washroom as soon as Fishie was back on the ground. I wanted to run back to the house, but everybody was in the way. Lingering in the background, I wished no one would notice me while Fishie cried. But then they were asking what had happened and she was relaying the whole thing all too easily. I was getting uncomfortable and Eyeballs was getting hysterical, especially when she heard that I made Fishie climb up. Eyeballs–literally, all of them–zeroed in on me and Eyeballs came stalking towards me. I tried to back away but there was nothing to back away into.
I was cold with fear. Seeing Eyeballs going straight towards me sent red flags to my brain but I couldn’t move; I knew if I so much as ran away a few steps, my punishment would be worse than it already was going to be. Eyeballs grabbed me by the arm, pulled me closer so that I saw a set of eyes going cross-eyed in fury. “Why would you make her do that, huh, Pencil? Why? Fishie is not as big as you are and you make her climb all the way up there? What if she fell and hit her head? What if she was badly hurt? Would you be happy if she fell off and died?” I knew my role. I kept quiet–it was the best alternative; any effort of answering would mean I was backtalking Eyeballs. She looked away from me for a few seconds, setting those eyes on a older cousin of mine, Chocolate Milk. “Get my walis tingting.” Now, let me just explain what a walis tingting is (even though you probably won’t be able to imagine it)… It’s basically made of the middle part of individual coconut (tree) leaves, pulled apart to look like skinny little sticks. So it looks like dried sticks which are less than a meter long. In big bunches, it’s used to sweep the ground, but in smaller bunches, it’s used to swat flies. For Eyeballs and most parents from that time who were just as strict, the smaller bunch was used to discipline naughty children. And that day, I had been extremely naughty.
It was right after she said that awful word that I felt like crying. I thought to myself, I had no underwear on and no shorts to pad my skinny little bum from the pain it was about to recieve. Seeing Chocolate Milk run to the house and run back to Eyeballs just as fast sent thoughts of ‘Ohmigod, ohmigod, ohmigod, ohmigod,ohmigod, I’m gonna get the walis tingting‘ to my poor brain. It was at that point in time where no one wanted to see little Pencil get hit on the bum, so the bystanders (mostly relatives) quickly dispersed and all that was left was Chocolate Milk and Eyeballs and Fishie and someone who was cooing and comforting Fishie.
I looked at Fishie, hating her for being such a baby. Then I looked at Chocolate Milk, hating her for bringing Eyeballs the fearsome walis tingting. Then I looked at Eyeballs, fearing the look in those fury-filled eyes. “Turn around!” I resigned myself to fate. Turning around, I knew what was to come. And as it did, in swift but painful whips, I swore to myself never to go with Fishie again to wash. That must have been the turning point on how I viewed Fishie. Ever since that incident, Fishie, to my eyes, was nothing more than a crybaby and a tattletale.
(To be continued…)