In the Street

By Carljoe Javier

The gun reports sounded like a jeepney’s exhaust pipe popping. They didn’t sound anything like gunshots on TV or the movies. They kind of crackled, the sound tighter, more sudden, almost piercing the air.

I heard them but I didn’t realize they were gun shots. I’d never heard a real one before. Why would I? I’ve lived in a nice neighborhood; you could say that my family kept me relatively sheltered. They let me start commuting when I was in college, but even then I had the option of taking the van and the driver.

The girls from work and I, we were visiting the old haunts. We always went to places in Makati and Fort, so when Jane said it was our turn to head North for her, we said okay. Maginhawa street was always being written about in the food articles we shared to each other on the office Slack channel. So we thought, okay, sure why not. At some point we had all been Maginhawa regulars, though we hadn’t known each other then and Maginhawa wasn’t the food hub it was now. So we went.

I was waiting for the isaw to go crisp. That moment right before it gets burnt, but when all of the moisture is gone from it so when you get it between your teeth it makes a loud crunch when you chomp down. That’s how I love it. The other girls were already eating. And when mine was ready I didn’t even wait for the barbecue guy, I took it from the grill and I skipped the dip into vinegar and I blew on it a little before biting in. I heard the crunch in my mouth echoing through my head, and then the gun reports.

Three in quick succession. Pak. Pak. Pak. I didn’t know what was going on. Jane dropped to the ground and Darla took me by the shoulders and pulled me down to a crouch. I tried to crook my head up because I wanted to see what was going on, but Darla cupped the back of my head and drove it down. My hair came over my head and all I could see was feet running all over.

Then I saw the dead body.

A man stood above it. The pistol in his hand still smoking. He pulled a piece of cardboard out of the messenger bag he was wearing and he threw it onto the body’s chest. He zipped the bag, holstered the gun. Then he walked away from the body, and began walking in our direction.

Jane was sobbing and I could feel that now Darla wasn’t holding onto me to keep me down, but it was the way you clutch someone when you’re afraid. Her nails were digging into my arms and later, when all this was done, we would see the marks and scratches that made. I could barely feel it because I was busy clutching Darla just as tight.

We sobbed and Darla said, “Wala po kaming kasalanan. Hindi namin kayo isusumbong. ‘Wag niyo po kami saktan.”

The shooter walked to the grill. He took a stick of isaw. It had gone past crisp and was burned at the edges. That was supposed to be my second stick. He bit into it and I could hear him chewing through that crunch.

“Huwag kayo magalala ‘te, wala naman akong pakialam sa inyo. Pumapatay lang ako ng mga adik. E ‘di namam kayo adik di ba?”

That wasn’t much comfort, and Darla and I kept holding onto each other. He took another bite. After a swallow he spoke again.

“At kanino niyo naman ako isusumbong? Wala naman akong ginagawang kasalanan. Utos nga ito ng presidente di ba? Bakit mga dilawan ba kayo? Tingin niyo mahalaga ang buhay ng mga adik na ‘to? E kung hindi ko sila patayin, bukas o makalawa baka mang-rape pa ng bata o pumatay pa ang mga kumag na putanginang mga ‘to.”

I looked over to see Jane crying, and I realized I was in tears too. Darla said, “Oo nga po. Ma-mabuti na nga lang ginagawa niyo ito.”

The shooter plunged his hand into the cooler beside the grill and pulled out a can of soda. He opened the soda, took a long chug. Then he started walking away. We kept our heads down, and when we felt that he had gone far enough away, we stood up and Jane, Darla, and I held each other. We could say nothing.