Luneta 5

I needed to bury the corpse of Roberto Policarpio, if not, the horror and violence that permeated my visions would continue. Bury him fast, but how? Where the fuck would I get two thousand pesos to reclaim his body? I wished I’d never met him. I’d never been so serious in life until now. Never been so scared.

I was originally from barrio Concepcion of the remote town of Bilbao in the province of Ficolandina. I arrived in Manila three years ago with two goals: to finish college at any cost and find means of livelihood. Young and penniless, I drifted all around the city until I became a hustler along Manila Bay. I had no qualms about that, as long as my life, though insignificant, ran smoothly, like a car on a bump-less road. I thought I was on my way to success until three weeks ago when I met Roberto Policarpio. He was better known in society circles as the Faceless Adonis. Roberto had changed everything in me, my language, ideas, perceptions, visions. He even invaded my dreams. Hell. The only mistake I did was to see his real face. The other was to lose my carton box of family mementos. I became a total wreck ever since.

The horror began this way.

Roberto Policarpio was in his mid-twenties, the first time I saw him was after he alighted from a taxi and directed his strides towards the seawall.

He was unmindful of the wet pavement. Spots of mud were stuck to his blue denim jeans, his brown moccasins were discolored gray, suggesting a long travel. It was a warm night, he pulled off his thin sweater and hung it crisscrossed over his chest. His muscular torso and handsome face were rendered silvery by the bay’s mist and the moon’s dim yellow reflection from the water.

We met and chatted.

“Are you familiar with Tennessee William’s A Streetcar Named Desire?” he approached me in good Filipino English accent. This took me by surprise. “Yes”, I said, “Was it not shown on TV recently?” In my hustling, I paid close attention to introductions. I could tell for example a person’s level of education, his motive, his experience, even the amount of money he carried through his first statement. From what I heard, he was an elite, of college level, could afford to watch expensive plays. I placed him at the top of my excellent prospects.

At least, he was unlike the others that I abhorred from the moment they opened their mouths. I knew them, the ones asking for a light, as if I owned BIC company. How about those who whispered in bad breath, “Can you spare me a cigarette?” Damn, did I look like Philip Morns? And the hopeless: “Have I met you somewhere?” Oh yeah? After all, there were only seven thousand one hundred seven islands and 45 million people in the Philippines.

“Can you recall Blanche’s last line?” he asked.

“How should I know?” I snapped. The only last line I’ve memorized in my entire life was the shut up curtsy in Gone With the Wind. “My dear, I don’t give a damn.”

He burst out laughing but immediately became serious: “Whoever you are, I’ve always depended on the kindness of strangers.”

I paused for a moment, this theatrical discussion was leading me nowhere. I was more concerned about picking up my next client, not listening to Broadway plays.

“Are you…” I was distracted by his looks close-up. His face was familiar, I just could not figure out exactly where it appeared before. And something else, his voice seemed to echo, his movements were very graceful to becoming fluid and I thought he floated above the ground. “Are you a playwright or something?” I asked.

He shook his head vigorously, eyes rolling towards the bay. “God forbid.”

This dismissive reply put me on defense. I once dreamt of becoming a playwright. “What is wrong with being a playwright?”

“Oh I didn’t mean to suggest playwriting is bad.” He sounded condescending. “My college course is just too far off from play writing.”

“What are you taking up in college?”

“It is not relevant.” He motioned me to follow him. He turned towards the winding road of Roxas Boulevard. I was about to pick up my things, when it popped up in my mind. It was three years ago when his face flashing across the country on TV. “Aren’t you the model, you know… the male model…”

Now I remember him. “What happened to you after that Search for Model Contest in 1985? First, your face was all over the place, next thing you know, it suddenly vanished.”

“Nothing. As you’ve said, I simply vanished.”

“You just quit like that and re-surfaced, in Manila Bay of all places…”

“What is wrong with Manila Bay? Don’t I have the right to come here?”

My God, if he were thinking of taking over my hustling territory, I was finished. He just happened to be the most beautiful male sight I’ve seen. If the Faceless Adonis became an escort in Manila Bay, there would be riots and pandemonium. He was just too… how would I put it, just too classy, nowhere close to this trashy place.

I stared at him intently, undecided whether to warn him or retreat myself. An odd intuition was surging in me. Maybe he wanted me …A Streetcar Named Desire. Desire was the clue.

“You’re not thinking of… picking me up, are you?”

His laughter was near hysterical, he was unable to contains himself. He was lost for words for a long time. I blushed. Damn, I blundered. In this situation, I didn’t need to be frank. There were many body language symbols to use. Every hooker and potential clients are used to this. When scratching your head with index finger, the commanding fee for sex was one hundred pesos. With the index and middle fingers together, two hundred. The maximum was usually five hundred. Conveyed in many ways – clasping of fingers, fanning oneself with hands, pounding the chest with a fist. Sex was haggled and negotiated in these secret codes. Peso denomination talk, multiplied by twenty in yen, divided by twenty in dollars.

“Are you a call boy?” he asked. I liked the word call boy for male prostitution. I remained quiet. “That figures,” he reckoned.

Since the pretense is over, I needed to work him up. “I’m cheap,” I said, ” Or perhaps you’re interested with hustling yourself. I can teach you tricks and hook you up with some of my clients.” I winked at him. Hell I do. Instead of competition, I can sell him for a commission.

“What types of clients do you have?”

“Oh man, I am choosy. Only the big shots.”

 Big shots my ass. Of course, I was lying. After years of living in this place as a hustler, I thought I’ve met all sorts of people, theatrical or not. Such as young men like me, neophytes about to join my breed and compete for my job. I am sought by them for my impeccable guide on how to lure, demand, negotiate, get first time clients addicted until they come back again and again.

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