by Esther Suson
On Wednesday, I was on my way to the National Library in a jeep from Vito Cruz Station to U.N. Avenue Station. Being the kind of person who cannot travel without craning her neck a million different directions to look out, I saw a man, maybe late twenties, pick up a large squarish stick of dark wood, the kind that comes from a broken table or ladder, and start smashing the glass jars on the counter of one of those wayside vendors.
While watching, I supposed that I should have been in fear and trembling, not believing that things like that happen in real life, and thinking that if it happened to that person it could happen to me…you know, something resembling a normal reaction. Well, I couldn’t believe it was happening in front of me, but as a student of history and current events, I am very aware that things like these happen, and that I live in one of the few comparatively safe places in the world. Worse things happen in other places, and I would be greatly naive to think they cannot ever happen to me.
No, I was watching the scene and observing how the man was in a sando basketball shirt of the Lakers (unless there is any other yellow-and-purple team that I don’t know about), how after about two smashes he lost steam. I was observing how the proprietor, a middle-aged lady bulging about her waist and hips in a black t-shirt and cut-off faded blue maong jeans, did not shout or pick a fight, but went around the cart, one hand outstretched to the man, without hesitating. I was observing how she held the arm holding the stick, not tightly, more in restraint than anything else. I observed how the man stood panting, holding the stick, in front of the cart, not attempting to hurt her, not attempting to hit anything else. I observed how she looked around as if to see if anyone had seen, and that she was not angry at all. Then the jeep went too far past for me to see any more.
Instantly, my head began spinning questions. Why did he start smashing the cart? How are they related? How did the proprietor know that she would not be hit by the angry man? Why did she go so confidently towards him? Why did his anger subside suddenly? What was their relationship?
Then, just as quickly, my head began spinning stories. Maybe they were mother and son. Maybe he was fed up with her and started smashing her source of livelihood…because she wouldn’t give him any more cash? In all events, the story I was spinning would preserve that clearest picture of all, of her fearless approach and lack of anger. It would be brilliant.
No, I don’t have the story yet. I framed the memory, and stuck it in a convenient memory box. When my story needs such a scene, it will be sitting there waiting.