Phantom Drumbeats

by Esther Elizabeth Suson

As our fx passed over the bridge going to the Tramo stop (moving away from Antipolo), the world was bright with ten-in-the-morning full-glare sun. It threw every point of the outside into blazing clarity, like a picture springing into high definition.

I was glancing out the left-hand window from the middle-seat, watching the pedestrians on the far side of the bridge in a rare non-traffic moment.

Suddenly, one pedestrian caught my eye. He was moving so deliberately as to set him apart from the rest of the steadily face-forward others. In the heat, he was clad in a thick black jacket, zipped to the throat with the hood up. Obviously he preferred sweating out of every pore to the direct sun-glare. A black sling bag swung at his side.

What shook him apart from the rest of the world, dramatic as the zoom-in pull-out film technique that seems to abruptly drag you closer to the screen, were the black drumsticks in his hands, and the fact that he was air-drumming.

It wasn’t the casual air-drumming of absent-mindedness, like that three-pointer shot that Dad throws into the air, visible only to him, when he is thinking. This drummer was so absorbed, his air-world so fully intact that I could hear the phantom drumbeats from the fx.

They were not the sharp rat-tat-tat of Western snares, but the heart-halting boom of the Japanese taiko, for I could see the flow of the strike from his shoulder to his wrist in steady, deliberate strokes.

It was fascinating, the perfection of his enclosed world, so entrenched was he within it that the phantom drumbeats sounded in my head from half-way across the bridge.

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