You’ll Never Know by Emmanuel M. Santos

It was 6:00pm, the street of Marikina is bleak and I can see few people walking around, busy as they always seemed. Tonight, I decided to change my route way home. I turned right, headed down an alley that was almost covered by darkness like a famous ghost town I have watched on TV. It was empty, and the blinking yellow orange light was not enough for me to see clearly the pavement. My footsteps started to break the silence as my feet were dragging over the cute pebbles and stones on the gray cement. The cold air welcomes me as it almost cuts my body. I fixed some strands of my hair that resemble to Einstein for what the Zephyr wind did to me. I was in the height of placidity, when a scrawny rat with shiny black hair and six inches tail surprised me. It quickly ran to the small hole next to a garbage bag full of rotten foods that I cannot stomach to smell. I screamed.

Along the street I noticed some movements. As I drift closer, I felt the heartbeat on my head would explode. Fear abruptly flows into my veins, sending me to be alert for whatever odd thing that might happen. My eyes caught in the first glance a man who looks skinny beyond compare. His filthy skin cannot terribly hide the visible edges of his jaw line, and his cheeks were almost eaten by his own skull. He was wearing a big dirty white t-shirt that badly suggests to be used as rags at home. I saw some tainted black grease across his shoulder blades and along the left side of his too short plaid pyjamas that exposes the red swelling rashes from insect bites. His feet were inserted in green plastic bags that serve as his shoes. Thanks to the long gray beard that had been growing for years, it keeps his face warm from the cold weather. The three strands of his hair were dancing into the rhythm of the wind. By this, and his wrinkles, and worn out skin, I believe he was in his early 70’s.

He sat on an old rusty brown cardboard box on the pavement, embracing his knees while letting it kisses to his rib cage to protect himself from the cold. His eyes were brown and hollow like he has never eaten a food for a month. He never removed his stare on the left empty box of hamburger, which lays two inches in front of him, shivering like a poor puppy left with no food. A bent piece of cardboard reading “I will work for food” was leaned up against the dark brown bricks on the wall he was sitting against. He was unresponsive, as if he was numb, lunatic, and catatonic to everything that was happening around him.

I was terrified by such condition of a man who remained sitting still despite any chaos that could happen. Almost as if he was petrified in time, which really bothers me if he’s still breathing at all. I know a situation in a horror movie where something bad could happen like Dracula would appear to suck my neck until I lose all my blood. All that was missing was a scary sound effect while waiting for someone’s curtain to close.

Splattered somewhere near his forehead was a sticky dark liquid where some flies landed at. It was blood, but I have no idea who it belonged to. Was it from him, or he murdered somebody else? Upon seeing the patches of blood over his face, I began to feel alarmed. I was in the verge of thinking that he is a cannibal and I am his next victim.  Sheer panic showered all over my body. Limitless thoughts were splashing on my fac. I had two options; turn around and run away, try to talk to him or just keep walking like I didn’t see him in my peripheral view. But the way he was sitting there was stationary, I’d bet he wouldn’t notice me perhaps, so I decided to keep walking even I’m about to die with fear.

Across the hamburger box was a wooden ladder, leading up to an old wooden window. Taking more steps closer to the old man, I sensed that the strong pungent smell was coming from him. I tried not to breathe the air that gives a burning sensation in my nose passage.  It was then I eyed an empty pack of cigarette and a bottle of whiskey resting next to him. The flickering bulb of the lamp post dapples right down on his forehead, highlighting the open wound where the flies were comfortably settled.

I continued walking along the sad street; convincing myself that everything would be fine after. I tried to walk normal, but every time I would hear a little noise, I couldn’t help but wail in my mind. The feeling drove my need to pee for a second. I never imagined any of this would happen in my life. I was oversensitive that even the slightest sound of an empty can blown by a wind, to my pulsating sound of my heart beat in my throat could make my state fumble. I believed at anytime, my death lies in his upper hand.

Within me felt something bad for the old man, and it was then I was enlightened to make a good gesture. I took stone’s throw steps leading to him, slowly and cautiously, stood few inches in front of his empty hamburger box. Pain stabbed my chest upon looking his condition surrounded by filths, where he dwells and calls it home. I sobbed and wished that he didn’t have to go through the things he was dealing with. Without a second thought, I took my jacket off without removing my eyes to him. I lay it around his shoulders gently, and wave my hand to distract the flies on his wound. For the first time, he lifted his head, where lovely colors started to paint his eyes sweetly, speaking an intense gratitude and appreciation for what I did. I paused and stare at him deeply for a moment, and my lips gave a smile fraught with pity and love. Few seconds after I turned, a mumbling sound echoes into my heart. The man turned his head to me and flimsily uttered, “Thank you”.

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