It was once just a tiny turtle that one of my grandsons had gotten as a party favor. My son Mol kept it in the vat of growing lotuses in their part of the compound. But as the reptile grew, it would climb out of the vat to take a walk (or a leak). One day the turtle decided to live with the koi in my indoor reflecting pool.
Nine fat orange-and-black koi live in that pond. There used to be 10, but one got depressed and committed suicide by jumping to dry land. The turtle is wise because he knows they are fed a fistful of fish food in the mornings and even a merienda of stale bread.
What I didn’t realize was that the reptile had grown the size of a huge platter and was so big, and beautiful. I called him Tortoli because he looked Italian to me. Some morning Tortoli suns on a rock at the edge of the pond, which is right beside my sala. After a while he/she/it gets bored and steps down to take a leisurely walk in my sala as if he owned the house and I am its squatter.
He has two bright red lines that serve as his eyebrows and a permanent grin. His flippers navigate as easily on any tiled floor as the deepest waters.
The metrosexual reptile with the red eyebrows and smart pointy tail looks contemptuously at me. I feel ashamed because I am sipping my cup of chocolate still in the lower part of my pajamas while Tortoli is already fully made up for a proper visit.
After his house inspection Tortoli ambles to the kitchen, out its door, past the servants’ quarters and into the garden. Then back to his rock by the pool in my house. Inspection finished. God’s in the heaven, all’s right in the world.
It’s 3:30 on a sweltering Sunday afternoon. There is no traffic on the street, the adult grandsons who live with me have gone home to visit their parents in Antipolo. They will be back by midnight when it is cool, to go to work on Monday (my house is the mid-point).
The son next door and his family are in Singapore. I am all alone in the compound. It is all right as it always is when one is safe and loved by one’s children. The happiness is deep and old. I dare not make a sound lest it spill.
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