I have a new friend. His name is Felix. On the sidewalk, he was folding torn carton boxes and pieces of cardboard he had gathered, and putting them in his pushcart. I noticed that he was slightly lame. He was working hard, the sweat marking his dark, ragged T-shirt.
I cannot resist people like that. When you’ve finished, I said, pointing to my gate, go to my place and have a Coke and a banana cue with me.
In the yard, he sat on the extra plastic chair in front of me. He looked around. I was surprised you let me in, Felix said. When people see a poor man like me, they automatically think you might steal from them.
No, I said, I have all kinds of friends. The basurero around here, riding their garbage truck, wave at me because sometimes I send them soft drinks or at least glasses of cold water.
Felix had many interesting things to relate, one of which was that he and his wife used to be sidewalk vendors on Quezon Boulevard. But periodically the mayor would have them all driven away. Once the police confiscated all their goods and piled them in the middle of Plaza Miranda. They poured gasoline all around the pile and made a bonfire.
Why weren’t the goods just given back to the owners? I asked naively.
Because we’d just sell them on the sidewalks all over again, he said.
Why would you do that? I asked. Because we could never afford a regular puesto. But did that stop the sidewalk trade? No, he said, we just scraped capital however we could and started vending again. Otherwise, what would we eat? I couldn’t answer that. Good luck then, I said.
Love problem solving
When Felix was gone, I went to the mailbox. I found it stuffed with leaflets, all selling something. Among them were:
“New Chowking: Metro Manila Delivery; Golden Chinese Pork Rice; Pancit Canton, Regular Platter: 3 pcs. reg. asado siopao; drinks (good for 3).
“Madam Bing: Fortune Teller Master of 5 elements; Tarot card with palm reading; Love problem solving; Lucky color; prayer and ritual healing; tawas.
“Kay sarap umuwi sa sariling bahay: Primeville Residences, El Pueblo del Rico, Bulacan Meadows (ready for occupancy).
“Accept made to order marble from Romblon, Romblon: 2 sitters table with stool; Century table with stool; Black table with stool; temple buddha dragon, snake, foo dog, tiles, baluster, picture frame, ashtray.
“Hollywood Smiles Cosmetic & Reconstructive Dentistry. Our services: Full Mouth Rejuvenation; Smile Makeover; Teeth Whitening. Spacious parking with security guard.
“Pera sa Lata: Young’s Town Sardines and Corned Beef, worth more than 2 million cash prizes; Buksan at hanapin ang sorpresang premyo na nakasulat sa ilalim ng takip ng lata. Ipalit sa pinakamalapit na Bombo Radyo Station
“Alberto’s Pizza: Sisig Twist (pork sisig, salmon, red bells, calamansi); Chogburizo (chorizo de Cebu, ham, sausage), etc.”
Yes, there are all ways of making a living. I found out that the woman who sits by the entrance of the UP coop cooks and sells 300 of her bitchu-bitcho a day.
Also, just lately, I read that there were women in the US who were paid $600 an hour just to embrace and cuddle a child, a woman or a man. (That’s a hardship post for them?!) I’m glad that in the Philippines, hugs and cuddles are plentiful and for free!
I am a great hugger, they used to tell me. Give me a lesson in embracing, Sister Celia would say. But how did I become a good hugger when I started out hating to be hugged! Because my early experience in being hugged was from people who were emotionally needy. Theirs were uncomfortable, stranglehold garrote hugs.
My mother and a cousin used to give me that strangulated experience. Oh, no doubt they really loved me, but then they hugged me so tightly I couldn’t breathe. Maybe they needed energy so badly and weren’t aware they were sucking it out of me.
When I grew to be a real adult, I realized how much I, too, needed to be hugged. But I had also learned the way people didn’t like to be hugged. If I wanted a steady supply of hugs, I had to do it better, just the right type of energy exchange. Give of yourself warmly but take only what the other wants to give. A hug should not be too tight nor too loose, not too long nor too short. You learn it in time and it fulfills you.
Now here comes that lummox old European I met at a dear friend’s party who loves to pester me. If he tries to hug me I’ll kick his ancient balls in so he falls to his knees and flat on his face.
Merry Christmas and goodwill to all!