personal experience story
from where i live, i can hear her muffled screams reverberate into the night. sometimes i shudder, frightened. most often i fear for her. i am afraid for her whose voice i hear at the dead of the night. sometimes, i hear shrills as though in battle. oftentimes, it is sobs i hear. sobs that seem to have long submitted to despair and sorrow.
i recall it as though everything was surreal. it was early dawn. 5 o’clock if i remember it right. i was roused from sleep by the sounds of police siren. both intrigued and mystified, i peeked outside. there i saw her, her bloodied hands cuffed. her eyes were subdued. she was walking as though without direction – a blank, empty face that seemed without spirit. perhaps, if not for the burly police officer by her side, she would’ve lost her balance and stumbled to the ground. her hair was disheveled. streaks of perspiration lined her face. but what has chilling to me was the coldness in her eyes. it showed no human emotion. it was lifeless, dead.
i gathered later on, from the hushed whispers of onlookers and other neighbors, that earlier that day, they surmised it to be around 2 – 3 am, aling erlinda and manong darwin, had another bitter fight. the noise was excruciating, they told me. but after the noise, there was complete silence. deafening silence.
“yun pala, sinaksak na nung babae si lalake. sus maria!”, a neighbor i did not know quipped.
the first encounter
aling erlinda, a 40-something woman, with grayish hair, pimpled face, and big, thick glasses, was a next-door neighbor who was as mysterious as the dull, empty house that she lived in. her husband lived with her. mang darwin, a chinese-looking, medium-built guy, whose receding hairline attests to his old age, and who i seldom saw without a cigarette in hand, was aling erlinda’s partner.
aling erlinda, i observed, rarely left the confines of her home. every so other day, she’d go outside to clean their veranda. this usually took place in lazy afternoons, and sometimes, i would stare at her relentlessly.
she acts rather graceful, i observe. she sways gracefully as she sweeps the ground and picks up dried leaves. she is even graceful when she wipes the perspiration from her face. but she seldom, never even, looks up. her head is constantly bent, even when there are no more leaves to gather, and her walis tambo rests comfortably on their garage. she has always been like this. even when she leaves her home on sundays to hear mass. she walks straight and never looks at her side. when a person comes opposite her direction, she looks down. for several times, our paths crossed, and each time i would greet her. aling erlinda on the other hand, would frown as though she didn’t know me, but would nevertheless return the greeting – albeit, apprehensively and in a very awkward manner. i always thought this was odd.
but each time i heard her voice at night, i felt her pain.
nights of disquiet
just as aling erlinda’s home was quiet and tranquil at daytime, it wasn’t so when night fell. cuss flew from the couple’s mouths, freely and unrestrained. cries, sounds which i didn’t understand, filled the empty, dull house opposite mine. at first, i was alarmed, and presumably, so were my neighbors. but the regularity of these incidents numbed my senses, as though i as well, had also finally submitted to their continued despair and sorrow. whenever i sensed that they would have another fight, i drowned myself with sounds from my stereo, until no more were the deafening sounds at night.
perhaps all of us wear masks. we all have dark secrets that we intend to keep hidden from society’s and other people’s watchful and judgmental eyes. but aling erlinda was wearing hers on her sleeve. every so often, i saw her with sunglasses. but still, they weren’t enough deception to hide the pain in her.
once, about 3 weeks before the unfortunate incident happened, i chanced upon her as she was once again, cleaning their veranda. we exchanged greetings, and then i started a conversation with her. i gathered that she was an ilokana, from ilocos sur. but, she quickly added, it had been years since she last returned to her hometown.
i also gathered that she used to work as teller for pnb, but stopped subsequently when her husband arrived home from years of working as seaman overseas. i sensed regret in her voice as she said this to me. true enough, that was how she felt when her husband told her to stop working. “eh ganun talaga eh”, was her reply when i asked her why. i also found out that they had only one child, girbaum, who was married right after graduation from college, and later on migrated to canada.
“bumibisita pa naman ho yung anak nyo sa inyo?”, i asked her. “hindi na rin”, she snapped back. “medyo matagal-tagal ko ding di nakikita yung anak ko na yun, pero nagpapadala naman ng pera sa amin”, she added. all throughout the conversation, she seldom smiled, and yet again, she never looked at me as she spoke.
it was getting dark, so i bid her goodbye. and for once, i was pleasantly surprised because as she said goodbye too, i saw her smile.
shortly after the incident, a ‘for sale’ sign was erected in front of aling erlinda’s house. a hastily made up signboard bearing an agent’s number and address was placed near the veranda, which by that time, had dried leaves strewn all over the ground.
and the dull, empty house looked as though withered, and dead as well. it was a sight of sorrow. a chilling and sad picture all at the same time.
i still have news clippings of the incident in my locker. from the absurd and exploitative reporting of toro (misis, pinatay si mister dahil ayaw na sa sex!), to pdi’s straightforward news reporting, i have kept them secure and safe as part of my belongings.
she stabbed her husband 14 times, i read. this made me gasp in awe and disbelief.
despair and sorrow
sometimes, i shudder when night falls. half-expectedly, i anticipate the screams and voices which once filled the night in the neighborhood. but each time, i only hear the wind’s howl. the silence of the night is disquieting. its emptiness disturbing.
and though the shrills and sobs have stopped, still, the dead of the night brings deafening sorrow.