Songs of Conviction

She used to sing it while he was playing the guitar.

She would sing and he would laugh, saying that she had got to have the most off-key voice in the world.

But that he loved her anyway.

She would  roll her eyes and get up in a huff, pretending to be angry.

She would tell him that he’s lazy and crazy and his Jose-Rizal-dreams would land him right where his favorite hero had died.

But that she loved him anyway.

He would stop playing and start dragging her back, tickling her sides as he did so. And she would resist and laugh and try to swat his arms away.

He would hold her fast and tight, pinning her down. She would then smile at him and tell him, no more.

So he would stop; and then he would kiss her on the forehead. She would pout and ask him, why in heaven, of all places, would he kiss her on the forehead.

And he would grin, that parody of a lecherous smile. And then he would kiss her properly and they would proceed to lose track of time until his cellphone rings to remind him that he had a life outside her room, outside her apartment

***

Sometimes, she’d look at his fingers and wonder. They seem so much nicer, so much more elegant, than hers. Her ginger-like hands, with the short stubby wrinkly fingers that have never learned to navigate the simplest guitar chords.

When he wanted to rile her, he would point it out, that for someone who loves to sing as she does, it’s an amazing irony that she was also tone deaf; couldn’t learn a musical instrument; and once destroyed a new stereo system all by herself because she didn’t know  how to turn it on.

Well, she would say, my talents lie in other directions: I can memorize a lot of trivial information and I am an excellent liar.

To demonstrate, she took his face in her hands, looked into his eyes and said very softly, I don’t love you, I have never loved you.

***

He actually loved it when she touched him on the face; and he’d never tell her so, but he also loved it when she played with his hair.

Sometimes she would do it because  she was nervous, like now. She would never admit it and he would never ask her. He would oblige her and pretend that they were both as brave as he said they could be.

She said once that she loved him best for his convictions.

The hell of it was, he never understood why she loved him.

Now, she was combing his hair with her fingers (again) while telling him a story that he had heard from her before. It’s not like I knew him personally, but my grandparents, they were his friends. He and his family used to attend Lola’s Sunday lunches; he had a kid who used to pull my pigtails. Then he just disappeared; his wife looked for him everywhere, even the morgues, but he was just … gone. Eighteen years … I am afraid, you know …

He swallowed. He wanted to say, me too. But he didn’t. He just hugged her tighter and kissed her on the forehead. She did not ask him why in heaven, of all places, would he kiss her on the forehead.

***

She stared at the newspapers, the flashdisk with all the video clips, the CD with some of the stuff he was working on. They were over 6  months old.  Tita Blessie sent them reluctantly.

She stared and stared, wishing with all her heart that he would listen to her off-key singing once more.

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