First of all I'd like to thank anyone who is patient enough to read this. I totally understand if there is exactly no one reading this. I'm probably talking in an empty hallow space of the internet.
If there is some sort of miracle that someone reads this, I hope you get to understand the evils of poverty and the ones suffering behind it. It is not enough for us to sit on our chairs all day and eat peanut butter. We must first acknowledge this social problem and take a stand. Millions are dying because of this and innocent hearts and bright minds are being lost at every second. I believe that everyone and anyone, no matter how small their contribution is, can change our world today. The first step is to understand it. My purpose of writing this novel is this. And whoever you are, (if there is even someone) I am virtually hugging you right now.
Now let us embark this one hell of a journey of two children's lives.
cover photo by: Grena drine via pinterest
And the three of us stood there, in the vast horizon with the tangerine sun setting in front of us, fighting the dark polluted sea below. For a moment, I could feel our hearts beating at the same time, and with that, it created music.
You will have nothing, thrown into a cruel world full of people who have everything. And once you dwell into that war zone, bare naked and hallow to the spirit, you will continually get scarred and broken, the choice however, is up to you, to let it inflict pain. Because that's the beauty of damaged people; they know how to survive.
My slippers are about to break, the straps are clinging into the rubber soles, they are about to disintegrate from wearing out. My feet step on the dirty streets of payatas. I continue to walk despite the smell. The smell of Garbage.
The stench grew stronger as i walk deeper inside the neighborhood. I completely ignore it and scrunch my nose. I look up and see posters of faces for the upcoming elections plastered at every post, their smiling faces deceiving you with their worthless promises and desire for greed. I sigh and look at the people around me, kids running around, adults seated everywhere trying to do sell their food to make money, old ladies gossiping about worthless things. All of them completely ignoring the grimy street and awful smell like I do. I turn to the left and stand in front of a sari-sari store, holding onto the ten peso coin like somebody’s going to take it any minute now. I squish my little hand on it and watch my skin go white. I look up at the sari sari store, junk foods and all sorts of things I want. There is a vast distance between me and the food because there is a metal window infront of it. I wait until someone shows up instead of calling.
“Yes?” he asks, looking down at my small shriveling body from the window.
I extend my hand on the small hole and tip my grimy toes in order to reach the man, I place the coin on the table inside that is connected to the window.
“One pack of noodles” I say. I felt scared that the man might take my precious coin and turn away from me, leaving me behind.
He disappears for a moment and leaves the coin behind, and I anxiously debated with myself if I should take the coin and run or wait until he shows up.
He emerged from the darkness of the other side and gave me the pack of noodles. I reach for it with my small fingertips. He claims his fat hands on the coin and puts it on a small coin box from the right, he the n stares down at me for a while. I wonder if he has anything to say. When I finally get the idea that he doesn’t have anything to say, I turn around and run as fast as I can.
The children around me are laughing and having good time with their games, they are probably playing ice-ice-water, and I ran along with them on the streets with one pack of noodle on my left hand. But I knew I was the odd one out, because I was the only one who did not have a smile etched across my face nor was I running for a game.
I felt like I was running for my life.
As I take turns, run forward and let black water splash on my already dirty feet, some women around me are looking at me in pity, already knowing what will happen next when I come home.
My home shouldn’t even be called a home, my home is made up of pieces of wood and cardboard, in a form of a miniature house, fit exactly for two people. I guess you call it shanty. It has rags, a small pot for cooking , a mat, cuts of fabric to sleep on and one pillow exclusively for marlene and her child. When it rains it means I would be sleeping with water dripping over my whole body. Leaving me uncomfortable and not being able to sleep at all. The other houses have the same thing going on as well, living in the squatter area means having wood and rags with a small shared space to live on along with a lot of people, Including the smell of garbage and the disturbance of water every rainy season and air of pollution.
I run as fast as I can until I’ve noticed that my feet are completely soaked from the splashes of water, I take the risk of slipping on the puddles. I can still feel their pitied gazes directed at me, hearing various murmurs and whispers all around. I halt as I caught sight of my tiny house. Marlene sat on a cracked plastic chair with her naked child, beng, sitting on her lap. Marlene never bothered to clothe her and think of the things that might happen with a child as young as three years old being bare naked on a dirty polluted street, I notice a huge wound gushing on one of beng’s knees. Beng is crying horrendously, this scene is what I usually see on a daily basis. Marlene’s displeased face is situated across her face, wearing her usual smug and evil eyes. Her hair is a mess just like all the others here. She never bothered to clean herself and I never had the chance to clean myself even if I wanted to. Beng’s tears are streaming out of her eyes one after the other, her wailing causing some attention, even though everyone pretended they didn’t hear anything. Marlene is my godmother, who was left by her lover and got pregnant at an early age, and now she is stuck in poverty with a child and a young stranger. I have no idea how my parents became friends with her, and chose her to be my godmother out of all the people, for I knew that my parents were good people, but marlene is wicked on all sense. She orders me around and beats me up in the process. Giving insensible reasons on why she should “discipline” me. I follow her every will because I have no choice. If I rebel and leave her, the neighbourhood will eventually point her to me and she will get me back only to beat me up harder. She takes advantage of my small and skinny stature, and the fact that I am only nine.
She seems infinitely older than me. I never understood why older people claim their power over children just because they were born years before. Demanding respect because of one’s experience in age is like demanding a book to be loved just because it has more pages than the others. And being older doesn’t give you a valid reason to become immoral. But being moral on the squatters area was a rare thing, and I should have expected that from the beginning. I’ve never respected marlene, I only do what she asks me to do out of thanking her for still letting me sleep on her so called home. Even if that home is small, uncomfortable and smelly.
“Shut up!” she screams to beng and beng closes her mouth from crying, Desperately trying to conceal her pain. I want to comfort beng but I can’t. I stand infront of them with people behind me, enjoying the show. I clung onto the pack of noodles. I stare at the both of them infront of me. Marlene swears and looks at me disgustingly.
“Where have you been?!” she screams and stands up immediately. Leaving beng to fall, her wound touching the dirty ground. She cries and wails again.
“I bought food from the sari sari store” I answer, and then extending my hand to let her take the pack of noodles. The ten peso coin that I had was the fruit of my hard work and labour of the day. I collect garbage that is worth selling to the junk shop and get money from it. The highest I can get is ten pesos. Marlene doesn’t want to work and sits around the streets the whole day, which means I am forced to work for her and feed the both of them. Even though sometimes she won’t let me eat the food that I buy. There are days where my stomach feels like a pit of acid growling and eating my flesh in whole. The only thing I can do is endure because I can’t stand Beng experiencing the same thing. There are also days where I want to collapse on the mountains of piled garbage and decompose with them, but I have to remind myself that I am feeding two people. Although the other one eats it all and leaves almost nothing for the child.
She shoves the noodles away from me and takes it angrily. Not breaking an eye contact.“How much is this?” She asks, revealing the fire in her eyes. I may not admit it, but I am afraid of her and my insides cower over her dark evil eyes. She points me the pack of noodles like it’s a knife, her round belly jiggling as she does so. She never deserved that fat and strength inside of her. She never deserved the food I give her every single day. She never deserved anything.
The foul smell of the whole place seemingly goes stronger.
“ten pesos” I answer, and look down on my dirty feet. They are full of bruises and patches of dirt stuck in between the toes. It’s still wet from the puddle running. “Ten pesos?!” She screams, causing more murmurs from my back.
“Don’t lie, It’s cheaper than that! you little prick, give me the extra money!” she screams louder, anger fuming inside her head and the hot smoke coming out from the holes of her ears. I take a step back, the only instinct I know to protect myself. For I can’t take a step forward and dare her to beat me. So I step back, like I always do.
“It’s not cheaper than that, the man didn’t give me a change. Im the telling the truth” I said, trying to convince her of my innocence. Hoping that she miraculously believes me.
“You know how much I hate lies?” She angrily asks, slapping me with the pack of noodle furiously. I watched it fall onto my cheek and slowly into the smelly and foul ground. I watched her throw all my hard work. I stare at it for a long while.
“I’m not lying” I say and I try my best not to cry. The neighbour’s whispers suddenly fill onto my head, repeating their phrases ‘such a poor girl’ ‘that woman is so mean’, I can’t help but think of those words being said and realize no one ever bothered to help me out. They were made to wound me even more.
“What did you say?” She asks threateningly, and takes a step forward in order to reach me.
I gulp and try to take in my fear. Realizing im in deep trouble for no reason. She’s playing this game with me and I don’t know the rules.
“Im not lying” I say a little shakily. She looked at me in such an evil demeanour.
I was about to take another step back, but she launched infront of me and yanked my hair violently, pulling every strand of it. She pushed me with so much force that I collapsed on the dirty ground face down. The pain on my skull aches as she drags me on the way out. I can taste the dirty mud on the floor as she pulls me away from the crowd and into her home like a ragdoll. Tears start to drop down from my eyes at every second. I can’t be this vulnerable. Im not supposed to let myself be this vulnerable. As I see the disaster being casted upon me, I feel as though every eye is directed towards my helpless body. I am nothing. I feel nothing. But the pain that she has caused towards me made me feel less than nothing.
I can hear Beng’s wailing grow even louder. I can hear my tears dropping. I can hear Marlene’s screams screeching over my ears. I can hear more murmurs behind me. From the most silent sounds to the loudest screams, I can hear everything.
She throws me inside the cardboard house and bangs the door behind her. Closing it and leaving no one to enjoy the show. I try to take in every oxygen that I get. Because even though she only yanked my hair and dragged my body towards her house, I feel like I’m dying.
She stands me up and holds both of her chubby hands on my skinny shoulders. Claiming and wanting me to stand still.
“When will you learn?” she suddenly collects more hair from my head and pulls it backward so I face her. She sees me crying and her expression turned wicked. A little smirk comes from her lips. She always gains pleasure from my pain.
“What did I tell you before about lying?” she asks in a low tone, her evil expression made me cringe. I breathe in heavily. A drop of sweat tears down on my forehead. My vision starts going dizzy.
“You hate it.” I answer, gulping. I know she can’t kill me, because living in hell would be more painful than silently rotting in the ground. She always wanted everything to be painful for me. She is my hell. So she has to keep alive in order for me to suffer more.
She suddenly slammed my face on the wall and the only words that I can hear on my mind that time was that it hurt so much. I can feel exactly all my veins throbbing at the same time. It hurt so much that I wanted to die. My scalp prickles. My whole is face buzzing from the pain. My forehead is aching. And blood comes gushing out of my nose. They were dripping on the ground. And the tears from my eyes made me see everything blurry. Another thought comes in my mind: I want to die.
She takes a wooden piece from the ground and hits my knees. I can see wound by wound appearing on my flesh. A sea of burgundy pours down on both of my legs. I pleaded her to stop. But she wouldn’t. She hit me harder.
She pushes me down on floor face down once again. I cried, pleaded and did everything I could to stop her from torturing me. I can feel the water on the ground. And I thought it was raining again, they were actually my tears and blood.
I closed my eyes and wondered if I closed it hard enough that I would permanently live in a land of complete darkness instead.
I guess I was wrong.