Bedroom City

BEDROOM CITY 

by BJ Crisostomo

 

Early morning the city opens its arms to the sleepy droning masses, people too tired to talk, people who don’t want to talk. We meet them in throngs across the jeepney stations, their faces too gaunt and sullen from whatever 100 hour work week they just came from. Students cramming long tests between fares. We bump them against food stalls selling kwek-kwek and twenty peso cups of mami. Welcome to the bedroom city. To your left are the forgotten children of the streets, lucky if they have eaten for the week. To the right are seedy places of commerce, their only advertisement: women with breasts looming from pink sparkling underwear by the front gate. Welcome to Bedroom city. Welcome to my home.  

Ladies and gentlemen, if you would step down from your air conditioned fucking cars, you’d meet us. If you’d stop and smell the urine oozing from the canals, the stench of the Filipino masses, you’d see us. You’d see me. You’d know what the real Filipino looks like.  Ladies and gentlemen if you’d dare pass the ins and outs of unlit valleys you’d see me.

 

 Take a right by Mang Loring’s Sari-Sari, a left by the murder scene—a stabbing for a fifty peso bill. See the lights? See the whores with their vaginas flapping by the winds, hungry for some foreign meat?  Go forward then. Forward until the street lights dim down to old television sets. Further down until there is only darkness, and you’d have to feel your way through. Right by something old. Right by something alone. Left by something dead. Finally, ladies and gentlemen you’d see me, sprawled out  and naked, my body shivering in the cold.

 

     Fasten your seatbelts, my name is Esteban and I will be your guide through the secret stairwells of my heart, the forgotten passages of my life. I hope you enjoy the ride.

               

                                                                                ***

 

“Putang ina, Esteban!” a plate is thrown against my body, and my skin rips. “Putang ina, Esteban! Kailan ka ba maghahanap ng tunay na trabaho? Kailan ka ba magpapakalalaki? Kailan ka ba tutubuan ng titi?” It hurts my ears, her sobbing. It hurts my soul. “Esteban, dalawang taon na tayong kasal. Dalawang taon na tayong naghihirap! Kelan ka ba titigil sa kakakantot ng mga puta? Limang daan kada sibak!” Another something thrown against my chest, this time it’s more solid, more painful, the dull edge of a knife. I still do not move. I still do not move, for I deserve this pain. I deserve her screams, her insults, her hatred. “Esteban,  akala ko mahal mo ako.” Finally, she collapses.

 

And there is silence.

 

And in silence, I wear my polo shirt over my bloodied sando. My tears now falling to my cheek. I tie my shoe laces, and she watches me, she watches me from her fallen state. I see her by the side of my eye, her image distorted by tears. I pick up the envelope holding my 1 by  1’s, my resume. I leave. And silence is broken.

 

“Esteban gabi-gabi , naghuhubad ako para sa’yo. Bumubukaka ako! Ipinaamoy ko ang puke kong sinabon ng maiigi. Linalaplap mo ako. Esteban mahal kita. Mahal na mahal kita… Mahalin mo rin ako.. Putang ina…”

 

She goes on like this until I’ve turned a right by the dead Meralco post, no longer pushing electricity to our place.  My feet take me forward. Forward on, until her voice is drowned out, my face push upwards, determined to change. I am determined to change to find a job. I am determined to be a good husband. I am determined to be a man.

 

                                                                                ***

 

“Ser, Esteban Cruz po!” My voice quivers. My heart is still. “Ser , Esteban Cruz po!”

 

“And what are you doing here, Esteban Cruz? Why are you here?” A man stands before me, he is smaller, the chief. A group of firemen at my back, eating their lunches.

 

 “To be a fireman, ser! To serve my people!”

 

Down. Esteban, mahirap na trabaho ang napasok mo. Delikado. Mainit ang ikamamatay mo. Mas maiinit ang pupuntahan mo.” Chuckles surround me. Chuckles. I guess they do this to every new recruit. “May titi ka ba?”

 

“Oo may titi ako!”

 

“Malaki?”

 

Malaki?  Is my dick that big? Can I handle it? Can I really man-up?

 

“Opo ser. Malaki ang titi ko.”

 

“Kaya mo ba maging bumbero? Kaya mo ba pumasok sa  nasusunog na bahay? Kaya mo ba mamatay para sa bayan mo?”

 

I speak, “Yes, ser!” my voice is still. My heart quivers.

 

The small man smiles and the firemen behind me stand up. All of them form a single line by my side. “Esteban Cruz, welcome to the Cainta Municipal Fire Brigade!” They cheer my name. Men twice my size, hoist me up and throw me mid-air. And for a moment, for one solitary moment I feel like a man. I feel like a real man again.

 

“Tama na!” The men stop, and return in line. “Esteban, bumalik ka rito bukas alasais ng umaga. Bumbero ka na.”

 

                                                                                ***

 

I go home. It has been weeks since I’ve been there. It’s been weeks since I met my wife. I slept through the streets with the same polo shirt, and bloodied sando I’ve left in, determined not to go home until I’ve found a job. And now, I have one. A real job. I am a man. I am a real man. The jeepney is fast. The jeepney was over-taking car after car. BMV’s, Mazdas, Toyotas. I’m richer than the richest man in the world. I finally have a face to show to my wife. Come on, driver. Faster! Faster! Until our lungs collapse! Faster!

“Hi pogi,” a woman in a mini-skirt calls me. She winks at me from her seat. Right in front of me. Right in front of me, she winks. “Pogi, mukhang masaya ka. Baka kulang ka pa ng ligaya”

 

“Oo, miss. Masaya ako at sa wakas liligaya na rin.” I smile, inside of me, I smile. My wife will be happy. We’ll be able to fuck again. She’ll be able to live as a wife with a real husband.

 

“Pogi,” she whispers, “tingin lang.” She opens her legs. She wears no underwear. I get a waft of a woman for the first time in weeks. The black of her hair is gone, shaved. Her most secret skin is the pink of life. Calling at me, her vagina. Her vagina was calling at me. Fuck me. Fuck me, hard. Suddenly she closes her legs.

 

“Pogi, laway mo.”

 

“Sorry miss” I wipe the drool from my chin, looking sideways if anyone say her little exhibition. No. No one. Only I saw her. Only I. Blood is still driving to my penis.  And then, the jeepney goes to a halt. The girl in the mini-skirt stands up, and places her hand discretely on my dick, squeezing it gently. In microscopic finger movements, she makes me feel like a man. Again I look sideways, pretending that still nothing was happening. Nothing was happening, ladies and gentlemen. I have a wife, ladies and gentlemen. I am a faithful husband.

 

“Pogi, bisita ka minsan sa Amihan, hanapin mo lang si Abbie.” She steps down from the jeepney, and sways her butt across my face.

 

Again, we go forward. And I look back at Abbie, the girl in the miniskirt, going down, going left, going right. Another whore in going home in Bedroom City.  

                                                               

***

 

Ladies, and gentlemen, if you would direct your eyes on the dissection table.  Look , and see the wonders of the Filipino male body, specimen #99800, Esteban Cruz of Bedroom City. 26 years old. Newly recruited fireman. Look how poverty has affected his body: darkened by the sun, hardened by labour. Look at his feet, calloused from walking from street to street, rarely having the money to ride a jeepney.  But O! Ladies and gentlemen, look at his pulsating dick. Look at his hard cock, a proud eight inches tall, bigger than most Filipino’s. Look at it. Stroke it? Feel the veins popping out. Guess how many women he’s fucked? Guess how many girls he’s said, “I love you,” to. Based from girth, width, and the slight tilt to the right, Esteban has fucked a multitude of whores, and one wife. Every month he’s gone home from one job to the next with P500 less off his pay check. He’s satisfied a lot. Ladies and gentlemen, Esteban Cruz is a sex machine.

   

                                                                                ***

 

I run. I am now running. A right by something old abandoned house. A right by something lonely car on the street. A left by the Meralco post. I am home.

 

“Honey!” I call out, “Honey, may trabaho na ako! Bumbero! Honey!”No answer. No one there to go home to. I am alone in the hovel. Tonight I will sleep on a cold bed. I sit down on the sofa, the weight of sleeping on the streets finally taking its toll. I am tired. I am so tired. By the table I see a letter.

 

“ Paalam, Esteban. Mahal kita. Mag-ingat ka.”

 

Nothing else written but three sentences. I read them over and over again. I read the space between the words. I feel the ink on the page. I imagine her writing it, hurriedly, and leaving. Leaving. Running fast. Running fast away from me.

 

For the first time in a long while, I sleep in abandon. I sleep dreamless, the sleep of those who have failed to live.

 

Ladies and gentlemen of the jury, see me. Look at me. Look at what I have done. Look at what I am.  Judge me accordingly.

                                                               

                                                                                ***

 

Six months have passed since I last saw her. Four since I got a job. Four since I read her three sentences. I’ve been working really hard. I’ve been trying to be a real man. Every morning, six am, I arrive in the fire station. I wear the suit and talk to the guys. There have been five fires in my four months, and I’ve saved two lives already. My picture hangs somewhere in the place with “Fire Man of the Month,” printed below. 

 

                “Estaban, birthday mo ngayon ‘di ba?” a colleague says as he places the King of Hearts on the table. “Mang libre ka naman, gago! Fire Man of the month. May bonus ka ‘no?”

               

                Then it starts. A chanting: “LIBRE! LIBRE! LIBRE!”

 

“Sige na! O pusoy!” I almost forgot it was my birthday, with the job and all being on constant alert.

 

It’s been six months, and it’s time for me to be a real man again.

 

                                                                                ***

 

Amihan.

 

Five of us, firemen, just from the job, fitted in our best clothes, enter the bar. It was dark, and a girl was already dancing naked on centre-stage. The smell of beer and old men gives life to my unused penis. We get a table on pervert’s row right in front of the stage, and as we all lie our butts down, the girl on stage goes on fours, her ass facing us. Cheering from the men.

 

“Pare, i-table mo’ yan ha.”

    

I don’t need too. The girl crawls to our table, and licks the boot of my heel there and then.  I look below, and the girl greets me. “Hi pogi.”

 

“Hi Abbie.”

 

An older girl walks to us, and gives us the menu. “Miss, tatlong bucket ng Redhorse, at tatlong babae,” I tell her. She appraises me, my shoes, my clothes, making sure if I can pay. “Sandali lang po ser,” she tells me. Cheering from the men.

 

“Pogi,”  Abbie, pouts near my face.

 

“Isama mo siya sa tatlo,” I call to the pimp. And suddenly, Abbie kisses me, a wet long kiss, pushing her tongue to my tonsils, grinding her naked body against mine.

 

Three buckets, after the three buckets of Redhorse we ordered, the five honourable firemen of Cainta Municipal Fire Brigade are no longer so honourable. Copping a feel from girl to girl, we sing songs, and tell stories about the fires we’ve so honourably stopped. The three girls sitting beside us rubbing their flesh against ours, the guy sitting asks them, “Haanoooo Uhleet Pa-*hic*-nga-*hic*lan mangaha niyo?

 

“Lucia.”

 

“Anna.”

 

“Abbie.”

 

And I fall face flat.

 

                                                                                ***

 

Ladies and gentlemen, I woke up the next morning alone in the bar. Abbie, sitting right on top of me, now dressed as I met her in the jeepney, in a mini-skirt. Ladies and gentlemen, from this point on I would like you to hold on to your seats, it will be a very bumpy ride.

 

“Tara na pogi,” Abbie picks me up from the floor, “I-uuwi na kita.”

 

Ladies and gentlemen, Sex machines don’t ride on oil, water or electricity but sex itself. Are you ready?

 

(GEAR 1) “Higa ka muna, Esteban, gusto mo ban g kape?” Abbie opens the door to her apartment. “Ok lang ako,” I tell her, “malaki pala lugar mo.”

 

“A hindi, kasama ko sina Lucy at si Anna,” tulog pa siguro yung mga yun.”

 

“Ahhh…”

 

(GEAR2) ”May pera ka pa ba pogi?” she asks me as she shows me her plump naked breasts. “Oo,” I answered feeling my wallet on my back pocket, money from six months of work.   

 

(GEAR3) “Maghubad ka.”

 

I take my clothes off, and seven am in the morning, we fuck in her room, her body limber and young gives me pleasure I’ve been craving for in six months.

 

“Putang ina!”

 

“Putang ina!”

 

I hit her every way. From the back, to the front.

 

“Putang ina!”

 

“Putang ina!”

 

“Putang ina, huwag ka lalabasan sa loob ko!”

 

I pull out.

 

(Gear 4) We smoke cigarettes, free of charge she tells me.

 

“May pera ka pa ba, Esteban?”

 

“Oo.” With no one to feed at home, firemen tend to be a bit loaded.

 

“Tatawagin ko si Lucia, at si Anna.”

 

(Gear 5) The three of us fuck. My right hand on Lucia’s vagina. My left on her breasts. My lips on Anna’s vagina. And Abbie! Abbie riding me full force on the cock.

 

Ladies and gentleme, breathe. Inhale, exhale. Inhale, exhale.

 

(Neutral) We have coffee. I get to know them.

 

Lucia’s a psych freak from way back when, raped by her brother they say. Anna’s a med student, trying to earn a living in the bar. And, Abbie, Abbie has many secrets. It’s astonishing how women get to work in bedroom city. Why they don’t want to talk. Why they look down whenever you see them on the streets. We of bedroom city are purely deprived, ladies and gentlemen.

 

(Reverse) Fuck! I have to go back to work.

 

                                                                                ***

 

I’m teased as  I enter  the station. “Gago pala ‘tong si Pogi, di kaya ibaba ang alak!” Cheering from the men. I ignore them and head straight to the small man’s office, to the chief’s office.

 

“Esteban, I am very disappointed. Late ka. Pa’no kung nagka-sunog. Pa’no pag may namatay habang wala ka. Kailang ka ng estasyon na ‘to, Esteban.”

 

“It will never happen again sir.” But it will.

I got to know the three.  I go to their house every day after work. I get to the fire station later than the chief wants me to. I get to fuck three glorious women every end of the month.  I never became fireman of the month again.  Two years of this. Two years in Bedroom City.

 

Until the fire.

 

 Amihan, was razed to the ground one December night. The Cainta Municipal fire brigade went to the rescue. It was no use the chief told me in the fire wagon.

 

I looked at all the survivors. I saw the pimp. I saw the older woman who pimped Abbie to me.

 

“Nasan siya! Nasan si Abbie!”

 

“Nasa  loob pa.” she told me, “Nagpapalit sila nang damit nang sumabog yung transistor at nagsimula yung apoy.”

 

 “Tama na, Esteban, wala ka nang magagawa. Pabayaan mo na lang.” I went into a screaming fit, two men had to hold me down but I got away from their clutches and dashed towards the fire.

 

Inside the stage was charred to the bone. It was an impossible cause and my colleagues outside were only stopping the fire from spreading. Smoke went into my lungs, and I found my three girls huddled in the corner of the dressing room, and I guided them from the fire. Outside the firemen applauded me. They cheered my valiant effort.

 

 Outside Abbie kissed me, a long wet kiss, her tongue pushing to my tonsils. On the other side of the streets, among the spectators I saw my wife. For a second, I saw my wife. I saw my wife and then she was gone. She ran, and I ran after her. But she was no more. She left, running as she did so long ago. She was running away from me.  

 

Ladies and gentlemen, she ran away from me.

 

                                                                                ***

 

 Take a right by Mang Loring’s Sari-Sari, a left by the murder scene—a stabbing for a fifty peso bill. See the lights? See the whores with their vaginas flapping by the winds, hungry for some foreign meat?  Go forward then. Forward until the street lights dim down to old television sets. Further down until there is only darkness, and you’d have to feel your way through. Right by something old. Right by something alone. Left by something dead. Finally, ladies and gentlemen you’d see me, sprawled out  and naked, my body shivering in the cold.

 

Ladies and gentlemen, it’s been a long time since I was home, and I found it burnt to the ground my wife’s body found black inside. She killed herself. She’s dead. And now I lay beside her, waiting for the sirens to come and wake me up from the nightmare of bedroom city. Ladies and gentlemen, I show you my cold beating heart.

 

                                                                                                —-END

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