My apartment’s located in one of the lagoons. I myself didn’t know how I managed to find this place and subsequently love it. From the road where jeepneys pass, you will need to walk meters to get to a waiting shed where you will find a steep and nauseating stairs with seemingly immeasurable steps. I don’t find it immense nowadays after living in this corner of the world for almost four years to date. Mornings are always feats of stamina and agility like a mountaineer who just reached the peak of Mt. Everest. Stories from the neighborhood tell of drunk men, children, and disoriented wives who stumbled and tripped while passing to this deathly stairs. Many survived, they tell, but their experience immortalized by dislocated arms, pain in their heads, hemorrhages, and lasting protuberance. But, some unluckily perished. Those who didn’t survive the ordeal of rolling down the Cimmerian abyss left their spirits there, stories tell. At one instance, an old woman cautioned and advised me to bring flashlights as I usually come home late because of my evening classes which last till 9 o’clock. She told me the story of a young little girl’s soul who pushes indiscriminately the backs of those who pass by the stairs. Fortunately, in the whole duration of my stay, I did not stumble nor pushed by any apparition to roll down. My landlady did just few weeks ago. I was shocked when I saw her one morning black and blue. I was reluctant to ask her at first what happened (this might be a case of domestic violence I guessed) but she explained it anyway when she noticed that I was a bit shocked by her sudden appearance (her face was splintered with bruises and her arms considerably clothed with tourniquet). She was one of those disoriented wives who suddenly lost balance while going down.
I guess you can’t think of a man who inhabits this place dying of a heart attack. People here are naturally exercised strenuously by the height of the stairs except for lotus-eaters whom you can hear of something like: “I hoped politicians will donate and construct an escalator here.” or “I wished I would find a partner who will carry me on his back everyday.” (Cruel punishment. Lesson learned: Never marry one of these ladies who lives here.)
From the road, you can see our village like a mound of ramshackles. Many families can tolerate the daily grueling experience. Every time I go to work I see children playing at the stairs not minding the danger they were into. Just imagine them sliding their bodies down the railings as if no one really cared about their lives. And they do this with so much fun. The daredevil instinct in them really shows. Hehe.
A lot of times, I thought of leaving and finding another flat somewhere near the city. But, oh God, I have a lot of books, thousands of them and imagining myself transporting all those books, makes me sigh. I conditioned my mind already that I would stay until I finish from law school, anyway, and hopefully, that’s only a year away. So I’d better brace myself for another year of pandemonium: women’s echoed voices shouting at their husbands at night; drunk men doing relentlessly, and always out of tune, their version of Sinatra’s “I Did it My Way” in their videokes (I think there are hundred units of those in the village); drunk teens throwing empty beer bottles and stones indiscriminately at each other’s houses; gossipers throwing cracks of laugh at each other during afternoons.
When I look back, on hindsight, and ask myself what made me stay for almost four years, I answer with so much conviction: “Nothing”. hehe. I think the place loved me for it gave me so much pleasure. I loved my bed which gave me a clear view of the night skies when I lie down at the end of the day. And oh, I loved the magical and melodious clanging of the wind chimes of every home when storms visit. Last year, the experience helped me to appease myself of so much grieving when in the mood of gloom a rush of wind passed by the village. The roaring woke me up in the night. I got up and looked at my window; it was misty with the continuous rains and splattered with droplets of water. I planted my right ear on the window and the music of hundred wind chimes serenaded me well through into the night.