by: Marra Francillan P. Cordero
“Was there a time in your life when you were so desperate?” he asked…
Toy Kingdom was putting their luxurious products on display that day. To the children’s delight, (and to the parents’ annoyance), everything that was exhibited was worth the stop and worth the stare, for those toys displayed with all glamour were “what’s in” in the US and are precisely those type that aunts and uncles from outside the country would send their nephews and nieces and inaanaks on Christmas, birthdays and etcetera.
There were little cooking sets (made of shining materials!), miniature airplanes that can actually fly, action figures of superheroes (some of which unknown to me), and more. But what captivated me, was a very dainty dollhouse, with white walls and a pink roof, glowing amid the collection of toys, as if being on the center of a spotlight. The label said that that dollhouse has three bedrooms, two bathrooms, a living room, fully furnished, with amenities and everything that can also be seen on pamphlets given by realty corporations. I was awestruck, and it instantly became my dream “doll” house. It was by far the best (and only) doll house I’ve seen in my life, a miniature replication of a seven-year-old girl’s dilemma, to buy or to buy or be forsaken. I begged my mom to buy it for me. I was staring at it, speculating it, drooling over the pink roofed doll house, who could ever let such treasure pass? It was amazing; it was brilliant it was…
“EXPENSIVE Mia!” my mom concluded, as stern as she always was. “P545 is a big amount, and I don’t think that doll house would put some meat in your skinny bones. Let’s go now”, she said while dragging me out of the store.
Now, eleven years after that incident, here I am, being asked by a friend if I have been so desperate.
“Yeah there was…” I said quietly, “Why d’you ask Rob?”
“I was just wondering Mia”, he said turning his back away from me, scratching his head. “What was it that made you so desperate anyway?”
I told him about the doll house incident, he smirked; he grinned and finally laughed, as if it was a very ridiculous thing for me to want a doll house so desperately.
“Honestly, you’re too old to still want such a toy, Mia.”
“Oh yeah?” I said defiantly, “Well anyone can want whatever they want, besides playtime never ceases, everyone plays with different toys, it’s just that, the toy I wanted was literally something little girls wanted.”
“You’re so deep Mia that I can’t swim in your logic”, Rob was definitely out of words to rebut me. “Anyway, why don’t you help me with these magazines for my scrapbook project?”
I was about to go home, but the thought of the doll house still bothers me. When there are moments of uncertainty, I would usually find a high place where I can see everything that’s happening on the ground, it helps me think that I can find solution to these bothersome thoughts, and this dollhouse thingy is one of those. The rooftop of the administration building is usually the place that serves as my sanctuary, and there I went, to ponder on doll houses and kids’ desperations. The administration building was a five storey building, and I am usually the last person that the security guard would shoo away (shoo away because he is annoyed that I would stay there ‘til dark). It was not much of a view from up there, not even a panoramic perspective, but simply a high lookout.
“Dollhouses”, I breathed, “why would I want such a kid’s ambition? I’m turning eighteen and still this stupid wanting of a pink roofed dollhouse is all that I am pondering upon.” I was pacing back and forth telling myself to stop thinking about it and go home instead, where a nice tasty merienda is waiting for me. Then I realized that if it wasn’t for the question that Rob asked me, I wouldn’t be thinking about this anyway. But there is also this feeling that tells me, that I must resolve this once and for all, call it good sense, call it instinct, call it ESP or something, but this something tells me that it’s just not the dollhouse that bothers me, and so I breathed deeply and looked around. Now something’s different, like a new light is shining around, as if another 100 watt fluorescent bulb is turned on. The wind blew cold, but it wasn’t eerie, nor was it scary, it was rather comforting, and the view below, it’s as if I’ve never been here before, the other buildings seemed smaller than usual, and people below looked like matchsticks walking around, they looked like dolls and…
“They’re like dollhouses aren’t they?” I jumped in surprise when I heard a bored, drawling voice that whispered in my ear. “Indeed this view from the top makes you feel like you’re above them right?”
I simply nodded, and tried to look below again, but the security guard, approached me and was tutting loudly. “Tut tut, you’ve been staring below, I was really thinking that you were suicidal, but then I saw that you look amazed by what you saw down there so I was relieved that I wasn’t gonna be a witness to a suicide case”.
I smiled, half amused that this guard that shoos me from this building sometimes, knows how to crack a not-so-funny joke. “Well I’ve been thinking sir…”
“That is obvious missy, tell you what, I patrol this rooftop, because whenever I’m here, I am forced to think, not that I don’t think at all, but i have to do something to kill time…” This guard was definitely looking for someone to talk to. He smiled at me and his cream colored teeth seemed to smile themselves.
“So all these years sir”, I said, “you must have thought of a lot of things, you must be a philosopher now…hehe”
“Precisely missy! And I like the way you think”, he snorted, which I thought to be funny, but I hid my laughter so it won’t be rude. “So anyway, you do agree that those houses down there are like dollhouses?”
Oh great! I thought, “I guess so”’ I said quite uncertainly, and then I looked away, for the mention of the word “dollhouses” brought me another feeling, how childish of me to think that way.
“Too bad only a little number of people can see that, now I’m glad that there are two of us, that’s gonna be two down, and a million to go”… he was saying metaphors and is speaking Chinese now, I don’t seem to understand every parcel of his poetic line. I crossed my brows, exposing my confusion. “I mean”, he continued, noticing the expression I’ve got, “nobody compared those houses to beautiful dollhouses, they simply stare down at them and complain about all the corroded roofs and all the pathetic observations they got there, like how wrong the structure was done, how poor the design was created, and all those negative sides that the meticulous eye of a pessimist can see.” The guard was staring blankly at a nipa hut found two blocks away from across the view. It was almost tilting to one side, there were rubber wheels on the corroded center-tin roof – perhaps to prevent it from being blown away by the wind, the windows were simply covered by a piece of plywood. It was not pleasing, it was…
“An Eyesore”, the guard exclaimed,” That’s how others look at it, but there stands beside that nipa hut, the most prolific mango tree you’ll ever see.”
It was a simple and not a captivating sight at all, but indeed there was a mango tree in front of it, which I noticed for the first time, was bearing many fruits, some yellowing in their sweet ripeness. “I think it’s a beautiful place”, I said quietly, which I guess the guard heard, he smiled and asked “Now missy, what do you see below that makes you feel bad?”
I was surprised by the question. I wanted to answer, but I couldn’t. It’s not that I haven’t found any, of course I did, a lot of them to be exact, but which to answer to first? “Ahem, Mister, what makes me feel bad is that nobody notices that big mango tree there with all the ripe fruits. They’ll just decay and be fed to the worms and birds, but not a man can ever taste it, it’s sad that those who can see its fruits are those people far from it, like us here, we have to be away to fully see it.”
“Indeed you think fast, missy.” He was moving his hands while he is talking and I was torn whether to look at his hands or look him in the face. “Let’s just say that people were blinded by their own eyes”.
Am I talking to a preacher now? I asked myself warily. “How is that Mister?”
“Take it like this, water is so scarce, and you are about to have your meal, your glass is only half full of water, and your hands are dusty because of work, no spoon nor fork, would you wash your hands before eating?”
“That’s a ridiculous question mister, it’s impossible anyway, water won’t be that scarce, even if scarcity does come.” Maybe the guard was simply trying on my wits.
“No, don’t think very limited ideas, you are idealistic, but very narrow minded. Indeed it’s ridiculous, as is life, if you haven’t experienced having diarrhea in a slow moving traffic, plus having a one peso deficit for your fare, you will find it ridiculous if you see someone crying and hurrying to get home in all cold sweats, when after all…”
“But I still don’t see the point of being blinded by your own eyes…” I said, now more confused than his first Chinese verses.
“Exactly the point missy, you were blinded by your own prejudice, that’s why you didn’t see the possibilities, of having scarcity, of having diarrhea in a slow traffic simultaneous with a peso deficit fare, you know it can happen, you’re just assuring yourself that it won’t happen to you, when actually, it can…” He does make sense, perhaps all the thinking he does here on the rooftop helps him a lot to have a different perspective than mine.
“Hey Mister!” An idea struck me, “Was there a time in your life that you ever felt so desperate?” I grinned after asking him, but he looked so surprised with my question.
“Why Missy? Everyday is a desperate day for me; it has been a part of my life. What about you?” the guard rebounded my question.
“Well, I’m not desperate on anything mister, but I would say that I would always want a dollhouse”, now these words are escaping me, “not because I’m childish or what, but because dollhouses have always been so perfect, so beautiful, once you see it, you would always be enticed to look inside it, it’s like a miniature house, that one day becomes a home. It’s complicated but that’s how I see it now.” I was silent, lost for words, since those reasons I’ve said made no connection at all to what was really inside my mind. I know why I wanted it, but I can’t put it into words.
“You don’t need to explain why you want something to everyone else. Dreaming to be somebody doesn’t make you ambitious, Quitting on things that destroy you doesn’t make you a quitter, Losing on a competition doesn’t make you a loser because you learn from it, and despairing (if it really is desperation) for a dollhouse, doesn’t make you less matured.” The guard said in quite an advising manner. “Now, its 5:28 pm,” he checked his watch, “and you have to leave the rooftop, the faculty will be having some practice here on some things that I don’t know of, I have to shoo you out now… Shoooo!” he was smiling when he shooed me out.
I skipped down the stairs, quite confident and a bit lighthearted, until I remembered that I forgot one important thing, I learned a lot of things from him, but my teacher was a stranger. He was just known to me as a noun, as the security guard on the rooftop.
I walked towards the cafeteria to buy myself a bottle of water. It was then that I realized that I was so hungry; I had to go home now.
“Hey Mia”, Rob called after me, “where have you been? I gotta show you something” and without any more words, he took my hand and led me in an empty classroom. “Wait here”, he instructed, “and close your eyes, and no peeping okay?”
“What’s this all about?” I asked, confused but excited, “It’s NOT my birthday you know”
“I know, now open your eyes”, I slowly opened my eyes.
Rob was grinning in front of me, he was holding of what looked like a box with a pyramid on top of it.
“So you’re done with your scrapbook!” I said quite plainly
“NO!” It’s supposed to be a dollhouse, Mia”, he sounded so disappointed. “I’m sorry this is all that I can do, I’m not really good with crafts you know”.
“That’s obvious!” I agreed eagerly, “but I like it! Really! Thanks a bunch Rob!” I took the cube with the pyramid on top of it and admired its “uniqueness”.
Right now, dollhouses are not driving me nuts anymore, in fact, I’ve made five dollhouses now; four were given to my nieces and friends, and one, which was a nipa hut, and was definitely my favorite, was given to Manong Bert, the security guard who shooed me away. Now Toy Kingdom dollhouses don’t tease me anymore, it just make me smile, and reminds me how I’ve grown up. It wasn’t really about acting maturely, it’s more of being ‘you,’ and being open minded.