The New Era | Katrina C. Elauria

I couldn’t tell how long I had dozed off. When I opened my eyes, we were still there, seated on the couch. My eyes adjusted to the bright television screen. It was drizzling outside.

We were on our usual fare of late-evening news, watching until we fell asleep. With the volume too low, I could hear him clicking his tongue. He stopped this all of a sudden and shifted his gaze to the clock.

It was getting cold so I decided to get a blanket from our bedroom. On my way back, I stepped on a pool of water and realized that the ceiling had not been fixed.

The rain was starting to pour. I remembered about the girl who had been lying outside on the street since the accident. Nobody in the town knew her and so she was just left there.

I looked through the moist window. There was nobody outside. I tried to see farther ahead, searching for her body in the middle of the heavy rain. I saw a heap that I imagined to be her. The wet and empty street glimmered under the lamppost.

I could still hear the water dripping from the ceiling when I came to sit beside him. It was becoming more and more audible. I told him about it a week before but he seemed not to care. He didn’t care much about anything these days other than the uprising taking place in another part of the world.

He had recently been collecting newspaper clippings about street protests and insurgencies. He would sit for hours reading the articles and staring at the faces of  the individuals in the photos. One day I found him plastering the cut-outs on our bedroom wall and scribbling them with notes afterwards.

These people later on stopped from being just characters from the news. They had become members of the household over the months he had been talking about them, often in a manner that made it seem like they had actually sat down and conversed with him. He would keep on talking about them even while I was asleep.

Whenever he talked about the uprising, he would always say something about the coming of a new era. I did not know what to make of it.

It was hard not to notice the dripping sound despite the heavy rain outside.

“When are you getting it fixed?”

It took a moment before he responded. “Fix what?”

“The ceiling. It leaks.”

Images of political activists, most of them either dead or missing, were being flashed on screen. Once or twice I noticed his expression change into what seemed like a faint grimace.

“I told you about it last week,” I continued.

He thought this over for a while and said, “Oh, right. I’ll do it tomorrow.”

The sound of the rain had already drowned the voices coming from the television so he turned the volume up a bit. I couldn’t concentrate on the news.

“I wonder when are they going to take her body.”

“She’s dead anyway,” he said. His eyes were still fixed on the screen.

I wanted to tell him how nights I would wake up and have trouble returning to sleep ever since the accident. “I was there when it happened,” I said.

This time he turned to face me. “You were?”

“One moment the people were crowding over her, the next she was left alone on the street.”

He was staring at me, nodding his head as if keeping  notes on what I was saying.

“I was on my way to the church.”

He moved closer. “And?” I could see the scar on his right cheek in the glow of the television screen. I noticed that the rain had stopped.

“I’m going out,” I said.

“Tell me what happened next.”

I heard screams from the television. I turned my attention back on the news. They were showing a footage in which people were wailing and shouting and running in all directions amid gunshots and explosions. He was still staring at me.

“This is the new era,” he said in a weak voice. I couldn’t tell what he was referring to. “I’ve dreamed about this before, have I told you?”

“We have to bury the girl,” I said.

“Nobody has to.”

I was in no mood to argue so I decided to go alone. He went back to watching the news and I left.

It took me some time before I was able to find the body. When I got back, he was still sitting on the couch in the same position when I left him.  I sat beside him and resumed watching. It then struck me that there was nothing on screen nor was there any sound coming from the television. I turned to him but I could not recognize his face. I reverted to the screen but since I could not make anything out of it, I simply listened to him click his tongue again until I finally drifted off.

I woke up the following morning and saw him standing by the ylang-ylang tree in our front yard. He was busy with his morning habit of burning dried leaves, and our neighbor’s dog was barking at him as he stood there, watching the smoke rise from the ground. It was a bright day and the neighbors’ children were up early playing. I saw an airplane in the sky and watched it hover until it was out of sight.

When I went back in, I noticed the puddle of water on the floor. I looked for the mop and soaked up the floor. I waited for him to return to remind him to fix our ceiling.

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