The Sinner, the Fish and the Fisherman


“I’d stand in line for confession with old people and little kids, and as the line moved up, I knew when I got into the box that I would lie! Again!” – Mercedes McCambridge



Madrid, 2004

I FOUND THIS beautiful and solemn church, the Inmaculada Concepción somewhere in calle Velásquez. Since I don’t have work yet, I frequent this place. Just like I used to do when I was in Manila where I would always hear the twelve noon mass near our office. The Inmaculada Concepción church is huge. The first time I entered this place, I instantly felt something different. A different kind of sensation: peaceful and calm.

It became one of my favourite churches right away. I come here everyday and attend the twelve o’clock mass. Today, I arrive twenty minutes early. I settle near the door. I just sit there and feel the harmony between complete silence and absolute serenity. This is the best place to reflect on things. I just love this solitary moment.

Then, I see the light bulb above the confession box sign turns green. The priest enters and waits for a sinner to confess. There is no queue. Aside from me, there are only three more people inside the church. An old lady with a big red bag, a man in his 40´s wearing a grey suit together with a younger lady in a blue dress.

I don’t often go to confession. The most is once a year. I know that as a good Catholic, I have to at least confess my sins once a month. When I was a kid, I used to do this. Of course with a lot of prodding from my mother. But as I grow older, I no longer observe this practice religiously. As I said, once a year is enough, during holy week or before New Year’s eve.

I don’t have anything against this religious practice but for me, it’s better to go directly to God and tell him all about my sins than to a priest. It is because I have the tendency to sugar-coat some of my sins to make myself look like an obedient and a good boy. But to be honest, I am not really that comfortable telling my sins to other people. That is why, every time I confess, I don’t talk about my sins, but rather, my problems or my plans. It is more on asking for a blessing or advice from the priest than declaring my sins.

I look at the confessional box again. It is a sinless day today. Taking my cue from the fact that it is not a busy day for sinners, I feel a sudden urge to confess. This will be my first for the year. No queues, no pressure. After a few seconds of deciding whether to confess or not, I finally head towards the confession box. I do not kneel down as soon as I reach the small pew. I go straight to the priest and ask him if I can do the confession in English.

Although my Spanish is ‘acceptable’ I still prefer telling my sins in a language that I am more comfortable with. But no, he doesn’t speak English and he tells me that there is another priest who can.

Before I can tell him that I don’t want to be a bother, he is quick to tell me that my Spanish isn’t that bad at all. That we can do the confession in Castellano. I want to back out. I am tempted to tell him that I have changed my mind. But strangely, I find myself going straight to the small pew, kneel down and start my confession. Ah, God wants to be entertained today.

But since I am not really a frequent confession-doer, I realize that I have already completely forgotten the opening line before rattling off my sins. It takes me a while to remember the line. In my mind, I start with: “Bless me Father for I have sinned, these are my sins.” I intentionally skip the part where I have to say the last time I went to confession because between you and me, it was ages ago. The next thing to do is to mentally translate the line to Spanish. Darn! I blank out. I can’t remember the Spanish word for SIN! I begin translating the line with: “Bendígame padre porque soy…. soy…” (Bless me father for I am …).

A gap. Total silence wraps the air as I am trying to grope for the correct term. I can feel my pulse beating and the only sound that I hear is the clinking of the rosary the old lady with the red bag is praying with. The priest is still waiting for me to say the right word. I continue, “Porque soy PESCADOR…”

Oops! That doesn’t sound right. I am not a fisherman, am I? What is the word? I
try again, “Porque soy…soy PESCADO…”

But doesn’t pescado mean fish? Darn it! Nemo ain´t I! And being a fish is never a sin, right? Oh God I need Divine Intervention. Before I utter my next try, I take a deep breath. Lord God, I promise I will never sin again. I am not asking for big miracles here, no dead sea parting or bush burning. I just beg you to please whisper the Spanish word for SIN? I bow my head pretending to reflect. I can hear the slow breathing of the priest waiting for me to finish my opening line.

Just then, as if there is a sudden ray of light passing through the gaps of the steel bars of the small windows of the church and flashing directly to me that I remember the word! Triumphantly I pronounce the line, “¡Bendigame padre porque soy PECADOR!”

Oh God, thank you! That sounds so right. Okay, I might have sounded a bit excited declaring that I am sinner but I don´t care. Now, I feel strips of sweat on the back of my neck. I can’t avoid clenching my fist and mentally saying “Yes!” I am so proud of myself. I wink at the statue of Jesus on one of the pillars near the confessional. I am a little bit embarrassed with the whole thing that I no longer notice if the priest is giggling or is just letting this blunder pass without laughing. Or is he secretly smiling?

After reciting the opening line, I go on rattling off my sins. But since my Spanish vocabulary is not that confession-friendly, I blurt my sins according to the level of my Castellano. I carefully use simple verbs. Mostly, the basic ones, avoiding subjunctives. When I finish my monologue, the priest sounds unconvinced because I hear him say,“¿Ya está?” That’s all? Of course ya está. I don’t have to tell him that sometimes I steal salt or garlic bulbs from our landlady or lying to my flatmate for eating her rice.

“Yes, Father! Ya está.”

He then recites his “sermon” which I hardly understand because of his thick African accent. I thank him for his patience and apologize for my blooper. After praying for my sins, the bell rings and the mass begins.

Spain, Finally: Bewitched, Beguiled and Bewildered



“En Madrid sólo son buenos
Desde la cuna a Madrid”- Luis Quiñones de Benavente

“LADIES AND Gentlemen, welcome to Madrid!”

The cheerful voice of the stewardess, with her very thick German accent instructing all passengers to fasten their seatbelts resonates through the speaker. She ends her announcement at a jolly pitch. I can´t see her from where she is but I can imagine, by the tone of her voice that she is smiling widely while extending her right hand just like beauty contestants do when they introduce themselves in beauty pageants.

We are about to reach the end of our one hour-and-a-half flight from Switzerland. Our flight was delayed in Manila yesterday so we had to spend the night in Bangkok and catch a connecting flight to Zurich. From Zurich we took a smaller Swiss airplane. We are still a few miles above ground and it´s hard to hide this extreme excitement that I am feeling right now. From the moment we boarded the plane in Switzerland after an almost three-hour layover in Zurich, I have been engulfed by this ridiculously happy feeling that makes me want to jump and dance in my seat. Thanks to the seatbelt around my waist, it keeps me from the itch of boogie-ing around and kissing everyone on the plane.

Needless to say, the Madrid-bound flight is filled with mostly Spanish-speaking passengers. My ears have been on high alert mode. I hear them lisp and I see a lot of hand gestures when they talk. In front of me is a Spanish couple who has been talking to each other non-stop throughout the flight. Behind me is a Spanish grandma and her grandchild, a two-year old future football player who has been kicking the seat in front of him, meaning mine. I try to eavesdrop to every word they say, testing my comprehension skills after learning Spanish for two years in Manila. God, they speak so fast.

De Madrid al cielo. From Madrid to heaven. I can vividly remember our Spanish teacher Juan explaining to us the meaning of this phrase. It´s a popular local saying that means that the city of Madrid lies at the gate of heaven. Or simply saying, Madrid is the best city in the world, period. According to Juan, the complete phrase is “De Madrid al cielo, y en cielo un agujerito para verlo. Literally means “From Madrid to heaven, and in heaven, there is a hole to see it.” This line became popular in the last years of the 18th century during the beautification of the city spearheaded by Carlos III. It was said that when one dies, he can still see from above the Villa and the Corte that made the city grand and majestic through an opening in the sky.

Making use of the view out of my window as my improvised “agujerito”, I take a good look below. However, judging by what I see through my “hole in the sky”, I am not staring at Villas and Cortes. Instead, I see dark and light brown patches of land. And they look dry. Is this the Madrid that is the most beautiful place in the world, second only to the heavens?

As the plane gently dives to land, I don’t take my eyes off the emerging land area as it gets bigger and wider waiting for the real Madrid to come into view. My thoughts are disrupted by a soft tap on my shoulder. I turn around and see the stewardess signaling me to sit straight. The plane prepares for landing. I bite my last chunk of Swiss chocolate that was given to all passengers upon boarding the plane.

In Philippine history class in high school, our history teacher made us memorize the date March 17, 1521. The day when Portuguese explorer Ferdinand Magellan, working for the Spanish monarch, reached the Philippine shores. He was met with welcoming arms by the natives. He befriended the tribe´s king King Kolumbu who later invited him to a symbolic feast to celebrate the dawn of a lifelong friendship. The king showered them gold and ginger. At dinnertime, Magellan was told that the island was rich in gold. He and his men pretended that they were not interested in gold or whatever wealth the island must have. The truth was, he was already plotting to return again and get them. Unfortunately, a month after his arrival, he was killed by Lapu-lapu, one of the tribe rulers who rejected the Spanish colonisation.

And so today, September 2004, after 483 years, I, Nats Sisma, 29 years old, has finally reached Spain, safe, sound and no signs of jetlag. As I mentioned before, my love affair with Spain happened in 2001 when I caught this documentary about España. I instantly fell in love with its cobbled streets, castles, cathedrals, avenidas, paella and more. Outrageously. Deeply. Madly in love. To a point where it became an intense obsession for me to come to Spain. I wasted no time and took Spanish classes every Saturday. After two years of conjugating Spanish verbs, I applied for a scholarship granted by the Spanish government. After three months, I got the news. I was in.

Here I am now, in front of the immigration officer, grinning from ear to ear upon hearing the light thump as the die of the rubber stamp hits the pad of my passport. The words “Madrid Barajas” are now an indelible seal on top of my Spanish visa. I am a little bit disappointed because he didn’t ask me anything. I would have wanted to recite my first lines in Spanish IN Spain for the first time ever. But he just looked at my passport, glanced at me and with a straight face, certified my official entry to Spain, not knowing that the real reason for my stay is not only to study but also for a mission: to recover all the golds and ginger the ex-colonizers had amassed and looted while overstaying their welcome in my motherland. We are talking of three hundred thirty three years here. Hah!

The immigration officer looks at me again. Oh. Did he read my mind? Is he suspicious? Welcoming? Or it´s just a blank stare? It doesn’t take long for me to realize that he is just signaling me to let the next person in line to come forward. Still grinning from ear to ear, I pace towards the corner a few feet away from the immigration booth to get a luggage cart. Passengers are already gathered around the conveyor belt waiting for their luggage to emerge. I pull one cart. It doesn’t budge. I pull again. Nope. I drag it towards me. Something wrong with the wheels I conclude. But before I can move to get another cart, a friendly-looking señor walks towards me. Spain´s version of King Kokombu? I wonder. Instead of offering me golds and ginger, he walks straight to the cart and presses the handle downward. I feel the cart moves. The wheels are working! The helpful señor gives me a warm smile and points to the sign on the cart´s handle that says “press down to move cart.”

The airport is huge not to mention clean and cool. There are lots of people alright but everything looks orderly. I see that everybody can enter the airport building anytime they want. A far cry from our international airport in Manila where not everybody is allowed inside. When my mother, my brother and my aunt saw me off at the airport last night, they could only accompany me up to the entrance. Only passengers are permitted to enter the airport lobby. This is because everybody wants to be with a departing or an arriving friend or family member. It is a Pinoy (Filipino) thing. I am talking about truckloads of well-wishers and welcoming committee which can be the whole neighborhood complete with welcome/farewell banners.

I text my brother telling them that I have landed. After 30 minutes of waiting, our Spanish friend Carlos arrives. Blond, green eyes and a wide smile, Carlos introduces himself in Spanish. He is the boyfriend of Carla who is a friend of a friend of my friend who also happens to be a co-scholar and my companion on this trip. Carla is supposed to collect us but she has to beg off because of work. My friend and I are staying at their place in Mostoles for about a couple of days before I move to Santiago de Compostela and him, to the student dorm near the Complutense University in Madrid.

Carlos´ car is your typical European car, small and practical. It takes us a while to figure out how we can squeeze ourselves and our luggage inside the vehicle. With a lot of pushing and shoving, the four big luggage are securely tucked inside the trunk. Carlos warns us that he doesn’t speak English and we warn him that our Spanish is neither here nor there. Our first preoccupation is how are we going to understand each other. However, we don’t have a choice but to frisk away our shyness the moment he starts the ignition and drives us to their place. In between our pidgin Spanish and his below-elementary English, we are able to strike a conversation during the trip. Carlos’ smile is just all over the place and he is very patient with our grammatically-challenged Castellano. His Spanish is so crispy for its utmost clearness that it sounds like eating a crunchy fried chicken wing dipped in mashed garlic and mayonnaise in a Spanish restaurant in Manila. My first taste of conversing in Spanish IN Spain for the first time. Ever.

It is a traffic-less Saturday afternoon. The streets are wide and spic n´ span. Curiously, I notice that most of the cars are rather small. My gaze follows the red Peugeot on our left. I wonder if this small car which looks more like of a toy car, can survive the main thoroughfares of Manila especially the long and the notoriously dangerous EDSA avenue. I have always likened this uber-long avenue to a stampede scene in the movie Jurassic Park where fleeing dinosaurs are pounding each other for safer grounds. The buses passing through EDSA are definitely like those Jurassic monsters overtaking smaller vehicles in any way they can; stomping the slow, trudging the frail and plodding the weak. Urban legend says that once a driver survives driving in EDSA, he can absolutely drive anywhere else in the world, with eyes closed.

With the window open, I feel the fresh autumn breeze against my face. I watch “toy cars” drive past ours. I can´t help but wonder whether Pinoy car owners are more vain compared to their Spanish counterparts. You see, a speck on one´s car in the Philippines speaks hugely of the kind of owner the car has. When I still had “Tiago”, my Honda City baby for five months, I didn’t have a choice but to take him to the car wash twice in ten days or else he would stand out in a traffic jam filled with shiny and clean cars, old or new. I didn’t want to be bickered at by “car police” thinking that I was living by the foot of a recently-active volcano because my less than dainty car was covered with ashes and dust.

Even Carlos´ car does not escape this observation, it needs one good trip to the car wash too. Its body is dusty and the windshield has bird shit that looks like it has been there for ages. But mind, even if his small car is dirty on the outside, its interior is impeccably clean and it smells good too. Tall apartment buildings emerge in the horizon. I see a lot of graffiti on several walls of buildings and bridges. Honestly, I don’t mind. They look more like artworks than eyesores. At last, Carlos pulls over the car and we climb inside the lift lazily dragging our luggage.

Then there´s Carla who looks like a character in a Mexican telenovela, big brown eyes, dark hair and very “Spanish”. It is a lot easier to talk to Carla. Thank God she can speak English. Oddly enough, after spending a short thirty minutes talking to her, I already have the feeling that we have known each other for a long time. Like Arturo, she has a warm smile. She just talks, talks and talks. She is a human chimney too. She seems to have smoked a hundred sticks in thirty minutes; non-stop. She only stops though when she raises her two hands to highlight something that needs hand gestures. Our so-called Asian timidity and coyness has decided to say goodbye after seeing the warm reception we got from Carlos and now Carla.

It is already eight in the evening and the sun is still up. Right from a tiring twenty hour flight from Manila, we take a rest in their guest room for a few hours. When the couple sees us up and awake, our first taste of an authentic Spanish dinner follows. Cheese, Spanish omelette, chorizo and bread flood the table. Carla grabs the long baguette and cuts one chunk using her bare hands and passes the rest of the bread to the next person: me. I do the same. Much that I am delighted to have my first Spanish dinner eating bread as everybody else in Europe does, my throat and tummy crave for a plateful of hot rice to go with the Spanish omelette and chorizo.

Lively conversation ensues, juggling from our broken Spanish to Carla´s acceptable English to Carlos´ hand gestures. To go with the sumptuous meal, wine is served. To cap off the hearty dinner, my friend and I feast on peaches and oranges while our Spanish couple has one cig each for dessert. The dining room officially becomes an inverted chimney with smoke hovering over our head. After dinner, we settle on the sofa and try watching TV. Carla can´t hide her amusement when she sees our surprised reaction to the naked woman in a shampoo commercial. We tell her about censorship in the Philippines. She just releases a you-must-be-kidding-me laugh and then goes on telling us that in Spain, there is no such thing as censorship. That porno films are even shown at midnight when kids are presumably asleep.

After several channel surfing and finding no interesting show to watch, Carla tells us, in between puffing, to prepare ourselves for a glimpse of Madrid nightlife. After all, it’s a Saturday night. But not before making it clear if we really want to. Or else we can stay at home. Stay? On a Saturday night? You must be kidding me! Jetlag? What jetlag?

So off we drive to the heart of Madrid. Our first stop is a bar somewhere in Chueca. Fast Latin music reverberates in the background. It seems that our thirty something hosts know everybody in the place. Apart from eating bread at mealtime, one Spanish thing that I need to learn quick and fast is the “greeting” kisses. It is amusing to see that everybody is giving everybody a kiss on both cheeks. Even some men. At first I thought that I would only give one kiss to those whom I have already met before and a handshake for those whom I have just met for the first time. But no. Even before I can extend my hand to the newly introduced friend in front of me, she has already bent closer to plant two kisses on my cheeks.

After an hour of what seemed to be endless chatting, smoking and drinking, we move to another bar. More drinks and kisses-on-cheeks follow. I have already downed two bottles of cerveza.

Another hour has passed, but Carla and Carlos are not yet in the mood to call it a day. They lead us to yet another cool place which turns out to be one of Madrid´s chic discos somewhere in Gran Via. We never feel any signs of jet lag whatsoever because the moment we enter the place, we are plagued by the contagious party spirit of the Madrileños. We dance to the Spanish beat, laugh and drink on the crowded dancefloor.

“What time is it?” Carla asks me after a couple of hours of non-stop dancing.

“Eleven o´clock!” I give my watch a quick glance and then continue wiggling. “Eleven o´clock? But eleven o´clock was like four hours ago!”

“What?” I don’t hear what she is talking about.

She points to my watch. I look at it. And realize something.

“Oh! It´s still Philippine time!”

Why Spain?


“In Spain there’s the king – and then there’s Antonio.” Melanie Griffith

“WHY Spain?”

My boss puts my resignation letter down on his desk and looks at me, as I gather to compose myself. I have already practised what to say. I have been memorizing my speech since the day I received the BIG news. My boss arranges the pile of printed memos scattered on the table and stirs the coffee that has long been cold. He looks at me waiting for my reply.

Why Spain? I repeat the question in my head. But before I can open my mouth, he proceeds to talk. “Are you sure you want this?” He says in a low voice. I nod my head. “Are you ready to give up everything for this?” He looks at me in the eye. I nod my head once again. He is referring to my current position at work. I have just been promoted for the second time. I have just gotten my first ever car from the company. I am a District Sales Manager. I handle at least fifteen people. I am enjoying the respect of my colleagues, not to mention the perks and bonuses that the company has been giving me. Am I ready to give this all up?
I glance at my resignation paper that my boss is still holding. I mindfully chose the right words when I wrote that letter. I consciously didn’t want to part in a bad tone. I want this to be perfectly fine. I know they will understand. This is my dream. Going to Spain has long been my dream for years now. They know that.

“Yes, sir. I am.” I speak softly so as not to make my voice shake.

“You will give up your car, your position, the benefits, your bright future in this company. Have you thought about this? You are giving up a lot of opportunities for your future. Aren’t you worried about what if this Spain thing of yours will not work out and….”
I decide not to let him finish his sentence. I open my mouth. “Yes sir, I have thought about this a hundred times. I am ready. I am prepared for whatever is in store for me in Spain.”
My boss doesn’t react. He stirs his coffee again and this time raises the cup and leans forward to take a sip. He reaches for his pen and signs his signature at the bottom part of my letter. “Did you also furnish a copy to Human Resources?”
I nod.

“Well then. It seems that you have already made up your mind. I wish you good luck and I hope you made the right decision.” He offers his hand. I stand up to reach it. I take a deep breath and give my boss a smile. This has been easier than what I have imagined.

“Why Spain?”, echo the five voices surrounding me right now. The news has spread throughout the office and I have been bombarded by questions about my resignation. The five curious faces are now looking at me as if I have committed the most heinous crime against humanity.

You see, I have kept everything a secret. From the time I applied for the scholarship up to the time I received the result. I thought it was surreal. Finally, my chance of going and living a life that I have dreamed of. I didn’t want to jinx it. Only my family and some selected friends knew about the exciting news. I perfectly remember that afternoon when a friend called to inform me that I was in the list of lucky scholars bound to study in Spain. I was about to jump for joy and hug everybody only to later on realize that I was in a conference room having a meeting.

Of course they already knew about my Spanish classes every Saturday afternoon. But to actually pursue something as big as this, they never thought I would go this far. They were only aware that I was the odd guy learning Spanish. Just to pass time. One of my bosses even joked about it. “Why Spanish? Why not take French? Or German? Spanish is a dead language.” They couldn’t understand why I would waste my Saturday afternoons learning this “dead” language for nothing. What good would it give me, they argued. Spain is not a world economic force to reckon with anymore. Why even bother to go there. I just shrugged off whatever remarks they said. I was not going to let them affect me nor my dream of one day, living in the land of Don Quijote. I assured them I just loved what I was doing and I loved Spain for that matter. It was my breather from the stress my job was giving me. They skeptically accepted my line of reasoning. They tried to hide their cynicism so as not to offend my enthusiasm. They feigned support so as not to upset me. They concealed their doubts so as not to pull my spirits down. Until today.

“Are you really really sure? One hundred percent sure? You are leaving us for Spain? Do you know what you are up to?” One of the five voices echoes through my ears.

I can’t blame them. Their reaction is predictable. For most Filipinos, America is the only country outside the Philippines that can offer a bright and promising future. The land of milk and honey. Though, the Philippines was colonized by Spain for three hundred years, we don’t show much affinity with our former colonizer. After the Spaniards left the Philippines, the Americans took over. The pro-American stance taken by past and present governments left the Philippines finding itself alienated to its one time colonist.

We may not speak Spanish, but the Spanish culture is a great influence among Filipinos. We are 80 percent Catholic. We are the only Asian country that has Spanish sounding surnames. We celebrate fiestas all year round. We employ 20 percent of Spanish words in our language. We are even described as the Latinos of Asia for being happy, cheerful and friendly, traits that we share with the Spaniards. Sadly however, for most of us, Spain is just a thing of the past. A former colonizer, that is. The old world. Nothing more than bullfighting, paella, guardia civil or Julio Iglesias or Real Madrid and Rafa Nadal for the younger ones. Nothing more.


I must admit though that I was once one of the many who thought of Spain this way. But this did not stop me from exploring the possibility of visiting this once great nation. It all started after watching a documentary about Spain. I was intrigued by its beauty and magic. I was beguiled by its grand culture, its fascinating history. I woke up one morning telling myself I was Spain-bound.

Actually the truth was, I wasn’t sure how this whole Spain thing was going to happen. Maybe luck would just come knocking at my door one day, like a long lost rich grandfather looking for a long lost grandson to bequeath his riches to and that grandson turned out to be me. I would then use that money for Spain. I would be living my dream. Everything would be like, wow! But this was very far from happening. First and foremost, my two grandfathers are already dead and were not rich. I had to do something to make my dream come true. In between salivating daydreams, I took Spanish classes at the Instituto Cervantes in Manila. It was heaven. I couldn’t describe the satisfaction that I felt being with my classmates knowing that we shared the same interests and the love for Spain. And whoever said that Spanish was a dead language must be skinned alive.

I FASTEN MY SEATBELT. I can’t contain my excitement. I am finally going to Spain. There are still passengers standing in the aisle looking for their seats. I look outside the window. It’s dark. I feel my mobile phone vibrating. A text from my brother, reminding me to pray the rosary during the flight. Obviously it came from my mother. I can’t help but smile. After 28 years, I will be away from my family. I will be living alone in a foreign land. I press the keys and type “Okidoki.” I switch it off and recline my seat. In 18 hours, I will be in a totally different world. I hear the flight attendant speaking on the PA system telling everyone to settle down. In a few minutes, the plane starts moving and prepares to take off. I comfortably rest my head against the window. This is it, I tell myself. I reach for my pocket, fish inside it and take out my rosary. But before I start to pray, I hear myself saying.

“Why not Spain?”

Taking a break, pressing the brakes

father and son3.jpg

I´m sitting on a bench near the Bicing bicycle parking waiting for  someone to return a bike that will take me  home when I catch a father trying to teach his son how to ride a bike a few feet away.  The boy, around seven  can already balance himself on his bicycle.   Perhaps father and son have been practicing  for some time now. He just wants his dad to walk behind him.

The path is going downhill.  The  father signals the boy to turn around and avoid the way down. The boy wants to drive downhill.  His father  gives in and gives his son  a reassuring nod. Off pedals the boy. At first, hesitant but later on, having  the right rhythm, the boy  bikes down smoothly.

The boy seems pleased with what he is doing.  He pedals and pedals.  Faster and faster until he can no longer  control his speed.  He is going down quicker than he is supposed to be.  His dad  panics and immediately runs after his son.   The boy starts screaming. Calling his father´s name.  He is losing control of the bicycle, the boy  is going to fall.    His dad, doubling his pace,   finally gets to grab the saddle  with his right hand in time before the bike falls to the ground.

The bike skids a bit.  It doesn´t fall.  The  boy doesn´t fall off his bike.  Now he is sobbing. The boy´s dad tries to console his son. He points to the brake of the bicycle.

“Use this if you want to stop.”

He doesn´t want to ride his bike anymore. The boy runs to the bench where I am sitting.  He sits on the edge of the bench with arms  crossed and head bowed down, sulking like a seven-year-old  kid who has just had a not so pleasant bicycle incident.  His father smiles at his son, leaves the bike unmanned, walks towards the bench and puts his arms around the boy.

“It´s okay to go fast.  Just use the brakes.”

The son looks at his father and nods slowly. He wipes his tears away,   walks to his bike and gives his dad a wide smile.  He is ready to roll his bike again.










Another morning, every morning



I hold on to the blanket as tight as I can.  I fight the urge of opening my eyes.  Not because I am still sleepy.  Well, yes I still am.  But  because it is coming to me now, just like every morning.   It is attacking once again.

Yet I don’t have a choice.  I need to open my eyes, get out of bed and get out of the house.  I slowly open my eyes.  In an instant,  my heart jumps, my pulse skips.  I am catching my breath. I close my eyes again.  The trembling stops.  It´s pitch black but my world is peaceful once more. I wait for my breathing to get back to normal.

My brain is begging  my heart to calm down. I need to be brave.  I open my eyes again and as if on cue, everything is back. All the shaking and  trembling. Heart pounding, pulse racing. The attack is overwhelming. And  I am no match for it.  It´s overpowering. It absorbs all my energy. I want to shout.

My stomach tightens. All the food I ate last night wants to go up and  out. I am going to throw up.  I race to the toilet. I catch my reflection in the mirror. I hardly recognise myself.  I look horrible. Having only slept  four hours or even less.   My stomach  tightens again.  I lean on the toilet bowl and attempt to vomit.  But nothing comes out. My stomach tightens a little bit more.

I sit on the toilet bowl with my head resting  on both hands.  I stare at the blank space in front of me.  I reach for my mobile phone lying on the small table in the corner.  Play some music.  A happy one.  A fast one.

As soon as the music starts playing, my heart slows down a bit.  I try to calm down.  I close my eyes.  When will this stop?  I hate this every morning. I can’t  have a morning like this everyday.

I stand  up and rip some sheets of toilet paper and wipe my bottom.  I take off my shirt and my  shorts and step inside the shower.  I feel the cold water splashing against my back, then my head.  Drowning myself under the sound of the music and the water.

I can stay here. Forever.















Oh Moon, where are thou tonight?



Where are you Moon?

Sitting on the same bench.  Same spot.  Same time. Almost everyday. Five days straight except yesterday.  Were you here Moon, yesterday? Sorry I wasn´t able to come.  For  days now, I have been looking at your spot.  Same bench. Same  time.  But today, you are not around.

Mr. Guitarman´s plucking is soothing.  The waves waltz with the sand.  The wind tangoes with the sailboat from afar.  Oh, where are you Moon?   I miss seeing  your silhouette peeking in the sky hurrying Mr. Sun to go hide behind the clouds. Are you shy today?  Don´t wanna show your face? Are you blue today?  Don´t wanna show your tears?



Sitting on the same  bench.  People walk by. Mr. Guitarman  plucks, strums.  I close my eyes.  I´m swimming deeper in the labyrinth of melodies of each song.  Trying to forget that I´m missing you, Moon. I´m drowning. Down. Drifting. Lost in  the  sublime euphony of Mr. Guitarman´s strings.

Oh Moon, where are you?  Soon, Mr. Sun is saying goodbye too. I will have another one song, Moon. Mr. Guitarman is about to begin another one.  And then, it´s time to go.  I hope to see you tomorrow.

Same bench. Same spot. Same time.

But for tonight, it´s going to be a moonless night.





Barcelona, Spain




The mystery of the missing farm fly wings

I was once a fly. Yes, that famous insect of the order of Diptera. That eeky and intrusive creature you run after with a swatter. Voted as one of the most disgusting insects on earth.

A long long time  ago, I was a fly in a play.  Which play was it?  Oh, never mind.  It was a forgettable one. But surely,  it was not about a scientist who went inside a capsule sort-of-thing and became a monstrous two-winged insect. I think the play was about a grandmother who had lots of animals on her farm. Sort of a female version of Old MacDonald. Maybe it was her wife or lover. Or was it  the old grandma who lived in a shoe?  Whatever.

Anyway, I was her fly. Why did I have to be a fly, you might wonder. There are a lot of animals in the world, right? Why a fly? What was our teacher thinking? Why did I even accept such unglamorous role?

Okay let me see. I was just eight back then and kids at that time were taught not to question grown-ups who considered flies as farm animals. Neither did my mother. It  didn´t occur to her that it was her parental obligation to be bothered by the thought that her child was cast as a hideous insect in a play full of lovable farm creatures. I was expecting her to storm my teacher´s office, wring her neck and demand a credible explanation. What in the world was  a fly  doing at Mrs. Donald´s farm?

It turned out that my mother had other things in mind. If her son had to be a fly, he would be the cleanest fly ever. She bought me a neat pair of black tights and a plain body hugging black shirt. For my wings, she hired somebody to sew them. Not ordinary-looking wings, mind you. She saw to it that they would look like real fly wings with thick black wires forming the shape of the wing pattern and transparent plastic with thin black strings intricately sewn in a zigzag fashion for the wing cells. It was awesome. I was the fly with cool wings.

As I said, the play was yawn-worthy. I can´t even remember how it went. Did we sing? Or dance? Did I have speaking lines? Or did I get swatted halfway through the play? Not sure. But I knew that my mother was very pleased by my performance. Until she saw that something was missing.

“Where are your wings?” My mother was eyeing me suspiciously sounding like a real mother bird shocked to find out that her baby bird´s wings had disappeared and that her offspring was totally clueless about it. I heard her all right but I didn´t dare reply nor wait for her to repeat her intimidatingly unanswered inquiry as I immediately dashed back  to the auditorium. Back then, I was not supposed to curse. So I just swallowed my saliva that was as thick as a yarn ball and prayed to God that nobody had taken interest in my wings. Where did I leave them after our performance? I nagged myself. It was a blur. Like in a film where the character is totally wasted and wakes up in a total stranger´s bed, completely spaced out. I could have absentmindedly dropped my wings somewhere. Perhaps, somebody might have nicked them. After all, they were nice wings.

Expectedly, my mother didn’t waste time giving me an earful as soon as we got home. Like I said, I was brought up not to answer back at a furious parent nagging me about lost wings. Deep inside though, I was fighting the urge to ask what the fuss was all about. Those were just wings! I could still be a normal person without them, right? Like, I still have my legs, haven´t I?  I didn’t dare answer back of course. I shut my mouth that not a single fly could enter.

The next day, I asked my classmates about the lost wings. Nobody saw them except one: the cow. From the play, that is. My heart jumped for joy. Finally, I would be reunited with my wings and would be able to fly again.

But the cow turned out to be a shrewd one. Dreadfully wicked! Exceptionally heartless. A shameless devil that smelled of dung! “Your wings are mine now! Finders keepers!” Finders keepers my ass. I didn’t say that, of course. Everyday, I would bug the cow to give me back my wings. And everyday, he would tell me the wings now belonged to him. I reasoned out. It was okay to reason out with somebody your age, especially with someone who stole your wings. I bargained. I negotiated. I begged. I threatened. But the cow proved to be a real pain. Such a stubborn schmuck, this fucking cow. On second thought however, what if this scumbag was just pulling my leg? Just his way of getting on my nerves. Maybe he didn’t have my wings after all. But that was beside the point.

One day, he offered another revelation which eventually dashed my hopes of finally getting my wings back. “You can have your wings but you can no longer fly in them. I undid the strings and ripped the plastic. And oh, I used the strings to tie my shoes.” The cow said with a sinister smile. I wanted to see the strings, I demanded. He refused. I stared at him contemptuously,  smelling blood. I studied the cow wondering to myself how I could turn him into a can of corned beef.

I told my mother about it and she too couldn´t believe such an evil cow could exist in this world. She told me to forget all about my wings and move on. Soon, the fucking cow would be in an avatar, she consoled me; chopped and ready to be served on a beautiful plate with sauce and spices. I smiled at the sordid thought. “Who needs a pair of plastic wings?” Certainly not me. I wouldn´t be a fly in the future play anyway.

Definitely, not a cow.