Maris asked when I was coming over.
She is seven, held my hand the night before when Efrena was practicing a traditional Philippine dance to prepare for the upcoming winter festival. We sat together at the basketball benches watching the mayor’s wife bellow instructions at the dancers, telling them to lift their arms higher or emote more.
Maris’s house is next door’s to Efrena’s, and in fact Maris is related to her. Third or fourth removed cousins.
I had to correct Maris gently.
“You know, I’m coming over to see your momma, Maribel, too. And you..” My smile was tender and encouraging.
She’s a willowy girl, loves the color pink and will grow to be a beauty. Her hair hangs long, close to mid-back and reminds me of buns fresh from the oven – golden brown. I looked forward to knowing Maris and her family.
After gobbling a breakfast of eggs and rice at Efrena’s, I lifted that juggernaut that is my backpack and opened the creaky fence for the last time.
Smoke from stove fires carried in the air. It was 9 a.m. and already the orange disc in the sky blazed, causing a tiny bit of sweat to form on my skin.
I maneuvered down the dirt path, noting how lovely the colorful parols were, gleaming against the sunshine. They were rainbows captured in stars.
An obscene amount of cocks cawed at the back end of Efrena’s house, held by nets constructed from bamboo. The nets were shaped like rounded colanders, in this case to capture a preened animal used for God knows what, not slippery pasta, steaming and piping from the stove. A tautly muscled young man was their minder, at times lifting up the nets to feed them grain or allowing them to stand on a perch. Later, Maribel informed me why they existed.