Writing Assignment No.05
Say, ten years from now, I have this little girl, and her father’s gone off and had himself killed by a drunk driver, and I happen to have more topak than I do now, complete with episodes of girl-on-girl lurve, well, if that kid would be asked to write an essay about her family, particularly about her topak mother, this could very well be what it would sound like.
Here’s an excerpt from a really long piece, “No Life in Sheep” — it’s this story that this blog’s named after. How conceited of me, yes, how self-promotional. Tss. And oh, and this, and thirty more pages from the same story, as well as another three-pager, will appear in Heights’ Seniors Folio. Or so the editors say, hehe. :}
From “No Life in Sheep” —
Writing Assignment No.05
Hello. My name is Diana Marie Montoya, and I’m here to talk about my family.
My Papa’s name is Tomas de Dios. He died when I was two. My Mama’s name is Eve Montoya, and I like to call her Mama Evie. Sometimes, she lets me call her just Evie, but then I don’t call her that so much when other people are around because a lot of people get angry when kids don’t call their parents Mama or Papa. I’m writing this here, and I will tell you if Mrs. Amparo picks me to go up to the front and read this, so that you will know that when I talk about someone named Evie, I am talking about my Mama.
When I was small, Evie always told me stories about how she and Papa met when she was still a girl, in college. College is a school for big people, and it’s a school that teaches you how to do your job. I think that’s more practical than having to sit on a chair all day and do fractions or recite the parts of a sentence according to the parts of speech, and I think a lot of other kids will agree with me on this one. Actually, Evie agrees with me. She looked at my homework once and said that no one has much use for fractions in the real world, and that no one talks knowing what parts of speech they just said out loud. When she said that, I asked if I could skip school because it’s not much useful after all, but then she told me it’s the law. I didn’t want to ask her why it was the law, because her answers are always so long when she answers questions about the law, and she has to drag me to the bookstore to look through some really big books.
Anyway. In college, Papa and Evie met there, and Papa was studying how to teach kids very hard math, and Evie was studying how to write. Of course Evie already knew how to write then, because you can’t get to be big and go to college and study how to do your job if you couldn’t even write. Evie said that she already knew how to write, but this kind of writing was different. I asked her how different it was because I always thought that writing was the same way all over, with pencil and paper, and you drew the alphabet there, and the alphabet side by side would make out words, and you had to know a lot of words so you could use the alphabet many different ways. Evie said I will understand when I got older, but then I scrunched my mouth up so the top part of my lip touched the bottom of my nose, and Evie told me not to make a face, and then Evie apologized because she never said things like “You’ll understand when you get older,” and so she told me how this kind of writing was different. Evie said she wrote stories and poems, and she called the poems “littler stories,” and I really liked how the word poems sounded like: powmmms. I asked her if she wrote the stories she read to me at night to make me sleep, although they never really make me sleep because I always stay up longer thinking about the story. Anyway, Evie said she didn’t write those stories. Her face looked funny, and even if she didn’t scrunch up her lips and let her mouth touch her nose, I wanted to tell her that she shouldn’t make a face. But I decided not to, because Evie might spank me, even if Evie never spanked me, not once, not even when I broke her most favorite plate and made her blood come out when one piece of the plate hit her leg. I knew other kids were always spanked, and I didn’t really want that to happen to me. Good thing Evie says she doesn’t believe in hurting children to make them learn. She says that all the time when Grandma comes over and tells me what a terrible child I am, running all over the house with no slippers on. Grandma says all the germs from the ground will go inside my foot, but I don’t believe her because Evie told me that doesn’t exactly happen that way. Evie knows a lot of things because she owns a bookstore, and sometimes, she goes to the high school and teaches them about books. I asked my Grandma once that if germs get inside my foot, why can’t I feel them? And she said that the germs are too small even to see, and they enter very small holes under your foot. And then I asked her how come she knows that germs get inside my foot when they’re really small and no one can see them. But then Grandma got mad and said I was asking too many questions, and she told Evie again that I was a terrible child. By the way, Grandma’s part of my family too, even if she doesn’t live with my Mama and me, and I only see her three times a month, and sometimes, on my birthday.
Anyway. I asked Evie where her stories and powmmms were, and Evie said she was keeping them hidden until the time was right and she knew when to take them out of hiding. I don’t really understand this part, but I didn’t really want to ask then, because I had to know about Papa. Evie always got to talking about her different writing, and she would forget that I was asking about Papa, and so I had to remind her: “What happened to Papa?”
When I was small, Evie said that Papa died because a bad man hit him with a car. The bad man shouldn’t have been in the car, and I said, “No one should give cars to bad men.” And Evie nodded and told me I was right, but then that night that Papa died, no one cared that a bad man had a car. Then Papa died, and Evie said she was so sad, and she cried, and she cried, and her crying had scared me, and I was only learning how to walk then, I was pretty much still a baby when Papa got killed by a bad man, and baby Diana didn’t understand why her Evie was crying, and soon baby Diana was crying all the time too. Evie said the neighbors were shaking their heads because the house was so noisy, the two of us were crying all the time, and I remember that I wondered then why no one came in and spanked me and Evie, because her playmates said that their parents always got mad and spanked them when they were really noisy, sometimes, even when they were crying. But then I think now that they didn’t spank us because you can’t spank Evie because she wasn’t a kid anymore, and they couldn’t spank me then, because I was still a baby then, I didn’t even know how to walk!
I don’t remember anything about her father, or anything about crying so much that the house was really noisy and all the neighbors outside were shaking their heads no-no-no, and at first, I didn’t know why I didn’t remember, and I asked Evie why, and Evie told me that kids don’t remember much when they’re still kids, because their brains were still small.
I’m sure my brain became larger because now I could remember many things, like one time, when I was five, Evie did not come home for a long, long time, and when it was dark, and there was nothing to eat in the fridge except for some sticky green stuff in a plastic bag that smelled really bad that I did not want to eat it anyway, I had to go to Aling Isang for food. Aling Isang lives next door with her husband Mang Bert, and they have six children, and I’m sure that if one of the six children had an assignment like this, they would have really cool things to say. Anyway, when I went next door, Aling Isang hugged me and told me everything was going to be all right, but then I told her of course everything was going to be all right, I was just very hungry. Aling Isang smelled like market day, like vegetables in striped plastic bags, and that just made me more hungry.
During dinner, the table was so full with Mang Bert home from his work in the factory, and their six children, and Aling Isang had to let the youngest sit on her lap while they all ate. They ate lots of rice, and some fish mashed into little pieces that they could be sprinkled on top of the rice. I noticed that Mang Bert and Aling Isang had more brown stuff on their rice than me and the other kids did, and I would have told them that Evie never ate the brown stuff, instead left it out for the stray cats and the homeless dogs, but then that wasn’t a nice thing to say when you think about it, because Mang Bert and Aling Isang might think that I was telling them that my Mama thought they were like stray cats and homeless dogs because they ate the brown stuff for dinner.
This is actually one of the few times I saw Mang Bert, because he was always working in the factory, and on the weekends, he was always inside the house, watching the television show about chickens and pigs. That was what I heard every weekend back then anyway, and that was what Evie heard too, and there would be snorts and grunts and crowing, although there wouldn’t be any pigs and chickens around because we were living in a town where the streets were hard and not muddy, and Evie would say that Mang Bert was watching TV. Mang Bert was a small man, Aling Isang was taller than him. Mang Bert was very pale too. During that dinner, he was wearing a blue long-sleeved shirt that had a little hole near the neck, and pants that were not so blue anymore. Mang Bert had glasses in front of his eyes, and he always touched his glasses, pushing it closer to his face, maybe because it kept slipping down his nose, his nose was very shiny, and got shinier, the longer they ate, the longer I looked at him. If Evie was there, she would have told me not to stare, because staring was impolite, that’s another one of the rules. But then you know, if Evie was there, I wouldn’t have actually been there.
Anyway. I was staring at Mang Bert so much I sort of forgot to eat, even though I was so hungry, that one of the kids announced at the table that I was wasting food. I sort of felt bad for that, but I didn’t want them to think I didn’t like their food, and so I told them I was just very hungry, and I wanted to taste every little piece of rice and mashed fish. I was lying, of course, but it would be weird for me to say that I was too busy staring at Mang Bert to eat.
Aling Isang laughed at me, and the kid on her lap wiggled when she laughed, and Mang Bert looked at Aling Isang and gave her a really big smile, and Mang Bert said, “Pilya ‘tong batang ‘to,” and he put his big warm hand on the top of my head, and he just held my head like that, and even though I wanted to at first, I didn’t ask anymore what pilya meant, because it felt really funny when he held my head, and I didn’t really want the funny feeling to go away when he answered my question. Anyway, I thought that I could always ask my Mama when she got back.
After we ate, Aling Isang made the two oldest children wash the dishes, and I played with the other kids. I wanted to play lutu-lutuan with them, but they didn’t have the little pink plastic plates like I did, not even little yellow plastic spoons and forks, not even little fake plastic food all sorts of colors, and so I just played dolls with them. Their dolls were made of paper, and not even the kind Evie bought for me one birthday. These dolls were made by the kids, because I could see the smudged lines of pencils where the dolls were cut out, and there were many blue lines across each of the paper people. And each doll didn’t have much of a face, only tiny little dots for eyes, and only a few had lines for their mouths. The paper dolls I had at home all had shiny faces, with big blue eyes, and pink cheeks, and red mouths. Back then, I never played with those dolls anymore, because I had real dolls now, and they didn’t get all thin and pulpy when I took them to the bathroom with me for a bath. I thought I should give the paper dolls to the kids, because I didn’t want them anyway, I already had dolls, I might as well share.
Aling Isang told me I could sleep in the house, with the children, but I said I should go home, Evie might be there, or might come home soon. Aling Isang shook her head, and said, “We will see tomorrow,” and she said this in English, and this was the first time I heard her speak in English before. She must have done this because Evie always spoke in English, and I always noticed how Evie’s lips would pinch a little before she had to speak in Tagalog.
“Okay,” I said, and I heard the other kids giggle. I was very sleepy by this time, and I let my face be scrubbed clean, and I obeyed when Aling Isang made me swish water around my mouth then spit it on the sink, because I didn’t bring mmy toothbrush. I slept on the floor with the other kids, but Aling Isang gave me a tiny pillow to put my head on. I did not want to sleep yet, but I did anyway, I was hungry all day, Evie was gone, and I was just very, very tired.
The next day, Evie went to Aling Isang’s house, and hugged me when she saw me playing with the paper dolls with the children again, because they had so little toys, and I really didn’t mind playing with the paper dolls anyway. Evie kept saying, “Diana, Diana, Diana,” and she hugged me, and she lifted me up to carry even though Evie always said I was already a big girl, I was five then.
Evie and I left the house of Aling Isang, and went back to our own house. Evie said thank you to Aling Isang and all the other children, and the littlest kids all stared at her with wide eyes, and I knew it was because Evie was very beautiful, and she still is. That morning, she had a green dress on and her hair was fluffy around her face. I said thank you and goodbye to everyone, and I kept wondering where Mang Bert was, because I wanted to say thank you and goodbye to him too, but Aling Isang said he was in the factory. Before Evie and I left, Aling Isang gave me a really long, tight hug, and told her to be a good girl.
Back in our house, I asked Evie, who was still carrying me, why people always told me to be a good girl, when I was always a good girl. And Evie laughed, and held me tighter, Evie said, “You’re my good girl, you know that?” and Evie held me so tight I could smell her cologne, the one she used for special occasions like her birthday or Christmas: it smelled like the tiny white flowers on the side of the road, after a night of rain, like the ones Evie and I picked while we were walking back to our home under the rain because we didn’t have an umbrella.
Later that night, Evie made me go to Aling Isang’s house with a big bowl of fruit salad, which she made all afternoon. I spent my afternoon looking inside cabinets and drawers and boxes, looking for the paper dolls. When Mama asked me what I was doing, and I told her, she shook her head no, and said that maybe I shouldn’t give the kids toys, because they might feel bad. I asked her why they would feel bad when I was giving them new toys. Mama shook her head no again, and then she told me she had thrown the paper dolls away because I never played with them anyway. I felt a little sad that I couldn’t give the paper dolls to the six children next door like I had planned I could, but at least I didn’t tell anyone but Evie my plan. If the six children had known, I would have felt more sad because they would have felt sad themselves.
I guess I talked a lot about the family next door when I was supposed to be talking about my family. But then, maybe I’m allowed, because there’s only Evie and me in my family, I don’t count Grandma anyway. Besides, nothing really exciting happens between Evie and me, mostly she just reads in the house, and I just read right with her, but with a different book, or course. If I wrote here what Evie and I talk about, like those things about the law, this assignment would be longer than it already is, because Evie always takes a long time talking about that, maybe because the books she reads on that are thick too. And besides, I’ve already written more than the five pages that was assigned. But then Evie always said that it doesn’t matter if what you write is really long, as long as you write something interesting. And I think I wrote something interesting, not like the Bible, which is so long, there’s not much in it anyway. I read through the first chapters, and that was really nice, but then God started talking about all those rules about killing goats, and then it got really boring. And Evie agrees with me. Oh, another thing about my family is that we don’t have a Bible in the house. That Bible I read was from the library, because Mama’s bookstore doesn’t have Bibles either. Evie says the Bible is a book that’s like a weapon to control the minds of people, like a demon that possesses you. Okay, so Mama didn’t really say it that way, and she also had that funny face of hers when she didn’t say it that way, but I guess that’s what she meant.
I don’t know how to end this now, and so I asked my Mama, because after all, she knows a lot about writing, and I guess this is the different writing she used to talk about, and she told me that I could always say “The End” at the end. So I will say it here, partly because she makes sense, mostly because it fits: The End.