It was an awfully dry sunny Sunday. Almost everybody got no work and had no choice but to get wedged in the box-shaped rooms. But when the sun got higher and higher, everyone got out like ants poured with hot water by a human intruder. Being allergic to boredom, each one had his own antidote.
The occupants of room #16 busied themselves to do the laundry though their intention was obviously not much of the laundry itself. There were a couple of ladies wearing something that showed off their delicately semi-porcelain legs. There was even a suspicion that they just took their clean clothes from their closet so that they could have coy chitchats with those girls.
The next room was buzzed with a Sunday-music from their “hissing” speaker. But it was all right. Everybody was agape and hypnotically mimic the old stupid country songs. In room #14, there were only Noy Ben and I. My other two roommates were out. Stephen King's Needful Things put me under its spell. It was my kind of enjoying amid the day. If Noy Ben was effective in finding relief of this jaded day was a big question. He kept on walking from every direction of the façade of the boarding house. To whatever was his reason, I did not care. He finally climbed to our room and invited to have a drink. I said my dense “No” so he tempted the guys from the next room, where he agreed to have a drinking session.
They bought some bottles of SMB and some stuff of which they called “ingredients for Mestiza”. Noy Ben said to me in vernacular “You're such a good boy… you don't smoke and you don't also drink… keep it up…” He received only a sarcastic nod and a dull smile. I was on the climactic chapter of the book I was reading. My eyes felt a little twinge due to a long period of not blinking. But it was endurable. The session, which Noy Ben started, were getting noisier as the pitcher level got lower. But the noise was feeble over my concentration to journey in the Castle Rock1. It was almost 3 PM when I reached the end of the story and it was when the sting of the roof and every bit of their laugher engulfed me to my worst nuisance.
The towel, which rested on my deck, flew to my shoulder toward the shoulder. I splurged singing in the shower room longer than my usual period of bathing. The cold water splashing over me stirred up my mind.
From church, I was excited to retire from the fierce of the day. It was dark when I arrived but the session was still on its fire. The pitcher was still half-filled with urine-colored liquid with fresh soap-like bubbles buoyed on top of it. Noy Ben and his chums looked like roasted men. They looked like their faces were about to explode with so much redness. I passed by them without even having a snap glance to their direction. I changed to my tattered clothes. I finished brushing my teeth and splashing some water. But I could not sleep yet. They're really too disgusting to my senses. The topics they talked about were too scanty to my level. I could not stand to listen to their nonsense so I escaped from their presence.
After I spent a breathing moments with some people whom I felt worthy to have conversations with, I found Noy Ben sitting at the entrance of the door. He was so alone. He looked as if time and being deserted in the galleon galloped him. He said sorry to me. I had no idea of what's the drama behind it. I replied a numb “Ok.” But he explained “I would want to apologize to you in advance because I am too noisy when I get drunk.” “Ah… Ok…” was what he got from me because I hate to talk to a drunk. It was a technique of shutting a person from talking, which I learned somewhere I read. But it was not effective to Noy Ben. He kept on talking, which later on I felt like a counselor, listening from someone's tribulations in life. Or worse I felt like a kindergarten schoolteacher listening to a pupil who held himself from crying even after being snatched with a lollipop.
As the tall tale got any longer, I realized that I have dove into his sentiments. I sympathized the murk of his personal stories. He had so many regrets. He even recalled his aunt asking him to be serious in his studies. But like many teenagers he revolted from his aunt's advices and went on his own preferred way of living. He spitted series of laughs while detailing his experiences. But there was nothing in it but a clue of mourns. He was smiling though. Also, he expressed his jealousy over his former classmates. He said with pride that his classmates and used to be his playmates were now in a luxurious house with a couple of cars parked in their garage. He was proud of the memories he had with those friends of him.
I kept hushed more than intended. I felt obliged to say “That's Ok Noy Ben”, but my mouth was rather zipped close. I felt guilty of thinking this man is stupid the first day he stepped on our room and that very same day he had a drinking session with the neighbors. I really have thought he was a tough guy. I even suspected him responsible of snatching my phone and stealing my two hanged pants. These were the reasons, as much as possible I avoided him. He was affable and talkative even if he's not drunk actually. However, I just didn't like him. That's all. After a period of silence, he broke “I am even jealous on you. I am also intimidated to talk with you.” I was numb-struck. I didn't know what made him feel that way. He said he really wanted to make friends with me and the other roommates. He could not do it because I was according to him invulnerable and probably aloof. I did not know what to answer. I was not sure if the complement was flattering or insulting. I didn't even think of it as a complement at all. All I know is that I began to drop my shoulder and chew over Noy Ben's words. Somehow, it made me reflect on how I see things in life.
I could feel how sad it was to be in his shoes. At his age of 45, single and having an unstable job is something I prayed not to happen to me. But for this man, racking on my right side made it through. He was able to survive with his head up. He may not know it but I salute him. Now I understand why people like him, despite how small their income, would resort to drinking liquor. The spirit of beer is so strong to make a tough guy to confess his weaknesses.
I ascended to my deck-bed and closed my eyes and almost pretended to be asleep. It was roughly midnight when he jumped into the room and into his deck. “Oh God…” I could hear him whisper through his lungs. After a moment of silence, the roof tickled with the falling rain. It was so mild enough for me to hear a series of sobs. Noy Ben cried like a child. “Lord, help me… lord help me…” is all he sighed.