Prose Header

Talking to Juanito

by Mia Tijam

Mamee talks a lot.

Says achuchuchu a lot and whatever to her friends. The wrinkled people would sometimes say that Mamee’s like that ta she’s making up for all that quiet-time ta she could not talk when she was little like me.

Some of the wrinkled people say it’s ta she couldn’t breathe when she was a baby. Something to do with the smell of new cement in the house where she lived, my Lola Doktoras say. It made her lungs sick and my Lola Doktoras say that Mamee had already died but their medicines saved her.

Some of the wrinkled people say that this was bad, and when something’s bad they say ta... ta... And when the wrinkled people and older people like my Lola Doktoras or Mamee give the reason for something all they say is ta... ta...

The wrinkled people say Mamee lived ta Mamee’s mama had cried and cried and kept on calling on this name that’s not supposed to be said to bring her back, making promises, and Mamee’s mama had kept on breathing into Mamee’s blue mouth.

Mamee was then taken to and grew up in her Mama’s old house in a barrio two hours away from here ta my Lola Doktoras say that this was better for her. The wrinkled people say it was a very bad thing, just like the mumus that lived in houses and forests and caves that my Uya and Anay tell me about are bad, bad, ta... ta...

But Mamee could really talk then, and she would talk to her Lolo Iton and Lolo Kulas. They were her grandpas and her friends in that barrio and they would talk to her. Mamee’s Lolas would tell her to pray for them ta this is good and ta they need the prayers, ta look at what their families and children had become.

When Mamee’s not talking to her Lolos, she mostly liked playing near that brown-green stout tree outside that house of the Mama Mary in a blue dress. Mamee’s mama’s house was near that tree. Some children liked playing there too and they became her friends. On nights when the dogs would awooooo, people would hear Mamee and her friends laughing by the tree.

The wrinkled people say that Mamee’s playmates lived in the tree. And that people began seeing Mamee talking to them. Some of them would even be sitting beside her. Some of them would almost have their mouths on Mamee’s mouth, like they were eating all that Mamee would say.

People are not supposed to see her playmates. Her playmates are not supposed to be there. Mamee is not supposed to be able to talk to them. Just as she’s not supposed to be seeing or talking to her Lolos... Ta... ta...


I have to go.


Mamee’s calling me.

Sari ika?”

I don’t say, so that she won’t hear me.


We’ll play later, Juanito, okay?

Uno ginigibo mo...

You stay right there.

“BATIT! What have you done?!”

Ta... Ta... It’s time for me to sleep.

* * *

The demonyo is here.

Uya, Anay, and me can hear the demonyo coming when we are in bed. The demonyo always comes with the sound of wings. The door opens and we can smell the demonyo, and he smells like the chico fruit in the kitchen we sometimes forget to eat. The demonyo wakes up Mamee and Mamee talks to the demonyo. Mamee talks to the demonyo the way she would whisper to us when we do something bad in other people’s houses or in the house of Papa Hesus.

Mamee would say to the demonyo No... Abu... I don’t want to... Abu ko...

One time I opened my eyes ta I was hearing these sounds. Like the way that bad dog in the sari-sari store would growl at me. I saw the demonyo on top of Mamee. Mamee was not wearing clothes. The demonyo was punching Mamee’s tummy. And then the demonyo’s hand moved down Mamee’s kicking legs... Mamee saw me. Mamee was crying and I wanted to go to her. But Mamee shook her head at me... Like she was saying ta... ta... I closed my eyes again, Juanito.

Sometimes Mamee is awake before the demonyo comes. Mamee would say to me, “Be quiet... Face the wall, okay? Just be quiet... Sleep...” I would hear the demonyo make the bad dog sounds again and no sound from Mamee. But I know, Juanito. I know that Mamee’s crying.

The demonyo talks to me, Juanito. Sometimes when the demonyo comes at night, we take off his socks and shoes and give him his slippers. And then give him his coffee. I can’t drink that ta it’s bad for me but it’s supposed to be like magic potion for the demonyo and then the demonyo becomes good.

Sometimes the magic doesn’t work and so the demonyo says bad things to me like “KILL JUANITO... KILL JUANITO... RIIIIIIIGHT...”

The demonyo finds this funny ta it makes me cry. But you know one time the demonyo was good and the demonyo gave me you. See, the demonyo loves me.

He’s my Dada, the wrinkled people say. But I can’t talk to him, Mamee says so ta... “Batit, be... quiet... Batit, be quiet... The demonyo is coming...”

You’re not a demonyo, Juanito, are you? You’re not, are you? Ta... Quiet, Juanito, okay? Ta... Ta... Be quiet...

* * *

Uya has a box of toys.

When I’m really good he lets me play with his PSP and little skateboard too. Mamee only gave him a toy skateboard ta he’s going to break his head hesusmariaiyosep, Mamee says. But Uya gets mad sometimes ta I don’t put his favorite toys back in the box, he says. It’s not my fault. It’s his best friend’s fault. His best friend hides them and no one can find them.

I don’t like his best friend ta he’s bad for Uya like the wrinkled people say. Ta Uya is good and friendly but sometimes his best friend gets him into fights. One time Uya just kicked this boy in his class ta he said the boy was like not there, like his classmate was asleep only he had his eyes open. Uya said he kicked the boy to wake him up ta he was not answering to Uya’s “Huy!” Uya said the boy was looking at him but more like staring at something behind Uya’s head. It made Uya feel cold and scared he said to Mamee.

And one time Uya bit this boy’s cheek in the basketball court ta the boy would not pass the ball to Uya, never pass the ball to him ta Uya was small and could not shoot the ball that boy always said, always did, always pushing Uya around. Uya would just be left holding his fists close and tight, and shaking, and then crying. Uya does not remember biting the boy, that’s what Uya said to Mamee.

Uya is very thin and small and pale, not like his classmates and playmates. It’s not his fault. It’s his best friend’s fault, the wrinkled people say. Ta when Uya was a baby and he was still in Mamee’s tummy, his friend was also there. The wrinkled people say that when Uya was in Mamee’s tummy, Mamee would often hear wings outside the house and the wings brought his friend to Mamee’s tummy while she slept.

When Mamee talks to Uya about the bad things he would do, Mamee would hug him and tell him to be good. Mamee always tells Uya to eat more and take his vitamins more. Mamee talks to Uya slowly and with pauses. When Mamee pauses, she’s really talking to Uya’s best friend who’s always behind him. Uya can’t hear them talk, can’t see his best friend.

I see Uya’s best friend, Juanito.

Uya’s best friend is a giant and his brain is outside his head, bigger than his own head. The giant rides Uya’s back every day and eats what Uya eats, drinks what Uya drinks. But at night he gets off Uya and goes to sleep in Uya’s toy box when we all go to bed.

One time when they were all asleep, I got out of bed and went to Uya’s toy box looking for his best friend. I wanted to talk to him. But Mamee found me.

“Batit! No! Be quiet! Go back to bed!”

I just wanted to tell him to stop making Uya tell me, “KILL JUANITO... KILL JUANITO... RIIIIIIIGHT.” I know Uya doesn’t want to say that.

“Batit! You can’t ever do that, you hear me?”

But I can’t talk to Uya either ta... ta...

Let’s go back to bed, Juanito.

“Batit... Go to sleep...”

Juanito? Night-night.

* * *

I want Anay to be my best friend.

She has the roundest eyes and thickest lashes and longest pretty curly hair. All her teachers and her classmates and her playmates and our neighbors love Anay. Anay is a good girl and always does what people tell her to do. They all like being with her, even the wrinkled people like her, but Anay likes being alone. Anay’s okay just drawing on her pad papers with her crayons or reading or singing to herself.

I want to play with Anay but she mostly doesn’t want to play with me. It’s not her fault ta I can’t talk to her either, the wrinkled people say. Mamee wants to say the same thing but she just says, “Batit... Don’t bother your Anay...”

The wrinkled people say that when Anay was more little than me, she would sing whenever she saw the curtains moving. But the curtains move even when there’s no wind. Anay is never really alone, the wrinkled people say, ta there is always the girl with her, the girl with hair all over her face and body, the girl always standing beside Anay.

They say that the girl used to stand always beside Mamee until Anay came out of Mamee’s tummy ta she’s Mamee’s best friend. The wrinkled people say that the girl came out of Mamee’s tummy too.

The girl would laugh as she moved the curtains ta Anay would sing. This makes Mamee laugh too and it makes Mamee smile or laugh whenever Anay sings. Anay sings whenever the girl would touch Anay’s hair and play with it. I can’t see her hands, Juanito, only hair.

The only other time I see Mamee cry is when she has to cut Anay’s hair ta it’s too long. Mamee keeps on saying, “Sorry, I have to. Sorry.”

Anay would always look at Mamee funny and tells her that Mamee’s not doing anything bad to her, silly Mamee. But the girl with Anay will be crying and begging Mamee to stop, stop, stop and Mamee stops ta she hears the girl screaming and sees that Anay’s hair is bleeding.

I see the girl, Juanito, but Anay cannot. I see the girl’s eyes and her eyes don’t like me.

She tells me that I can’t ever ever talk to my Anay and ta I... KILL JUANITO... KILL JUANITO... RIIIIIIGHT...

She sounds like a snake when she talks to me. She takes my Anay away from me and I want to tell her to stop but Mamee tells me, “Batit, be quiet.”

Sometimes I want to cut Anay’s hair while she’s asleep ta that would hurt the girl and maybe she would go away.

“Batit, don’t...” So I don’t, ta Mamee always says I’m a good girl, Juanito, I’m a good girl. So I don’t. Mamee loves me. And Mamee loves you, too.

* * *

Juanito, the wrinkled people say that Mamee did something bad when she was little like me. It wasn’t really her fault, the wrinkled people say, but bad things happened more ta... ta... The wrinkled people say that the more Mamee talked to her playmates in that tree, the more her playmates could leave the tree.

The wrinkled people say that this was bad ta... ta... So they sent Mamee back to her own house. But when Mamee left her Mama’s old house, she brought back three of her playmates with her. Mamee wasn’t supposed to do that.

Her playmates weren’t supposed to leave the tree, the wrinkled people say. They weren’t supposed to come with Mamee either. Ta the wrinkled people say that they were all supposed to stay there, just like them.

But Mamee and her three friends all promised each other, “Don’t go... Don’t go... Don’t go.”

* * *

Don’t go... I love you, Juanito, I love you...

I know that the wings brought you to me when I was in Mamee’s tummy. Just like Uya and Anay and their best friends, but not like Uya and Anay ta I could always talk to you.

You look like me, only you’re a boy like Uya, but you have the face of a goldfish. You have gray, sharp, pointy teeth. They used to be softer but they got harder as I grow, you grow.

The wrinkled people say that I can see that when I look in the mirror. I sometimes see you, Juanito, and I see you more and more when I don’t talk to you. The wrinkled people say that I have to talk to you more so that you can go home to the tree.

Mamee says that I have to talk to you less.

I’m supposed to be asleep but I know Mamee’s talking to you now, I know.

“Batit, be quiet...”

Be quiet, Juanito...

“Batit, be quiet... Come back...”

Be quiet, Juanito...

“Come back...”

Ta... Ta... I’ll be quiet now, Juanito... Ta... Ta... We’ll play again when I wake up.

“Don’t go... Don’t go...”

Copyright © 2012 by Mia Tijam

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