by Will Liangco
In the summer of ‘92 I have decided that I would finally grow up. I have just completed fifth grade from The Temple of the Holy Spirit Elementary School—quite spectacularly if I may say so myself—and as an eleven year old boy it was high time I set all the academics aside and forget being a total grade conscious whacko. If I may so humbly detail, I was awarded an honorable mention, was Second Best in English, and most deliciously, Best in RELIGION, so it was probably not too much to ask if I would demand that this be the best summer ever. I would go on camping trips, maybe smoke my first cigarette, and most importantly, strip down and run to the beach with Leslie, the girl of my dreams. The satanista craze that had caused collective dread among the student body that year was already cooling down… we all realized that the nuns, of all people, have concocted this fantastic tale of cultish satanistas who would grab your eyeballs as you slurp murky ice scramble while waiting for the school service. The real satanistas, we were late to realize, were just about to pounce, as in a few days the elections campaign period of 1992 would start, and you would always be woken up by a symphony of the candidates’ very corny jingles. A year ago I have already finished the ritual of circumcision—guavas, labaha, and all—and my grown-up penis was raring to experience its first summer.
“This is such a horrible summer,” my brother, college student Michael, whimpered, as he fanned himself with an old newspaper. He has always been carrying that particular issue, and we would later find out that it contained the sex-ploits of the everyday man as narrated by the extraordinary Xerex Xaviera. The national brown outs have now extended to almost twelve punishing hours a day, and there was absolutely nothing to do other than complain, play jackstones with my younger sister Marissa, re-read allergic rhinitis-inducing Readers’ Digests, or competitively make a vigil beside the television ready to take command of it as soon as the electricity comes back on. In other words, time better spent praying the rosary, our mother Minerva would insist.
“We have absolutely no money for any excursion this summer,” mother said, after which she listed a litany of all the things we needed in the house, all the tuition fees for the upcoming schoolyear, the food all five kids have to stuff in our needy faces just to stay alive, and how dare you even suggest that we eat in a restaurant nobody’s setting foot in any restaurant unless you plan to wait tables! We did not have a term then for the stone-cold slash sneering “don’t you dare question my decision” facial expression that always came with such grand pronouncements. It would take decades for someone to adequately describe it, and truly it was the prototype for what would later be known as the Resting Cunt Face. Said resting cunt face would never budge, and I knew if I was going to enjoy this damn summer—long brown outs and all—I would have to take charge.
I was able to sneak out that night to run to the town perya. For years I’ve had a crush on my classmate Leslie and if I couldn’t see her in school I knew she would be in the perya. Her parents owned one of the rides, the Caterpillar, and when school ended she has been tasked to handle the tickets. I waved at her from behind the trees, she waved back, and ran to me. Even as she was slowly running towards my general direction, with the widest smile, plump breasts bouncing wildly, I was already getting a half-erection. I handed her a pink cotton candy most of which I’ve already eaten on my way to meet her. I don’t want to sound like a lecherous goat, but I wanted to watch her take a bite, then I wanted her to lick the wet-dry-coagulated sugar that would inevitably coat her fingers, maybe suck at it a little.
I have loved Leslie since grade 3. It was the sort of painful love that I had to endure daily, because truly I was a grown man with a full-on beard and mustache crammed into a pubertal mass of hormones. Leslie De Villa was not only incredibly pretty, but she was very smart, very ahead of her time—she claimed to have read the very sophisticated literature of Sidney Sheldon and Judith McNaught while her contemporaries were still stuck reading Nancy Drew reprints. While growth spurt has been unkind to most of the girls who turned bow-legged and incredibly pimply, Leslie De Villa’s breasts have filled out to such enormous proportions that for months they were all I’ve been thinking about—all day, all night, in my dreams, while having lunch, while in the bathroom…
“Thanks for the cotton candy, Joey, but what are you doing here?” she asked.
“To see you, Leslie, to see you. I’ve sneaked out of the house and used up most of my summer budget just to buy that cotton candy, so I could spend some time with you,” I said. Obviously, when I was eleven I did not believe in beating around the bush.
“As I’ve told you, Joey, I can’t go out with you.”
“Why? It’s the summer! Let’s go to the beach!”
“I can’t go out with you, Joey, because you’re poor.”
“What are you talking about… we’re eleven! I just want us to watch a movie or something, we’re not going to elope!”
Leslie muttered something unintelligible, or maybe I was just getting dizzy from being rejected outright—I have walked through the bush straight into the smooth swing of her samurai that sliced cleanly through my neck. My eyes blurred, my ears rang, the children’s laughter swirling with the megaphoned invitations to play balloon darts, watch the mutant mermaid from Sorsogon, or feed the paralytic transsexual cannibal some live chickens. I’ve noticed that Leslie’s face was getting redder, so I walked out on her, cock-blocked and completely frustrated. Leslie always had that cute mestiza flush the adults were so fond of. We would later learn that it was a sign of lupus, and in ten years or so she would die from its complications.
The next day my parents visited a relative to ask for a loan for the succeeding year’s tuition fees. Michael supposedly went to a Pansol resort with his best friend Albert. I was alone, completely dejected, drenched in sweat because of the scheduled power failure once again, replaying in my head how that encounter with Leslie couldn’t have possibly gone any worse. Maybe I should have been more subtle. I started to write a poem in an attempt to purge myself of my desires: Oh, Leslie/dear Leslie/your vagina…
What the hell is wrong with me!
Luckily the lights turned back on, and in my melancholy I knew there was only one thing left to do. I rushed to my father’s cabinet where he kept his thick World War II books and carefully removed them. And then I found the goldmine—a Betamax copy of Interracial Sluts Part 4. I have never watched porn before, but as my classmate Rodrigo told me, it would change the way you look at things forever.
I plugged the Betamax and put the cassette in, my heart racing so fast, my tummy getting all sorts of cramps, sweat forming continents on my sando. I could barely see any image at first, some blue green filter flickering on the screen for about a minute or so. And then it started. Two buxom women in matching bathing suits, a blonde Caucasian and an oriental, were laughing and walking in the forest. They sat on the muddy field and drenched themselves in mud, still giggling. Caucasian woman screamed “WOOH!” as she stripped away her bikini top and bathed her bare boobs in mud. More giggling. Oriental woman screamed “WOOH!”, and so on. It was actually kind of gross. And who should walk in in the middle of their hilarious conversation but a nude black muscular guy with the girthiest tree trunk for a penis. And that was the universe’s cue to just punish me for my obscene disposition in life by turning off the power once again. Yes, the blackout has resumed.
Don’t panic, I told myself even as my left eyelid started to twitch. Surely there were smarter ways to deal with the situation, but instead of doing any of those, I ran to the toolbox, took out a screwdriver, and unscrewed the top casing of the Betamax. What confronted me was a highly organized tray of nuts, bolts, and metal rods creating an impenetrable fortress to protect Interracial Sluts Part 4. I stabbed the cassette with the screwdriver, fished out a portion of the tape, and tried pulling the spool of tape out. Before long I have vivisected the entire damn machine, the carcass spread out on the floor. In a few minutes my parents and my siblings would come back and discover that their honorable mention son, who was the 1992 Best in Religion, was jacking off to a porno.
“In the first place, you should never have kept a bold film in this house. You’re disgusting, Bernard!” my mother scolded my father. They haven’t confronted me yet, and they were holding a top-secret family conference aka motherly soliloquy—with my filthy appetites as the sole agenda. I pressed my ear firmly on the door and could hear the phrases “temple of the holy spirit”, “boyhood phase”, and my favorite, “drug addiction”.
“We should just keep this among ourselves and not embarrass him any further,” my father calmly said. “I’m sure he learned his lesson, that you don’t necessarily need pornography to get off!”
“Jesus Christ!” my mother screamed.
“It’s just a little dirty movie, mom,” my eldest brother Michael said, “I have seen a couple of dirty movies and I turned out okay… the only difference is whenever I watch it I kinda focus my attention on the hot muscular guy… I guess what I’m trying to say, mom, dad, is that…”
My mother almost burst an aneurysm.
I rushed back to my room, consumed with anguish. I jumped to my bed and felt the very warm, damp bedsheet. The room, in the middle of the brownout, felt like a cheap sauna, but I just lay on the bed and gazed at the luminous stick-on stars that peppered the ceiling. How would Leslie react at this exposed perversion? How thickly would my mother lay the guilt and for how long would she be able to weaponize it? All of a sudden I felt tears streaming down the corners of my eyes as I murmured, “fuck this summer”.●