By: Greg Brillantes
From the upstairs veranda, Dr. Lazaro had a view of stars, the country darkness, the lights on the distant highway at the edge of town. The phonograph in the sala played Chopin – like a vast sorrow controlled, made familiar, he had wont to think. But as he sat there, his lean frame in the habitual slack repose took after supper, and stared at the plains of night that had evoked gentle images and even a kind of peace (in the end, sweet and invincible oblivion), Dr. Lazaro remembered nothing, his mind lay untouched by any conscious thought, he was scarcely aware of the April heat; the pattern of music fell around him and dissolved swiftly, uncomprehended. It was as though indifference were an infection that had entered his blood it was everywhere in his body. In the scattered light from the sala his angular face had a dusty, wasted quality, only his eyes contained life. He could have remained there all evening, unmoving, and buried, it is were, in a strange half-sleep, had his wife not come to tell him he was wanted on the phone.
Gradually his mind stirred, focused; as he rose from the chair he recognized the somber passage in the sonata that, curiosly, made him think of ancient monuments, faded stone walls, a greyness. The brain filed away an image; and arrangement of sounds released it… He switched off the phonograph, suppressed and impatient quiver in his throat as he reached for the phone: everyone had a claim on his time. He thought: Why not the younger ones for a change? He had spent a long day at the provincial hospital.
The man was calling from a service station outside the town – the station after the agricultural high school, and before the San Miguel bridge, the man added rather needlessly, in a voice that was frantic yet oddly subdued and courteous. Dr. Lazaro thad heard it countless times, in the corridors of the hospitals, in waiting rooms: the perpetual awkward misery. He was Pedro...