by Menchu Aquino Sarmiento
©2002 by Copper Sturgeon
JOJO was idly tracing arcs and swirls on the rooftop of the Faculty Center. He was alone and his urine fizzled slightly on the pleasantly warm concrete with the hiss of rain. As in the unforeseen workings of mimetic magic, there did then arise from the heat-swollen earth, the vapors of a slight precipitation to come. Jojo felt triumphant, a personal sense of accomplishment. Maybe he was some kind of shaman, and he didn’t even know it: a still untapped power which was his by right of his Indo-Malay cultural heritage and through the divine workings of that mythical hole in the sky, the same one through which government subsidized psychics during the fabulary Marcos regime had discovered supernatural powers streamed forth. Maybe it was because his was an astrological water sign, Pisces, that he could make water with such skill, channeling through well-considered sphincter and priapic muscle control, the purposeful and selective release of his electromagnetically charged bodily fluids, delicately balancing the rise and ebb of ions and protons in the atmosphere. A few minor adjustments and with enough practice, he could raise up a storm or even a light summer drizzle. He bestowed a genial benediction upon the acacia trees whose susurrant leaves and splayed, interlacing black branches always made him grateful he had gotten into the Diliman campus. Another name for acacia was raintree. Miss Farrin, his third year high school English teacher in Masbate had taught him that. She had asked him to read a sentimental love story about rain trees set in Baguio. Jojo had been aware that she was watching him read all the while with a moist, intent earnestness as though she had handed him a treasured memento, a part of her soul, and now wanted to see how he would receive it. With a lazy spitefulness, he’d told her that acacia timber was also known as monkey pod wood. A hint of pained distaste creased her perpetually anxious features. It was as though he had profaned a shrine, so he had considerately added that he liked the name raintree better. She had tremulously pronounced him sensitive, telling him that she sensed in him from the start a special vibration and had asked him to walk her home as she had all the five sections’ final quarter exams and reports to carry. It had rained, just like in the story they’d read, and he had to wait it out in the little room she rented behind the provincial bus station. After helping her arrange the piles of test papers and book reports according to section and in alphabetical order, they had sat side by side on her army surplus cot with the faded, blue-flowered Chinese cotton coverlet and the line of troll dolls and stuffed toys. Neil Young was wailing away on her portable audiocassette player and she had leaned gently against him, her frail body redolent of Wrigley’s Spearmint Gum and Johnson’s Baby Cologne and told him of all sorts of insights she’d had into his character that he had never even realized were there. Then for lack of anything better to say or do in response to her utterances, and wanting to see besides how she, an older woman and a figure of authority, would react to such overtures, he had boldly grabbed her, suddenly turning and landing so heavily on her, he practically squeezed the breath out of her as he pressed her against the thin mattress. The bedsprings shrieked while his smooth large hands cupped her bony buttocks through her nylon bikini panties. “Sus ginoo—Arru-uy! Agu-uy!” Miss Farrin had interjected, forgetting the carefully enunciated English that she had cultivated all those years since she’d been a Rotary scholar. And that had been Jojo’s first time, when he was just a boy of fifteen, and he was proud of it. They had done it three times that afternoon. He was proudest though of not having had to pay for it and that it was with a woman who was eight years older, had been...