Saturday, June 2, 2012

Crab Mentality (Part 30)

June 30, 2010 (4pm)
She was getting nervous. The two girls said something to the two guys, but she couldn’t hear them. And then the four teenagers approached her.
“Hello, Newbie,” one of the guys, Mark, greeted her with a sneer.
The other guy, Joe, tried to touch her hair, saying, “Where did you steal the dye?”
She quickly moved a step away to avoid Joe’s hand.

Chalano’s mother had told one of her friends, “The weather is good. I got to force my son to get out and breathe some fresh air, instead of getting depressed in our house. That young man should learn some responsibility and see more normal people.”
So she sent him to buy some vegetables at the nearby market.
Chalano walked out of the market, carrying two plastic bags of vegetables. He just couldn’t stand other people in commuter vehicles, so he decided to walk home. He wanted to be alone. He walked into a wide space called Park. It was beside a school. It had a basketball court, a playground, and a road that was lined by mango trees and concrete benches. There was no other person in the park except Chalano.
“You put on too much blush. Let me help you wipe some of them off.”
No, he wasn’t alone. Damn, he thought. There was a group of teenagers near one of the benches ahead of him. They were three girls, and two guys.
One of the girls looked different. Her dark hair was a bit red in color. She screamed, “Don’t touch me.”
Chalano kept walking, and tried to ignore them. Their loud voices distracted him from his troubled thoughts, and he recognized them as he moved closer. The two girls were Leah and Rica, his classmates. The girl with the reddish hair was Emma. He didn’t know the guys.
The guy told Emma, “Why do you put on too much makeup if you don’t want men to touch you, huh?”
“It’s not makeup! It’s real,” Emma replied. “Don’t come any closer!”
“The lunatic insists that it’s real,” Joe said, and the teenagers laughed together.
As he watched them, all of the moodiness that Chalano had been concealing in the past hours suddenly went beyond control. Enough. He left the plastic bags under a tree, and walked toward the teenagers.
“So what, if she’s real, or not real? What if you’re not real? Not a real man, I mean,” Chalano said to Joe. “Real men don’t fight with girls.”
The guys stared at Chalano in surprise. Mark began to snicker, and said, “Somebody thinks he’s a hero. Wanna pick a fight?”
Mark flexed his muscles, stood close to Chalano, and punched in the air like a boxer. Instead of punching, Chalano suddenly kicked Mark’s left knee with all his might. Mark lost his balance, and collapsed.
Frightened, Mark’s companions quickly dragged him away before Chalano could hit again. “He means it,” Joe said. “Let’s go.”
Mark got to his feet. Chalano angrily chased him, but Mark’s friends pulled him away from Chalano to hurry up. Chalano was left standing in the middle of the Park, yelling, “Come back here! I ain’t done with you! Don’t run like cowards! I thought that you were so brave!”
The teenagers rushed out of the Park. They escaped. All of the frustrations and anger that Chalano had always tried to hide were suddenly wild. His voice sounded so strong in the wide space. It was the loudest that he’d ever yelled in his whole life. “You think that you’ve escaped? Ha! It ain’t over. You’re not getting away. Leah and Rica, I’ll find you and your boys once school reopens! Life has too many bullies, that it won’t be a waste to kill two of them. Don’t you think?”
His voice filled the still air without getting any response. He realized how noisy and wild he had been. He noticed Emma’s stare. She had covered her mouth in embarrassment about what had just unfolded before her. He suddenly felt ashamed of himself.
“Um, well,” she said, avoiding his eyes as she removed her hands from her face. She just couldn’t find the right words to say. “Thank you for defending me … um … I must go home now.”
She took her white handbag from the bench. Chalano asked, “What did they do to you?”
“Actually, nothing. They were just, maybe, trying to scare me. They don’t like the fact that I got nominated for President of the Student Council,” she said as afternoon breezes blew on her reddish hair, and she gently moved her hair away from her face with her hand.
“Oh, the Student Council? Cool,” Chalano replied with a smile.
She became even more serious, and she looked to the ground. “They cannot accept that a newcomer to the school can be better than the old-timers. They mockingly call me ‘Newbie.’ Leah and Rica dislike me more than anybody else. I go here every Saturday, and they followed me this afternoon with Mark and Joe.”
“So, they’re Mark and Joe. I finally got those cowards’ names.”
Emma suddenly began to leave. “It’s okay, Emma,” Chalano called, almost pleading. “My friend and I are happy for you, and we’ll make sure that Mark and Joe will not hurt you.”
“Well,” she said when she stopped, and turned to face Chalano. “Thank you.”
She walked toward him, looking straight into his eyes. The rays of the sun had slanted, turning a bit golden as the day reached its final hours. Against the afternoon sun, her wavy hair looked more reddish than ever. Her gentle face was so perfect. Chalano looked into her pretty, brown eyes. He couldn’t believe how he was with the girl who he never had the confidence to talk to. He was frozen in complete fascination. She was just so nice …
She asked, “What really happened between you and the arsonist?”
Chalano turned away. He didn’t like the question. It instantly brought him out of his dreamy state. Back to Earth. He sat on an arm of the bench with his back turned to her, thinking about how to say it. She sat on the other arm of the bench, also with her back turned to him, but she turned her head to look at him in her search for an answer. Should I leave her without any answer? Should I tell her the very truth? There could be only one way …
“I saw a man walk to the back of the classrooms, and I followed him to tell him that he had entered the wrong passage ---“
“No. That was what you told everyone. You were lying. I just knew that you were lying.”
“No. This is the truth,” Chalano gently pleaded. “I informed him that he was in the wrong passage. What I didn’t tell anyone was that we knew each other. He was the leader and founder of a gang in 4th Project Town years ago, Coal. When I was younger and was studying at 4th Project Town High, I befriended a group of tough, older boys. They recruited me into Coal, and made me take part in their activities. I didn’t want to do it anymore, so I quit. Later, I learned in the news that they turned into bank robbers. They got imprisoned. I tried to forget about them, and transferred to Citrus High. But Cole, the leader, has been freed from prison.”
“So, Cole is the arsonist’s name?”
“Yes, but don’t tell anyone about it, okay? The police had ordered me to keep the information secret.”
“Oh, okay. I promise.”
Emma asked another question, “What did you and Cole talk about?”
Chalano looked to the ground. “He told me that I should stop pretending to be good. He said that I would never become good because I was a criminal. He told me that he had burned his whole family, and that he hadn’t stopped burning his enemies since. He was planning to make me a suspect of the arson of our school. He said that Kim was actually my enemy, because he was good. He reminded me of our days together in Coal.”
“Oh, my goodness,” she pressed her hand on her forehead.
Chalano glanced at her to see if she could still tolerate what he was going to say next, because he really needed to say it. He never had someone to tell those things to. All of his thoughts just turned into words. “It’s totally confusing me. I just can’t figure out where I really belong. I thought that I was good, and I was really trying to be good. He told me that I can’t be good because I was a killer, and he said that he learned arson from me. I just don’t know what I have to do with what he told me.”
“Nothing,” Emma replied. “You will not do anything about what he told you. He’s crazy. His behavior is an obvious sign that his logic can’t be trusted. Life, I believe, is all about choices. Nobody is supposed to stare at someone and say that he is bad, because it is bad to say that someone is bad. You’ve been choosing to be good. Even before you were recruited to that gang, you were choosing to be good, right?”
“Evil feeds on attention. That’s my belief. Just don’t believe Cole. As much as I’m concerned, you’re a good person.”
She turned away, saying, “Gotta hurry up now; I’m late for supper. Bye!”
“Bye,” Chalano replied, and he watched her walk away. He looked to the sunset as he thought very deeply about what she had said.
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