The Woman Who Sloughs

by Efmer E. Agustin

(Waray version: An Babaye nga Naglulunó)

It was the wet season when she arrived at the barrio. Carrying a medium-sized bag, she marched one early morning towards the house of Mana Rosa, just near the store of the same portly owner. The store was by the roadside and Mana Rosa’s house was behind this store, a good number of steps inward. The house-for-rent was next to the owner’s house, about thirty meters away.

The rain had momentarily stopped, but the clouds hung threateningly about the sky. It was dim though the sun had already fully come out, and everything unsheltered on earth was soaked and dripping. Puddles were ever-present and there was no scarcity of mud. During these times of cold, most creatures that crawled would snooze in silent slumber. When it’s rainy and chilly, the bed was a very welcoming retreat. That’s why the midwives were overworked nine months later.

But when she came, the rain had taken a break. The woman materialized, her face of around thirty, wearing a matching blouse and pleated skirt to just above her knees. These were made of a cloth thickly checked with alternating black and yellow. She had on black leather boots designed to look like the covering of a crocodile or of any similar creature. Her hair was tied in a bun, sleek and shiny with hair cream. It was not easy to make out her face as her eyes were covered by green sunglasses with pointed outer tips, though the sun was not shining. 

Black bag on the left hand, open umbrella of bright yellow on the right, she walked with her leg crossing in front of the other, wiggling and waggling, as if performing a writhing dance. She emerged, more than a bolt from the blue to those who were fresh from their beds. No need for pandiculation, the eye motes fell by themselves.

But as pompous as her arrival was, her stay at the barrio was silent. She rarely went out, mostly only on a market day. That’s why she was not immediately known. Let alone her origin. Whatever she did inside her house, no one knew. Maybe burrowed in her pit, guessed some. Maybe trying to expand hers, so say the naughty customers of Mana Rosa’s store. As for Mana Rosa, as long as she received the rent, she said, there was no problem for her.

Whom the woman only talks to occasionally was her neighbor, Mana Rosa’s niece, Puraw, who lived with her aunt. But even Puraw knew little. They would get to say a few words with each other only when they would unexpectedly run into each other in their contiguous yards. The woman would smile at her neighbor, five years her junior, and they would briefly talk. Sometimes she would also ask help from Puraw, like in cleaning her yard. One time when the rain was exceptionally excessive, Puraw also helped her drain her house of the floodwater.

Sometimes Puraw would also do the marketing for her and so her going out of the house was further lessened. She would hand Puraw payment for her services, but Puraw would refuse. What she’d do for the woman, Puraw said, was just part of neighborly genialities. Aside from the dealings with Puraw, the woman had no other relations with people.

But when the dry season came, when schools went on vacation and merriments and fiesta celebrations especially in May were spreading, she started to surface more often. And according to the dirty-minded and the mischievous, that was because of heat. She started whiling her time away outside Mana Rosa’s store, talking with the customers. And maybe because everything was drying up, she would commonly be drinking soda, through a straw.

“Good you finally came out of your cavern, Iday,” Mana Rosa said to her from inside her store one early afternoon.

“Oh, yess. Trying my luck, hoping ssomeone would invite me with all thesse fiesstass going on. That would be fun!” 

“Yes, stroll a little sometimes,” added Puraw, also from inside the store.

A little girl then arrived, about to buy bread. She asked the child, “Do you go to sschool already, Iday?” 

The child nodded, staring at the stranger, added, “Grade two.” 

“Aw. Sso what’ss your name?”

“Jen-jen. But that’s just my nickname. Jennifer is my real name.”


“You, what’s your name?”

“I’m Antipaz,” she smiled and then wet her lips with her tongue.

“Aw,” the child said.

“Well, off you go now, Iday. Your Nanay sent you for that, didn’t she?” Puraw told the child.

“Were you ssent for that alone?” Antipaz asked the child while pointing at the pack of bread she was holding. The child nodded.

“Do you like ssweetss?” 

The little girl smiled coyly and then looked at her toes, feeling timid.

“Mana Ross, let me have thesse oness,” Antipaz pointed at a jar full of candies. “Sseven.” She then glanced at the girl, smiling. “Do you have brotherss and ssissterss?”

“I do. Mana Aling, Ate Girly, Mano Bokbok, and Junjun. Junjun will be going to school already this coming year.”

“It’s the bisperas of the next barrio tomorrow, by the way,” Mana Rosa hearkened back to the topic earlier. “They are the first to have the patron. Once they begin their fiesta, others would follow day after day. April, May. If you’d like,” to Antipaz, “you can come with us tonight.”

“Are you going to the bissperasss? But tonight’ss just the ante.”

“Well, no. Puraw and I will have a little food stall by the dance area. We’d try to scour for a little profit, you know.”

“You can come with us so you can dance,” Puraw added. 

“Uh! But I don’t feel like dancing. But I’ll go with you. I’ll help with your vending,” promptly wetting  her lips with her tongue.

“Aw, you have the choice.”

Since then, she would accompany Mana Rosa and Puraw, selling food and drinks wherever there was a dance. She would help aunt and niece. She simply watched the dancers. But later on, she started to dance as well. Sometimes, when she would find the music appealing, she would go to the middle of the dance area and start gyrating. She had a lithe body, moving as if wiggle-waggling, from side to side. After dancing, she would then go back to the stall. Sometimes, she would drink Pepsi.

“Ahh! How refreshing thiss cold Ssi-pep,” and then belched through her nose.

“Because you were dancing nonstop, so now you feel hot,” said a middle-aged customer sitting by the folding table Mana Rosa had spread open for those who wished to drink.

“True,” she answered and then sipped her soda through a straw while eyeing her new friend.

“But you don’t seem to be sweating,” the man said as he noticed the reality that the woman would not perspire.

“Why, do you want me to be all ssweaty? You, naughty boy!” she exclaimed grinning at the man who was also grinning. 

It did not take long after for her to become known even to those from the other barrios. That’s why when she would be sitting by Mana Rosa’s store, there would be some who’d wave at her or smile. Mostly men.

“Wow! How sexy you are!” Mana Rosa commented when the woman arrived at the store one morning wearing a tank top with spaghetti straps and quite short and tight shorts.

“Becausse the ssun iss too hot, Mana Rossa,” as she sat on the bench, crossed her legs, and winked and smiled at a male youngster riding at the back of a passenger motorcycle. 

“You may have something to do, Iday,” Mana Rosa wondered from inside the store.

“There’ss none. Well, I have ssome dirty clothess, but I’ll do the laundry in one go.”

“Aw, I mean your work.”

“Agi! Let’ss not think about it yet. I’m sstill on vacayssion,” she smiled then wet her lips. “Where’ss Puraw?”

“She could still be at the barangay hall. It’s said there was a meeting. She left much earlier though because she went to the chapel to join the daily prayers for the Flores de Mayo. Aw! Here she comes.”

“What food giveawayss did they have at the chapel?” the woman asked Puraw.

“There were quite a few, actually. Mano Peling’s household handed out sliced bread with pancit filling and packed juice. Mana Lita’s had big bukayo pieces. Here!” And handed to the woman the cellophane of bukayo she was carrying.

“I’m good,” refusing Puraw’s offer.

“Mana Lita’s group made these themselves, it’s said,” Puraw continued. “And Mano Noli’s contribution was young coconut water with milk. They even put ice in it.”

“Were they the only household sponsors today? I thought Made Naida’s and Made Deling’s were included as they’re all near one another,” asked Mana Rosa.

“I think they’re for tomorrow.”

“Better if ssomeone will ssponssor hamburgerss or even just a ssalad, cake, passta pomodoro. And for the drinkss, champagne. Ha! Ha! Ha!” Antipaz intervened. 

“Well, fiesta is really happening already. It cannot be helped,” Mana Rosa continued. “When will Sibad come home, Puraw?”

“I don’t know with that person. Nothing is clear yet.”

“Or maybe he won’t be coming home?”

“He said he’s definitely coming. But on what date, nothing is known yet. He’ll be riding a bus so he could more easily choose the time he’d come home. If it were an airplane, he’d need to buy tickets early to get cheaper prices, making the fly dates certain sooner.”

“Who’ss coming home anyway?” 

“Sibad, Puraw’s boyfriend.”

“Aw, you already have a boyfriend, ‘Day?” the woman feigned surprise. “Uuuy! Iss he handssome?”

“Handsome for punching! Ha! Ha! Ha!” 

“And then, he’ss already white now, right? Ass he’ss in Manila.”

“I don’t know! White irises, maybe yes,” Puraw grinned.

“Hiss body’ss lovely? Big?”

Puraw just laughed.

“Or…” the woman winked at Puraw, “Lovely at lovemaking? With a big package?” Then wet her lips with her tongue. Silence engulfed them, but everyone then guffawed.

“You’re too much! Ha! Ha! Ha!” Puraw exclaimed.

“What frightening questions you have! Ha! Ha! Ha!” Mana Rosa added.

“Jusst some humor. Ha! Ha! Ha! After all, Puraw wass acting hessitant ansswering me.”

They continued laughing, but Mana Rosa remembered something. “Aw wait! Did you go to that meeting at the barangay? What was it all about?” 

“There will be a pintakasi two days from now, weeding the roadside. Everyone’s also instructed to bring big stones to be lined along the roads and painted.”

“Okay, then. And when will they be hanging up the buntings?”

“The youth is assigned to do it.”

“Are we going to put up a sstall again later?” 

“Hopefully. Will you come with us again?”

“But of coursse.” 

She had indeed liked the dances. On the latter dances, she could barely stay at the stall because just a few minutes after they’d arrived, their store would already be teeming with dance-going bachelors and pretend-bachelors—married men and barely adolescent boys too eager to be grownups. They would invite the two maidens to dance. Puraw would sometimes refuse, and sometimes would begrudgingly say yes. But with Antipaz, saying no was a no-no. And if someone would request for her to join them at their own table, she would also agree.

It was just fine with Mana Rosa and Puraw because they did not even want her to help in the store as she was a visitor. Some of those who’d request she did not know beforehand and probably just liked what they saw in her or probably had heard about her. But many were ones she already befriended on previous dances just like the group she shared a table with that night. Six men.

She danced a lot. Their group also talked and laughed a lot. The three cases of beer they drank up were not enough. If the music was disco, they’d go disco-dancing. If ballroom music, they’d also pull off ballroom dancing. If waltz, they’d be waltzing, too. She’d pair up with any in the group.

When it was time to go home, when there were no more dance-goers and the speakers were about to be turned off, two from the group approached Mana Rosa, asking if Antipaz could go with them instead. Antipaz remained at their table, leaning too close to the men there.

“What for? What time is it already?” Mana Rosa exclaimed, face frowning, anxious.

“You’re overreacting, Mana. Ith… Ith… ithill early,” replied one of the two.

“Early morning?” Puraw interjected, slightly annoyed.

“Let’s just go home in peace to each of our own homes,” Mana Rosa said.

“Just can’t gert enarf, Mana,” said the other, also drunk. “We’ll just drink sarm more in our place. We’re just harving furn, you know. This is nart oftern, anyway.”

“Can’t get enough your face!” mumbled Puraw, exasperated especially that Antipaz’s two friends’ breaths smelled like clogged canals.

“But you’re already drunk,” Mana Rosa said.

“Not yet, Mana, jath had a few shots,” grinned the first man.

Puraw went over to the table to drag Antipaz by the arm to where Mana Rosa was. Antipaz was resistant, trying to pull away from Puraw’s grip.

“You said… You said… You’d come with us?” asked one of the men at the table.

“Oh, yess!” Antipaz replied. “Don’t worry. The fun continuess. I can handle you all, even until midday!” And without hesitation, she grabbed between the legs of the nearest man. Everyone laughed. She was laughing and kept on waving at the men while being dragged away by Puraw.

“I’ll jussst asssk permisssion,” her drunken voice became more sibilant. Her already wiggle-waggling walk became more pronounced, swaying from side to side, body undulating.

“It’s jurst fine if she corms with us, Mana,” the second man said to Mana Rosa when Puraw and the woman got to where Mana Rosa and the two other men were. “You may evern arsk her.”

“There’sss no problem with me, Mana Rosssa,” Antipaz said.

“And then, how will you get home?” Mana Rosa asked.

“We will girve her a ride, Mana. We harve a motorcycur.” Then threw an arm over the woman’s shoulder, and she, in response, wrapped her arm around the man’s waist.

“Just sleep it off, Budoys. It’s all because of dizziness,” Puraw said, her arm clamped on Antipaz’s free arm. The second man was on the opposite side of the woman, arm still on the woman’s shoulder.

“Not dizzinessss, Puraw. It’sss because of the heat. Body heat,” and Antipaz started giggling.

“Quiet, Antipaz. Come. Let’s go home already,” Puraw insisted. “Get on the tricycle, Tiya,” she emphatically said as a tricycle was already waiting for them, which was carrying their things including the folding tables and chairs, some of which were on top of its roof.

“Goodneth! Dith ith not good. We waited for nothing,” the first man said.

“You all just climb a coconut tree then slide down from it to satisfy yourselves,” Puraw barked at them.

“Corme with us already,” the second man said to Antipaz. He was not removing his arm from the woman’s shoulder even if Puraw was pulling her away. “You said your’d corme. Burt why this?”

“True! It wath even you who challenged uth to take you,” added his companion.

“And that’sss true, yesss. I’ll go with you. Let’sss keep on dansssing. Ha! Ha! Ha!”

“You’re juth thaying that. But truth ith, you’re thlithiring away,” the man added.

“Ssslither, me? I ssslither? Ha! Ha! Ha! I ssslither. Ha! Ha! Ha!” 

“You shut up,” Puraw reproached her. Then to the one whose arm was on the woman’s shoulder, “Let go. Or I’ll call the tanod on you.” 

The man reluctantly removed his arm and Puraw and Mana Rosa guided Antipaz into the tricycle’s main passenger seat. Mana Rosa sat beside her by the entrance, Puraw behind the driver. Antipaz still kept on laughing and waving at the group even if the tricycle was already moving away. She even tried to stick her head and hands out of the entrance that Mana Rosa had herself blocked.

The following night, the woman did not go with Mana Rosa and Puraw to another dance. She did not go with them anymore since then. At first, Mana Rosa and Puraw thought she felt embarrassed about what happened that night, well, dawn. Or maybe, that she was angry at their intervention. But they observed that nothing seemed to change in the way Antipaz dealt with them, not even slightly. She still talked and joked with them the way she used to. Even that very morning after what happened, she immediately hung out by Mana Rosa’s store.

On the third dance since she stopped going with Mana Rosa and Puraw, they suddenly saw her dancing in the middle of the dancing area. And so Mana Rosa presumed that this still harbored ill feelings for what happened that’s why she did not go with them anymore. But soon after the music stopped, she went over to them in her swaying gait, grinning.

“So you’re here,” Mana Rosa said.

“Of coursse. It’sss a dansse,” then licked her lips.

“How did you get here?” Puraw queried.

“My friendss sstopped by to fetch me,” and pointed to the three men standing not far from them, contemplating the dance area. “Wait a while. Let uss sseat them here and be our own cusstomerss. Ha! Ha! Ha!” she said and went to the three men. Aunt and niece looked at each other. “I dessided to go with them sso I could not bother you anymore,” she said when she returned, the men tailing her.

Truly, since then, she went to the dances in the company of others. That way, she could no longer burden, as she said, her neighbors when it’s time to go home.

“Jusst a little partying ssometimess, Mana Rossa,” she told her landlady. “At timess I go to their revelry, at timess I let them come to me,” she laughed then immediately licked her lips.

“Well, just make sure you won’t be immoderate, Iday.” 

“Of coursse not, Mana Ross, just excessive. Ha! Ha! Ha!”

Not long after, drinking sessions became constant at Mana Rosa’s house-for-rent, men, many of whom Mana Rosa did not even know. Well, the woman tenant was indeed a good talker, and welcoming, too, that’s why it’s not difficult befriending her. She would not have second thoughts about talking with Mana Rosa’s buyers while she’d stay outside the latter’s store drinking soft drinks.

“Won’t I be out of place?” asked a high school maiden while buying shampoo for her lovely hair, when Antipaz invited her to her place.

“Ssuss! You ssurely won’t be out of place. Ass if you’re not pretty,” wetting her lips with her tongue. “You can alsso bring ssome friendss over sso you won’t feel too shy. That would be better, in fact. There will be more of uss!”

“But I still have clothes to iron,” said a wife, meanwhile, buying fabric conditioner, on another occasion.

“Ssuss! Leave that ironing. Have ssome fun, too!” the woman told the ironing woman. “Jusst look at that: you’re washing clothess, make them ssmell good with Downy, hang them, keep them away, and then you sstill have to iron them, too! Poor you.”

“Poor me? Oh no! My husband even does farm work even when it’s scorching hot, or when the downpour is heavy.”

“Whatever it iss, ‘Day, take a break from all thosse choress, too! Even if only wanss in every two dayss! Ha! Ha! Ha!”

“Aguy! What a waste of time.”

“Well, let’ss put thingss thiss way. Jusst try vissiting me tomorrow. Or whenever you feel like vissiting. My opening alwayss welcomess everyone who wantss to enter,” then licked her lips.

And indeed, very soon, the maiden who shampooed her hair, the ironing woman, and some other women, also became frequent sights at their welcoming friend’s burrow.

“A gallon of tubâ, please,” Antipaz’s friends would call out to the store. “Canned goods, too,” the strangers would request at times, “to pair with our drinks.” And sometimes, the tubâ was replaced with beer, gin, or rum, the canned goods with junk food, melon seeds, or pancit canton. There would be “Cigarettes, please,” too, that were sometimes followed by “Also lighter or a box of matches.” 

It also became common to hear loud voices from the house, aside from the thunderous music. And sometimes, for the whole night till morning. But on the other hand, sometimes, no one would be in the house, very quiet, and only the following day would Antipaz arrive. Where she waited out the darkness no one would know.

It was during this time when the initial rumors of the woman’s sloughing started circulating about. One night, one of those who had observed her dwelling sneaked a peek through Antipaz’s bedroom window. It was said that she was stripping her skin as if she were coming out of a translucent bag because her skin was removed in one peeling, whole, from the head to her heels without being torn. But Mana Rosa, especially Puraw, did not mind these rumors. Because she was their friend.

One afternoon, aunt and niece heard that two of the female friends of the shampoo maiden that the latter brought with her to Antipaz’s nest were heard to have eloped with their lovers whom they met at the house-for-rent. Their distressed parents asked for assistance from their barangay captain. That late afternoon, Antipaz waved to Puraw, beckoning her to her den, just to have a snack and a little talk, she said. Puraw, on her part, also wanted to know more details about the elopers straight from Antipaz herself and so she agreed, you know, as someone hungry for gossip. Upon entering the house, Puraw was immediately greeted by a sharp smell, like something unknown being burnt.

“It’sss jussst sssigarettesss,” Antipaz replied, in her drunken voice, when Puraw asked about this. “Imported. that’sss why it’sss new for your nossse. Ha! Ha! Ha!” She lit a cigarette, licked her lips then sucked into her cigarette.

In the receiving area was a man, tackling a bottle of gin on the center table, eyes red and heavy and was also smoking. Beside him was a woman that Puraw would sometimes see at the dances. She was playing with the man’s hair who seemed to enjoy the strokes of his seatmate. Puraw’s brows furrowed. If she was not mistaken, this man lived towards the edge of their barrio, near the boundary of the next barangay. She knew him only by the face, not by the name. His wife sold vegetables at the market.

Antipaz and Puraw strode to the kitchen, past the receiving area that was separated from this by a cabinet divider that housed the TV, the audio speakers, some figurines, and some other objects. The two of them sat by the dining table. Antipaz sucked on the cigarette again, exhaled the smoke, licked her lips.

“So you smoke,” Puraw said and Antipaz just grinned.

Suddenly, the door to Antipaz’s bedroom, which was adjacent to the receiving area, flew open and yielded a man. Puraw saw two more men inside the smokey room, the origins of the sharp smell assaulting her nostrils.

“Where is it?” the man with reddish eyes asked Antipaz.

“On top of the divider,” she replied, grinning. On top of the cabinet, the man groped then recovered a small packet of white powder. Puraw was shocked, a bit frightened, at what she saw, her eyes widened.

“Alum,” Antipaz said, grinning, and teasingly raised her brows when she saw how Puraw’s eyes popped out. 

“Why are you doing this?” Puraw suddenly snapped.

“Thisss what?”

Puraw glowered at her for a while. “This!” Puraw said at last as she motioned around them. “That,” pointing with her lips at the man drinking by the center table. “That,” she looked at Antipaz’s bedroom door that shut again after the man looking for the powder went back in.

Antipaz suddenly became serious. Her grin disappeared from her face. “And ssso?”

“Don’t you feel concerned? Are you not afraid? Don’t you feel ashamed?”

“I am the leassst conssserned with what other people would sssay. I don’t care!”

“But you always stay up the whole night until morning, drinking, going with whoever men. You even smoke, too. And now, alum?”

“Ssso? What about it? Thisss body isss usssed to everything, ‘Day! Thisss isss my happinessss. If it makesss me happy, and if I believe thisss is what’sss right for me, why would othersss care? What mattersss isss, I’m happy.”

“But you’re destroying your body.”

“Hay! Then what? Asss if thisss isss my firssst time. And thisss isss my body, girl! Thisss isss my body! I can do whatever I desssire with it. Nobody can dictate to me what I’d do with my body. Only me. If I were you, Puraw, I’d alssso try all thessse thingsss out. Take a sssample out of me. You’ll have no regretsss. Ha! Ha! Ha! I’m happy. I’m unressstrained. I’m freeeee.”

The shocked Puraw glared with her popping eyes at Antipaz who was smirking once again. Then she stood up and moved towards the doorway. The man and woman glued together in the receiving area followed her with their gazes.

“Hey! Where are you going?” asked Antipaz.

“I’ll just go,” Puraw replied without turning even her head back.

“Puraw, when are you going to try all thessse thingsss out? Now! Do it now! You are miss-sssing on ssseveral thingsss, Puraw. It’sss your lossss.”

“I’ll pass for now.”

“Ssstay a while. Hang out a bit more. Why are you in sssuch hurry?” she started to follow Puraw.

“I have to go to the toilet,” her ludicrous excuse as she was going out of the den. 

After that encounter, Puraw became careful. She felt awkward and tried her best to not even think about what happened. To minimize the chances of crossing paths with the woman, Puraw often went away on errands, going to the market, paying the electric bill, or doing whatever else that needed doing away from home, forcing her aunt to let her do all these things. Sometimes, even when she was already done with her errands, she would purposely linger in some place, sauntering around a bit, going for a snack, staying somewhere where her mind would become preoccupied by what she’d hear from others:

About husbands that would come home late, hooked on whatever was making them crazy, whether a vice or a woman. About wives who, out of the blue, learned how to mess around and so easily separated from their husbands. About a high school maiden of pretty hair who had begun failing in school, when not long ago she would fight it out for the first position in the honor roll. An adolescent lad who, after learning how to fraternize around, would no longer listen to counsel and ceased from going to school. Little children who would not sleep during siesta anymore, would sneak out and roam around without permission, would only taunt the adults, and learned about things they should not know yet, talking about matters not appropriate for their age, cursing, talking about lewd things. Some of these children even lived for a while at the hospital when they fell ill because of pigging out on junk food that they’d got from somewhere. U.T.I., it was said. Still other children damaged their own teeth from eating copious amounts of candies they’d receive from someone.

And other buzz Puraw would hear from her deliberate lingering away from home just to avoid her neighbor. But no matter how hard she’d try, Puraw could not evade Antipaz forever. Many times, the woman would find her attending to the store. If Puraw felt uneasy and made all efforts to dodge the woman, the woman, on the other hand, did not manifest the slightest hint of change in the way she dealt with Puraw. She’d still go to the store, talk away like she used to, laugh. 

That’s why it did not take long for Puraw’s goodwill towards her to be reinstated. Besides, Puraw was already getting used to the same cycle as it was not the first time for such an occurrence—something happened, then they’d surmise that the woman’s dealing with them would be altered, but that would not be the case, then all their thoughts would calm down and resume peace.

But the rumors about the woman continued. More and more people came telling Mana Rosa and Puraw about this ability of their neighbor. Sometimes, someone would fault them for sheltering such a creature in their place. Some others would also remind them to be cautious or they’d suffer themselves the harm their harboring could cause. And there was no shortage of people urging them to drive away the renting neighbor before things would get worse. But because of the woman’s genial approach to everyone, Mana Rosa and Puraw, and everyone else, in fact, did not find it hard to ignore whatever they’d hear.

Soon, Puraw’s boyfriend arrived. Sibad came home because their barangay fiesta was upon them. Sibad was quite fair having come from Manila, especially that he was said to work as a bagger in the grocery store of a mall in the capital, air conditioned. For almost three years he’d been working in Manila, laboring away for his and Puraw’s plans of marriage and wedding. A bit of sacrifice of being away from each other for a little while, they said, so they could be together forever

Puraw introduced Antipaz and Sibad to each other when the two chanced upon one another at Mana Rosa’s store. As a welcoming treat to her new friend, Antipaz invited the lovers for a drink in her nest like what many others had become used to.

“Why? What’s the occasion?” Sibad asked.

“Oh nothing! Jusst having fun at timess, you know.”

“But you always have several visitors over,” Puraw said.

“But we won’t be inviting them. It’ss jusst uss. All the better,” then licked her lips.

“To hog all the drinks?” Sibad joked.

“Oh yeah! For ssolo conssumpssion.”

That night indeed, the two also had their supper at Antipaz’s as she prepared a lot of food. And surely, no one else was there, a rare quiet for the house-for-rent in recent weeks. After the meal, they immediately positioned themselves for the drinking at the receiving area. The edibles that would pair with the drink were served on the center table and the tubâ was taken out, one whole jug, and they would just pour some of it into a pitcher. When the pitcher dried up, it was easy to fill it up at once.

Puraw, because she was not used to drinking—it was rare she agreed to drink that moment—already got dizzy after the second shot. After the third, she leaned her head on the wall next to her seat. After the fifth, she already dozed off, crumpled on the sofa. Antipaz and Sibad tried waking her up, making sure she was not simply acting up. But Puraw was positively blacked out. So, the two continued drinking as a duo, facing each other, one on each end of the center table and almost between them, on the side, was the sofa where Puraw was snoozing. The drinking bout lasted long and many topics were touched upon. The longer the drink went, the louder the laughter, the dizzier the heads.

“Le-Let’s stop this al-already. My-my head’s already whi-whirling,” Sibad said, voice already raspy from drunkenness.

“But that’sss exsssactly the point of drinking, to confound the already confusssed headsss! Ha! Ha! Ha!” Antipaz responded flippantly.

“But, but, al-also be-because, it feels hot, too,” Sibad snickered.

“Ssstoping isss not the sssolution to that. If you’re feeling hot, then take your clothesss off. Hee! Hee! Hee!” 

“Ha! Ha! Ha! Right, you-you’re right there, right?” and he motioned to take off his t-shirt.

“Yeah, off with your clothesss! Ssstrip! Ssstrip! Ssstrip!”

“Ha! Ha! Ha! I-I won’t do-do it anymore-more,” and Sibad stopped from removing his shirt.

“Waha! Ha! Ha! But why? Funny you, with your pretenssse embarrasssssment.”

“Be-because you’re noi-noisy. You want-want me to go-go naked. And so, I-I won’t do-do it any-anymore. Ha! Ha! Ha!”

“Asssusss. Jussst do it. Go undressss.”

“I told-told, you, I-I won’t do it-it. You are-are noisy-sy. Ha! Ha! Ha!”

“We’re the only onesss here anyway,” as she approached Sibad from her seat at the other end of the center table and motioned to remove the young lad’s shirt herself. Sibad kept on shielding himself from her. “Thisss pretenssse embarrassssment. Don’t be shy. We’re all alone. You’re feeling hot, right?”

“Ha! Ha! Ha! As if-if, I-I’m shy. It’s-It’s just that you’re noi-noisy. If you were-were not, my, my shirt would have-have been off way-way earlier.”

“Sssusss! Excusssesss. Don’t be shy. You even have a gorgeousss body. Your bisssepsss are huge and without a potbelly,” and licked her lips. “Let me sssee the gorgeousssnesss you’re ssstoring away under there.” And she embraced Sibad. “Hey! You’re hot indeed!”

The two drunks laughed and laughed. Then she tried again to remove Sibad’s shirt.

“Told-told you! I-I won’t do it-it anymore.” Sibad dragged back down his shirt that Antipaz had pulled up, her hands already groping the lad’s chest and stomach. Sibad tried to push her away.

“Jussst do it! Pleassse?” She embraced the man again and her hands traveled all the more around the different parts of his body. “Take your clothesss off. Even for only a quick while. Jussst ssso I could sssneak a peek.”

They kept on with their struggle, Antipaz attempting to remove Sibad’s clothes, while Sibad kept shielding himself with his arms. If the woman would pull up Sibad’s shirt, he would then pull it back down. But while Sibad would be busy holding down his shirt, Antipaz would then try to pull down his pair of shorts, and he’d be forced to bring this back up. Even if Sibad would transfer from his seat, Antipaz would still follow him around.

“I did not think you were basssshful. Ssssso unlike me. If going nude, then nude,” and without any hesitation, she shed off her blouse, standing in front of Sibad who was already seated by Puraw’s feet on the sofa. Then she stripped away her bra. And everything below her waist. Smirking. Staring at Sibad. Licked her lips.

Sibad stiffened. Surprised. Just gawking at the smirking Antipaz whose breasts were hanging exposed near his face. Antipaz licked her lips and started dancing in gyrations and writhing motions. She picked the hands of the paralyzed Sibad then placed his palms all over her body. The man was rendered immobile, wasn’t able to contemplate anymore the scaly nature of the one in front of him. She grinned. She licked her lips. She licked him. And not long after, Antipaz wrapped her arms around him and then coiled herself all over Sibad, there in the receiving area while Puraw was snoozing by their side.

After three days, while Mana Rosa and Puraw were attending to their store, some of their fellow villagers arrived, along with their barangay captain, looking for Antipaz. All of them had tales about the woman’s sloughing and they already wanted to confront her, had filed formal complaints at the barangay hall. The mob was enraged, wives, husbands, parents, siblings, uncles, aunts, relatives, neighbors, teachers, farmers, vendors, and just about anyone.

When they went to the house Antipaz was renting, they could not find her. Gone were her clothes and some of her things. But inside the closet and also in the bathroom, there they found cellophane-like material shaped into human form, with sleeves for the arms and legs. And under the bed, the people found shells of a dozen and one eggs, large ones, each one about the size of six duck’s eggs combined together. But these were already in shards. Whatever they contained had already hatched.

About the Author and Translator: Efmer E. Agustin is a BA Communication Arts graduate of UP Visayas Tacloban and has earned his MA in Comparative Literature from University of the Philippines Diliman. He teaches literature and language at the Division of Humanities of University of the Philippines Tacloban. Mr. Agustin’s works have appeared in the journal Humanities Diliman and in anthologies such as Pinili: 15 Years of Lamiraw. He also contributed to the latest edition of the Cultural Center of the Philippines Encyclopedia on Philippine Arts.

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