Thursday, August 19, 2004

vignette: red

I was eleven years old, all ribcage and elbows, when Anna came over to swim at our house. It was difficult time for my family, having gone through - only months before - my grandfather's sudden admission of the existence of another family that sprang from his loins.

Anna was sort of my quarter-cousin then, I don't know, I never got the hang of the naming conventions. All I knew was that we held my grandfather in common. When their family was formally introduced to us in a rented room at an old Chinese restaurant, I remember being struck by how tall she was, after I found out that she was barely a year older than me.

The day she came to swim, I was all alone in the house. I had forgotten that she had called to say she was coming over and was very uncomfortable with her presence. For one thing, she was a girl, and at that time in my life I was becoming acutely aware of things like breasts. Also, I found that I couldn't even make conversation (later in life, I would realize that I somehow resented her family for being living proof of my grandfather's infidelity).

I waited for her by the pool while she changed. I recall how I tried to think of something else, anything but how she would look in a two-piece. When she came out of the cabana, she was covered by a large red t-shirt that left everything to imagination.

"Hindi ka ba lalangoy," she asked me, standing at the edge of the pool's deep part.

"No, no," I said. "Okay lang ako dito."

"Sigurado ka?" she asked, tying her hair in a ponytail. With her arms raised, I caught a guilty peek at the color of her bathing suit, a startling yellow floral pattern where her legs made a "y".

"Oo," I told her. "Ikaw na lang." I didn't want to get too close to her, and the very thought of being wet with my budding cousin-of-sorts was just too much. I shook my head again and gestured for her to jump in.

For a moment, she was suspended in the air like an angry red bird of odd proportions. Then she broke the water's surface with a fantastic splash, making me twist around to avoid getting wet. I don't remember what I said, maybe I was laughing or shouting something silly, but I do rememeber that when I stood up to look at her, all I could see was a red t-shirt lurking under the water.

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