Friday, April 25, 2008

vignette: sunboy

Jerry loves the sun, fucking loves it like no one’s business. Mornings, he stays by the window in the living room, tracking the sun over the course of hours, adjusting his position on the floor incrementally, minute by minute, like a beatific sunflower in slow motion. Lunchtime finds him in the kitchen where the kitchen jalousies convert the sunlight into blurred gems of muted colors splayed on the floor and walls, transforming the metal cookware into magical artifacts. Afternoons, he begins to cry. At first, just moisture in his eyes as he watches the sun go lower and lower from his vantage point in the garage, then as the fading brilliance turns into shades of orange, he mutters to himself, exactly what who knows. Sunboy sits on his wheelchair amid the skeletal remains of Dad’s Ford Fiera, he mourns the dissolution of his solar empire, his agitated mumblings rising in volume as he weeps inconsolably.

Mama and I gave up trying to comfort him at sunset, surrendered a long time ago when we realized that there was really nothing we could do, nothing we could say to persuade him that it was only temporary, that there would always be another dawn, another day, to look forward to, that the sun would be back, back in the fucking sky for him to love and adore all over again. We just leave him alone, switching on the garage fluorescent when it becomes too dark for us to see him, and wait for him to come back into the house.

Sunboy rolls in, a zombie on a second-hand wheelchair, head bowed low, snot running down his nose, his face muddied by the track of tears. He joins us at the dining table and eats his food quietly, for even sun lovers know they need something in their stomachs – at least in that regard Jerry never gives us problems. When dinner is done, he waits for me to carry him to his bedroom. There were times when I didn’t want to pick up his skinny frame, just a bag of bones, but it became routine and because it became routine it became somewhat okay to do. Besides, he’d grown too big for Mama and there’s really just me.

Jerry isn’t afraid of the dark, doesn’t give a shit if the lights are on or off. He just sits there, whispering whatever it is he says to himself to get him through the night. It’s like some kind of punishment for him, for failing to keep the sun alive with his love. Having stubbed my toes more times than I care to remember carrying him into his room, I pause at the entrance, shift his head from one shoulder to another and turn the lights on. If the sun suddenly really vanished, Jerry’s room would provide untold generations that followed with a shrine of memory. Posters cover the wall, each one of them of the sun, from high resolution photos from spacecraft to artist’s renditions, all of them blazing, shining and impossible to ignore. Mama got him sun-themed bed sheets, the crappy kiddie kind that has Mr. Sun with a fucking smile. Jerry adores them and refuses to have them changed. We had a small problem with that until I came up with the obvious solution and got him another set so Mama or I can change his beddings while he communes with his superheated friend in the sky.

When I set him down he turns his face toward me.

“I’m going to die tonight,” he says. Or “Goodbye, goodbye.” Or “The sun needs me.” Or some shit like that. Once, just once, I wish he’d say something like, “Thanks for carrying me, Kuya.” Or, “I’m sorry I fucked up your life and Mama’s too.” Or, “Hey, this is the last time you’ll have to do anything for me because, you know what? I’m cured! I’m normal! I can wipe my own ass from this moment on.” I wish.

Tonight Sunboy just says, “I’m going after the sun.”

And I say “Right.” Then, “I’ll be back to brush your teeth.”

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