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The Multiple Lives of Juan and Pedro

April 7, 2015


Isabel Yap writes fiction and poetry, works in the tech industry, and drinks tea. Born and raised in Manila, she has also lived in California, Tokyo, and London. In 2013 she attended the Clarion Writers Workshop. Her work has recently appeared in Shimmer, Tor.com, and Nightmare Magazine. She is @visyap on Twitter and her website is isalikeswords.wordpress.com.

two children asleep in each others’ arms
by the gutter, wreathed in tetrapaks and plastic bottles
in the wake of the flood their bodies the color of mud
coated in mud one’s face buried in the other’s neck
one’s arm snaked beneath the other’s sando
their lips the color of cigarette ash and grime
from the river that tucked them into bed


Juan with cataracts in his eyes puts down
the blade he has been using to slice sugarcane
it is the part in the story where the mayor comes
to be unreasonably rude and to threaten
Juan’s beautiful teenage daughter who will be shown
no mercy and diyos ko it’s that bit where the goon
comes to crush Juan’s bones Juan’s spirit
Juan will cry out mga hayop Juan will beg
maawa naman kayo and the goon will break him
and feel nothing his name is Pedro
he is only doing his job


Pedro wears butterfly clips in his hair
he claims yaya put them there
but we all know better we see
how Juan shudders when Pedro passes
how that top button is buttoned how
he cannot ignore the bruises
Pedro wears like a stack of bracelets
all down his arm, just another
bongga accessory, no


Pedro holds his hand up at the intersection
motions with his baton and Juan slows
the taxi to a stop as the doña in the backseat
sighs at the text she just sent is it
a loving sigh or an annoyed sigh Juan cannot tell
Pedro shakes his hips in time
to the traffic countdown as the radio asks:
kailangan pa bang i-memorize yan


Juan nods to Pedro and says “Peace be with you”
Juan’s daughter makes a peace sign at Pedro’s daughter
Juan’s wife smiles at Pedro’s wife


Pedro shoulders his rifle unsure of what he
is marching for he passes Juan on the street
and Juan hands him a piece of pan de sal
it is such a tiny gesture but the bread
is so hot in his hands in his mouth
so salty and barely sweet


the rain rages down and Juan races
for Pedro as Pedro runs out of his house
shouting for him they grab each other’s hands
they watch the river swell they know
they’ll be buoyed beyond here

it might be very lonely

without the other they remember
the blood in the sugarcane fields
the butterfly clips the stoplight
the song they sang in mass that day
the breadcrumbs they remember

something will be given
something will be taken away

© Isabel Yap