“Bugsay”

HE WAS NOW DOWN to his last bottle of rum. He swigged half of it as he sat at the edge of his bangka, his feet swaying with the current, his eyes gazing at his reflection on the water under the blurred disk of the moon.

He poured the rest of the rum into the sea and let the bottle slip from his grasp.

Soon he began paddling, arms afire, intoxicated yet determined. He held on to his resolve and never looked back. The clouds above him massed together, like a crowd gathering around a man threatening to take his own life.

Upon reaching the farthest his arms would let him, he set aside his paddle and unsheathed his sundang, which was a fine glint under the feeble moonlight. He glided his fingertips along its cool edge, the image of the blade leaping down his throat and of his naked body afloat in the sea running through his mind.

Just then the clouds sparked, and rain started to pour.

Chills ran all over his body. His bones grew weak. His life was a line of delicate tiles falling one by one. The sundang dropped from his helpless grip. Vertigo struck him as a lightning would a remote tree, and he collapsed into his own vomit.

 

It was a timeless dark when he opened his eyes—eyes he didn’t remember closing. The rain had stopped, he figured as he looked up, but the clouds remained crowds in the sky.

He kneeled in front of where he thought God was and cursed him without cease. He wept until he was blind, and fell into the deep well of sleep.

He awoke amid the still night, shivering. He willed himself to stand but couldn’t: he was feverish to the bone. He curled up in his bangka as would a fetus in his mother’s womb. He closed his eyes and entered sleep’s chamber. There he dreamt in delirium as, outside, the night crept closer toward dawn.

 

The night arrived at daylight.

His fever had already settled down, but his mouth still held a hint of nausea. His inflamed eyes looked for the sun and saw it. Lying on his back, spread-eagled, he let the warmth sober him up while he squinted at the clearness of the day.

It was not long when he regained the strength to get back to his feet. He stood, welcoming the heat that stung his back. He picked up the sundang lying near his feet. It glinted under the sun. He glided his fingertips along its edge, which was also starting to get warm. He dipped the sundang into the sea, wiped the blade with his shirt, and slipped it back into its sheath.

When the day turned into fire, he stripped off his clothes, unsheathed the sundang, and dove into the water.

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