jay-ar gave me a smile instead of doing another attempt to crush my palm with his powerful high-five trademark. his spirit is usually drunk with the enthusiasm of a dozen kids, but on that particular afternoon devoid of clouds, he gave me an indian mango, looked at me in the eye and then smiled. it was one of those rare smiles from him that seemed to call for a deep contemplation.
my feet were travelling 20 kilometers per hour when i noticed jay-ar a few feet away sporting his perfectly combed hair, wearing a plain white t-shirt. he was walking towards me, going to the opposite direction. i assumed he was on his way to the main gate of the military camp to meet his mom. i, on the otherhand was rushing towards home, craving for a decent meal with indian mango slices for dessert.
together with his other younger siblings, jay-ar usually hangs around our apartment to watch tv. early in the morning, he would always knock at our door to watch cartoons or to hang out with me and my sister, in which he never fails to bring a couple of indian mangoes on each occassion. during evenings, at around 9pm, he would knock at our door to collect our trash for disposal. my dad gives him 5 pesos each night in return.
jay-ar and his family of 10 lives right below our apartment unit at the 4-storey government funded military camp building.
a block away from my destination, i saw a crowd of people flocking the parking area. perhaps there’s a music video shoot, a party or another local gang war. i saw huge ladders and fire trucks with blinding halogen lights in the afternoon. as i came closer, an atmosphere of gloom greeted me. there were faint sobs, repressed cries, and prolonged sighs. it was surreal. i never really got the picture until my sister caught me when i decided to walk upstairs.
“jay-ar was dead.” she said. “excuse me?” my mind performed a rebellion as images of jay-ar handling me an indian mango a while ago flashed back.
“he was there. i just saw him. he...he gave me this!” i showed her the mango.
“jay-ar and his friend were burned. they climbed the mango tree beside the gym and accidentally tapped on the high voltage electric wires as they reached for the mango fruits. me and his sister saw them burning up the tree.” she narrated.
my mind still refused to believe what happened until i went to his funeral at the baranggay hall. my sister told me that masking tapes were plastered around his neck to prevent it from falling. his hands were tucked in his pants to cover the missing fingers. his face was hardly recognizable. i never looked through the glass. i decided to preserve his face filled with calm when i met him on that afternoon.
i went home early that night. i was desperate to convince myself about the incident when somebody knocked at our door. when i opened it, nobody was present aside from an indian mango fruit on the floor.
it was 9pm.
jay-ar's story, together with other interesting scary tales scared the bejesus out of jessica zafra that she gave away alexandra trese comic books as prizes.