It Rained Saturday Afternoon by Antonio Gabila

It rained at three Saturday afternoon. And we looked at the sky as if it could not be true, at the slanting rain that fell in steady streams, at the earth getting first moist, then sticky, then watery.

We could not resign our self to the fact that it should rain on Saturday. Why Saturday of all days? Why not Monday and the other weekdays? Any day but Saturday – and Sunday also, that is.

All the week, week after week, we work in close, stuffy offices from early morning until late in the afternoon, except that promptly at half past twelve every Saturday there comes a break in the routine, after which we do not have to enter our close world again until the following Monday morning at seven-thirty.

On Saturday mornings our smiles are wider and last longer, our greetings are cheerier. For at the back of every workers mind is the thought that he may have that afternoon all to himself, to do with as he pleases.

To some of us, Saturday afternoon always means a rectangular court of clay with white lime markings, rackets, and balls about as big as a little boy’s fist. On the court one can swing one’s arm about and not be afraid of hitting something, and after five-and-a-half days inside an office, you feel this is more important than anything else in the world. Stepping lively on a marked court on Saturday or Sunday afternoons, we forget about our close, dim offices with their wall clocks that never seem to move at all, and about the things one has to do, about work.

But it rained at three. Saturday.

And why should it rained on Saturday, and at three o’clock, when we always feel that Saturday just begins, and with, in fact, the best part of the afternoon yet to be. At three one plays his best game because it is neither too warm nor too chilly.

Some of us had played only a set or, at most, two, while the others just arriving. We all always say we have not really played until the third set. And here it was raining at three, raining so heavily that even the most hopeful among us, looking up, could only shake our heads seeing how black the whole sky looked. It rained so heavily that shortly the clay court, just before so hard and smooth, was sticky with mud and water, the white lime markings becoming indistinct and finally disappearing altogether.

We picked up our things disgustedly, taking care the rain did not wet the delicate guts of the rackets, and made haste to the nearest shelter, a low concrete bodega beside the town presidencia.

The rain made puddles at our feet in no time as we stood under the overhanging edge of the concrete roof. The puddles grew and became little running streams that twisted about in their tiny tortuous courses to reach the nearest deeper hollows which, when filled, became miniature lakes. We drew gingerly back against the bodega wall as the miniature rivers threatened out shod feet. Over the edge of the roof above us fell a thick, transparent curtain of rain. We were trapped, but we were six and company made the trap less tragic.

We raised our eyes finally from our hypnotic regard of the water at our feet to look into four cells on that side of the presidencia whose barred windows stared down at us, looking very much like caves in the sheer cliff that was the presidencia’s austere wall. The barred windows did not surprise us, for we had long known they were there. Nor did the old, ugly, vicious faces caged in them: are realized they ought to be there too. Only when we looked into the last cell and saw there a young face, not so much vicious as mischievous in a childlike way, were we taken aback.

The boy, he could not be over eighteen, had no clothes on: even when he stood on the floor of the cell, we knew he was without covering because the slightly lighter skin below the waist showed above the ledge of the low, barred window.

“My God, that boy’s crazy!”

The boy was so obviously that, without anyone saying so, that I turned around to look at the speaker. And yet I knew we were all alike: we did not understand such things. I wanted to ask someone what could have caused such a thing, why that youth should come to be in this cell, stripped of clothes and shame, and keep on singing and posturing, I wanted to ask how people come to lose hold of reality and what goes on in the mind of one like that boy of no more than eighteen, but I realized we, toiling in close, musty offices, would know nothing of such things.

“You are my sugar plum…” The mad boy’s singing could be heard above the crash of heavy rain.

In the other cells, the vicious faces were momentarily still, listening, their ugly faces intent and looking now less vicious, as if they too were trying to divine perhaps how one became like his boy.

“Why do people become crazy?”, I finally asked a young fellow who once worked in a physician’s office-but who played a poor game of tennis.

“Many causes. Love for instance.”

“You are my sugar plum…” Perhaps the boy loved deeply and futilely. He may have thought the girl was everything the world could hold for him; and yet the girl thought nothing of him. Such things happen.

The boy has suddenly climbed up into the upper one of two bunks affixed to one side of a wall of his cell, leaping full upon it in all his uncovered state, and smiling down upon us, baring white, even teeth in an expression that must have been one of geniality in a day now gone.

“You may not be an angel…” he broke forth, swaying his body and looking up every time he said “angel.” After one song, there would always be another, as if he wanted us to know that this repertoire of song was not by far exhausted, crooning in that soft voice of his as if he were addressing his song to someone he held so near him he did not have to raise his voice to be heard.

The boy had a good figure, with slight, shapely muscles, and seemed so healthy an animal that one could hardly believe he had lost his mind. The unseemliness of his unconscious behavior was all the more pitiful because of his splendid figure.

“Don’t take away my dreams…” Now why does he sing that?

They say madness is a thick fog; losing your mind is like losing your bearings in the dark: you believe you are doing the perfectly correct thing not knowing that it is far from what you think. That must explain the boy, his stripped state, his crooning, his friendly and shameless grin which God knows he couldn’t help.

“Don’t take away my dreams…” Just why had that crazy youth hit upon that piece? Was there a reason? For madness too is like being a child again, playing again in that dream world man loses as he grows up. Times there are in a man’s mature years when he regrets that loss.

This boy, suddenly grown a youth, had asked to be taken back to that world and had been granted his desire. Now he had what he wanted, nobody could take away his dreams, nobody tear the toys out of his hands, and nobody come to him and strikes him. For a mad boy is always a child with dreams…

The rain had stopped, we realized with a start. We looked about us vaguely: even had it been possible for us to play again, I doubt if we would have. A little while before we had thought we were the most unlucky of humans: but after what we had seen we hardly knew what to think.

We stepped forth from our shelter and walked through the wet grass until we hit the hard pavement, when we broke into a brisker gait, not one of us brave enough for one backward glance at the body whom we could still hear singing about dreams that no one please must take away from him.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Very awesome! :) I like it. Very neat, as well as very well-written, too. :)

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