Sunday, April 24, 2005

The End

He reached the south gate just in time to see the strange van, dark blue and heavily tinted, about to veer in the mix of the flux of vehicles along the main road. He followed it, three cars in between to avoid suspicion that it was being followed. But he sensed that it knew it was being followed, that it knew it was supposed to move as if it were not being followed and he to act as he knew he did not know that it knew it was being followed. He felt everything from the beginning, from the moment he heard of the van that it was a theatrical performance, where everybody was leading toward the two parties knew beforehand. He had felt this situation before but could not point on anything specific. A déjà vu, he thought. He followed the van as it circled its way around the metropolis ; along EDSA and the boulevard, engulfed in the din of automobiles. Once they even stopped in the same gas station to get a fill. The van finished first but waited at the corner for him and then they resumed their mock chase.

When the van reached the Libertad market, it dropped a passenger who walked briskly along the deserted side street. This is it, Edgardo thought. He pulled over beside a cheap record bar that was about to close. The Chinese owner looked behind as his two sons pulled the shutters down and the scene brought to Edgardo a pain in the prostate he could not understand. The man entered the market alley. Edgardo fished for a cigarette from his back pocket and lit it, then crossed the asphalted street. He entered the market and saw the man trudging along the aisles, zigzagging between closed and darkened stalls. Then the man slipped out at the back of the market. Edgardo found it led to a narrow street crowded by urchins and planked by a beehive of shanties. There was a wake going on, and beside the cheap coffin, the gambling table was thronged with bettors. He caught a glimpse of the man vanished into a street. He accelerated his steps. The street was a dark deserted, bordered by walls with the lamppost at the end gave it light. Edgardo knew the end of it converged with the main street, and knew he had to accost the man here or else he would lose him. He yelled at the man to stop or he would shoot. The man stopped. Edgardo walked toward the man, careful as he drew closer; the faint light revealing the face of the man who was slowly turning his face at him; a face Edgardo had seen thousands of times before in the mirror, though this face was scrawny with deep eyes. The eyes told him everything; his fate, his destiny. He felt he had to flee, he had to run and escape. He backed away, toward where he had come from, and halfway through it, running, a shot rang. Edgardo felt the cold cement pavement slammed on his face; a bullet had whacked his thigh. He writhed in pain as the gun powder scalded the inside of his thigh. When he looked up, a gun muzzle was trained at him, held by the man whose face bore the answer to Edgardo’s questions. In split second, he heard the gunfire, saw the sudden flash of light, then total darkness.

No comments: