“Come son! Let’s eat!”

Coming home from the rice granary, Allen shared an early supper with his friends. As he promised to his brothers, he reserved part of his food and brought it as a present.

Staring at their plates, the four wore identical poses: elbows on the table while palms tried to lift chins that seemed so heavy because of their dislike to what was before them. The ever-present dried fish that could pair with the vegetable stew was inconspicuously absent.

“Mother, maybe this will perk my brothers up,” Allen raised the plastic bag which automatically changed their mood. They looked like busy bees, buzzing around their mother who placed the food on a large bowl.

Allen was always glad to see his brothers happy, even at times they were his foremost nemesis especially when they constantly pointed to his facial defect. They could be too harsh that he swore often to himself that he was probably adopted.

“I have already eaten, Pa.” He showed him a small bottle of gin. “Can I talk to you outside?”

Mang Tony rose up and fetched two small glasses along with a pitcher of water. Because of the alcohol, he could sense that something bothered his son.

They sat inside their small rest house, the privacy important for what they should discuss.

“Problem at work?”

“Nothing I could not handle,” he grinned, drinking a shot, the alcohol immediately warming his system.

The loud sound from the main house interrupted their talk momentarily. The four young men were already satiated that they evacuated to the living room to watch anything on television.

“Your brothers look up to you,” Mang Tony said, proud of his eldest. “They see you as their idol.”

“Do they?” he asked, a bit bitterly, knowing his father exaggerated the claim. “Sometimes, they are so mean to me.”

Mang Tony placed his arm around Allen’s neck, convincing him that he was genuinely loved by the whole family.

“Don’t ever think that way! They’re still young so they’re often insensitive on anything they say.”

“I know that, Pa. But I have been patient too long. I have feelings too, you know.”

“I understand you very well. I always did.” Mang Tony felt the heavy feeling his son had gone through in his life. Being cross-eyed was a curse Allen continued to bear, a defect that diminished his self confidence.

“I am old enough to look for a girl,” he took another shot. “Who would want me?”

“Love is blind, son.”

“So you want me to court a blind girl, someone who would not see me this way?”

“That’s not what I meant,” Mang Tony said seriously. “That means, the girl will love you for what you are and not what you are not.”

 “In the real world, what you say is impossible,” he rued. “I don’t mean to disrespect you, Pa, but I think you are wrong. No girl in her right mind would be proud of me to be her boyfriend, much less a husband.”

Mang Tony would not surrender easily. He needed to convince Allen that he was a lot better than most of the normal looking men in the village.

“Try, son!” he said firmly. “I believe you can overcome whatever weakness you think you possess.”

“I hope so, Pa,” Allen bowed down and covered his face with his palms. “I truly hope so.”

(to be continued)



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