Initially, he wanted to go home directly after they arrived safely at the granary. Mr. Yang excused him and his friends from further work, handing them a handsome pay for the day’s special chore. Instead, they loitered around for a few hours, happily assisting fellow workers.
Buoyed by the prospect of meeting a girl and be an ordinary suitor, Allen walked leisurely, whistling a popular romantic tune. His sunglasses, kept in a pocket, would be his magical instrument to find love.
It was already half past eight so he concluded that only his parents were awake. The lively sound from the television was no indication he guessed correctly.
When he entered the front door, he expected the unusual welcome, especially from his younger brothers, who he found out to his dismay, were still up, lounging in the sofa in all sorts of position. Allen naturally waited for the biting comments to follow.
“Ma! Allen has sore eyes!” announced Ringo, being the youngest at 10, the most vocal.
George, Paul and John covered their faces, unwilling to look directly at him. It was a common local belief that one could get infected by just looking at a person who had it.
The Beatles was unanimous again, thought Allen shaking his head. For some reason unknown to him, his parents chose the Fab Four as source of their names. When he asked why not him since he was the eldest, his father explained that they actually expected a girl so they planned to name the child Nancy Allen. The she was not to be so he ended up being named Allen.
His parents ran out of the kitchen to check what was the emergency about. Like a segment in a comedy skit, they bumped to each other, squeezing out of the narrow door at the same time.
“Hurry, Tony! Fetch me the leaves of the plant outside the kitchen. I’ll boil it in water. It’s the tried and tested cure for sore eyes.”
His father quickly obeyed his mother’s instruction without even bothering to ask him the truth.
“Ma, I don’t have sore eyes!”
“Why are you wearing sunglasses?” she asked, approaching him, placing her palm on his neck to feel if he had a fever. “You wear them during the day, son.”
“Can we talk in the kitchen?” he asked, removing the glasses to show that their suspicion had no basis.
“All of you, go to bed!” his mother ordered the Fab Four, who raised their noisy objections. “You won’t have TV tomorrow, you hear!”
“Here it is!” Mang Tony rushed inside, the freshly-cut leaves in his hands.
“False alarm, dear,” Aling Tina said, pacifying her husband who started to protest. “I already sent them to bed.”
“What’s with the sunglasses?” he inquired, waiting for Allen’s explanation.
“Pa, Ma, I decided to wear them from now on.”
Mang Tony and Aling Tina realized that their son’s eye defect was too much an embarrassment for him, who in his early adult age, began to develop signs of insecurities and low self-esteem. They had thought out of a medical solution when he was still young but because of financial constraints they were forced to abandon the idea. As parents, they shared his pain, more than their son could imagine.
(to be continued)