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A t:rxi stops in front of me, with a scrccch and a srnrll clorrcl ol engine-smoke. I get inside, and tell the a.i"". *t ,_," nods, and starts up the meter; "." ,t .ar g*-bt"r,'rr""*r, " ward, and we,re off_

tl".,'t" *. ,"r.*r a.

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Blrtbdoy

tanding in the middle of the rain that was coming down in heawy, wet droves, he began seriously to wonder what he was doing there. Any moment now, he thought, it'll come to me; and he knew rhat he was lying to himself. All things considered, he thought, I'm handling this very well. I'm calm. I don't know what I'm doing or what I'm going to do, but by God, I'm calm. There must be something wrong with me. A bus flashed by in front of him. Splotches of mud appeared on the front of his pants. He stared at them in amazement. A second ago, those splotches were nonexistent, and now, there they were, brown, dirty, undeniable. He wished he had an umbrella. Umbrellas, he thought, were fascinating things; they could not really be improved on. Vhat was that term? Mature. The technology was mature. Like lawnmowers and flyswatters. You could make these things battery powered, or attach engines or solar panels to them, but you would just be adding needless baggage. They were simple devices spawned by simple concepts, and they were pretty much complete as they were. I am not an umbrella, he thought. Nor a lawnmower nor a flyswatter. I am a clueless moron standing in the rain with large muddy splotches on the {ront of my pantsAcross the street, a group of teenagers were iostling each other, and singing "Happy Binhday." Binhdays, he thought. I wonder when my binhday is?

I

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A little green light in the shape of a walking man flashed before
him, some meters away. He decided to cross the thoroughfare, which he recognized as Epifanio de los Santos Avenue, and wander into the
commercial center on Ayala. \fhy do i remember these things? he asked himself. Street names, the locations of stores, snippets of trivia? Vhy can't I remember the things that supposedly matter the most) Half an hour ago, he had frantically searched his person for clues or solid evidence Pertaining to these vital, indispensable things, but he had apparently lost his vrdlet, and thus had no identification: no name, no address, no profession. He supposed that he was not without means; his clothes and shoes were good, and he had on an expensiveJooking coat that was preventing him {rom being soaked to the bone. He had also found, much to his relief, a sizable amount of money in his pants pocket, bound by a steel clip. As he entered Ayala Mall, he felt a cenain shame; he had wiped his feet on the mat outside, but he was still dripping wet, and his pants were o{ course a mess. He reasoned that he would dry out in time, and he was a customer, after all. They should be glad to have him besides

of plrying dctectivc rr littlc cxcitccl rt thc prospcct ,a.r,r, .r".!i." of his predicament' Surely rnindcc{ himsclf of the uttcrly who would

l'"1jT:

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at any rate'-People he had a family, perhaps thil;; orrhim' Still' he thought' the worry, who might perhaps Ut i"pt"a"* ;;;il"". . I.o"ld b" "nybodv Anvbodv!*i''do** and snack booths' a "''ili" *ii"a on, smiling' past'sto'e into his mind' or perhaps' he

-J;;:,J-;tit" I am;*tr"a'it"l{ nobody' Perhaps'.strange as rt quite literally il;sh.,;;";t myself llt"']'' "'d th" *ottttt I foundphysical sounds, I was created 'n"' "tty ;* ;t very first moment of standing on a street corner

j?,',|#lll.ilor.*, ";;;.".;;;sramcod.;',fr i.Tfi lTTj then he saw himself' And
off shiny
car-surfaces

*a gr""'t;*s'

b"t h1 had unconsciously

been avoiding

*"^

in their establishment. \7hat to do? He had money for dinner, but it was still early, and he was not the least bit hungry. At the moment, the idea of watching a movie seemed laughable. No matter vrhat the fantasy projected on the screen would be, he felt certain that it would not distract him from the strangeness of his situation. He might buy a notebook, then, and keep a journal. A rccord of the travails of a man with no past. Day one: Foand myself standing on a rainy street corner uith no smbrelh, no uallet, no idea of uho I am... He was surprised at this impulse. liUas he a writer, then? \7as he a journalist or the editor of some Makati-based magazine? Or was he just someone who liked scribbling away in hrs spare time, someone who was really an architect or account execudve from nine to five? IJ hatever; the impulse was a clue, and he would have need of clues in the
days ahead.

-

pan of a clothing shop's pt"'"d "t so intently After window display' It was this'h'l'tt" "o* dttided that he was not Particularly about three minutes, t'" 'lgh"J;a for any Quasimodo look-alike handsome. Neither was tt" "-"l'aiJt" made faces at with one hti He smoothed ao*" ii' t'"i' 'Td contests. he of uncontrollable' rage' Then himself. He grimaced * if i";lt';;i; he daned glances to the sruck out his tongue. r-*.i"r.f"" "i"rwards, behavior' He if *yon-i hld no'i"td his clownish and right to lefr '"t *un"1'o'l'to cleared his throat recogni' ""0 consider the possibiliry of The mirror had caused I old classrnate or a now' he might run into an ,i""' ;;;*-";;' would exclaim' "\Uhat's up?" colleague. "Hey there' tc,-*i "t:;tfttt such a meelo{ the "wkwatdness He almost shuddered "t tn" 'hott*f"

it'

iu*lon

mirror had been used

as

;; ;-,'i
iJ.
h.

could he be sure if that Pers brisklv away? ir, i"" nod and wave and walk

;; y:"':**:* :il'J#; $i::'Tf$: l#J;
best, h"

Clues. The days ahead. He had to make an effort to Prevent a foolish smile from taking over his entire face. He had to admit, he was

thev'would' worry about or at least second cousins' d;;;;; ";t*o face Perhaps he could get his if they lived i" *t ptt#t"tl him- \7hat and he was all right' alive on TV somehow' ,""

;"; ;;";ried'

It wouldbe

surely he still had Parents'

dJi:;;di'iou""dbv'hi' 1""';t':ll:'"t or brothers or s$ters'

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well. He smiled then, at the thought of himself dashing off to the site of every vehicular accident, bloodbath and banh robbery in town, on the off-chance that the news camera would record a fleeting glimpse of his
Iace.

There was a t"rrrtlrurtity slroulcl be run rltt' w,ry ,l c()lllPtltcl -llcltcr'tlt ''l oI r small city on the screen' tltr'<e 'linr.:nsi'"rrl r(Prcscnt'rliolr tlct.riltJ or build bridges cliek or ln"'*ot""' raise taxes' ,rncl .rnc coultl. with a

i::,";'
'rgain by

He waved avay these thoughts. TLere would be time enough for them later. For now, he would consider himself a blank slate, and enjoy the situation as much as possible. For it s/as, truth be told, better than being on vacation. Without a complete knowledge of his capabilities and commitments, he could do things for the sheer hell of it. Take up dancing, or painting; fall in love. He spent the next few hours indulging himsel{. If he did not know who he was, he at least had a vague idea of who he wanted to be. He wandered into a music shop, donned a pair of fat headphones, and listened to a snatch of Tchaikovsky's Conceno for Violin and Orchestra in D M{or. Allegro moderato: it put him in mind of a regiment reaching the top of a cruel hill, of perseverance, of almost-frenzied determination. He bought the CD even though he had no idea if he
owned
a

::::

-jil:::T,lTl,:fi;

;; : ".'i-.1 ry]:: :i*;;;:'ff the slranBe selectrvrty.""ii"lt."iit,

down i*o "'' o'gy ;i at'r'itdon' raining-dearh eanhquake. He went fires' alien invastons il, .-, in the form of hurricanes'a shambles tlis funds were pttt""'"r,.",rr'l't'""pped The city was ""t. out There were no more 'no yet hi' citiztn''had not died f'rff" f'.*'n'ta *"ttt' but his game had not ,rrrl.,.tr", standing' no ttttt;t;'ty*' tttt g""t"' unless one counted there was,;" r"tt' "" ?"i't ended

Yl ;;,;";,i;'

te clicked on rhe disi,ar cir izens wi'lh

::;ff :::;il;!;il: "Disasan

,rr"ig ,l-r. .".p*.i: ot*"tij.mbered

,".#1,.1;t
'Jl;:"

player.

no definite goals, no,ili"i".i ;;lt"* .educe vour ciry to rubble'

:,',#;#*,.lf

disthar rhat was what had on' with ir just went 11 1d -thar You could o, -"gi.'ob,.., to find ftol *nth there wo'rld be no
o

He entered a specialty boohstore, read some reviews, examined the bright spines o{ a hun&ed new arrivals. He visited a shop that sold art materials, and pretended to be knowledgeable about paper weights and textures, about the distinct features of dif{erent brands of paint. In the sponing goods shop, he asked hovr much barbell plates cost per pound these days, and feigned interest in a Nautilus machine. All the while, he smiled at women he. found panicularly attractive, joked with the salesladies, and set loose a little swagger in his step. He hoped that he was a Renaissance man of sorts, with a keen appreciation for the ans coupled with a regular urge to pump iron and shoot baskets. An interest in current technologies sounded like a nice thing to have as well. He walked into a computer shop and checked out some of the personal computers they had on display. He found himself inquiring about memory, speed, installment plans. He sat down in front of one of the monitors and staned toying with a simulation program. The protram enabled one to play the pan of mayor-slash-God and decide

ffi

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Sir!" He turned

o so ;: i :t;i:: :'#T.-.",,*i:'* :i:;'[ ca ing ou'l' "sir!

n

""'

The obiect she was wavrng

ii"

around

,"i"J"ar

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she
sa:id

-r-

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it

clr

recognition

Your wallet, sir'

breathlessly' You left

here when you

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featureless; that much

f'" rtai

distinctive markings'

"" i*f loneer' But already' he tt"iJ business addresses' the the a"i'ittlti""'t"iat' the "ftt insiie his wallet rt"ttU*t and names and destinations' to tft."" doctors to consult' '"'' "]""'"*ify, There would be 'dh ;';;;";;oi" i.lti". to return to' Perhaps he

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was smooth' hands rhe.aBed leather initials or other tft*kful foi

-no a bit ryi'"u1"-1'Jelations quier insistence of the obiects

-

memories

to

recover

".ra,

t.tJls J()AQUIN M. KA Il(;tr^t(

would bc chained to a desk in somc tower of glass and stccl and airconditioning. Perhaps l.re would have to rerurn to a prolcssion rhat made regular contributions to the pollution of Metro Manila, or the coffers of the country's corrupt officials, or the destrucrion of the ozone layer or any number of typicd evil deeds. Perhaps in time the old justifications for these things would become natural to him again. He would have a family, not a myriad of possible families. He would have a wife. Did she love him? Could he love her? Maybe he had a nice job. Maybe he had the most wonderful family on the face of the earth. The task of opening the wallet was rapidly approaching a kind of mythological significance; he felt like Pandora, or Digory Kirke, or Haroun Al Raschid - on the brink of loosing untold horrors on an unsuspecting world. He shook his head and felt ridiculous. Perhaps it wouldn't be so bad. And besides He slipped the wallet into a coat pocket, unopened. He reached for his money clip, peeled off a couple of bills, and presented them to rhe saleslady. She shook her head vigorously in protesr, and held up her hands as if he had threatened violence instead. But he smiled, and affected the voice o{ a man who would be emotionally devastated were his gift to be refused, and rouched her arm, and pleaded, a little. And when she relented, he sighed, and thanked her again. Before he stepped through the store exit, he could not resist a parting shot, even if he was no longer sure who or what the target was. "After all," he said, "it ls my binhday."

lVhat the World is Waiting For

1. A 'lypical Monday Morning hat are yciu trying to do, kill me?" Jep's voice was rwo parrs anger, one pan shock, and one pan utter disbelief. It was embarrassingly loud, and it filled our corner of the science lab, bounced off the gray concrete walls, flew past the cobwebbed projects of years past that ludred on the high shelves. Heads turned. Our teacher srood
uP.

It

was a typical Monday morning at the Philippine

Science and Technology, so

High School for of course our research group was in deep

@

shit again. All of our classmates were now staring at our group, or rather, ts/o members in particular: Par, who was standing there with a high-speed electtic drill in her hand, making rapid apologies while trying to keep from laughing, and Jep, wide-eyed, his forehead sweat-flecked, who was standing in front of Pat with an atmospheric thermometer clutched in one hand, looking for all the world like a psychotic meteorologist. "This isn't ftmny, Pat!" Jep blurted. Ms. Ysip, our thirty-year-old Research instructor, was walking towards us, her rubber shoes squeaking out the rhythm of impending trouble. Ronnie shuffled into view. "Move along now, people. There's nothing to see here," he said, doing his best TV cop imitati,rn. Maybe

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