In my high school, our library sat at the dark end of a bright corridor. The hallway right before the library entrance was colorful, with both sides of the wide hallway peppered with posters announcing auditions and club meetings. Somehow, though, it always seemed as if all light was replaced by a grayish haze every time I stepped up to the library doors. Three feet away from those double glass doors was a quiet wooden staircase leading up to darkness. It was easy to miss. I never saw anyone on or near those stairs.
I first noticed it middle of my freshman year. A friend who had the same thirst for masochistic terror dared me to go up those steps and see what was at the top. Though I was (and still am) a sucker for dares, it took me three years to do it. By then, we were about to graduate from high school and that staircase had become an icon of horror for my friend and I. We imagined the room at the top held headless nuns (our school was run by them, but with heads), Freddy Kreuger, or ghosts of World War II soldiers (our school, rumor had it, was turned into a temporary hospital during World War II).
About a week before we put on our togas, I went up that staircase. As I climbed the steps, I remember feeling my heart beat so hard I thought I was going to have a heart attack. There was no door at the top. It was very dark but I could see that the steps led to a huge room. I stayed long enough for my eyes to adjust and see that it was just a stock room of old furniture, it looked like.
Just when I was about to pee in my pants, my friend called out from the foot of the stairs, “Here, let me turn on the light for you.” A flick and a dim bulb snapped on, covering the room with a yellow shroud. And then, I swear to you, I saw a head and a shoulder rising up off a couch that had its back to me.
That staircase had maybe 20 steps. I took it all in two leaps.
So anyway, my point is, today, I faced fear again, but not exactly that kind. At the end of our long driveway is a bodega where The Hub hides everything else that he can’t keep in our room, like a rusty filing cabinet, moldy cassette tapes (he’s the only person I know who still keeps cassettes, apart from those guys in Makati Cinema Square), and a rattan trunk with its bottom pushed in.
The bodega is dark, damp, and infested with rats as big as cats. I’d long been wanting to show those rats who the boss is, but I was too chicken – until today. Maybe it was because of the fact that today was The T-Rex’s first birthday. Most probably, it was because I wanted to get the ball on this blog rolling again and what better way to do that than to face my fear of rats?
I strode in with rat poison, a flashlight, and an umbrella (to whack any wayward rats). I made a lot of noise while laying out the poison because I heard rats don’t like loud sounds. On my way out, I saw a huge rat gnawing on a basket right by where I was going to pass. I tried to blind it with my flashlight, scare it away by hitting the floor repeatedly with my umbrella, and ordering it to scram (“Go away! Shoo! Alis diyan!”). But the rat must have been deaf and blind because it stayed put. Finally, I just said what the hell and walked past it.
Who’s the boss now?