The impossible green of rice shoots and lilypads. The slow, watchful stare of carabou cooling themselves in dirty water up to their heads. The corruption of rotting things on the baked dirt, the pressing of flesh, the unspoken desperation, unspoken reprehension. Fat matrons opining on hollow morals. Painfully gaunt men and women, watery eyes, glassy eyes, eyes like milk, eyes like mahogany, eyes shot with red and anguished, eyes open to a world teeming with growth and decay, everything all at once, stirring and simmering in its juices.
Hurrying up and waiting. Peeling paint in the hospital rooms, broken air conditioners, constrictive, claustrophobic traffic of people and growling motors. Gaudy colors of jeepneys decked in stick-on splendor, custom-built stainless steel shining under bare feet. A parade of poses, masks of respectability, masks of competence, masks of naivete, masks of gregarious cheer, masks of prosperity. Favors to be dispensed, promises to be kept, largesse showered, appearances maintained.
Through it all, the low, meandering path of packed earth curving through fields of rice shoots, shaded by palms, populated with tiny frogs and gap-toothed old men. An abandoned church at the end of the path, in a grove of palms bowing obeisance to the noonday heat. Hammocks made of old fishing nets and rice sack burlap, dusty twice-used sandals, open coconut shells and empty soda bottles. Prostitutes in their unmade beds, children playing in the dusty shade, men from the West on their international sex tours, and watching them, the dry smiles of men who migrate to work in another desert a world away, where water is twice the cost of oil.
I have been ruined here, where the heat has seeped into my bones.