Palace of Discoveries
I found a wonderful place because Papa and Mama are always not home. I asked them why they’d leave me, alone and sad, LEGO blocks and electric cars not making me happy. They were often home when my elder sister was alive. After they put her and her Barbie dolls in a coffin, my parents cried, and they started disappearing.
My two nannies appear during mealtimes or when one of them sings to me after lunch until I fall asleep. They talk to each other without stopping. I’m free all day to explore our house that my tree friend calls “Royal Palace.”
Papa said he’s king of the largest food seller. He decides, like if a barrio gets cheese or mayonnaise on Sunday, or if sidewalk vendors have the best sauce for barbecue during the Sinulog street festival. Mama said the bank “enthroned” her. She makes sure people have money to spend, money to buy Papa’s popcorn and Diet Coke.
White trucks park on our property, trucks with refrigerators to stock pork and chicken for delivery. I no longer see Mama get angry if gardeners can’t mow the lawn because of parked trucks. I’m grateful for trucks. I found a way to climb the truck parked near the tree.
I saw my friend sitting on a branch like Peter Pan, smiling like my kindergarten teacher. We talked for the first time when the moon was full, night smelling of star apple, Mama’s gumamela trees blooming blue flowers. I sweated, loving my armpits’ smells.
Raphael is my tree friend. He’s a couple of years older than me. I asked why no one else sees and hears him. He said I’ve been chosen. He encouraged me to explore our royal palace, always on time, warning me my parents “are returning.”
I’ve been discovering strange things, like Mama’s talking peacock in the warehouse behind our palace. The bird speaks words like, “ugly,” “one-eyed” and “tutelage.” Angry, it doesn’t like a warehouse that lacks lampshades, chasing me out. Papa’s metallic butterflies are arranged on shelves. When I looked closer, one of them tilted its head, scaring me into realizing it knows many things. One afternoon, the rust-smelling butterflies launched like airplanes, dozens circling the air.
Raphael said I should explore my parents’ room, find what he called “a cabinet with two doors.” For weeks, I couldn’t turn the doorknob. Last week, I got lucky, their room’s door not locked.
The cabinet stood in front of their bed. I don’t remember that there was a cabinet in their room. I know about cupboards, Mama’s drawers with jewelry and lipsticks, huge egg-shaped mirrors, bathroom with bathtub smelling of melons and avocados. I wasn’t surprised to see the cabinet. It was empty.
Colors appeared, colors like my crayola, circling and circling inside the cabinet, looking like crazy tadpoles. Colors like fireworks and the night sky’s blooming flowers, soundless. Colors like those in Papa’s bamboo kaleidoscope, standing like a pirate’s one-eyed telescope on his desk.
“Step in, Luis. Don’t be afraid.”
I turned to the direction of the voice, but saw no one.
Gaining courage, I stepped inside the cabinet and was pulled in like I plunged into water from the slide that angered Mama when Papa had it installed by the swimming pool.
The place is like my coloring book, animals like cartoon characters. I befriended Genghis the lion, Armand the zebra, Victoria the elephant and Gregorio the owl who said he teaches. They showed me blue rivers, green lakes, underground caves with strange lights. The place has two suns, one yellow, one green.
We ate apples, oranges, mangoes, fruits sweet and so large I needed both hands to hold one. They showed me bamboo palaces, bamboo organ the hyena plays before nightfall. I joined in praying to the moon goddess, sad when I heard Raphael say it’s time to be back home because my parents “are returning.”
Yesterday the door to their room was ajar. I peeped, surprised my parents were still in their room.
Papa and Mama cried and embraced each other before stepping into the cabinet. I know now why they vanish all day and return only when stars appear in the open window.
Jonel Abellanosa lives in Cebu City, the Philippines. His poetry and fiction have appeared in hundreds of literary journals and anthologies, including Windhover, The Lyric, Thin Air, Star*Line, Poetry Kanto, Loch Raven Review, That Literary Review and The Anglican Theological Review. His poetry collections include, Songs from My Mind’s Tree and Multiverse (Clare Songbirds Publishing House, New York), 50 Acrostic Poems (Cyberwit, India), In the Donald’s Time (Poetic Justice Books and Art, Florida), and his speculative poetry collection, Pan’s Saxophone (Weasel Press, Texas).
A Song for Jonel