Saturday, July 20, 2013

Damián, el Cojo (1940)

Damian was the most popular person on Rizal Avenue. Damian sold newspapers and sweepstakes tickets on the various sidewalks of our “Broadway” Manileño.

Damian was “half a man,” because the popular seller of newspaper lacked legs. He walked with a pair of skates. Damian had lost his legs when he was working in a gold mine in Baguio; a dynamite explosion blasted away his limbs. The company retired him with two thousand pesos which the lame man invested successfully.

Damian had very few needs. He was a bachelor, and the little income that his little capital produced was enough for him to live on. But he could not accustom himself to an idler. This is why he dedicated himself to the selling of newspapers and lotteries.

Damian, like it was said, roamed the sidewalks of Avenida Rizal morning, noon, and night. He was known in all the stores, restaurants, and cinemas. He was not a handsome man, but he was devastatingly warm and friendly. That is why he sold more newspapers and lotteries than all the rest of the vendors of his “zone.”

Damian, the cripple, like they called him, was something of a poet. In his spare time, he used to read all the literature that fell in his hands, and he wrote poetry that he sent to Taliba, Liwayway, Sampaguita, and other newspapers published in Tagalog, and this added some more pesos to his monthly income. He wrote, shielding himself with a pseudonym, because he was afraid that people would recognize him. Damian had always been very timid, and his misfortune had added to his timidity.

The cripple of Rizal Avenue had never been in love, not even when he was a whole man. But one fateful day, a woman came into his life. The first and the last. He saw her enter a Japanese business house. And she did not leave the store the whole day. Damian made the corresponding inquiries. She was called Inday and worked as a saleslady in the Japanese store.

Inday was not beautiful, but she had a beautiful body and what Americans call “it” attraction. Despite her modesty, she dressed elegantly, and she had an enchanting smile, a smile that captivated the cripple.

Damian resigned himself to seeing Inday enter and leave the store. He remembered the hours of the opening and closing of the Japanese store, and not a day passed that he did not contemplate the woman who had taken possession of his heart. And the poor cripple suffered his tragedy in silence. Until the day he saw Inday for the first time, the loss of his legs had never bothered him much.  But now it was different. If only he had legs!

If Damian had his limbs which he lost in the mines, Inday would have been his. But a “half a being”  like him could not win the heart of Inday, nor of any other woman. And for the fist time in his life, Damian felt his misfortune. And he cried, cried bitterly because of his misfortune.

To lighten his tragedy a little, he composed poems, many poems, and dedicated them to Inday. And these poems were so beautiful that they aroused the interest of the people, and he was paid a lot for them. These poems flowed from the bleeding heart of poor crippled Damian.

Inday received the poems that Damian sent her. The first ones she did not read. It is so silly to read poetry in these times, she thought. But she received them so often that her interest was aroused. And she read them … And Inday loved them. And she became interested in the author. But who was he? Why did he not introduce himself?

Inday dreamed about her unknown suitor. She imagined he was young, handsome, and intelligent. Because those poems could not be written by a person who was not such. How beautiful were those poems! And how its author must like her! But all the investigations she made did not reveal her anonymous lover.

Benigno G. del Río.
Prejuico de Raza
Manila. 1940.

Translated by Pilar E. Mariño.

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