(Joke time -- no, not really)
Riding jeepneys and buses, I've 'met' many unsavory characters: the snatcher, the pickpocket, the gun-carrying drunk man, the Badjao beggar, the malodorous psychotic vagrant. But none is quite as offensive as the 'bumper,' especially if the brazen creature is a girl.
The last time I was unfortunate enough to be the bumpee, it was just last week. A girl in her 20s with her female friend (maybe a classmate or officemate) stepped inside the jeep and saw the empty space right beside me and another guy passenger, a space which she must have figured could seat 1.5 persons. It must have struck her that the empty space could be expanded by magic, so she hurriedly seated herself and, to my utter disbelief, bumped my right side like I was some dog poo that needed to be swept off the lawn!
It so happened that I was deep in thought at the moment: Should I read Baudrillard next, or should it be Lacan and Slavoj Žižek, or Frantz Fanon? That's my fault, or jeepney faux pas: I failed to anticipate that a girl would be so unselfish as to finagle a seat for her dear friend right beside her so their female bonding would be complete -- imagine two friends who haven't seen each other for decades, with Facebook as their only point of connection, and they'd be separated by miles of space!
But I totally didn't expect what came next: After moving what I thought to be enough away from her, she bumped me again -- this time, even harder! Apparently her friend was plus-plus-plus-sized she needed an entire yard.
I was so incredulous I had to face her and check whether she's with a boyfriend who's carrying a rusty bolo, and when I was sure there was none, I gently told her, "Pwede namang sabihin, ba't kailangan pang itulak?" ("You could've asked; why the heck push?") Even I was surprised by my equanimity in the face of someone who, I figured, was the type of person who, in a fast-sinking ship, would grab my neck and fracture it and tear at my flabs for use as floaters. This was not just manipulation -- it was deep penetration!
Suddenly I took a mental note of how much seats were left and still very much available, if only she and her friend were willing to try to move inside the jeep a little bit further. And that is another reason why I was quite absent-minded: I could afford to, seeing all those empty seats right before me.
Realizing seconds later how insulted I was in two to three ways, I decided to vehemently slide my gluteus maximus muscles to the extreme end of the jeepney, right behind the driver, leaving enough space for her entire high school class. I shook my head in disbelief, totally appalled that such a young Filipina could sink so low like those fashionably saggy jeans that reveal one's preferred undie brand and buttcrack. I wonder what her stupid mother and useless father taught her when she was young; maybe the two pervs took turns in sexually molesting their own child she grew up not knowing where her mouth was from her anus. It's the 21st century, but there are still people who can be that uncouth to their fellowmen; maybe incivility never goes out of style in their part of the jungle. Frankly, I asked myself whether this isn't so typical of some Filipinos today. It's sad to think this was not just my second or third time, but my nth time.
What insulted me specifically was that the girl was brazen enough to think me so harmless and vulnerable that she didn't even bother to consider whether the guy beside her might be strong enough to slap her face, carrying a Swiss knife sharp enough to slice her off into sashimi, or depraved enough to rape her dog-style inside a moving vehicle. What insulted me even more was the thought that I was just treated like I didn't have the right as a solid matter, at least, one that "takes up space and has weight," as my elementary science lesson defined it. I reminded myself that I had the right to breathe, like she did. And I was happy I asserted my right to oxygen* this time.
I wonder whether I was born to be a magnet of such abusers. If I am asking, it's because I have quite a number of such rapists around me whose identity I will try to hide using code-names.
There was my young niece M., who borrowed my cell phone so she could talk to her boyfriend, which request I granted mercifully, only to discover she stole Php20 worth of PasaLoad. It's not the 20 pesos, of course, but the mere idea of robbing me blind right before my eyes. When she discovered I wasn't inclined to confront her, she even had the temerity to blurt out to another person, "Oh my, he didn't get mad at me!" Oh my, I most certainly did, so I brought my concern to her mother, who immediately shamed her dastardly daughter's act in public. But I still felt like I was the one screwed.
Then there's my cousin's wife P., who comes barging into my apartment unannounced right in the middle of my work, with an apology whose sincerity I distrusted because the apology came with two to four companions whom I hardly know. Talk about social decorum-impaired. Maybe she thought being a relation of a relative is license enough to incest?
There's also this man I'd call R., who has the exact same habit except with this crucial difference: He'd pour his heart out to me -- all the past frustrations, past resentments toward my parents, their so-called debts to him, and all manner of despairing in hell that I myself couldn't handle. As he leaves, I always feel like Typhoon Ondoy struck and destroyed everything in my life. He molests me by redefining the meaning of emotional vampirism.
The worst case is a childhood friend D., who barged into my apartment one day as a socioeconomic refugee but without telling me, only others connected to me, with a sort of a promise to find his own place someday, only to stay like forever, and with nary a payback to repair for the damage. Now I feel like a rape victim left deserted in a beach no one ever visited.
My religion taught to me to be merciful to the unfortunate even if my nature said no. But what to do in the face of someone who, like my bumper, asks, nay demands, for a mile when you give her an inch? Surely there are acceptable boundaries in being good? I wonder what kind souls like Vanier, Nouwen, et al. would think. I wish I could talk to Mother Teresa, to ask her where exactly do I draw the lines of sex abuse. Can I love myself without being selfish? Does selflessness mean erasing myself like a bad typo? Does selfish unselfishness exist? What if I'm asked to love at gunpoint?
These people are supposed to comprise the heart of the Philippines, the Pinoy masa, the Third World poor. Which makes me wonder whether I'm fighting for the causes of the right people. I could easily shift my writing concerns to the high life, you know? But who am I fooling? These are my people and I'm one of them; I have no other recourse, save for accepting them tumors, carbuncles, keloids and all.
When I, the bumpee, got off the jeep in which I endured breathing the same stale air with my bumper for several eternities, I groped for options of possible actions to take:
1. Will I tell her to mind her good manners and right conduct next time, or else...?
2. Will I just totally ignore her?
3. Will I, in revenge, bump the bulky bag she and her good friend turned out to be carrying with them?
I chose #2. And I sighed away everything from deep within. But I noticed from the corner of my eye how the bumper bowed her head, perhaps in shame, totally avoiding my angry gaze. That was good enough for me.
But I was half-hoping that, the next time around, she'd bump sideways a crazed hobo with a rusty bolo confusing himself to be Bonifacio (or something), and she, his two-timing ex-wife who aborted the son he had been petitioning heavens for ever since he noticed he could sire one.
*Sorry to the author I stole this from