A LITTLE BOY. He was around four years old. Or maybe three. He stood almost waist-high. He wore a grubby striped shirt, an outsize shirt that ran down his bare feet. He looked unclean, he obviously hadn’t taken a bath for several days now.
When I first saw him, he was standing at the jeepney stop area, near some commuters who were waiting for their ride home. He looked as if he, too, was waiting for a ride home.
When he saw a jeepney arrive way past the jeepney stop, he quickly ran, his little feet trying their best to catch up with the commuters who had gone ahead of him to get inside the jeepney.
No, he didn’t get inside when the jeepney had stopped. He just stood near the front passenger side of the jeepney where the driver’s companion, the conductor-cum-barker, was seated. While the conductor-barker, who had leaned out of the front passenger jeepney door, was busy bellowing to the crowd of commuters standing at the jeepney stop and flashing the metal plate where the jeepney’s destination was written, the little boy stared dumbly at the conductor-barker. The little boy was mumbling something.
The conductor-barker then leaned back, checking the passengers who had just gotten inside the jeepney. He didn’t see, or just didn't pay attention to, the little boy who had now raised his tiny half-opened palm to beg for money.
No luck. The little boy failed to get attention from the conductor-barker, who had now leaned his elbow back on the window-less front passenger door. The conductor-barker was training his eyes on the new set of commuters who had arrived at the jeepney stop.
As it appeared that there were no prospective passengers in sight, the jeepney started to move slowly.
Still, the little boy was persistent. He walked at pace with the jeepney’s movement, still badgering the conductor-barker to spare him a coin.
Tough luck. The conductor-barker still saw nothing. The last minute feeble plea of the little boy was totally ignored.
Seconds later, the jeepney sped off.
Frustrated, the little boy stepped back and stopped near the area where the crooked edges of the asphalt road met the concrete sidewalk. He slowly dropped down and sat on his haunches, his buttocks nearly touching the pavement. He appeared to be scraping the sidewalk with his hand. Or playing something which had caught his fancy.
The next moment, he stood up. He seemed to be undecided what to do next.
Something caught his attention. A little girl and her mother just passed by him. He took a fleeting glance at the little girl.
Another minute passed. He took a few steps. He saw something on the pavement and bent down. A few eyes hovered above him while he busied himself with his new-found task.
I thought he was trying to pick up something from the concrete ground.
His two hands were now holding something. And then, he was trying to match something with something. Or was trying to attach something to an object he had just taken. He was too engrossed with his activity he ignored everyone around him, including the commuter who was standing just several inches away from him.
He stood up after a while, holding what appeared to be a wooden wiry stick covered with red material. He began to walk with measured steps. He was still at it, trying to get his task done.
Then he turned to his right and continued walking, his eyes still glued on what he was doing.
It was a slow leisurely walk; he was headed towards the corner block, where a crowd was gathered near a sidewalk vendor.
But then, he saw something. It drew his attention.
The arrival of another jeepney.
He froze, dropped what he was holding and started to sprint. He extended his small arm toward the arriving jeepney---his arm was specifically directed toward the jeepney’s passenger who was seated at the front---as he tried to match the jeepney’s speed. It looked as if he was racing with the jeepney.
Alas, no luck. The jeepney didn’t stop; it roared away. He discontinued his chase and looked hopelessly at the fading image of the jeepney. Another failed endeavour.
[Note: Read the complete story in the book "You Filibini?" Stories and Other Writings by Amador F. Brioso, Jr., published May 2010]