“Here,” Jed said, making a turn. “Look at this. He said it would be here.”
“I have my sources.”
“Have you been pumping information from Manong Babe?”
Jed didn’t answer.
“Don’t you dare include him in this plot, Jed.”
In the room’s dark pulp, he stopped and kissed me: “I wouldn’t dare involve Manong Babe,” he said. “I love Manong Babe.”
“Stop it,” I said.
“There’s something about guns,” he laughed, clutching me from behind.
“Teargasm,” I said.
“Let’s do it,” he said.
It was a secluded niche; I was ready before he closed the door. We didn’t wait to take off our clothes. Come to think of it, I liked sex in stupid places—where novelty matched my body’s surprise. It always shocked me, like electric wiring, the scratch of his shirt against my breast, his wet mouth—and the oddness of our placement between plaster wall and wood-shaving pile gave the gross grappling just the right pitch of madness in that creepy cave.
Later we almost missed it: a doorway to a dark, noncommittal space. I switched the light on for Jed. I sat on top of the crate. He began tapping on it. He took his sports bag from his shoulder and unzipped it. He was ready: he had wire pliers, pocketknives with different blades, a heavy-duty pair of scissors. Hammers and nails. All he needed to do was find the loot in one box.
I watched while he went through the first box, feeling the wrapped object.
“They should be locked and sealed in a metal bind,” Jed muttered. “This can’t be it: they wouldn’t be covered in paper.”
The fact is, the warehouse also had other goods. A harmless trade. Watches, toys and shirts: cuckoo clocks. We opened up several boxes. I hammered the tops shut when we had the wrong box. You had to look for the right-sized one; the containers were smaller than you expected.
“Ssh,” I said, walking over.
They were packed unassembled, with cartridge, trigger, and muzzle in separate wrap, like incoherent scraps. An expert, I imagine, could easily conjure wholeness from the loose parts, with that voodoo of knowledge like a snap of vision in a gun lover’s heart. But I had never held a gun. Jed held out a part for me to hold. It was a bunch of metal, inarticulate, not even foreboding, surprisingly greasy, slippery, inert and senseless in my ignorant hands.
Later, I felt that dread, that mild flush of death, when I saw the ammunition, a tidy, bunched pack.
“See this?” said Jed. “When this hits the flesh, it explodes in you, like metal batter. Let’s see: it’s called—‘the Winchester Silvertip.’ This one shatters your bones but lodges inside. This one can go right through you, if you had the right caliber. We don’t want them. They’re not the right ones; we can take one set, though, just in case. We need the ones for the machine guns, the ones that can shatter bulletproof cars. Look at these brand-new beautiful babies. You know, your Uncle Gianni has the best goods among the private dealers. He really does. Did you know that? Excellent stuff. Look. Kiss that baby.”
He handled the wrapped metal with an eager gaze, an expression I recognized, that intense look he made as he pressed against my chest, for instance, his face breathing hard and finger pivoting. He caressed a loose muzzle. Watching him, his apparent thrill, was frightening, and I felt my own nipples shyly rising, a rash, favorable fit, the way I always responded to Jed.
A vague convulsion met us outside. We had to shield our eyes when we stepped out of the warehouse. As we walked out to the field, carrying our heavy bags, we heard that low, massed hum in the distance, a crowd in heat. I had to adjust a bit, coming from artificial glare into the bright sunshine of the tournament and the game’s loud abandoned noises. A deciding half was in full swing. One could tell from spectators’ cheers, vowels rising to follow this ball or that man. Our feet walked to the rhythm of their frenetic calls. The urgent expectation of victory roused the crowds (a flushed, sweetly tanned interracial mix, united by thrill) to that shrill frisson resembling passion: loud shrieks from a woman otherwise sedately dressed while she hissed, wanton moans when a ball grazed the post, and the mortal wounding notes when the enemy made its incursions, delicately balling the mouth of the goal. We stopped, dropping our bags.
Jed stood by and watched, as he had promised his friend; he became absorbed in the game, squinting and biting his lip. His large-bodied friend Pochie, blond hair now in a ponytail, was playing for Team Spain. He hogged the ball with agile greed, and then, by what seemed a trick, causing a groan in the crowd, he hit the ball into the far post—on an error from the Filipino goalie, whose chest spun on the ground, like a chagrined cow. Team Philippines lost, bad luck, the young prostitutes imported from Pasay said, shaking their heads; and the Filipinos had had control of the play for two halves, too bad; all they had needed was one lucky break, said Mang Carlos. It was only Sir Pochie’s fair share, after all, muttered Al, who had bet on the man though he shook his head in disappointment, and the young women admired Pochie’s broad, bullocky thighs.
We stood there watching, Jed and I, our bags on the grass, and after a while I lay down, gauging the progress of the games from the noises of the crowd, while I closed my eyes beside Jed’s feet. I smelled the whiff of leather, grass, sweat.
There, that remnant moment, when unruly hopes still mattered and floated in the breeze, the air warm and sweet. The din was like a deep rocking, my head against our bags, wind rustling while I rearranged my shape to fit the bags’ awkward, metallic edges. That moment: hold it—a sense of utter expectation, a temporal vacuum, the act yet to be done, and our souls in pendulous sway. Nothing yet scratched on the coin of time.
I felt some febrile, exquisite contact, like a ghostly clitoral shiver: my taut breasts and soft, spread-eagled body tremulous and open to Manila’s sky. I imagine that I remember it—that lone, orgastic moment—when the future lay in wait, still innocent, eyes closed and mouth parted, breathing softly in the wind.