That’s the thing about this city, it doesn’t know the similarities among its people. It felt like nobody cares about nobody. That’s why it was always easy for me live in the rural areas, it felt like home. Being in this city is like getting trapped in a battle of who gets to outlive who.
There is a fine line between the poor and the rich here. Melissa, the young girl who sells fried donuts in the streets of our suburban village relies on every penny she can get to bring food to her siblings. Brian, the young steadfast paralegal who lives two houses away from us relies on every penny he can get to pay for his parents’ retirement dues. Everyone in this city is so caught up in everything they do that they fail to see that we are all connected in one way or another.
I stagger on the driveway as I walk towards the gate to close it. I had a few bottle of beer just awhile ago and I never really had good alcohol tolerance. It was already ten in the evening and I was about to go to bed when I remembered I did not lock the front gate. As I fight through my drunken state to properly close the the gate, I saw a person carrying a big box over his head. I shook my head as if to wake myself up. The only time I ever saw a person from the subdivision in the streets was when they were jogging. No one ever strolled here, everyone lived in the fast lane. As the person drew nearer, I realized it was not a he. It was the young Melissa slowly walking while carrying what I presume are the fried donuts she sells. I opened the gate and walked out to meet her. She usually sells around the subdivision in the afternoon. Her costumers are the maids and helpers in the houses who go out to buy donuts from her during their afternoon breaks.
“Melissa, what are you still doing here?” I asked the young girl as soon as she was near.
She stopped walking just a few feet away and carefully placed the box she was carrying down on the sidewalk. I walked towards her while waiting for her response.
“Good evening, Sir. hindi pa naubos, Sir,” Melissa replied while wiping away the sweat from her forehead.
I frowned at her because I did not understand her words. I may have lived in the country for ten years now but my understanding of the native language was still below par.
“Many donuts still, Sir,” she tried to explain.
I nodded and leaned to see the content of the box. There were still a few dozen fried donuts inside. The times I bought from her was when she was about to exit the village so there were only a few left. She usually sells them out easily to the workers in the subdivision. She must be out of luck today.
“No one’s going to buy those, kid. It’s already late in the evening,” I tell her.
Melissa frowned and was about to say something when a phone started ringing. She pulled out an out-of-date phone from her pouch and answered it.
“Aleng Nina, bakit po? "
I tried to eavesdrop on the conversation but I could not decipher the words she was using. I only understood a few words when she used the English translation of them. Another thing about the people in this city is how they easily throw in English words in their sentences. From the people in the corporate world down to the construction workers, they all know how to speak English in some way, correct grammar or not.
The phone call ended pretty soon and I saw an ashen look in Melissa’s face. The young girl has grown rather pale even under the light of the street lamp. She must have received bad news.
“What happened?” I asked her.
“My father, Sir. He is in prison again,” Melissa replied in a low voice.
My drunkenness seemed to evaporate. I was shocked not by knowing that her father was in jail but because she said again. So this already happened before.
I did not mean to be nosy but my curiosity got the best of me. The young girl did not seem to give out the answer as she wiped her sweat once again.
“Andrew is in the hospital as well. My brother got shot.”
By now, I am sure all the thought of being drunk has fully left my body. The reaction I am getting from this girl was not the normal way a person would act when they are handed with two shocking news.
“You should go then. Your brother needs you in the hospital,” I said quickly.
“No, Sir. Marami pa akong paninda. I need to sell the donuts,” the young girl answered stubbornly and lifted the box again.
I grabbed her arm to stop her. Is she crazy? Her brother must be in a critical condition if he did get shot.
“I’ll take you to the hospital,” I said.
Melissa shook her head and pulled her arm back. She placed the donut box down.
“No money, Sir. I need money to pay for the hospital. I need to sell donuts,” Melissa said in a tired voice.
I looked at her face as if searching for a new emotion. The young girl sounded like an adult trying to be reasonable during a difficult situation. I was about to say that I was going to buy all the donuts left when a car honked behind me. Turning around, I tried to cover my eyes from the bright light of the car’s headlights. The car stopped behind us and two persons got out. I squinted to get a better look as they started walking towards us. It was Brian, my neighbor, and another person who I did not recognize who was wearing a police uniform.
“Good evening, Mr. Clint,” Brian greeted me.
I nodded at him and turned to look at Melissa. She seemed scared as she looked at the man beside Brian.
“We need to take her with us,” Brian said while pointing at Melissa.
“What for?” I asked him while taking a step in front of the young girl as if to shield her from the two men.
“We just have to ask her a few questions about her father, Mr. Clint,” Brian answered uneasily.
“Do you have a warrant?” I asked him and when he didn’t answer, I looked at the cop beside him.
“Sir, I am SPO2 Ruiz and we just arrested Melissa Alegado’s father because of possession of illegal drugs. We need to take her in because some witnesses say she is also involved in her father’s illegal business,” the officer sternly explained.
“What do you mean? She’s a child. What does she have to do with this? She can’t come with you,” I told him.
“She is a suspect, Sir,” Brian said.
“Did you know her brother is in the hospital? She need to go there first,” I replied.
“We know, Sir. Her brother was caught in the drug bust that we did. He is one of the casualties. We really need to bring Melissa with us right now,” Officer Ruiz calmly told me.
The cop and Brian walked towards me and Melissa. I stood aside not knowing what else to say. I saw Melissa crying while walking planked on either side by the two men. The officer was holding her right arm tightly which I knew was hurting the young girl. I tried to speak out but no words came out from my mouth. I had no idea what to say to them. If this was an investigation, I have no say to it.
As Melissa was about to enter the car I saw her looked at me with tears in her eyes. I tried to smile as if to say everything was going to be alright but I think my mouth might have formed an awkward form. Brian closed the door as soon as she was inside. He nodded his head at me before entering into the passenger’s seat.
I watch as the car turned and drove away from me. The tail lights seemed to be the last thing I would remember of the young girl who sold fried donuts in our subdivision. I heaved a deep breath and as I looked down, I saw Melissa left her box of donuts. It looked so sad laying on the sidewalk. I know it was already cold as she probably started selling them around in the afternoon.
I lifted the box and looked down at the contents inside. I looked at the non-existent car that drove away. That’s the thing about this city, everything gets left behind.