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Ft. St. John
I'm writing this right away. I got your letter yesterday and John's away in town so I've got a few hours. I expect to see Valerie later this week. She came by to drop it off yesterday afternoon and I just finished reading it now.
The weather here is getting cold. Sam and I walked the mile to Helen's to visit and she squawked all the way there and home. She was complaining about the icy ground. Sam doesn't care for the cold at all but I wasn't going to carry her. She needs to become accustomed to winter weather in the north. Not that she spends a lot of time outside. She's a spoiled darling really. She's very entertaining and is the first cat I've ever seen who'll play fetch like a dog. She even does acrobatics by leaping into the air to catch her toy mouse on the fly. When we have company, she'll graciously drop it at their feet so that they might join in the game. She's wonderful company when I'm alone too. When we had rain last, Sam dragged a half drowned field mouse into the trailer and I had to rescue the poor thing. Field mice are so beautiful and small with cute pink ears. I was holding it by it's tail and it tried to shimmy up it to fight me off. Poor little thing. I put it back outside and scolded Sam for being so heartless.
I watch the coyotes hunt mice in the alfalfa field across the road. They zigzag and pounce and it's fun to watch them. I suppose they keep the mouse population under control for the farmers. Farmers don't seem to like them much because they kill chickens. The neighbours spend a lot of time complaining about the local wildlife. Deer eating their crops, mice in their grain, coyotes killing their chickens and everyone but me hates the wolves. I saw a black bear in the beehive boxes a few weeks ago too. While it's a black bear, it was a cinnamon colour. It made a hell of a mess too. Knocked over everything and pried the lid off one of the beehives. The bees from that hive wrapped themselves around a log in a buzzing blanket. Last weekend, the beekeeper came to harvest the honey. He took all the boxes away but left the bees. Now the same log is thick with them. The beekeeper will be giving some honey to Ben and Helen because it was their alfalfa field the bees were gathering nectar from. We'll get some too for having them nearby.
You sound busy with your studies and doing very well too. When I'm not taking care of the chores, I embroider. I'm working on a tablecloth with lilac garlands in each corner. It's a lot of work but it's soothing to do some stitching. I can't sew because there is no electricity and I don't have a treadle sewing machine. I've chosen deep and pale purple with dark green leaves. The floss isn't very expensive and my mother gave me the linen so it's not all that expensive a hobby. I have to watch the money all the time because John isn't working. He's been talking about getting a job on the oil rigs this winter as a roughneck. A roughneck is a labourer just so you know. What a great title for such a lousy dirty job. The pay is good though. John is as tough as nails and likes hard work.
I saw a black wolf the other day. He was by himself and loping across the road. He stopped when he saw me and there was some weird thing going on between us. Almost like an unspoken contact. I wasn't afraid and he was curious enough to take a few steps towards me. I spooked him when I put down the bucket I was using to fill our water cistern and he took off. I noticed he stopped when he got into the brush and kept watching me. Oh yes! I am driving the truck to the slough to get water now. It's great. My first driving lesson was with the tractor and I was backing it up so we could hitch it to Ben's. I didn't know the tractor had no brakes and you had to use the clutch to slow to a stop so I backed into Ben's tractor and hard. I almost got thrown out of the tractor seat. John was so mad he began swearing in German.
After that, he gave me lessons in the pickup and I can manage okay without going off the road or lurching when I shift gears. I'm not allowed to go further than the end of our road though. That's okay by me. John lets me drive further when he's with me. Last time it rained was my first time driving in gumbo mud. Wow, was it slick and messy. I was going up this small hill sideways while John was yelling at me to keep my foot on the gas and steering into the skid. We almost landed up in the ditch but I made it to the top. The mud roads are mucky and the mud sticks to the tires till the clumps get so huge they get too heavy. Then it comes off in sickening thuds and the truck lurches over the lumps. It's worse to drive in than snow and ice.
Pete, the reason I am writing right away is because of what you wrote about that man. John says men always are considering the possibilities of having sex with the women they meet. I suppose it's the same thing if they are homosexuals. I was a bit shocked by that and almost asked John if he did the same thing. I was afraid of his answer though so I didn't. Now every time another woman is visiting I wonder if John is thinking that. I kind of wish he'd never told me. He was annoyed at me when he said it because I'd been talking to one of the neighbours and he thought I was flirting. I've never met a homosexual as far as I know and I sure as hell would never ask anyone if they were. Seems to be none of my business. I have to ask you why you felt flattered though. If a woman approached me I'd have been really embarrassed. Even though I was pregnant when I got married I haven't had a lot of experience. When I was twelve and traveling by myself on a bus a guy started feeling me up through the crack in the seat. I was going to spend the summer with friends of my parents. I went and told the driver and the guy got thrown off the bus in the middle of nowhere. I felt really guilty. Another time my dad left me in the car when he and my brother went to arrange a boat excursion in Hudson Hope. This guy started talking to me and when he reached his hand through the open window, I rolled it up. I never told my dad because the guy left after that. The boys my own age in school ignored me and I ignored them back. I used to play with them when I was younger but something happened when we went to high school and they began ignoring me. I don't know why but it doesn't really matter. I felt years older than them and didn't like it when they paid attention to me because they were so gross. One boy in school was sitting at the desk in front of me. He turned around and was teasing me. He pulled on my sweater's zipper tassel and it came halfway undone. I smacked him and he turned back around. He never teased me again and I wasn't sorry either. When I met John, I was with my dad at a loggers' sports day. John took one look at me and that was it for him. That's what he told me anyhow. Said he was a goner the minute he set eyes on me. I honestly can't say I felt the same way but he was so determined to get me I figured I must be worth having. Peter, I'm still trying to work this love thing out in my head. I respect John and admire him but I don't understand love. Don't ask me about sex because I won't tell you. That's private as far as I'm concerned. My dad told me that those things should stay in the bedroom and between two people. My mom never said anything about sex as far as I can remember. Well, that's not true really. When I was at a dance with my parents she complained to me about one of her dance partners bragging about his erection and how it hadn't impressed her at all. She said something about dogs if I remember right. That night was the night a guy smashed up his car after he'd asked to take me home and my dad had said no. I remember my mom saying how lucky I was to have escaped. I didn't think so because I thought he might have driven more carefully if I'd been with him. He was cute! Jeez Pete, I wonder if you'll get this part of the letter. Sometimes I write something to my mom and then tear it up after I've thought about it.
My mom sent me a beautiful coat for my birthday. It's sheared pile and a gorgeous design with a fur ruff around the hood. It's got red, blue, green, white and orange in the pattern. I loved it until John told me my mom had sent it because she thought he wasn't able to pay for a coat for me. John always thinks my mom is digging at him. I don't think my mom doesn't like John but she's nothing like John's mom. The coat is beautiful and so warm but now all I think about is what John said. I'm miles away from my mom and yet he thinks she's interfering. It's my coat of many colours Pete. I'm going to wear it because it's silly not to.
I can see John coming down the road. I'll get this off in the mail as soon as Valerie comes by.
Take care of yourself and don't worry about that man.
Peter Paulino de Villa
700 Mulawin Street
I lead just but two lives, Penny. One, a life that I live among the ones who I am closely acquainted with; two, a life that I live among strangers.
October is through and I have now returned from my week and a half semestral break. Aunt Bette is perhaps shopping or at the church with my cousins. That means I am alone in the house listening to Michael Murphy’s music and writing this. I haven’t mentioned my Uncle Rigor, Bette’s husband and my father's older brother, he is also in Bahrain. These kin are so nice they agreed to let me stay for free till I graduate from college. Nope, I don’t sleep in the living room because they’re meticulous and wouldn’t let the sofa have the smell of sweat. Instead, they let me occupy the eldest Annie's room while she moved her bed to Christie’s and Ginnie’s. I guess they're all happy because there’s a boy to do the errands they’re not accustomed to do.
Wow, Annie and Christie have such voracious appetites for reading books! Paperbacks and all are lying around the house. I guess Wuthering Heights is their favorite because they have both English and Tagalog versions. There are lots of Mills and Boons too and some Sweet Dreams pocketbooks. I get to read three or four SD romances: PS I Love You so and so, but then I settled for mostly Sidney Sheldon's and Perry Mason series. I pity Ginnie because she was like an outcast all the time, often having the interests far away from us. Ginnie is the youngest and younger to me by two years. Anyway, I couldn’t help but feel closer to Annie and Christie because the first writes and is fond of poetry and the latter enjoys the same music I like. Ginnie is more often away with her neighborhood peers.
Annie and Christie go to the same university with me so we three were often together till this semester. Annie was so pleased that whenever it was our time to walk together to school I read and discussed her poems with her. These were only during MTFs. Wednesdays and Thursdays, Christie was my companion. Outside, we were often just quiet and reading books (side by side in trains and stations not when walking!) But then I know these routines will change and the girls will be annoyed because this semester I chose the earliest classes. Remember I told you I’ll be looking for a job? I still haven’t found one but I already made my late afternoons available for when I can already find a six-hour work.
I’m glad that at school I am again mostly with the same bunch as in the last semester. I missed our spooky ghost-hunting trips at the supposed haunted old auditorium hall of PUP. There is something to look forward to as well this semester because our History subject has scheduled to send us to an historical field trip.
Mind you, Penny, I am beginning to forget Mary Jean because I met a new girl. Her name is Julia, short-legged but very pretty. When we were together paying for our tuition she agreed to sit next to me in our classes. She enrolled to all the same subjects and the same schedules as mine. I learned that she's a working student. I think she likes me because she hangs around me like I am already her boyfriend. Our first five days back in school have never been dull, each day she has a revelation to make. My original peer is beginning to warm towards her, especially Japeth who is my best friend in the group. I think I like her too, but five days is not enough for me to be able to figure out what I really feel.
Today is Sunday and earlier I went to check-out the book I wanted to buy: Charles Dickens' Great Expectations. I thought the two hundred bucks I have would be enough but apparently the price of hardcover increased by more or less fifteen percent over the past months. So I just sated my want by just caressing and sniffing the leather jacket of the book. I returned it to its shelf with so much a mixed feeling of lust and unhappiness. I just went out of the bookstore and surveyed the other shops inside the mall.
I stopped at one old woman who was eating donuts, watched her mouth getting big as she munched the bread, making everything disappear in seconds. Whew, she was eating her lipstick too!
I walked and walked around Ali Mall for maybe the entire afternoon Penny, like I will be shopping for a pair of shoes at the end of my exercise. I sat among the small crowd in a chapel at the fourth level of the mall, not to pray but to just wonder at the buzzing I hear coming from people’s murmuring lips. I was observing too their different expressions.
I stood among the bystanders who were watching basketball from the televisions showcased in an appliance shop. I listened to their grunts and whining, their stutter and swearing in front of the muted action.
Then I bumped a man who instead of getting mad at me grinned at me. He seemed to be the ghost of that not yet dead fortyish man I mentioned in my last letter. But he was not the one, of course. Suddenly everything around me seemed to take their actual shapes and meanings. I was suddenly jolted back from a reverie and realized that all the other boys my age inside that mall may have been striding back and forth because they're pimping themselves to some dirty old men swarming the area! That I looked not a bit different from any of these boys! I turned away and ran as fast as I could, Penny. I turned away.