Monday, March 23, 2015

Neverland

When I was eleven years old, I stole a book at a bookstore. In those days, only a few shops were using concealed magnetic or RFID anti-theft devices so I managed to take the paperback with ease. Why did I do it? Simple, because I was a kid and my mother had no money.

   The book was an illustrated edition of J. M. Barrie's Peter and Wendy. The film Hook, starring Robin Williams, Julia Roberts and Dustin Hoffman, was huge at that time and I so badly wanted to be part of the Lost Boys. My mother did not notice the book until I was at home reading it. She did not confiscate it, but I was grounded for a week. Grounding was pretty useless because I was an introvert and my room was full of reading materials: books, comics, and even pornographic magazines.

   When finally I was freed, I went to my friend Larry and told him how I got grounded. We played basketball for two hours and watched Bill and Ted's Excellent Adventure while eating sandwiches. Larry had been an excellent ball player in his youth. When he was eighteen, he was invited to go for a tryout at a university. He didn't actually end up going because of his heart condition. But he could have been a legend in the pro ranks with his speed and shooting prowess had not for his weak heart.

   As soon as Larry took his last bite of that greasy sandwich, he wiped his mouth and looked through the window over the table. "Let's go out," he said, and I followed him out of the kitchen. There was a bunch of poverty-stricken kids belting out Yuletide carols – complete with tambourines made out of tansan, and drums made out of tin cans. It was mid-October, the weather was warm and children still had classes. But in the Philippines, Christmas celebrations begin months before the actual day.

   Larry didn't smile or frown, but he had a curious look of contentment. I never stole a book again. And, during my teenage years, I realized there was a pleasure in saving for and paying for something you really wanted.

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