2 March 2003 | Vol. 3, No. 1

Isabel, The Damaged

In her dreams of November Isabel was always free. Consider: November in the district of Novaliches is the perfect medias res. The anticipation of the holidays makes the children eager for play. Earlier, and the floods found them mired indoors. Later, and they were off to the relatives and to tedious reunions.

At age 4, November for Isabel was a time to raise her eyes to the sky, to beseech rain, and go running from the house after school to catch the pre-dusk clouds turn orange.

That day, Isabel ran out of the house and was promptly hit by a speeding jeepney. The impact was terrific. The jeep was doing 80kph on a late Friday afternoon, along a narrow, newly cemented street. Isabel was thrown into the air, the ribbons in her hair coming undone, and flipped twice before landing beside a leaking fire hydrant. She came down, head first. Half her skull was shattered, her left arm twisted from the collision.

The jeepney screeched to a halt. The driver got out. He inspected the blood on the bumper, walked over to Isabel, and squatted down beside her gory mess. He ran an exhausted hand over his face.

Isabel looked up and said, "I'm sorry."

The driver smirked, nodded, and admonished her for running right out the street just like that when she knew there were cars zipping about. She should be inside. It was getting dark. It was a school day and she should be doing homework. Where the heck was she going anyway? He asked as he helped her up.

Isabel pointed to the tall water tower that served as the community's back-up supply. "To look at the clouds," she added, then asked the driver to pull her twisted arm. She screamed as it was set back. She flexed her fingers, knocked her jaw back into place, and pushed back her right eye, which had popped out when she hit the pavement.

The driver shrugged, got one of her slippers from under the jeep and gathered up the fractured parts of her skull. Tsk, her parents would be mad at him. Where were they, anyway?

Isabel shrugged, pointed at her open, bleeding head. "I can't see it. You'll have to put it back, please."

It took the driver an hour to put Isabel back together again. He then told Isabel to get into the jeep and stay put. When she was peacefully distracted and fiddling with the radio, he got out a small, empty Coleman. With it he then went back and forth, alternately fetching water from the leaking hydrant and washing Isabel's blood off the street. When only a brownish stain remained it was already too dark to see. He told Isabel to postpone her trip to the water tower for tomorrow and just stay home.

Isabel nodded.

The driver scratched his head, pursed his lips, and remembered something. He took a piece of paper, a receipt, from his wallet and scribbled on its blank side. "Look, give this to your parents, okay. Tell them that if they need anything, to just call me," he handed her the receipt.

Isabel nodded.

The driver got in and Isabel watched him speed off. She watched him rush to the intersection down the street and get smashed by a truck that had been speeding from the blind alley on the left. The impact was terrific. The truck hit the jeep exactly at the driver's side. Isabel saw the jeepney driver thrown from his seat, the momentum carrying him right out the opposite door. He hung supine on the street, arms stretched out above him, while his feet were caught on the right seat's edge. His body made a 45-degree angle with the totaled jeep. His left side was a bloody pulp.

Isabel turned over the receipt and read the driver's phone number and his address. He lived just three streets down. Below these, in a strong and heavy hand he had written: "I accidentally hit your daughter today. I'm sorry."

She looked over at the smoking wreckage down the street. Her driver was trying feebly to raise a fist and to curse the truck driver with a toothless mouth. It would take them more than an hour to reassemble him, she surmised. She looked at the note again before she tore it up and threw it to the gutter.

She then made her way to the water tower.

About the author:

Karl R De Mesa is a freelance writer and journalist based in Manila, The Philippines. His first book, a collection of short stories titled Damaged People, is forthcoming. He can be reached at .

For further reading:

Browse the contents of 42opus Vol. 3, No. 1, where "Isabel, The Damaged" ran on March 2, 2003. List other work with these same labels: fiction, flash fiction, magical realism.

42opus is an online magazine of the literary arts.

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