All the other angels had come, collected their little girls, and gone, giving Riza mildly curious but mostly unaffected, complacent looks as she waited another half an hour at least, patient as the cafeteria cat waiting on scraps of food neglected on the benches or below the long trench tables, dropped by the endless carelessness of baby-fat fingers. The little girl felt they all knew what was going on; angels, after all, were attuned to plights for help and human discontent but none of them came to comfort her or offer assurance of Xila’s arrival.
Riza observed an angel beckon to one of her schoolmates, a girl whose runny nose she dabbed at through the first three periods and sneezed into her uniform collar, whose tangled hair was rumored to be infected with fat lice. Her angel was tall, a giantess, the faint light of her halo gleamed behind sleek black hair. Tall and broad-shouldered, the angel bent down to kiss her child’s forehead, fussing over her ruined uniform. Riza knew the little girl as a bad-speller, probably the worst in her class, her penmanship near indecipherable. They had begun practicing the letter ‘G’ now and Riza had almost perfected the nice, big loops as well as the tender flourish, like an afterthought, that accentuated its nimble lower-case counterpart. Hands barely shaking, she finished the last row ‘g’s when she looked over at her classmate sniffling on the other side of the table, hard at work on the big letters. Riza stared at her near-perfect ‘G’s with a sense of serene self-satisfaction that sweetened her smile and made her look away from Lyn’s workbook even as the girl in question looked up.
Tapos ka na? Lyn was behind and Riza pretended not to hear, ashamed to have been caught peeking. Hoy. Lyn sniffed and made to reach over to tap her shoulder. Riza moved away quickly, swiping her workbook out of reach, horrified: maghugas ka nga ng kamay! Lyn’s angel had produced a large, white bimpo with which she cleaned Lyn’s fingers. Busy watching Lyn’s angel pink Lyn’s cheeks pink, Riza barely noticed her own guardian puffing up behind her. Xila’s meaty hand was heavy on Riza’s shoulder.
Xila, tignan mo yun. Ang ganda niya. Without an adult’s hesitation, Riza was quick to demand an explanation for Xila’s own physical form: he manifested as an ungainly youth, squat, flatfooted, and prone to scowling. Bat ikaw hindi? Her angel gave her a tender look, a replica of her parent’s when they were forced into a corner and left with no better answer but an admission that something was beyond explanation. Hindi kasi ako anghel.