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By: Joel P. Salud
Joey(not his real name) is your typical 23-year-old young intellectual-a hardnosed, matter-of-fact Nitzschean disciple withan ego that would make the USS Titanic look like it was built by Matchbox,”
As a UP Diliman philosophy and political science dean’s lister, he can’t be anything else but downright snooty,, and a skeptic through-and-through. He did not want to admit he was a cynic, however. Self-styled geniuses and freethinkers never make such claims. As far as Joey was concerned , his mind was big enough for every possible idea and concept. Everything but ghosts. It was a rowdy afternoon at Vinzon’s Hall, quite unusual for a Saturday. The student center was bursting, at the seems with students from every college in UP, sitting in corners in their torn jeans and sandals, books in hand. The lobby was so packed that day that Joey could not concentrate on what he was reading- a book by Engel. Raul, a friend and classmate, was supposed to meet him at the hallway near the entrance of the building. But it’s been an hour already, and there was no sign of Raul. Surprisingly, even though there were many people in the hall, he saw no one that he actually knew. Bored and irritated by the hollow rumblings of students’ around him, he decided to pack his bags and leave for the second floor. There, he thought, he could stay and read in peace. The second floor of Vinzon’s Hall was relatively quiet and peaceful, the perfect place to read and concentrate, he thought. Joey hadn’t read a fairly good book in weeks, and this bothered him immensely. A voracious reader, he would spend almost half his monthly allowance on reasonably priced books. Much of his student life was spent this way- his face buried inside the pages of a book. Forget the parties and the usual “gimmicks” young people usually indulged in. For Bookworm Joey, relaxing with a good book was the only way to have fun. He immediately slumped in one corner, and in just a few minutes, he was already on his fourth chapter. He could feel the cold stone wall on his back, which made his left collar bones ache a bit. He decided to wear his jacket to ease the cramp. As he was taking his jacket out of his knapsack, he heard a deep ethereal sound coming from the men’s comfort room. Sort of like a hushed yet deep whisper. It sounded like the voice of a young woman gasping for breath. But it couldn’t be. Maybe, some couple is making out in the john. What a drag, he thought. A few minutes later, Joey saw someone come out of the men’s comfort room. It was Raul. Joey motioned to his friend to come and join him. As Raul polished the cold slab under him, Joey asked, ” Was someone else with you in the John? I swear I heard a woman’s voice in there.” Raul shrugged his shoulders.
“I was the only one there, pare ‘kaw naman. I wish Rachel was there!” Joey laughed, put down his book and took a sip from his canned iced tea. “Wish on , bro!””Hey, pare, I’ve heard stories about ghosts in Vinzon’s Hall. You know, that young coed whom they say committed suicide in one of the comfort rooms? It could’ve been her…. asking for you!” Raul teased. “Yeah! Yeah! Sure, Raul, “Joey quipped He was somewhat irritated.
“Of all the people to believe in ghost! Man! You’re so guilible I can’t believe you’re my friend!”
“Hey! Take it easy, pare. I was just kidding around.”
“Lokohin mong lolo mong panot ( Go fool your hairless grandpa)!” Joey, the perpetual pikon ( sore loser), howled, smiling. “I’ll just go to the John.”
Joey went straight to one of the cubicles. He did not tell Raul, but that day, Joey was suffering from diarrhea. As he sat on one of the bowls, he felt something press on his head, as if smoothing or patting it. At the same time he felt a cold, unruly current stroke his nape. That was quite unusual; it was summer, Joey resisted the temptation to look up and see what or who was smoothing his head. His curiously, however, got the better of him. When Joey looked up, he saw a young girl hanging by her neck, her eyes nearly bulging from their sockets, her face a deathly pale from the immense strain from the rope. And the ones stroking his head were the soles of her feet swaying and rubbing against it. He sat frozen. He could not take his eyes away from the young girl hanging from the ceiling. A few seconds later, the girl’s face moved, slowly, and turned toward Joey. Her bulging eyes looked straight into Joey’s face, as if asking him to save her. At that, Joey unfroze, Pulling up his pants, he rushed out of the comfort room, his zipper still down, his face sickly white from fright. He could not speak for several minutes. After a while, he managed to calm down. But he never used that comfort room again.