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ALL OVER THE WORLD long time neither of us said anything.

She was
a delicately pretty girl with a fine, smooth.
by Vicente Rivera, Jr. pale olive skin that shone richly in the yellow
ONE evening in August 1941, I came out of a light. Her nose was straight, small and finely
late movie to a silent, cold night. I shivered a molded. Her lips, full and red, were fixed and
little as I stood for a moment in the narrow tense. And there was something else about
street, looking up at the distant sky, alive with her. Something lonely? something lost?
stars. I stood there, letting the night wind “I know,” I said, “I like stories, too. I read
seep through me, and listening. The street anything good I find lying around. Have you
was empty, the houses on the street dim— been reading long?”
with the kind of ghostly dimness that seems “Yes,” she said. not looking at me now.
to embrace sleeping houses. I had always She got up slowly, closing the book. “I’m
liked empty streets in the night; I had always sorry.”
stopped for a while in these streets listening “Don’t you want to read anymore? I
for something I did not quite know what. asked her, trying to smile, trying to make her
Perhaps for low, soft cries that empty streets feel that everything was all right.
and sleeping houses seem to share in the “No.” she said, “thank you.”
night. “Oh, yes,” I said, picking up the book. “It’s
I lived in an old, nearly crumbling late. You ought to be in bed. But, you can take
apartment house just across the street from this along.”
the moviehouse. From the street, I could see She hesitated, hanging back, then shyly
into the open courtyard, around which rooms she took the book, brought it to her side. She
for the tenants, mostly a whole family to a looked down at her feet uncertain as to
single room, were ranged. My room, like all where to turn.
the other rooms on the groundfloor, opened “You live here?” I asked her.
on this court. Three other boys, my cousins, “Yes.”
shared the room with me. As I turned into the “What room?”
courtyard from the street, I noticed that the She turned her face and nodded towards
light over our study-table, which stood on the the far corner, across the courtyard, to a little
corridor outside our room, was still burning. room near the communal kitchen. It was the
Earlier in the evening after supper, I had room occupied by the janitor: a small square
taken out my books to study, but I went to a room with no windows except for a transom
movie instead. I must have forgotten to turn above the door.
off the light; apparently, the boys had “You live with Mang Lucio?”
forgotten, too. “He’s my uncle.”
I went around the low screen that “How long have you been here? I haven’t
partitioned off our “study” and there was a seen you before, have I?”
girl reading at the table. We looked at each “I’ve always been here. I’ve seen you.”
other, startled. I had never seen her before. “Oh. Well, good night—your name?”
She was about eleven years old, and she wore “Maria.”
a faded blue dress. She had long, straight hair “Good night, Maria.”
falling to her shoulders. She was reading my She turned quickly, ran across the
copy of Greek Myths. courtyard, straight to her room, and closed
The eyes she had turned to me were the door without looking back.
wide, darkened a little by apprehension. For a I undressed, turned off the light and lay in
bed dreaming of far-away things. I was
twenty-one and had a job for the first time. “You’ve finished it?”
The salary was not much and I lived in a “Yes.”
house that was slowly coming apart, but life We walked down the shadowed street.
seemed good. And in the evening when the Magallanes Street in Intramuros, like all the
noise of living had died down and you lay safe other streets there, was not wide enough,
in bed, you could dream of better times, look hemmed in by old, mostly unpainted houses,
back and ahead, and find that life could be clumsy and unlovely, even in the darkening
gentle—even with the hardness. And light of the fading day.
afterwards, when the night had grown colder, We went into the apartment house and I
and suddenly you felt alone in the world, followed her across the court. I stood outside
adrift, caught in a current of mystery that the door which she closed carefully after her.
came in the hour between sleep and waking, She came out almost immediately and put in
the vaguely frightening loneliness only my hands the book of Greek myths. She did
brought you closer to everything, to the walls not look at me as she stood straight and
and the shadows on the walls, to the other remote.
sleeping people in the room, to everything “My name is Felix,” I said.
within and beyond this house, this street, this She smiled suddenly. It was a little smile,
city, everywhere. almost an unfinished smile. But, somehow, it
I met Maria again one early evening, a felt special, something given from way deep
week later, as I was coming home from the inside in sincere friendship.
office. I saw her walking ahead of me, slowly, I walked away whistling. At the door of
as if she could not be too careful, and with a my room, I stopped and looked back. Maria
kind of grownup poise that was somehow was not in sight. Her door was firmly closed.
touching. But I did not know it was Maria until August, 1941, was a warm month. The
she stopped and I overtook her. hangover of summer still permeated the air,
She was wearing a white dress that had specially in Intramuros. But, like some of the
been old many months ago. She wore a pair days of late summer, there were afternoons
of brown sneakers that had been white once. when the weather was soft and clear, the sky
She had stopped to look at the posters of a watery green, with a shell-like quality to it
pictures advertised as “Coming” to our that almost made you see through and
neighborhood theater. beyond, so that, watching it made you
“Hello,” I said, trying to sound casual. lightheaded.
She smiled at me and looked away I walked out of the office one day into just
quickly. She did not say anything nor did she such an afternoon. The day had been full of
step away. I felt her shyness, but there was grinding work—like all the other days past. I
no self-consciousness, none of the tenseness was tired. I walked slowly, towards the far
and restraint of the night we first met. I stood side of the old city, where traffic was not
beside her, looked at the pictures tacked to a heavy. On the street there were old trees, as
tilted board, and tried whistling a tune. old as the walls that enclosed the city. Half-
She turned to go, hesitated, and looked at way towards school, I changed my mind and
me full in the eyes. There was again that headed for the gate that led out to Bonifacio
wide-eyed—and sad? —stare. I smiled, Drive. I needed stiffer winds, wider skies. I
feeling a remote desire to comfort her, as if it needed all of the afternoon to myself.
would do any good, as if it was comfort she Maria was sitting on the first bench, as
needed. you went up the sloping drive that curved
“I’ll return your book now,” she said. away from the western gate. She saw me
before I saw her. When I looked her way, she down. The last lingering warmth of the sun
was already smiling that half-smile of hers, was now edged with cold. The trees and
which even so told you all the truth she knew, buildings in the distance seemed to flounder
without your asking. in a red-gold mist. It was a time of day that
“Hello,” I said. “It’s a small world.” never failed to carry an enchantment for me.
“What?” Maria and I sat still together, caught in some
“I said it’s nice running into you. Do you spell that made the silence between us right,
always come here?” that made our being together on a bench in
“As often as I can. I go to many places.” the boulevard, man and girl, stranger and
“Doesn’t your uncle disapprove?” stranger, a thing not to be wondered at, as
“No. He’s never around. Besides, he natural and inevitable as the lengthening
doesn’t mind anything.” shadows before the setting sun.
“Where do you go?” Other days came, and soon it was the
“Oh, up on the walls. In the gardens up season of the rain. The city grew dim and gray
there, near Victoria gate. D’you know?” at the first onslaught of the monsoon. There
“I think so. What do you do up there?” were no more walks in the sun. I caught a
“Sit down and—” cold.
“And what?” Maria and I had become friends now,
“Nothing. Just sit down.” though we saw each other infrequently. I
She fell silent. Something seemed to became engrossed in my studies. You could
come between us. She was suddenly far- not do anything else in a city caught in the
away. It was like the first night again. I rains. September came and went.
decided to change the subject. In November, the sun broke through the
“Look,” I said, carefully, “where are your now ever present clouds, and for three or
folks?” four days we had bright clear weather. Then,
“You mean, my mother and father?” my mind once again began flitting from my
“Yes. And your brothers and sisters, if desk, to the walls outside the office, to the
any.” gardens on the walls and the benches under
“My mother and father are dead. My the trees in the boulevards. Once, while
elder sister is married. She’s in the province. working on a particularly bad copy on the
There isn’t anybody else.” news desk, my mind scattered, the way it
“Did you grow up with your uncle?” sometimes does and, coming together again,
“I think so.” went back to that first meeting with Maria.
We were silent again. Maria had And the remembrance came clear, coming
answered my questions without into sharper focus—the electric light, the
embarrassment. almost without emotion, in a shadows around us, the stillness. And Maria,
cool light voice that had no tone. with her wide-eyed stare, the lost look in her
“Are you in school, Maria?” eyes…
“Yes.”
“What grade?” IN December, I had a little fever. On sick
“Six.” leave, I went home to the province. I stayed
“How d’you like it?” three days. I felt restless, as if I had strayed
“Oh, I like it.” and lost contact with myself. I suppose you
“I know you like reading.” got that way from being sick,
She had no comment. The afternoon had A pouring rain followed our train all the
waned. The breeze from the sea had died way back to Manila. Outside my window, the
landscape was a series of dissolved hills and apartment house empty. The janitor was
fields. What is it in the click of the wheels of a there. My cousin who worked in the army
train that makes you feel gray inside? What is was there. But the rest of the tenants were
it in being sick, in lying abed that makes you gone.
feel you are awake in a dream, and that you I asked Mang Lucio, “Maria?”
are just an occurrence in the crying grief of “She’s gone with your aunt to the walls.”
streets and houses and people? he told me. “They will sleep there tonight.”
In December, we had our first air-raid My cousin told me that in the morning we
practice. would transfer to Singalong. There was a
I came home one night through darkened house available. The only reason he was
streets, peopled by shadows. There was a staying, he said, was because they were
ragged look to everything, as if no one and unable to move our things. Tomorrow that
nothing cared any more for appearances. would be taken care of immediately.
I reached my room just as the siren “And you, Mang Lucio?”
shrilled. I undressed and got into my old “I don’t know where I could go.”
clothes. It was dark, darker than the moment We ate canned pork and beans and
after moon-set. I went out on the corridor bread. We slept on the floor, with the lights
and sat in a chair. All around me were swathed in black cloth. The house creaked in
movements and voices. anonymous and the night and sent off hollow echoes. We
hushed, even when they laughed. slept uneasily.
I sat still, afraid and cold. I woke up early. It was disquieting to
“Is that you. Felix?” wake up to stillness in that house which rang
“Yes. Maria.” with children’s voices and laughter the whole
She was standing beside my chair, close day everyday. In the kitchen, there were
to the wall. Her voice was small and sounds and smells of cooking.
disembodied in the darkness. A chill went “Hello,” I said.
through me, She said nothing more for a long It was Maria, frying rice. She turned from
time. the stove and looked at me for a long time.
“I don’t like the darkness,” she said. Then, without a word, she turned back to her
“Oh, come now. When you sleep, you cooking.
turn the lights off, don’t you?” “Are you and your uncle going away?” I
“It’s not like this darkness,” she said, asked.
softly. “It’s all over the world.” “I don’t know.”
We did not speak again until the lights “Did he not tell you?”
went on. Then she was gone. “No.”
The war happened not long after. “We’re moving to Singalong.”
At first, everything was unreal. It was like “Yes, I know.”
living on a motion picture screen, with “Well, anyway, I’ll come back tonight.
yourself as actor and audience. But the Maybe this afternoon. We’ll not have to say
sounds of bombs exploding were real enough, goodbye till then.”
thudding dully against the unready ear. She did not say anything. I finished
In Intramuros, the people left their homes washing and went back to my room. I dressed
the first night of the war. Many of them slept and went out.
in the niches of the old walls the first time At noon, I went to Singalong to eat. All
they heard the sirens scream in earnest. That our things were there already, and the folks
evening, I returned home to find the were busy putting the house in order. As soon
as I finished lunch, I went back to the office. Vicente Rivera Jr. is a writer from the
There were few vehicles about. Air-raid alerts
were frequent. The brightness of the day Bicol region who
seemed glaring. The faces of people were all
pale and drawn. started writing in the 1930s and best
In the evening, I went back down the known as the editor of the Evening
familiar street. I was stopped many times by
News
air-raid volunteers. The house was dark. I
walked back to the street. I stood for a long Magazine. He also wrote the famous
time before the house. Something did not short story entitled, All Over the
want me to go away just yet. A light burst in
my face. It was a volunteer. World,
“Do you live here?” and the serialized novel, Some
“I used to. Up to yesterday. I’m looking
Passing Winds.
for the janitor.”
“Why, did you leave something behind?”
“Yes, I did. But I think I’ve lost it now.”
“Well, you better get along, son. This
place, the whole area. has been ordered
evacuated. Nobody lives here anymore.” He was born in Daraga, Albay on 20
“Yes, I know,” I said. “Nobody.”
September 1920 and
finished his undergraduate studies at
the University of the Philippines, Far
Eastern University, and Adamson
University. He died in the US in 1999.