You’re at the basketball court watching the grown-ups play. It’s the barangay fiesta so your mama took you to the liga with your cousins like she always does every year. You keep staring at the kuya holding the ball and running across the court. You like the way his arms look when he shoots the ball. They look like Popeye’s arms after he eats spinach but smaller and not like they would explode if you prick them with a needle. Auntie Ely, the granny next door who gives you chocolates, told you once that if you like someone you will keep staring at them. So does that mean you like that kuya? But he’s a boy. Boys can’t like other boys.
Mama and lola always tell you how real boys don’t like other boys. Not like Pitpit and his friends at school who act like girls and like boys. They wear skirts at school and put ribbons in their hair and always follow the boys around. Nope, they’re not real boys, and you can’t be like them. Mama will spank you with that broom she keeps behind the door like she did with Kuya Tamtam when he started wearing her clothes. When Kuya Tamtam became a not-real boy, mama kept screaming, “Get out of my house!” and papa punched Kuya and you never saw him again. You’re not like Pitpit and Kuya Tamtam, nope! You’re a real boy, and real boys don’t stare at other boys like they’re girls.
But Damian kissed you at school the other day while playing pik and you liked it. And kissing is worse than staring because mama always covers your eyes when those grown-ups on the television kiss. If kissing a boy is bad then why do you like it? If boys can kiss other boys, can boys stare at other boys? Papa says real boys only kiss girls, not like Pitpit who kisses the other boys in class and Damian who kissed you. In the dramas you always watch on tv, only boys and girls kiss.
But you don’t wanna kiss girls. Cindy kissed you at the playground during recess time when she told you “I like you!” and you hated it. You bought Snow Bear at the canteen and put tap water in your mouth and spit it like you do after brushing your teeth.
The kuya with amazing arms shoots the ball into the ring and everyone starts screaming. He and the other grown-ups walk to the benches and you saw this ate bring the kuya a towel and kiss him. Why is she kissing him? You want to hit her and keep the kuya to yourself. Auntie Ely told you once that when you like someone, you want to keep them to yourself and that is called jealousy. If you are jealous of the ate, does that mean you like the kuya? And if you like the kuya, does that mean you like boys? But mama and lola always tell you real boys only like girls.
If mama and lola say real boys don’t like other boys but you like that kuya with the amazing arms, are you a real boy? If papa told you real boys don’t like kissing other boys but you liked it when Damian kissed you at school while playing pik, are you a real boy? If you were jealous that that ate kissed the kuya and you wanted to keep that kuya to yourself, are you a real boy? You are not a real boy. But if you’re not a real boy then why are you not wearing a skirt like Pitpit and his friends and Kuya Tamtam who ran away from home? Then you are not a not-real boy. But you can’t be a real boy and not-real boy at the same time.
You hear mama shout “Time to go home!” and you run to your cousins. You start walking back home. You could ask Auntie Ely later if you’re a real boy or not. There’s class tomorrow and you haven’t done the assignment yet. You can just ask later.
Lean Alejandro C. Dango is a student at the University of the Philippines Mindanao on his freshman year in BA English (Creative Writing). He lives in the Island Garden City of Samal.