First, I train on the Magic 8-Ball. It begins with girls' menstrual blood. By seventh grade, most of my comares join the inner circle of “dismenoria” which appear in dark brown splotches on blue pleated UES skirts. I’m 12 and there is no sign of red on my panties.
“Kerry, maaari kong pumunta sa iyong bahay, to wash my skirt?” She whispers, surrounded by her gaggle of gf’s. A barkada in another galaxy. I note the blotch on her skirt, which she covers with her left hand.
This girl, she never talks to me, ever.
They cling and chat together on their way to my house and huddle together as her skirt is pressed.
So, I bring out the Magic 8 Ball. It's a small black bowling ball with fortune cookie answers on the underside.
"Like this,” I hold it right-side up, with two hands on it, and ask a question aloud.
“Then...” .” I turn it over to the answer window. "YES" jiggles in the liquid.
“Wow!” they murmur.
“Sige,” I hand the ball magnanimously to the mense queen.
“Does J... like me?” She whispers the name into the black orb, and turns it upside-down to gingerly.
“ASK AGAIN LATER.” We groan in unison. The air relaxes and we pass the 8-Ball around for a while until lunch break is over. News of the 8-Ball travels, and there are several excursions to consult the 8-Ball at the house. Forty years later, at our Union Elementary School/High School reunion, that’s what they remember.
“Hey Kerry, I remember going to your house and playing with the 8-ball.”
My facility with the 8-Ball prepares me for real spirits.
“You don’t know spiritoftheglass? Hay! Sige,makakuha kayo ng jario,” instructs our new neighbor from 1667 A. We are developmentally delayed.
"OK," I run upstairs to get a sheet of newspaper.
Neneng (not her real name) smooths out the Manila Times with the flat of her hand on the chipped concrete of our first floor and scribbles the alphabet on top and bottom of the paper, “YES” on the right, “NO” opposite. Her soft black hair falls like a curtain.
"Can I join?" Johanna notices our covert action.
“Johanna, get a glass, not too thick, not too tall.” Like Nescafe.
“Because iha... youwant to stay?" Sometimes it works, being older.
She delivers a small glass at arm's length, as though it were a crab.
Neneng takes the glass gently. She is initiating missionary kid innocents into a first encounter of the multo kind.
Smiling slightly, she sets the mouth of the glass on the center of the newspaper. Johanna and I watch admiringly.
“Sometimes a centavo is OK.”
“OK,” I steal a look at the tight face of my sister.
Annie and Cresing's room is in the basement, and shake their heads when they see what we’re doing. They have to live with the spirits we call up. "We’re just playing," I say lightly. "Multo," clucks Annie in her Boholano accent, "play wit you."
Johanna shoots a worried glance at Annie. Afraid to leave, wanting to stay.
“Sige, Put your right hand on the glass. No Jo, just two fingers.”
“You don’t know who will come.”
Neneng closes her eyes, drops back her head slightly and drones, “Spiritofthe glass, spiritofthe glass….”
I hold my breath. A gecho grumbles.
“You don’t know who comes,” she says again.
“Spiritofthe glass, spiritofthe glass….”
Maybe the glass needs help. "Spiritofthe glass….”
“Kerry r'you pushing?” Johanna sqeeks.
“No!” (just a little) The glass wobbles.
Neneng leans in and speaks to the glass, “Nandito ka ba?”
Slow, ponderous, the glass takes our fingers to YES.
“Ay!” Johanna whisks her fingers off the glass. It wobbles again.
The glass doesn’t care, lightly swimming across the paper without our help.
Emboldened, Johanna’s fingers lightly join us. I smile encouragingly.
We ask silly useless questions to the glass, like does George like Lisa, as it moves one way or the other. Yes, No, and sometimes it stands still. "Don't know." When we don’t have any more questions, we set it free.
“Alis ka na,” says Neneng, mindful that the helpers don’t want spirits making mischief in their part of the house
Ganoon pala ang mga spirits.
This is the thing, once you are attracted to spirits, it's hard to be discriminating, duende, multo, tree spirits, birds, anitos, the invisible world's chaos intersects with our own.