The sun shone brightly in the sky, its beams glistening off the glass walls of the skyscrapers. The sky was a bright, beautiful blue, accompanied by a few light clouds that did little to taint the picture. Light traffic moved graciously along the maze of city streets below.
Inside one of the skyscrapers, an air conditioned office waited quietly for its primary occupant to return. An ebony wood desk, its surface neatly organized with clearly marked binders and boxes. On it stood an idle desktop computer, its fan generating a unique ambience for the room without disturbing thought and talk. Behind the desk was a leather rolling chair, its seat vacant, strictly reserved for its true owner to sit on. In front were two smaller chairs of lesser quality and magnificence than their king, but no less comfortable. A man in his twenties sat in one of those chairs, his attire and appearance failing to meet the standards of the rest of the room. He wore a simple black T-shirt, rugged blue jeans, cheap sneakers, and a black baseball cap. His skin was tanned, darkened both from his ethnicity and his time outdoors.
The door opened. A well-dressed man, sporting a grey suit, white dress shirt, and black tie entered. His pants were well ironed, the creases standing out sharply from the rest of the fabric. His shoes shone with a coat of fresh polish, so shiny that one could've easily brushed their teeth and shaved in front of it. The face wore an expression that sang pride and proudness of its own accomplishments, its own successes, and most importantly of all, that it was now back in its beloved office.
The darker-skinned man rose to his feet. "Good afternoon, Mr. Davies!" He extended his hand out and smiled warmly.
The Caucasian smiled back and shook the hand. "Good afternoon to you too... Mr. García." He noticed the rugged clothing, but tried his best not to show it. "Please... uh, have a seat."
Once the two were seated — one behind the desk, the other in front — the businessman unlocked his computer and began typing. "So, Mr. García..."
"It's just 'Daniel'. Daniel will suit me just fine."
"Okay... Daniel... I received an email from my son asking me to 'check you out'. Admittedly, and excuse me for my arrogance, but I didn't think very much of it; the stack of papers, while they look civil now, are intimidating for someone as busy as I am. But I looked briefly at your biography, and it intrigued me, perhaps in the same way it captured my son's attention. I can see your fanbase on Facebook has a reason to invest their time and energy into you..."
Daniel smiled. "It's only part of the picture, but it is the part that changed my entire life." He pressed his lips together. "And I can't help but..."
"Well Mr. García, er, Daniel... Perhaps I can be of assistance, in any way? I know you and my son have been communicating closely with each other, and my son's a bit shy to admit it directly, but he did want me to talk to you. And now, after some pestering — that young brat! — you now have the opportunity to speak with me. Is there anything I can do?"
Daniel was quiet for a few moments. "I know what you want, Mr. Davies," he said. "And you are correct — your son did wish for me to see you, and I am more than delighted to be in this office with you. But..." He paused momentarily. "...I'm afraid none of this will make sense unless I tell my story to you, the way I saw it, and how dear it means to me..."
Mr. Davies shifted uncomfortably in his seat. He had work to do, and he knew it — this stupid appointment was eating away at his time. But he did not have the heart to simply send this man out. For one, he didn't seem the least bit hostile or unfriendly at all. Secondly, he did see part of this man's story, and despite his busy work schedule, even he couldn't help but show some interest in it. And of course, his son, whom he sometimes wished he could ignore forever.
The phone rang. Mr. Davies reached for it, hesitated briefly, before picking it up. "Susan?" he answered. "Could you... Could you please hold off all calls? Even those from my wife. I'll let you know when I'm open again."
Daniel smiled slowly. The receiver was replaced. "Mr. Davies," he continued, "do you wish to hear what I have to say? I do not wish to interfere with your day job."
The Caucasian nodded. "Start whenever you're ready; go at your own pace." A fib, but he dared not show it. He felt uncomfortable. For the first time in the history of his office, he was no longer the one in charge.
"It all happened not too long ago. In fact, I remember it all so well..."
I was born and raised in the slums of Tondo, Manila. I am Filipino — it is evident in my skin — and so were my parents and my friends and my brother.
Tondo is the most populated district in Manila, and it is also the poorest and most notorious as well. It is the home of numerous gangs, countless street children, and slum dwellers, like I was, like almost everyone I knew was. It is the home of the infamous Smokey Mountain dumpsite, where hundreds of people live, spending their days picking from trash looking for parts to resell. It is the home of the Manila North Harbour, the Philippine National Railways, and the Lakbayaw Festival, which hardly overshadow the poverty in the area. But it is also my home, my family's home, and it is where I grew up and had my earliest memories.
My family was poor, but we had each other. My father was a labourer, working long hours at odd jobs, trying desperately to support his family. My mother sold her body and her mind; she was a prostitute, and she would often be gone during the evening and night. Despite our difficult life, we never lost hope. My parents would always encourage me to keep going, to never lose faith, and to never back down. That is what kept me going, and what still keeps me going to this day.
Of course, I cannot mention my family without also mentioning my brother. He is the person I feel closest to, and if there is anybody I want to see again, it would be him, more than anyone else.
Mr. Davies was speechless. Daniel could tell he didn't like it when he was at a loss for words. Finally, he spoke: "And so, after all the criminal things your brother has done, what do you think of him?"
Daniel looked up. He had a small flame burning, glowing, in his eyes. "I still love him," he said firmly. "I love him, and I will always love him, because he is my brother. Regardless of what he does or what happened to him, he will still be my brother and he will always matter to me."
"Even after what he has done? He killed another boy on the street!"
"The law sees him as a juvenile murderer, no doubt. And many will think that his death was justice served for his deeds. But that is because they do not see him as family; they do not have a bond with him. I do. And that bond is irreversible. It is invincible. Even if my brother assassinated the president of the United States, at the end of the day I would still tell him that he was my brother, and I will always be there for him." He stopped to brush a tear from his eyes. "I see him as my brother, and that outshadows anything else he has done."
Mr. Davies sat back. "If you brought Efren back to life right now, wouldn't you have him admonished? I know you claim he's your brother and all, but that is no excuse for his actions."
"It is easier to punish someone than it is to forgive, Mr. Davies. It is something I learned after my conversion. My brother may have chosen the wrong path, made the wrong decisions, fallen into the hands of the wrong people, but that does not mean he is evil. The reason I converted, in fact, is because of him; the cross he drew on his shirt was a message for me. At a time when some people would call it a day and leave him there to die, he thought of me. He thought about how he missed me, how he longed for me, and how he loved me. While we are on this earth, Mr. Davies, we are both in the devil's domain, but also within God's reach. We are affected both by the good and the evil, and no matter how evil one may seem, they still have the potential to change. I refuse to believe my brother had evil intent. He had done evil, but he was not evil. And as his brother, I am confident to forgive him, because I know him better than anyone else who incarcerates him."
But Mr. Davies wasn't listening. "If my brother did that," he thought aloud to himself, "I would have him taken away personally by the Swiss Guard. He's my brother, yes, but he's still a murderer, and crime can't go unpunished! If he was given capital punishment, the judge has ultimate authority. I won't question it. He must pay. It's only right; justice must be done..."
Daniel sighed. He looked out the window at the brilliant blue sky, the slow but light traffic on the roads, the glistening skyscrapers in the bright sun. He tried to think about the sights, the marvels outside one's workspace, the beauty the city had to offer, but he could not do it. He could only feel pity for the man in front of him, the one he tried to explain his concept of love to, but he just wasn't buying it. I tried, he thought. I wonder how many people would understand what I am trying to say...
It was hot and humid, the tropical weather promising yet another warm and sweaty season for the city. The streets were filled with people going about their daily routines. Some were carrying heavy loads to and fro; many were tending to or buying from storefronts; even a few were bathing on the side of the road.
"Hey Efren," Daniel said, putting an arm around his brother's shoulders. "You remember something?"
Efren turned his head to look. "Remember what?"
Daniel smiled. "Remember that garbage pile we played on? Remember the dirty river we hastily took our shirts off to dive in? Remember the basketball court where you made your first basket? Remember... all the good times?"
Efren put his own arm around his brother. "Of course I remember."
"All the good times we spent together?"
Daniel squeezed his brother tightly. "This is one of them. And even if we get separated, we'll always have more happy moments to share."
Efren laughed. "And what if someone dies?"
"If I die... will you still remember me?"
There was no hesitation there: "Of course."
"You got it."