The kids sat on the hood of the flashy car as the tank was being filled. The sky was gray from the recent rain. It was another Monday in wet July, but there were no calendars and they could not read. To them, it was just another day in another month in another year in their only lives.
“He’s on his way back!” cautioned Toto as the other children got off the hood. Like clockwork they began waxing and polishing the ostentatious vehicle, their dirty rags doing more harm than good. They made sure, however, that the windshield was wiped clean. That it always does the trick. The old, fat man handed them a peso each before he drove off into the road. Never looking back. They looked at their meagre tip and scratched their heads.
“We should’ve dirtied it up a bit more!” exclaimed Damgo as he pocketed his share.
“Don’t worry I gave him less gas than what he asked for!” replied Toto.
The other children were busy collecting their day’s pay. It was getting late and they needed to get back home. They said their goodbyes and went their way. As they walked along, a little kid, younger than the rest, flashed his brand new twenty-five centavo coin to his friends. It barely shone in the darkness of the afternoon. Dusk was fast approaching.
“You staying?” Damgo asked Toto. They were the only two left in the gas station. The eldest among all the children.
“Yeah mama won’t be home until eight anyway.”
They sat on the curb outside an American diner where cool air seeped through the door’s crack, giving them their share of the air-conditioning. It was their usual spot.
“Oh where is she?”
“Mass with my little sisters,” replied Toto as he lit a cigarette.
“They told us not to smoke here…”
“Well they also told us they were gonna pay us more,” Toto quipped. He blew smoke into the air and watched it disappear into the gray sky.
“Aren’t you going to mass?”
“I already did this morning with my parents and ate Dorothy.”
“Dorothy? Oh you mean Dolores?! When did she become so fancy?”
“I don’t know. But she told me to call her that from now on. She said ‘Dolores’ means sorrow while ‘Dorothy’ means ‘gift from God'”
“Yeah sure whatever! ‘Dorothy’! It’s Dolores!” Laughed Toto.
” Well it’s all the same to me, really,” replied Damgo as he gazed above the clouds.
“What are you looking at?”
“I’m waiting for a rainbow. Nanay said it comes after strong rains like the one earlier. I’ve never seen one.”
“I saw one once before but I was just lucky. They’re rare. I don’t think you’ll see one now.”
“Well who knows? Nanay said if I pray hard enough, one might appear.”
“Where’d she get that idea?”
“She said God makes one if enough kids pray to their guardian angels!”
“Oh. Really? I’ll pray to mine for five pesos!” Toto jokingly offered, he put out his empty palm and made the sign of the cross with his other hand in mock display.
“Very funny..” remarked Damgo. He grew pensive; his eyes now fixed to the ground.
Toto noticed the change in his friend’s expression. He took one last puff of his cigarette and put it out on the diner’s door.
“Hey, cheer up! I’ll show you something.”
Damgo reluctantly followed. They ended up in the back corner of the station hidden from the rest of the area.
“You want to see a rainbow, right?”
“Yeah but you’re right. I have to be lucky…”
“You are with a friend like me! Look at this!” Toto pointed to a puddle of gasoline spilt on the floor. The thin layer of liquid glistened with multiple colours.
“It looks like the rainbows from the pictures!” declared Damgo, ecstatic at the sight.
“This one’s better! It’s actually real!”
“But I thought they’re supposed to be in the sky?”
“Well it’s all the same to me, really!” quipped Toto. “These things usually form after the rain too. I think the water mixes with the spilt oil or something.” he added.
“Oh. Well it looks incredible! Look at all those colours!”
“Yup! And that’s not even the best part!” exclaimed Toto as he kneeled down and brought his face within inches of the puddle. “Just follow what I do, okay?”
Toto took a whiff of the gasoline. His eyes widened at the smell of it. He proceeded to inhale another dose, deeper than the last. His head began to loosely move about, as if it were scarcely attached to his neck.
Damgo looked on, frightened yet fascinated by the what was going on.
“What’s happening to you, Toto?”
“I see your guardian angel, Damgo! Mine too! All of them!” declared Toto. He was beaming with joy. He stood up, stumbling with each step. “They said you should pray to them!”
“What? You’re lying! I’m getting scared, Toto! Tell me what’s going on!”
“Just try it! It’s like praying, Damgo! Just go down on your knees, close your eyes, and take in the holy spirit!”
“I–I don’t want to. Let’s just go! Before anyone sees us!”
“Oh don’t be so lame, Damgo! Just one whiff then we’ll leave! Come on!”
Damgo hesitated before dropping to the ground. He looked at the gasoline rainbow below him. It was mesmerizing. Each colour bled into each other while staying distinct. The scarce light played tricks with the puddle as it glistened from one shade to the next, flashing in all its iridescent glory. He was hypnotized by the spectacle as he inched closer and closer to the artificial rainbow. He took a whiff.
Seconds later his eyes rolled back as he clumsily walked in circles. He saw the station transform into an explosion of blinding colours and amorphous objects. The once gray sky merged with the ground through a whirlpool of stained clouds. The coins in his pocket were magically enlarged a thousand-fold. Their dull gray face now a shimmering silver mirror. The diner floated towards him, wrapping its soft walls around his body as an endless number of fried chicken, pizzas, and meatball spaghettis hovered in the air, waiting to be picked and enjoyed. From up above, a group of winged creatures, dressed in shining white flew towards him, their faces oddly familiar and pleasant to look at. They seemed almost human as they spoke to him in unintelligible words. They were reassuring him of something, that much he could understand. Across him, Toto was dancing gracefully with all the whirling colours. The winged creatures flew both of them up above the hazy hues where they drifted about in unbridled happiness.
A few moments later they looked below. A number of hauntingly glowing tigers raced towards them, growling fiercely to catch their attention. They flashed their vicious fangs at the frightened boys. The colours began to dull fading into their old dreary shades. The sky emerged from the ground soaring rapidly above them. The various fantasies that whizzed and hovered around them were obliterated in a brilliant explosion of light. The winged creatures disintegrated into a million particles. The two boys fell sharply from the sky, crashing towards the waiting mouths of the hungry tigers. They screamed their lungs out until a sudden beam flashed before their eyes and rocked them back to reality. The boys were welcomed by a chorus of beeping horns. They looked around to see an endless number of luxury cars honking their horns, looking for someone to service them.
Damgo and Toto rubbed their eyes awake as they shook themselves out of their reverie. The smell of the gasoline still lingered in their noses. The rainbow puddle lost much of its sheen in the darkness of the evening. The two boys gathered themselves amidst the incessant noises that harassed them. They slowly walked towards the beeping vehicles and back to their lives.