IT WAS the afternoon of Good Friday, Mario was watching attentively as his mother sliced the tomatoes and diced totatoes she was preparing for the family meal.

He then grabbed a knife beside some carrots and started imitating his mother’s actions. Just as he was about to graze the vegetable with its blade, Mario’s mother halted him immediately.

“But why, Mama? I want to help!” uttered the little one while trying to seize back the knife his mother sequestered.

“Anak, you might injure yourself. It’s bad to get hurt on a day like this.”

Puzzled, the child asked why. Putting down the blade on the kitchen counter, Mario’s mother abandoned her work to pick up the child and rest him on her lap.

“Hay anak,” she sighed while cradling him, “your lola used to say that every Good Friday, the Lord dies? by then, any injury you’ll get will never heal. She also said that taking a bath after ten in the morning is bad, the Lord is already suffering by then, it would be improper for us to have even a small act of refreshment.”

***

It was a scorching Good Friday afternoon and the sweltering jeepney ride was taking too long. He was off to see his fiancé, Marie, and was planning to spend the remaining days of Holy Week at her apartment.

But something felt off.

Seated in front of him was an old lady, and as she got off, her arm caught on the sharp edge of one of the jeepney’s handles. It left an ugly graze on her skin and the wound unsettled Mario on his seat. The words that his mother uttered to him when he was a child rang back in his memory.

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A sense of urgency swept over him, and suddenly, reaching Marie’s apartment became a need. He dialled Marie’s number on his phone but he kept getting disconnected. The last time he heard from her was this morning, that she said she would just buy groceries from a nearby supermarket, but she hasn’t called him since.

He fiddled with the cross on the rosary that he wore on his neck—trying to calm down, surely she must be fine. Maybe she was just caught in traffic, it was a holiday anyway. Perhaps her phone battery died at a very inconvenient time.

But he could not relax himself.

And as the jeepney neared the street of Marie’s apartment, Mario felt even tenser. He alighted the vehicle and was stopped by the empty guard desk that stood near the entrance of the apartment building.

Mang Robert, the apartment’s guard, was gone. The middle-aged man would always be at his desk and greet the couple whenever they’d return from a trip or Mario would just be accompanying Marie home. His eyes would even follow them as they walked farther down the hall.

Sprinting through the entrance, he saw there was no time to waste by waiting for an elevator and hurried up the stairs of the emergency exit.

Fifth floor.

Flinging the door open, he heard muffled screams from inside Marie’s apartment. As he made his way through, he saw scattered grocery items and her phone, broken on the floor. Her bedroom door was left ajar and as he entered he saw her pinned toward the wall by a mysterious man —her torn clothes desperately clinging to her body.

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“Mario!” she wailed to him as he lunged at her assailant.

As they both fell down, Mario realized that it was Mang Robert whom he pushed to the floor. The blade Mang Robert was wielding fell from his grip and evaded Mario’s grasp by an inch. The two men grappled each other as Marie tried to compose herself and reached for her room’s landline phone.

Mario easily overpowered Mang Robert and proceeded to strangle him until the guard lost consciousness. Mario immediately approached his fiancé who was sobbing beside the phone she had just hung up. “The authorities are coming,” she wept. He wiped the tears on her cheek and sought to calm her down.

But then he felt a sharp sting on his back, Marie screamed—Mang Robert had awaken and he managed to pick up his knife. Mario fought back punching the man in the face which drew him back. Mang Robert attempted to thrust the blade into Mario’s stomach but his arm was caught. They stood there grappling for the knife until the strength of Mario’s youth won over Mang Robert’s attempts to hurt him. The blade he was using to injure Mario has now gone into the right side of his waist, and as if in a blind rage, Mario took the blade and thrusted it once more into the man’s stomach.

***

Just five minutes to three in the afternoon. Mang Robert, then a figure of extreme fragility, was bleeding heavily on the floor. Mario, with incisions and blood all over his body, blankly headed towards Marie’s bathroom? he took off his clothes, opened the showers, and washed himself. With the sovereign Lord now on His way to His own funeral, Mario did not know where to plead for mercy for injuries done on Good Friday.

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