HE LOOKS on at the sheer number of devotees passing by. He does not join them; for now, he is content in being a bystander smoking a cigarette. Being a long-time smoker, he takes a long drag and feels the nicotine seep into his lungs.
The release of smoke brings an unpleasant realization: he has been doing this for a long time now. In all his years, he has consistently walked through the route toward his destination. He has always continued his procession despite the persistent fatigue and shortness of breath.
He has done it all, including fighting for a handkerchief and clamoring against others for a touch of wood. Once, their crowd even trampled on someone. Through yellowing eyes, he looks out for even a small flash, for a glimpse at the mystical dark-skinned statue clad in red robes.
In the name of salvation, he is drawn to this carved wooden figure. He wants to be saved—to be healed. He searches among the nooks and crannies of the procession for a chance at reform even though he is uncertain if he can find it with all the ongoing commotion.
As his cigarette burns down to its last, he prepares himself to rejoin the massive flock. He throws the butt into a nearby rubbish pile and spits out a glob of rust-colored sputum to put out the embers. He begins walking away.
Silently, he wonders how much of a miracle he will need. F LORRAINE C. SUAREZ